This week's edition of Stuck in the Psychedelic Era gets off to an odd start. In fact, all of the songs in the show's first 45 minutes are from odd-numbered years. It smooths out a bit from there, with two separate 1968 sets and an Advanced Psych set featuring tracks from three different decades, but all in all it continues to be a rather odd show.
Artist: Peter, Paul And Mary
Source: 45 RPM single
Label: Warner Brothers
If Peter, Paul and Mary's Puff doesn't put you in touch with your inner child, chances are nothing will. The 1963 classic about a childhood friend (who happens to be a magic dragon) has long been considered one of the most memorable tunes to come out the folk music movement of the late 50s-early 60s and helped to cement the trio of Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey and Mary Travers' reputation as one of those rare acts whose appeal transcends the generational gap.
Title: Catch The Wind
Source: Simulated stereo LP: Golden Days Of British Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Donovan Leitch
Label: Sire (original label: Hickory)
Scottish singer/songwriter Donovan Leitch released his first single, Catch The Wind, in March of 1965. The record was an instant hit, going to the #4 spot on the British charts and later hitting #23 in the US. He ended up re-recording the song twice; first for his debut LP, What's Bin Did and What's Bin Hid, and then again for his 1969 greatest hits album, when Epic Records was unable to secure the rights to either of the original versions. Although reprocessed for stereo, the version heard here is from the original single, which had background strings that were not present on the LP version.
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: For What It's Worth (Stop, Hey What's That Sound)
Source: CD: Buffalo Springfield
Writer(s): Stephen Stills
By mid-1966 Hollywood's Sunset Strip was being taken over every night by local teenagers, with several underage clubs featuring live music being a major attraction. Many of the businesses in the area, citing traffic problems and rampant drug and alcohol abuse, began to put pressure on city officials to do something about the situation. The city responded by passing new loitering ordinances and imposing a 10PM curfew on the Strip. They also began putting pressure on the clubs, including condemning the popular Pandora's Box for demolition. On November 12, 1966 fliers appeared on the streets inviting people to a demonstration that evening to protest the closing of the club. The demostration continued over a period of days, exascerbated by the city's decision to revoke the permits of a dozen other clubs on the Strip, forcing them to bar anyone under the age of 21 from entering. Stephen Stills, a member of Buffalo Springfield, one of the many bands appearing regularly in these clubs, wrote a new song in response to the situation, and the band quickly booked studio time, recording the still-unnamed track on December 5th. The band had recently released their debut LP, but sales of the album were lackluster due to the lack of a hit single. Stills reportedly presented the new recording to label head Ahmet Ertegun with the words "I have this song here, for what it's worth, if you want it." Ertegun, sensing that he had a hit on his hands, got the song rush-released two days before Christmas, 1966, using For What It's Worth as the official song title, but sub-titling it Stop, Hey What's That Sound on the label as well. As predicted, For What It's Worth was an instant hit in the L.A. market, and soon went national, where it was taken by most record buyers to be about the general sense of unrest being felt across the nation over issues like racial equality and the Vietnam War (and oddly enough, by some people these days as being about the Kent State massacre, even though that event happened nearly three years after the song was released). As the single moved up the charts, eventually peaking at #7, Atco recalled the Buffalo Springfield LP, reissuing it with a modified song selection that included For What It's Worth as the album's opening track. Needless to say, album sales picked up after that. As a matter of fact, I don't think I've ever even seen a vinyl copy of the Buffalo Springfield album without For What It's Worth on it, although I'm sure some of those early pressings must still exist.
Artist: Vanilla Fudge
Source: Mono CD: The Complete Atco Singles (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Real Gone/Rhino (original label: Atco)
Although credited to the entire band, People was the brainchild of Vanilla Fudge guitarist Vinnie Martell, who came up with the tune while the group was brainstorming for original material to record (as opposed to the rearranged and rocked out covers they were famous for). According to Martell, the song "tells of humanity evolving in time through the prisms of my own personal altered state of consciousness." Brainstorming indeed!
Artist: Five Man Electrical Band
Source: Mono CD: Songs Of Protest (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Les Emerson
Everybody has at least one song they have fond memories of hearing on the radio while riding around in a friend's car on a hot summer evening. Signs, from Canada's Five Man Electrical Band, is one of mine. The song was originally released as the B side of a song called Hello Melinda Goodbye, but it soon became obvious that Signs was the real hit.
Artist: Blues Magoos
Title: There's A Chance We Can Make It
Source: 45 RPM single
Following up on their biggest hit, (We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet, the Blues Magoos released a song called There's A Chance We Can Make It backed with Pipe Dream for their next single. Unfortunately for both songs, some stations elected to play There's A Chance We Can Make It while others preferred Pipe Dream. The result was that neither song charted as high as it could have had it been released with a weaker B side. This had the ripple effect of causing Electric Comic Book (the album both songs appeared on) to not chart as well as its predecessor Psychedelic Lollipop had. This in turn caused Mercury Records to lose faith in the Blues Magoos and not give them the kind of promotion that could have kept the band in the public eye beyond its 15 minutes of fame. The ultimate result was that for many years, there were an excessive number of busboys and cab drivers claiming to have once been members of the Blues Magoos and not many ways to disprove their claims, at least until the internet made information about the group's actual membership more accessible.
Source: 45 RPM single B side
The Monkees made a video of the Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart song Words that shows each member in the role that they were best at as musicians: Mickey Dolenz on lead vocals, Peter Tork on guitar, Michael Nesmith on bass and Davy Jones on drums. This was not the way they were usually portrayed on their TV show, however. Neither was it the configuration on the recording itself, which had Nesmith on guitar, Tork on Hammond organ, producer Chip Douglas on bass and studio ace Eddie Hoh on drums. The song appeared on the album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, LTD as well as being released as the B side of Pleasant Valley Sunday. Even as a B side, the song was a legitimate hit, peaking at #11 in 1967.
Title: Only A Northern Song (alternate version)
Source: CD: Anthology 2
Writer(s): George Harrison
Year: Recorded 1967, released 1999
Anyone who thinks that George Harrison was happily oblivious to how badly he was being screwed over as a songwriter during his years as a member of the Beatles need only listen to the lyrics of Only A Northern Song, one of four new tracks submitted by the band for use in the film Yellow Submarine. Although Harrison had actually formed his own publishing company, Harrisongs, in 1964, he was persuaded to stay with the band's own Northern Songs LTD. by his bandmates when the company went public in 1965 in order to get around British tax laws on international sales of Beatles' compositions. The problem was that, as the principle songwriters, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were also the principle stockholders, at 15% each, while Harrison and Ringo Starr each owned only .08%. This meant that Lennon and McCartney were actually making more in royalties on Harrison's compositions than Harrison himself. Harrison later said that the company's manager, Dick James, hadn't told him that he was giving up ownership of his own compositions by signing with Northern Songs. Following the formation of Apple Corp in 1968 Harrison's compositions were no longer published by Northern Songs.
Title: The Crystal Ship
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer: The Doors
One of the most popular B sides ever released, The Crystal Ship is a slow moody piece with vivid lyrical images. The mono mix of the song sounds a bit different from the more commonly-heard stereo version. Not only is the mix itself a bit hotter, it is also a touch faster. This is due to an error in the mastering of the stereo version of the first Doors LP that resulted in the entire album running at a 3.5% slower speed than it was originally recorded. This discrepancy went unnoticed for over 40 years, until a college professor pointed out that every recorded live performance of Light My Fire was in a key that was about half a step higher than the stereo studio version.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Feel So Good
Source: LP: Bark
Writer(s): Jorma Kaukonen
One of the few good things about Jefferson Airplane's Bark album was the emergence of guitarist Jorma Kaukonen as one of the band's primary songwriters. Kaukonen was responsible for four tracks on the album, the best of which was probably Feel So Good. Not long after the album's release, Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady got to work on Hot Tuna's first studio album, which featured even more original tunes from the duo.
Source: Canadian CD: 25 Years-The Ultimate Collection (originally released on LP: Arthur or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire)
Writer(s): Ray Davies
Label: Polygram/PolyTel (original label: Reprise)
The Kinks were at their commercial low point in 1969 when they released their third single from their controversial concept album Arthur Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire. Their previous two singles had failed to chart, even in their native England, and the band had not had a top 20 hit in the US since Sunny Afternoon in 1966. Victoria was a comeback of sorts, as it did manage to reach the #62 spot in the US and the #33 spot in the UK.
Artist: Grateful Dead
Title: Beat It On Down the Line
Source: CD: Grateful Dead
Writer(s): Jesse Fuller
Label: Warner Brothers
Beat It On Down the Line, from the first Grateful Dead album, is fairly typical of the band's sound in the early days when they were busy establishing themselves as crowd favorites around the various San Francisco ballrooms and auditoriums.
Artist: John Hammond
Title: Down In The Bottom
Source: LP: So Many Roads
Writer(s): Willie Dixon
John Paul Hammond (sometimes known as John Hammond, Jr.) is the son of famed record producer John Hammond and, along with Dave Van Ronk, Reverand Gary Davis and others, was one of the main figures in the blues revival scene in New York's Greenwich Village in the early 1960s. His 1965 album So Many Roads is of particular interest, in that his backup band features (among others) Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson and Levon Helm. It was on Hammond's recommendation that Bob Dylan hired the three to be the core of his touring band in 1966. The group later came to be known as The Band. Other musicians of note on So Many Roads include Michael Bloomfield (making a rare appearance on piano rather than his usual guitar) and Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica, which is one of the prominent instruments on the album's opening track, Down In The Bottom.
Artist: Eric Burdon and the Animals
Title: Sky Pilot
Source: CD: Retrospective (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: The Twain Shall Meet)
Label: Abkco (original label: M-G-M)
After the original Animals lineup disbanded in late 1966, lead vocalist Eric Burdon quickly set out to form a "New Animals" group that would come to be called Eric Burdon and the Animals. The new band was much more rooted in the psychedelic era than its predecessor, with songs like A Girl Named Sandoz (Sandoz being the name of the lab that first developed LSD) appearing as the B side of their first single, and San Franciscan Nights, an invitation to Europeans to hook up with the hippie culture of Haight-Ashbury, making the charts in 1967. Their most memorable release, Sky Pilot, called the religious establishment to task for its tacit endorsement of warfare itself through the practice of including chaplains as part of the military heirarchy. The song, running over seven minutes in length, was spread out over two sides of a 45 RPM single, making it difficult for radio stations to play in its entirety (the album version cross fades into the next track). Nonetheless, Sky Pilot managed to hit a respectable #14 on the charts in 1968.
Title: Straight Arrow
Source: CD: Spirit
Writer(s): Jay Ferguson
Spirit was born when high school students and garage rockers Randy California, Jay Ferguson, Mark Andes and John Locke started jamming with California's stepfather, jazz drummer Ed Cassidy. The result was one of the earliest examples of jazz-rock, although the jazz element would be toned down for later albums. Unlike the later fusion bands, Spirit's early songs tended to be sectional, with a main section that was straight rock often leading into a more late bop styled instrumental section reminiscent of Wes Montgomery's recordings. Vocalist Jay Ferguson wrote most of the band's early material, such as Straight Arrow from their 1968 debut album.
Artist: Bubble Puppy
Title: Hot Smoke And Sassafras
Source: CD: The Best Of 60s Psychedelic Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single B side and included on LP: A Gathering Or Promises)
Label: Priority (original label: International Artists)
Bubble Puppy was a band from San Antonio, Texas that relocated to nearby Austin and signed a contract with International Artists, a label already known as the home of legendary Texas psychedelic bands 13th Floor Elevators and Red Crayola. The group hit the national top 20 in early 1969 with Hot Smoke and Sassafras, a song that was originally released the previous year as a B side. Not long after the release of their first LP, A Gathering Of Promises, the band relocated to California and changed their name to Demian, at least in part to disassociate themselves with the then-popular "bubble gum" style (but also because of problems with International Artists).
Title: Turn Down Day
Source: Mono LP: Red Rubber Ball
If there was ever a song that embodies the feel of late summer, it's the Cyrkle's Turn Down Day, from late summer of 1966. The song was the band's second consecutive top 20 hit, although it fell short of the nearly chart topping performace of the band's debut single, Red Rubber Ball. Subsequent singles by the band did progressively worse over the next year and a half and the Cyrkle disbanded in 1968, with two of its members going on to have successful careers as commercial jingle writers (remember Plop Plop Fizz Fizz?).
Artist: Sleep City Devils
Title: A Twenty Dollar Orchestra
Source: Independently released by Ivan Perelli
Writer(s): Ivan Perilli
As a result of our ongoing efforts to find new artists to feature on our occasional Advanced Psych segment, I was contacted by Ivan Perilli, who pointed me to non-compressed versions of several tracks from his latest project, Sleep City Devils. The one that really grabbed me was A Twenty Dollar Orchestra. Billed as "an experimental thing", Sleep City Devils (1 band, 3 imaginary musicians, 4 songs) is the latest in a series of projects that also includes Happy Graveyard Orchestra and Banana Planets. According to Perilli's website, he also "just plays the bass" with Djoolio.
Artist: Sand Pebbles
Title: Red, Orange, Purple & Blue
Source: Australian import CD: Ceduna
Writer(s): Sand Pebbles
Label: Sensory Projects
Neighbours is the longest-running drama series on Australian television, having aired its first episode in March of 1985. It is also the unlikely origin point for Sand Pebbles, a band formed in 2001 by three Neighbours screenwriters. Those three founding members, bassist Christopher Hollow, guitarist Ben Michael and drummer Piet Collins were soon joined by guitarist/vocalist Andrew Tanner. The band's fourth album, Ceduna, also featured guitarist/vocalist Tor Larsen. The album, released in 2008, opens with Red, Orange, Purple & Blue.
Artist: Squires Of The Subterrain
Source: CD: Pop In A CD
Writer(s): Chris Zajkowski
Label: Rocket Racket
Year: Recorded 1997, released 1998
Chris Earl was the drummer for Rochester, NY's Salamanders, a popular dance band in the mid-1990s. Before that he had been a member of a group called the Essentials. Throughout all of this he had been quietly indulging his psychedelic side in his basement, recording several songs as the Squires Of The Subterrain and forming his own Rocket Racket label in 1989. While continuing to perform locally with various groups he continued to release underground Squires cassette tapes. Finally, in 1998, he released Pop In A CD, a compilation CD taken from his previous releases. The CD has several outstanding tracks, including 1997's Sarah. Earl released several more Squires Of The Subterrain CDs over the years, the most recent being Radio Silence, released in 2019 (which I am still waiting for a copy of, if you happen to be reading this, Chris).
Artist: Sam And Dave
Title: I Thank You
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Label: Atlantic (original label: Stax)
Although Sam Moore and Dave Prater had been recording together since 1961, their career as a duo didn't really take off until they signed with the Memphis-based Stax label in 1965 and began working with the songwriting/producing team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter. By the time Sam And Dave had left Stax in late 1968 they had racked up 10 consecutive top 20 singles on the R&B charts, including two songs that crossed over into the top 40. The second of these was I Thank You, their last single to be released on the Stax label itself. The following year they moved to New York and began working with producers Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd of Atlantic Records, but had little success there, and when their contract with the label expired in 1972 it was not renewed.
Title: Those Were The Days
Source: CD: Wheels Of Fire
Label: Polydor (original label: Atco)
Drummer Ginger Baker only contributed a handful of songs to the Cream repertoire, but each was, in its own way, quite memorable. Those Are The Days, with its sudden changes of time and key, presages the progressive rock that would flourish in the mid-1970s. As was usually the case with Baker-penned songs, bassist Jack Bruce provides the vocals from this Wheels Of Fire track.
Title: Time Of The Season
Source: CD: Odessey & Oracle
Writer(s): Rod Argent
Label: Varese Sarabande (original label: Date)
Despite having two major hits (She's Not There and Tell Her No) to their credit, the Zombies had fallen on hard times by 1967. Their records were no longer selling and live gigs were few and far between. In fact the band was on the verge of breaking up when they managed to secure a one-album deal with CBS Records that allowed them the freedom to produce themselves. They began recording on June 1, 1967 with a song called Friends Of Mine that was released as a UK-only single in September. The song itself tanked, but by then about half of the album had been recorded. Two months later, between the end of recording sessions but before the final mixdown, a second single, Care Of Cell 44, was issued in the UK, US, Canada and (oddly) the Phillipines, but it also failed to chart. The album itself was released in April of 1968, along with a third single, Time Of The Season, which was prepared for release in the US but cancelled after it became clear the song was going nowhere in the UK. In fact, Clive Davis, the head of CBS's US primary label, Columbia, decided not to release Odessey & Oracle at all. It was staff producer Al Kooper (yes, THAT Al Kooper) who convinced Davis to go ahead and issue both the album and the single on the subsidiary Date label in late October of 1968. With Kooper promoting the record, Time Of The Season began to get heard on radio stations in Michigan and Wisconsin, eventually going national and becoming a major hit in 1969. Unfortunately, by the time this all happened the Zombies had permanently disbanded, and so were unable to capitalize on the success of the single.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Monkey Man
Source: LP: Let It Bleed
Ever have a song get stuck in your head for days at a time? Monkey Man, from the Rolling Stones' 1969 LP Let It Bleed, is that kind of song.
Title: Umbassa The Dragon (aka Umbassa And The Dragon)
Source: CD: The Turtles Present The Battle Of The Bands (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): The Turtles
Label: Manifesto (original label: White Whale)
Rumor has it that Umbassa (and) The Dragon, issued as a Turtles B side in 1968, is the track that convinced Frank Zappa to invite Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman (aka Flo & Eddie) to become members of the Mothers. I find that pretty easy to believe, actually.
Title: Medac (aka Spotted Henry)/Relax
Source: LP: The Who Sell Out
The Who's most psychedelic album was The Who Sell Out, released in December of 1967. In addition to a wealth of outstanding songs, the album contained several short faux commercials such as the song Medac, written by bassist John Entwistle, which runs 57 seconds. The piece (which is called Spotted Henry on the original US Decca issue) tells the story of a boy whose acne is out of control until he tries a new product, Medac, which makes his face as smooth as "a baby's bottom". The tune is immediately followed by one of the Who's most underrated tracks, Pete Townshend's Relax, which (unlike the rest of the album) was recorded in New York.
Title: Don't Look Back
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Billy Vera
Label: Rhino (original label: Epic)
The Remains were a Boston area band that were seemingly on the verge of finally hitting the big time in 1966. They had just finished opening for the Beatles on their last US tour and had procured the rights to record a song written by Billy Vera, who would score a huge hit of his own 20 years later with At This Moment. Somehow, though, Don't Look Back didn't make the charts, despite its obvious potential. It was the last of a series of disappointments for a group that had been cutting records since 1964, and they soon packed up their instruments for the last time.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: Outlaw Blues
Source: Mono LP: Bringing It All Back Home
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan does a bit of role-playing in Outlaw Blues, a track from the electric side of his fifth LP, Bringing It All Back Home. The song, describing life on the run, contains the memorable line "Don’t ask me nothin’ about nothin’-I just might tell you the truth".
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Little Wing
Source: CD: Axis: Bold As Love
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: Legacy (original label: Reprise)
Although it didn't have any hit singles on it, Axis: Bold As Love, the second album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, was full of memorable tunes, including one of Hendrix's most covered songs, Little Wing. The album itself is a showcase for Hendrix's rapidly developing skills, both as a songwriter and in the studio. The actual production of the album was a true collaborative effort, combining Hendrix's creativity, engineer Eddie Kramer's expertise and producer Chas Chandler's strong sense of how a record should sound, acquired through years of recording experience as a member of the Animals. The result was nothing short of a masterpiece.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Stone Free
Source: Simulated stereo LP: Smash Hits
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Whether or not Stone Free was the first song ever written by Jimi Hendrix, there is no doubt it was his first original composition to be recorded by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In fact, it is the only song written by Hendrix to be released in 1966, albeit only in Europe and the UK (as the B side to Hey Joe). The first time the song was released in the US was on the Smash Hits anthology album that was put out by Reprise Records in 1969. A newer version was recorded, but not released, that same year under the title Stone Free Again.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Castles Made Of Sand
Source: CD: Axis: Bold As Love
Writer: Jimi Hendrix
Label: Experience Hendrix/Legacy (original label: Reprise)
Although born in Seattle, Washington, James Marshall Hendrix was never associated with the local music scene that produced some of the loudest and raunchiest punk-rock of the mid 60s. Instead, he paid his professional dues backing R&B artists on the "chitlin circuit" of clubs playing to a mostly-black clientele, mainly in the southern US. After a short stint leading his own soul band, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, Hendrix, at the behest of Chas Chandler (who had just left the Animals to try his hand at being a record producer), moved to London, where he recuited a pair of local musicians, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, to form the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Although known for his innovative use of feedback, Hendrix was quite capable of knocking out some of the most complex "clean" riffs ever to be committed to vinyl. A prime example of this is Castles Made Of Sand. Hendrix's highly melodic guitar work combined with unusual tempo changes and haunting lyrics makes Castles Made Of Sand a classic that sounds as fresh today as it did when Axis: Bold As Love was released in 1967.
Title: The Twilight Zone
Source: LP: The Ventures In Space
Writer(s): Marty Manning
Despite having only three top 10 singles to their credit (two of which were different versions of Walk-Don't Run), the Ventures managed to record over 200 albums, by far the most by an instrumental rock band. Most of these albums were based around a particular theme; indeed, the Ventures are generally acknowledged to have invented the concept album. One of their most unusual albums was The Ventures In Space, from 1964. Joining the band for this effort was noted session man Red Rhodes, who created many of the album's unusual sounds using a pedal steel guitar. In fact, all of the effects heard on tracks like The Twilight Zone were created using just guitars, rather than electronic devices such as a theramin. Quite an achievement for 1964, and one that holds up remarkably well over 50 years later.