This week we start with a seven song set from 1967 and end with a tune that inspired a major market radio station's new call letters. In between, among many other things we have a set of Cream songs written (and sometimes sung) by drummer Ginger Baker.
Title: Take It As It Comes
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released on LP: The Doors)
Writer(s): The Doors
Label: Rhino (original label: Elektra)
L.A.'s Whisky-A-Go-Go was the place to be in 1966. Not only were some of the city's hottest bands playing there, but for a while the house band was none other than the Doors, playing a mixture of blues covers and original tunes. One evening in early August Jack Holzman, president of Elektra Records, and producer Paul Rothchild were among those attending the club, having been invited there to hear the Doors by Arthur Lee (who's band Love had already released their first album on Elektra). After hearing two sets Holzman signed the group to a contract with the label, making the Doors the second rock band on Elektra (the Butterfield Blues Band, which had been with the label since 1965, was not considered a rock group in those days). By the end of the month the Doors were in the studio recording songs like Take It As It Comes for their debut LP, which was released in January of 1967.
Artist: Strawberry Alarm Clock
Title: Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow
Source: LP: Incense And Peppermints
The song Incense And Peppermints was originally a B side released in 1967 on the regional All-American label in southern California. DJs began flipping the record over, however, and the song soon attracted the interest of the people at MCA, who reissued the record on their Uni label. The song was such a huge national hit that Uni gave the band the go ahead to record an entire album. That album, also titled Incense And Peppermints, contained several fine songs, including Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow. This unsung psychedelic classic opens with a flute solo from Steve Bartek, who co-wrote Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow. Strange as it may seem, Bartek was not considered a member of the Strawberry Alarm Clock, although he co-wrote (with bass player George Bunnell) four of the album's 12 tracks and plays on most of them.
Title: King Midas In Reverse
Source: British import CD: Acid Daze (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Uncut (original label: Parlophone)
One of the last Hollies singles to include original member Graham Nash, King Midas In Reverse combines pop and psychedelia in a purely British way. The problem was that, with the exception of Nash, the Hollies had no desire to embrace psychedelia, and Nash soon found himself banding with David Crosby and Stephen Stills instead.
Source: CD: Heaven Is In Your Mind (also released as LP: Mr. Fantasy)
Label: Island (original label: United Artists)
The first Traffic LP was released in the UK under the title Mr. Fantasy. In the US the album was initially released under the name Heaven Is In Your Mind to coincide with the single of the same name. The singled failed to chart and subsequent pressings of the LP bore the name Mr. Fantasy. More recently the album has been released under both names on compact disc. Mr. Fantasy features the original mono mixes of the songs, while Heaven Is In Your Mind has the stereo versions. Both CDs include several bonus tracks as well, including the songs that were left off either the US or UK version of the original LP.
Artist: Balloon Farm
Title: A Question Of Temperature
Source: Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Laurie)
It's not entirely clear whether the Balloon Farm was an actual band or simply an East Coast studio concoction. Regardless, they did manage to successfully cross bubble gum and punk with A Question Of Temperature, originally released on the Laurie label in 1967. Band member Mike Appel went on to have greater success as Bruce Springsteen's first manager.
Artist: Humane Society
Title: Knock Knock
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Rhino (original label: Liberty)
The Humane Society, from Simi Valley, California, formed in 1965 as the Innocents. The band featured singer/guitarist Danny Wheetman, lead guitarist Jim Pettit, rhythm guitarist Woody Minnick, bassist Richard Majewski, and drummer Bill Schnetzler. As was often the case, The A side of the group's first single was chosen by the band's producers, while the band itself provided the B side. In this case that B side was Knock Knock, a classic piece of garage-punk that far outshines the now-forgottten A side of the record.
Artist: Music Machine
Title: The Eagle Never Hunts The Fly
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: Bonniwell Music Machine)
Writer(s): Sean Bonniwell
Label: Rhino (original label: Original Sound, stereo LP version released on Warner Brothers)
The Music Machine was by far the most advanced of all the bands playing on Sunset Strip in 1966-67. Not only did they feature tight sets (ensuring that audience members wouldn't get the chance to call out requests between songs), they also had their own visual look that set them apart from other groups. With all the band members dressed entirely in black (including dyed hair) and wearing one black glove, the Machine projected an image that would influence such diverse artists as the Ramones and Michael Jackson in later years. Musically, Bonniwell's songwriting showed a sophistication that was on a par with the best L.A. had to offer, demonstrated by a series of fine singles such as The Eagle Never Hunts the Fly. Unfortunately, problems on the business end prevented the Music Machine from achieving the success it deserved and Bonniwell, disheartened, dissillusioned and/or disgusted, eventually quit the music business altogether.
Artist: Butterfield Blues Band
Title: Blues With A Feeling
Source: LP: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Writer(s): Walter Jacobs
Sometime in the early 1960s aspiring harmonicist (if that's not a real word, it should be) Paul Butterfield and guitarist Elvin Bishop, who had been performing together at "twist parties" (toga parties?) on various college campuses, were offered a regular gig at Big John's, a folk club in Chicago's Old Town district. They soon recruited two members of Howlin' Wolf's tour band, bassist Jerome Arnold and drummer Sam Lay to form the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1963. The following year Paul Rothchild, a house producer for the New York-based Elektra Records, saw the band perform while on a visit to Chicago. He also had the opportunity to see guitarist Michael Bloomfield play and suggested to Butterfield that he would make a good addition to the band. In December of 1964 Rothchild brought the band to Elektra's New York studios to record, but those sessions were abandoned in favor of a live set at Howard Solomon's Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village following the band's well-received live set at the Newport Folk Festival. Still not quite satisfied with the results, the band made their third attempt at recording an album in September of 1965, joined by keyboardist Mark Naftalin, who ended up staying with the group for their first five albums. Most of the songs recorded for that first album were covers of blues classics such as Little Walter's Blues With A Feeling, a song considered a must-learn for all aspiring blues harmonicists (there's that word again).
Source: Mono German import CD: Love
Emotions, the last track on side one of the first Love album, sounds like it could have come directly from the soundtrack of one the spaghetti westerns that were popular with moviegoers in the mid-1960s. Probably not coincidentally, the instrumental is also the only Love recording to carry a writing credit for lead guitarist Johnny Echols (with the exception of the 17-minute jam Revelation on their second LP, which is credited to the entire band).
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Highway Chile
Source: Simulated stereo British import LP: Smash Hits (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: Polydor (original label: Track)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience already had three hit singles in the UK before releasing their first LP, Are You Experienced, in May of 1967. The following month the band made its US debut at the Monterey International Pop Festival. The gig went over so well that Reprise Records soon made arrangements to release Are You Experienced in the US. To maximize the commercial potential of the LP, Reprise decided to include the A sides of all three singles on the album, even though those songs had not been on the British version. The B sides of all three singles, however, were not included on the album. Among those missing tracks was Highway Chile, a somewhat autobiographical song that was originally paired with The Wind Cries Mary. In April of 1968, prior to the release of the Electric Ladyland album, Polydor released an album called Smash Hits that collected all eight songs that had been released in single form up to that point, as well as a handful of tunes from the original UK version of Are You Experienced. Highway Chile was not included on the US version of Smash Hits, which was released the following year; in fact, Highway Chile was not released in the US at all during Hendrix's lifetime, finally appearing (in fake stereo) on the 1972 LP War Heroes.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: Subterranean Homesick Blues
Source: Mono LP: Bringing It All Back Home
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
1965 was the year Bob Dylan went electric, and got his first top 40 hit, Subterranean Homesick Blues, in the process. Although the song, which also led off his Bringing It All Back Home album, stalled out in the lower 30s, it did pave the way for electrified cover versions of Dylan songs by the Byrds and Turtles and Dylan's own Like A Rolling Stone, which would revolutionize top 40 radio. A line from the song itself, "you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows", became the inspiration for a radical offshoot of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) that called itself the Weathermen (later the Weather Underground). My own favorite line from the song is "Don't follow leaders, watch the parkin' meters". Words to live by.
Artist: Count Five
Title: Psychotic Reaction
Source: 45 RPM single (simulated stereo reissue)
Label: Double Shot
In late 1966 five guys from San Jose California managed to sound more like the Jeff Beck-era Yardbirds that the Yardbirds themselves (a task probably made easier by the fact that by late 1966 Jeff Beck was no longer a member of the Yardbirds). One interesting note about this record is that as late as the mid-1980s the 45 RPM single on the original label was still available in record stores, complete with the original B side. Normally (in the US at least) songs more than a year or two old were only available on anthology LPs or on reissue singles with "back-to-back hits" on them. The complete takeover of the record racks by CDs in the late 1980s changed all that, as all 45s (except for indy releases) soon went the way of the 78 RPM record. The resurgence of vinyl in the 2010s has been almost exclusively limited to LP releases, making it look increasingly unlikely that we'll ever see (with the exception of Record Store Day special releases) 45 RPM singles on the racks ever again.
Artist: Third Rail
Title: Run Run Run
Source: CD: Even More Nuggets
Label: Rhino (original label: Epic)
Run Run Run is actually a studio creation issied in 1967 from husband and wife team Artie and Kris Resnick collaborating with Joey Levine, who sings lead vocals on the track. They only performed the song live once (in Cincinatti, of all places) as the Third Rail. All three would find a home as part of the Kasenetz-Katz bubble gum machine that would make Buddah Records a major player in 1968, with Levine himself singing lead for one of the label's most successful groups, the Ohio Express.
Artist: Childe Harold
Title: Brink Of Death
Source: Mono CD: A Heavy Dose Of Lyte Psych (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Bert Sommer
Label: Arf! Arf! (original label: Limelight)
Although the promo copy of the single Brink Of Death came in a picture sleeve with a photo of five guys on the back (along with lyrics), I can't help but wonder if Childe Harold was in fact a studio creation of producer Walter (now known as Wendy) Carlos, who was also credited as the song's arranger. The name Childe Harold itself is an obvious parody of Childe Roland, and it was the only single ever released under that name. The song's writer, Bert Sommer, would be one of many acoustic acts on the opening day of the Woodstock festival the following year, having established himself as Left Banke's touring lead vocalist (replacing Steve Martin Caro, who had left the band after recording their first LP) and writing songs for Leslie West's band, the Vagrants.
Title: The Rapper
Source: Mono CD: Battle Of The Band, vol. two (originally released on 45 RPM vinyl)
Writer(s): Dominic Ierace
Label: Era (original label: Kama Sutra)
The Jaggerz, a band from Pittsburgh formed by vocalist Dominic Ierace (later known as Donnie Iris) was one of the few acts signed to the Kama Sutra label after the original Kama Sutra had morphed into Buddah Records. Despite the band's name (which is actually Western Pennsylvania slang for those sharp things along the branches of bushes) they sounded nothing like the Rolling Stones.
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: A Song For Jeffrey
Source: CD: This Was
Writer(s): Ian Anderson
Jethro Tull's second single (and first European hit) was A Song For Jeffrey from their debut LP, This Was. The Jeffrey in the song title is Jeffrey Hammond, who, according to the liner notes, was "one of us, though he doesn't play anything". The notes go on to say he "makes bombs and stuff". In fact, Hammond would replace bassist Glen Cornick a few albums later and remain with the group for several years. The song itself proved popular enough that when the band compiled their first Anthology album, Living In The Past, A Song For Jeffrey was chosen to open the album.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Jumpin' Jack Flash
Source: CD: Singles Collection-The London Years (originally released as 45 RPM single)
After the late 1967 LP Their Satanic Majesties Request was savaged by the critics, the Rolling Stones decided to make a big change, severing ties with their longtime producer Andrew Loog Oldham and replacing him with Jimmy Miller, who had made a name for himself working with Steve Winwood on recordings by both the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic. The collaboration resulted in a back-to-basics approach that produced the classic single Jumpin' Jack Flash. The song was actually the second Stones tune produced by MIller, although it was the first to be released. The song revitalized the band's commercial fortunes, and was soon followed by what is generally considered to be one of the Stones' greatest albums, the classic Beggar's Banquet (which included the first Miller-produced song, Street Fighting Man).
Title: Tripping Into Sunshine
Source: CD: Ah Feel Like Ahcid (originally released on LP: T.I.M.E. and as 45 RPM single)
Label: Zonophone (original label: Liberty)
After the demise of the Canadian band Sparrow, bassist Nick St. Nicholas gravitated to San Francisco, where he met up with former members of the San Diego-based Hard Times to form T.I.M.E. (Trust In Men Everywhere). The band recorded two albums for Liberty, the first of which opens with the track Tripping Into Sunshine. After the group's demise St. Nicholas rejoined his former Sparrow bandmates in their new band Steppenwolf. He was eventually joined by T.I.M.E. guitarist Larry Byrom as well.
Artist: Allman Brothers Band
Title: Don't Want You No More/It's Not My Cross To Bear
Source: CD: Beginnings (originally released on LP: The Allman Brothers Band)
Label: Polydor (original label: Capricorn)
The first Allman Brothers band album sold poorly outside of the southeastern US and was pulled from the shelves within a year. Meanwhile, the second album, Idlewild South, did a bit better and the third album, recorded live at the Fillmore East, was a breakout hit. This prompted Capricorn, which in the meantime had morphed from a production house to a full-blown label, to reissue the first two albums as a 2-record set for the price of one. Don't Want You No More is an instrumental (originally recorded by the Spencer Davis Group) that serves as an introduction to both the band and the first album, and segues directly into the Gregg Allman tune It's Not My Cross To Bear.
Title: Passing The Time
Source: CD: Wheels Of Fire
Label: Polydor (original label: Atco)
Although Jack Bruce is generally acknowledged as the member of Cream that provided the most psychedelic material that the band recorded, drummer Ginger Baker gave him a run for his money on the studio half of their third LP, Wheels Of Fire. Perhaps the best of these was Passing The Time, which alternates between a slow, dreamlike section notable for its use of a calliope and a fast section that rocks out as hard as anything the band performed live in concert.
Title: Blue Condition
Source: LP: Disraeli Gears
Writer(s): Ginger Baker
It took doing an all-Ginger Baker set to get me to play Blue Condition, from Cream's second LP, Disraeli Gears. It is, to my knowledge, the only Cream song that features Baker as a lead singer. Don't expect to hear it on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era again any time soon (unless I find a copy of the song that features Eric Clapton's vocals).
Title: Pressed Rat And Warthog
Source: CD: Wheels Of Fire
Label: Polydor (original label: Atco)
Pressed Rat And Warthog, from Cream's third LP, Wheels Of Fire, is one of those songs you either love or hate. I loved it the first time I heard it but had several friends that absolutely detested it. As near as I can tell, drummer Ginger Baker actually talks that way. Come to think of it, all the members of Cream had pretty heavy accents.
Artist: Neil Young/Crazy Horse
Title: Cowgirl In The Sand
Source: LP: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Writer: Neil Young
It has been said that adverse conditions are conducive to good art. Certainly that truism applies to Neil Young's Cowgirl In The Sand, written while Young was running a 102 degree fever. Almost makes you want to get sick yourself, doesn't it?
Artist: Sly And The Family Stone
Title: I Want To Take You Higher
Source: CD: The Best Of 60s Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Stand and as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Sly Stone
Label: Priority (original label: Epic)
Sylvester Stewart was a major presence on the San Francisco music scene for several years, both as a producer for Autumn Records and as a popular local disc jockey. In 1967 he decided to take it to the next level, using his studio connections to put together Sly And The Family Stone. The band featured a solid lineup of musicians, including Larry Graham, whose growling bass line figures prominently in their 1969 recording of I Want To Take You Higher. The song was originally released as a B side, but after the group blew away the crowd at Woodstock the recording was re-released as a single the following year.
Artist: Deep Purple
Title: River Deep, Mountain High
Source: CD: The Book Of Taleisyn
Label: Eagle (original label: Tetragrammaton)
The big, spectacular production piece on Deep Purple's second LP, The Book Of Taleisyn, was a ten minute long cover of Tina Turner's 1966 single (credited to Ike And Tina Turner, though it was actually produced by Phil Spector) River Deep, Mountain High. The original Turner version had mysteriously stalled out in the #88 spot in the US, although it was a #3 hit single in the UK. For Deep Purple, the reverse held true, as the album, released in late 1968, was a success in the US (#54 on the Billboard LP chart) but did not chart at all in the UK, where it was not released until mid-1969. The song itself would be covered by several notable artists over the subsequent years, including Eric Burdon And The Animals and a collaboration between the Supremes and the Four Tops that would become the highest-charting US version of the song in 1970.
Artist: Vanilla Fudge
Title: You Keep Me Hangin' On
Source: Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Atco)
You Keep Me Hangin' On, a hit for the Supremes in 1967, was the first song recorded by Vanilla Fudge, who laid down the seven-minute plus track in a single take. Producer Shadow Morton then used that recording to secure the band a contract with Atco Records (an Atlantic subsidiary) that same year. Rather than to re-record the song for their debut LP, Morton and the band chose to use the original tape, despite the fact that it was never mixed in stereo. For single release the song was edited considerably, clocking in at around three minutes.
Artist: Left Banke
Title: Pretty Ballerina
Source: LP: Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina
The Left Banke, taking advantage of bandleader Michael Brown's industry connections (his father was an Important Person at a New York recording studio), ushered in what was considered to be the "next big thing" in popular music in early 1967: baroque pop. After their debut single, Walk Away Renee, became a huge bestseller, the band followed it up with Pretty Ballerina, which easily made the top 20 as well. Subsequent releases were sabotaged by a series of bad decisions by Brown and the other band members that left radio stations leery of playing any record with the words "Left Banke" on the label.
Source: CD: Rubber Soul
The oldest song on the Rubber Soul album, Wait was originally recorded for the British version of Help , but did not make the final cut. Six months later, when the band was putting the finishing touches on Rubber Soul, they realized they would not be able to come up with enough new material in time for a Christmas release, so they added some overdubs to Wait and included it on the new album. The song itself was a collaboration between John Lennon and Paul McCartney, with the two sharing vocals throughout the tune.
Artist: Mothers Of Invention
Source: LP: Burnt Weeny Sandwich
Writer(s): Four Deuces
Originally released by the San Francisco doo-wop group Four Deuces in 1956, W-P-L-J (white port and lemon juice) has the distinction of being one of the very few cover songs ever recorded by Frank Zappa's Mothers Of Invention. Zappa later said of the song, which appeared on the 1970 LP Burnt Weeny Sandwich, that he himself could not have written a song any more absurd.