Sunday, December 31, 2023

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 2401 (starts 1/1/24) 

    This week we have three artists that, due to time constraints, got squeezed out of last week's expanded Advanced Psych segments, along with artists' sets from Cream and Big Brother And The Holding Company, the latter including two outtakes from the sessions that resulted in the most popular album of 1968, Cheap Thrills. And of course there's the usual mix of A sides, B sides and album tracks, starting with a set of hit singles originally released in 1965.
Artist:    Byrds
Title:    Mr. Tambourine Man
Source:    Mono LP: Nuggets vol. 10-Folk Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Mr. Tambourine Man)
Writer(s):    Bob Dylan
Label:    Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Year:    1965
           The term "folk-rock" was coined by the music press to describe the debut single by the Byrds. Mr. Tambourine Man had been written and originally recorded by Bob Dylan, but it was the Byrds version that went to the top of the charts in 1965. Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark and David Crosby had begun work on the song in 1964, when their manager got his hands on an acetate of Dylan performing the song with Ramblin' Jack Elliott. The trio, calling themselves the Jet Set, were trying to develop a sound that combined folk-based melodies and lyrics with arrangements inspired by the British Invasion, and felt that Mr. Tambourine Man might be a good candidate for that kind of treatment. Although the group soon added bassist Chris Hillman and drummer Michael Clarke, producer Terry Melcher opted to use the group of Los Angeles studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew for the instrumental track of the recording, along with McGuinn's 12-string guitar. Following the success of the single, the Byrds entered the studio to record their debut LP, this time playing their own instruments.

Artist:    Standells
Title:    Dirty Water
Source:    Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Ed Cobb
Label:    Rhino (original label: Tower)
Year:    1965
    Dirty Water has long since been adopted by the city of Boston (and especially its sports teams), yet the band that originally recorded this Ed Cobb tune was purely an L.A. band, having started off playing cover tunes for frat parties in the early 60s. Drummer Dickie Dodd, who sings lead on Dirty Water, was a former Mouseketeer who had played on the surf-rock hit Mr. Moto as a member of the Bel-Airs.

Artist:    Seeds
Title:    Pushin' Too Hard
Source:    Simulated stereo CD: Nuggets-Classics From The Psychedelic 60s (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: The Seeds)
Writer(s):    Sky Saxon
Label:    Rhino (original label: GNP Crescendo)
Year:    1965
    Pushin' Too Hard is generally included on every collection of psychedelic hits ever compiled. And for good reason. The song is an undisputed classic, although it took the better part of two years to catch on. Originally released in 1965 as You're Pushin' Too Hard, the song was virtually ignored by local Los Angeles radio stations until a second single, Can't Seem To Make You Mine, started getting some attention. After being included on the Seeds' debut LP in 1966, Pushin' Too Hard was rereleased and soon was being heard all over the L.A. airwaves. By the end of the year stations in other markets were starting to spin the record, and the song hit its peak of popularity in early 1967.

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    I'm Looking Through You
Source:    LP: Rubber Soul
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Capitol/EMI
Year:    1965
    Although John Lennon is generally thought of as the Beatle who wore his heart on his sleeve, it was Paul McCartney who came up with the song I'm Looking Through You for the Rubber Soul album. The lyrics refer to Jane Asher, who McCartney had been dating for about five years when he wrote the song. They split up soon afterward.

Artist:    Donovan
Title:    Sunny South Kensington
Source:    Mono British import CD: Mellow Yellow (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Donovan Leitch
Label:    EMI (original label: Epic)
Year:    1966
    Scottish singer/songwriter Donovan Leitch followed up his 1966 hit single Sunshine Superman with an album of the same name. He then repeated himself with the song and album Mellow Yellow. The Mellow Yellow single, released in late 1966, included Sunny South Kensington, a song done in a similar style to Sunshine Superman, as its B side. The Mellow Yellow album itself appeared in the US in early 1967.  Due to a contractual dispute in the UK between Donovan and Pye Records, neither Sunshine Superman or Mellow Yellow were issued in their original forms in Britain, although a hybrid album featuring tracks from both LPs did appear later.

Artist:    Marmalade
Title:    I See The Rain
Source:    Mono CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Campbell/McAleese
Label:    Rhino (original label: CBS)
Year:    1967
    Formed in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1961 as the Gaylords, the Marmalade is best known for its international smash hit Reflections Of My Life in late 1968. One often overlooked song was I See The Rain, which Jimi Hendrix once called his favorite record of 1967. The song was not a hit in either the US or UK, although it did make the top 30 in the Netherlands.

Artist:    Jeff Beck
Title:    Ol' Man River
Source:    CD: Truth
Writer(s):    Kern/Hammerstein II
Label:    Epic/Legacy
Year:    1968
    Guitarist Jeff Beck's first solo LP was an eclectic mix of hard rock, psychedelia, blues and even a show tune; the latter being an adaptation of 'Ol Man River from 1927's Showboat, written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. Rod Stewart provides lead vocals on the track.

Artist:    Idle Race
Title:    Hurry Up John
Source:    British import CD: Insane times (originally released on LP: Idle Race)
Writer(s):    Jeff Lynne
Label:    Zonophone (original label: Liberty)
Year:    1969
    Virtually unknown in the US, the Idle Race released three LPs in the UK before frontman Jeff Lynne departed the group to join up with Roy Wood's band, the Move. Hurry Up John, a 1969 album track from the second Idle Race LP, is a classic sample of Britain's underground music scene.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience (II)
Title:    Valleys Of Neptune
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Legacy
Year:    Recorded 1970, released 2010
    Even before the breakup of the original Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1969, Hendrix was starting to work with other musicians, including keyboardist Steve Winwood and flautist/saxophonist Chris Wood from Traffic, bassist Jack Casidy from Jefferson Airplane and Electric Flag drummer Buddy Miles. Still, he kept showing a tendency to return to the power trio configuration, first with Band of Gypsys, with Miles and bassist Billy Cox and, in 1970, a new trio that was sometimes billed as the Jimi Hendrix Experience. This trio, featuring Cox along with original Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell (with additional percussion added by Jumo Sultan), recorded extensively in the months leading up to Hendrix's death on September 18th, leaving behind hours of tapes in various stages of completion. Among those recordings was a piece called Valleys Of Neptune that was finally released, both as a single and as the title track of a new CD, in 2010.

Artist:     Jefferson Airplane
Title:     Things Are Better In The East (demo version)
Source:     CD: After Bathing At Baxter's (bonus track)
Writer:     Marty Balin
Label:     RCA/BMG Heritage
Year:     1967
     The third Jefferson Airplane album, After Bathing At Baxter's, saw Marty Balin hanging back and letting the other group members shine. Whereas a majority of songs on the first two albums were Balin compositions (both solo and in collaboration with Paul Kantner), his only composition on Baxter's was Young Girl Sunday Blues, co-written by Kantner. Balin was not completely idle during this period, however, as this demo recording of Things Are Better In The East (a finished version of which was held back for possible inclusion on a future album) demonstrates.

Artist:        Doors
Title:        End Of The Night
Source:      45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:        Elektra
Year:        1967
        End Of The Night is one of those songs that seems to define a band's sound. In the case of the Doors, that sound was dark and menacing. No wonder, then, that End Of The Night was chosen to be the B side of the band's first single in early 1967.

Artist:     Pink Floyd
Title:     Bike
Source:     CD: Relics (originally released in UK on LP: The Piper At the Gates of Dawn)
Writer:     Syd Barrett
Label:     Capitol (originally released on EMI/Columbia)
Year:     1967
     Due to an inherent cheapness in Tower Records' approach to pretty much everything, four songs were left off the US version of the first Pink Floyd album, The Piper At the Gates of Dawn, with the band's second UK single, See Emily Play, being inserted in their stead (shortening the album's running time by nearly ten minutes). Among the missing songs was Syd Barrett's Bike, which did not appear in the US until the early 70s, when the Relics compilation was released. All CD releases of Piper in the US have restored the original song lineup and running order.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    N.S.U.
Source:    CD: Fresh Cream
Writer(s):    Jack Bruce
Label:    Polydor/Polygram (original US label: Atco)
Year:    1966
    Although most of Jack Bruce's Cream songs were co-written with lyricist Pete Brown, there were some exceptions. Among the most notable of these is N.S.U. from Cream's debut LP, which features Bruce's own lyrics. The song, also released as a B side, has proven popular enough to be included on several Cream retrospective collections and was part of the band's repertoire when they reunited for a three-day stint at the Royal Albert Hall in 2005. Before his death, Bruce revealed that N.S.U. actually stands for non-specific urethritis, which one of his bandmates was suffering from at the time the song was written.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    White Room (single version)
Source:    LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Wheels Of Fire)
Writer(s):    Bruce/Brown
Label:    United Artists (original label: Atco)
Year:    1968
    In order to get songs played on top 40 radio, record companies made it a practice to shorten album cuts by cutting out extended instrumental breaks and extra verses. This version of the Cream classic White Room, clocking in at just over three minutes, is a typical example.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    Cat's Squirrel
Source:    CD: Fresh Cream
Writer(s):    Trad., arr. S. Splurge
Label:    Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year:    1966
    One of the few instrumentals in the Cream repertoire, Cat's Squirrel was something of a blues standard whose origins are lost in antiquity. Unlike the 1968 Jethro Tull version, which emphasises Mick Abrahams's guitar work, Cream's Cat's Squirrel is heavy on the harmonica, played by bassist Jack Bruce. Arranger credits for the recording were given to S. Splurge, a pseudonym for the band itself, in the tradition of Nanker Phelge.

Artist:    Music Machine
Title:    In My Neighborhood
Source:    CD: Beyond The Garage
Writer(s):    Sean Bonniwell
Label:    Sundazed
Year:    Recorded 1968, released 1995
    Sean Bonniwell has been quoted as saying that he had overproduced the original version of In My Neighborhood, due to having too much idle time in the studio. As a result, he chose not to release the song at all. Years later, Bonniwell and Bob Irwin remixed the track for release on the anthology CD Beyond The Garage.

Artist:    Country Joe And The Fish
Title:    Happiness Is A Porpoise Mouth
Source:    LP: Electric Music For The Mind And Body
Writer(s):    Joe McDonald
Label:    Vanguard
Year:    1967
    The songs on the first Country Joe And The Fish album ranged from silly satire (Super Bird) to downright spacey. One of the spaciest tracks on the album is Happiness Is A Porpoise Mouth, both lyrically and musically.

Artist:    Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
Title:    Spontaneous Apple Creation
Source:    British import CD: The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
Writer(s):    Brown/Crane
Label:    Polydor (original US label: Atlantic)
Year:    1968
    One of the most revered examples of British psychedelia is the 1968 album The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. While side one was done as a concept album about Hell, side two was a mixture of original tunes and the most popular cover songs from the band's live repertoire. Among the originals on side two is Spontaneous Apple Creation, possibly the most avant-garde piece on the album. Once you hear it, you'll know exactly what I mean by that.

Artist:    Mommyheads
Title:    Genius Killer
Source:    CD: Genius Killer
Writer(s):    Adam Cohen
Label:    Mommyhead Music
Year:    2022
    The Mommyheads are one of those rare bands that were able to recover from being totally screwed over by a major record company, although the process took several years. Formed around 1987 in New York, they already had several releases on independent labels by the time they signed with Geffen and recorded the album called The Mommyheads in 1997. Before the album was even released, however, the band was dropped from the label due to a company-wide shakeup, and within a few months had disbanded altogether. Nearly ten years later, following a reunion concert, the Mommyheads once again became a working band, re-releasing some of their earlier material over the next few years. In 2011 they released Delicate Friction, their first album of all-new material since the 1990s. Since then they have been releasing albums on a somewhat steady basis, including the 2020 re-release of their 1997 major label debut album. Their most recent release is Genius Killer, which came out on September, 20, 2022.

Artist:    McFadden's Parachute
Title:    The Belt Of Gilgamesh
Source:    CD: Psolipsystic Psychedelic Pslyces Of McFadden's Parachute
Writer(s):    Darren Brennessel
Label:    PeterFonda
Year:    Hard to determine
    Although the psychedelic era itself officially covers only a few years in the late 1960s, for many the spirit of the era's music lives on. One such person is Darren Brennessel of Rochester, NY, who is the mastermind behind over two dozen McFadden's Parachute albums. Brennessel has been playing professionally since 1989, when he was the drummer for a band called the Purple Flashes, conceiving and recording the first McFadden's Parachute album as a side project. In the years since, in addition to playing multiple instruments on McFadden's Parachute albums, Brennessel has continued to play drums with a variety of bands, including Sky Saxon's Green Forests, which recorded an as-yet unreleased album in 2004. A while back, Darren sent me a special sampler collection of McFadden's Parachute tracks recorded mostly in the 1990s, including The Belt Of Gilgamesh, a science-fiction piece speculating on the origins of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupitor.

Artist:    Strawberry Zots
Title:    Pretty Flowers
Source:    LP: Cars, Flowers, Telephones
Writer(s):    Mark Andrews
Label:    StreetSound
Year:    1989
    Albuquerque's Strawberry Zots were led by Mark Andrews, who either wrote or co-wrote all of the band's original material. Their only LP, Cars, Flowers, Telephones, was released locally on the StreetSound label and reissued on CD the following year by RCA records. My personal favorite track on the album is Pretty Flowers, which starts off the LP's second side. Unfortunately the song is handicapped by its low-fidelity production, which may have been a deliberate attempt to emulate the sound of 60s psychedelia, but ends up sounding over-compressed (like much of the music of the 1980s).
Artist:     Rolling Stones
Title:     Lady Jane
Source:     British import LP: Aftermath (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer:     Jagger/Richards
Label:     Abkco (original US label: London)
Year:     1966
     One of the best early Rolling Stones albums is 1966's Aftermath, which included such classics as Under My Thumb, Stupid Girl and the eleven-minute Goin' Home. Both the US and UK versions of the LP included the song Lady Jane, which was also released as the B side to Mother's Little Helper (which had been left off the US version of Aftermath to make room for Paint It, Black). The policy at the time in the US was for B sides that got a significant amount of airplay to be rated separately from the A side of the single, and Lady Jane managed to climb to the # 24 spot on the Hot 100 (Mother's Little Helper peaked at # 8).

Artist:    Beach Boys
Title:    I Know There's An Answer
Source:    Mono LP: Pet Sounds
Writer(s):    Wilson/Sachen
Label:    Capitol/EMI
Year:    1966
    One of the first songs recorded for the Pet Sounds album was Hang On To Your Ego, allegedly written by Brian Wilson on his second acid trip. Mike Love objected to some of the lyrics, particularly those of the chorus, and Wilson eventually decided to scrap them and write new ones, this time with the help of the group's road manager, Terry Sachen. The result was I Know There's An Answer.

Artist:    Davie Allan And The Arrows
Title:    Blue's Theme
Source:    Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released on LP: The Wild Ones-soundtrack and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Curb/Allan
Label:    Rhino (original label: Tower)
Year:    1966
    It is entirely possible that the Chocolate Watchband (or more accurately, the unknown producers of their first recording) were indirectly responsible for giving guitarist Davie Allan his biggest hit single. In 1966, movie producer Roger Corman hired Mike Curb to comeup with soundtrack music for his 1966 film The Wild Ones. Curb in turn contacted his longtime friend (and frequent collaborator) Davie Allan to actually record the soundtrack with his band, the Arrows. The film was released in July of 1966, with the soundtrack album appearing soon after. The obvious high point of the album was the instrumental track Blue's Theme (which technically should have been Blues's Theme, since the film's main character, played by Peter Fonda, was named Heavenly Blues), but at first there were reportedly no plans to release the song as a single. However, late in the year the Chocolate Watch Band were making their very first visit to a recording studio, and were asked to knock out a quick cover of Blues Theme, which was released (sans apostrophe) on the HBR label, credited to The Hogs. Curb must have heard about this as it was being prepared for release, as he managed to put out a single release of the original Davie Allan version of Blue's Theme before the HBR single hit the racks. Either that, or (more likely) the HBR producers simply had bad info about Curb's intentions in the first place.

Artist:    Things To Come
Title:    'Til The End
Source:    Mono CD: If You're Ready-The Best Of Dunwich Records Volume 2 (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Kennith Ashley
Label:    Rhino/Here 'Tis (original label: Dunwich)
Year:    1966
    Despite spending a considerable amount of time looking for information on the Illinois band called Things To Come (not to be confused with the L.A. band of the same name), I still know absolutely nothing about them. The extensive liner notes accompanying the compilation CD If You're Ready-The Best Of Dunwich Records Volume 2 that contains the song 'Til The End fails to mention them at all. Even the spelling of the songwriter's first name is suspect. So if you know anything at all about these guys, let me know, OK?

Artist:    Shadows of Knight
Title:    Oh Yeah
Source:    CD: Oh Yeah! The Best Of Dunwich Records (originally released on LP: Gloria and as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Elias McDaniel
Label:    Rhino (original label: Dunwich)
Year:    1966
    The original British blues bands like the Yardbirds made no secret of the fact that they had created their own version of a music that had come from Chicago. The Shadows Of Knight, on the other hand, were a Chicago band that created their own version of the British blues, bringing the whole thing full circle. After taking their version of Van Morrison's Gloria into the top 10 early in 1966, the Shadows (which had added "of Knight" to their name just prior to releasing Gloria) decided to follow it up with an updated version of Bo Diddley's Oh Yeah. Although the song did not have a lot of national top 40 success, it did help establish the Shadows' reputation as one of the grittiest bands around (the term garage-punk not yet being in common usage).

Artist:    Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title:    Catch Me Baby
Source:    CD: Cheap Thrills (bonus track)
Writer(s):    Albin/Andrew/Gtez/Gurley/Joplin
Label:    Columbia/Legacy
Year:    Recorded 1968, released 1999
    After Columbia bought out Big Brother And The Holding Company's contract from Mainstream Records it was decided that the best way to record the band was during a live performance. On March 2, 1968 several songs were recorded at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, but after reviewing the recordings, producer John Simon decided to re-record the band in the studio and overdub crowd noise to make the album appear to be a live performance. In 1999, two of the original Detroit performances, including Catch Me Baby, were included as bonus tracks on the remastered CD version of Cheap Thrills.

Artist:    Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title:    Oh, Sweet Mary
Source:    LP: Cheap Thrills
Writer(s):    Albin/Andrew/Getz/Gurley/Joplin
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1968
    The only song credited to the entire membership of Big Brother And The Holding Company on their Cheap Thrills album was Oh, Sweet Mary (although the original label credits Janis Joplin as sole writer and the album cover itself gives only Joplin and Peter Albin credit). The tune bears a strong resemblance to Coo Coo, a non-album single the band had released on the Mainstream label before signing to Columbia. Oh, Sweet Mary, however, has new lyrics and, for a breath of fresh air, a bridge section played at a slower tempo than the rest of the tune.

Artist:    Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title:    Flower In The Sun
Source:    CD: Cheap Thrills (bonus track)
Writer(s):    Sam Andrew
Label:    Columbia/Legacy
Year:    Recorded 1968, released 1999
    Sam Houston Andrew III is one of the more overlooked talents of the late 1960s San Francisco music scene. Born in 1941, Andrew was a military brat who, at the age of 17, was the host of his own TV show in Okinawa, Japan, as well as leader of the show's house band. His father was transferred to a base in California shortly after Andrew graduated high school, and Andrew soon became involved with the San Francisco music scene. In 1966 he and Peter Albin formed Big Brother And The Holding Company, a band that would, by the end of the year, include vocalist Janis Joplin. Following the release of the hit album Cheap Thrills in 1968, Andrew and Joplin left Big Brother to form the Kozmic Blues Band. Less than a year later Andrew returned to Big Brother And The Holding Company, becoming the band's musical director until his death in 2015. Andrew was Big Brother's most prolific songwriter (he had written his first song at age 6), contributing songs like Combination Of The Two (the band's usual set opener) and Flower In The Sun, the studio version of which was intended for inclusion on Cheap Thrills but didn't make the final cut.

Artist:     Neil Young/Crazy Horse
Title:    Down By The River
Source:    CD: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Writer(s):    Neil Young
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1969
    Down By The River is one of four songs on the album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere that Neil Young wrote while running a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit (that's 39.5 degrees for people in civilized nations that use the Celsius, aka centrigrade, scale). By some strange coincidence, they are the four best songs on the album. I wish I could have been that sick in my days as a wannabe rock star.

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    The Man Who Sold The World
Source:    CD: The Man Who Sold The World
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Parlophone (original US label: Mercury)
Year:    1970
    The Man Who Sold The World is the title track of David Bowie's third LP. At the time, Bowie was a relatively obscure artist still looking for an audience and, in his own words, an identity as well. Unlike other Bowie albums, The Man Who Sold The World was released in the US several months earlier than in the UK. The song itself was not considered single material at the time, although it ended up being a surprise hit in the UK for Lulu in 1974, and became popular with a whole new generation when Nirvana released an unplugged version of the tune in 1993. After Bowie signed with RCA, The Man Who Sold The World was re-issued as the B side of Space Oddity in 1972.

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2401 (starts 1/1/24)

    This week we feature a concerto for group vs. orchestra. Well, that's what it should have been called, anyway. As for the rest of the show, we have an early live rendition of a well-known Allman Brothers Band instrumental and a unique take on John D. Loudermilk's Tobacco Road, among other things.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    Nothing Is Easy
Source:    CD: Stand Up
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis/Capitol (original US label: Reprise)
Year:    1969
    Not long after the release of the first Jethro Tull album, guitarist Mick Abrahams, who was a blues enthusiast, left the group due to musical differences with lead vocalist/flautist Ian Anderson, who favored a more eclectic approach to songwriting. Abrahams's replacement was Martin Barre, who remains a member of the group to this day. One of the first songs recorded with Barre is Nothing Is Easy, a blues rocker that opens side two of the band's second LP, Stand Up. More than any other track on Stand Up, Nothing Is Easy sounds like it could have been an outtake from This Was, the band's debut LP.

Artist:    Canned Heat
Title:    Pony Blues
Source:    British import CD: Living The Blues
Writer(s):    Charlie Patton
Label:    BGO (original US label: Liberty)
Year:    1968
    In their early days Canned Heat concentrated on playing authentic cover versions of blues tunes. By the time they got to recording their third album, Living The Blues, they had developed a sound uniquely their own. They hadn't quite abandoned covering early blues songs, however. In fact, Living The Blues opens with Canned Heat's arrangement of a song that dates back to Charlie Patton's very first recording session. Patton was 19 (more or less, as his actual birthday is in question) when he wrote Pony Blues, which became his first record released on the Paramount label in 1929.

Artist:    Rare Earth
Title:    Tobacco Road
Source:    British import CD: The Collection (originally released on LP: Get Ready)
Writer(s):    J.D. Loudermilk
Label:    Spectrum (original label: Rare Earth)
Year:    1969
    Rare Earth was not the first white band to sign with Motown, but they were the most successful. Formed in 1960 as the Sunliners, the band was one of the most popular groups on the Detroit club circuit by 1968, when they recorded their first LP for the Verve label. Not long after that they came to the attention of Barney Ales, a vice president of Motown who was in charge of developing a new label that would specialize in white acts. After seeing the Sunliners perform, he immediately signed them up as the flaghip band for his as-yet unnamed new label. Ales and the band felt that the group needed a new name, and the name Rare (for the fact that few white bands were signed to black labels at the time) Earth (because they were down to it) was quickly adopted. When Ales mentioned that he still didn't have a name for the new label, one of the band members joking suggested using Rare Earth for that as well. To everyone's surprise Ales (with the approval of Motown president Barry Gordy) did exactly that. Rare Earth's first record was the 1969 LP Get Ready, which featured an extended version of the title track (a former Temptations hit) taking up an entire side. An edited version of Get Ready was released as a single and hit #4 on the Billboard top 100, a strong outing for a debut single. The LP itself peaked at #12 on the album charts. One of the notable tracks on the Get Ready album was a seven-minute long version of J.D. Loudermilk's Tobacco Road, a song that had been a 1964 hit for Britain's Nashville Teens and had been given unique treatments by both Jefferson Airplane and the Blues Magoos in 1966. Rare Earth's take on the classic is perhaps the most dynamic version of the song ever recorded.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    That's The Way
Source:    CD: Led Zeppelin III
Writer(s):    Page/Plant
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1970
    I read somewhere that Jimmy Page came up with The Rain Song (from the album Houses Of The Holy) in response to someone asking him why Led Zeppelin hadn't recorded any ballads. Apparently that person had never heard That's The Way, from the album Led Zeppelin III. Setting aside my own view that "rock ballads" aren't really ballads in the first place, if That's The Way isn't one of them, I don't know what is.

Artist:    Black Oak Arkansas
Title:    I Could Love You
Source:    LP: Black Oak Arkansas
Writer(s):    Black Oak Arkansas
Label:    Atco
Year:    1971
    Although their most popular period was later in the decade, I still think their 1971 self-titled debut LP is Black Oak Arkansas's best. Maybe that's because I saw them perform live (opening for Grand Funk Railroad) right as the album came out, with a setlist that followed that of the LP itself. I was unsure of what to think of them for the first few tunes, but the one that won me over was I Could Love You, which closes out the album's first side. Unfortunately, the band had a habit of jumping the shark from time to time, resulting in them becoming a parody of themselves by the mid-70s, at which time lead vocalist Jim "Dandy" Mangrum fired most of the other band members and toned down his vocal style, shortening the name of the band to Black Oak. Despite literally dozens of personnel changes over the years, Mangrum continues to front a band called Black Oak Arkansas.

Artist:    Allman Brothers Band
Title:    In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed
Source:    CD: Fillmore East February 1970
Writer(s):    Dicky Betts
Label:    Owsley Stanley Foundation/The Allman Brothers Band Recording Company (Bear's Sonic Journals series)
Year:    Recorded 1970, released 1997, remastered 2018
    One of the greatest instrumentals in rock history, In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed was written by Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dicky Betts. The song got it's name from a headstone that Betts saw at the Rose Hill Cemetary in Macon, Georgia. That same cemetary is where band members Duane Allman and Berry Oakley are now buried. The band had only just begun to work the new instrumental into its setlist (as the set opener) when they were invited to open for the Grateful Dead for three nights at the Fillmore East in February of 1970. As the Allman Brothers did not, at that time, have their own soundman, Owsley "Bear" Stanley ran the board, and, as was his habit, had a tape machine running with a feed from the soundboard the entire time there was music being made. The tapes of the Allman Brothers' performance were first released in 1997 by Stanley himself; in 2018 his son Starfinder and a team of engineers remastered the entire set for the Bear's Sonic Journals series of releases.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    Concerto For Group And Orchestra, First Movement:
Source:    German import LP: Deep Purpple In Live Concert At The Royal Albert Hall "Concerto For Group And Orchestra"
Writer(s):    Jon Lord
Label:    Harvest
Year:    1969
    Deep Purple released their first album in 1968. By the following year organist Jon Lord was obviously yearning to scratch a "classical" itch, as can be heard on the song April from the band's self-title third LP. He took that itch to its natural conclusion later that year with an album called Deep Purpple In Live Concert At The Royal Albert Hall "Concerto For Group And Orchestra". Utilizing a full orchestra, the album was basically one long work in three movements. The first movement might well be called Concerto For Group Vs. Orchestra, as the two have what Lord calls an "antagonistic" relationship, with the orchestra starting the piece only to have it hijacked by the band. The two trade off prominence for the entire movement, which runs for nearly 20 minutes.The album itself, released in 1969, was both a critical and commercial failure, but did feature the debut of Deep Purple's new lead vocalist, Ian Gillan. Whether or not the album succeeds artistically, I leave up to you to determine.

Artist:    Stooges
Title:    Real Cool Time
Source:    CD: The Stooges
Writer(s):    The Stooges
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1969
    The Stooges may not have actually invented punk rock, but their 1969 debut album is universally cited as a major influence on the entire movement. When they signed with Elektra the band did not have enough material written to fill even one side of an LP. After Elektra rejected their first efforts (described by the band as "after two minutes of the song would go into six to eight minutes of improvisation"), the band came up with three new songs over a 24 hour period. One of those three was Real Cool Time, which has since become a punk anthem.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Stuck with a hermit Before and After the Psychedelic Era # 2352 (starts 12/25/23)

    It's the final week of 2023, and that means it's time to get Stuck with a hermit Before and After the Psychedelic Era. What that means is that, for the first hour it's all about the music that made the psychedelic era possible, which includes a bit of folk and surf music and a nod to a certain band from Liverpool. But before all that we go even further back, right to the very beginning of what we now call rock 'n' roll. The second hour is an expanded edition of our Advanced Psych segment, featuring tunes from the late 20th and early 21st centuries that preserve the psychedelic spirit.

Artist:    Jackie Brenston And His Delta Cats
Title:    Rocket 88
Source:    Mono CD: Roots Of Rock 1945-1956 (originally released as 78 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Brenston/Turner
Label:    Rhino (original label: Chess)
Year:    1951
    There are several contenders for the title of first rock 'n' roll record, but the one most often cited is Rocket 88. Produced by Sam Phillips, the song was credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, but was in reality Ike Turner's Kings Of Rhythm (Brenston was the group's saxophonist and occasional featured vocalist). According to legend, guitarist Willie Kizart's amplifier suffered a damaged speaker when the band traveled from their Mississippi rehearsal space to Memphis to record the song. To hold the damaged speaker in place Phillips and the band members stuffed wadded up newspaper into the amp, which created a distorted sound that Phillips immediately took to. Rocket 88, released on the Chess label in 1951, ended up going to the top of the R&B charts; more importantly, the record's success helped Phillips launch his own label, Sun Records, the following year.

Artist:    Wynonie Harris
Title:    Good Rockin' Tonight
Source:    Mono CD: Roots Of Rock 1945-1956 (originally released as 78 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Roy Brown
Label:    Rhino (original label: King)
Year:    1948
    Another contender for the title of first rock 'n' roll song is a tune called Good Rocking Tonight. Originally recorded by  Roy Brown and released in 1947 on the DeLuxe label (with the description "Rocking Blues with Instrumental Accompaniment), the song was picked up by blues shouter Wynonie Harris after Brown's version started catching on as a regional hit in New Orleans. Harris's version of Good Rockin' Tonight topped the R&B charts in 1948 and was later covered by a young Elvis Presley, who released it as his second single for the Sun label in 1954.

Artist:    Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five
Title:    Saturday Night Fish Fry
Source:    Mono CD: Roots Of Rock II (originally released as 78 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Jordan/Walsh
Label:    Rhino (original label: Decca)
Year:    1949
    Yet another contender for title of first rock 'n' roll record is Saturday Night Fish Fry, released in 1949 by Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five. Chuck Berry later said that, to his recollection, Jordan was the first person he heard play rock 'n' roll. The song itself topped the R&B charts for a dozen weeks (non-consecutive) and is considered the pinnacle of the jump blues style that dominated 40s rhythm and blues.

Artist:    Amos Milburn
Title:    Chicken Shack Boogie
Source:    Mono CD: Roots Of Rock 1945-1956 (originally released as 78 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Amos Milburn
Label:    Rhino (original label: Aladdin)
Year:    1948
    Originally released as a B side, Chicken Shack Boogie was singer/pianist Amos Milburn's first national hit, going all the way to the top of the R&B charts in 1949. Recorded just prior to the musicians' strike of 1948, the song was perhaps the earliest rock 'n' roll song released on a Los Angeles label (Aladdin).

Artist:    Dominoes
Title:    Have Mercy Baby
Source:    Mono CD: Roots Of Rock II (originally released as 45 & 78 RPM singles)
Writer(s):    Ward/Marks
Label:    Rhino (original label: Federal)
Year:    1952
    By 1952 many labels were simultaneously releasing singles on both 78 RPM "shellacs" and 45 RPM vinyl records. One of the most popular was Have Mercy Baby, often considered the definitive "rhythm & gospel" record. The song was co-written by Billy Ward, a vocal coach who built the Dominoes around tenor Clyde McPhatter, who would go on to form the Drifters before embarking on a successful solo career later in the decade.

Artist:    Wille Mae "Big Mama" Thornton
Title:    Hound Dog
Source:    Mono CD: Roots Of Rock 1945-1956 (originally released as 78 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Lieber/Stoller
Label:    Rhino (original label: Peacock)
Year:    1953
    Although the progenitors of rock 'n' roll were mostly male, a handful of female vocalists made their mark as well. Among those was Wille Mae "Big Mama" Thornton. After her first two singles failed to gain any traction, Peacock Records owner Don Robey brought in bandleader Johnny Otis to produce her next record. Otis introduced Thornton to a pair of teenaged songwriters, who wrote Hound Dog, a song about a woman tossing her jigalo boyfriend out of her life, to match the singer's style and personality. Lieber later said that Thornton "looked like the biggest, baddest, saltiest chick you would ever see. And she was mean, a 'lady bear,' as they used to call 'em. She must have been 350 pounds, and she had all these scars all over her face" conveying words which could not be sung." Hound Dog was the first of many hits to be written by the Lieber and Stoller team, while Thornton, a songwriter as well as singer, is probably best known as the writer of Ball And Chain, the song that made Janis Joplin an overnight star when performed at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967.

Artist:    Joe Turner And His Blues Kings
Title:    Flip, Flop And Fly
Source:    Mono CD: Roots Of Rock II (originally released as 45 & 78 RPM singles)
Writer(s):    Calhoun/Turner
Label:    Rhino (original label: Atlantic)
Year:    1955
    Whenever I hear Joe Turner's Flip, Flop And Fly I immediately think of the animated film Chicken Run. The song itself is basically a 1955 sequel to (or reworking of) Turner's better known Shake, Rattle And Roll, which had come out the previous year, and is one of the last "jump blues" songs to become a hit single. As far as I know, Bill Haley And His Comets did not cover this one.

Artist:    Muddy Waters
Title:    I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man
Source:    Mono CD: Roots Of Rock 1945-1956 (originally released as 45 & 78 RPM singles)
Writer(s):    Willie Dixon
Label:    Rhino (original label: Chess)
Year:    1954
    The psychedelic era would not have happened without the influence of the British invasion. And the British invasion would not have happened without the influence of American blues artists such as Muddy Waters. In late 1953 songwriter Willie Dixon approached record mogul Leonard Chess with a song he felt was right for Waters called I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man. Waters himself took to the tune immediately, and I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man became the biggest hit of Waters's career when released in 1954. The song, with its distinctive use of stop time at the beginning of each verse, is one of the most popular blues songs of all time, and has inspired many other songs such as Bo Diddley's I'm A Man and the Jerry Lieber/Mike Stoller tune Riot In Cell Block Number 9. I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man also cemented Dixon's position as the premier songwriter at Chess Records, and has been recorded by dozens of artists over the years (including Steppenwolf, who's 1968 version of Hoochie Coochie Man introduced me to Dixon's songwriting).

Artist:    Little Junior's Blue Flames
Title:    Feelin' Good
Source:    Mono CD: Roots Of Rock II (originally released as 45 & 78 RPM singles)
Writer(s):    Junior Parker
Label:    Rhino (original label: Sun)
Year:    1953
    The first time I heard Feelin' Good by Little Junior's Blue Flames my first thought was "So that's where they got it!"; they, in this case, being Canned Heat. Born in Mississippi, details of Junior Parker's early life are somewhat sketchy, but by 1950 he was associated with the Beale Streeters, a musicians coaltion that included such future stars as Bobby "Blue" Bland and B.B. King. In 1951 Parker formed his own band, the Blue Flames, and signed with Sam Phillips's Sun label. His first single for sun was Feelin' Good, which hit the #5 spot on the R&B charts in 1953. A later song written by Parker, Mystery Train, became one of Elvis Presley's best known early recordings.

    No matter who created it, there is no doubt that by the mid-1950s, rock 'n' roll was in full swing, with its own set of rising stars.

Artist:    Chuck Berry
Title:    Maybellene
Source:    Mono CD: Billboard Top Rock 'n' Roll Hits-1955 (originally released as 45 & 78 RPM singles)
Writer(s):    Chuck Berry
Label:    Rhino (original label: Chess)
Year:    1955
    Although there are plenty of tunes dating back to the late 1940s that have at least partial claim to being the first rock 'n' roll records, it was Chuck Berry's Maybellene that announced to the world that rock 'n' roll had truly arrived. Released in 1955, the song rose quickly up the charts, thanks in part to disc jockey Alan Freed, who not only championed the original record but was given a composer's credit on later releases of the song (thought to be a form of payola). To put things in perspective, John Lennon once said “If you had to give rock and roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry." By the end of the 1950s, however, Berry had fallen out of favor due to things (like transporting a teenage girl across state lines) that had nothing to do with his music.

Artist:    Little Richard
Title:    Long Tall Sally
Source:    Mono CD: Billboard Top R&B Hits-1956 (originally released as 45 & 78 RPM singles)
Writer(s):    Johnson/Blackwell/Penniman
Label:    Rhino (original label: Specialty)
Year:    1956
    There's little doubt that Pat Boone's cover of Tutti Frutti lessened the impact of Little Richard's original, even if it did increase the popularity of the song itself, generating more royalties for everyone involved. But, as Little Richard himself put it, "When Tutti Frutti came out. ... They needed a rock star to block me out of white homes because I was a hero to white kids. The white kids would have Pat Boone upon the dresser and me in the drawer 'cause they liked my version better, but the families didn't want me because of the image that I was projecting." So for his next single, Little Richard decided to write a song that was so up-tempo and the lyrics so fast that Boone would not be able to handle it. That song was Long Tall Sally, and although Boone did record a cover of it, it was Little Richard's version that made the top 10 in 1956. Late in 1957, Little Richard shocked everyone by announcing he was leaving rock 'n' roll to study theology. He didn't return to the entertainment world until 1962, but by then his popularity had faded considerably.

Artist:    Jerry Lee Lewis
Title:    Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On
Source:    Mono CD: Billboard Top Rock 'n' Roll Hits-1957 (originally released as 45 & 78 RPM singles)
Writer(s):    Williams/David
Label:    Rhino (original label: Sun)
Year:    1957
    The original "rock 'n' roll wild man", Jerry Lee Lewis cut his first single, Crazy Arms, for Sun Records in 1956. Over the next few months the pianist made a decent living as a session musician for the label, backing up people like Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. Lewis's  breakthrough as a solo artist came in 1967 with the release of his version of Big Maybell's Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On. Despite his wild antics onstage, Jerry Lee Lewis was a deeply religious man who often expressed concern that the music he was making was leading both him and his audience down the road to Hell. Lewis's rock 'n' roll career got derailed when it was discovered that he, at age 22, had married his then 13-year-old cousin (his third marraige). He later resurfaced as a country star, charting 17 top 10 singles on the country charts between 1968 and 1977.

    As rock 'n' roll grew in popularity, opposition to it grew even faster. There were warnings about how the "Devil's music" was corrupting the youth of America, but such warnings only served to make rock 'n' roll even more attractive to rebellious teenagers. It only took a couple of years, however, for the Establishment to figure out that the best way to control this new music was to infiltrate it, replacing the early rock 'n' rollers with made-to-order "pop stars" that could easily be controlled. By 1960, the typical hit record was written by professional songwriters, with instrumental tracks provided by studio musicians hired by producers who would then bring in vocalists to complete the product to be sent out to top 40 radio stations across the country. Nobody called it rock 'n' roll anymore, but there were things happening that would, within a few short years, lead to what is now known as the psychedelic era. One of those things was the mostly instrumental music being played on a local level by musicians inspired by the early rock 'n' rollers, particularly on the US West Coast. At the same time surfing was growing in popularity, and it didn't take long for many of those instrumentalists to become identified with the sport. Among those was a guitarist named Dick Dale...

Artist:    Dick Dale And His Del-Tones
Title:    Miserlou
Source:    Mono CD: Surfin' Hits (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Nick Rubanis
Label:    Rhino (original label: Del-Tone)
Year:    1962
    When the term "surf music" comes up, most people think of vocal groups such as the Beach Boys or Jan & Dean. Some even mention the Ventures, who released well over a hundred instrumental LPs in their existence, most of which are considered surf records. Those truly in the know, however, will tell you that Dick Dale, the man who was asked by Fender Instruments to road test their new Reverb guitar amplifiers in the early 60s, was the true King Of The Surf Guitar. Although he did record a few vocal singles, Dale is mostly known for his high-energy instrumental tracks such as Miserlou, a 1962 recording that was given new life in 1994 when Quentin Tarantino included it in the film Pulp Fiction.

Artist:    Chantays
Title:    Pipeline
Source:    CD: Surfin' Hits (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Spickard/Carman
Label:    Rhino (original label: Downey)
Year:    1962
    Bob Spickard, Brian Carman, Bob Welch, Warren Waters and Rob Marshall were all students at Santa Ana High School in California who were inspired by a local group called the Rhythm Rockers to form their own rock and roll band. The surf craze was just getting under way on the California coast, and the new group, calling themselves the Chantays, soon found themselves recording for the local Downey label, which was actually owned by a music publishing company. In December of 1962 they recorded and released what would become one of the most popular instrumental surf songs ever committed to vinyl: the classic Pipeline. The song was quickly picked up an re-released on the Dot label in early 1963, eventually going all the way to the #4 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The Chantays have the distinction of being the only rock 'n' roll band to ever perform on TV's Lawrence Welk Show.

Artist:    Beach Boys
Title:    Surfin'
Source:    Mono LP: Surfin' Safari (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Wilson/Love
Label:    Capitol (original label: Candix)
Year:    1961
    It is a little known fact that the popularity of the first Beach Boys single Surfin', actually bankrupted Candix records (apparently several distributors skipped out on actually paying for copies). The song itself, recorded in November of 1961 using rented instruments, has a kind of high energy doo wop quality that doesn't much resemble the kind of songs that made them famous, but it was pretty popular in Southern California when it was released in December of 1961. Luckily for the band, their manager/father Murry had already negotiated a deal with Capitol Records and Surfin'  ended up being included on their debut LP, Surfin' Safari, the following year.

    At the same time that surf music was rising in popularity in the West, a revival of folk music (much of which had been forced underground by McCarthyism in the 1950s) was happening on the East Coast, with icons from the 1940s like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie inspiring a new generation of singers and songwriters that had no interest in becoming part of the pop music machine.

Artist:    Bob Dylan
Title:    Blowin' In The Wind
Source:    Mono CD: The Best Of The Original Mono Recordings (originally released on LP: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan)
Writer(s):    Bob Dylan
Label:    Columbia/Legacy
Year:    1963
    Generally acknowledged as Bob Dylan's first true classic, Blowin' In The Wind first appeared on the 1963 album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. The song was popularized the following year by Peter, Paul and Mary and soon was the single most played song around campfires from coast to coast. For all I know it still is. (Do people still sing around campfires? Maybe they should.)

Artist:    Joan Baez
Title:    There But For Fortune
Source:    45 RPM single (promo copy)
Writer:    Phil Ochs
Label:    Vanguard
Year:    1965
    When I was a kid I used to occasionally pick up something called a grab bag at the local PX (my dad being in the military, I had access to such places). It was literally a sealed brown paper bag with anywhere from four to six 45 rpm records in it. Usually these were "cut-outs", leftover copies of records that hadn't sold as well as expected. Often they were five or six years old (albeit unplayed). Once in a while, though, there would be a real gem among them. My original copy of the Joan Baez recording of Phil Ochs's There But For Fortune was one such gem. I later found a promo copy while working at KUNM in Albuquerque, which is the one I use now, since my original is long since worn out. Not only was this record my first introduction to Joan Baez, it was also the first record I had ever seen on the Vanguard label and the first song written by Phil Ochs I had ever heard. Not bad for twelve and a half cents, especially when you consider that the flip side was Baez doing a Bob Dylan tune that Dylan himself had not yet released.

Artist:    Phil Ochs
Title:    I Ain't Marching Anymore
Source:    CD: Songs Of Protest (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Phil Ochs
Label:    Rhino (original label: Elektra)
Year:    1965
    Phil Ochs' I Ain't Marching Anymore didn't get a whole lot of airplay when it was released in 1965 (unless you count a handful of closed-circuit student-run stations on various college campuses that could only be picked up by plugging a radio into a wall socket in a dorm room). Ochs was aware of this, and even commented that "the fact that you won't be hearing this song on the radio is more than enough justification for the writing of it." He went on to say that the song "borders between pacifism and treason, combining the best qualities of both." The following year Ochs recorded this folk-rock version of the song (backed up by members of the Blues Project) that was released as a single in the UK.

    With folk music setting the stage on one coast and surf music on the other, the final catalyst that gave birth to the psychedelic era came from, of all places, Liverpool, England, where four young men were demonstrating that one did not need professional songwriters and studio musicians to make popular records.

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    P.S. I Love You
Source:    CD: Please Please Me (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single B side; US release: LP: Introducing...The Beatles)
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Apple/Parlophone (original US label: Vee Jay)
Year:    1962
    As the B side of the very first Beatles single, P.S. I Love You was, along with Love Me Do, one of the first songs that people outside of Liverpool or Hamburg ever heard by the fab four. The single itself sold moderately well in the UK, but was only the first hint of what Beatlemania would soon become. Released in 1962, the two songs originally appeared in the US on the first pressing of the album Introducing The Beatles, which was released in January of 1964 on the Vee Jay label after sitting on the shelf for several months. Within a week, however, Vee Jay withdrew the album from circulation due to litigation from Capitol Records. Apparently, by not releasing the single in the US the previous year, Vee Jay had allowed Capitol's publishing arm to secure the rights to the two songs. Vee Jay quickly released a modified version of Introducing...The Beatles that did not include the two songs, replacing them with Please Please Me and Ask Me Why, which Vee Jay had released as a single in 1963. P.S. I Love You, a mainly Paul McCartney composition, would later appear on the Capitol LP The Early Beatles. When CDs were introduced in the mid 1980s it was decided to use the original British versions of all the Beatles' albums, which meant that P.S. I Love You was now on the Please Please Me album in the US.

    One final note on the subject of Before the Psychedelic Era: this first hour focused entirely on the musical roots of the era. Obviously there were other factors, but since this is a music show and not a documentary I'll direct you to the following article on our web page to get a broader perspective:

Artist:    Tol-Puddle Martyrs
Title:    Perfect Day
Source:    CD: Flying In The Dark
Writer(s):    Peter Rechter
Label:    Secret Deals
Year:    2011
    The original Tolpuddle Martyrs were a group of farmers in the English village of Tolpuddle who had the temerity to try organizing what amounts to a union in the 19th century. For their efforts they found themselves deported to the penal colony now known as Australia. But that doesn't really concern us. What I wanted to talk about was the original Tol-Puddle Martyrs (note the hyphen), the legendary Australian band that evolved from a group called Peter And The Silhouettes. Well, not exactly. What I really wanted to talk about is the current incarnation of the Tol-Puddle Martyrs. Still led by Peter Rechter, the Martyrs have released a series of CDs since 2007 (including a collection of recordings made by the 60s incarnation of the band). Among those CDs is the 2011 album Flying In The Dark, which contains several excellent tunes such as Perfect Day. Thanks to Peter Rechter himself, we will be hearing tracks from all the Tol-Puddle Martyrs albums from time to time for the forseeable future.
Artist:    Big Boy Pete And The Squire
Title:    Tea
Source:    CD: Hitmen
Writer(s):    Miller/Zajkowski
Label:    Rocket Racket
Year:    2013
    Once upon a time in the 1960s there was an Englishman named Peter "Big Boy" Miller, who wrote songs that were rejected by not only every British record label, but even his own band. Flash forward to Rochester, NY, in the year 2002, where Christopher Zajkowski, recording as Squires Of The Subterrain, decided to rework some of Miller's songs and record them for an album called Big Boy Treats. Even better, Miller himself flew to Rochester to produce the album. Flash forward again, this time to 2013. Miller and Zajkowski, working together, decide to write new lyrics for a bunch of songs Miller had written in 1967, including the tasty Tea. The songs were included on a CD called Hitmen, released on Zajkowski's Rocket Racket label.

Artist:    Psychedelic Furs
Title:    Sister Europe
Source:    LP: The Psychedelic Furs
Writer(s):    Psychedelic Furs
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1980
            Initially consisting of Richard Butler (vocals), Tim Butler (bass guitar), Duncan Kilburn (saxophone), Paul Wilson (drums) and Roger Morris (guitars), the Psychedelic Furs were formed in 1977 under the name RKO. They soon began calling themselves Radio, then did gigs under two different names, the Europeans and the Psychedelic Furs. By 1979 they had settled on the latter name and expanded to a sextet, adding guitarist John Ashton and replacing Wilson with Vince Ely on drums. The Furs' self-titled debut album, released in 1980, was an immediate hit in Europe and the UK, but airplay in the US was limited mostly to college radio and "alternative" rock stations. The second single released from the album was Sister Europe, a tune that was also  the band's concert opener in the early days of their existence. The Psychedelic Furs' greatest claim to fame, however, is probably the song Pretty In Pink. Originally released on their second album, Talk Talk Talk, in 1981, the song was re-recorded for the John Hughes film of the same name in 1986.

Artist:    Beyond From Within
Title:    Temper My Desire
Source:    CD: Beyond From Within
Writer(s):    Steve Andrews
Label:    independently released
Year:    2015
          Back when I came up with the idea of an Advanced Psych segment several years ago I asked for bands to submit material that might fit into the show. One of the results is Beyond From Within, a project from Steve Andrews of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Temper My Desire is from the CD, which is being distributed independently. If you like what you hear let me know and I'll be happy to put you in touch with Mr. Andrews.

Artist:    Splinter Fish
Title:    July
Source:    LP: Splinter Fish
Writer(s):    Chuck Hawley
Label:    StreetSound
Year:    1989
            Albuquerque, New Mexico is in a unique position when it comes to music. Being 400 miles in any direction away from the next major city, it has managed to develop a strong local alternative music scene, starting in the early 1980s with the emergence of bands like the Philisteens, the Cosmic Grackles and Kor-Phu, just to name a few. As the decade progressed, the scene developed in several directions at once, from hard-core punk (Jerry's Kidz being the most prominent), to so-called "hippy" bands like Illegal Aliens and neo-psychedelic groups like the Crawling Walls. By the end of the decade there were several new venues opening up for hard-to-classify bands like A Murder Of Crows, the Mumphries and this week's featured Advanced Psych band Splinterfish. Led by guitarist/vocalist Chuch Hawley, Splinterfish released only one self-titled LP in 1989, but is still fondly remembered as one of the best bands ever to emerge from the Duke city. July, a melodic track from the album, combines an unusual chord structure with whimsical lyrics to create a truly catchy, yet unique, piece.

Artist:    Geiger Von Müller
Title:    Origins #2
Source:    CD: Teddy Zur And The Kwands
Writer(s):    Geiger Von Müller
Label:    GVM
Year:    2018
    Geiger Von Müller is a London-based guitarist who has deconstructed the blues down to one of its most essential elements, slide guitar, and then explored from scratch what can be done with the instrument. The result is tracks like Origins #2, from the album Teddy Zur And The Kwands. The all-instrumental album is accompanied by the beginning of a science fiction story about the Kwands, a powerful race that kidnaps children's stuff toys, including one called Teddy Zur, to work in their factory as slaves. You'll have to find a copy of the CD itself to get a more detailed explanation.

Artist:    Brian Wilson
Title:    Smile-excerpt from Movement One "Americana"
Source:    CD: Brian Wilson Presents Smile
Writer(s):    Wilson/Parks/Davis/Levy/Gillespie/Smith/Davis
Label:    Nonesuch
Year:    2004
    In the early 1960s, Brian Wilson was a pretty happy guy. He had a gift for writing catchy melodies, which, more often than not, he would hand off to a songwriting partner to add lyrics to the tune. He was also proving to be adept at record production, producing not only all of the records (except for the very first one) released by his own band, the Beach Boys, but producing other groups as well, the most successful being Jan And Dean. Starting in 1965, his music began to take a more sophisticated turn, with more complex musical structures and instrumentation. The 1966 Beach Boys LP Pet Sounds is still considered one of the finest pop albums ever released, but even it pales in comparison to what came next. Before Pet Sounds was released, Wilson had begun work on a new song using a modular production technique, recording the song in segments and experimenting with various ways of tying those segments together. The result was the greatest Beach Boys song ever recorded: Good Vibrations. Wilson was not done, however. Even before Good Vibrations was released he had begun work on a new project that would apply the same modular technique used for Good Vibrations to an entire album's worth of material. However, there were problems. For one thing, Good Vibrations was, at that point in time, the most expensive single record ever produced, costing about $50,000 to make (about $386,000 in 2019 dollars). The cost of producing an entire album at that rate would be astronomical. And then there were the expectations. Pet Sounds was considered by many to be a masterpiece; Good Vibrations even more so. How was Wilson ever going to top either of these? There were also time considerations. The popular music world of 1966 was extremely volatile; a sound that was "hot" today might be considered obsolete six months later. The Beach Boys were scheduled to release their next LP in January of 1967. Could Wilson complete what was being called Smile by then? The answer was no. The release date was repeatedly pushed back. Finally, in May of 1967, to put it bluntly, Brian Wilson cracked under the pressure of it all and cancelled the entire Smile project. Four months later, the album Smiley Smile, considered a pale imitation of Smile itself, hit the record racks, along with a truncated single version of Smile's showpiece, a song called Heroes And Villains. It was thought at the time that Wilson had destroyed the original Smile tapes, but over the next couple of decades rumors persisted that those tapes did in fact still exist, backed up by bootleg tapes that purported to be from the Smile sessions. Finally, in 1993, the box set Good Vibrations: Thirty Years Of The Beach Boys was released with about 30 minutes' worth of material originally recorded for the Smile album. By then Wilson had overcome many of the problems that had plagued him since Smile was cancelled, and had begun to reestablish himself as a solo artist. In 2004, working closely with  Darian Sahanaja (of Wondermints, a power pop trio that had backed Wilson on his solo albums) and lyricist Van Dyke Parks, Wilson reworked Smile as a live performace piece. The studio version of Brian Wilson Presents Smile came out that same year. The 21st century version of Smile is divided into three movements. The first movement is subtitled Americana. This week we are hearing the final two-thirds of that movement, picking it up from the third song, Roll Plymouth Rock, which leads into a short piece called Barnyard, followed by an almost as short medley of the tune Old Master Painter (written in 1949 by Haven Gillespie and Beasley Smith) and the traditional You Are My Sunshine, and concludes with Cabin Essence, a song that the Beach Boys had released (with additional overdubs) on their 1969 album 20/20.

Artist:    Liquid Scene
Title:    The Mystery Machine
Source:    Revolutions
Writer(s):    Becki diGregorio (bodhi)
Label:    Ziglain
Year:    2014
    Keeping the spirit of psychedelia alive we have Liquid Scene with a track from their 2014 debut CD Revolutions. The Mystery Machine, the third track on the CD, uses acoustic percussion instruments to set the tone for a piece that combines modern production techiques with bodhi's haunting vocals to create a memorable soundscape without in any way abandoning its late 60s roots. I like this one more every time I hear it.

Artist:    Dada
Title:    Dorina
Source:    CD: Puzzle
Writer(s):    Calio/Gurney
Label:    IRS
Year:    1992
    In the early 1990s I found myself within listening range of a Virginia Beach radio station that called itself The Coast. Unlike other radio stations in the area, each of which had a tight playlist determined by extensive audience research, The Coast was a relatively free-form station that played an eclectic mix of classic, modern and alternative rock. Among the bands that got airplay on The Coast was a new three-piece band from California called Dada. Consisting of guitarist Michael Gurley and bassist Joie Calio (who shared lead vocals) along with drummer Phil Leavitt, Dada made their recording debut with the 1992 album Puzzle. The first single released from the album, Dizz-Knee Land, got a lot of airplay on more mainstream rock stations, but it was the album's opening track, Dorina, that really grabbed my attention when I heard it on The Coast.

Artist:    Mumphries
Title:    Wishing And Wondering
Source:    CD: Thank You, Bonzo
Writer(s):    Stephen R Webb
Label:    WayWard
Year:    1989
    The last track to be recorded at Albuquerque's Bottom Line Studios before they were dismantled and dismembered was Wishing And Wondering, a song decrying man's mistreatment of his home planet. The song was recorded by the Mumphries, an Albuquerque, NM band made up of Jeff "Quincy" Adams (bass, guitar and vocals), Suzan Hagler (guitar, keyboards), John Henry Smith (drums) and Stephen R Webb (guitar, bass, vocals) and was intended to be submitted to various environmentalist organizations. It is still available, if anyone wants to use it.

Artist:    Ace Of Cups
Title:    We Can't Go Back Again
Source:    CD: Ace Of Cups
Writer(s):    Kaufman/Shae
Label:    High Moon
Year:    2018
    According to Ace Of Cups founder Mary Gannon, Denise Kaufman wrote We Can't Go Back Again on keyboards rather than her usual guitar and first presented it to the group at their rehearsal space in Sausalito. Producer Dan Shae helped update the song for inclusion of the 2018 Ace Of Cups album. The lyrics are at once a caution about squandering what little time we have on this planet and an invitation to reach out to others while we still can.

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2352 (starts 12/25/23) 

    It's 1973, fifty years after the fact. 'Nuff said.

Artist:    Mothers
Title:    Montana
Source:    CD: Over-Nite Sensation
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Zappa (original label: Discreet)
Year:    1973
    Montana is quite possibly the most recognizable song Frank Zappa ever wrote. The track first appeared on the Mothers album Over-Nite Sensation and quickly became a concert staple. On the original album version Zappa's guitar solo is followed by a series of vocal gymnastics performed by none other than Tina Turner and the Ikettes, who were recording with Turner's husband Ike in an adjacent studio. According to Zappa it took the singers two days to master the complex melody and timing of the section. Reportedly Tina was so pleased with the result that she invited her husband into the control room to hear the finished section, only to have Ike say "What is this shit?" and walk back out.

Artist:    Eagles
Title:    Outlaw Man
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    David Blue
Label:    Asylum
Year:    1973
    Although all the members of the Eagles are known for the songwriting abilities, some of the earliest singles were actually cover songs, including Peaceful Easy Feeling (by Jack Tempchin) and Outlaw Man (by David Blue). Blue was a recent addition to the Asylum roster, making him labelmates with the Eagles, and Outlaw Man was an obvious choice for inclusion on an album meant to have a modernized wild west theme. The song itself is a first person account of the life of an outlaw, with ambiguous enough lyrics to make it applicable to current times as well as the obvious 19th century.

Artist:    Grand Funk
Title:    The Railroad
Source:    CD: We're An American Band
Writer(s):    Mark Farner
Label:    Capitol/EMI
Year:    1973
    After six albums working with producer Terry Knight, Grand Funk Railroad switched tracks in 1973, turning to Todd Rundgren, who had received critical acclaim for Something/Anything, a self-produced double LP solo effort from the previous year. The result was We're An American Band, which revitalized the band's career and spawned two hit singles, the title track and Walk Like A Man, both of which were sung by drummer Don Brewer. This was a major departure for the band, as guitarist Mark Farner had previously written and sung all of the band's singles. Farner still wrote and sang much of the material on the LP, however, including The Railroad (ironically the only use of the word "railroad" anywhere on the album, as the band had officially, albeit temporarily, shortened its name to Grand Funk prior to the album's release).

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Over The Hills And Far Away
Source:    CD: Houses Of The Holy
Writer(s):    Page/Plant
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1973
    Although it was released in 1973 on the album Houses Of The Holy, Over The Hills And Far Away actually dates back to the 1970 songwriting sessions at Bron-Y-Aur that produced most of the music for the Led Zeppelin III album. The band started playing the song in concert in 1972 and released it as a single in advance of the Houses Of The Holy album in early 1973. Although it only got a lukewarm reception from the rock press when it was first released, Over The Hills And Far Away has since come to be regarded as one of Led Zeppelin's top songs, making several "best of" lists over the years.

Artist:    Aerosmith
Title:    Dream Om
Source:    CD: Aerosmith
Writer(s):    Steven Tyler
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1973
    My former bandmate and roomate, the late Jeff "Quincy" Adams, was an Air Force brat like me, although my dad was an enlisted man and his father was a full bird colonel. One of the many places Quincy lived was the Boston area. Quincy once told me about this band that had a practice room down the street from where he lived. As an aspiring guitarist in the early 1970s himself he would try to check out this band whenever possible, but as a young teenager he was of course too shy to actually approach any of the band members. Quincy, looking back on those times fifteen years later, swore that one of the songs that band was playing was Dream On, a song that was not recorded until 1973, when it came out on the first Aerosmith album. So was that jam band down the street indeed Aerosmith? Could be.

Artist:    Faces
Title:    Borstal Boys
Source:    LP: Appetizers (originally released on LP: Ooh La La)
Writer(s):    McLagen/Stewart/Wood
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    By late 1972, a lot of people considered Faces to be little more than Rod Stewart's backup band, a perception that the singer himself did nothing to discourage. In fact, Stewart seemed to be buying into it himself, as demonstrated by the fact that he skipped out on the first two weeks' worth of recording sessions for the album Ooh La La. As a result, the album itself, released in March of 1973, has been referred to as "Ronnie Lane's album". To add insult to injury, shortly after Ooh La La was released, Stewart publicly declared it to be a "stinking rotten album" and "a bloody mess". Despite this, Ooh La La, which would turn out to be the band's last studio effort, went all the way to the top of the British charts, due in part to songs like Borstal Boys, which appears at the end of the original LP's first side.

Artist:    T. Rex
Title:    Born To Boogie
Source:    LP: Appetizers (originally released on LP: Tanx)
Writer(s):    Marc Bolan
Label:    Warner Brothers (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1973
    By 1973, Marc Bolan was growing bored with the formula that had transformed cult band Tyrannosaurus Rex into glam-rock icons T. Rex, so he decided to do something about it for the band's eighth LP, Tanx. For one thing, the LP was far more musically diverse than anything T. Rex had done before. Although British and European audiences took to the new album, which made the top 5 in several countries, Tanx never really caught on in the US, where it peaked outside of the top 100. There were no singles released from Tanx, which did not stop Warner Brothers from including Born To Boogie on Appetizers, the latest album in its Loss Leaders series.

Artist:    Edgar Winter Group
Title:    Frankenstein (second single version)
Source:    LP: Vintage Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Edgar Winter
Label:    Epic
Year:    1973
    In the late 1960s, while playing with his brother Johnny in Texas, Edgar Winter came up with a riff designed to showcase his abilities as an instrumentalist. That riff soon became the basis for a jam known simply as "the instrumental" that became a staple of the band's live performances. After Edgar formed his own band in the early 1960s, the same instrumental was used as a daily warm up in the studio when working on the album They Only Come Out At Night. Producer Rick Derringer convinced Winter to flesh out the tune for possible inclusion on the album itself, and soon they were working on editing together pieces of several session tapes into a usable track. When drummer Chuck Ruff heard an early mix of the various edits he said "Wow, man, it's like Frankenstein." Winter thought that would be a perfect title for what eventually became the most popular track on the album. Initially the band considered the track a throwaway and almost left it off the album altogether. A couple of months after the album was released, a severely edited version of Frankenstein appeared as the B side of the album's opening track, Hangin' Around. The single went nowhere until a few disc jockey's decided to play the flip side instead. A month later a second edited version of Frankenstein was released as a single, this time as the A side. The song went all the way to the top of the charts in the US and Canada and made the top 40 in several other countries as well.

Artist:    Steeleye Span
Title:    Cam Ye O'er Free France
Source:    LP: The Steeleye Span Story (originally released on LP: Parcel Of Rogues)
Writer(s):    Trad., arr. Steeleye Span
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1973
    Steeleye Span hit a new commercial high in the summer of 1973, following the spring release of their fifth album, Parcel Of Rogues. As usual, the album was made up entirely of traditional British folk songs updated for a rock audience, yet retaining their original character. Although none of the tunes on Parcel Of Rogues was released as a single, a few, such as Cam Ye O'er Free France, managed to get a decent amount of airplay on both sides of the Atlantic. The song itself dates back to the 17th and 18th century Jacobite movement in Scotland, and the song's lyrics are sung with a Scottish Brogue, making it virtually impossible for people like me to make any sense of them.

Artist:    Genesis
Title:    The Cinema Show/Aisle Of Plenty
Source:    CD: Selling England By The Pound
Writer(s):    Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford
Label:    Rhino/Atlantic (original label: Charisma)
Year:    1973
    As early as 1973 there were concerns in the UK about the Americanization of British culture, and Genesis took inspiration from a recent Labour Party slogan, Selling England By The Pound, for their next album title. The album itself is considered one of the group's best, thanks to songs like The Cinema Show (about Juliet and Romeo each preparing for their movie date) and Aisle Of Plenty, which takes place in an American-style supermarket. Selling England By The Pound was the fifth Genesis album, and the second to feature the group's "classic" lineup of Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford.

Artist:    Joe Walsh
Title:    Midnight Moodies/Happy Ways
Source:    LP: The Smoker Your Drink, The Player You Get
Writer(s):    Grace/Passarelli/Zoloth
Label:    ABC/Dunhill
Year:    1973
    After leaving the James Gang in late 1971, guitarist/vocalist Joe Walsh spent the next several months hibernating in Colorado, eventually forming a new band called Barnstorm. The group's second LP, The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get, was bannered as a Walsh solo album, which led to the band's demise. Despite this, four of the album's nine tracks were written by band members other than Walsh, including the instrumental Midnight Moodies from the band's new keyboardist, Rocke Grace, and Happy Ways, a whimsical tune co-written by Barnstorm bassist Kenny Passarelli and Buddy Zoloth, the former road manager of Blues Image.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Stuck With a Hermit at Yuletide (starts 12/18/23)

    Just about every weekly radio show does a Christmas special this time of year, and for several years now Stuck In the Psychedelic Era has been no exception. There is a problem, though, and that is the unavoidable fact that for the most part the artists featured on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era never had the opportunity (or inclination, for that matter) to record Christmas songs. There are exceptions, of course, and this week you'll hear some of those by Jethro Tull, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, and others. But, unless I wanted to spend over half the show on Beach Boys Christmas songs (and there are nearly enough of those for an entire show), I knew I would have to take an entirely different approach to selecting the songs. After a couple of years of experimenting around with various approaches I finally decided to just pick out the coolest holiday tracks I could find, regardless of genre or year they were recorded, and have been doing it that way ever since. The addition of our second show, Rockin' in the Days of Confusion, gave me the opportunity to dig even deeper into the Yule (cata)log, adding artists like Bob Seger (with his mid-60s band The Heard), Ike And Tina Turner, The Royal Guardsmen and even Soupy Sales. So get ready to kick back and have a Cool Yule!

Artist:      John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Title:     Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
Source:      CD: Now That's What I Call Christmas (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Lennon/Ono
Label:     Zomba (original label: Apple)
Year:     1971
     Originally intended as an anti-Vietnam War song, John and Yoko's Happy Xmas (War Is Over) has long since acquired classic status and is now one of the most familiar songs of the season. It was first released in the US in December of 1971, but due to a problem with the publisher did not appear in the rest of the world until November of 1972.

Artist:      Beatles
Title:     Christmas Time (Is Here Again)
Source:      CD single: Free As a Bird
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starkey)
Label:    Apple/Capitol
Year:     Recorded 1966 and 1967, released 19671997
     Every year the Beatles would record a special Christmas message to go out to members of their fan club, and mail it out on what was then known as a floppy disc. This was not the same as a computer floppy disc, however. In fact, the medium the Beatles used eventually came to be known as a flexi-disc, just to keep things from getting any more confusing. Regardless of what you called it, the things tended to wear out after just a few plays and I doubt there are many playable copies of these discs left in the universe. Luckily for us, George Martin had the foresight to hang on to everything the Beatles ever recorded, including this tune, which was chopped up and used for the 1967 Christmas Greeting. When the Beatles Anthology was released in 1997, the piece was included on the Free As a Bird CD single, and we got to hear the song in its uninterrupted entirety for the first time. Included at the end are Christmas greetings from the 1966 fan club disc and a bit of poetry read by John Lennon.

Artist:      Simon And Garfunkel
Title:     Silent Night/7 O'Clock News
Source:      CD: Collected Works (originally released on LP: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme)
Writer(s):    Gruber/Muhr, arr. Paul Simon   
Label:     Columbia       
Year:     1966
     Simon and Garfunkel's Silent Night/7 O'Clock News is unique for several reasons. The most obvious is that it uses two unrelated recordings to make an ironically chilling point. The first is a rendition of Franz Gruber's Silent Night, with vocals in the center channel and piano only coming from one speaker. As the song progresses a newscast in the other channel slowly gets louder. Eventually the song ends and there is only the news. What's also unusual is that this well-known Christmas carol is not featured on a Christmas album at all; instead it appears as the final track of the duo's 1966 LP Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme.

Artist:      Simon And Garfunkel
Title:     A Hazy Shade of Winter
Source:      CD: Collected Works (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: Bookends)
Writer:    Paul Simon
Label:     Columbia
Year:     1966
     I wish I could take credit for putting Simon And Garfunkel's Silent Night/7 O'Clock News and A Hazy Shade of Winter back to back. The truth is I don't know who came up with the idea; my best guess is someone from Westwood One radio, as I first heard it done on one of their syndicated programs. Still, it's not a bad idea, and I happened to have a copy of the Westwood One version of the paired tracks, so there it is.

Artist:      Chuck Berry
Title:     Merry Christmas, Baby
Source:      Mono CD: The Chess Box (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer:    Baxter/Moore
Label:     Chess/MCA
Year:     1958
     Chuck Berry did not record too many cover tunes, as he was a prolific songwriter himself. However, for his 1958 Christmas single he cut this tasty version of Charles Brown's "other" Christmas song, Merry Christmas, Baby, originally recorded by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers (with Brown on lead vocal). The B side of Berry's single, Run Rudolph Run, was also a cover song, although the tune has come to be almost exclusively associated with Berry himself.

Artist:    Ike And Tina Turner
Title:    Merry Christmas Baby
Source:    CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Baxter/Moore
Label:    Rhino (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year:    1964
    Ike Turner was a talent scout for Chess Records that formed a band called the Kings Of Rhythm in the early 50s, immediately scoring a #1 R&B hit backing Jackie Brenston on a song called Rocket 88. By 1964 he had married Anna Mae Bullock, who changed her name to Tina Turner and began receiving co-billing on Ike's records, such as the 1964 B side, Merry Christmas Baby. Although lyrically the same as the Charles Brown song of the same name, the track is musically worlds away from Brown's slow blues number.

Artist:      Solomon Burke
Title:     Presents For Christmas
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Burke/Burke/Burke
Label:    Rhino (original label: Atlantic)
Year:     1966
     Solomon Burke was a staple artist for the Atlantic label at a time when Atlantic itself was being overshadowed by the Stax/Volt labels that it distributed. Nonetheless, Burke had several R&B hits throughout the sixties and was highly respected by his fellow artists. Presents For Christmas captures Burke at his peak in 1966.

Artist:      Jimmy McCracklin
Title:     Christmas Time
Source:      Mono CD: Blue Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Jimmy McCracklin
Label:    Rhino (original label: Art-Tone)
Year:     1961
     Jimmy McCracklin recorded one of the catchiest, yet underplayed, tunes of the 50s when he did The Walk. Christmas Time, from a few years later, actually sounds like beach music. Go figure.

Artist:      James Brown
Title:     Santa Claus, Santa Claus
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released on LP: Soulful Christmas)
Writer(s):    Bobbitt/Jones
Label:     Rhino (original label: King)
Year:     1968
     Few people would ever accuse James Brown of being a blues artist, but this recording of Santa Claus, Santa Claus (sometimes called just Santa Claus) from 1968 shows what it would have sounded like if he was.
Artist:      Ed "Cookie" Byrnes
Title:     Yulesville
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Galanoy/Olafson/Barker
Label:    Rhino (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year:     1959
     The ABC TV network was a perennial also-ran that was just starting to find a winning formula in the late 50s with shows targeted toward a younger audience. The most popular of these was 77 Sunset Strip, starring Ed "Cookie" Byrnes. He and co-star Connie Stevens, staying in character, cut a hit novelty record called Cookie, Cookie, which played on Cookie's propensity for combing his hair. Byrnes, again in character, followed it up with this hip retelling of the classic poem Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Artist:    Elvis Presley
Title:    Santa Claus Is Back In Town
Source:    45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    Lieber/Stoller
Label:    RCA Victor
Year:    1957
    Santa Claus Is Back In Town is the opening track on the 1957 LP Elvis' Christmas Album.  The song, written by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, was also released that year in the UK as a single, going to the #7 spot on the charts. In the US, however, it remained available only as an album track until 1965, when it was released as a single, going to the #4 spot on the Billboard chart. For the B side, RCA reissued Blue Christmas, which had gone into the top 10 the previous year. The Blue Christmas/Santa Claus Is Back In Town single was certified platinum in 1999.

Artist:    Martels
Title:    Rockin' Santa Claus
Source:    Mono CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Mason/Robinson
Label:    Rhino (original label: Bella)
Year:    1959
    Rock history is littered with one-hit wonders, many of whom only got to release one single. The Martels, however, released only half a single, as the other side of the record was by another artist altogether. They cut Rockin' Santa Claus for the tiny Bella label in San Jose, California in 1959, and were never heard from since.

Artist:      Ray Stevens
Title:     Santa Claus Is Watching You
Source:      45 RPM single
Writer:    Ray Stevens
Label:     Mercury
Year:     1962
     I've mentioned something called the Grab Bag before. Basically, it was a sealed paper bag (sometimes with a clear plastic front) containing four 45 RPM records, generally "cut-outs" that were no longer in print. The one my family bought for Christmas of 1964 had a Sing Along With Mitch Christmas EP in the front. By far the oddest record in the bag was Santa Claus Is Watching You by Ray Stevens, although I seem to remember that version being slightly different than the one heard here. One thing that both versions had in common was the presence of Clyde the Camel from Stevens's first hit, Ahab the Arab.

Artist:      Sonics
Title:     Santa Claus
Source:      Mono CD: Cool Yule (originally released on LP: Merry Christmas)
Writer:    Greg Roslie
Label:     Rhino (original label: Etiquette)
Year:     1965
     The Pacific Northwest was home to several bands that can only be described as proto-punk (think Louie Louie). One of the top bands on the scene up there was the Sonics, who recorded raw hard-driving songs with titles like Psycho, the Witch and Strychnine. Santa Claus is very much in the same vein, making it the punkiest Christmas song of the sixties, if not all time.

Artist:    Bob Seger And The Last Heard
Title:    Sock It To Me Santa
Source:    Mono: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Seger/Honaker/Lagassa
Label:    Wicked Cool (original label: Cameo)
Year:    1966
    Years before he was singing that old time rock 'n' roll on his way to Katnandu, Bob Seger led a band called the Last Heard. The band was formed when Seger decided to leave his former band, the Omens, to record a song called East Side Story. The song, released on the local Hideout label, was Seger's first hit, selling about 50,000 copies, mostly in the Detroit area. This led to a deal with Cameo-Parkway Records. The first single released by the band on Cameo was a Christmas tune called Sock It To Me Santa that predates fellow Detroiter Mitch Ryder's Sock It To Me-Baby by a few weeks. Seger, of course, would eventually sign with Capitol Records, changing the name of the band to the Bob Seger System, and later, the Silver Bullet Band.

Artist:      Beach Boys
Title:     Little Saint Nick (stereo single version)
Source:      CD: Beach Boys Ultimate Christmas (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Wilson/Love
Label:    Capitol
Year:     1963
     When the Beach Boys first recorded Little Saint Nick they were the hottest surf music band in the country. A year later Beatlemania had set in, and a new version of Little Saint Nick was recorded for the Beach Boys Christmas Album. The new version put a greater emphasis on the vocals, and much of the original instrumentation was deleted from the arrangement. That is the version that usually gets heard on commercial radio every year. In the mid-70s, Carl Wilson, who by then had stepped into the leader's role formerly held by older brother Brian, pulled out the original 1963 tapes and created a new stereo mix of the song. The instruments have greater prominence in this version and include the distinctive sound of sleighbells that were completely exorcised from the 1964 version.

Artist:    Soupy Sales
Title:    Santa Claus Is Surfin' To Town
Source:    Mono CD: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Gillespie/Coots
Label:    Wicked Cool/Reprise
Year:    1963
    Best known as the host of a popular kids' show on TV, Soupy Sales cut this bit of weirdness for the Reprise label in 1963. Need I say more?

Artist:      Eartha Kitt
Title:     Santa Baby
Source:      Mono CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1935-1954 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Javits/Springer/Springer
Label:     Rhino (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:     1953
     Eartha Kitt has one of the most unique voices in the history of jazz, and put it to good use on the original 1953 version of Santa Baby, a tune that has unfortunately in recent years become associated with Madonna. Kitt continued to perform with nearly as much energy as she had in the 50s right up to her death on Christmas Day, 2008.

Artist:      Rufus Thomas
Title:     I'll Be Your Santa Baby
Source:      Mono CD: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Thomas/Roberts
Label:     Wicked Cool (original label: Stax)
Year:     1973
     Rufus Thomas had a long and storied career going back to the 1950s, first with Bear Cat, an answer song to Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller's Hound Dog, and later with his own series of "dog" hits (Walking the Dog being the most famous). By the mid-1960s he was an important member of the Stax/Volt stable of artists, where his daughter Carla was making a name for herself with hits like B-A-B-Y and (with Otis Redding) Tramp. After Stax severed its distribution deal with Atlantic Records Rufus Thomas stayed with the now fully independent Stax, releasing I'll Be Your Santa Baby in 1973.

Artist:      Clarence Carter
Title:     Back Door Santa
Source:      CD: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Carter/Daniel
Label:     Wicked Cool (original label: Atlantic)
Year:     1969
     Clarence Carter is an icon of the beach music (for you non-Carolinians, beach music has nothing to do with surf music) crowd. For everyone else, he is a moderately successful soul artist known mostly for his mid-70s hit Slip Away. Regardless of where you might know him from, his Back Door Santa will surprise you with its down and funky energy.

Artist:    Ramsey Lewis Trio
Title:    Winter Wonderland
Source:    45 RPM single B side (reissue)
Writer(s):    Bernard/Smith
Label:    Cadet (original label: Argo)
Year:    1960
    The Ramsey Lewis Trio released their first LP, Ramsey Lewis and the Gentlemen of Swing, in 1956. They remained primarily a jazz band over their first ten years of existence, releasing several singles on the Argo label, a Chess subsidiary. As well as original material, the group recorded their own distinctive versions of standards such as the holiday-oriented Winter Wonderland, which appeared as a B side in 1960.

Artist:      Bobby "Boris" Pickett
Title:     Monster's Holiday
Source:      45 RPM single
Writer:    Bobby Pickett
Label:     Garpax
Year:     1962
     Bobby Picket scored big with his Halloween hit Monster Mash in 1962, and quickly followed it up with this sequel set around the Christmas holidays. Legendary producer Gary Paxton was responsible for both recordings making it onto vinyl and on the air.

Artist:      Spike Jones and His City Slickers
Title:     All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)
Source:      Mono CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1935-1954 (originally released as 78 RPM single)
Writer:    Don Gardner
Label:    Rhino (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:     1948
     Spike Jones and His City Slickers were a highly talented bunch who made music out of sound effects, toy instruments, and whatever else it occurred to them to use. Their forte was the novelty record, and no one did it better.  All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) was written by Middleton, NY schoolteacher Donald Yetter Gardner, who was inspired to write the song when he asked his second grade class what they wanted for Christmas and was struck by how many of them were lisping due to missing front teeth.

Artist:      Chipmunks
Title:     The Chipmunk Song
Source:      CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1955-Present (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Ross Bagdasarian
Label:    Rhino (original label: Liberty)
Year:     1958
     In 1958 pop-jazz composer/bandleader Ross Bagdasarian decided to play around with a variable-speed tape recorder and came up with the novelty hit Witch Doctor. He followed it up by using multiple tape machines to create a trio of sped up voices that he called the Chipmunks, and released this smash hit in time for the Christmas season. The success of The Chipmunk Song led to a Saturday morning cartoon series and a series of albums for the Liberty label. His son, Ross Bagdasarian Jr. has revived the concept in recent years, although not with the same level of success. Bagdasarian himself, incidentally, had a small part as a lonely pianist in the Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window.

Artist:    Royal Guardsmen
Title:    Snoopy's Christmas
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Hugo & Luigi/Weiss
Label:    Laurie
Year:    1967
    Like many American bands, the Ocala, Florida based Posmen decided to change their name to something more Anglo sounding in the wake of the British invasion of 1964. As the Royal Guardsmen they had their first regional hit in 1966 with a song called Baby Let's Wait. It was their next release, however, that established the direction the group's career would take from that point on. Snoopy vs. the Red Baron was a huge national hit, going all the way to the #2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1966. Several more Snoopy themed songs followed, including Snoopy's Christmas, released in 1967. The most recent of these is Snoopy vs. Osama, which came out in 2006.

Artist:    Dodie Stevens
Title:    Merry, Merry Christmas Baby
Source:    Mono CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Sylvia/Lopez
Label:    Rhino (original label: Dot)
Year:    1960
    Dodie Stevens only had one hit record, the semi-novelty Pink Shoelaces, which came out in 1959. That didn't stop her from trying her luck with a contemporary holiday tune called Merry, Merry Christmas Baby the following year. The song, based on the Tune Weavers' Happy, Happy Birthday Baby, came out on the Dot label, which was no stranger to cover songs, having established itself by releasing sanitized Pat Boone remakes of songs originally recorded by Little Richard and other early rock 'n' roll artists.

Artist:    Otis Redding
Title:    Merry Christmas Baby
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Baxter/Moore
Label:    Atco
Year:    1968
    Merry Christmas Baby was originally released by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, which featured Charles Brown on guitar and vocals, in 1947. Several different versions of the song have been recorded over the years by such diverse artists as Chuck Berry, Ike & Tina Turner, Hansen, Christina Aguilara, Bruce Springsteen and Brown himself. Otis Redding's version of the song was released in 1968, almost a year after the plane crash that killed the singer and most of his band.

Artist:      Charles Brown
Title:     Please Come Home For Christmas
Source:      CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1955-Present (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Brown/Redd
Label:    Rhino (original label: King)
Year:     1960
     By now just about everyone is familiar with the Eagles version of Please Come Home For Christmas. Not everyone, however, knows the song was written by blues great Charles Brown. Even fewer have actually heard Brown's 1960 original, which is a shame, as it blows the Eagles version clean out of the water.

Artist:      Johnny Preston
Title:     (I Want a) Rock and Roll Guitar
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer:    J.P. Richardson
Label:    Rhino (original label: Mercury)
Year:     1960
     Johnny Preston recorded his signature song in 1960, the classic Running Bear, penned by J.P. Richardson, the Big Bopper. The pair teamed up again to create a brand new Christmas song, (I Want a) Rock and Roll Guitar, later the same year. Interesting enough, by the middle of the decade a guitar was exactly what many kids were indeed asking for. I should know; I got my first guitar (and amp) as a Christmas present after badgering my parents mercilessly for months. I think between the two they might have run about $100, which made it the most expensive Christmas I ever had.

Artist:      Ventures
Title:     Sleigh Ride
Source:     LP: The Ventures Christmas Album
Writer:    Leroy Anderson
Label:    Dolton
Year:     1965  
        The Ventures are by far the most successful instrumental rock group in history, with over 100 albums released over several decades. One of the most successful of these was their 1965 Christmas album, which featured this surfinated version of Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride, a piece usually associated with the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Artist:    Brenda Lee
Title:    Papa Noel
Source:    CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Ray Botkin
Label:    Rhino
Year:    1958
    Just about everyone is familiar with Brenda Lee's 1958 hit Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree. Not as well known is the flip side of that single, a song called Papa Noel. Lee, known as "Little Miss Dynamite" was first discovered by country legend Red Foley when still in her teens.

Artist:    Crystals
Title:    Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Source:    Mono CD: A Christmas Gift For You
Writer(s):    Coots/Gillespie
Label:    Phil Spector Records (original label: Philles)
Year:    1963
    In 1963 Phil Spector was riding high as one of the most successful record producers on the East coast. His "wall of sound" was heard on top 40 radio stations coast to coast on recordings by groups like the Crystals, who hit it big with And Then He Kissed Me and Da Doo Ron Ron that same year. Late in the year Spector issued an album called A Christmas Gift For You, which featured all the groups on his Philles label. The Crystals had three songs on the album, including an arrangement of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town that was later used by Bruce Springsteen.

Artist:    Ronettes
Title:    Frosty The Snowman
Source:    Mono CD: A Christmas Gift For You
Writer(s):    Nelson/Rollins
Label:    Phil Spector Records (original label: Philles)
Year:    1963
    1963 was probably the peak year for the Ronettes, with two of their biggest hits, Baby I Love You and Be My Baby, being released that year. To cap it all off they contirbuted a trio of tunes to Phil Spector's classic holiday LP, the first of which was their unique take on Frosty The Snowman.   

Artist:    Darlene Love
Title:    Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Source:    Mono CD: A Christmas Gift For You (also released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Spector/Greenwich/Barry
Label:    Phil Spector Records (original label: Philles)
Year:    1963
    Only one song from Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift For You was ever released as a single: Darlene Love's solo track, Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). Surprisingly, it was not a major hit and to this day is one of the least-played songs on the album.

Artist:      Jack Scott
Title:     There's Trouble Brewin'
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Laura Veronica
Label:    Rhino (original label: Groove)
Year:     1963
    Canadian born Jack Scott was one of the great rockabilly performers of the late 50s, scoring several top 10 hits, including My True Love and Burning Bridges. This 1963 recording of There's Trouble Brewin' shows him at the peak of his vocal powers.

Artist:      Canned Heat
Title:     Christmas Blues
Source:      Mono CD: Billboard Rock and Roll Christmas (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Canned Heat
Label:    Rhino (original label: Liberty)
Year:     1968
     Possibly the strangest pairing on record was the 1968 remake of The Chipmunk Song by the Chipmunks and Canned Heat. Yes, you read that correctly. Canned Heat did indeed provide the instrumental backing tracks for Simon, Theodore and Alvin's 10th anniversary remake of their best-known song. The B side of that record is a true gem: an original Canned Heat composition called Christmas Blues.

Artist:      Jethro Tull
Title:     Christmas Song
Source:      British import EP
Writer:    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:     1968
     I wanted to play one set made up entirely of songs from the psychedelic era performed by artists that I feature on the show on a fairly regular basis. One of these artists is the band Jethro Tull, led by flautist/acoustic guitarist/vocalist Ian Anderson. His somewhat cynical Christmas Song, originally released in the UK in 1968, did not appear in the US until the 1973 anthology album Living In the Past.
Artist:      Cadillacs
Title:     Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Source:      45 RPM vinyl
Writer:    Johnny Marks
Label:    Josie
Year:     1956
     Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has been recorded by a lot of different artists over the years, but this version by the Cadillacs stands out for its pure sense of fun. Doo-wop was at the peak of its popularity in 1956 and the Cadillacs, led by Earl "Speedoo" Carroll, were among the best of the bunch.

Artist:      Drifters
Title:     White Christmas
Source:      Mono CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1955-Present (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Irving Berlin
Label:    Rhino (original label: Atlantic)
Year:     1955
     The Drifters were a kind of early R&B doowop supergroup made up of ex-members of other R&B groups such as Billy Ward's Dominoes. The most distinctive voice of the original Drifters was high tenor Clyde McPhatter (for whom Ray Stevens's famous camel was named), which is heard prominently on their version of Irving Berlin's White Christmas. Over the years the group's lineup changed many times and led to several former members forming competing groups, all using the Drifters name. Over time, members of these offshoots would in turn form their own Drifters, despite having virtually no connection to the original group. This is why it sometimes seems that half the doowop singers in the world claim to be former members of the Drifters.

Artist:      Marquees
Title:     Christmas In the Congo
Source:      Mono CD: Cool Yule (Originally released as 45 RPM single, possibly promo only)
Writer(s):    Masten/Botkin
Label:    Rhino (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year:     1959
     I recently saw a signed publicity photo of the Marquees taken sometime in the late 1950s. One of the signatures is Marvin Gaye's. What I have not been able to find is any evidence that this record was actually released commercially, although at least one promo copy is known to exist.

Artist:      King Curtis
Title:     The Christmas Song
Source:      45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Mel Torme
Label:    Atco
Year:     1966
     King Curtis was one of the most in-demand saxophone players of the first wave of rock and roll. His best known work was on the song Yakety Yak by the Coasters in 1958. In the sixties he became the music director for the Atlantic Records group, appearing on a variety of recordings by artists such as Solomon Burke and occassionally releasing material on the Atco label under his own name. Tragically, his life was cut short when he was the victim of a stabbing when he attempted to stop junkies from shooting up on his front steps in New York.