This week we have a whole lot of good music from 1965-1970, including three separate artists' sets. Who needs more than that?
Artist: First Edition
Title: Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released on LP: The First Edition and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Mickey Newbury
Label: Rhino (original label: Reprise)
In 1968, former New Christy Mistrels members Kenny Rogers and Mike Settle decided to form a psychedelic rock band, the First Edition. Although Settle was the official leader on the first album, it was Rogers who would emerge as the star of the band, even to the point of eventually changing the band's name to Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. That change reflected a shift from psychedelic folk-rock to country flavored pop that would eventually propel Rogers to superstar status.
Artist: Velvet Illusions
Title: Acid Head
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Tell, also released on Metromedia Records)
Showing an obvious influence by the Electric Prunes (a suburban L.A. band that was embraced by the Seattle crowd as one of their own) the Velvet Illusions backtracked the Prunes' steps, leaving their native Yakima and steady gigging for the supposedly greener pastures of the City of Angels. After a few months of frustration in which the band seldom found places to practice, let alone perform, they headed back to Seattle to cut Acid Head before calling it quits.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Source: LP: Surrealistic Pillow
Writer(s): Paul Kantner
Label: RCA Victor
One of the first songs written by Paul Kantner without a collaborator was the highly listenable D.C.B.A.-25 from the album Surrealistic Pillow. Kantner later said the title simply refers to the basic chord structure of the song, which is built on a two chord verse (D and C) and a two chord bridge (B and A). That actually fits, but what about the 25 part? [insert enigmatic smile here]
Artist: Mike Proctor
Title: Mr. Commuter
Source: Mono CD: Insane Times (originally released as 45 PM single)
Label: EMI (original UK label: Columbia)
In the US, the psychedelic era is generally considered to cover the years 1965 through 1969, more or less, and includes the garage/punk movement as well as early forms of hard rock, heavy metal and progressive rock. In the UK, on the other hand, the psychedelic era covers a much shorter time period, 1966-68, and is defined by two Beatles albums: Revolver at the beginning and the White album at the end. In between there were a variety of artists, many of whom made only one album (or even one single). Among these is classically-trained pianist Mike Proctor, whose Mr. Commuter was released in mid 1967 on EMI's Columbia label. Proctor hooked up with a couple bands after releasing the single, but never again recorded for a major label.
Title: She's Got Everything
Source: CD: The Kink Kronikles (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Ray Davies
Although recorded in 1966 at sessions for the Face To Face LP, She's Got Everything was shelved until 1968, when the Kinks released it as the B side of Days, one of many singles on the Reprise label that went virtually unnoticed in the US. After the Kinks signed a five-album deal with RCA Victor in 1971, Reprise compiled a double LP collection of Kinks recordings from 1966-1971 called The Kink Kronikles that included, for the first time, a stereo mix of She's Got Everything. The song itself is a deliberate throwback to the band's early sound.
Artist: Max Frost And The Troopers aka The 13th Power
Title: Shape Of Things To Come
Source: CD: Even More Nuggets (originally released on LP: Wild In The Streets soundtrack)
Label: Rhino (original label: Tower)
Max Frost was a politically savvy rock star who rode the youth movement all the way to the White House, first through getting the support of a hip young Senator, then getting the age requirements for holding high political office lowered to 21, and finally lowering the voting age to 14. Everyone over 30 was locked away in internment camps, similar to those used during WWII by various governments to hold those of questionable loyalty to the current regime. What? You don't remember any of that? You say it sounds like the plot of a cheapie late 60s teen exploitation flick? Right on all counts. "Wild in the Streets", released in 1968, starred Christopher Jones as the rock star, Hal Holbrook as the hip young senator, and a Poseidon Adventure-sized Shelly Winter as the rock star's interred mom. Richard Pryor, in his film debut, played the band's drummer/political activist Stanley X. Shape Of Things To Come was a surprise hit single taken from the film, and was long thought to be the work of studio musicians under the supervision of Mike Curb, but is now known to have been recorded by an actual band called the 13th Power, led by vocalist/songwriter Paul Wibier, that had released a single called I See A Change Is Gonna Come for Curb's own Sidewalk label the previous year.
Artist: Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title: The Last Time
Source: CD: Big Brother And The Holding Company (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Janis Joplin
Label: Columbia/Legacy (original label: Mainstream)
Big Brother And The Holding Company had recently released their debut LP on Bob Shad's Mainstream label when they appeared at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June of 1967. This appearance was well-received and led to a contract with the much larger Columbia label, which then bought out the band's original contract with Mainstream. Shad wasn't quite done with Big Brother And The Holding Company, however. The band had already recorded a pair of songs for a projected single when they signed with Columbia, and in January of 1968 the song Coo Coo, backed with The Last Time, was released as a single on the Mainstream label. Two years later Columbia re-released the band's first album, with Coo Coo and The Last Time added to the original track list.
Artist: Eric Burdon And The Animals
Source: CD: Retrospective (originally released on LP: Winds Of Change)
Label: Abkco (original label: M-G-M)
The first album by the "new" Eric Burdon And The Animals, Winds Of Change, included three songs that were released as singles, however only one of the three got airplay in both the US and the UK. The US-only single was a song that Eric Burdon has since said was the one he was most proud of writing, a love generation song called Anything. In fact Burdon liked the song well enough to re-record it for a solo album in 1995.
Artist: James Gang
Title: Ashes The Rain And I
Source: CD: James Gang Rides Again
Writer(s): Joe Walsh
Label: MCA (original label: ABC)
For their second LP, James Gang Rides Again, the band decided to devote the entire second of the LP to some new acoustic tunes that guitarist Joe Walsh had been working on. The grand finale of the album was Ashes The Rain And I, a tune that embellishes Walsh's guitar and vocals with strings arranged by Jack Nitzsche.
Title: Can't Buy Me Love
Source: Mono CD: A Hard Day's Night (also released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Apple/Parlophone (original label: United Artists) (original single label: Capitol)
In April of 1964 the Beatles set a record that has yet to be equaled: they owned the top five spots on the US charts. The song at the top of that heap of tunes was Can't Buy Me Love, which had been recorded just as Beatlemania was beginning to take hold in the US. Can't Buy Me Love was the third consecutive # 1 hit for the Beatles, an accomplishment that has never been repeated.
Title: The Word
Source: CD: Rubber Soul
The original concept for the album Rubber Soul was to show the group stretching out into R&B territory. The US version of the album, however, deleted several of the more soulful numbers in favor of folk-rock oriented songs. This was done by Capitol records mainly to cash in on the sudden popularity of the genre in 1965. Not all of the more R&B flavored songs were replaced, however. John Lennon's The Word appeared on both US and UK versions of Rubber Soul.
Title: Abbey Road Medley #2
Source: LP: Abbey Road
The Beatles had been experimenting with songs leading into other songs since the Sgt. Pepper's album. With Abbey Road they took it a step further, with side two of the album containing two such medleys (although some rock historians treat it as one long medley). The second one consists of three songs credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney: Golden Slumbers is vintage McCartney, while Carry That Weight has more of a Lennon feel to it. The final section,The End, probably should have been credited to the entire band, as it contains the only Ringo Starr drum solo on (a Beatles) record as well as three sets of alternating lead guitar solos (eight beats each) from Paul McCartney, George Harrison and John Lennon (in that order).
Artist: Neil Young/Crazy Horse
Title: Cowgirl In The Sand
Source: LP: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Writer: Neil Young
It has been said that adverse conditions are conducive to good art. Certainly that truism applies to Neil Young's Cowgirl In The Sand, written while Young was running a 102 degree fever. Almost makes you want to get sick yourself, doesn't it?
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: One For John Gee
Source: CD: This Was (bonus track)
Writer(s): Mick Abrahams
Ian Anderson, in his liner notes to the remastered version of Jethro Tull's 1968 debut album, This Was, credits BBC disc jockey John Peel and Marquee Club manager John Gee for their help in gaining an audience for the band in their early days. While making This Was the band recorded a tribute track, One For John Gee, that was not included on the original LP but is now available as a CD bonus track. The short instrumental was written by the band's original guitarist, Mick Abrahams, who left the group shortly after the release of This Was to form his own band, Blodwyn Pig.
Artist: Strawberry Alarm Clock
Title: Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow
Source: LP: Incense And Peppermints
The song Incense And Peppermints was originally a B side released in 1967 on the regional All-American label in southern California. DJs began flipping the record over, however, and the song soon attracted the interest of the people at MCA, who reissued the record on their Uni label. The song was such a huge national hit that Uni gave the band the go ahead to record an entire album. That album, also titled Incense And Peppermints, contained several fine songs, including Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow. This unsung psychedelic classic opens with a flute solo from Steve Bartek, who co-wrote Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow. Strange as it may seem, Bartek was not considered a member of the Strawberry Alarm Clock, although he co-wrote (with bass player George Bunnell) four of the album's 12 tracks and plays on most of them.
Artist: Wilson Pickett
Title: Land Of 1000 Dances
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s): Chris Kenner
In the early 90s I did a short stint as program director for a slowly-dying full-service AM station in northeastern North Carolina. The station's music format had been Adult Contemporary since the early 70s, but in recent years had been surpassed in the local ratings by their own FM station. My idea was to get rid of the current stuff and concentrate on the station's fairly extensive library that dated back to the early 60s. One song that I wanted to put into rotation was Wilson Pickett's version of Chris Kenner's Land Of 1000 Dances, which had gotten extensive airplay on both top 40 and R&B stations in 1966. The station's owner and general manager, whose own musical tastes ran to what is known as "beach music" (a kind of soft R&B music that gave rise to a dance called the Shag), objected to my wanting to play the song, saying "That's not soul, it's hard rock." As he was the guy signing my paycheck I didn't have a whole lot of choice in the matter, but to this day whenever I hear "1,2,3" followed by the blaring horns of the Bar-Kays and the following buildup by the MGs to Pickett's James Brown-styled vocals I can't help but think of that former boss and his condemnation of the record as "hard rock".
Title: Tales Of Brave Ulysses
Source: LP: Disraeli Gears
Cream was one of the first bands to break British tradition and release singles that were also available as album cuts. This tradition likely came about because 45 RPM records (both singles and extended play 45s) tended to stay in print indefinitely in the UK, unlike in the US, where a hit single usually had a shelf life of around 2-3 months then disappeared forever. When the Disraeli Gears album was released, however, the song Strange Brew, which leads off the LP, was released in Europe as a single. The B side of that single was Tales Of Brave Ulysses, which opens side two of the album.
Title: White Room (single version)
Source: LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Wheels Of Fire)
Label: United Artists (original label: Atco)
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.
Title: Outside Woman Blues
Source: LP: Disraeli Gears
Writer(s): Arthur Reynolds
Although Cream's second album, Disraeli Gears, is best known for its psychedelic cover art and original songs such as Strange Brew, Sunshine Of Your Love and Tales of Brave Ulysses, the LP did have one notable blues cover on it. Outside Woman Blues was originally recorded by Blind Joe Reynolds in 1929 and has since been covered by a variety of artists including Van Halen, Johnny Winters, Jimi Hendrix and even the Atlanta Rhythm Section.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: Subterranean Homesick Blues
Source: Mono LP: Bringing It All Back Home
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
1965 was the year Bob Dylan went electric, and got his first top 40 hit, Subterranean Homesick Blues, in the process. Although the song, which also led off his Bringing It All Back Home album, stalled out in the lower 30s, it did pave the way for electrified cover versions of Dylan songs by the Byrds and Turtles and Dylan's own Like A Rolling Stone, which would revolutionize top 40 radio. A line from the song itself, "you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows", became the inspiration for a radical offshoot of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) that called itself the Weathermen (later the Weather Underground). My own favorite line from the song is "Don't follow leaders, watch the parkin' meters". Words to live by.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: Queen Jane Approximately
Source: CD: Highway 61 Revisited
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
The thing that stands out to me about Bob Dylan's Queen Jane Approximately from his Highway 61 Revisited album is the fact that somebody's guitar is badly out of tune throughout the song. Yes, the song has sufficiently deep, meaningful lyrics (it is Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan, after all), and the rhyming structure is unique, but all I can hear is that out of tune guitar.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: On The Road Again
Source: Mono LP: Bringing It All Back Home
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
On January 14, 1965, Bob Dylan made his first recordings with an electric band at Columbia Records' Studio B. The following day, using mostly the same musicians, he recorded On The Road Again. The song, basically a declaration of indepence from his role as a folk singer, contains the lines "You ask why I don't live here. Honey, how come you don't move?".
Artist: Joni Mitchell
Title: The Circle Game
Source: LP: Ladies Of The Canyon
Writer(s): Joni Mitchell
Singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell wrote The Circle Game in 1966 in response to Neil Young's Sugar Mountain, a lament about leaving one's teen years behind. The song had already been recorded by several other artists, including Tom Rush and Buffy Sainte-Marie before Mitchell herself got around to recording it herself for her 1970 album Ladies Of The Canyon. Mitchell's version features the Lookout Mountain United Downstairs Choir (alias Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) on background vocals.
Title: Let Me Be
Source: CD: Songs Of Protest (originally released on LP: It Ain't Me Babe and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): P.F. Sloan
Label: Rhino (original label: White Whale)
The Turtles were nothing if not able to redefine themselves when the need arose. Originally a surf band known as the Crossfires, the band quickly adopted an "angry young men" stance with their first single, Bob Dylan's It Ain't Me Babe, and the subsequent album of the same name. For the follow-up single the band chose a track from their album, Let Me Be, that, although written by a different writer, had the same general message as It Ain't Me Babe. The band would soon switch over to love songs like Happy Together and She'd Rather Be With Me before taking their whole chameleon bit to its logical extreme with an album called Battle Of The Bands on which each track was meant to sound like it was done by an entirely different group.
Artist: Shadows Of Knight
Title: I'm Gonna Make You Mine
Source: Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Dunwich)
Possibly the loudest rockin' recordings of 1966 came from the Shadows of Knight. A product of the Chicago suburbs, the Shadows (as they were originally known) quickly established a reputation as the region's resident bad boy rockers (lead vocalist Jim Sohns was reportedly banned from more than one high school campus for his attempts at increasing the local teen pregnancy rate). After signing a record deal with the local Dunwich label, the band learned that there was already a band called the Shadows and added the Knight part (after their own high school sports teams' name). Their first single was a cover of Van Morrison's Gloria that changed one line ("around here" in place of "up to my room") and thus avoided the mass radio bannings that had derailed the original Them version of the song. I'm Gonna Make You Mine was the second follow up to Gloria, but its lack of commercial success consigned the Shadows to one-hit wonder status until years after the band's breakup, when they finally got the recognition they deserved as one of the founding bands of garage/punk, and perhaps its greatest practicioner.
Artist: Status Quo
Title: Pictures Of Matchstick Men
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Francis Rossi
Label: Rhino (original label: Cadet Concept)
The band with the most charted singles in the UK is not the Beatles or even the Rolling Stones. It is, in fact, Status Quo, quite possibly the nearest thing to a real life version of Spinal Tap currently in existence. Except for Pictures of Matchstick Men, the group has never had a hit in the US. On the other hand, they remain popular in Scandanavia, playing to sellout crowds on a regular basis (yes, they are still together).
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Stray Cat Blues
Source: LP: Beggar's Banquet
As a military dependent overseas I had access to the local Base Exchange. The downside of buying albums there was that they were always a month or two behind the official stateside release dates getting albums in stock. The upside is that the BX had a special of the month that was always a relatively new release for sale at something like 40% off the regular album price. The December 1968 special was the newest release from the Rolling Stones, the soon-ro-be-classic Beggar's Banquet, that I picked up for a whopping $1.50. Full-priced albums on the racks that month included the latest releases by the Beatles (white album), Hendrix (Electric Ladyland) and Cream (Wheels of Fire). I bought the Beatles and Stones albums and made copies of the Hendrix and Cream albums lent to me by friends who were impressed by the fact that I had access to a reel to reel tape recorder in the first place.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: How Many More Times
Source: LP: Homer (soundtrack) (originally released on LP: Led Zeppelin)
Label: Cotillion (original label: Atlantic)
Like many early Led Zeppelin songs, How Many More Times was originally credited to the band members (except, for contractual reasons, singer Robert Plant). More recent releases of the song, however, list Chester Burnett (Howlin' Wolf) as a co-writer, despite the fact that he and the members of Led Zeppelin had never met. This is because of the similarity, especially in the lyrics, to a 1951 Howlin' Wolf record called How Many More Years. The band reportedly tried to trick radio programmers into playing the eight and a half minute song by listing it on the album cover as being three minutes and thirty seconds long. I doubt anyone was fooled.
Artist: Ten Years After
Source: CD: Stonedhenge
Writer(s): Leo Lyons
Ten Years After's fourth LP, Stonedhenge, features six tracks by the entire band alternating with one solo track each from the band's four members. Bassist Leo Lyons's piece is called Faro (possibly a corruption of "far out", although it's entirely possible it is a reference to jazz bassist Scott LaFaro), and consists of a melody played on a string bass backed by single notes plucked on an electric bass. There is also foot tapping throughout the entire minute-long piece, and a surprise ending which you'll just have to experience for yourself.
Artist: Procol Harum
Title: Skip Softly (My Moonbeams)
Source: CD: Shine On Brightly
Procol Harum is not generally thought of as a novelty act. The closest they ever came was this track from the Shine On Brightly album that steals shamelessly from a classical piece I really should know the name of but don't. Even then, Skip Softly (My Moonbeams) ends up being as much a showcase for a then-young Robin Trower's guitar work as anything else.
Title: House For Everyone
Source: CD: Heaven Is In Your Mind (aka Mr. Fantasy)
Writer(s): Dave Mason
Label: Island (original label: United Artists)
Although Traffic is now known mostly as a Steve Winwood band, many of their earliest songs were the creation of guitarist Dave Mason, whose songs tended to be a bit more psychedelic than Winwood's. One example is House For Everyone from the band's 1967 debut LP, which creatively uses tape edits to simulate a music box being wound up with short snippets of song sneaking through between turns of the key at the beginning of the track (not to mention the "winding down" at the end of the track).