Sunday, February 25, 2024

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 2409 (starts 2/26/24) 

    This week, in our second hour, Stuck in the Psychedelic Era takes A Look At Bear's Sonic Journals. Owsley Stanley, known as Bear to his friends, was constantly looking for ways to improve his skills as a live sound man for the Grateful Dead and other San Francisco bands. Starting around 1966, Bear began taping every performance he did sound on, listening back to what he called his "sonic journals' in order to critique his own work, often in the company of the performers themselves. Over a period of about 15 years Bear managed to accumulate in excess of 1300 reels of live performances in a variety of venues, including the legendary Carousel Ballroom (later known as the Fillmore West) and it's New York counterpart, the Fillmore East. Since Bear's death in 2011 his family and friends formed the Owsley Stanley Foundation to preserve and, when necessary, restore these Sonic Journals. To finance the project, the Foundation has released a series of CDs featuring a variety of artists ranging from Johnny Cash to the Allman Brothers Band. This week we present excerpts from some of these CDs, including an extended look at the latest release of the Bear's Sonic Journals: Sing Out, a benefit concert recorded on April 25, 1981 at the Berkeley Community Theater, with additional commentary from Hawk Semins, one of the founders of the Owsley Stanley Foundation. For the first hour the emphasis is on album tracks, with a couple of singles tossed in for good measure. It all begins with an "impossible" battle of the bands featuring one group that stopped doing live performances around the same time as the other was being formed.

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    Tomorrow Never Knows
Source:    CD: Revolver
Writer:    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Capitol/EMI
Year:    1966
    A few years ago I started to compile an (admittedly subjective) list of the top psychedelic songs ever recorded. Although I never finished ranking the songs, one of the top contenders for the number one spot was the Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows, from the Revolver album. The recording is one of the first to use studio techniques such as backwards masking on the lead guitar track and various tape loops throughout, and has been hailed as a studio masterpiece.

Artist:    Chocolate Watch Band
Title:    Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love-In) (originally released on LP: No Way Out and as 45 RPM single)
Source:    LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk
Writer:    McElroy/Bennett
Label:    Rhino (original label: Tower)
Year:    1967
    It took me several years to sort out the convoluted truth behind the recorded works of San Jose, California's most popular local band, the Chocolate Watch Band. While it's true that much of what was released under their name was in fact the work of studio musicians, there are a few tracks that are indeed the product of Dave Aguilar and company. Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love-In), a song used in the cheapie teenspliotation flick the Love-In and included on the Watch Band's first album, is one of those few. Ironically, the song was co-written by Don Bennett, the studio vocalist whose voice was substituted for Aguilar's on a couple of other songs from the same album. According to legend, the band actually showed up at the movie studio without any songs prepared for the film, and learned to play and sing Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love-In) right there on the set. This, combined with the story of their first visit to a recording studio the previous year (a story for another time) shows one of the Watch Band's greatest strengths: the ability to pick up and perfect new material faster than anyone else. It also shows their overall disinterest in the recording process. This was a band that wanted nothing more than to play live, often outperforming the big name bands they opened for.

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    Savoy Truffle
Source:    CD: The Beatles
Writer(s):    George Harrison
Label:    Parlophone (original label: Apple)
Year:    1968
    George Harrison's skills as a songwriter continued to develop in 1968. The double-LP The Beatles (aka the White Album) contained four Harrison compositions, including Savoy Truffle, a tongue-in-cheek song about Harrison's friend Eric Clapton's fondness for chocolate. John Lennon did not participate in the recording of Savoy Truffle. The keyboards were probably played by Chris Thomas, who, in addition to playing on all four Harrison songs on the album, served as de facto producer when George Martin decided to take a vacation in the middle of the album's recording sessions. 

Artist:     Chocolate Watchband
Title:     No Way Out
Source:     Mono British import CD: Melts In Your Brain, Not On Your Wrist (originally released on LP: No Way Out and as a 45 RPM single B side)
Writer:     Ed Cobb
Label:     Big Beat (original label:Tower)
Year:     1967
    The Chocolate Watchband, from the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area (specifically Foothills Junior College in Los Altos Hills), were fairly typical of the south bay music scene, centered in San Jose. Although they were generally known for lead vocalist Dave Aguilar's ability to channel Mick Jagger with uncanny accuracy, producer Ed Cobb gave them a more psychedelic sound in the studio with the use of studio effects and other enhancements (including adding tracks to their albums that were performed entire by studio musicians). Cobb also pulled other questionable stuff, such as taking credit for the finished version of the song No Way Out, despite the fact that the basic tracks came from a jam session recorded months earlier by the band itself.

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    I Want To Tell You
Source:    Mono CD: Revolver
Writer(s):    George Harrison
Label:    Capitol/EMI
Year:    1966
    The first pre-recorded reel-to-reel tape I ever bought was the Capitol version of the Beatles' Revolver album, which I picked up about a year after the LP was released. Although my Dad's tape recorder had small built-in speakers, his Koss headphones had far superior sound, which led to me sleeping on the couch in the living room with the headphones on. Hearing songs like I Want To Tell You on factory-recorded reel-to-reel tape through a decent pair of headphones gave me an appreciation for just how well-engineered Revolver was, and also inspired me to (eventually) learn my own way around a recording studio. The song itself, by the way, is one of three George Harrison songs on Revolver; the most on any Beatle album up to that point, and a major reason that, when pressed, I almost always end up citing Revolver as my favorite Beatles LP.

Artist:    Chocolate Watchband (recording as The Hogs)
Title:    Blues Theme
Source:    Mono CD: One Step Beyond (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Curb/Allen
Label:    Sundazed (original label: HBR)
Year:    1966
    The Chocolate Watchband's first experience in a recording studio came in October of 1966. The band had set up and was getting their sound levels checked when a friend of the producer burst into the studio with the news that the latest "hot thing" was a new movie called the Wild Ones. Davie Allen and the Arrows had cut something called Blues Theme for the soundtrack, and the word was that there were no plans to release the song as a single. Sensing an opportunity, the producer asked the band if they could record their own version of Blues Theme. The Watchband, even at that early point, had a knack for doing convincing covers on a moment's notice, and by the time the session was over they had cut a credible version of Blues Theme. The record was quickly released on the Hanna Barbera (yes, the cartoon people) label, but as by the Hogs rather than the Chocolate Watchband. Although I don't know why this was done, I do have a couple theories. It's entirely possible that the band signed their contract with Tower Records before Blues Theme was released, in which case Tower would naturally forbid the use of the name Chocolate Watchband by another label. Or it could simply be that the unknown producers at HBR felt that a name like the Hogs was more appropriate for a song used in a biker flick. We may never know for sure.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    I'm So Glad
Source:    Mono British import LP: Cream (originally released on LP: Fresh Cream)
Writer(s):    Skip James
Label:    Polydor (original US label: Atco)
Year:    1966
    Unlike later albums, which featured psychedelic cover art and several Jack Bruce/Pete Brown collaborations that had a decidedly psychedelic sound, Fresh Cream was marketed as the first album by a British blues supergroup, and featured a greater number of blues standards than subsequent releases. One of those covers that became a concert staple for the band was the old Skip James tune I'm So Glad. The song has become so strongly associated with Cream that the group used it as the opening number for all three performances when they staged a series of reunion concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in 2004. Unlike the rest of the songs on Fresh Cream, I'm So Glad was never mixed in stereo.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    Fire
Source:    LP: The Essential Jimi Hendrix volume two (originally released on LP: Are You Experienced)
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1967
    Sometime in late 1966 Jimi Hendrix was visiting his girlfriend's mother's house in London for the first time. It was a cold rainy night and Jimi immediately noticed that there was a dog curled up in front of the fireplace. Jimi's first action was to scoot the dog out of the way so he himself could benefit from the fire's warmth, using the phrase "Move over Rover and let Jimi take over." The phrase got stuck in his head and eventually became the basis for one of his most popular songs. Although never released as a single, Fire was a highlight of the Jimi Hendrix Experience's live performances, often serving as a set opener.

Artist:    Odyssey
Title:    Little Girl, Little Boy
Source:    Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Jerry Berke
Label:    Rhino
Year:    1968
    As far as I can tell, the Odyssey, a band of L.A. garage-rockers, only cut one record before disbanding, a tune called Little Girl, Little Boy that appeared on White Whale Records. The record was produced by Howard Kaylan, lead vocalist of White Whale's biggest act, the Turtles.

Artist:    13th Floor Elevators
Title:    Fire Engine
Source:    CD: The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators
Writer(s):    Hall/Sutherland/Erickson
Label:    Collectables (original label: International Artists)
Year:    1966
    In the summer of 1971 the band I was in, Sunn, did a cover of Black Sabbath's War Pigs as part of our regular repertoire. For the siren effect at the beginning of the song we used our voices, which always elicited smiles from some of the more perceptive members of the audience. Listening to Fire Engine, from The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators, has the same effect on me, for pretty much the same reason. The main difference is that the Elevators actually did it with the tape rolling on one of their own original songs, something Sunn never got the opportunity to do.

Artist:     Status Quo
Title:     Pictures Of Matchstick Men
Source:     Simulated stereo CD: British Beat (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:     Francis Rossi
Label:     K-Tel (original label: Cadet Concept)
Year:     1968
     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. 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:    Kaleidoscope (UK)
Title:    A Dream For Julie
Source:    Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Daltry/Pumer
Label:    Rhino (original label: Fontana)
Year:    1968
    There were two different bands simultaneously using the name Kaleidoscope in the late 1960s, one in the US and one in the UK. The American Kaleidoscope, like many other West Coast bands, was basically electrified jug band music. The British band of the same name, like many other English groups, established their psychedelic credentials through the use of fantasy-oriented lyrics like "Strawberry monkeys are smiling for Julie, with small button eyes that reflect velvet flowers." Holy Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Batman!

Artist:     Leigh Stephens
Title:     If You Choose To
Source:     LP: Red Weather
Writer:     Stephens/Albronda
Label:     Philips
Year:     1969
     After two albums lead guitarist Leigh Stephens left Blue Cheer to work on solo projects. The resulting album, Red Weather, was recorded in England and included some of the UK's top session players such as keyboardist Nicky Hopkins and drummer Mick Waller. Most of the compositions on Red Weather are credited to Stephens alone, although a couple, including If You Choose To, were co-written by co-producer Eric Albronda, who had been the original Blue Cheer drummer. The album led directly to the formation of the band Silver Metre, which included Stephens, Waller, bassist Pete Sears and vocalist Jack Reynolds. Later Stephens bands included Pilot, Foxtrot and Chronic With A K.

Artist:    Procol Harum
Title:    Still There'll Be More
Source:    LP: Home
Writer(s):    Brooker/Reid
Label:    A&M
Year:    1970
    Before there was Procol Harum, there was the Paramounts. In fact, after three albums, Procol Harum actually was the Paramounts, although they continued to use the name Procol Harum. The Paramounts had gone through countless personnel changes before disbanding in 1967, when pianist Gary Brooker and dedicated lyricist Keith Reid left to form Procol Harum with organist Matthew Fisher. Other members at the time included guitarist Robin Trower, bassist Chris Copping and drummer B.J. Wilson, all of which would be members of Procol Harum on their fourth LP, Home. Working with producer Chris Thomas, the album, including songs like Still There'll Be More, was completed at Abbey Road Studios in early 1970 and released in June of that year.  
Artist:    Standells
Title:    Hey Joe, Where You Gonna Go
Source:    CD: Dirty Water
Writer(s):    Billy Roberts
Label:    Sundazed/Tower
Year:    1966
    One of several fast versions of Hey Joe released in 1966 was included on the Standells album, Dirty Water. Using the title Hey Joe, Where You Gonna Go, the song was credited to Chet Powers, aka Dino Valenti. One rumor was the the actual songwriter, Billy Roberts, assigned rights to the song over to Valenti to help him raise funds to defend himself on marijuana possession charges, but that has never been proven.

Artist:    Love Exchange
Title:    Swallow The Sun
Source:    LP: Nuggets vol. 10-Folk Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    John Merrill
Label:    Rhino (original label: Uptown)
Year:    1967
    Comparisons have been made between the Love Exchange and another Los Angeles band, the Peanut Butter Conspiracy. It only makes sense, after all, since both groups were best described as "psychedelic folk-rock" and both were fronted by a female vocalist. In the case of the Love Exchange, this was 16-year-old Bonnie Blunt. What really invites the comparison, however, is the fact that the Love Exchange's best-known song (and only single) Swallow The Sun was written by John Merrill, leader of the Peanut Butter Conspiracy. Despite their lack of recording success, the Love Exchange lasted until 1969, with their last appearance being at the Newport '69 Pop Festival.

Artist:    Savage Resurrection
Title:    Thing In "E"
Source:    CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: The Savage Resurrection)
Writer(s):    John Palmer
Label:    Rhino (original label: Mercury)
Year:    1968
    Like many areas across the US during the mid-1960s, Contra Costa County, California (say that a few times fast) was home to a thriving local music scene, particularly in the city of Richmond. In 1967 members of several local bands got together to form a sort of garage supergroup, calling themselves Savage Resurrection (so called because of the Native American heritage of a couple of band members). The band, consisting of lead vocalist Bill Harper, lead guitarist Randy Hammon, rhythm guitarist John Palmer, bassist Steve Lage and drummer Jeff Myer, was quite popular locally despite the relative youth of its members (Hammon, for instance, was all of 16 years old), and soon signed a management contract with Matthew Katz, who also managed such well-known San Francisco bands as Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape and It's A Beautiful Day. Katz got the band a contract with Mercury records, and their first and only LP came out in 1968. Thing In "E" was the single from that album, which is still considered one of the best examples of psychedelic garage rock ever recorded. Touring soon took its toll, however, and Harper and Lage left the band soon after the album was released. The rest of the band continued with new members for a few months, but by the end of 1968 Savage Resurrection was little more than a footnote to the San Francisco music story.

Artist:    Jefferson Airplane
Title:    Embryonic Journey
Source:    Mono LP: Surrealistic Pillow
Writer(s):    Jorma Kaukonen
Label:    Sundazed (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:    1967
    Jorma Kaukonen originally considered Embryonic Journey to be little more than a practice exercise. Other members of Jefferson Airplane insisted he record it, however, and it has since come to be identified as a kind of signature song for the guitarist, who played the tune live when the band was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Artist:    Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title:    Flower In The Sun
Source:    CD: Live At The Carousel Ballroom-1968 (originally releasd on LP: Joplin In Concert)
Writer(s):    Sam Andrew
Label:    Columbia/Legacy
Year:    Recorded 1968, released 1972
    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 cut when it was decided to include a live version of Big Mama Thornton's Ball And Chain on the LP. A live recording of Flower In The Sun, recorded on June 23, 1968 at the Carousel Ballroom, was included on the LP Joplin In Concert in 1972. The complete performance of that Carousel Ballroom show, taken directly from Owsley Stanley's sound board, was made available in 2012 as the first release in the Bear's Sonic Journals series.
Artist:    Jorma Kaukonen & Jack Casady with Joey Covington
Title:    Through The Golden Gate
Source:    CD: Before We Were Them: June 28,1969
Writer(s):    Casady/Kaukonen
Label:    Bear's Sonic Journals
Year:    Recorded 1969, released 2018
    "We had it all going on, what musicians and artists throughout time have hoped to have-places to play and experiment and audiences that were with you as you explored and developed" These words by Jack Casady from the liner notes of the third release in the Bear's Sonic Journals series are perhaps the best description of the psychedelic era that I have ever run across. By mid-1969 Jefferson Airplane had already hit their creative peak as a band and the band members were starting to move in different musical directions. One of these directions, taken by guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady, would result in the creation of a new band, Hot Tuna, that would make its official debut later in the year. In June, however, it was simply Jorma and Jack, along with Joey Covington, who would eventually become Jefferson Airplane's drummer. The trio did a series of gigs from June 27-29, including a show at the Vets Memorial Building in Santa Rosa, Ca. that was recorded by the legendary Owsley Stanley. In addition to blues standards like Rock Me Baby and Airplane songs like Star Track, the gig included several improvisational pieces that remained untitled until the release of a CD called Before We Were Them: June 28,1969. Through The Golden Gate is the longest of these improvisational instrumentals.

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:    Country Joe McDonald
Title:    Save The Whales
Source:    CD: Sing Out!
Writer(s):    Joe McDonald
Label:    Bear's Sonic Journals
Year:    Recorded 1981, released 2024
    Following an introduction by Wavy Gravy, Country Joe McDonald was the first artist to take the stage for Sing Out, a benefit concert for the Seva Foundation at the Berkeley Community Theatre on April 25, 1981. His first song of the evening was Save The Whales, done in a style resembling nothing so much as an old English sea chanty.

Artist:    Jerry Garcia/Bob Weir/Mickey Hart/Bill Kreutzmann/John Kahn (aka the Not Dead)
Title:    Friend Of The Devil
Source:    CD: Sing Out!
Writer(s):    Hunter/Garcia/Dawson
Label:    Bear's Sonic Journals
Year:    Recorded 1981, released 2024
    Although no one realized it at the time, the Sing Out benefit concert for the Seva Foundation at the Berkeley Community Theatre on April 25, 1981 would be the last time Owsley Stanley recorded members of the Grateful Dead in concert. The all-acoustic set by the group that was nicknamed the "Not Dead" included a slowed-down version of Friend Of The Devil that was unique to that performance.

Artist:    Jerry Garcia/Bob Weir/Mickey Hart/Bill Kreutzmann/John Kahn (aka the Not Dead)
Title:    Oh Boy
Source:    CD: Sing Out!
Writer(s):    West/Tilghman/Petty
Label:    Bear's Sonic Journals
Year:    Recorded 1981, released 2024
    To close out their set at the Sing Out benefit concert for the Seva Foundation at the Berkeley Community Theatre on April 25, 1981, Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir banged out a short, but energetic rendition of Buddy Holly's Oh Boy. Although the Grateful Dead had only performed the song electrically once, in 1971, both Garcia and Weir were obviously quite familiar with the tune, and it's entirely possible they had played it together as early as 1965, when the band was still known as the Warlocks.

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