Saturday, June 11, 2011

1967: White Rabbit

Jefferson Airplane: White Rabbit


As FiL reminded us, 1967 was the year that psychedelic music arrived, led by Magical Mystery Tour, but with many artists ready and able to follow. Alice in Wonderland was a natural reference point for a generation whose motto was, “tune in, turn on, drop out”. And no one expressed the Alice connection better than the Jefferson Airplane and lead singer Grace Slick, with White Rabbit. But of course, this is also a 1967 song that has endured, and that means that it has been played to death. So I switched it up a bit. White Rabbit as usually heard has a running time of 2:30, and indeed, this version goes silent at that point. But then the band comes back in without the vocals, and does an extended jam on the tune that extends the playing time by almost three more minutes. This is not the aimless noodling that jam bands are so often accused of these days; rather , this is a tightly imagined instrumental variation on a theme, with almost jazz-like flourishes. Amazon calls this the “mono single version”, which explains the sound quality. I don’t know how this version came to be. If any reader has that information, please share it in the comments. Thanks.

Friday, June 10, 2011

1967: Psychedelic Bandwagon Edition

Chad and Jeremy: Rest in Peace


The Hollies: The Maker


The Pretty Things: Defecting Grey


The Beau Brummels: Magic Hollow


1967 is a year that resonates strongly with me, even though I wasn't born until the following year. As others have mentioned a lot of great music was released that year.

It was the year psychedelic rock went mainstream, and there was no shortage of groups jumping on the bandwagon. Here are four groups who donned kaftans, dug up sitars, and went all day-glo on us for a year.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

1967: Sock It To Me, Baby!

Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels: Sock It To Me, Baby!


I'm not actually around; I'm in Detroit and posting this through time slip.

In honor of this, I'm sharing a 1967 hit by Detroit homeboys, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. In my fuzzy memories of the 60s, I remember that it was much easier for local groups to get airplay on the radio. Mitch was pretty popular there. Here. You know what I mean.

I never quite caught some of the lyrics to this song, and the ones my sister confided to me that he was singing were 1) not included in any version Mitch actually recorded, and 2) pretty obscene.

1967: In the Dark

Nina Simone: In the Dark


So far, our survey of 1967 has focused on male rock and pop singers. I’m using the terms “rock” and “pop” as broadly as possible, and we could stay in that vein and still present an amazing week, because there is plenty of material. Partly, that’s because the music business was very different in those days. Where a major artist now might make an album every three years, in 1967 The Beatles made two classic albums, and that put them behind the pace. Nina Simone made three albums that year, and that was the norm.

In presenting Nina Simone, one might think that I am turning my attention to the year in jazz. That was indeed what I originally had in mind, and Simone is rightly considered one of the greats of jazz. But Simone’s second album of 1967 caught my eye. It’s called Nina Simone Sings the Blues. One of the amazing things about Simone was her ability to sing masterfully in so many different styles, and here she showed herself to be a fine blues singer. To me, In the Dark is much more a blues song than jazz, and Simone approaches it that way. The darkness in this song focuses senses other than sight, particularly hearing and touch. Simone took that idea, and created one of the most sensual pieces of music I have ever heard.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

1967: Omaha

1967 was indeed one of the better rock years. My esteemed collegue Geoviki already mentioned several groundbreaking albums below, and I could add at least twenty more. But I'll lift out just one that has always been especially dear to me: Moby Grape's eponymous debut. A remarkably consistent psychedelic masterpiece with countryrock and folk influences, it should have been a huge succes. But as their record company overhyped the band, releasing five singles at once, and their manager meant trouble, too, this was sadly not to be. Moby Grape only reached #24 on the Billboard album charts. As a consolation prize, it is now widely regarded as an influential classic. "Listen, my friends..."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

1967: One-Hit Wonder Version

The Music Explosion: Little Bit O' Soul


The Soul Survivors: Expressway To Your Heart


The Five Americans: Western Union


The Chambers Brothers: Time Has Come Today


I agree with Darius: the music from 1967 made a huge impact on me. I was old enough to really start to "get" it, I think, and spent a lot of hours listening to the radio, mostly.

Dozens of hugely influential albums were released in 1967, and this post would be pages long if I even tried to touch on half of them. The Beatles released both Sgt. Pepper's and Magical Mystery Tour, The Doors had a double header, too, with The Doors and Strange Days, as did Jimi Hendrix with Are You Experienced? and Axis: Bold As Love. Cream, Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, The Who, Velvet Underground, Big Brother and the Holding Company…

I can't pick even a single song from these terrific albums without feeling overwhelmed. Instead, I'm going for one hit wonders, but ones that I particularly am fond of. It makes me want to dig out my Nehru dress and granny glasses! Groovy, man.

1967: Ha! Ha! Said The Clown

Manfred Mann: Ha! Ha! Said The Clown


This was one of my mother’s records (I still have it, with the sleeve pictured above). She had a few singles I loved when I was a little lad of four, five, six. Gilbert Bécaud’s “Natalie” was another. The Peels “Juanita Banana”. Jane Birkin’s orgasm feast (my mom either didn’t know or didn’t care that I was playing it; not that I would have known why the lady was making these funny noises). Al Martino’s “Spanish Eyes”. Chris Andrews’ “Pretty Belinda”. And, of course, all manner of German stuff, what with us being Germans. But “Ha! Ha! Said The Clown” was my favourite.

Of course a small kid will be attracted by the idea of a song about clowns, especially laughing ones (the kid need not be aware that the protagonist wanted to bang the wife of the clown). But two other things attracted me to the record: the cover, with a rather cute little girl, and the Fontana label, with the record company’s rather excellent logo. I had an interest in record labels as soon as my love affair with vinyl began. And the Fontana one appealed to me greatly. I loved all black labels, it seems (though on the UK release, the label is blue). The song itself is brilliant; it features the flute, whistling and a bass drum!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

1967: White Summer

The Yardbirds (Jimmy Page): White Summer


The British blues-rock group The Yardbirds launched the careers of three terrific guitarists: Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page. For the longest time, I had mistaken this instrumental tune for a Jeff Beck song, and couldn't ever find it again as a result. But after decades, I learned the truth and now can share it properly.

Based on the Celtic melody of "She Moved Thro' The Fair", Page blended his arrangement with an Indian raga, which was a popular genre in 1967 (The Beatles were doing the same; for example, Baby, You're a Rich Man; Eric Burden, too, with When I Was Young). It first appears as a Yardbirds tune on their final LP, Little Games, but Page often played it live with Black Mountain Side during his Led Zeppelin days.

1967: The Supernatural

John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers: The Supernatural


I grew up in a small town. The only merchant in town was a general store that did not sell records. The nearest town of any size was five miles away. And, in 1967, I was seven years old. Yet, I heard many of the newest rock albums the day they were released. How? My oldest brother was twelve, and that nearby town had a Woolworth’s that sold records. They were very inexpensive by today’s standards, even adjusting for inflation. And my brother had a talent for begging my mother to take him into town the day the new albums came out. So I was naturally steeped in the blues-rock of the day, especially what was coming out of England. But not John Mayall. The music of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers was something I had to go back for years later.

As 1967 dawned, Eric Clapton had left the Bluesbreakers for Cream. His replacement was Peter Green. In addition to Mayall, the other long term member of the band was bass player John McVie. Drummer Mick Fleetwood did not play on Mayall’s new album, A Hard Road, but Fleetwood did play on some of the sessions that were discarded, and he also played some live dates with the group. The Supernatural was one song that Peter Green wrote for the Bluesbreakers, and it may sound familiar. By 1969, Green and McVie would leave the Bluesbreakers to form Fleetwood Mac with Mick Fleetwood and Jeremy Spencer. Green would rework The Supernatural, adding lyrics and vocals, and tweaking the instrumental part. The result was Black Magic Woman.