As rock n roll got HEAVY in the late sixties and lost the "...and roll", a good chunk of the magic was lost forever, in this writers opinion. However, several groups delivered the heavy with a swagger and GROOVE that make the music enjoyable for those of us whose preferences don't run towards long plodding songs that might sound great under the influence of 'ludes.
The wildly named Damnation Of Adam Blessing were one such group from Cleveland, OH. The sound these fellas conjured up come across like some sort of cross between the Stax
rhythm section and the Jimi Hendrix Experience on these excellent cuts.
"Cookbook" (from their first LP, released in 1969) hit big in their home town but never broke nationally. Turns out
that singer Adam Blessing was leading a group called The Society when he saw a
group called Dust (not to be confused with the band of the same name
that released some LP's in the early 70's) perform. Blessing took the
core of Dust (Bob Kalamasz- lead guitar, Bill Schwark- drums), and Ray
Benich- bass) to create The Damnation. The group released four albums
until their end in 1973. While the lyrics to "Cookbook" may be dated and kinda silly, vocalist Adam Blessing delivers
them so well and with such conviction that it simply doesn't matter.
The 1970 followup LP (The Second Damnation, what else?) featured what is perhaps their greatest jam, 'Back To The River", which as a single seemed poised to break out into chart hit territory. Strip away the vocals and the track could easily fit on a Can LP, as the rhythm takes on that distinctly German "motorik" groove. The lead vocals and tripped out harmonies are majestic, and this track is a mini-masterpiece of hard hitting, late period psychedelia. The flip side, "Driver", grinds along with one of those dirty ass grooves that can be dropped into any biker or psych-ploitation film you care to view and it will make sense immediately.
I've read that these dudes opened for the likes of Grand Funk and Ten Years After; I can't imagine that they didn't blow those bands off the stage and don't understand why they didn't become massive- they were THAT GOOD!
First off, I apologize for the lack of posting last week- it was a very busy one for me, and I just couldn't make the time to write. However, today's post should make up for it, as I was planning on spreading this over two weeks anyhow!
I'll spare the biographical details of the legendary Roky Erickson; Roky made an indelible stamp as a very young man as frontman/ vocalist extraordinnaire of The 13th Floor Elevators (easily one of the 10 best American rock n roll groups of ANY era, in my opinion). Roky was busted on a trumped up pot charge in the late 60's, and he was forever changed after a stay at the Rusk Hospital For The Criminally Insane, where the sensitive, poetic Roky was given shock treatment and lived among murderers and rapists. All for enjoying a joint on a hilltop in Texas...(I won't even begin to state the obvious injustice in this charge and its repercussions.)
Roky was granted his freedom in 1972, and a revamped version of the Elevators began taking the clubs of Austin by storm again. Recorded evidence show that the group was fantastic again and they were writing some killer songs that, sadly, never got properly recorded. For whatever reasons, the group fell apart again and by 1975 Roky was in a bad way, financially, and was unable to get booked for any gigs. Fellow Texan Doug Sahm (a legend and genius in his own right) always felt a strong brotherhood with Roky and The Elevators, and through his generosity offered to record and release a solo 45 from Roky (although his last name was unfortunately mis-spelled on the release). Reports of the sessions (from the recording engineer John Ingle) were that Doug wanted, more than anything, to help get Roky some gigs and get him on the right track again. In a cloud of pot smoke, the band recorded two songs that are staples in roky's cache, including one of the freakiest numbers ever cut to tape, "Red Temple Prayer (Two Headed Dog)". In my opinion, this lo-fi, bordering-on-psychotic take is the definitive one. Roky's vocal performance is hair raising (and includes one of his patented "You're Gonna Miss Me" yowls) and the guitar work captures the vibe
of the lyrics in a way that was never captured again in future versions of the song. The flip side, "Starry Eyes", is another that Roky has recorded several times, and shows his more tender, Buddy Holly influenced side; roky recorded a beautiful, heartfelt vocal, and the band grooves along in a way that can only be done by Texas musicians.
Roky began perrforming and touring sporadically with his Blieb Alien band during this era, and in 1977 cut a one-off 45 for record store turned record label Rhino. They issued it with a cool picture sleeve, and 'Bermuda" is another track that shows off Roky's brilliant songwriting. There's a nice little nod to the Elevators electric jug sound in the production (probably Bill Miller's electric jug, I'm guessing). For some strange
reason, the back cover says this is Roky's first commercial release in ten years. Not true! Why they chose to ignore the Mars Records 45 is anyone's guess. All in all, this was a very important record; released at the dawn of the punk era, it exposed Roky to a whole new audience that could DEFINITELY dig the man and his music.
A well recieved album at the dawn of the '80s (with his band- whose lineup was constantly in flux- renamed The Aliens) brought about a large cult following for Roky, and even while battling schizophrenia he was able to succesfully tour clubs throughout the US. In 1984, Roky released an ASS kicking 45 in "Don't Slander Me", one of his best works. The backing band is his strongest since the original Elevators (they really *get* Roky and play symapthetically), and Roky is in EXCELLENT voice. There's no hint of quasi- heavy metal here! "Starry Eyes" returns, in a charming version that explores the Buddy Holly influence in a big way. This record is a career highlight, and one of the best singles of the 1980's, hands down.
The late 1980's was the beginning of another bad stretch for poor Roky (who wasn't receiving proper health care to combat his mental illness). An obsession with the mail led to his arrest for mail theft (the charges were dropped, as he never opened any of the mail he stole). A 1987 show that has been described as "disastrous" in New York put the brakes on any touring, and it seemed that Roky was finished with music. A one off single for indie label Sympathy For The Record Industry was a re-recording of a GREAT song, "You Don't Love Me Yet". I'm not that crazy about the band here (they verge a little too far into heavy metal territory for my liking), the beautiful lyrics and a typically great vocal from Roky shine through the din. Plus, the picture sleeve is VERY groovy.
Just when it seemed impossible, a new LP arrived from roky in 1994, the fantastic All That May Do My Rhyme. While it was cobbled together (by Butthole Surfers' drummer King Coffey) it is a surprisingly coherent album that presents some superb songs from Roky in a very flattering light. The production and performances are great! A cool 45 was released to coincide with the LP coupling "We Are Never Talking" with a touching acoustic version of "Please Judge" (a song that could easily be read as his own story from 25 years previously). Filmed and recorded evidence of Roky shows his strengths as a solo acoustic performer; whether its performing his own songs or one of his excellent Bob Dylan interpretations, once Roky has a guitar around his neck all of his other problems seem to melt away. In one of the happiest stories of all music (and with the help of his loving brother Sumner), Roky is back in great form and has been touring all over and blowing roofs off of venues worldwide. I saw his performance at Ponderosa Stomp in new Orleans a few years ago, and within the stellar set he sang a version of "You're Gonna Miss Me" with that SCREAM that sounded like nothing else I've ever heard in person. All hail Roky Erickson!!!!
Here's the original take of the Elevators 'Tried To Hide', which was the flip side to "You're Gonna Miss Me". This song was recut for the first LP in a slower version; while that version is excellent, I *really* love this faster take that showcases how tight and rocking this band was. Special props to the amazing drumming of John Ike Walton.
The SF bay area is home Hot Lunch; purveyors of one of the finest brands of HEAVY-osity currently in operation. Taking cues from the likes of Lemmy-era Hawkwind, Blue Cheer, Crushed Butler, The Groundhogs, skateboarding and Black Sabbath (at 78RPM), Hot Lunch plays the type of music that can easily cross over to those in which heavy isn't quite their cup of sludge. Specifically, the unstoppable GROOVE and song composition sets them apart from the pack.
Once again, my instructions are to BUY this groups' amazing debut LP NOW. I don't think you'll regret it one bit, as it has "modern classic" stamped all over it.
Luckily for us 7" fanatics, HL has released two; their debut slab from 2010 contains "She Wants More", a track that was re-recorded for their debut LP (slightly slower, but just as good- personally I'm stoked that there are two versions of this jam). Sure, the riff has a little bit in common with Sabbath's 'Paranoid", but if that doesn't put a smile on your face, I'm sorry for ya. The band states their intention IMMEDIATELY on this record; it's the musical equivalent of getting buckled into a '68 SS 396 Chevelle with your deranged uncle behind the wheel driving way too fucking fast on some country road, where you kinda fear for your life, but on the same hand don't really want it to stop.
"Killer Smile" is one of the HIGHlights of HL's debut LP, and it was also released as a 45 as an advance appetizer for the LP. Guitarist Aaron Nudelman gets to show off all his amazing abilities and taste here; I especially love his use of heavy reverb which lends excellent shade and vibe to the playing. Vocalist (and heavy duty skateboarder) Eric Shea shows off his melodic scream to perfection, not to mention the rhythm section devastation offered by Rob Alper on double kick drum and flailing arms.Charlie Karr keeps it rooted on bass, and the band can change time and tempo in a way that doesn't seem odd or forced. The flip side is non LP; a version of the track "You're Alright", a poppy track from the 1980 film Skateboard Madness that gets sticky and full of resin after bubbling through the Hot Lunch machine. You can buy a copy of your very own here.
By 1968, the hits had all but dried up for Tottenham's Dave Clark Five. With a run of massive hits recorded between '64-'65, this group was considered STRONG competetion for the Beatles, and many teen magazines speculated the Beatlemania was gonna wane and the Dave Clark Five would come out on top of the world. While history tells a far different tale, the DC5 released many fabulous records, well past the heyday of the British Invasion.
Buried on the b-side of a track that must have seemed like a relic from a bygone era (the downright putrid "Red Balloon") in the heady days of 1968, there's a gem lurking that is not only one of my favorite numbers from this group, but also one which I consider one of the ultimate freakbeat statements, ever. Driven along by Dave Clark's always powerul, upfront drumming and powered into the ether by some downright nasty single guitar notes played with attitude and fuzz tone on "10", "Maze Of Love" is a track that's every bit as forceful as other legendary English psych/ beat records. The boys had undoubtedly been digging the Jimi Hendrix Experience. This is how the song was heard in its release everywhere except for the US, and the picture sleeve shown is a Spanish issue.
For some reason, Epic Records in the US was given a completely different mix of the song. The track is slowed down (perhaps due to an error in mastering), making it sound far heavier, and the vocal is single tracked as opposed to the double tracked vocals as heard on the worldwide release. There's an overall echo added as well (especially heard on the vocals) giving the song a murkier sound. I love both versions, and my pal (and super duper DJ) Major Sean is on record as preferring the US version. When I DJ it, though, I always play the UK mix. The US mix is far rarer, as this single died a death commercially (I've only seen promo copies, never yellow label stock copies).
The decade of the 1990's out with some real and genuine promise, and my ears were especially glued to the sounds that Creation Records in the UK was releasing; music that had one foot rooted in the '60's but music that also looked forward. The early '90's was also a peak in hip hop, and the best of this music still stands tall today and doesn't feel dated. It was also cool to see bands that I loved (Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Mudhoney to name a few) get signed to big labels and start making a bigger dent in the cultural landscape. However, the ensuing signing frenzy saw to it that every lame wanna be "alternative" act was getting signed to a major label. I won't name names, but I worked in a record store from '91-'96 and looking back I can't BELIEVE the amount of dreck that got released, and the phony marketing that attempted to make boring wanna be rock stars rehashing plodding 70's themes into "alternative" stars. While I graduated high school in '93, I have no nostalgia whatsoever for the decade that gave us rap-rock and half baked, poorly written "indie rock".
Lilys were one of the exceptions- led by the amazing songwriter and frontman Kurt Heasley and a rotating cast of band membership in flux, Kurt's dabblings in shoegaze and psychedelia earned him a contract with Warner Brothers records; the resulting LP, Better Can't Make Your Life Better is one of the greatest distillations of mid '60's beat, with a smattering of songs that derive from the past in a way that one could easily be forgiven in thinking it was a great lost Kinks track, and an equal number of unique, quirky songs that were obviously the work of a very creative songwriter with a knack for unusual hooks and chord changes. Perhaps The Lilys ultimate statement of swinging London transported from '66 into '96 was a single released on Sub Pop Records at the same time as their major label debut. I've spun "Baby's A Dealer" at mod events and always have people ask me "WHAT is that record?" and they typically can't believe it when I tell them when it was recorded. Kurt has continued to release amazing albums; while they may not have as strong of an overt '60's sound, they are great listens nonetheless and full of excellent songwriting.
Since their first "official" release in 1992, The Brian Jonestown Massacre has consitently released creative and mind blowing records driven by the vision and songwriting of Anton Newcombe. 'Hide & Seek" is purely realized action music- the sound is dense but uncluttered, the intro guitar riff is an amazing hook, the verse hypnotic, and the chorus transcendant. The single is a tidy (and perfect) 3:34, and live, this song drives the guitar hook over and over until the wash of sound levitates the room; I've seen it create a real frenzy among the audience, in the way that the greatest music can. Listen to it over and over, and just dig the placement of the acoustic guitar, backing vocals, percussion, feedback and marvel at how everything propels the song forward and upward. Thankfully, I was hipped to the BJM thanks to my own band at the time having an album come out on Bomp! records at the same time that Jonestown released their Methodrone album; being as I didn't live in the bay area at the time and had never seen or heard about their previous records, I listened to the disc and couldn't BELIEVE my ears. Once again, it was as if the rooting of the '60's was being transported into the future, just as My Bloody Valentine's Loveless had done a few years earlier, but with songs that were so full of hooks (yeah, it's SONGWRITING that gets my attention first and foremost)! Luckily I was able to snag a copy of the 'Hide & Seek' 45 shortly afterwords, and every subsequent release has been an inspiration. Anton also posts exclusive tracks and works in progress to his youtube account.
Hailing from the same fertile mid-60's Boston rock n roll scene that birthed Barry & The Remains, the equally talented Lost released two amazing singles before breaking up in 1967.
The Lost was fronted by Boston rock/ punk legend Willie Alexander, aka Lou reed's "replacement" in the Velvet Underground. Bassist Walter Powers also ended up as another Velveteen Underground member. While Alexander is a FINE singer (as heard on these sides), history probably would treat the post-Lou velvets more fairly a) if the Doug Yule led band changed their name and b) wasn't forced by their manager to only allow Doug Yule to play on their final LP.
But back to The Lost- like so many baby boomer teens, the members of the lost (Willie Alexander, vocals; Ted Myers, vocals & guitar; Hugh
Magbie, vocals & guitar; Walter Powers,bass & vocals, and Tony Pfeiffer, drums) were highly influenced by the British Invasion, and formed a group around that sound and mod style (see the promo postcard below, borrowed from Alexander's website). The group, originally from Vermont, moved to Boston shortly after forming. The group's star rose quickly, and was scouted by Capitol Records who signed them in 1965.
"Back Door Blues" (written by Ted Meyers) was the single b-side, but I posted it first as its primal energy is a fantastic introduction to the band's energy, and has a nice little nod to Them's "Mystic Eyes". The actual "a" side, "Maybe More Than You" (written by Meyers and Alexander) was undoubtedly influenced by the folk rock movement (dig the 'Highway 61" style whistle effect), the song shows a strong sophistication in the writing and lyrical content, with a strong delivery by Willie Alexander, and superb musicianship from the group.
The group toured the east coast, and opened for the likes of The Beach Boys (, Sonny & Cher & The Supremes, but neither single gave the group more than a local hit. For their final release, the group once again kicked out a serious garage jam as the 'b" side, the strongly caffeinated "No Reason Why", featuring some insane pounding piano that would not be out of place on the Velvet Underground's White Light/ White Heat LP, and some seriously KINK-y guitar riffing.
The "a" side, "Violet Gown", carried on in the folk rock vein, but with an incredible droning chorus/ bridge section, that, once again, recalls the VU. Boston *was* the home of The Velvet Underground's biggest following, so it's probably no coincidence.
Here's the latest installment of my ongoing series of unusual covers; nothing like hearing a different rendition of a familiar song that can either put a different artistic spin on a classic or draw a mustache-on-the-mona-lisa, depending on your outlook.
"Girl Watcher" in its original version by The O'Kaysions is not only a soul classic, but somehow takes a subject matter that could be incredibly creepy, but somehow manages to NOT be, thanks to its breezy, lilting groove. In 1968, two years after The O'Kaysions original, a "Ginger Thompson" cut a gender reversed version. What a reversal; what red blooded male WOULDN'T wanna be watched by a lady with a cooing, sexy voice?
Wynder K. Frog was in actuality the alias of one Mick Weaver, British Hammond organist extraordinnaire. The frog band cut three albums, of which this SWINGING 1968 version of the then-brand-new Stones single was taken from their second LP. Mick went on to lay his organ out on dozens of sessions throughout the years; Steve Marriott, Buddy Guy, Keef Hartley all among them.Yes, you are allowed to use this jam as the theme song of the next party you throw, silk pajamas option but recommended.
Oooh what an intimidating label we see on the Nobody's Children release, especially with the cut-out BB hole on the label... All politics aside, I'm truly surprised that anyone would think there was any commercial potential in a record label with such volent connotations, especially during the year of peace and love that this record was released (1967). The band name Nobody's Children was used by several groups in the 60's, but these kids were from Washington D.C. While their version of the Evie Sands/ Hollies version is cool, it doesn't justify its position here until the 1;20 second mark when all hell breaks loose via an intense fuzztone break, lifting the song into total freakout territory.
The Cascades scored a massive hit in 1962 with the lovely 'Rhythm Of The Rain", and their blend of slick group vocal harmonies lends itself surprisingly well to this brilliant early Neil Young composition that is a highlight of the first Buffalo Springfield LP. I would be willing to bet that arranger Jack Nitzsche recommended that the group record this song, as he was also beginning his work with Neil Young the year this record was released (1967), and the duo recorded their masterpiece ("expecting To Fly") that same year. The Cascades released some SIXTY TWO singles between 1962-1972, none of which could get them a follow up hit to "Rhythm Of The Rain".
If theft is inevitable, might as well steal from the best (I suppose). At least in this case outright song thievery produced two completely ass whipping records.
My love of the Pretty Things goes DEEP, as their earlier speed fuelled r&b singles rank at the upper echelon of the British Invasion, and the later 60's pschedelicized version of the band that created the outstanding SF Sorrow, Parachute, and unreleased for many years sessions with rich Frenchman Phillippe De Barge (an album that sounds terrible on paper but against many odds sounds fucking GREAT on the turntable.).
After the release of their fantastic second LP Get The Picture, the groups' management tried in vain for a full length Pretties movie to be filmed, only to end up with a 16 minute short film that captures pure adrenalin from the group, hot on the heels of the incredible mod anthem single release 'Midnight To Six". The film shows the group onstage performing their current (and controversial) b-side, L.S.D; sadly, the footage is dubbed but the excitement of the live footage is one of those relics that makes us 60's fanatics who were born too late yearn for 1966. Both of the group's current singles ("Midnight To Six' and Can't Stand The Pain' being the respected a-sides) were combined for The Pretty Things On Film EP, which contains some of my favorite picture sleeve graphic design of the mod era.
While lysergic acid was UNDOUBTEDLY on the scene in London, 1966, the group cleverly disguises this ode to money (the "L" is in the shape of the British pound sterling symbol), but there's no doubt that the imagery goes well beyond cold hard cash, and this record is the link which binds the amphetamine rush of the mod years with the oncoming psychedelic freak out of 1967.
Now the story gets rather complicated, and undoubtedly illegal. In 1967, the mysterious Rain (probably a UK studio concoction, not to be confused with Walker Brother Gary's later group with the same name) cut a side called E.S.P with writers credits listed as "Self; Ciebiera"). Now, I don't know who these people are, but there's no doubt they lifted "L.S.D". Perhaps they saw the commerical potential of the song and decided to make it a bit more palatable, but c'mon guys, WHY weren't the Pretties Dick Taylor and Phil May credited???? It's tough to be too hard on the record though, as it kicks up a real groove.
Now flash forward two years to southern California beach community Santa Barbara, home of the Giant Crab. The Crab released two LP's that swiftly went nowhere, but they went out with a bang covering "E.S.P" with a strong dose of L.S.D inspired phase shifting effects.
It's been nearly a year and a half since I posted the first installment of the Psych Psampler, but there's so many great records out there that between the nearly 1500 that I've featured on the daily 45 and the 100 or so I've featured here, the well of choice soul, r&b, rock n roll and all sub categories in between, seems to be virtually bottomless. First up we have the EXCELLENT 1968 track "All I See Is You" from Minnesota's Jokers Wild. The freaky sound isn't a theremin (ala "Good Vibrations") but that of a slide whistle- a cheap children's annoying noisemaker (I know I made my own share of annoying noise with a slide whistle in my early days), put here to perhaps its best ever use! The b-side, "I Just Can't Explain It" is pretty great as well, but for the time its British Invasion-esque sound was getting pretty dated. Sounds fantastic today though to these ears.
Next up we have a SLICK but ROCKING number from Boston's Orphans, who later dropped the "s' and became Orphan. Something about Boston bands of the time; they were REALLY tight (witness The Remains) and The Orphans impress with some fantastic harmonies here and a wild, freakout guitar solo from group leader Eric Lilljequist. This is one of those tracks that has grown on me more and more through the years. Unfortunately this side, far superior to the plugged A-side "This Is The Time", was relegated to b-side status and never achieved its hit potential. This was released in late '67.
Before they added violin, got 'heavy" and became a staple of the festival scene of the late '60's/ early '70's (I especially enjoy the story about Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant yanking them off stage when they went overtime, seeing an incredible sunset on the horizon which made for the perfect backdrop to Zep's 1970 set at the UK Bath Festival), Chicago's Flock were another band heavily influenced by the British Invasion. While "I Like You"'s lyrics are incredibly trite, something about the minor-to-major key change within the song adds a very west coast lysergic edge to this otherwise pedestrian number. My words may sound overly critical, but the charm of this song truly outweighs any negatives on my part.
I'll leave you with this real ass kicker of a track from New York's Group therapy. Allegedly, the band (who had worked as journeymen for several years) had a burst of inspiration during a UK tour supporting Moby Grape, where they delivered a devastating live show and were signed by Philips Records. Like a handful of other records from the post-Pepper era ("Susan" by The Buckinghams, "My world Fell Down' from Sagittarius, for example), this record features a bizarre middle section freakout that's undoubtedly inspired by "A Day In The Life".