January 17 – An Early Elton Single

Elton John – Single:  Lady Samantha 

Lady Samantha was Elton’s second single. It was written by John and Bernie Taupin, and released this day 50 years ago (and a year later in the US), six months before the release of his first album. He performed the song on various British radio broadcasts, and while critics liked it, it didn’t garner much attention by the record buying public.

Val Wilmer/Redferns/Getty Images.

This is an early Elton/Bernie collaboration with an esoteric bent I like quite a bit. It’s about the ghost of a lady who frightens everyone who sees her, but in reality she’s a sad figure. I first heard this song on the To Be Continued… box set and liked it immediately. Caleb Quaye’s electric guitar is a cool counter to Elton’s funereal organ playing. I thought it would’ve fit in perfectly on his first album, Empty Sky. It was in fact added to 1995 reissue of that album along with a few other early singles and b-sides. 

Side A:  Lady Samantha

Side B:  All Across the Heavens (UK), It’s Me That You Need (US)





January 13 – A Meanie of a Soundtrack

The Beatles – Yellow Submarine (soundtrack)

To anyone who may scoff at the notion that what the Beatles pulled off during their relatively short existence was anything less than miraculous, and that they were under constant pressure to produce more, more, and more, I offer the example of the sometimes unfairly disregarded soundtrack to the animated film, Yellow Submarine, released this day 50 years ago (January 17 in the UK).


The soundtrack contained four “new” songs, two previously released tracks (the title track had been around for almost three years), plus George Martin’s orchestral score on side two.  Its release was delayed so that it wouldn’t interfere with their double album release in November of ’68. The film and album were considered a contract obligation, hence the Beatles didn’t give it the full studio treatment after spending many contentious hours in the studio over the previous two years. Negative to ambivalent critical assessments of the album are a reflection of the group’s attitude toward the project. But is it really an album to be dismissed? Personally, I feel the four previously unreleased songs alone make it worthwhile.


George Harrison’s much-maligned Only a Northern Song had been rejected for inclusion on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. This turned out to be a good decision, as its replacement was the slightly less-disparaged Harrison track, Within You Without You (as fun as it can be to play the Beatles revisionist “what-if” game, I would never remove Within You Without You from Pepper!). As will surprise nobody who knows my music tastes, I love both of those songs. Yes, Only a Northern Song is cranky George complaining about his place on the group’s songwriting ladder, but it’s a trippy number with a cool organ and sound effects. It fit in well at the time it was recorded, but was already somewhat outdated (by late 60’s standards) by the time the soundtrack was released. McCartney’s All Together Now, written with old dance hall calls for a singalong in mind, may not have been his most creative songwriting effort, but again, look at the standard he had set for himself. Paul considered it a throwaway, but if ever one needs a peppy tune to get a jump-start out of a malaise, this is it.


George’s It’s All Too Much was inspired by the Summer of Love vibe, and is one of my favorite Beatles songs of all time. To me, it’s a perfect combination of grungy guitar, flower power, and a typically positive Beatles message. In my mind, the song’s psychedelic musical soul mate is the Byrds’ Eight Miles High. I only wish they were both ten-plus minutes long.* George’s song was originally eight minutes long but trimmed to a still lengthy for the era 6:25. Only a Northern Song, All Together Now, and It’s All Too Much were all recorded in early 1967. Only John’s Hey Bulldog, which he liked but said was about nothing, was recorded in 1968. Anyone want to remove this song from the Beatles canon? Not I.


It’s hard to get too worked up over contemporary critics’ dismissive attitudes toward this record since the Beatles themselves mostly mailed it in, though they were reportedly more enthusiastic about it after previewing the film. John was vocally opposed to the inclusion of George Martin’s orchestral score, but judging by Lennon’s lackluster participation on the Get Back sessions concurrently taking place at the time of this soundtrack’s release, I don’t know that he had much to offer that would’ve been an improvement in his mind. An EP was considered which would’ve included Across the Universe, but was ditched. With 1999’s reissue of the film came the Yellow Submarine Songtrack, which includes all the Beatles songs used in the film and excludes Martin’s score. I never bothered to pick it up, I guess confirming I’m not the completist I once considered myself to be. Occasionally I let the soundtrack CD play out and find myself enjoying the orchestral tracks. Perhaps I should paint big black holes on my walls for a fuller effect.

*In later incarnations, the Byrds would stretch Eight Miles High into a nearly twenty minute jam session on stage, but Roger McGuinn would only sing the first verse for some reason. I digress.


Side One:

  1. Yellow Submarine
  2. Only a Northern Song
  3. All Together Now
  4. Hey Bulldog
  5. It’s All Too Much
  6. All You Need is Love

Side Two:

  1. Pepperland
  2. Sea of Time
  3. Sea of Holes
  4. Sea of Monsters
  5. March of the Meanies
  6. Pepperland Laid Waste
  7. Yellow Submarine in Pepperland



Album Review: The Beatles – Yellow Submarine [Remastered]



January 12 – Like a Lead Balloon…

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin

How successful bands form is interesting to me, because there’s no set formula. Some were created when their members were kids or very young adults, and they maintained most if not all of their core (Beatles and Stones as obvious examples). At the other end of the spectrum are groups who came together less organically or not organically at all, such as the Monkees and Supertramp. One characteristic shared by all of them regardless of their level of success or fame is that their best material came when the core group was still intact.

220px-The_Monkees_1966.JPG    supertramp001-640x408.jpg

It would seem to take a heavy dose of respect by a musician for what his or her band had accomplished, as well as an awareness that what might lie ahead may not be as good as the past for those groups to call it quits when, for whatever reason(s), they are no longer a whole unit. Led Zeppelin is one such example of a group who knew when to move on, but today we celebrate their auspicious beginning.


The group formed as a vehicle for Jimmy Page to complete the legal (touring) obligations of the Yardbirds late in 1968, and Robert Plant wasn’t even his first choice as vocalist (that was Terry Reid). Page recruited John Paul Jones, and Plant brought in John Bonham. They realized very quickly they had good chemistry and decided to forge ahead, changing their moniker to Led Zeppelin after their brief Scandinavian tour as the New Yardbirds in September of 1968. They entered Olympic Studios shortly thereafter, and 50 years ago today their eponymous debut was released in the US (March 31 in the UK).

Jay Thompson photo.

The album is a mix of originals, covers, and rearrangements of contemporary blues and folk songs whose performances by the likes of Joan Baez, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Willie Dixon, and Howlin’ Wolf inspired Page. The sessions lasted roughly 36 hours over a span of a few weeks in September and October of ’68 before the group even had a recording contract. It cost Page and manager Peter Grant less than £2,000 out of pocket to record the album. Page produced it and Glyn Johns engineered. Recording Led Zeppelin took such a short amount of time because most of the tracks had been well-rehearsed on the New Yardbirds tour preceding the sessions.

Chris Walter photo.

Contemporary reviews were all over the board, apparently depending on what pill the reviewer had taken when listening to or writing about the album. John Mendelsohn in Rolling Stone ripped it as failing to do what the Jeff Beck Group had already failed to do: fill the void left by Cream. Melody Maker and the Village Voice were much kinder. Today it is rightly viewed as an essential British blues rock recording. This is one of those albums for me which contains no particular favorite tracks; they’re all good, whether on this album or live.

Random personal notes about the Led Zeppelin album:

  • The descending chord riff in Babe I’m Gonna Leave You always sounded familiar to me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until one day it hit me: That’s Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4! (Of course, the Chicago song came after.) It turned out I wasn’t such a genius for noticing it – a music editor for LA Weekly made note of the similarity as well as that of the descending chord of While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Maybe it’s just obvious and not all that interesting.
  • My uncle Chris, whom I’ve described elsewhere in these pages as the one who is, in a way, responsible for me starting this blog, is also the source of some current confusion for me. The “story, ” which I’ve “known” for about 35 years, goes something like this: He keeps his original copy of Led Zeppelin around for posterity. He no longer plays it because my aunt cannot stand Led Zeppelin, and, you see, one side of the vinyl was covered with ice cream during a wild party at his rented beach house in Virginia Beach where he lived during the summer of ’69 or ’70 while working as a lifeguard. Younger, more impressionable me: Right on! A heavy party at a beach house in 1970 with Led Zep cranked up on the turntable – I can DIG it! And of COURSE there was ice cream, wink wink, nudge nudge… Fast forward to a few days ago when I reached out to my uncle to confirm some details of the event, and the air was let out of the party balloon. In 2019 the only fact that remains is that ice cream was splattered on the vinyl. But now I learn that it was a relatively innocent birthday party held in the garage of my grandparents’ Hampton, VA home, and that it wasn’t Led Zeppelin, but the White Album. This is a very disappointing development. Though I love my late grandparents as well as the White Album, it’s just not the same. My uncle told me to go with what I thought the original story was if I wanted to, so I will. It coulda happened, man, it coulda happened…
  • This past summer, about a month shy of the 50th anniversary of the actual recording of this album, my now 18 year old son had a chance encounter with Robert Plant (and James Hetfield) at a resort in Colorado. I was pleased to hear that Robert was nice to my kid. He declined to be photographed (understandable in today’s over-selfied social media world), but he was pleasant and chatted about how amazed he is that yet another generation is being turned on to this music. Good stuff.


Side One:

  1. Good Times Bad Times
  2. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You
  3. You Shook Me
  4. Dazed and Confused

Side Two:

  1. Your Time is Gonna Come
  2. Black Mountain Side
  3. Communication Breakdown
  4. I Can’t Quit You Baby
  5. How Many More Times




Album Review: Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin I [Reissue]


January ’69 – Donovan the Hit Maker

Donovan – Donovan’s Greatest Hits

Today’s entry is a first for Introgroove:  a greatest hits album. Thinking ahead, it probably won’t be the last such release I give a nod to. To this day, if there’s an artist or band I’m unfamiliar with but feel I “should” know about them, a compilation is usually my first stop if one exists. Some hits records take on lives of their own. An obvious example is the Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), the biggest selling album in US history. Elton’s Greatest Hits as well as Simon and Garfunkel’s were mainstays in my home growing up, even though the studio albums those songs were culled from were always in heavy rotation.


In my music world, other such compilations which triggered my instant interest in further exploration include Marley’s Legend, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 (Vol. 1 was out of stock that day in the mid-1980’s when I decided to take the plunge), James Taylor’s Greatest Hits, Cat Stevens’ Greatest HitsThe Essential Leonard Cohen, Fairport Convention’s 20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection, Neil Young’s Decade, and others. As I write this, The Best of Doug Sahm and the Sir Douglas Quintet is on order. Some compilations are really all I “need” in my collection by some artists. Jim Croce’s Photographs & Memories: His Greatest Hits is one example. Another is Donovan’s Greatest Hits, released this month 50 years ago. It’s been in my collection since I first listened to a college roommate’s copy 30 years ago, hearing tracks other than Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow for the first time.


Donovan has loomed throughout my first year’s worth of posts, and for good reason. He may not have been as big as Dylan or the Beatles, but he was seemingly always around the scene and on camera at just the right times with just the right people, and releasing really good tunes along the way. I’m sure there were contemporary or perhaps even earlier greatest hits releases by 1960’s artists, but off the top of my head I can’t think of any others besides the Byrds and the Beach Boys. (There’s a trivia/discussion topic for you: list some others that I’m forgetting.) The crème de la crème for me here includes Sunshine Superman, Hurdy Gurdy Man, Wear Your Love Like Heaven, Colours, and Season of the Witch. I always thought There is a Mountain was kind of goofy at best, but gained a slightly better appreciation for it after realizing what I was hearing on the Allman Brothers’ Mountain Jam.

One of my favorites didn’t make it into the above playlist, but is on the album:

Tracklist (original listing differs from CD reissue linked above)

Side One:

  1. Epistle to Dippy
  2. Sunshine Superman
  3. There is a Mountain
  4. Jennifer Juniper
  5. Wear Your Love Like Heaven
  6. Season of the Witch

Side Two:

  1. Mellow Yellow
  2. Colours
  3. Hurdy Gurdy Man
  4. Catch the Wind
  5. Leléna




January 5 – Creedence Swampwater Revival?

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bayou Country

CCR released their second album, Bayou Country, on this date fifty years ago. It was the first of three albums released by the band during a frenetic 1969. They’d finally made a name for themselves as CCR after struggling for a few years under the monikers the Blue Velvets and the Golliwogs.


At 23, John Fogerty wrote the songs while staring a blank wall in his apartment – his blank canvass as he described it. He also arranged and produced the album, and as Ray Rezos said in a contemporary Rolling Stone review, “He probably swept out the studio when the recording was finished, too.” This was the source of a great deal of friction within the band as Fogerty assumed control while the others – rhythm guitarist and John’s brother, Tom, bassist Stu Cook, and drummer Doug Clifford – felt their contributions stymied or not credited. (I’m not an invested-enough CCR fan to have an opinion on their intragroup politics either way, other than to say that this was a rather amazingly productive and successful run of albums, so they must’ve been doing something right.)

Proud Mary was the album’s hit, reaching #2 on the singles chart. Born on the Bayou was a culmination of any and all information Fogerty had gleaned from books and movies (Swamp Fever being a big inspiration) – he was a Northern California native who had never actually lived on a bayou. (For more on this great track, see badfinger20’s write-up here.)


There’s a simplicity to CCR’s music which is alluring in its own right. There’s always a place for it in the sometimes overindulged world of rock music. I’ve always respected bands with an uncomplicated yet distinct sound.  CCR’s music that I like the most, I really like. Born on the Bayou stands among the band’s best tracks on any of their albums, and one of the best overall by anyone in 1969. Penthouse Pauper is relatively short, sweet, and crunchy – like a bowl of Cocoa Puffs I might chow on while listening to it late at night. Proud Mary is an obvious plus, though I think Ike and Tina made it their own (not to mention it’s been classic rock radioed to death). I even like their take on Little Richard’s Good Golly Miss Molly. But some of their music, while not bad, I find a little tedious with the simplicity a detriment. Graveyard Train, the longest song on the album, would be my example here.


I’ve no doubt that most if not all of these songs would’ve been incredible in a live setting. Keep On Chooglin’, the second longest track on the record and probably my second favorite – at the end of a crazy night at the Fillmore would’ve been fun to experience. And yes, as I write this I’m aware of the irony of my assessments of Graveyard and Chooglin’. One listener’s tedium is another’s toe-tappin’ groovefest. Alas, I’ll just have to settle for assigning it to my imagination.


Side One:

  1. Born on the Bayou
  2. Bootleg
  3. Graveyard Train

Side Two:

  1. Good Golly, Miss Molly
  2. Penthouse Pauper
  3. Proud Mary
  4. Keep on Chooglin’




January 1 – Hello 1969!

Here we are in year two of however many years there will be of Introgroove – Happy New Year everyone! I was a bit hesitant to jump into these waters a year ago, but as I’ve stated a few times it’s been a lot of fun, so let’s keep on truckin’ into another year of celebrating 50th anniversaries of some of the greatest music ever.

1969 was still a couple of years before I came back to the motion picture of life as the character I’m still playing, but looking at it from afar it seems that year was a bit bleaker than it appeared through my younger eyes. As always, Hollywood did its best to present its own motion pictures which diverted people’s attention from the headlines of the day. These included some of the greatest Western-flavored films of our time such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, True Grit (John Wayne’s only Oscar), and The Wild Bunch. But it was a cowboy story of another sort which took the Academy Award for Best Picture in Midnight Cowboy. And fans of music from that era gravitated to films such as Easy Rider and Alice’s Restaurant.


1969 was a crazy year for sports fans, especially in New York, as “Broadway” Joe Namath and the Jets won Superbowl III and the Miracle Mets shocked the sports world by winning the World Series. Upstate from those two teams, NFL rookie O.J. Simpson entered his first Purgatory when drafted by the awful Buffalo Bills out of the sunny, cozy confines of the University of Southern California. Of interest to probably nobody who reads this blog other than yours truly, 1969 was also the last year the Missouri Tigers won a conference championship in college football. Still waiting…

1969-0112-Joe-Namath-walking-off-field-001305103.jpg   1969 mets World Series.jpg

As for these pages’ raison d’être, the music world was shifting toward a new era just as year itself. The Beatles were fading despite having two classic albums yet to record. The Rolling Stones were at the front end of arguably the best stretch the band had yet seen and would ever see. Elvis hit Vegas for the beginning of both a very successful run of shows as well as his sad demise. A new batch of superstars was in the process of launching along with the continuing Apollo missions which found their way to the Moon in July. Their ranks included Bowie, Elton, James Taylor and many others, and they tended to write more introspective and sometimes esoteric material, leaving much of the protest songwriting to the ones who came before, even as Vietnam raged on.

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1969 was the symbolic peak of the Hippie Dream with Woodstock and the Isle of Wight festivals in August, but was also the sad symbolic ending with the Manson murders that same month and Altamont in December. If there was any doubt at that point, it was removed in May of 1970 at Kent State University. Much – not all, but much – of the popular music which arose from the resultant disillusion was cotton candy Top 40 mush.

The lists of bands who formed and broke up in 1969 doesn’t seem as eye-popping to me as did those of the previous year. However, the variety of genres represented among the newly formed groups is rather astonishing with jam bands, prog, electronica, power pop, blue-eyed soul, metal, country rock, singer/songwriter and (very) easy listening, and the first full-fledged 50’s retro group of note.

Bands that died in 1969:  Eric Burdon and the Animals, The Jeff Beck Group (first incarnation), Dillard and Clark,  The Lovin’ Spoonful, Manfred Mann, The Spencer Davis Group, The Beau Brummels, The Easybeats, and The Lemon Pipers, among others.


Bands born in 1969:  The Allman Brothers Band, Atomic Rooster, Badfinger, The Carpenters, Crazy Horse, Curved Air, Faces, Hall and Oates, Hawkwind, Head East, Humble Pie, Judas Priest, Kraftwerk, Little Feat, Mountain, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Plastic Ono Band, Renaissance, Seals and Crofts, and Sha Na Na, among others.


To anyone new to my blog, welcome! I’ve culled the following from my inaugural post a year ago in an attempt to explain the somewhat vague parameters of my posts (updated for the year at hand):

To understate it slightly, stuff happened in 1969. Much of it looked really cool and exciting from the distant land of 1989 (“when I was young…”), and much of it even now. At times I’ve thought it would’ve been great to have come of age in the mid-late 1960’s. Alas, I probably would’ve died in the muck of Southeast Asia (maybe I did, but that’s a topic for another blog). My hope is that this might stir some thoughts for you and that you might in turn occasionally share some of your own musings on these things: where you were and what you were up to (if you were alive), and of course any opinions on the music, positive, negative, or otherwise.

For now, I’d like to offer an occasional reminder of some of the many 50th anniversary milestones in music from the year 1969, subjectively handpicked by yours truly, as well as occasional thoughts on music from other eras when the urge arises. I’ll focus on albums, but sprinkle in the occasional notable single from albums not otherwise mentioned. Many of these albums have specific release dates I’ll stick to, others only have the release month available. Some are apparently so forgotten that only “1969” is given as their release date. Some are obvious choices that most of us know and many of us love.

Other albums I’ll list because I’m aware they’re “important,” but I really don’t know much about them other than maybe a track or two that ended up on greatest hits compilations. Occasionally I’ll throw in a side tidbit that relates to the music or a historical factoid to add perspective. If I leave out an album or song you feel I should have included, you can let me have it for my ignorance or for being such a snob. Sorry, but the 1910 Fruitgum Company and the early works of the Bee Gees probably won’t make the cut – unless you want them to.* And by all means, please let me know of any factual errors. Without further adieu, Happy New Year, and welcome back to 1969 (and beyond). Can this planet Come Together, or will we remain Suspicious Minds?

*I ended up acknowledging a Bee Gees single I’ve always liked in the twelfth month of the blog.

Thanks for reading!



December 31 – My Year-End 1968 Top 25 Albums

It’s hard to believe that year one of Introgroove is in the books.  I’ve had a blast so far sharing my thoughts on music and other events from the chaotic year 1968.  I’ve also learned a lot which I previously did not know about some of these albums, most of which I’ve loved for years.  Additionally, I’ve discovered for myself some previously unfamiliar works.  I’d also like to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs throughout the year. I’ve learned a lot from them, and you keep me inspired to dig a little deeper. So, what’s left but to tie it all together with a ranking of my favorites from the year?  As silly as it is to attempt to quantify a bunch of records that have had significant cultural impacts and which mean a lot to me personally, it’s what we do in the blogosphere!

This list is not an attempt to claim which albums are the “best” in terms of any number of criteria.  I’d bet every single one of these albums has at least one person who could passionately and maybe even rationally express why it’s the best of 1968.  My ranking is nothing more than an attempt to share my favorites in loosely accurate order based mostly upon the ones I’ve played and enjoyed the most over the years, and it ain’t an easy exercise.  Releases by the Grateful Dead, Velvet Underground, Traffic, George Harrison, Donovan, and Aretha Franklin did not make my top 25.  Nor did recordings I’ve only discovered for myself this year as a result of this now 12-month old hobby of mine by the likes of Dr. John, the Pentangle, Canned Heat, and Small Faces.  Fantastic albums all.

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If interested in what I have to say about any of these albums or my top 25 and more, I invite you to look back through my posts from this year.  I’ve covered them all.  That said, thank you all for coming along for the ride with me.  I hope you keep checking in as we move forward-yet-backward into 1969.  Happy New Year!


25.  The Doors – Waiting for the Sun (July 3)


24.  James Taylor – James Taylor (December 6)   


23.  Pink Floyd – A Saucerful of Secrets (June 29)


22.  Jethro Tull – This Was (October 25)


21.  Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison (May)


20.  Laura Nyro – Eli and the 13th Confession (March 13)


19.  The Pretty Things – S.F. Sorrow (Dec. 1)


18.  Jeff Beck Group – Truth (August)


17.  The Incredible String Band – The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (March)


16.  Big Brother and the Holding Co. – Cheap Thrills (August 12)


15.  The Byrds – The Notorious Byrd Brothers (January 15)


14.  Cream – Wheels of Fire (August 9)


13.  Buffalo Springfield – Last Time Around (July 30)


12.  The Kinks – The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (November 22)


11.  The Zombies – Odessey and Oracle (April 19)


10.   Bloomfield Kooper Stills – Super Session (July 22)


9.   The Moody Blues – In Search of the Lost Chord (July 26)


8.  The Byrds – Sweetheart of the Rodeo (August 30)


7.   Dillard & Clark – The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark (October)


6.   The Band – Music from Big Pink (July 1)


5.   The Rolling Stones – Beggar’s Banquet (December 6)


4.   The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland (October 16)


3.   Simon and Garfunkel – Bookends (April 3)


2.   Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (November 29)


1.   The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album) (November 22)