November ’68 Odds ‘n Ends

We’ve come to the end of November, which means that shameless (desperate?) retailers in the US have been shoving Christmas down our throats for the past five weeks.  It’s been a good month, though.  Fall is my favorite season, and this month we had a few big 50th album anniversaries as well as some major reissues.  Let’s tidy up those loose ends from November 1968 before stores begin stocking those heart-shaped boxes of chocolate for February.

November:  Tommy Roe – Single:  Dizzy

This chunk of bubblegum was released in the US in November, but not until January ’69 in Australia and March ’69 in the UK.  With instrumental backing by the Wrecking Crew, it was a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic.  It reached #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks in March of ’69, #1 in Canada in March of ’69, and #1 in the UK in June of ’69.

November:  Tommy James and the Shondells – Single:  Crimson and Clover

Crimson and Clover spent sixteen weeks on the US charts where it reached #1 in February ’69.  It was the group’s most successful single, and it’s a classic track I’ve yet to tire of.

November:  Sly and the Family Stone – Single:  Everyday People

Everyday People was the band’s first single to reach #1 on both the Soul chart and the US Billboard Hot 100.  It maintained the top spot on the Hot 100 for four weeks from February to March of 1969.  Here’s a cool live clip of them performing the song.  Where have you gone, Sly?

November:  Nico – The Marble Index

The Marble Index was German artist Nico’s second solo album, and it was produced by John Cale.  Though mostly ignored upon its release, it became a highly influential avant-garde album.  I started to write a proper stand-alone post on it, but I just haven’t absorbed it enough.  I own and like her previous record, Chelsea Girl, but this one is a bit stark for me despite the amount of depressing music in my collection.  It is a very interesting listen, however, and I’ll probably come back to it down the road.

The_Marble_Index_by_Nico.png

11/1/68:  The Turtles – The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands

The Turtles’ fourth release was a concept album with the band pretending to be a different group on each track, and apparently imitating the worst groomsmen photo ever on the cover.  It peaked at #128 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart, but singles Elenore and You Showed Me both reached #6 on the singles chart.

download.jpg

11/5/68:  Nixon wins

I wonder if someday things will improve to the point where they’re only that bad again.

1ffa2433b072d1b5025e17e3c768d02a.gif

11/11/68:  John & Yoko – Unfinished Music No. 1:  Two Virgins 

The title of this album is the answer to the question, “What to you get when an insanely talented and arrogant songwriter/musician gets turned on to an avant-garde artist and heroin at the same time?”  I’m not gonna lie, though – as a child, I had the corner of the page of my brother’s copy of Nicholas Schaffner’s The Beatles Forever with this photo on it bent for quick access to the nekid lady.  Pasty junkies.  Boy howdy.

images.jpg

11/14/68:  National Turn In Your Draft Card Day

07vietnamWeb-1507322848509-master768.jpg

11/22/68:  Fleetwood Mack – Single:  Albatross

Inspired by Santo and Johnny’s Sleep Walk (1959), this Peter Green-penned instrumental was Fleetwood Mac’s only #1 single in the UK.  They apparently really dug it in the Netherlands, where it also reached the top spot.  It climbed to #4 in the US.

11/22/68:  Canned Heat – Single:  Going Up the Country

The second of Alan Wilson’s big hits for the band, Going Up the Country remains a Counterculture anthem.  Lately, we’ve been repeatedly entertained by a clip of it in a car commercial.  I think that’s what it’s selling, anyway.  I make my wife laugh when I try to sing it.  I sound like I’m imitating Kermit the Frog as a member of Canned Heat.  Or something like that.

11/22/68:  Star Trek – the first interracial kiss on television

Awe yyyyeah…

startrek-interracial-kiss.jpg

Have you ever heard someone defend their degree of open-mindedness by saying something along the lines of “I don’t care what the color of someone’s skin is – black, brown, green, whatever…”?  For Captain Kirk, this was the literal truth.

download.jpg

Even an Indigenous Spacewoman! (O.k., a white woman wearing dark makeup, pretending to be an Indigenous Spacewoman.)

mihramanee-thumb-400x287.jpg

11/26/68:  Cream bids farewell at the Royal Albert Hall

Cream-Farewell-Concert-02-16x9-1.jpg

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dizzy_(Tommy_Roe_song)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimson_and_Clover

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everyday_People

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Marble_Index

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Turtles_Present_the_Battle_of_the_Bands

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unfinished_Music_No._1:_Two_Virgins

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albatross_(instrumental)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Going_Up_the_Country

 

November 29 – A Masterpiece by Van the Man

Astral Weeks,” the record that taught me to trust beauty and to believe in the divine, courtesy of my local FM station. – Bruce Springsteen, from his autobiography, Born to Run (p.196).

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

Today we give a nod, or perhaps a kowtow, to an album many consider to be not only Van Morrison’s best, but one of the best of all time by anyone. Van the Man’s second solo album, Astral Weeks, was recorded during September and October of ’68, and released 50 years ago today. It’s another example of how recording stream of consciousness songs relatively quickly and getting it out there to the public can sometimes achieve the best lasting results over the long haul, even without the boost of a hit single.

van-morrison-astral-weeks_back_

Astral Weeks came about during a period of uncertainty for him, as he was in the throes of legal wrangling with his previous label which had prevented him from recording and even performing live for a period of time. Eventually, in early ’68, Van began playing acoustic duo sets in Cambridge, MA with an upright bassist, then as a trio with jazz flautist John Payne, who would end up playing on the album. During this time, Morrison discovered he enjoyed the greater vocal freedom of the acoustic music. Warner Bros. signed him under the assumption he’d continue playing the rock and R&B music he was known for (i.e., Brown Eyed Girl), but when executives heard the new material – longer-form compositions laced with folk, jazz, blues, and classical –  there was no stopping his new direction.

The live studio tracks were recorded with Morrison on acoustic guitar in a separate booth, with upright bass, lead acoustic guitar, vibes, flute, and drums played together. The group consisted of true jazz cats, despite the fact that Morrison didn’t have much of a jazz background. Bassist Richard Davis had played with Eric Dolphy, guitarist Jay Berliner with Charles Mingus, percussionist Warren Smith, Jr. had worked with Max Roach, and the legendary drummer Connie Kay was a contemporary member of the Modern Jazz Quartet.

17-e1520281017843-1000x754.jpg

Warner Bros. didn’t bother promoting the album, and it didn’t garner much attention upon its release. Contemporary reviews were hit and miss: In NME, Nick Logan regarded it as a pale imitation of the guitarist José Feliciano’s Feliciano! album from the same year, while Greil Marcus reviewed the album positively in Rolling Stone, saying that Morrison’s lyrics were thoughtful and deeply intellectual, while calling Astral Weeks a “unique and timeless” record. Rolling Stone later named it the album of the year. 

As with the contemporary release by the Kinks, Astral Weeks is another classic album I was not exposed to at an early age, though I’ve owned and loved it for about twenty years longer than The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. Nope, the honor for introducing me to this masterpiece goes to my first wife in 1993.  Two amazing sons and this record – thank you very much! Maybe it’s lazy of me to say I love every song on the album, but it’s true. It is a stream of consciousness work, so in a way it is one long song. Detractors use that against it, of course, but positive critics and fans like me hear the beauty of each song.

merlin_136125162_6b77cf1f-4b4e-4424-b955-87ceeaccfee3-articleLarge.jpg

The bass lines, acoustic guitar, flute, vibes and strings on the title track set the tone for the atmosphere of the entire album. I was shocked to hear his Sweet Thing for the first time and discover it wasn’t a Waterboys original (just keepin’ it real here, folks). There’s a lot of pop music from the late 60’s with a big brass sound that I find a bit cheesy, but when it’s done by the likes of Van Morrison on The Way Young Lovers Do (or the Doors on Touch Me), it just works. And Larry Fallon’s harpsichord and string arrangements on Cyprus Avenue are sublime. Above all else, it’s the lyrics and the mood in which Van Morrison delivers them that makes Astral Weeks the classic that it is.

Tracklist:

Side One:

  1. Astral Weeks
  2. Beside You
  3. Sweet Thing
  4. Cyprus Avenue

Side Two:

  1. The Way Young Lovers Do
  2. Madame George
  3. Ballerina
  4. Slim Slow Slider

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astral_Weeks

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/van-morrison-astral-weeks-warren-smith-interview-760209/

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/04/behind-the-masterpiece-van-morrisons-astral-weeks-at-50/556472/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Born_to_Run_(autobiography)

 

November 22 – Thoughts on the White Album

The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album)

We’ve finally arrived at the Big Anniversary of the Beatles’ sprawling, self-titled 1968 double album.  It’s the first Beatles album to be covered in this unabashed fanboy’s blog which I started at the beginning of the year.  Many of us have already greedily consumed the 50th anniversary release of the album, complete with the Esher Demos, session goodies, the famous individual portraits and lyrics poster, and a hardcover book.  Some have already published nice reviews in the blogosphere and elsewhere.  Somehow today feels a bit anticlimactic, though I’ll probably give it a spin before stuffing my face with turkey later in the day.

4Images_Colour.jpg

It’s not that the anniversary hasn’t re-sparked my enthusiasm for the White Album, released this day in 1968.  It has.  It isn’t that I’m not thrilled with everything to do with the deluxe edition which I’ve been poring over these past couple of weeks.  I am.  But if you’ll excuse a bit of hyperbole, when I think about it, this entire year has been about the White Album as pertains to my perception of the Beatles, the music scene in general, and to some extent the year 1968 itself.

6467e546ed700bef2cece9f59c077905.jpg
The Mad Day Out.  (Stephen Goldblatt photo)

Looking back over the first eleven months of my blog, this record looms throughout.  The seed is probably found as far back as August of 1967 with the death of Brian Epstein.  The Magical Mystery Tour project in the immediate aftermath of his passing may have been their first attempt to carry on managing themselves, but with the White Album we see the fissures within the group and their individual future directions in full light.  Many of these songs were written in February during the Rishikesh retreat, and most of the band’s activities the rest of the year from that trip-onward led to this album or were an offshoot of it.

316GrhxGleL._SY355_.jpg

We had the single, Lady Madonna/The Inner Light, released in March.  In May, the establishment of Apple Corps, Ltd. was announced.  This was to be the band’s business and musical apparatus, as well as a vehicle for them as individual artists – and isn’t that really what the White Album is, some group work but a lot of individual effort?  May was also the month sessions for the album began in earnest.  With the release of the stunning Hey Jude/Revolution single in August, they showed the world that the Beatles were still the Beatles despite the turmoil they always seemed to find themselves in.  Although those tracks were not included on the album, they are White Album session tracks.

beatles-thames-i-medium.jpeg
The Mad Day Out.  (Don McCullin photo)

Group and individual burnout is evident on this album.  Even Ringo walked out during his well-documented “I thought it was YOU three?” moment.  John’s behavior became predictably unpredictable, and the sad state of affairs (no pun intended, but yeah) surrounding his marriage to Cynthia finally came to an end as he officially transitioned to Yoko.  They immediately created their first vinyl baby, Unfinished Music No. 1:  Two Virgins, under the Apple umbrella, and she would be a permanent fixture within the group dynamic from that point on.

images.jpg
Ringo’s personal copy of the White Album, edition numero uno, sold at auction in 2015 for $790,000.

George finally found his own creative outlet with Wonderwall Music (the inaugural release on the Apple label), the score to the Wonderwall movie which included Indian musicians who also performed on the Inner Light, as well as his buddy Eric Clapton, who participated on both the movie score and the White Album.  All of these factors – from India to Apple, from recording the demos at George’s house in Esher to the singles releases, from the “Mad Day Out” photo session in July to the individual side projects and contentious group studio sessions – all of them are woven into the double album we’re celebrating today, and all were played out over the course of the year leading up to its release.

A-225-07compressed.jpg

Some random personal thoughts about the record:

  • In 2018, if there’s any one member of the band I associate with the album more than the others, it’s George.  I freely admit this is due in large part to Hari gradually becoming my “favorite” Beatle over the years.  The White Album was perhaps his final chance to exert serious influence on the direction the Beatles would take, both musically and spiritually.  His creative input could no longer be ignored by John and Paul if he was going to remain in the group long-term.  It may not have gone as he had hoped, but his spirit is everywhere in these songs, including the ones which didn’t make the final cut.  As he mentioned in interviews, he tried to enter the studio the following January for the Get Back sessions with a positive mindset, but it was too late.  The Beatles were, for all intents and purposes, done, despite there being two albums yet to record.  Amazingly to me, George was only 25 when the White Album was released.

tumblr_og6gv2ArQL1sk9evxo1_500.png

  • As a child, even though I always loved most of its tracks, the White Album kind of creeped me out.  First, the “Paul is dead ‘clues'” in the grooves and album artwork were both fascinating and, to 9 or 10-year-old me, frightening.  My brother Paul would spin the vinyl backwards for me to hear voices supposedly saying “Paul is a dead man.  Miss him, miss him,” and “Turn me on, dead man.”  In that dimly lit basement I was glad not to be alone when listening.  To this day, Revolution 9 still gives me the heebie jeebies, and Good Night which follows sounds more funereal than lullaby because of it. Then there was the unfortunate, unintended  connection to the Manson murders. Even that shoddy collage of photos which makes up the poster insert was at best confusing to me.  But it’s So White Album, no?

c182ef7cfe8aec7b6e9e4e75c214fe71.jpg

  • Their individual appearances fascinated me, as they did many others.  Overnight they transformed from the psychedelic, flower power Sgt. Pepper look to their disheveled appearances of ’68.  John looked tired and bitter, and it wasn’t until my teen years that I understood why that was.

s-l300.jpg

  • Yoko.  Yoko, Yoko, Yoko.  Yoko Ono…                                                                            Because I was born the year after the Beatles broke up, as a younger person I always accepted everything I saw, heard, and read as just part of the narrative of the group.  But wow, what an unforeseen shock her emergence in all their lives must have been!  Whether he’s simply taking the high road or being sincere, Paul made peace with Yoko in recent years as well as declared his perhaps overdue respect for John for making his stand with her.  I believe Paul is sincere.  It’s past time to remove those “I still blame Yoko” bumper stickers, folks.  There were plenty of other factors contributing to the split.

57ac82db1700002d00d1e20d.jpeg

  • And lastly, as for the great debate about whether or not it should’ve been condensed down to a single LP, my answer is a resounding HELL NO!  It’s great just the way it is, but if anything could’ve improved it, it wouldn’t have been making it a single album or two separate releases (the White and Whiter Album as Ringo quipped in the Anthology).  In my mind, this could easily have been a triple album.  I think it’s a crime that George’s Sour Milk Sea wasn’t properly recorded and included (nothing against Jackie Lomax’s version).  The same goes for Not Guilty.  Sprinkle those tracks, plus Hey JudeRevolution, and Circles throughout Sides 1-5, and make Side 6 all about John and Yoko’s madness with What’s the New Mary Jane and Revolution 9, and presto!, The Grand and Mega-Blindingly White Album!  It was all free-form craziness anyway, and we’d be celebrating it the same as we are today.  That still would’ve left Lady Madonna/The Inner Light as the non-album single between Magical Mystery Tour and the White Album.

But I’ll defer to Sir Paul for the final word on the matter:

Tracklist:

Side One:

  1. Back in the U.S.S.R.
  2. Dear Prudence
  3. Glass Onion
  4. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
  5. Wild Honey Pie
  6. The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill
  7. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  8. Happiness is a Warm Gun

Side Two:

  1. Martha My Dear
  2. I’m So Tired
  3. Blackbird
  4. Piggies
  5. Rocky Raccoon
  6. Don’t Pass Me By
  7. Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?
  8. I Will
  9. Julia

Side Three:

  1. Birthday
  2. Yer Blues
  3. Mother Nature’s Son
  4. Everybody’s Got Something to Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)
  5. Sexie Sadie
  6. Helter Skelter
  7. Long, Long, Long

Side Four:

  1. Revolution 1
  2. Honey Pie
  3. Savoy Truffle
  4. Cry Baby Cry
  5. Revolution 9
  6. Good Night

-Stephen

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/ringo-starrs-personal-white-album-sells-for-world-record-790000-62410/

 

 

 

November 22 – Hey! the Kinks Released an Album on 11/22/68, Too!

The Kinks – The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society

In an alternate universe, this would be my highly anticipated album anniversary for the month, and one of the most important of the year. But it’s not even the biggest anniversary today! That’s not intended as an insult to the Kinks or to The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, released 50 years ago today (Jan. ’69 in the US). It’s a fantastic record, but it’s also fitting in an unfair kind of way that it was released the same day as the Beatles’ White Album in terms of the Kinks’ station on the British Invasion ladder, and that of the 1960’s rock scene in general.

the-kings-1140x500.jpg

Sure, there are fans who can honestly say they’ve loved this album since its release and have owned it on vinyl, eight track, cassette, CD, and now on vinyl once again, and that the releases by the Beatles and the Stones don’t hold a candle to it. But in terms of sheer renown, this album is not on par with the White Album or Beggars Banquet, and that’s a shame. The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society is really, really good. I wasn’t exposed to this album until five or six years ago after reading about it on my favorite music forum, and all I can do is plead ignorance for not having learned, loved, and lived it all along. In the small, flyover burg where I grew up, the only Kinks albums people owned or liked were the hits, and songs from Village Green most certainly weren’t heard on the radio.

the-kinks-press-photo.jpg
L-R: Pete Quaife, Ray Davies, Dave Davies, and Mick Avory

Village Green was the band’s 6th studio album, and the last to feature the original quartet of lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ray Davies, lead guitarist Dave Davies, bassist Pete Quaife, and drummer Mick Avory. Nicky Hopkins contributed work on keyboards and Mellotron (he claimed to have played 70% of the keyboards, but that Davies took most of the credit). The album was produced by Ray Davies. Recorded over a period of two years, it’s a very English rock album featuring themes of childhood nostalgia and character sketches of old friends, a hoodlum, a prostitute, and steam locomotives of British Railways. It is, as AllMusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine writes, a lament “on the passing of old-fashioned English traditions.”

51+Sh6LFuZL.jpg

The album is considered one of the best and most influential of the Kinks’ albums, yet it was a failure upon release and didn’t chart. But by 2003, Rolling Stone named it 255 on its top 500 albums of all time, and as of this month it was finally certified gold in the UK. Village Green is their best-selling album. Critics have loved it all along.

Relative to how fast rock music was evolving by ’68, this album seemed out-of-place from the day of its release. Perhaps that’s part of the reason it wasn’t embraced from the beginning. It’s a distinctly Kinks and English album, and one that doesn’t really fit into a loose 1968 musical aesthetic. That it is timeless would be another way of saying it. Mick Avory’s snare pops and the guitars have heavy moments like mid-60’s Kinks, but with an overall slightly updated and even gentle sound.

I like every song on this album, but some of my favorites are rockers Do You Remember Walter?, Picture Book, Big Sky, the whimsical and kind of trippy Sitting by the Riverside, the cool rhythm track of Animal Farm, and the driving tempo of the acoustic-heavy People Take Pictures of Each Other. A five-disc 50th anniversary edition was released this past month, and I’ve texted Santa that I want it.

Tracklist:

Side One:

  1. The Village Green Preservation Society
  2. Do You Remember Walter?
  3. Picture Book
  4. Johnny Thunder
  5. Last of the Steam-Powered Trains
  6. Big Sky
  7. Sitting by the Riverside

Side Two:

  1. Animal Farm
  2. Village Green
  3. Starstruck
  4. Phenomenal Cat
  5. All of My Friends Were There
  6. Wicked Annabella
  7. Monica
  8. People Take Pictures of Each Other

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kinks_Are_the_Village_Green_Preservation_Society

https://www.allmusic.com/album/the-village-green-preservation-society-mw0000068713

https://www.spin.com/2018/11/the-kinks-village-green-preservation-society-gold-record/

http://ultimateclassicrock.com/kinks-village-green-50th-album-review/

November ’68 – The Nice and the Shape of Prog to Come

The Nice – Ars Longa Vita Brevis       

Progressive rock, or prog – how to discuss it?  It’s a sub-genre most folks seem to have their minds made up about one way or the other.  Preconceived notions such as “It’s music only musicians like,” or “It’s music only dudes like,” are common.  There’s probably a lot of truth in that, but why?  Women enjoy rock, jazz, and classical, so why not prog?  Granted, as one who was not introduced to this music at an early age, I’ve had to dive in head-first with a few albums on which I had no idea what I was listening to.  But it’s paying off.  I’ve even reached a point where I’m exploring more current prog (i.e., from the last 20 years), some of which, as I’ve discovered, my wife has owned and liked all along.  Funny how that works.  Back to the topic at hand…

Fear_of_a_blank_planet.jpg    Scenes_From_a_Memory.jpg

The Nice formed in the UK in 1967 and soon released their first LP, The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack.  Their style, as was that of prog in general, was an outgrowth of the psychedelic genre with more classical and jazz elements.  On the heels of a couple of followup singles, including their controversial take on Leonard Bernstein’s America which Emerson described as an “instrumental protest song,” they released their second album, Ars Longa Vita Brevis, 50 years ago this month.  The title is an aphorism of Hippocrates’ which translates as “Art is long, life is short.”

The band entered into these sessions as a quartet consisting keyboard madman Keith Emerson, bassist Lee Jackson (who also handled most of the vocals), Brian Davison on drums, and guitarist David O’List.  Tension between O’List and the rest of the band led to his dismissal or to his quitting during the sessions, depending upon who is asked.  O’List would go on to join the first incarnation of Roxy Music.  Steve Howe was auditioned to replace him, but when he declined their offer to join, they decided to move forward as a trio.

hqdefault
Clockwise from left:  Keith Emerson, David O’List, Lee Jackson, and Brian Davison.  O’List departed the group during recording.

On this album, which AllMusic’s Bruce Eder considers groundbreaking, we hear and glimpse what Keith Emerson would become famous for:  his flair for the dramatic.  The music itself was dramatic, as was the way Emerson would sometimes violently play his Hammond organ.  On this disc, there’s a little something for every prog fan, with classically themed shorter songs on the first side, and the Ars Longa Vita Brevis suite on the flip side.

The record has an exuberant beginning on Daddy Where Did I Come From?, which is dominated by Keith’s keyboards and a Davison’s drums.  It’s heavy psych-rock that rolls into the jazzy second song, Little Arabella, which is almost on the cheesy side but which works in the context of the album.  The band lets loose on the next track, Happy Freuds.  As Dave Swanson notes on ultimateclassicrock.com, Syd Barrett’s influence is quite evident here, and that the following song, the band’s take on Sibelius’ Karelia Suite (1893), was the seed of what would ultimately be Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s calling card.

gettyimages-84901613-612x612.jpg
And then there were three.  (Photo by Jan Persson/Redferns)

Side two is, to me, an over the top affair consisting of the nearly 20 minute Ars Longa Vita Brevis, complete with a prelude, four movements, and coda.  Perhaps it’s simply the drum solo which squelches my interest.  I do find the “3rd Movement,” Acceptance (Brandenburger), and “4th Movement,” Denial, to be rather enjoyable.

Knh8MVDGAi4sjjAh7tkJth-320-80.jpg

Ars Longa Vita Brevis, and prog in general, is not everyone’s cup of tea.  The core of what is liked and disliked about the genre can be found on this album:  It’s teeming with Emerson’s virtuosity and creativity on keyboards in a manner not heard before.  It can also be heard as bloated and pretentious, which, to me, isn’t always a bad thing.  With this album, and later with ELP, I find the shorter songs to be more interesting as they were able to pack a lot into four minutes.  It’s not that I don’t like any longer works, but they tend to be the ones by King Crimson and Yes.  Either way, along with early Pink Floyd, this is what I imagine underground London sounded like.  If you aren’t familiar with it, give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Tracklist:

Side One:

  1. Daddy, Where Did I Come From?
  2. Little Arabella
  3. Happy Freuds
  4. Intermezzo from the Karelia Suite
  5. Don Edito el Gruva

Side Two:

  1. Ars Longa Vita Brevis
  • Prelude
  • 1st Movement:  Awakening
  • 2nd Movement:  Realisation
  • 3rd Movement:  Acceptance “Brandenburger”
  • 4th Movement:  Denial
  • Coda:  Extension to the Big Note

Here is the aforementioned second single for the Nice, America.  When they played it at the Royal Albert Hall, Emerson set an American flag on fire, earning the band a permanent ban from the venue.

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ars_Longa_Vita_Brevis_(album)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nice

http://ultimateclassicrock.com/the-nice-ars-longa-vita-brevis/

https://www.allmusic.com/album/ars-longa-vita-brevis-mw0000198046

November ’68 – John Mayall’s L.A. Holiday

John Mayall – Blues from Laurel Canyon

It seems I’m in a Laurel Canyon state of mind.  By 1968, an artistically idyllic diaspora had developed in L.A. which would shape much of the popular music world for the next decade or so.  One name I wouldn’t normally associate with that scene is John Mayall, but he had visited L.A. earlier in the year and subsequently moved from his native England to Laurel Canyon the following year.  Mayall lived there for ten years (a brush fire destroyed his home and much archival material in 1979).  Fifty years ago this month he released his acclaimed Blues from Laurel Canyon, featuring 19-year-old guitarist Mick Taylor.  It was his first album after the breakup of the Bluesbreakers earlier in the year.

61C-Si1pcJL._SX355_.jpg

Mayall handles the vocals throughout.  He also plays guitar, harmonica, and keyboards.  Mick Taylor, who would soon join the Rolling Stones, plays some blistering lead guitar as well as pedal steel on the album.  Steve Thompson, all of 18, plays bass, and Colin Allen is on drums.  Peter Green, late of Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and at the time the leader of Fleetwood Mac, added guitar to the track First Time Alone.

download (1).jpg
Mayall

The album is considered innovative in the blues genre, as songs segue into the next or otherwise stop on a chord just before the next song begins.  We also hear a tabla – not an oft-employed instrument in blues music but one which fit well pretty much anywhere in the late ’60s.  The tracks tell the story of Mayall’s visit to L.A. prior to his move there, which actually makes it a bit of a concept album.  But there’s nothing to do with flower power or the burgeoning singer/songwriter genre on this record.  It’s all blues, and it only took three days in August of ’68 to record.  At the age of 35, Mayall was a senior citizen in the music world by that time and wasn’t going to be swayed much by what the younger musicians were doing.

download.jpg
Mick Taylor

There are some really good moments on this record.  The opening track, Vacation, begins with the sound of a jet landing (like another opening track to a major album release that same month), i.e., Mayall’s arrival in L.A., and features a more-accomplished-than-his-years solo by Mick Taylor.  Taylor also plays some tasty slide on 2401, which was inspired by Mayall’s visit with Frank (and daughter Moon Unit) Zappa and also features nice keyboard work by Mayall.  Someone’s Acting like a child is a classic blues track with great guitar and harmonica.  The Bear, with Mayall’s great boogie piano track, is based upon his meeting with Canned Heat (it opens with a riff from On the Road Again), and Taylor plays some outstanding improvisations on the song about Mayall mentally preparing to go home to England (before permanently moving to Laurel Canyon for the next decade) on the aptly titled Fly Tomorrow.

At a time when white blues guitar players like Clapton and Page were stretching their playing into heavier forms, Mayall stayed truer to traditional blues than most.  It’s interesting to me that L.A. appealed to him at that point in his career.  But then again, what wasn’t to like from a perch in Laurel Canyon, looking down over the Sunset Strip and its happening venues?  Warm, sunny days, an exploding music scene in the late 1960s, etc.  Good times.

Tracklist:

Side One:

  1. Vacation
  2. Walking On Sunset
  3. Laurel Canyon Home
  4. 2401
  5. Ready to Ride
  6. Medicine Man
  7. Somebody’s Acting Like a Child

Side Two:

  1. The Bear
  2. Miss James
  3. First Time Alone
  4. Long Gone Midnight
  5. Fly Tomorrow

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blues_from_Laurel_Canyon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Mayall

https://www.elsewhere.co.nz/essentialelsewhere/834/john-mayall-blues-from-laurel-canyon-1968/

https://www.allmusic.com/album/blues-from-laurel-canyon-mw0000204935

 

 

Young, Talented, & Free: Laurel Canyon in the Late 1960’s

Is there a historical time and place you’ve ever thought might’ve been great to have been around for whatever reasons?  The combination of the lens of history and the imagination can make the grass appear quite green in different bygone scenes.  For me, Paris in the 1920’s, Greenwich Village in the late-1950’s/early 60’s, and Swinging London in the mid/late 60’s are a few which stoke my imagination.

56-3992828-1446131294fa0a0912c8764cbc93e2da0926eb1f7e.jpg

gvshp_8_wha-0.jpg

Foam-Gallery_London_60s.jpg

Another is Laurel Canyon for that brief moment in the late 60’s when the music world was shifting faster than people could keep up with.  Thankfully there were artists and record company executives willing to take chances.  Granted, the “free” in my title is subjective; artists enjoyed leeway to record and perform as they liked, but massive egos are a hinderance to freedom in the spiritual sense, and there was no shortage of those in the Canyon.

laurel_canyon_realtors__laurel_canyon_realtor__laurel_canyon_750.jpg

But it was a snapshot in time just before the money got absurd and the drugs too hard,  and it’s not likely to ever be repeated.  Today it’s snapshots I’d like to share in a manner which deviates from my usual format.  Rock photography became a major art form itself and crucial to the music industry around this time, and in L.A. Henry Diltz, among others, was a major contributor among the emerging folk and rock glitterati.  Perhaps I’ll explore that topic another time.

For now, picture yourself in a canyon in 1968 L.A., with tangerine trees and smoggy skies…

tMV6Buu.png

download.jpg
Frank Zappa with daughter Moon Unit.  Getty Images
laurel-canyon-ss06.jpg
The unofficial hostess of Laurel Canyon, Mama Cass.  Henry Diltz photo

Mama Cass may have been the unofficial hostess, but pictorially and musically speaking, to me the most interesting road in the canyon led to Joni Mitchell’s house:

MitchellL_CC_grass11x14856.jpg
Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, Eric Clapton, and Mama Cass’s baby.  Henry Diltz photo
laurel-canyon-ss04.jpg
Crosby, Stills, Nash, Dallas Taylor, Young, and Greg Reeves.  Henry Diltz photo
a5.jpg
Jim Morrison, standing outside his Laurel Canyon home.  Paul Ferrara photo
1928.jpg
Jackson Browne in his ’57 Chevy.  Henry Diltz photo
09-Linda-Ronstadt.jpg
Linda Ronstadt, then of the Stone Poneys.  Henry Diltz photo
54d538ae1ac93f5b5783f7fc_laurel-canyon-ss01.jpg
Stephen Stills and Peter Tork.
laurel-canyon-ss10.jpg
Judy Collins and Joni in Mitchell’s Lookout Mountain home, Laurel Canyon.  Rowland Scherman photo
laurel-canyon-ss09.jpg
James Taylor and Joni.
images.jpg
John Mayall
laurel_canyon_country_store_bailey_pennick.jpg
The Canyon Country Store, where the ladies (and gentlemen) of the canyon gathered.

I recommend the following books to anyone interested in learning more about the Laurel Canyon scene in the 1960s and 70s:

51+ZxVV-bgL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
Laurel Canyon:  The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood – by Michael Walker
51ZqLeLTBEL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
Canyon of Dreams:  The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon – by Harvey Kubernik
f6f48818260efb46676c1bdc5a8a2764-w204@1x.jpg
Hotel California:  The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends – by Barney Hoskyns

-Stephen

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/p/laurel-canyon-michael-walker/1100946905/2660582144646?st=PLA&sid=BNB_New+Marketplace+Shopping+Textbooks&sourceId=PLAGoNA&dpid=tdtve346c&2sid=Google_c&gclid=Cj0KCQiA2o_fBRC8ARIsAIOyQ-nUr5rGOVMQysznRYWWeGKw0AyV9FYd9GtYNVJnKKuhsr4oNzFz474aAumGEALw_wcB

https://www.abebooks.com/Canyon-Dreams-Magic-Music-Laurel/30110395251/bd?cm_mmc=gmc-_-used-_-PLA-_-v01&gclid=Cj0KCQiA2o_fBRC8ARIsAIOyQ-kNGadghEctBnpcpBkIc6ZO4citQKhM2YH4GY7xmO6i_oF5PT47dmAaAmowEALw_wcB

https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-471-73273-0