A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs podcast

A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs

Andrew Hickey presents a history of rock music from 1938 to 1999, looking at five hundred songs that shaped the genre.

Andrew Hickey presents a history of rock music from 1938 to 1999, looking at five hundred songs that shaped the genre.

 

#224

Song 174A: “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” Part One, “If At First You Don’t Succeed…”

For those who haven’t heard  [the announcement I posted] (https://500songs.com/podcast/announcement-regarding-schedule/) , songs from this point on will sometimes be split among multiple episodes, so this is the first part of a two-episode look at the song “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”. This week we take a short look at the song’s writers, Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, and the first released version by Gladys Knight and the Pips. In two weeks time we’ll take a longer look at the sixties career of the song’s most famous performer, Marvin Gaye. This episode is quite a light one. That one… won’t be. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a half-hour bonus episode, [on “Bend Me Shape Me” by Amen Corner] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/103780171) . Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at  [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust)  and  [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) Resources Mixcloud will be up with the next episode. For Motown-related information in this and other Motown episodes, I’ve used the following resources: [Where Did Our Love Go? The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound by Nelson George] (https://amzn.to/2QTOvdM)  is an excellent popular history of the various companies that became Motown. [To Be Loved by Berry Gordy] (https://amzn.to/2QQhXRZ)  is Gordy’s own, understandably one-sided, but relatively well-written, autobiography. [Women of Motown: An Oral History by Susan Whitall] (https://amzn.to/2VIpXII)  is a collection of interviews with women involved in Motown. [I Hear a Symphony: Motown and Crossover R&B by J. Andrew Flory] (https://amzn.to/2xVdvfD)  is an academic look at Motown. [The Motown Encyclopaedia by Graham Betts] (https://amzn.to/2VLquJX)  is an exhaustive look at the people and records involved in Motown’s thirty-year history. [Motown: The Golden Years] (https://amzn.to/3JRmKi0) is another Motown encyclopaedia. And  [Motown Junkies] (https://motownjunkies.co.uk/)  is an infrequently-updated blog looking at (so far) the first 693 tracks released on Motown singles. For information on Marvin Gaye, and his relationship with Norman Whitfield, I relied on [Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye by David Ritz] (https://amzn.to/38eqYPi) . I’ve also used information on Whitfield in   [Ain’t Too Proud to Beg: The Troubled Lives and Enduring Soul of the Temptations by Mark Ribowsky,] (https://amzn.to/2XIYuKa) I’ve also referred to interviews with Whitfield and Strong archived at [rocksbackpages.com] (http://rocksbackpages.com) , notably “The Norman Whitfield interview”, John Abbey, Blues & Soul, 1 February 1977 For information about Gladys Knight, I’ve used [her autobiography] (https://amzn.to/3UzzwGK) . The best collection of Gladys Knight and the Pips’ music is [this 3-CD set] (https://amzn.to/4adptwS) , but the best way to hear Motown hits is in the context of other Motown hits. [This five-CD box se] (https://amzn.to/3QBdyCp) t contains the first five in the Motown Chartbusters series of British compilations. The Pips’ version of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” is on disc 2, while Marvin Gaye’s is on disc 3, which is famously generally considered one of the best single-disc various artists compilations ever. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon.  [Why not join them?] (http://patreon.com/AndrewHickey) Transcript Before I start, a brief note — this episode contains some brief mentions of miscarriage and drug abuse. The history of modern music would be immeasurably different had it not been for one car breakdown. Norman Whitfield spent the first fifteen years of his life in New York, never leaving the city, until his grandmother died. She’d lived in LA, and that was where the funeral was held, and so the Whitfield family got into a car and drove right across the whole continent — two thousand five hundred miles — to attend the old lady’s funeral. And then after the funeral, they turned round and started to drive home again. But they only got as far as Detroit when the car, understandably, gave up the ghost.  Luckily, like many Black families, they had family in Detroit, and Norman’s aunt was not only willing to put the family up for a while, but her husband was able to give Norman’s father a job in his drug store while he saved up enough money to pay for the car to be fixed. But as it happened, the family liked Detroit, and they never did get around to driving back home to New York. Young Norman in particular took to the city’s nightlife, and soon as well as going to school he was working an evening job at a petrol station — but that was only to supplement the money he made as a pool hustler. Young Norman Whitfield was never going to be the kind of person who took a day job, and so along with his pool he started hanging out with musicians — in particular with Popcorn and the Mohawks, a band led by Popcorn Wylie. [Excerpt: Popcorn and the Mohawks, “Shimmy Gully”] Popcorn and the Mohawks were a band of serious jazz musicians, many of whom, including Wylie himself, went on to be members of the Funk Brothers, the team of session players that played on Motown’s hits — though Wylie would depart Motown fairly early after a falling out with Berry Gordy. They were some of the best musicians in Detroit at the time, and Whitfield would tag along with the group and play tambourine, and sometimes other hand percussion instruments. He wasn’t a serious musician at that point, just hanging out with a bunch of people who were, who were a year or two older than him. But he was learning — one thing that everyone says about Norman Whitfield in his youth is that he was someone who would stand on the periphery of every situation, not getting involved, but soaking in everything that the people around him were doing, and learning from them. And soon, he was playing percussion on sessions. At first, this wasn’t for Motown, but everything in the Detroit music scene connected back to the Gordy family in one way or another. In this case, the label was Thelma Records, which was formed by Berry Gordy’s ex-mother-in-law and named after Gordy’s first wife, who he had recently divorced. Of all the great Motown songwriters and producers, Whitfield’s life is the least-documented, to the extent that the chronology of his early career is very vague and contradictory, and Thelma was such a small label there even seems to be some dispute about when it existed — different sources give different dates, and while Whitfield always said he worked for Thelma records, he might have actually been employed by another label owned by the same people, Ge Ge, which might have operated earlier — but by most accounts Whitfield quickly progressed from session tambourine player to songwriter. According to an article on Whitfield from 1977, the first record of one of his songs was “Alone” by Tommy Storm on Thelma Records, but that record seems not to exist — however, some people on a soul message board, discussing this a few years ago, found an interview with a member of a group called The Fabulous Peps which also featured Storm, saying that their record on Ge Ge Records, “This Love I Have For You”, is a rewrite of that song by Don Davis, Thelma’s head of A&R, though the credit on the label for that is just to Davis and Ron Abner, another member of the group: [Excerpt: The Fabulous Peps, “This Love I Have For You”] So that might, or might not, be the first Norman Whitfield song ever to be released. The other song often credited as Whitfield’s first released song is “Answer Me” by Richard Street and the Distants — Street was another member of the Fabulous Peps, but we’ve encountered him and the Distants before when talking about the Temptations — the Distants were the group that Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, and Al Bryant had been in before forming the Temptations — and indeed Street would much later rejoin his old bandmates in the Temptations, when Whitfield was producing for them. Unlike the Fabulous Peps track, this one was clearly credited to N. Whitfield, so whatever happened with the Storm track, this is almost certainly Whitfield’s first official credit as a songwriter: [Excerpt: Richard Street and the Distants, “Answer Me”] He was soon writing songs for a lot of small labels — most of which appear to have been recorded by the Thelma team and then licensed out — like “I’ve Gotten Over You” by the Sonnettes: [Excerpt: The Sonnettes, “I’ve Gotten Over You”] That was on KO Records, distributed by Scepter, and was a minor local hit — enough to finally bring Whitfield to the attention of Berry Gordy. According to many sources, Whitfield had been hanging around Hitsville for months trying to get a job with the label, but as he told the story in 1977 “Berry Gordy had sent Mickey Stevenson over to see me about signing with the company as an exclusive in-house writer and producer. The first act I was assigned to was Marvin Gaye and he had just started to become popular.” That’s not quite how the story went. According to everyone else, he was constantly hanging around Hitsville, getting himself into sessions and just watching them, and pestering people to let him get involved. Rather than being employed as a writer and producer, he was actually given a job in Motown’s quality control department for fifteen dollars a week, listening to potential records and seeing which ones he thought were hits, and rating them before they went to the regular department meetings for feedback from the truly important people. But he was also allowed to write songs. His first songwriting credit on a Motown record wasn’t Marvin Gaye, as Whitfield would later tell the story, but was in fact for the far less prestigious Mickey Woods — possibly the single least-known artist of Motown’s early years. Woods was a white teenager, the first white male solo artist signed to Motown, who released two novelty teen-pop singles. Whitfield’s first Motown song was the B-side to Woods’ second single, a knock-off of Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” called “They Call Me Cupid”, co-written with Berry Gordy and Brian Holland: [Excerpt: Mickey Woods, “They Call Me Cupid”] Unsurprisingly that didn’t set the world on fire, and Whitfield didn’t get another Motown label credit for thirteen months (though some of his songs for Thelma may have come out in this period). When he did, it was as co-writer with Mickey Stevenson — and, for the first time, sole producer — of the first single for a new singer, Kim Weston: [Excerpt: Kim Weston, “It Should Have Been Me”] As it turned out, that wasn’t a hit, but the flip-side, “Love Me All The Way”, co-written by Stevenson (who was also Weston’s husband) and Barney Ales, did become a minor hit, making the R&B top thirty. After that, Whitfield was on his way. It was only a month later that he wrote his first song for the Temptations, a B-side, “The Further You Look, The Less You See”: [Excerpt: The Temptations, “The Further You Look, The Less You See”] That was co-written with Smokey Robinson, and as we heard in the episode on “My Girl”, both Robinson and Whitfield vied with each other for the job of Temptations writer and producer. As we also heard in that episode, Robinson got the majority of the group’s singles for the next couple of years, but Whitfield would eventually take over from him. Whitfield’s work with the Temptations is probably his most important work as a writer and producer, and the Temptations story is intertwined deeply with this one, but for the most part I’m going to save discussion of Whitfield’s work with the group until we get to 1972, so bear with me if I seem to skim over that — and if I repeat myself in a couple of years when we get there. Whitfield’s first major success, though, was also the first top ten hit for Marvin Gaye, “Pride and Joy”: [Excerpt: Marvin Gaye, “Pride and Joy”] “Pride and Joy” had actually been written and recorded before the Kim Weston and Temptations tracks, and was intended as album filler — it was written during a session by Whitfield, Gaye, and Mickey Stevenson who was also the producer of the track, and recorded in the same session as it was written, with Martha and the Vandellas on backing vocals. The intended hit from the session, “Hitch-Hike”, we covered in the previous episode on Gaye, but that was successful enough that an album, That Stubborn Kinda Fellow, was released, with “Pride and Joy” on it. A few months later Gaye recut his lead vocal, over the same backing track, and the record was released as a single, reaching number ten on the pop charts and number two R&B: [Excerpt: Marvin Gaye, “Pride and Joy”] Whitfield had other successes as well, often as B-sides. “The Girl’s Alright With Me”, the B-side to Smokey Robinson’s hit for the Temptations “I’ll Be In Trouble”, went to number forty on the R&B chart in its own right: [Excerpt: The Temptations, “The Girl’s Alright With Me”] That was co-written with Eddie Holland, and Holland and Whitfield had a minor songwriting partnership at this time, with Holland writing lyrics and Whitfield the music. Eddie Holland even released a Holland and Whitfield collaboration himself during his brief attempt at a singing career — “I Couldn’t Cry if I Wanted To” was a song they wrote for the Temptations, who recorded it but then left it on the shelf for four years, so Holland put out his own version, again as a B-side: [Excerpt: Eddie Holland, “I Couldn’t Cry if I Wanted To”] Whitfield was very much a B-side kind of songwriter and producer at this point — but this could be to his advantage. In January 1963, around the same time as all these other tracks, he cut a filler track with the “no-hit Supremes”, “He Means the World to Me”, which was left on the shelf until they needed a B-side eighteen months later and pulled it out and released it: [Excerpt: The Supremes, “He Means the World to Me”] But the track that that was a B-side to was “Where Did Our Love Go?”, and at the time you could make a lot of money from writing the B-side to a hit that big. Indeed, at first, Whitfield made more money from “Where Did Our Love Go?” than Holland, Dozier, or Holland, because he got a hundred percent of the songwriters’ share for his side of the record, while they had to split their share three ways. Slowly Whitfield moved from being a B-side writer to being an A-side writer. With Eddie Holland he was given a chance at a Temptations A-side for the first time, with “Girl, (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)”: [Excerpt: The Temptations, “Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)”] He also wrote for Jimmy Ruffin, but in 1964 it was with girl groups that Whitfield was doing his best work. With Mickey Stevenson he wrote “Needle in a Haystack” for the Velvettes: [Excerpt: The Velvettes, “Needle in a Haystack”] He wrote their classic followup “He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’” with Stevenson and Eddie Holland, and with Holland he also wrote “Too Many Fish in the Sea” for the Marvelettes: [Excerpt: The Marvelettes, “Too Many Fish In The Sea”] By late 1964, Whitfield wasn’t quite in the first rank of Motown songwriter-producers with Holland-Dozier-Holland and Smokey Robinson, but he was in the upper part of the second tier with Mickey Stevenson and Clarence Paul. And by early 1966, as we saw in the episode on “My Girl”, he had achieved what he’d wanted for four years, and become the Temptations’ primary writer and producer. As I said, we’re going to look at Whitfield’s time working with the Temptations later, but in 1966 and 67 they were the act he was most associated with, and in particular, he collaborated with Eddie Holland on three top ten hits for the group in 1966. But as we discussed in the episode on “I Can’t Help Myself”, Holland’s collaborations with Whitfield eventually caused problems for Holland with his other collaborators, when he won the BMI award for writing the most hit songs, depriving his brother and Lamont Dozier of their share of the award because his outside collaborations put him ahead of them. While Whitfield *could* write songs by himself, and had in the past, he was at his best as a collaborator — as well as his writing partnership with Eddie Holland he’d written with Mickey Stevenson, Marvin Gaye, and Janie Bradford. And so when Holland told him he was no longer able to work together, Whitfield started looking for someone else who could write lyrics for him, and he soon found someone: [Excerpt: Barrett Strong, “Money”] Barrett Strong had, of course, been the very first Motown act to have a major national hit, with “Money”, but as we discussed in the episode on that song he had been unable to have a follow-up hit, and had actually gone back to working on an assembly line for a while. But when you’ve had a hit as big as “Money”, working on an assembly line loses what little lustre it has, and Strong soon took himself off to New York and started hanging around the Brill Building, where he hooked up with Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, the writers of such hits as “Save the Last Dance for Me”, “Viva Las Vegas”, “Sweets for My Sweet”, and “A Teenager in Love”.  Pomus and Shuman, according to Strong, signed him to a management contract, and they got him signed to Atlantic’s subsidiary Atco, where he recorded one single, “Seven Sins”, written and produced by the team: [Excerpt: Barrett Strong, “Seven Sins”] That was a flop, and Strong was dropped by the label. He bounced around a few cities before ending up in Chicago, where he signed to VeeJay Records and put out one more single as a performer, “Make Up Your Mind”, which also went nowhere: [Excerpt: Barrett Strong, “Make Up Your Mind”] Strong had co-written that, and as his performing career was now definitively over, he decided to move into songwriting as his main job. He co-wrote “Stay in My Corner” for the Dells, which was a top thirty R&B hit for them on VeeJay in 1965 and in a remade version in 1968 became a number one R&B hit and top ten pop hit for them: [Excerpt: The Dells, “Stay in My Corner”] And on his own he wrote another top thirty R&B hit, “This Heart of Mine”, for the Artistics: [Excerpt: The Artistics, “This Heart of Mine”] He wrote several other songs that had some minor success in 1965 and 66, before moving back to Detroit and hooking up again with his old label, this time coming to them as a songwriter with a track record rather than a one-hit wonder singer. As Strong put it “They were doing my style of music then, they were doing something a little different when I left, but they were doing the more soulful, R&B-style stuff, so I thought I had a place there. So I had an idea I thought I could take back and see if they could do something with it.” That idea was the first song he wrote under his new contract, and it was co-written with Norman Whitfield. It’s difficult to know how Whitfield and Strong started writing together, or much about their writing partnership, even though it was one of the most successful songwriting teams of the era, because neither man was interviewed in any great depth, and there’s almost no long-form writing on either of them. What does seem to have been the case is that both men had been aware of each other in the late fifties, when Strong was a budding R&B star and Whitfield merely a teenager hanging round watching the cool kids. The two may even have written together before — in an example of how the chronology for both Whitfield and Strong seems to make no sense, Whitfield had cowritten a song with Marvin Gaye, “Wherever I Lay My Hat, That’s My Home”, in 1962 — when Strong was supposedly away from Motown — and it had been included as an album track on the That Stubborn Kinda Fellow album: [Excerpt: Marvin Gaye, “Wherever I Lay My Hat, That’s My Home”] The writing on that was originally credited just to Whitfield and Gaye on the labels, but it is now credited to Whitfield, Gaye, and Strong, including with BMI. Similarly Gaye’s 1965 album track “Me and My Lonely Room” — recorded in 1963 but held back – was initially credited to Whitfield alone but is now credited to Whitfield and Strong, in a strange inverse of the way “Money” initially had Strong’s credit but it was later removed. But whether this was an administrative decision made later, or whether Strong had been moonlighting for Motown uncredited in 1962 and collaborated with Whitfield, they hadn’t been a formal writing team in the way Whitfield and Holland had been, and both later seemed to date their collaboration proper as starting in 1966 when Strong returned to Motown — and understandably. The two songs they’d written earlier – if indeed they had – had been album filler, but between 1967 when the first of their new collaborations came out and 1972 when they split up, they wrote twenty-three top forty hits together. Theirs seems to have been a purely business relationship — in the few interviews with Strong he talks about Whitfield as someone he was friendly with, but Whitfield’s comments on Strong seem always to be the kind of very careful comments one would make about someone for whom one has a great deal of professional respect, a great deal of personal dislike, but absolutely no wish to air the dirty laundry behind that dislike, or to burn bridges that don’t need burning. Either way, Whitfield was in need of a songwriting partner when Barrett Strong walked into a Motown rehearsal room, and recognised that Strong’s talents were complementary to his. So he told Strong, straight out, “I’ve had quite a few hit records already. If you write with me, I can guarantee you you’ll make at least a hundred thousand dollars a year” — though he went on to emphasise that that wasn’t a guarantee-guarantee, and would depend on Strong putting the work in. Strong agreed, and the first idea he brought in for his new team earned both of them more than that hundred thousand dollars by itself. Strong had been struck by the common phrase “I heard it through the grapevine”, and started singing that line over some Ray Charles style gospel chords. Norman Whitfield knew a hook when he heard one, and quickly started to build a full song around Strong’s line. Initially, by at least some accounts, they wanted to place the song with the Isley Brothers, who had just signed to Motown and had a hit with the Holland-Dozier-Holland song “This Old Heart of Mine”: [Excerpt: The Isley Brothers, “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You)”] For whatever reason, the Isley Brothers didn’t record the song, or if they did no copy of the recording has ever surfaced, though it does seem perfectly suited to their gospel-inflected style. The Isleys did, though, record another early Whitfield and Strong song, “That’s the Way Love Is”, which came out in 1967 as a flop single, but would later be covered more successfully by Marvin Gaye: [Excerpt: The Isley Brothers, “That’s the Way Love Is”] Instead, the song was first recorded by the Miracles. And here the story becomes somewhat murky. We have a recording by the Miracles, released on an album two years later, but some have suggested that that version isn’t the same recording they made in 1966 when Whitfield and Strong wrote the song originally: [Excerpt: Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”] It certainly sounds to my ears like that is probably the version of the song the group recorded in 66 — it sounds, frankly, like a demo for the later, more famous version. All the main elements are there — notably the main Ray Charles style hook played simultaneously on Hammond organ and electric piano, and the almost skanking rhythm guitar stabs — but Smokey Robinson’s vocal isn’t *quite* passionate enough, the tempo is slightly off, and the drums don’t have the same cavernous rack tom sound that they have in the more famous version. If you weren’t familiar with the eventual hit, it would sound like a classic Motown track, but as it is it’s missing something… [Excerpt: Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”] According to at least some sources, that was presented to the quality control team — the team in which Whitfield had started his career, as a potential single, but they dismissed it. It wasn’t a hit, and Berry Gordy said it was one of the worst songs he’d ever heard. But Whitfield knew the song was a hit, and so he went back into the studio and cut a new backing track: [Excerpt: Marvin Gaye, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine (backing track only)”] (Incidentally, no official release of the instrumental backing track for “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” exists, and I had to put that one together myself by taking the isolated parts someone had uploaded to youtube and synching them back together in editing software, so if there are some microsecond-level discrepancies between the instruments there, that’s on me, not on the Funk Brothers.) That track was originally intended for the Temptations, with whom Whitfield was making a series of hits at the time, but they never recorded it at the time. Whitfield did produce a version for them as an album track a couple of years later though, so we have an idea how they might have taken the song vocally — though by then David Ruffin had been replaced in the group by Dennis Edwards: [Excerpt: The Temptations, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”] But instead of giving the song to the Temptations, Whitfield kept it back for Marvin Gaye, the singer with whom he’d had his first big breakthrough hit and for whom his two previous collaborations with Strong – if collaborations they were – had been written. Gaye and Whitfield didn’t get on very well — indeed, it seems that Whitfield didn’t get on very well with *anyone* — and Gaye would later complain about the occasions when Whitfield produced his records, saying “Norman and I came within a fraction of an inch of fighting. He thought I was a prick because I wasn’t about to be intimidated by him. We clashed. He made me sing in keys much higher than I was used to. He had me reaching for notes that caused my throat veins to bulge.” But Gaye sang the song fantastically, and Whitfield was absolutely certain they had a sure-fire hit: [Excerpt: Marvin Gaye, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”] But once again the quality control department refused to release the track. Indeed, it was Berry Gordy personally who decided, against the wishes of most of the department by all accounts, that instead of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” Gaye’s next single should be a Holland-Dozier-Holland track, “Your Unchanging Love”, a soundalike rewrite of their earlier hit for him, “How Sweet It Is”. “Your Unchanging Love” made the top thirty, but was hardly a massive success. Gordy has later claimed that he always liked “Grapevine” but just thought it was a bit too experimental for Gaye’s image at the time, but reports from others who were there say that what Gordy actually said was “it sucks”. So “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” was left on the shelf, and the first fruit of the new Whitfield/Strong team to actually get released was “Gonna Give Her All the Love I’ve Got”, written for Jimmy Ruffin, the brother of Temptations lead singer David, who had had one big hit, “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” and one medium one, “I’ve Passed This Way Before”, in 1966. Released in 1967, “Gonna Give Her All the Love I’ve Got” became Ruffin’s third and final hit, making number 29: [Excerpt: Jimmy Ruffin, “Gonna Give Her All the Love I’ve Got”] But Whitfield was still certain that “Grapevine” could be a hit. And then in 1967, a few months after he’d shelved Gaye’s version, came the record that changed everything in soul: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, “Respect”] Whitfield was astounded by that record, but also became determined he was going to “out-funk Aretha”, and “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” was going to be the way to do it. And he knew someone who thought she could do just that. Gladys Knight never got on well with Aretha Franklin. According to Knight’s autobiography this was one-sided on Franklin’s part, and Knight was always friendly to Franklin, but it’s also notable that she says the same about several other of the great sixties female soul singers (though not all of them by any means), and there seems to be a general pattern among those singers that they felt threatened by each other and that their own position in the industry was precarious, in a way the male singers usually didn’t. But Knight claimed she always *wished* she got on well with Franklin, because the two had such similar lives. They’d both started out singing gospel as child performers before moving on to the chitlin circuit at an early age, though Knight started her singing career even younger than Franklin did. Knight was only four when she started performing solos in church, and by the age of eight she had won the two thousand dollar top prize on Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour by singing Brahms’ “Lullaby” and the Nat “King” Cole hit “Too Young”: [Excerpt: Nat “King” Cole, “Too Young”] That success inspired her, and she soon formed a vocal group with her brother Bubba, sister Brenda and their cousins William and Eleanor Guest. They named themselves the Pips in honour of a cousin whose nickname that was, and started performing at talent contests in Atlanta Chitlin’ Circuit venues. They soon got a regular gig at one of them, the Peacock, despite them all being pre-teens at the time. The Pips also started touring, and came to the attention of Maurice King, the musical director of the Flame nightclub in Detroit, who became a vocal coach for the group. King got the group signed to Brunswick records, where they released their first single, a song King had written called “Whistle My Love”: [Excerpt: The Pips, “Whistle My Love”] According to Knight that came out in 1955, when she was eleven, but most other sources have it coming out in 1958. The group’s first two singles flopped, and Brenda and Eleanor quit the group, being replaced by another cousin, Edward Patten, and an unrelated singer Langston George, leaving Knight as the only girl in the quintet. While the group weren’t successful on records, they were getting a reputation live and toured on package tours with Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and others. Knight also did some solo performances with a jazz band led by her music teacher, and started dating that band’s sax player, Jimmy Newman. The group’s next recording was much more successful. They went into a makeshift studio owned by a local club owner, Fats Hunter, and recorded what they thought was a demo, a version of the Johnny Otis song “Every Beat of My Heart”: [Excerpt: The Pips, “Every Beat of My Heart (HunTom version)”] The first they knew that Hunter had released that on his own small label was when they heard it on the radio. The record was picked up by VeeJay records, and it ended up going to number one on the R&B charts and number six on the pop charts, but they never saw any royalties from it. It brought them to the attention of another small label, Fury Records, which got them to rerecord the song, and that version *also* made the R&B top twenty and got as high as number forty-five on the pop charts: [Excerpt: Gladys Knight and the Pips, “Every Beat of My Heart (Fury version)”] However, just because they had a contract with Fury didn’t mean they actually got any more money, and Knight has talked about the label’s ownership being involved with gangsters. That was the first recording to be released as by “Gladys Knight and the Pips”, rather than just The Pips, and they would release a few more singles on Fury, including a second top twenty pop hit, the Don Covay song “Letter Full of Tears”: [Excerpt: Gladys Knight and the Pips, “Letter Full of Tears”] But Knight had got married to Newman, who was by now the group’s musical director, after she fell pregnant when she was sixteen and he was twenty. However, that first pregnancy tragically ended in miscarriage, and when she became pregnant again she decided to get off the road to reduce the risk. She spent a couple of years at home, having two children, while the other Pips – minus George who left soon after – continued without her to little success. But her marriage was starting to deteriorate under pressure of Newman’s drug use — they wouldn’t officially divorce until 1972, but they were already feeling the pressure, and would split up sooner rather than later — and Knight  returned to the stage, initially as a solo artist or duetting with Jerry Butler, but soon rejoining the Pips, who by this time were based in New York and working with the choreographer Cholly Atkins to improve their stagecraft. For the next few years the Pips drifted from label to label, scoring one more top forty hit in 1964 with Van McCoy’s “Giving Up”, but generally just getting by like so many other acts on the circuit. Eventually the group ended up moving to Detroit, and hooking up with Motown, where mentors like Cholly Atkins and Maurice King were already working. At first they thought they were taking a step up, but they soon found that they were a lower tier Motown act, considered on a par with the Spinners or the Contours rather than the big acts, and according to Knight they got pulled off an early Motown package tour because Diana Ross, with whom like Franklin Knight had something of a rivalry, thought they were too good on stage and were in danger of overshadowing her. Knight says in her autobiography that they “formed a little club of our own with some of the other malcontents” with Martha Reeves, Marvin Gaye, and someone she refers to as “Ivory Joe Hunter” but I presume she means Ivy Jo Hunter (one of the big problems when dealing with R&B musicians of this era is the number of people with similar names. Ivy Jo Hunter, Joe Hunter, and Ivory Joe Hunter were all R&B musicians for whom keyboard was their primary instrument, and both Ivy Jo and just plain Joe worked for Motown at different points, but Ivory Joe never did) Norman Whitfield was also part of that group of “malcontents”, and he was also the producer of the Pips’ first few singles for Motown, and so when he was looking for someone to outdo Aretha, someone with something to prove, he turned to them. He gave the group the demo tape, and they worked out a vocal arrangement for a radically different version of the song, one inspired by “Respect”: [Excerpt: Gladys Knight and the Pips, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”] The third time was the charm, and quality control finally agreed to release “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” as a single. Gladys Knight always claimed it had no promotion, but Norman Whitfield’s persistence had paid off — the single went to number two on the pop charts (kept off the top by “Daydream Believer”), number one on the R&B charts, and became Motown’s biggest-selling single *ever* up until that point. It also got Knight a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female — though the Grammy committee, at least, didn’t think she’d out-Aretha’d Aretha, as “Respect” won the award. And that, sadly, sort of summed up Gladys Knight and the Pips at Motown — they remained not quite the winners in everything. There’s no shame in being at number two behind a classic single like “Daydream Believer”, and certainly no shame in losing the Grammy to Aretha Franklin at her best, but until they left Motown in 1972 and started their run of hits on Buddah records, Gladys Knight and the Pips would always be in other people’s shadow. That even extended to “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” when, as we’ll hear in part two of this story, Norman Whitfield’s persistence paid off, Marvin Gaye’s version got released as a single, and *that* became the biggest-selling single on Motown ever, outselling the Pips version and making it forever his song, not theirs. And as a final coda to the story of Gladys Knight and the Pips at Motown, while they were touring off the back of “Grapevine’s” success, the Pips ran into someone they vaguely knew from his time as a musician in the fifties, who was promoting a group he was managing made up of his sons. Knight thought they had something, and got in touch with Motown several times trying to get them to sign the group, but she was ignored. After a few attempts, though, Bobby Taylor of another second-tier Motown group, the Vancouvers, also saw them and got in touch with Motown, and this time they got signed. But that story wasn’t good enough for Motown, and so neither Taylor nor Knight got the credit for discovering the group. Instead when Joe Jackson’s sons’ band made their first album, it was titled Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5. But that, of course, is a story for another time… ... Read more

07 May 2024

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07 May 2024


#223

An Alert: Someone Plagiarising Me

Transcript The next proper episode will be up in a couple of days – I’m recording it tonight – but I just wanted to make a brief announcement. It has recently been brought to my attention that the French language podcast Un dernier disque avant la fin du monde has, for nearly two years, been making French-language versions of my podcast without giving me credit (the episodes before that don’t seem to be ripped off from me), and has been monetising them on Patreon – including making his own French-language versions of some of my Patreon bonuses. This is not a case of someone just taking inspiration from my work. It’s not someone doing episodes on the same songs and possibly leaning a little too heavily on me as a source. That kind of thing is forgivable. This is someone who has been doing word-for-word translations, without my permission, and without crediting me or even notifying me, and posting them as his own work. As far as my schoolboy French indicates he’s not even lightly paraphrasing. He clearly listens to my podcast, so I am going to give him until Monday to take all those episodes down and post an apology before I contact a lawyer. I’m posting this publicly so that anyone who has been listening to his show and wondering about the similarity, or listening in the belief I authorised his work, knows that this is the work of a plagiarist, not something I’ve endorsed in any way. And if anyone *wants* to do translated versions of my work, they can contact me and make proper arrangements. I put too much time and effort into my job to have someone pass my work off as theirs without a fight. ... Read more

03 May 2024

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03 May 2024


#222

Song 173: “All Along the Watchtower” Part Two, The Hour is Getting Late

For those who haven’t heard  [the announcement I posted] (https://500songs.com/podcast/announcement-regarding-schedule/) , songs from this point on will sometimes be split among multiple episodes, so this is the second part of a two-episode look at the song “All Along the Watchtower”. [Part one] (https://500songs.com/podcast/song-173-all-along-the-watchtower-part-one-hes-not-the-messiah/#more-2077) was on the original version by Bob Dylan, while this part is on Jimi Hendrix’s cover version. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a half-hour bonus episode, [on “Games People Play” by Joe South] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/102130696) . Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at  [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust)  and  [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) Errata: I mispronounce Ed Chalpin’s name as Halpin for most of the episode. And towards the end I say “January the 28th 1969” when I meant 1970 [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/song-173-all-along-the-watchtower-part-two-the-hour-is-getting-late/#more-2098) ... Read more

14 Apr 2024

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14 Apr 2024


#221

Song 173: “All Along the Watchtower”, Part One: “He’s Not the Messiah”

For those who haven’t heard  [the announcement I posted] (https://500songs.com/podcast/announcement-regarding-schedule/) , songs from this point on will sometimes be split among multiple episodes, so this is the first of a two-episode look at the song “All Along the Watchtower”. This one is on the original version by Bob Dylan, while part two will be on Jimi Hendrix’s cover version. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a half-hour bonus episode, [on “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” by Arlo Guthrie] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/101039277) . Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at  [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust)  and  [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/song-173-all-along-the-watchtower-part-one-hes-not-the-messiah/#more-2077) ... Read more

25 Mar 2024

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25 Mar 2024


#220

Song 172, Hickory Wind by the Byrds: Part 4, Hour of Darkness

For those who haven’t heard  [the announcement I just posted] (https://500songs.com/podcast/announcement-regarding-schedule/) , songs from this point on will sometimes be split among multiple episodes, so this is the fourth and final part of a four-episode look at the Byrds in 1966-69 and the birth of country rock, this time mostly focused on what Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman did after leaving the band. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a twenty-minute bonus episode, [on “The Dark End of the Street” by James Carr] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/99523387) . Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at  [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust)  and  [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/song-172-hickory-wind-by-the-byrds-part-4-hour-of-darkness/#more-2061) ... Read more

01 Mar 2024

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01 Mar 2024


#219

Song 172, Hickory Wind by the Byrds: Part 3, The Parsons Tale

For those who haven’t heard [the announcement I just posted] (https://500songs.com/podcast/announcement-regarding-schedule/) , songs from this point on will sometimes be split among multiple episodes, so this is the third part of a four-episode look at the Byrds in 1966-69 and the birth of country rock. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a half-hour bonus episode, [on “Fire” by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/98565591) . Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at  [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust)  and  [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/song-172-hickory-wind-by-the-byrds-part-3-the-parsons-tale/#more-2043) ... Read more

16 Feb 2024

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16 Feb 2024


#218

Song 172, “Hickory Wind” by the Byrds: Part Two, Of Submarines and Second Generations

For those who haven’t heard  [the announcement I just posted] (https://500songs.com/podcast/announcement-regarding-schedule/) , songs from this point on will sometimes be split among multiple episodes, so this is the second part of a multi-episode look at the Byrds in 1966-69 and the birth of country rock. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a half-hour bonus episode, on “ [With a Little Help From My Friends” by Joe Cocker] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/97610541) . Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at  [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust)  and  [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/song-172-hickory-wind-by-the-byrds-part-two-of-submarines-and-second-generations/#more-2015) ... Read more

01 Feb 2024

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01 Feb 2024


#217

Song 172, “Hickory Wind” by the Byrds: Part One, Ushering in a New Dimension

For those who haven’t heard [the announcement I just posted] (https://500songs.com/podcast/announcement-regarding-schedule/) , songs from this point on will sometimes be split among multiple episodes, so this is the first part of a multi-episode look at the Byrds in 1966-69 and the birth of country rock. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a half-hour bonus episode [on “My World Fell Down” by Sagittarius] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/96679061) . Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at  [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust)  and  [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/song-172-hickory-wind-by-the-byrds-part-one-ushering-in-a-new-dimension/#more-1991) ... Read more

17 Jan 2024

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17 Jan 2024


#216

Announcement Regarding Schedule

This is just a brief announcement. The fact that I’ve released stuff so inconsistently over the last year, along with the last episode being so long that it actually caused problems for Tilt’s editing softwaere has caused me to reconsider how I’m breaking these episodes up. I have had very good reasons for making the episodes longer rather than doing multiple parts — we would have had episodes titled “White Light/White Heat”, “Eight Miles High”, and “Good Vibrations” which literally didn’t mention at all the bands they were ostensibly about, and people would have got very annoyed at listening to an episode supposedly about the Beach Boys and finding it was entirely about a Soviet inventor in the 1920s. But the balance has tipped the other way now. Things have got a bit ridiculous. So what I’m doing npw is I’m still writing the scripts the same way I always do, as one long narrative, but then once a script is finished I will break it into sections of about 5-10,000 words (somewhere in the 45-minute to ninety minute range) depending on where natural cliffhangers come, and I will release those parts fortnightly. There still might be gaps between the last part of the previous song and the first part of the next, but probably nothing like as long as they have been. The actual content will still be the same — just for example the Velvet Underground episode would have been split into three or four parts, with the first part ending with John Cale joining the story, and me saying “join us in two weeks time”.  But it’ll be broken up into more manageable parts which hopefully won’t cause Tilt’s editing software to explode, and if you like listening to it all in one go you can just wait until the final part of that story and then listen to it all. So today you’re going to get, not ‘Episode 172, “Hickory Wind” by the Byrds’, but ‘SONG 172: “Hickory Wind” by the Byrds: Part 1, Ushering in a New Dimension”, and then Song 172 part two two weeks later. I want to emphasise that this will still be *exactly the same content* as it would otherwise be. The stories will go on as long as they need to. Some will be a single episode, some will be three or four. But breaking it up like this should mean you get more consistent releases and I can get ahead. Indeed, it *might* mean I could go back to weekly episodes — I’ve averaged somewhere in the region of thirty thousand words per month last year on the main podcast, which would be four seven-thousand-word episodes — but I won’t even think about that unless I start to actually build up a backlog. The stories should be getting shorter anyway as we finally move out of the late sixties, so the rate of storytelling *should* get faster, but this way at least you’re going to get regular episodes. So listen to today’s episode, and then join me again in precisely two weeks as Gram Parsons joins the story. ... Read more

17 Jan 2024

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17 Jan 2024


#215

Episode 171: “Hey Jude” by the Beatles

Episode 171 looks at “Hey Jude”, the White Album, and the career of the Beatles from August 1967 through November 1968. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a fifty-seven-minute bonus episode available, on [“I Love You” by People!] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/500-songs-bonus-94751968) . Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at  [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust)  and  [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/episode-171-hey-jude-by-the-beatles/#more-1949) ... Read more

17 Dec 2023

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17 Dec 2023


#214

Episode 170: “Astral Weeks” by Van Morrison

Episode 170 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Astral Weeks”, the early solo career of Van Morrison, and the death of Bert Berns.  Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a forty-minute bonus episode available, on [ “Stoned Soul Picnic” by Laura Nyro] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/500-songs-bonus-92587665) . Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at  [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust)  and  [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/episode-170-astral-weeks-by-van-morrison/#more-1927) ... Read more

21 Nov 2023

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21 Nov 2023


#213

Episode 169: “Piece of My Heart” by Big Brother and the Holding Company

Episode 169 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Piece of My Heart” and the short, tragic life of Janis Joplin. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a half-hour bonus episode available, [on “Spinning Wheel” by Blood, Sweat & Tears] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/500-songs-bonus-91858912?cid=120955477) . Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at  [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust)  and  [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/episode-169-piece-of-my-heart-by-big-brother-and-the-holding-company/#more-1905) ... Read more

30 Oct 2023

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30 Oct 2023


#212

Episode 168: “I Say a Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin

Episode 168 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “I Say a Little Prayer”, and the interaction of the sacred, political, and secular in Aretha Franklin's life and work. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a forty-five-minute bonus episode available, [on "Abraham, Martin, and John" by Dion] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/500-songs-bonus-89291028) . Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust) and [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) Errata I say the Gospelaires sang backing vocals on Doris Troy's "Just One Look". That's what the sources I used said, but other sources I've since been pointed to say that the vocals are all Troy, multi-tracked, and listening to the record that sounds more plausible. Also, I talk about ? and the Mysterians' "96 Tears" just after talking about white rock hits, but don't actually say they were white themselves. To be clear, ? and the Mysterians were Latino. Resources No Mixcloud this week, as there are too many songs by Aretha Franklin. Even splitting it into multiple parts would have required six or seven mixes. My main biographical source for Aretha Franklin is [Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklinby David Ritz] (https://amzn.to/3a43LlF) , and this is where most of the quotes from musicians come from. Information on C.L. Franklin came from [Singing in a Strange Land: C. L. Franklin, the Black Church, and the Transformation of America] (https://amzn.to/3Lw6zVS) by Nick Salvatore. [Country Soulby Charles L Hughes] (https://amzn.to/3lul5BR) is a great overview of the soul music made in Muscle Shoals, Memphis, and Nashville in the sixties. Peter Guralnick’s [Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm And Blues And The Southern Dream Of Freedom] (https://amzn.to/38C4Voo) is possibly less essential, but still definitely worth reading. Information about Martin Luther King came from [Martin Luther King: A Religious Life by Paul Harvey.] (https://amzn.to/3PW3EeH) I also referred to Burt Bacharach's autobiography [Anyone Who Had a Heart,] (https://amzn.to/3taxcMB) Carole King's autobiography [A Natural Woman] (https://amzn.to/46q1SYz) , and [Soul Serenade: King Curtis and his Immortal Saxophone by Timothy R. Hoover] (https://amzn.to/46rOFOP) . For information about Amazing Grace I also used [Aaron Cohen's 33 1/3 book on the album] (https://amzn.to/453YXUk) . [The film of the concerts] (https://amzn.to/46jDNCG) is also definitely worth watching. And the Aretha Now album is available in [this five-album box set] (https://amzn.to/3Lw6XUk) for a ludicrously cheap price. But it’s actually worth getting [this nineteen-CD set] (https://amzn.to/3MC1sod) with her first sixteen Atlantic albums and a couple of bonus discs of demos and outtakes. There’s barely a duff track in the whole nineteen discs. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of [my backers on Patreon] (http://patreon.com/join/andrewhickey) . Why not join them? Transcript A quick warning before I begin. This episode contains some moderate references to domestic abuse, death by cancer, racial violence, police violence, and political assassination. Anyone who might be upset by those subjects might want to check the transcript rather than listening to the episode. Also, as with the previous episode on Aretha Franklin, this episode presents something of a problem. Like many people in this narrative, Franklin's career was affected by personal troubles, which shaped many of her decisions. But where most of the subjects of the podcast have chosen to live their lives in public and share intimate details of every aspect of their personal lives, Franklin was an extremely private person, who chose to share only carefully sanitised versions of her life, and tried as far as possible to keep things to herself. This of course presents a dilemma for anyone who wants to tell her story -- because even though the information is out there in biographies, and even though she's dead, it's not right to disrespect someone's wish for a private life. I have therefore tried, wherever possible, to stay away from talk of her personal life except where it *absolutely* affects the work, or where other people involved have publicly shared their own stories, and even there I've tried to keep it to a minimum. This will occasionally lead to me saying less about some topics than other people might, even though the information is easily findable, because I don't think we have an absolute right to invade someone else's privacy for entertainment. When we left Aretha Franklin, she had just finally broken through into the mainstream after a decade of performing, with a version of Otis Redding's song "Respect" on which she had been backed by her sisters, Erma and Carolyn. "Respect", in Franklin's interpretation, had been turned from a rather chauvinist song about a man demanding respect from his woman into an anthem of feminism, of Black power, and of a new political awakening. For white people of a certain generation, the summer of 1967 was "the summer of love". For many Black people, it was rather different. There's a quote that goes around (I've seen it credited in reliable sources to both Ebony and Jet magazine, but not ever seen an issue cited, so I can't say for sure where it came from) saying that the summer of 67 was the summer of "'retha, Rap, and revolt", referring to the trifecta of Aretha Franklin, the Black power leaderJamil Abdullah al-Amin (who was at the time known as H. Rap Brown, a name he later disclaimed) and the rioting that broke out in several major cities, particularly in Detroit: [Excerpt: John Lee Hooker, "The Motor City is Burning"] The mid sixties were, in many ways, the high point not of Black rights in the US -- for the most part there has been a lot of progress in civil rights in the intervening decades, though not without inevitable setbacks and attacks from the far right, and as movements like the Black Lives Matter movement have shown there is still a long way to go -- but of *hope* for Black rights. The moral force of the arguments made by the civil rights movement were starting to cause real change to happen for Black people in the US for the first time since the Reconstruction nearly a century before. But those changes weren't happening fast enough, and as we heard in the episode on "I Was Made to Love Her", there was not only a growing unrest among Black people, but a recognition that it was actually possible for things to change. A combination of hope and frustration can be a powerful catalyst, and whether Franklin wanted it or not, she was at the centre of things, both because of her newfound prominence as a star with a hit single that couldn't be interpreted as anything other than a political statement and because of her intimate family connections to the struggle. Even the most racist of white people these days pays lip service to the memory of Dr Martin Luther King, and when they do they quote just a handful of sentences from one speech King made in 1963, as if that sums up the full theological and political philosophy of that most complex of men. And as we discussed the last time we looked at Aretha Franklin, King gave versions of that speech, the "I Have a Dream" speech, twice. The most famous version was at the March on Washington, but the first time was a few weeks earlier, at what was at the time the largest civil rights demonstration in American history, in Detroit. Aretha's family connection to that event is made clear by the very opening of King's speech: [Excerpt: Martin Luther King, "Original 'I Have a Dream' Speech"] So as summer 1967 got into swing, and white rock music was going to San Francisco to wear flowers in its hair, Aretha Franklin was at the centre of a very different kind of youth revolution. Franklin's second Atlantic album, Aretha Arrives, brought in some new personnel to the team that had recorded Aretha's first album for Atlantic. Along with the core Muscle Shoals players Jimmy Johnson, Spooner Oldham, Tommy Cogbill and Roger Hawkins, and a horn section led by King Curtis, Wexler and Dowd also brought in guitarist Joe South. South was a white session player from Georgia, who had had a few minor hits himself in the fifties -- he'd got his start recording a cover version of "The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor", the Big Bopper's B-side to "Chantilly Lace": [Excerpt: Joe South, "The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor"] He'd also written a few songs that had been recorded by people like Gene Vincent, but he'd mostly become a session player. He'd become a favourite musician of Bob Johnston's, and so he'd played guitar on Simon and Garfunkel's Sounds of Silence and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme albums: [Excerpt: Simon and Garfunkel, "I am a Rock"] and bass on Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, with Al Kooper particularly praising his playing on "Visions of Johanna": [Excerpt: Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"] South would be the principal guitarist on this and Franklin's next album, before his own career took off in 1968 with "Games People Play": [Excerpt: Joe South, "Games People Play"]At this point, he had already written the other song he's best known for, "Hush", which later became a hit for Deep Purple: [Excerpt: Deep Purple, "Hush"] But he wasn't very well known, and was surprised to get the call for the Aretha Franklin session, especially because, as he put it "I was white and I was about to play behind the blackest genius since Ray Charles" But Jerry Wexler had told him that Franklin didn't care about the race of the musicians she played with, and South settled in as soon as Franklin smiled at him when he played a good guitar lick on her version of the blues standard "Going Down Slow": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Going Down Slow"] That was one of the few times Franklin smiled in those sessions though. Becoming an overnight success after years of trying and failing to make a name for herself had been a disorienting experience, and on top of that things weren't going well in her personal life. Her marriage to her manager Ted White was falling apart, and she was performing erratically thanks to the stress. In particular, at a gig in Georgia she had fallen off the stage and broken her arm. She soon returned to performing, but it meant she had problems with her right arm during the recording of the album, and didn't play as much piano as she would have previously -- on some of the faster songs she played only with her left hand. But the recording sessions had to go on, whether or not Aretha was physically capable of playing piano. As we discussed in the episode on Otis Redding, the owners of Atlantic Records were busily negotiating its sale to Warner Brothers in mid-1967. As Wexler said later“Everything in me said, Keep rolling, keep recording, keep the hits coming. She was red hot and I had no reason to believe that the streak wouldn’t continue. I knew that it would be foolish—and even irresponsible—not to strike when the iron was hot. I also had personal motivation. A Wall Street financier had agreed to see what we could get for Atlantic Records. While Ahmet and Neshui had not agreed on a selling price, they had gone along with my plan to let the financier test our worth on the open market. I was always eager to pump out hits, but at this moment I was on overdrive. In this instance, I had a good partner in Ted White, who felt the same. He wanted as much product out there as possible." In truth, you can tell from Aretha Arrives that it's a record that was being thought of as "product" rather than one being made out of any kind of artistic impulse. It's a fine album -- in her ten-album run from I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You through Amazing Grace there's not a bad album and barely a bad track -- but there's a lack of focus. There are only two originals on the album, neither of them written by Franklin herself, and the rest is an incoherent set of songs that show the tension between Franklin and her producers at Atlantic. Several songs are the kind of standards that Franklin had recorded for her old label Columbia, things like "You Are My Sunshine", or her version of "That's Life", which had been a hit for Frank Sinatra the previous year: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "That's Life"] But mixed in with that are songs that are clearly the choice of Wexler. As we've discussed previously in episodes on Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett, at this point Atlantic had the idea that it was possible for soul artists to cross over into the white market by doing cover versions of white rock hits -- and indeed they'd had some success with that tactic. So while Franklin was suggesting Sinatra covers, Atlantic's hand is visible in the choices of songs like "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "96 Tears": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "96 Tears'] Of the two originals on the album, one, the hit single "Baby I Love You" was written by Ronnie Shannon, the Detroit songwriter who had previously written "I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Baby I Love You"] As with the previous album, and several other songs on this one, that had backing vocals by Aretha's sisters, Erma and Carolyn. But the other original on the album,"Ain't Nobody (Gonna Turn Me Around)", didn't, even though it was written by Carolyn: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Ain't Nobody (Gonna Turn Me Around)"] To explain why, let's take a little detour and look at the co-writer of the song this episode is about, though we're not going to get to that for a little while yet. We've not talked much about Burt Bacharach in this series so far, but he's one of those figures who has come up a few times in the periphery and will come up again, so here is as good a time as any to discuss him, and bring everyone up to speed about his career up to 1967. Bacharach was one of the more privileged figures in the sixties pop music field. His father, Bert Bacharach (pronounced the same as his son, but spelled with an e rather than a u) had been a famous newspaper columnist, and his parents had bought him a Steinway grand piano to practice on -- they pushed him to learn the piano even though as a kid he wasn't interested in finger exercises and Debussy. What he was interested in, though, was jazz, and as a teenager he would often go into Manhattan and use a fake ID to see people like Dizzy Gillespie, who he idolised, and in his autobiography he talks rapturously of seeing Gillespie playing his bent trumpet -- he once saw Gillespie standing on a street corner with a pet monkey on his shoulder, and went home and tried to persuade his parents to buy him a monkey too. In particular, he talks about seeing the Count Basie band with Sonny Payne on drums as a teenager: [Excerpt: Count Basie, "Kid From Red Bank"] He saw them at Birdland, the club owned by Morris Levy where they would regularly play, and said of the performance "they were just soincredibly exciting that all of a sudden, I got into music in a way Inever had before. What I heard in those clubs really turned my headaround— it was like a big breath of fresh air when somebody throwsopen a window. That was when I knew for the first time how much Iloved music and wanted to be connected to it in some way." Of course, there's a rather major problem with this story, as there is so often with narratives that musicians tell about their early career. In this case, Birdland didn't open until 1949, when Bacharach was twenty-one and stationed inGermany for his military service, while Sonny Payne didn't join Basie's band until 1954, when Bacharach had been a professional musician for many years. Also Dizzy Gillespie's trumpet bell only got bent on January 6, 1953. But presumably while Bacharach was conflating several memories, he did have some experience in some New York jazz club that led him to want to become a musician. Certainly there were enough great jazz musicians playing the clubs in those days. He went to McGill University to study music for two years, then went to study with Darius Milhaud, a hugely respected modernist composer. Milhaud was also one of the most important music teachers of the time -- among others he'd taught Stockhausen and Xenakkis, and would go on to teach Philip Glass and Steve Reich. This suited Bacharach, who by this point was a big fan of Schoenberg and Webern, and was trying to write atonal, difficult music. But Milhaud had also taught Dave Brubeck, and when Bacharach rather shamefacedly presented him with a composition which had an actual tune, he told Bacharach "Never be ashamed of writing a tune you can whistle". He dropped out of university and, like most men of his generation, had to serve in the armed forces. When he got out of the army, he continued his musical studies, still trying to learn to be an avant-garde composer, this time withBohuslav Martinů and later with Henry Cowell, the experimental composer we've heard about quite a bit in previous episodes: [Excerpt: Henry Cowell, "Aeolian Harp and Sinister Resonance"] He was still listening to a lot of avant garde music, and would continue doing so throughout the fifties, going to see people like John Cage. But he spent much of that time working in music that was very different from the avant-garde. He got a job as the band leader for the crooner Vic Damone: [Excerpt: Vic Damone. "Ebb Tide"] He also played for the vocal group the Ames Brothers. He decided while he was working with the Ames Brothers that he could write better material than they were getting from their publishers, and that it would be better to have a job where he didn't have to travel, so he got himself a job as a staff songwriter in the Brill Building. He wrote a string of flops and nearly hits, starting with "Keep Me In Mind" for Patti Page: [Excerpt: Patti Page, "Keep Me In Mind"] From early in his career he worked with the lyricist Hal David, and the two of them together wrote two big hits, "Magic Moments" for Perry Como: [Excerpt: Perry Como, "Magic Moments"] and "The Story of My Life" for Marty Robbins: [Excerpt: "The Story of My Life"] But at that point Bacharach was still also writing with other writers, notably Hal David's brother Mack, with whom he wrote the theme tune to the film The Blob, as performed by The Five Blobs: [Excerpt: The Five Blobs, "The Blob"] But Bacharach's songwriting career wasn't taking off, and he got himself a job as musical director for Marlene Dietrich -- a job he kept even after it did start to take off. Part of the problem was that he intuitively wrote music that didn't quite fit into standard structures -- there would be odd bars of unusual time signatures thrown in, unusual harmonies, and structural irregularities -- but then he'd take feedback from publishers and producers who would tell him the song could only be recorded if he straightened it out. He said later "The truth isthat I ruined a lot of songs by not believing in myself enough to tellthese guys they were wrong." He started writing songs for Scepter Records, usually with Hal David, but also with Bob Hilliard and Mack David, and started having R&B hits. One song he wrote with Mack David, "I'll Cherish You", had the lyrics rewritten by Luther Dixon to make them more harsh-sounding for a Shirelles single -- but the single was otherwise just Bacharach's demo with the vocals replaced, and you can even hear his voice briefly at the beginning: [Excerpt: The Shirelles, "Baby, It's You"] But he'd also started becoming interested in the production side of records more generally. He'd iced that some producers, when recording his songs, would change the sound for the worse -- he thought Gene McDaniels' version of "Tower of Strength", for example, was too fast. But on the other hand, other producers got a better sound than he'd heard in his head. He and Hilliard had written a song called "Please Stay", which they'd given to Leiber and Stoller to record with the Drifters, and he thought that their arrangement of the song was much better than the one he'd originally thought up: [Excerpt: The Drifters, "Please Stay"] He asked Leiber and Stoller if he could attend all their New York sessions and learn about record production from them. He started doing so, and eventually they started asking him to assist them on records. He and Hilliard wrote a song called "Mexican Divorce" for the Drifters, which Leiber and Stoller were going to produce, and as he put it "they were so busy running RedbirdRecords that they asked me to rehearse the background singers for themin my office." [Excerpt: The Drifters, "Mexican Divorce"] The backing singers who had been brought in to augment the Drifters on that record were a group of vocalists who had started out as members of a gospel group called the Drinkard singers: [Excerpt: The Drinkard Singers, "Singing in My Soul"] The Drinkard Singers had originally been a family group, whose members included Cissy Drinkard, who joined the group aged five (and who on her marriage would become known as Cissy Houston -- her daughter Whitney would later join the family business), her aunt Lee Warrick, and Warrick's adopted daughter Judy Clay. That group were discovered by the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, and spent much of the fifties performing with gospel greats including Jackson herself, Clara Ward, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. But Houston was also the musical director of a group at her church, the Gospelaires, which featured Lee Warrick's two daughtersDionne and Dee Dee Warwick (for those who don't know, the Warwick sisters' birth name was Warrick, spelled with two rs. A printing error led to it being misspelled the same way as the British city on a record label, and from that point on Dionne at least pronounced the w in her misspelled name). And slowly, the Gospelaires rather than the Drinkard Singers became the focus, with a lineup of Houston, the Warwick sisters, the Warwick sisters' cousin Doris Troy, and Clay's sisterSylvia Shemwell. The real change in the group's fortunes came when, as we talked about a while back in the episode on "The Loco-Motion", the original lineup of the Cookies largely stopped working as session singers to become Ray Charles' Raelettes. As we discussed in that episode, a new lineup of Cookies formed in 1961, but it took a while for them to get started, and in the meantime the producers who had been relying on them for backing vocals were looking elsewhere, and they looked to the Gospelaires. "Mexican Divorce" was the first record to feature the group as backing vocalists -- though reports vary as to how many of them are on the record, with some saying it's only Troy and the Warwicks, others saying Houston was there, and yet others saying it was all five of them. Some of these discrepancies were because these singers were so good that many of them left to become solo singers in fairly short order.Troy was the first to do so, with her hit "Just One Look", on which the other Gospelaires sang backing vocals: [Excerpt: Doris Troy, "Just One Look"] But the next one to go solo was Dionne Warwick, and that was because she'd started working with Bacharach and Hal David as their principal demo singer. She started singing lead on their demos, and hoping that she'd get to release them on her own. One early one was "Make it Easy On Yourself", which was recorded by Jerry Butler, formerly of the Impressions. That record was produced by Bacharach, one of the first records he produced without outside supervision: [Excerpt: Jerry Butler, "Make it Easy On Yourself"] Warwick was very jealous that a song she'd sung the demo of had become a massive hit for someone else, and blamed Bacharach and David. The way she tells the story -- Bacharach always claimed this never happened, but as we've already seen he was himself not always the most reliable of narrators of his own life -- she got so angry she complained to them, and said "Don't make me over, man!" And so Bacharach and David wrote her this: [Excerpt: Dionne Warwick, "Don't Make Me Over"] Incidentally, in the UK, the hit version of that was a cover by the Swinging Blue Jeans: [Excerpt: The Swinging Blue Jeans, "Don't Make Me Over"] who also had a huge hit with "You're No Good": [Excerpt: The Swinging Blue Jeans, "You're No Good"] And *that* was originally recorded by *Dee Dee* Warwick: [Excerpt: Dee Dee Warwick, "You're No Good"] Dee Dee also had a successful solo career, but Dionne's was the real success, making the names of herself, and of Bacharach and David. The team had more than twenty top forty hits together, before Bacharach and David had a falling out in 1971 and stopped working together, and Warwick sued both of them for breach of contract as a result. But prior to that they had hit after hit, with classic records like "Anyone Who Had a Heart": [Excerpt: Dionne Warwick, "Anyone Who Had a Heart"] And "Walk On By": [Excerpt: Dionne Warwick, "Walk On By"] With Doris, Dionne, and Dee Dee all going solo, the group's membership was naturally in flux -- though the departed members would occasionally join their former bandmates for sessions, and the remaining members would sing backing vocals on their ex-members' records. By 1965 the group consisted of Cissy Houston, Sylvia Shemwell, the Warwick sisters' cousin Myrna Smith, and Estelle Brown. The group became *the* go-to singers for soul and R&B records made in New York. They were regularly hired by Leiber and Stoller to sing on their records, and they were also the particular favourites of Bert Berns. They sang backing vocals on almost every record he produced. It's them doing the gospel wails on "Cry Baby" by Garnet Mimms: [Excerpt: Garnet Mimms, "Cry Baby"] And they sang backing vocals on both versions of "If You Need Me" -- Wilson Pickett's original and Solomon Burke's more successful cover version, produced by Berns: [Excerpt: Solomon Burke, "If You Need Me"] They're on such Berns records as "Show Me Your Monkey", by Kenny Hamber: [Excerpt: Kenny Hamber, "Show Me Your Monkey"] And it was a Berns production that ended up getting them to be Aretha Franklin's backing group. The group were becoming such an important part of the records that Atlantic and BANG Records, in particular, were putting out, that Jerry Wexler said "it was only a matter of common decency to put them under contract as a featured group". He signed them to Atlantic and renamed them from the Gospelaires to The Sweet Inspirations. Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham wrote a song for the group which became their only hit under their own name: [Excerpt: The Sweet Inspirations, "Sweet Inspiration"] But to start with, they released a cover of Pops Staples' civil rights song "Why (Am I treated So Bad)": [Excerpt: The Sweet Inspirations, "Why (Am I Treated So Bad?)"] That hadn't charted, and meanwhile, they'd all kept doing session work. Cissy had joined Erma and Carolyn Franklin on the backing vocals for Aretha's "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin,"I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You"] Shortly after that, the whole group recorded backing vocals for Erma's single "Piece of My Heart", co-written and produced by Berns: [Excerpt: Erma Franklin, "Piece of My Heart"] That became a top ten record on the R&B charts, but that caused problems. Aretha Franklin had a few character flaws, and one of these was an extreme level of jealousy for any other female singer who had any level of success and came up in the business after her. She could be incredibly graceful towards anyone who had been successful before her -- she once gave one of her Grammies away to Esther Phillips, who had been up for the same award and had lost to her -- but she was terribly insecure, and saw any contemporary as a threat. She'd spent her time at Columbia Records fuming (with some justification) that Barbra Streisand was being given a much bigger marketing budget than her, and she saw Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, and Dionne Warwick as rivals rather than friends. And that went doubly for her sisters, who she was convinced should be supporting her because of family loyalty. She had been infuriated at John Hammond when Columbia had signed Erma, thinking he'd gone behind her back to create competition for her. And now Erma was recording with Bert Berns. Bert Berns who had for years been a colleague of Jerry Wexler and the Ertegun brothers at Atlantic. Aretha was convinced that Wexler had put Berns up to signing Erma as some kind of power play. There was only one problem with this -- it simply wasn't true. As Wexler later explained“Bert and I had suffered a bad falling-out,even though I had enormous respect for him. After all, he was the guywho brought over guitarist Jimmy Page from England to play on oursessions. Bert, Ahmet, Nesuhi, and I had started a labeltogether—Bang!—where Bert produced Van Morrison’s first album.But Bert also had a penchant for trouble. He courted the wise guys. Hewanted total control over every last aspect of our business dealings.Finally it was too much, and the Erteguns and I let him go. He sued usfor breach of contract and suddenly we were enemies. I felt that hesigned Erma, an excellent singer, not merely for her talent but as away to get back at me. If I could make a hit with Aretha, he’d showme up by making an even bigger hit on Erma. Because there was alwaysan undercurrent of rivalry between the sisters, this only added to thetension.” There were two things that resulted from this paranoia on Aretha's part. The first was that she and Wexler, who had been on first-name terms up to that point, temporarily went back to being "Mr. Wexler" and "Miss Franklin" to each other. And the second was that Aretha no longer wanted Carolyn and Erma to be her main backing vocalists, though they would continue to appear on her future records on occasion. From this point on, the Sweet Inspirations would be the main backing vocalists for Aretha in the studio throughout her golden era [xxcut line (and when the Sweet Inspirations themselves weren't on the record, often it would be former members of the group taking their place)]: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin,"Ain't Nobody (Gonna Turn Me Around)"] The last day of sessions for Aretha Arrives was July the twenty-third, 1967. And as we heard in the episode on "I Was Made to Love Her", that was the day that the Detroit riots started. To recap briefly, that was four days of rioting started because of a history of racist policing, made worse by those same racist police overreacting to the initial protests. By the end of those four days, the National Guard,82nd Airborne Division, and the 101st Airborne from Clarksville were all called in to deal with the violence, which left forty-three dead (of whom thirty-three were Black and only one was a police officer),1,189 people were injured, and over 7,200 arrested, almost all of them Black. Those days in July would be a turning point for almost every musician based in Detroit. In particular, the police had murdered three members of the soul group the Dramatics, in a massacre of which the author John Hersey, who had been asked by President Johnson to be part of theNational Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders but had decided that would compromise his impartiality and did an independent journalistic investigation, said "The episode contained all the mythic themes of racial strife in the United States: the arm of the law taking the law into its own hands; interracial sex; the subtle poison of racist thinking by “decent” men who deny they are racists; the societal limbo into which, ever since slavery, so many young black men have been driven by our country; ambiguous justice in the courts; and the devastation in both black and white human lives that follows in the wake of violence as surely as ruinous and indiscriminate flood after torrents" But these were also the events that radicalised the MC5 -- the group had been playing a gig as Tim Buckley's support act when the rioting started, and guitarist Wayne Kramer decided afterwards to get stoned and watch the fires burning down the city through a telescope -- which police mistook for a rifle, leading to the National Guard knocking down Kramer's door. The MC5 would later cover "The Motor City is Burning", John Lee Hooker's song about the events: [Excerpt: The MC5, "The Motor City is Burning"] It would also be a turning point for Motown, too, in ways we'll talk about in a few future episodes. And it was a political turning point too -- Michigan Governor George Romney, a liberal Republican (at a time when such people existed) had been the favourite for the Republican Presidential candidacy when he'd entered the race in December 1966, but as racial tensions ramped up in Detroit during the early months of 1967 he'd started trailing Richard Nixon, a man who was consciously stoking racists' fears. President Johnson, the incumbent Democrat, who was at that point still considering standing for re-election, made sure to make it clear to everyone during the riots that the decision to call in the National Guard had been made at the State level, by Romney, rather than at the Federal level. That wasn't the only thing that removed the possibility of a Romney presidency, but it was a big part of the collapse of his campaign, and the, as it turned out, irrevocable turn towards right-authoritarianism that the party took with Nixon's Southern Strategy. Of course, Aretha Franklin had little way of knowing what was to come and how the riots would change the city and the country over the following decades. What she was primarily concerned about was the safety of her father, and to a lesser extent that of her sister-in-law Earline who was staying with him. Aretha, Carolyn, and Erma all tried to keep in constant touch with their father while they were out of town, and Aretha even talked about hiring private detectives to travel to Detroit, find her father, and get him out of the city to safety. But as her brother Cecil pointed out, he was probably the single most loved man among Black people in Detroit, and was unlikely to be harmed by the rioters, while he was too famous for the police to kill with impunity. Reverend Franklin had been having a stressful time anyway -- he had recently been fined for tax evasion, an action he was convinced the IRS had taken because of his friendship with Dr King and his role in the civil rights movement -- and according to Cecil "Aretha begged Daddy to move out of the city entirely. She wanted him to find another congregation in California, where he was especially popular—or at least move out to the suburbs. But he wouldn’t budge. He said that, more than ever, he was needed to point out the root causes of the riots—the economic inequality, the pervasive racism in civic institutions, the woefully inadequate schools in inner-city Detroit, and the wholesale destruction of our neighborhoods by urban renewal. Some ministers fled the city, but not our father. The horror of what happened only recommitted him. He would not abandon his political agenda." To make things worse, Aretha was worried about her father in other ways -- as her marriage to Ted White was starting to disintegrate, she was looking to her father for guidance, and actually wanted him to take over her management. Eventually, Ruth Bowen, her booking agent, persuaded her brother Cecil that this was a job he could do, and that she would teach him everything he needed to know about the music business. She started training him up while Aretha was still married to White, in the expectation that that marriage couldn't last. Jerry Wexler, who only a few months earlier had been seeing Ted White as an ally in getting "product" from Franklin, had now changed his tune -- partly because the sale of Atlantic had gone through in the meantime. He later said “Sometimes she’d call me at night, and, in that barely audible little-girl voice of hers, she’d tell me that she wasn’t sure she could go on. She always spoke in generalities. She never mentioned her husband, never gave me specifics of who was doing what to whom. And of course I knew better than to ask. She just said that she was tired of dealing with so much. My heart went out to her. She was a woman who suffered silently. She held so much in. I’d tell her to take as much time off as she needed. We had a lot of songs in the can that we could release without new material. ‘Oh, no, Jerry,’ she’d say. ‘I can’t stop recording. I’ve written some new songs, Carolyn’s written some new songs. We gotta get in there and cut ’em.’ ‘Are you sure?’ I’d ask. ‘Positive,’ she’d say. I’d set up the dates and typically she wouldn’t show up for the first or second sessions. Carolyn or Erma would call me to say, ‘Ree’s under the weather.’ That was tough because we’d have asked people like Joe South and Bobby Womack to play on the sessions. Then I’d reschedule in the hopes she’d show." That third album she recorded in 1967, Lady Soul, was possibly her greatest achievement. The opening track, and second single, "Chain of Fools", released in November, was written by Don Covay -- or at least it's credited as having been written by Covay. There's a gospel record that came out around the same time on a very small label based in Houston -- "Pains of Life" byRev. E. Fair And The Sensational Gladys Davis Trio: [Excerpt:Rev. E. Fair And The Sensational Gladys Davis Trio, "Pains of Life"] I've seen various claims online that that record came out shortly *before* "Chain of Fools", but I can't find any definitive evidence one way or the other -- it was on such a small label that release dates aren't available anywhere. Given that the B-side, which I haven't been able to track down online, is called "Wait Until the Midnight Hour", my guess is that rather than this being a case of Don Covay stealing the melody from an obscure gospel record he'd have had little chance to hear, it's the gospel record rewriting a then-current hit to be about religion, but I thought it worth mentioning. The song was actually written by Covay after Jerry Wexler asked him to come up with some songs for Otis Redding, but Wexler, after hearing it, decided it was better suited to Franklin, who gave an astonishing performance: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Chain of Fools"] Arif Mardin, the arranger of the album, said of that track“I was listed as the arranger of ‘Chain of Fools,’ but I can’ttake credit. Aretha walked into the studio withthe chart fully formed inside her head. The arrangement is basedaround the harmony vocals provided by Carolyn and Erma. To add heft,the Sweet Inspirations joined in. The vision of the song is entirelyAretha’s.” According to Wexler, that's not *quite* true -- according to him, Joe South came up with the guitar part that makes up the intro, and he also said that when he played what he thought was the finished track to Ellie Greenwich, she came up with another vocal line for the backing vocals, which she overdubbed. But the core of the record's sound is definitely pure Aretha -- and Carolyn Franklin said that there was a reason for that. As she said later“Aretha didn’t write ‘Chain,’ but shemight as well have. It was her story. When we were in the studioputting on the backgrounds with Ree doing lead, I knew she was singingabout Ted. Listen to the lyrics talking about how for five long yearsshe thought he was her man. Then she found out she was nothing but alink in the chain. Then she sings that her father told her to come onhome. Well, he did. She sings about how her doctor said to take iteasy. Well, he did too. She was drinking so much we thought she was onthe verge of a breakdown. The line that slew me, though, was the onethat said how one of these mornings the chain is gonna break but untilthen she’ll take all she can take. That summed it up. Ree knew damnwell that this man had been doggin’ her since Jump Street. Butsomehow she held on and pushed it to the breaking point." [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Chain of Fools"] That made number one on the R&B charts, and number two on the hot one hundred, kept from the top by "Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)" by John Fred and his Playboy Band -- a record that very few people would say has stood the test of time as well. The other most memorable track on the album was the one chosen as the first single, released in September. As Carole King told the story, she and Gerry Goffin were feeling like their career was in a slump. While they had had a huge run of hits in the early sixties through 1965, they had only had two new hits in 1966 -- "Goin' Back" for Dusty Springfield and "Don't Bring Me Down" for the Animals, and neither of those were anything like as massive as their previous hits. And up to that point in 1967, they'd only had one -- "Pleasant Valley Sunday" for the Monkees. They had managed to place several songs on Monkees albums and the TV show as well, so they weren't going to starve, but the rise of self-contained bands that were starting to dominate the charts, and Phil Spector's temporary retirement, meant there simply wasn't the opportunity for them to place material that there had been. They were also getting sick of travelling to the West Coast all the time, because as their children were growing slightly older they didn't want to disrupt their lives in New York, and were thinking of approaching some of the New York based labels and seeing if they needed songs. They were particularly considering Atlantic, because soul was more open to outside songwriters than other genres. As it happened, though, they didn't have to approach Atlantic, because Atlantic approached them. They were walking down Broadway when a limousine pulled up, and Jerry Wexler stuck his head out of the window. He'd come up with a good title that he wanted to use for a song for Aretha, would they be interested in writing a song called "Natural Woman"? They said of course they would, and Wexler drove off. They wrote the song that night, and King recorded a demo the next morning: [Excerpt: Carole King, "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (demo)"] They gave Wexler a co-writing credit because he had suggested the title. King later wrote in her autobiography "Hearing Aretha’s performance of “Natural Woman” for the first time, I experienced a rare speechless moment. To this day I can’t convey how I felt in mere words. Anyone who had written a song in 1967 hoping it would be performed by a singer who could take it to the highest level of excellence, emotional connection, and public exposure would surely have wanted that singer to be Aretha Franklin." She went on to say "But a recording that moves people is never just about the artist and the songwriters. It’s about people like Jerry and Ahmet, who matched the songwriters with a great title and a gifted artist; Arif Mardin, whose magnificent orchestral arrangement deserves the place it will forever occupy in popular music history; Tom Dowd, whose engineering skills captured the magic of this memorable musical moment for posterity; and the musicians in the rhythm section, the orchestral players, and the vocal contributions of the background singers—among them the unforgettable “Ah-oo!” after the first line of the verse. And the promotion and marketing people helped this song reach more people than it might have without them." And that's correct -- unlike "Chain of Fools", this time Franklin did let Arif Mardin do most of the arrangement work -- though she came up with the piano part that Spooner Oldham plays on the record. Mardin said that because of the song's hymn-like feel they wanted to go for a more traditional written arrangement. He said "She loved the song to the pointwhere she said she wanted to concentrate on the vocal and vocal alone.I had written a string chart and horn chart to augment the chorus andhired Ralph Burns to conduct. After just a couple of takes, we had it.That’s when Ralph turned to me with wonder in his eyes. Ralph wasone of the most celebrated arrangers of the modern era. He had done‘Early Autumn’ for Woody Herman and Stan Getz, and ‘Georgia onMy Mind’ for Ray Charles. He’d worked with everyone. ‘This womancomes from another planet’ was all Ralph said. ‘She’s just herevisiting.’” [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman"] By this point there was a well-functioning team making Franklin's records -- while the production credits would vary over the years, they were all essentially co-productions by the team of Franklin, Wexler, Mardin and Dowd, all collaborating and working together with a more-or-less unified purpose, and the backing was always by the same handful of session musicians and some combination of the Sweet Inspirations and Aretha's sisters. That didn't mean that occasional guests couldn't get involved -- as we discussed in the Cream episode, Eric Clapton played guitar on "Good to Me as I am to You": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Good to Me as I am to You"] Though that was one of the rare occasions on one of these records where something was overdubbed. Clapton apparently messed up the guitar part when playing behind Franklin, because he was too intimidated by playing with her, and came back the next day to redo his part without her in the studio. At this point, Aretha was at the height of her fame. Just before the final batch of album sessions began she appeared in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, and she was making regular TV appearances, like one on the Mike Douglas Show where she duetted with Frankie Valli on "That's Life": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin and Frankie Valli, "That's Life"] But also, as Wexler said“Her career was kicking into high gear.Contending and resolving both the professional and personalchallenges were too much. She didn’t think she could do both, and Ididn’t blame her. Few people could. So she let the personal slideand concentrated on the professional. " Her concert promoter Ruth Bowen said of this time "Her father and Dr. King were putting pressure on herto sing everywhere, and she felt obligated. The record company wasalso screaming for more product. And I had a mountain of offers on mydesk that kept getting higher with every passing hour. They wanted herin Europe. They wanted her in Latin America. They wanted her in everymajor venue in the U.S. TV was calling. She was being asked to doguest appearances on every show from Carol Burnett to Andy Williams tothe Hollywood Palace. She wanted to do them all and she wanted to donone of them. She wanted to do them all because she’s an entertainerwho burns with ambition. She wanted to do none of them because she wasemotionally drained. She needed to go away and renew her strength. Itold her that at least a dozen times. She said she would, but shedidn’t listen to me." The pressures from her father and Dr King are a recurring motif in interviews with people about this period. Franklin was always a very political person, and would throughout her life volunteer time and money to liberal political causes and to the Democratic Party, but this was the height of her activism -- the Civil Rights movement was trying to capitalise on the gains it had made in the previous couple of years, and celebrity fundraisers and performances at rallies were an important way to do that. And at this point there were few bigger celebrities in America than Aretha Franklin. At a concert in her home town of Detroit on February the sixteenth, 1968, the Mayor declared the day Aretha Franklin Day. At the same show, Billboard, Record World *and* Cash Box magazines all presented her with plaques for being Female Vocalist of the Year. And Dr. King travelled up to be at the show and congratulate her publicly for all her work with his organisation, theSouthern Christian LeadershipConference. Backstage at that show, Dr. King talked to Aretha's father, Reverend Franklin, about what he believed would be the next big battle -- a strike in Memphis: [Excerpt, Martin Luther King, "Mountaintop Speech" -- "And so, as a result of this, we are asking you tonight, to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not to buy—what is the other bread?—Wonder Bread. And what is the other bread company, Jesse? Tell them not to buy Hart's bread. As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain. We are choosing these companies because they haven't been fair in their hiring policies; and we are choosing them because they can begin the process of saying, they are going to support the needs and the rights of these men who are on strike. And then they can move on downtown and tell Mayor Loeb to do what is right."] The strike in question was the Memphis Sanitation Workers' strike which had started a few days before. The struggle for Black labour rights was an integral part of the civil rights movement, and while it's not told that way in the sanitised version of the story that's made it into popular culture, the movement led by King was as much about economic justice as social justice -- King was a democratic socialist, and believed that economic oppression was both an effect of and cause of other forms of racial oppression, and that the rights of Black workers needed to be fought for. In 1967 he had set up a new organisation, the Poor People's Campaign, which was set to march on Washington to demand a program that included full employment, a guaranteed income -- King was strongly influenced in his later years by the ideas of Henry George, the proponent of a universal basic income based on land value tax -- the annual building of half a million affordable homes, and an end to the war in Vietnam. This was King's main focus in early 1968, and he saw the sanitation workers' strike as a major part of this campaign. Memphis was one of the most oppressive cities in the country, and its largely Black workforce of sanitation workers had been trying for most of the 1960s to unionise, and strike-breakers had been called in to stop them, and many of them had been fired by their white supervisors with no notice. They were working in unsafe conditions, for utterly inadequate wages, and the city government were ardent segregationists. After two workers had died on the first of February from using unsafe equipment, the union demanded changes -- safer working conditions, better wages, and recognition of the union. The city council refused, and almost all the sanitation workers stayed home and stopped work. After a few days, the council relented and agreed to their terms, but the Mayor, Henry Loeb, an ardent white supremacist who had stood on a platform of opposing desegregation, and who had previously been the Public Works Commissioner who had put these unsafe conditions in place, refused to listen. As far as he was concerned, he was the only one who could recognise the union, and he wouldn't. The workers continued their strike, marching holding signs that simply read "I am a Man": [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder, "Blowing in the Wind"] TheSouthern Christian LeadershipConference and the NAACP had been involved in organising support for the strikes from an early stage, and King visited Memphis many times. Much of the time he spent visiting there was spent negotiating with a group of more militant activists, who called themselves The Invaders and weren't completely convinced by King's nonviolent approach -- they believed that violence and rioting got more attention than non-violent protests. King explained to them that while he had been persuaded by Gandhi's writings of the moral case for nonviolent protest, he was also persuaded that it was pragmatically necessary -- asking the young men "how many guns do we have and how many guns do they have?", and pointing out as he often did that when it comes to violence a minority can't win against an armed majority. Rev Franklin went down to Memphis on the twenty-eighth of March to speak at a rally Dr. King was holding, but as it turned out the rally was cancelled -- the pre-rally march had got out of hand, with some people smashing windows, and Memphis police had, like the police in Detroit the previous year, violently overreacted, clubbing and gassing protestors and shooting and killing one unarmed teenage boy, Larry Payne. The day after Payne's funeral, Dr King was back in Memphis, though this time Rev Franklin was not with him. On April the third, he gave a speech which became known as the "Mountaintop Speech", in which he talked about the threats that had been made to his life: [Excerpt: Martin Luther King, "Mountaintop Speech": “And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."] The next day, Martin Luther King was shot dead. James Earl Ray, a white supremacist, pled guilty to the murder, and the evidence against him seems overwhelming from what I've read, but the King family have always claimed that the murder was part of a larger conspiracy and that Ray was not the gunman. Aretha was obviously distraught, and she attended the funeral, as did almost every other prominent Black public figure. James Baldwin wrote of the funeral: "In the pew directly before me sat Marlon Brando, Sammy Davis, Eartha Kitt—covered in black, looking like a lost, ten-year-old girl—and Sidney Poitier, in the same pew, or nearby. Marlon saw me, and nodded. The atmosphere was black, with a tension indescribable—as though something, perhaps the heavens, perhaps the earth, might crack. Everyone sat very still. The actual service sort of washed over me, in waves. It wasn’t that it seemed unreal; it was the most real church service I’ve ever sat through in my life, or ever hope to sit through; but I have a childhood hangover thing about not weeping in public, and I was concentrating on holding myself together. I did not want to weep for Martin, tears seemed futile. But I may also have been afraid, and I could not have been the only one, that if I began to weep I would not be able to stop. There was more than enough to weep for, if one was to weep—so many of us, cut down, so soon. Medgar, Malcolm, Martin: and their widows, and their children. Reverend Ralph David Abernathy asked a certain sister to sing a song which Martin had loved—“Once more,” said Ralph David, “for Martin and for me,” and he sat down." Many articles and books on Aretha Franklin say that she sang at King's funeral. In fact she didn't, but there's a simple reason for the confusion. King's favourite song was the Thomas Dorsey gospel song "Take My Hand, Precious Lord", and indeed almost his last words were to ask a trumpet player, Ben Branch, if he would play the song at the rally he was going to be speaking at on the day of his death. At his request, Mahalia Jackson, his old friend, sang the song at his private funeral, which was not filmed, unlike the public part of the funeral that Baldwin described. Four months later, though, there was another public memorial for King, and Franklin did sing "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" at that service, in front of King's weeping widow and children, and that performance *was* filmed, and gets conflated in people's memories with Jackson's unfilmed earlier performance: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Take My Hand, Precious Lord (at Martin Luther King Memorial)"] Four years later, she would sing that at Mahalia Jackson's funeral. Through all this, Franklin had been working on her next album, Aretha Now, the sessions for which started more or less as soon as the sessions for Lady Soul had finished. The album was, in fact, bookended by deaths that affected Aretha. Just as King died at the end of the sessions, the beginning came around the time of the death of Otis Redding -- the sessions were cancelled for a day while Wexler travelled to Georgia for Redding's funeral, which Franklin was too devastated to attend, and Wexler would later say that the extra emotion in her performances on the album came from her emotional pain at Redding's death. The lead single on the album, "Think", was written by Franklin and -- according to the credits anyway -- her husband Ted White, and is very much in the same style as "Respect", and became another of her most-loved hits: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Think"] But probably the song on Aretha Now that now resonates the most is one that Jerry Wexler tried to persuade her not to record, and was only released as a B-side. Indeed, "I Say a Little Prayer" was a song that had already once been a hit after being a reject. Hal David, unlike Burt Bacharach, was a fairly political person and inspired by the protest song movement, and had been starting to incorporate his concerns about the political situation and the Vietnam War into his lyrics -- though as with many such writers, he did it in much less specific ways than a Phil Ochs or a Bob Dylan. This had started with "What the World Needs Now is Love", a song Bacharach and David had written for Jackie DeShannon in 1965: [Excerpt: Jackie DeShannon, "What the "World Needs Now is Love"] But he'd become much more overtly political for "The Windows of the World", a song they wrote for Dionne Warwick. Warwick has often said it's her favourite of her singles, but it wasn't a big hit -- Bacharach blamed himself for that, saying "Dionne recorded it as a single and I really blew it. I wrote a bad arrangement and the tempo was too fast, and I really regret making it the way I did because it’s a good song." [Excerpt: Dionne Warwick, "The Windows of the World"] For that album, Bacharach and David had written another track, "I Say a Little Prayer", which was not as explicitly political, but was intended by David to have an implicit anti-war message, much like other songs of the period like "Last Train to Clarksville". David had sons who were the right age to be drafted, and while it's never stated, "I Say a Little Prayer" was written from the perspective of a woman whose partner is away fighting in the war, but is still in her thoughts: [Excerpt: Dionne Warwick, "I Say a Little Prayer"] The recording of Dionne Warwick's version was marked by stress. Bacharach had a particular way of writing music to tell the musicians the kind of feel he wanted for the part -- he'd write nonsense words above the stave, and tell the musicians to play the parts as if they were singing those words. The trumpet player hired for the session, Ernie Royal, got into a row with Bacharach about this unorthodox way of communicating musical feeling, and the track ended up taking ten takes (as opposed to the normal three for a Bacharach session), with Royal being replaced half-way through the session. Bacharach was never happy with the track even after all the work it had taken, and he fought to keep it from being released at all, saying the track was taken at too fast a tempo. It eventually came out as an album track nearly eighteen months after it was recorded -- an eternity in 1960s musical timescales -- and DJs started playing it almost as soon as it came out. Scepter records rushed out a single, over Bacharach's objections, but as he later said "One thing I love about the record business is how wrong I was. Disc jockeys all across the country started playing the track, and the song went to number four on the charts and then became the biggest hit Hal and I had ever written for Dionne." [Excerpt: Dionne Warwick, "I Say a Little Prayer"] Oddly, the B-side for Warwick's single, "Theme From the Valley of the Dolls" did even better, reaching number two. Almost as soon as the song was released as a single, Franklin started playing around with the song backstage, and in April 1968, right around the time of Dr. King's death, she recorded a version. Much as Burt Bacharach had been against releasing Dionne Warwick's version, Jerry Wexler was against Aretha even recording the song, saying later“I advised Aretha not to record it. I opposed itfor two reasons. First, to cover a song only twelve weeks after theoriginal reached the top of the charts was not smart business. Yourevisit such a hit eight months to a year later. That’s standardpractice. But more than that, Bacharach’s melody, though lovely, waspeculiarly suited to a lithe instrument like Dionne Warwick’s—alight voice without the dark corners or emotional depths that defineAretha. Also, Hal David’s lyric was also somewhat girlish and lackedthe gravitas that Aretha required. “Aretha usually listened to me in the studio, but not this time. Shehad written a vocal arrangement for the Sweet Inspirations that wasundoubtedly strong. Cissy Houston, Dionne’s cousin, told me thatAretha was on the right track—she was seeing this song in a new wayand had come up with a new groove. Cissy was on Aretha’s side. TommyDowd and Arif were on Aretha’s side. So I had no choice but to cave." It's quite possible that Wexler's objections made Franklin more, rather than less, determined to record the song. She regarded Warwick as a hated rival, as she did almost every prominent female singer of her generation and younger ones, and would undoubtedly have taken the implication that there was something that Warwick was simply better at than her to heart. [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "I Say a Little Prayer"] Wexler realised as soon as he heard it in the studio that Franklin's version was great, and Bacharach agreed, telling Franklin's biographer David Ritz“As much as I like the original recording by Dionne,there’s no doubt that Aretha’s is a betterrecord. She imbued the song with heavy soul and took it to a fardeeper place. Hers is the definitive version.” -- which is surprising because Franklin's version simplifies some of Bacharach's more unusual chord voicings, something he often found extremely upsetting. Wexler still though thought there was no way the song would be a hit, and it's understandable that he thought that way. Not only had it only just been on the charts a few months earlier, but it was the kind of song that wouldn't normally be a hit at all, and certainly not in the kind of rhythmic soul music for which Franklin was known. Almost everything she ever recorded is in simple time signatures -- 4/4, waltz time, or 6/8 -- but this is a Bacharach song so it's staggeringly metrically irregular. Normally even with semi-complex things I'm usually good at figuring out how to break it down into bars, but here I actually had to purchase a copy of the sheet music in order to be sure I was right about what's going on. I'm going to count beats along with the record here so you can see what I mean. The verse has three bars of 4/4, one bar of 2/4, and three more bars of 4/4, all repeated: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "I Say a Little Prayer" with me counting bars over verse] While the chorus has a bar of 4/4, a bar of 3/4 but with a chord change half way through so it sounds like it's in two if you're paying attention to the harmonic changes, two bars of 4/4, another waltz-time bar sounding like it's in two, two bars of four, another bar of three sounding in two, a bar of four, then three more bars of four but the first of those is *written* as four but played as if it's in six-eight time (but you can keep the four/four pulse going if you're counting): [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "I Say a Little Prayer" with me counting bars over verse] I don't expect you to have necessarily followed that in great detail, but the point should be clear -- this was not some straightforward dance song.Incidentally, that bar played as if it's six/eight was something Aretha introduced to make the song even more irregular than how Bacharach wrote it. And on top of *that* of course the lyrics mixed the secular and the sacred, something that was still taboo in popular music at that time -- this is only a couple of years after Capitol records had been genuinely unsure about putting out the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows", and Franklin's gospel-inflected vocals made the religious connection even more obvious. But Franklin was insistent that the record go out as a single, and eventually it was released as the B-side to the far less impressive "The House That Jack Built". It became a double-sided hit, with the A-side making number two on the R&B chart and number seven on the Hot One Hundred, while "I Say a Little Prayer" made number three on the R&B chart and number ten overall. In the UK, "I Say a Little Prayer" made number four and became her biggest ever solo UK hit. It's now one of her most-remembered songs, while the A-side is largely forgotten: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "I Say a Little Prayer"] For much of the rest of 1968, Franklin split her time between recording her next album and live performance. The album was a big band jazz project mistitled Soul '69 which was probably the least successful of her records from this period both artistically and commercially. It went to number one on the R&B albums chart, but Franklin was for most of her career, with one exception we'll talk about later, a singles artist more than an albums one, and the singles from the record sank without trace. She was also going through a lot of personal stress. An article in Time magazine appeared which, while overall complimentary and a puff piece by most standards, revealed more of her personal troubles than she was comfortable having made public, and became the main reason she became extremely guarded about giving interviews in the future. Her live performances were also a source of stress at this point. Franklin had been thrilled with the opportunity to go on tour in Europe, and arranged to record a live album in Paris, a city she would come to love. When they travelled over, in May, White was still her husband and manager, and he put together the live band she would use for the tour. Nobody was happy with the band. Carolyn Franklin said of the tour "The only problem was the band. Wexler didn’t put it together. Teddid. The band lacked the fire that we’d been used to in the studio.And then the band became another point of contention between Arethaand Ted. She accused him of hiring the wrong musicians. He accused herof slacking on her singing. It got bad, even as the crowds keptgetting bigger.” Wexler said of the resulting live album“She and the band aren’t on the samepage. They’re out of tune, they miss their cues, and they’restruggling to find the right groove. Naturally she was excited to beperforming in Europe for the first time, and naturally it had to bethrilling for her to see the international scope of her success, butwhen the music’s not right Aretha’s not right. Like Ray Charles,she hears every note being played by every band member. And when anote is wrong—and, believe me, there were scores of bad notes—forAretha, it’s like squeaky chalk on a blackboard. It hurts. When shecame home, she was hurting. Here you had the premier singer of ourtime touring the Continent with a ragtag band suitable for backing upa third-rate blues singer in some bucket of blood in Loserville,Louisiana. It was outrageous.” In truth, to most ears, the recordings, which were presumably sweetened in the studio afterwards as most live albums were, sound... fine. But they're definitely not a patch on the studio versions, and Wexler refused to take a production credit, insisting instead on being credited as “supervisor”: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Chain of Fools (live in Paris)"] Luckily, her marriage finally ended -- though even after they separated and she handed her management over to Cecil, Ted White insisted he had a management contract with her. With White's waning influence, Jerry Wexler had the perfect solution, and it was also someone he owed a favour to. We've mentioned King Curtis many times before in different episodes, because he was *the* premier tenor sax session player on the East Coast of America at the time. He'd started out with Lionel Hampton's band, but from the late fifties he played almost every important sax part on a hit record to come out of the East Coast, like Buddy Holly's "Reminiscing": [Excerpt: Buddy Holly, "Reminiscing"] The Coasters' "Yakety Yak": [Excerpt: The Coasters, "Yaklety Yak"] And all the other Coasters hits. He'd played on records by Ruth Brown, the Drifters, Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, the Isley Brothers, and Wilson Pickett. He'd played with Sam Cooke's band on the legendaryLive at the Harlem Square Club, 1963: [Excerpt: Sam Cooke, "Twisting the Night Away (live)"] He'd played on "Boys" by the Shirelles: [Excerpt: The Shirelles, "Boys"] And he'd also had encounters with future stars -- he'd played sax on the single Lou Reed had recorded as The Jades: [Excerpt: The Jades, "Leave Her For Me"] More importantly, he was a bandleader in his own right. He'd had hits with "Soul Twist", "Memphis Soul Stew", and his signature song "Soul Serenade": [Excerpt: King Curtis, "Soul Serenade"] And he'd had Jimi Hendrix in his band the Kingpins, for a while -- Hendrix had played on several of his records, like "Instant Groove": [Excerpt: King Curtis, "Instant Groove"] Curtis had also supported the Beatles on their 1965 US tour, including the legendary Shea Stadium gig. He was also, obviously, the sax player on most of Franklin's records since she'd started working at Atlantic, and had been the one who had suggested the key change and sax solo on "Respect". Wexler knew he was a great musician and a great bandleader, but he also literally owed Curtis his life. In July 1968 there was a DJ convention in Miami, a promotional junket for record labels in the R&B market, which will come up a lot in future episodes. Various gangs -- what the great record man Henry Stone referred to as the "Black New York Mafia" chose that moment to try to take over many of the soul record labels. Stone himself had connections with a rival set of gangsters, led by Joe Robinson, the husband of Sylvia from Mickey and Sylvia. Stone got Robinson to organise protection for various people he considered under threat, and because of that protection he later agreed to go into a business partnership with Robinson which would revolutionise music a decade or so later. The convention also played a pivotal role in a change of direction for Stax Records. So you can be sure this will come up again. But the person who was most threatened at the convention was Jerry Wexler, who was at one point during the event actually hanged in effigy. It was King Curtis who warned Wexler in the middle of the convention banquet that his life was in danger, and he and the singer Titus Turner, who were both armed with pistols, acted as Wexler's bodyguards to get him out of the event alive. Nobody would mess with Curtis, who as well as being armed was also six foot two, two hundred pounds, and one of the most respected figures in the business. Wexler owed Curtis his life, and also knew that he led one of the best bands around -- and the Kingpins were already used to touring with the Sweet Inspirations as vocalists (though the Sweet Inspirations would only rarely perform live with Franklin, because they soon had one of the few artists bigger than her using their services regularly in a live situation). For the moment though, Franklin's records would still use the Muscle Shoals rhythm section -- and on several tracks a new friend of Curtis', a session musician whose contract Wexler had bought from Rick Hall at Muscle Shoals after hearing his playing on Wilson Pickett's version of "Hey Jude", Duane Allman. Allman can be heard on two tracks on Franklin's next album, This Girl's In Love With You -- named after another Bacharach and David song, previously a hit for Herb Alpert. One of those tracks is one we heard in the most recent episode, her version of "The Weight": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "The Weight"] That was one of several songs on the album where Franklin was trying Wexler's strategy of recording songs by successful white acts in the hope of a crossover -- she also recorded versions of "Eleanor Rigby" and "Let It Be", the latter of which was the first version of the song to be released, Paul McCartney having sent her a demo a while before the Beatles got around to releasing their version. Another song on the album originally recorded by a white person was another example of Aretha working out feelings of jealousy towards a potential rival. "Son of a Preacher Man" had originally been written for her, but she'd turned the song down -- something that would happen with increasing frequency. In this case her reasoning was that the song might seem disrespectful to her father, who was himself a "preacher man". So Jerry Wexler had brought the track to the British singer Dusty Springfield, for whom he was producing a new album, Dusty in Memphis: [Excerpt: Dusty Springfield, "Son of a Preacher Man"] According to Wexler "There was also a little tension in that Januarysession because I was coming off a hit album I’d done with DustySpringfield, Dusty in Memphis. It was being called a soul classic andcompared to Aretha. Aretha didn’t like me producing other chicksingers. I told her that she was Dusty’s idol and Dusty was makingno claims to her throne. Aretha smiled that little passive smileshe’s famous for—the smile that told me she wasn’t happy." So of course, Franklin recorded her own version of the song: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Son of a Preacher Man"] Of course, what Franklin didn't know was that Springfield was far more insecure even than Franklin, and hated the idea of being compared to someone she realised was a much better singer. For the rest of her life she would always talk about how much better Franklin's performance was, and draw particular attention to the way Franklin phrased the words "reach me", and copy that phrasing in her own live performances. Still though I think in this case, for once, Franklin's version didn't quite beat Springfield's original. The sessions for that album lasted quite a while, and in the middle King Curtis recorded another album of his own, which also featured Duane Allman on guitar on several songs, including Curtis' own version of "The Weight", and a version of "Games People Play" that won him a Grammy: [Excerpt: King Curtis, "Games People Play"] Around this time, King Curtis also discovered a new soul musician who would go on to become one of the most influential in the genre in the seventies, Donny Hathaway, and he produced several tracks on Hathaway's first album, and guested on guitar, rather than his normal saxophone, on Hathaway's version of Ray Charles' “I Believe to My Soul”: [Excerpt: Donny Hathaway, "I Believe to My Soul"] According to the biography of King Curtis that I used for this episode, Curtis got Aretha Franklin to sit in on piano on that album, but Franklin's not credited on it. I suspect that biography is misremembering a different occasion when Franklin acted purely as piano player on a session produced by Curtis, an album by Sam Moore that went unreleased until 2002 due to Moore's heroin addiction, and on which Franklin agreed to play piano partly so she could work with Hathaway, who was playing the other keyboard on the album: [Excerpt: Sam Moore, "Get Out My Life Woman"] The other musicians on that, other than Franklin and Hathaway, were the members of the Kingpins -- Cornell Dupree on guitar, Chuck Rainey on bass, and Bernard "Pretty" Purdie on drums. Aretha's next album, Spirit in the Dark, was her first not to make the top twenty since she'd signed to Atlantic, though it had two more big hits -- "Don't Play That Song" and the title track. But it was a patchwork affair, recorded in sessions in different studios with three different sets of musicians -- the Muscle Shoals players she normally worked with, her own touring band, and a set of musicians Wexler had found in Florida, where he now lived. Increasingly Wexler was producing sessions in Florida and not wanting to travel, while Mardin and Dowd were producing sessions in New York. But Franklin was dealing with things that were more important than music. Her family was going through serious problems. As well as her divorce from White, she was seriously concerned about her father. Rev. Franklin had become more radical since the death of Martin Luther King, and had started giving support to more radical elements of the Black Power movement. He was still a staunch believer in non-violence, but he would allow his church to be used by those who weren't, including the Republic of New Africa. This was a Black separatist movement whose vice president was Betty Shabazz, the widow of Malik el-Shabazz, the activist known for most of his life as Malcolm X. The organisation was founded to call for the secession ofLouisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, and for those states to become a Black ethnostate with no white people. Rev. Franklin didn't agree with this view, but he thought solidarity with other supporters of Black liberation now more important than disagreements over strategy, so he let them use his church as a meeting place. On the twenty-ninth of March, 1969, they held a meeting to which some members of their paramilitary faction came armed with rifles. A police car drove past towards the end of the meeting and saw some of the armed men outside. The police approached, and while reports differ as to what actually happened, shots were fired and one of the police officers was killed. This led to the police storming the church, spraying bullets into the windows, and arresting the hundred and fifty people inside (many of whom were then held illegally without access to counsel) and confiscating large numbers of guns found on the premises. Rev. Franklin was defiant when interviewed about this, saying“I do not denounce these people. Their goals are the same as ours, only they approach them from different directions.” He said he'd happily let them use the church again, so long as they promised not to bring guns in future. This caused Rev. Franklin to become even more of a target for law enforcement himself. On one flight shortly afterwards, his baggage got misplaced by the airline, and when it turned up it contained small amounts of cannabis, for which he was arrested, though the charges were later dropped -- he always claimed it had been planted. And he also found himself once again under investigation by tax officials. According to Cecil Franklin“My father was sought out and victimized by government officials,both national and local, who resented his political positions and weredetermined to humiliate him. He fought back, heanswered every charge, he eventually paid his tax bill, and, as far ashis congregation was concerned, he cleared his name. But I have to saythat after what happened to him in that particular season of 1969, hewas never quite the same.” Another family strain in 1969 came when Aretha's sister Carolyn, who had written several songs for her and who Aretha was hoping would continue to just be a songwriter and backing vocalist rather than pursue stardom herself, got a record contract, leading to a flare-up of tensions between the sisters: [Excerpt: Carolyn Franklin, "Boxer"] Carolyn begged Aretha to write liner notes for the album, in the hopes that her famous sister's approval would lead to sales, but Aretha kept saying she would and then not doing it, jealous of her sister. Eventually Carolyn turned to their father, who also tried and failed to get Aretha to write notes. When she wouldn't, he wrote them himself, concluding with a claimed endorsement from Aretha that didn't sound convincing. There was also some tension between the sisters because Carolyn, who was lesbian, had expressed support for the Stonewall riots and considered queer rights to be the logical next step in the progression that included Black civil rights and women's rights. Aretha would later become a vocal queer ally, but in 1969 this was a step too far for her. Aretha did soften on Carolyn when her second solo album, Chain Reaction, came out, and she praised it privately: [Excerpt: Carolyn Franklin, "Chain Reaction"] But she refused to talk to the press about her sister's new record. This time it was because of more scandal in her private life, which by this time had made the press. Charles Cooke, Sam Cooke's brother, had come round to visit her at her home when her ex-husband had turned up, acting aggressive. Cooke had tried to protect Aretha, who was seven months pregnant at the time, and White shot him. Thankfully, Cooke survived, but Franklin was horrified by the publicity. All of this happened in a short period from spring 1969 through early 1970, during which time she was also recording the albums Spirit in the Dark and Young, Gifted, and Black, the latter of which is often considered her greatest studio album by people who don't think it's Lady Soul. Both albums, like everything Aretha recorded in these first few years at Atlantic, are great, but they're not coherent artistic statements. As Jerry Wexler said "When you look back and see what are now considered the great Aretha Franklin albums of the late sixties and early seventies, they really aren’t albums at all. They’re compilations of singles. There was never any organizational principle. We just threw ’em together...For example, you could interchange the tunes on Spirit in the Dark with those on Young, Gifted, and Black. Mix and match as you please." It was in her live shows that she was making artistic statements, shows that were structured with peaks and troughs, and that had a throughline. And so it makes sense that her two greatest albums of the early seventies are two very different live albums. The first of these came about almost by accident. Ruth Bowen was organising a tour for Franklin and Curtis, and realised there was an uncomfortable gap in California that needed filling. She persuaded Bill Graham to book them into the Fillmore West for three nights, as both a way to plug the hole and possibly a way to bring Aretha to greater prominence with the hippie market. But Graham would only pay five thousand dollars in total for the three nights, and the normal fee for Franklin and Curtis would be five thousand dollars a night. Franklin wouldn't budge on her fee -- she didn't want to play the Fillmore at all, seeing it as not her audience -- but Bowen thought this was important. She eventually got Ahmet Ertegun to agree to pay an extra five thousand dollars in tour support from the label, because Ertegun was well aware of the importance of the hippie market. But that still wasn't enough. But then Jerry Wexler had an idea. They could put up the full ten thousand dollars difference, and use the shows to record a live album by Aretha. And why not record a King Curtis live album while they were at it? Almost as soon as he had the idea he regretted it -- in his words he "considered the musical tastes of the flower children infantile" and had no time for people who liked Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, thinking such people could never appreciate Franklin's music, but by that point the agreement had already been made. Curtis put together the best possible live band he could for the tour. He used his regular Kingpins guitarist Cornell Dupree and drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, but rather than Chuck Rainey, who was his second-call bass player, he got inJerry Jemmott, his first-call player, who normally only did studio work but made an exception for this special tour. They brought in vocal group The Sweethearts of Soul, as the Sweet Inspirations were no longer available for Aretha's live shows; the Memphis Horns who had played on so many great Stax records; and on keyboards was Billy Preston, who had recently become a minor star in his own right after performing with the Beatles, but who had originally trained with James Cleveland, the gospel musician who had also been Aretha's mentor. And at the shows, Ray Charles also turned up, just to listen to the music, but Aretha dragged him out on stage for a surprise duet on her "Spirit in the Dark": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles, "Spirit in the Dark"] King Curtis' set was a mixture of soul classics, both his own like "Memphis Soul Stew" and others like "Knock on Wood", and songs that were designed to appeal to the hippie crowd. The set was largely instrumental, but he had Preston sing vocals on "My Sweet Lord", the George Harrison song that Preston had played on and just released as his own single: [Excerpt: King Curtis and Billy Preston, "My Sweet Lord"] They also did instrumental versions of "A Whiter Shade of Pale", and a song that had just come out by a band of former session players that Atlantic Records had signed after Dusty Springfield had recommended them: [Excerpt: King Curtis and the Kingpins, "Whole Lotta Love"] Franklin's set was similarly geared towards the white rock audience, with many of her biggest hits missing in favour of funked-up or gospel versions of "Eleanor Rigby", "The Long and Winding Road", "Bridge Over Troubled Water", Bread's "Make it With You", and Stephen Stills' "Love the One You're With": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin and King Curtis, "Love the One You're With"] That song, incidentally, took its title from something Billy Preston had said to Stills. Both Curtis and Franklin's live albums are regularly ranked among the greatest live albums in soul music history, only matched perhaps by James Brown's Live at the Apollo, Otis Redding's Live in Europe and Sam Cooke's Live at the Harlem Square Club. There's a four-CD box set of the complete recordings which is *well* worth tracking down (and from which I took the recordings I just excerpted, rather than the original releases). On the last night, the last song was one she hadn't done in the previous shows, a version of Diana Ross' first solo hit "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)", presumably chosen once again in a spirit of rivalry. That song was also used for band intros, and she said this when talking about Curtis: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin and King Curtis, "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)"] Sadly, that was not to be. Rather than performing with Franklin for "many years to come", only a week after the release of the second album from the shows, King Curtis' one, Curtis was dead. He'd spent the time between the shows and the albums' release a few months later productively and as in-demand as ever, playing on everything from the theme to Soul Train to John Lennon's forthcoming album, Imagine, on which he played on two tracks, produced by Phil Spector, with whom Curtis had worked before Spector became famous: [Excerpt: John Lennon, "It's So Hard"] Aretha had toured Europe again, this time with the Kingpins backing her, and while they were there Curtis had cut another live album, this time backing Champion Jack Dupree, who was playing on the same bill on some shows and got the Kingpins to back him. He played a one-off gig with his close friends Delaney Bramlett and Duane Allman, and started recording his next solo album, Everybody's Talkin', engineered by his friend Gene Paul, Les Paul's son, and he'd just bought a new mansion just off Central Park, he was earning so much money. But the air conditioning was causing problems with the electrics in the house, causing the circuit breaker to go off. On August the thirteenth 1971, King Curtis went out onto the street -- his house had two doors, and the easiest way to get to the circuit breaker to sort the problem out was to exit one door and enter the other. He was carrying a torch.A man namedJuan Montanez was stood in the other doorway, arguing with a woman. Curtis asked him to move. Montanez pretended not to speak English and smirked. Curtis tried to intimidate him, using his size to try to get the man to move. Montanez continued smirking and pretending not to understand English. Curtis got so irate he ended up smashing the torch over Montanez's head, at which point Montanez pulled out a knife and stabbed Curtis. The wound proved fatal -- though before he collapsed Curtis managed to pull the knife from his assailant's hand and stab him back. It didn't kill Montanez, but it did mean that the police found him when he turned up wounded in the hospital. Aretha was distraught. Bernard Purdie, who became her bandleader after that, said“It was a sad, sad time. And the strange part is that Aretha didn't even want his name mentioned; it was like she couldn't take the sadness. If someone happened to say anything about King, she went into her shell. I understood. She couldn't handle it. When Aretha was around, it was better to act like it had never happened.” Franklin immediately went round to Curtis' house to look after his girlfriend, and stayed with her for several days, helping out and buying her dress for the funeral. Curtis' funeral was a mixture of the secular and the sacred, mourning and Black liberation. It was officiated by CL Franklin and eulogies were given by Cecil Franklin, himself now a Baptist minister at his father's church, and Jesse Jackson. Almost every star of Black music who could make it was in attendance, including the Isley Brothers, Brook Benton, and Dizzy Gillespie. The Kingpins played an hour long version of "Soul Serenade" while people entered and took their seats, Stevie Wonder moved everyone to tears by singing a version of "Abraham, Martin, and John" which included a new extra verse starting "Has anybody here seen my old friend King Curtis?", and Aretha closed the service by singing the gospel song "Never Grow Old", which had been the first single she had ever released, when she was fourteen. And it would be to gospel she would turn for what would be her own greatest artistic statement a few months later: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Amazing Grace"] It was the perfect time for Aretha to go back to her gospel roots, because in the years since she had turned to secular music, secular music had turned towards gospel, largely thanks to her old mentor James Cleveland. After Cleveland had stopped working for Rev Franklin, he had gone on to become one of the most important people in gospel music, both as a musician himself and as a talent scout for Savoy Records, who by this time were the biggest label in Black gospel. He had recorded a string of successful records, had mentored many musicians, and had become the single most important figure in the music since Thomas Dorsey, changing the style of the music completely by introducing massed choirs. These days the standard image of a gospel performance in the popular imaginary is a group of twenty to forty people, in robes, singing together, but up until the mid-sixties that was almost unknown in gospel music. We always say there's no first anything here, and I'm sure there are earlier examples, but it's generally considered that the first truly important gospel choir was Cleveland's "Angelic Choir": [Excerpt: James Cleveland and the Angelic Choir, "I Stood on the Banks of Jordan"] Before Cleveland, Black gospel music in America was small vocal groups like the Swan Silvertones or the Soul Stirrers, or solo performers like Rosetta Tharpe or Mahalia Jackson. Cleveland, a rigorous taskmaster, taught his vocalists to enunciate clearly and stay on pitch perfectly, so they could sing in unison in huge groups without the music turning into a mushy mess. The results revolutionised gospel music, especially after he had formed an organisation called the Gospel Music Workshop of America to promote that choir sound and encourage other similar choirs to form. And then in 1967, Edwin Hawkins formed a fifty-piece choir in the Cleveland style, and recorded an album in his local church to use as a fundraiser to get the choir to a national competition. That album got picked up by the San Francisco underground radio station KSAN, and was reissued by Buddah records, a label that was mostly best known for putting out records like "Yummy Yummy Yummy" by Ohio Express and "Simon Says" by the 1910 Fruitgum Company. The single from it became a worldwide smash, becoming one of the few gospel singles to make the pop top ten: [Excerpt: The Edwin Hawkins Singers, "Oh Happy Day"] That song opened the floodgates for a whole lot of secular musicians to start using gospel styles in their work -- though mostly the older gospel styles of those earlier groups. The Beatles' "Let It Be" had a gospel influence, as did Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water". George Harrison always said his "My Sweet Lord" was influenced by "Oh Happy Day" (though of course it's actually closer to "He's So Fine" by the Chiffons). And there were many more attempts to meld rock music and gospel. There was Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky": [Excerpt: Norman Greenbaum, "Spirit in the Sky"] There was Billy Preston's “That's The Way God Planned It”, backed by a supergroup of George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Ginger Baker, with Doris Troy and Madeleine Bell on backing vocals [Excerpt: Billy Preston, “That's The Way God Planned It”] There were the rock musicals Jesus Christ, Superstar and Godspell, and there were all sorts of weird attempts to jump on the bandwagon, like the Motown compilationRock Gospel: The Key to the Kingdom, which as well as tracks by the Jackson Five, The Supremes, and Marvin Gaye, also contained this: [Excerpt: Stoney and Meatloaf, "I'd Love to be as Heavy as Jesus"] Yes, that is Meat Loaf, several years before his career took off, singing a Motown song about how he'd love to be as heavy as Jesus. This meant that by early 1972, the idea of a secular artist recording religious music was, rather than a novelty, completely in the zeitgeist, to the point that around the same time Franklin recorded her album, the song she chose as a title track, "Amazing Grace" was a worldwide hit single for the Pipes and Drums of the Military Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guard: [Excerpt:the Pipes and Drums of the Military Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guard, "Amazing Grace"] The song "Amazing Grace" has a disturbing history. The words were written byJohn Newton, a man who had been pressganged into working on ships, serving in involuntary servitude, but had then himself voluntarily gone on to work on ships transporting enslaved people from Africa for many years. After a life-threatening storm, he had a deep religious experience and immediately became an ardent Christian -- but carried on for years more taking part in the most evil activity imaginable. He did give up swearing though. When he was thirty he became too ill to sail, though he continued to invest his money in slave ships, but slowly his conscience nagged at him, and by the time he was sixty he became an ardent abolitionist, and was one of the people whose campaigning eventually led to the end of the slave trade. "Amazing Grace" was written between those two points, and so there's an ambiguity to its intended meaning. The song was picked up by many marginalised groups though, including enslaved people, and usually sung set to an American folk tune (Newton didn't publish any music with it, and the words are in common metre which meant it could be sung to many folk tunes -- it fits "House of the Rising Sun" perfectly, for example). [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Amazing Grace"] There's some confusion as to whose idea it was to do the album -- Franklin always said it was hers, while Wexler also always claimed the credit, and both are listed as coproducers with Mardin, the first time Franklin got an official co-production credit on one of her records. The album was recorded during two actual church services -- she insisted that it be recorded as part of a proper religious service -- and featured Franklin's normal rhythm section, plus James Cleveland's choir, with Cleveland on piano for most of it. The material was largely the gospel of Franklin's youth -- songs like the title track, "Mary Don't You Weep", "How I Got Over", written by Franklin's de facto stepmother the great gospel singer Clara Ward, who sat in the front row, and "Precious Memories", which she sang as a duet with Cleveland: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin and James Cleveland, "Precious Memories"] But she also included moments of the new gospel-influenced popular music, like Marvin Gaye's "Wholy Holy", George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord", and, interpolated into "Take My Hand Precious Lord", "You've Got a Friend", by Carole King who had earlier written "Natural Woman" for her: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin and the James Cleveland Choir, "Take My Hand Precious Lord/You've Got a Friend"] Two weeks after the performances that made up the Amazing Grace album, Mahalia Jackson died, and Aretha sang "Take My Hand Precious Lord" at her funeral. The Amazing Grace performances were also filmed, and you can see Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts in the crowd, which is otherwise made up of regular congregants and friends of the Franklins. Sadly, technical issues meant that the film went unreleased at the time, and when those were solved forty years later, Franklin sued to keep the film unreleased. It only got a release after her death, but it's a stunning piece of work which everyone should watch. The album, which the label thought they were taking a chance on as a possible commercial failure, made the top ten on the album charts, and eventually went double platinum, becoming both the best-selling album of Franklin's career and the best selling live gospel album by anyone ever. It's often considered the greatest gospel album of all time, and Franklin's crowning artistic achievement. [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Climbing Higher Mountains"] That was the peak of Franklin's artistic and commercial success. Two months after the Amazing Grace recordings, she had her thirtieth birthday party, hosting activists like Betty Shabazz and musicians like Cannonball Adderley and Quincy Jones.  Jones was going to be the producer of her next album. Counting the live albums, the team of Wexler, Mardin, and Dowd had, together or separately, produced ten albums for her in five years, and she wanted to try something different. In particular, she was sick of those three getting all the credit for productions she felt -- with some justification -- she had contributed as much to as them. But she was also at least half-aware of a truism in music which is that great singers rarely make great producers. A record producer has to be able to be dispassionate, to step back and listen to every element objectively, whereas a great singer has to put all their passion into the performance. So she looked around for other collaborators -- with Atlantic's blessing -- and chose Jones. On paper, the combination made a lot of sense. Quincy Jones, as it turned out, was yet to have the career for which he is now best known, and had not yet rocketed to the superstar level at which he remains. But he had already produced and arranged classic records for Ray Charles, Betty Carter, Peggy Lee, Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Little Richard and Billy Preston, and a string of early-sixties hits for Lesley Gore. He should have been a perfect collaborator for Franklin -- someone who knew great voices and had a foot in the jazz and crooner world that Franklin loved and one in the modern R&B world. But as it turns out, nobody was happy with the album that resulted. The one song everyone agrees is worthwhile on it is "Angel", written by Aretha's sister Carolyn, which would be the only song Aretha would sing in every single full concert for the rest of her career: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Angel"] The album is a bit of a mess, which can't decide if it wants to be an album of jazz covers of songs from musicals or modern R&B, and succeeds at neither. It only made number thirty on the charts. Wexler said "Carolyn saved Aretha’s ass on that record. If it weren’t for ‘Angel,’ the album would have been a total wash. Even with ‘Angel,’ the album was still seen as a flop. It slowed down Aretha’s momentum. Careers have trajectories, and, ever since joining Atlantic, Aretha’s was up, up, up... the issuance of that album represents the end of her golden age on Atlantic.” Another blow came in January 1973 when Clara Ward, her father's partner and the singer who influenced her more than anyone, died. After her death, Ward's sister found a notebook containing her thoughts on the people in her life. Of Aretha, she wrote “My baby Aretha, she doesn’t know how good she is. Doubts self.” She returned to working with Wexler, Dowd, and Mardin for an album called Let Me Into Your Life. That album has its admirers, and did better than the album with Jones, but it wasn't the return to form she needed. From this point on, she would have hits, and she would make great records, but the great records were rarely the same as the hits. Her next two albums, again with Wexler, had no top forty singles at all, though they did adequately on the R&B charts. She switched producers, working with Curtis Mayfield on an album of songs from a film he'd been involved in, Sparkle, which was more successful and the best thing she did in the latter half of the seventies. The rest of her albums from that period are largely best forgotten. She rejected a whole series of songs that became hits for other people, including the people that Franklin thought of as bitter rivals. Most of Natalie Cole's early hits were songs that had been submitted to Franklin and she'd rejected. Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards of Chic came to her with backing tracks for songs like "Upside Down" which they later gave to Diana Ross, who had hits with them. Ahmet Ertegun tried to get her produced by Barry Gibb, but she turned him down -- he went off to write and produce Barbra Streisand's Guilty album, which contained the massive hit "Woman in Love". Eventually, Franklin decided to change record labels. Clive Davis at Arista had revitalised the career of another old rival, getting Barry Manilow to produce an album for Dionne Warwick which had got her back in the top ten: [Excerpt: Dionne Warwick, "I'll Never Love This Way Again"] Maybe he'd do the same for her? She signed with Arista. But then, on June the tenth, 1979, her father was shot twice in his home. As far as anyone knows it was a burglary gone wrong, though he had also made many enemies over the years. He survived, but he was in a coma, and would be for five years, until he finally died. Another important man in her life -- the *most* important man in her life -- had died a violent death, even if his body was still alive for the moment. Aretha moved back to the family home in Detroit to take care of him, and initially announced that her career was on hold, but soon started working again in order to pay for his medical bills. And she got the biggest profile she'd had for many years when she appeared in the film The Blues Brothers, singing her old hit "Think": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin and the Blues Brothers band, "Think!"] The Blues Brothers has received some criticism for its attitude towards Black music, with some going so far as to call it uncomfortably close to minstrelsy at times. But what's undeniable is that it provided a massive career boost for the Black artists featured in the film, all of whom were in lulls in their career and credited the film for their renewed success -- as well as Franklin there were John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, and James Brown, who in his appearance sang the gospel song "The Old Landmark", which Franklin had performed on Amazing Grace, and Brown too was backed by James Cleveland and his choir: [Excerpt: James Brown and the James Cleveland Choir, "The Old Landmark"] Her career started to rise again. Clive Davis didn't put her with Barry Manilow as she'd hoped, but he did get Luther Vandross to produce her, and she started having minor hits, and even major hits after she and Vandross stopped working together. But these records were, largely, passionless. Whereas her old recordings had been made in Atlantic's studios, now she wouldn't leave Detroit for any length of time -- she wanted to be close to her father, and by the time he died she'd also developed a fear of flying that meant she would only travel by car or bus. For the rest of her life she didn't travel anywhere she couldn't be driven to, and rarely left Detroit at all. This meant that increasingly, rather than record in the same room as the musicians and collaborate with them, working out ideas for arrangements and bouncing off each other, producers would record backing tracks for her in LA or New York, and bring them to Detroit, where she would cut a single vocal take on top of the pre-recorded track, rarely letting any producer criticise her. But she had massive commercial success in the latter part of the eighties thanks to Davis' marketing skills, and a series of hit singles pairing her with other artists, like the Eurythmics: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin and the Eurythmics, "Sisters are Doing it For Themselves"] And George Michael, whose duet with her became her second and final number one single: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin and George Michael, "I Knew You Were Waiting For Me"] As Jerry Wexler said“If you put Aretha’s Atlantic material next to her Arista stuff,there’s no comparison. Artistically,Atlantic wins, hands down. But if you count up the money we made withAretha as opposed to Clive, Clive is the clear winner. What makes hisvictory even more remarkable is the fact that he had to market herwhen she was clearly past her prime. And yet he still found a way topresent and package her in products that sold big-time. Incredible.” But eventually the duet formula started to dry up -- a duet with Elton John was only a minor hit, while collaborations with James Brown and Whitney Houston didn't make the top forty. She didn't record for much of the nineties, and then from 1998 through 2014 released a handful of albums at lengthy intervals, most of them the kind of record that gets called either "a return to form" or "a brave attempt to update her style to new fashions", all of them ultimately footnotes to her stunning body of work from the sixties and seventies. But that didn't mean she wasn't still the great Aretha Franklin, and even though she no longer toured much, she would make special appearances. In the mid-nineties she honoured Lionel Hampton at the Kennedy Centre, saying“I have a rule about supporting Republicans,and Lionel was a lifelong Republican. But when it came to Hamp, Ibroke my rule, because my dad loved him. We all did. Hamp hadworshipped at New Bethel, and during a concert in Detroit, where Daddyhad taken me and Erma, Hamp asked us onstage to do a little dancewhile he played behind us. Outside of church, that was probably myfirst time on a public stage. So I had to break party lines and honorthe great Lionel Hampton and forgive the fact that he voted for thewrong party.” She also performed at Bill Clinton's inauguration, and other similar events. And she was still capable on occasion of performances that nobody else could have given. At the Grammy Awards in 1998, Aretha was only scheduled to perform "Respect", but then in her dressing room after her performance, the show's producer came to her, frantic. Pavarotti had been meant to perform "Nessun Dorma", but he'd been taken ill. They had an orchestra and twenty-piece choir there, waiting, and they needed to perform it in twenty minutes. She knew the piece of course, but the arrangement wasn't in her key. Could she possibly step in for Pavarotti? Of course she could. She was Aretha Franklin: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Nessun Dorma"] And in the last couple of decades of her life, that's essentially what she did -- she'd show up at Rosa Parks' funeral, or at the Kennedy Centre to honour Carole King, or at Barack Obama's inauguration and give an amazing performance that reminded everyone that she was still the queen of soul. She'd do occasional short tours of the biggest venues in the US, travelling only by bus. And then she'd go back to her home life, and to being an important part of Detroit's Black community. She died in 2018 of cancer, the same disease that had earlier taken both her sisters. She'd been ill for many years, but had wanted the details kept out of the newspapers and had carried on performing, preserving her privacy to the end. In the end, her career is probably best summed up by her old producer Jerry Wexler, who, like almost everyone in the story, predeceased her. He said (and I'm going to elide a couple of swear words here, because Wexler used language that would get me an adult rating)“You may not like all the stuff she did to stay popular. You may be bothered by cracks in hervoice and the lapses of taste when it came to material. There was alot of cheesy [shit]. But in the end, you got to give it to her. Thewoman is [fuckin’] fierce. In a half dozen different epochs of music,she managed to stay in the middle of the mix. She isn’t a MilesDavis, who kept breaking through barriers and never stoppedinnovating. And she isn’t a Duke Ellington or a Marvin Gaye, whonever stopped writing brilliantly. She chiefly became an interpreterand an adapter of very diverse material. She studied the Billboardcharts and, for over forty years, found a way to stay on those charts.That’s one hell of an accomplishment.” It is indeed. But actually, no, there's a simpler way to sum her up, and that is just to say -- she was Aretha. ... Read more

28 Sep 2023

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28 Sep 2023


#211

Episode 167: “The Weight” by The Band

Episode one hundred and sixty-seven of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “The Weight” by the Band, the Basement Tapes, and the continuing controversy over Dylan going electric. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a half-hour bonus episode available, [on “S.F. Sorrow is Born” by the Pretty Things] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/500-songs-bonus-87226584) . Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at  [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust)  and  [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) Also, a one-time request here — Shawn Taylor, who runs the Facebook group for the podcast and is an old and dear friend of mine, has stage-three lung cancer. I will be hugely grateful to anyone who donates to [the GoFundMe for her treatment] (https://gofund.me/445ef72a) . [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/episode-167-the-weight-by-the-band/#more-1833) ... Read more

14 Aug 2023

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14 Aug 2023


#210

Episode 166: “Crossroads” by Cream

Episode 166 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Crossroads”, Cream, the myth of Robert Johnson, and whether white men can sing the blues. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a forty-eight-minute bonus episode available, [on “Tip-Toe Thru’ the Tulips” by Tiny Tim.] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/85451945) Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at  [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust)  and  [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/episode-166-crossroads-by-cream/#more-1794) ... Read more

02 Jul 2023

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02 Jul 2023


#209

Episode 165: “Dark Star” by the Grateful Dead

Episode 165 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Dark Star” and the career of the Grateful Dead. This is a long one, even longer than the previous episode, but don't worry, that won't be the norm. There's a reason these two were much longer than average. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a twenty-minute bonus episode available, [on "Codine" by the Charlatans] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/83262633) . Errata I mispronounce Brent Mydland's name as Myland a couple of times, and in the introduction I say "Touch of Grey" came out in 1988 -- I later, correctly, say 1987. (I seem to have had a real problem with dates in the intro -- I also originally talked about "Blue Suede Shoes" being in 1954 before fixing it in the edit to be 1956) Resources No Mixcloud this week, as there are too many songs by the Grateful Dead, andGrayfoldedruns to two hours. I referred to alot of books for this episode, partly because almost everything about the Grateful Dead is written from a fannish perspective that already assumes background knowledge, rather than to provide that background knowledge. Of the various books I used, [Dennis McNally's biography of the band] (https://amzn.to/3MI3sOt) and [This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead] (https://amzn.to/3MmlCUr) by Blair Jackson and David Gans are probably most useful for the casually interested. Other books on the Dead I used included [McNally's Jerry on Jerry,] (https://amzn.to/3pVdR0c) a collection of interviews with Garcia; [Deal,] (https://amzn.to/3WjCIXw) Bill Kreutzmann's autobiography; [The Grateful Dead FAQ] (https://amzn.to/3Osuvyu) by Tony Sclafani; [So Many Roads] (https://amzn.to/45eNse3) by David Browne; [Deadology] (https://amzn.to/42XPPQP) by Howard F. Weiner; [Fare Thee Well] (https://amzn.to/3IpGsRy) by Joel Selvin and Pamela Turley; and [Skeleton Key: A Dictionary for Deadheads] (https://amzn.to/3MJcbju) by David Shenk and Steve Silberman. Tom Wolfe's [The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test] (https://amzn.to/3MJcbju) is the classic account of the Pranksters, though not always reliable. I reference Slaughterhouse Five a lot. As well as [the novel itself] (https://amzn.to/41SOBoH) , which everyone should read, I also read [this rather excellent graphic novel adaptation] (https://amzn.to/43bMqxt) , and [The Writer's Crusade,] (https://amzn.to/3pYfMRP) a book about the writing of the novel. I also reference Ted Sturgeon's [More Than Human] (https://amzn.to/3Mox1Da) . For background on the scene around Astounding Science Fiction which included Sturgeon, John W. Campbell, L. Ron Hubbard, and many other science fiction writers, I recommend Alec Nevala-Lee's [Astounding] (https://amzn.to/3MKarGo) . [1,000 True Fans] (https://kk.org/thetechnium/1000-true-fans/) can be read online, as can [the essay on the Californian ideology] (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Richard-Barbrook/publication/249004663_The_Californian_Ideology/links/5725c1bf08ae262228adc341/The-Californian-Ideology.pdf) , and John Perry Barlow's ["Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace"] (https://www.eff.org/cyberspace-independence) . The best collection of Grateful Dead material is the box set [The Golden Road] (https://amzn.to/3MG8s6c) , which contains all the albums released in Pigpen's lifetime along with a lot of bonus material, but which appears currently out of print. [Live/Dead] (https://amzn.to/3MG8s6c) contains both the live version of "Dark Star" which made it well known and, as a CD bonus track, the original single version. And archive.org has [more live recordings of the group ] (https://archive.org/details/GratefulDead) than you can possibly ever listen to. Grayfolded can be bought from [John Oswald's Bandcamp] (https://plunderphonic.bandcamp.com/album/grayfolded) Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of [my backers on Patreon] (http://patreon.com/join/andrewhickey) . Why not join them? Transcript [Excerpt: Tuning from "Grayfolded", under the warnings] Before we begin -- as we're tuning up, as it were, I should mention that this episode contains discussions of alcoholism, drug addiction, racism, nonconsensual drugging of other people, and deaths from drug abuse, suicide, and car accidents. As always, I try to deal with these subjects as carefully as possible, but if you find any of those things upsetting you may wish to read the transcript rather than listen to this episode, or skip it altogether. Also, I should note that the members of the Grateful Dead were much freer with their use of swearing in interviews than any other band we've covered so far, and that makes using quotes from them rather more difficult than with other bands, given the limitations of the rules imposed to stop the podcast being marked as adult. If I quote anything with a word I can't use here, I'll give a brief pause in the audio, and in the transcript I'll have the word in square brackets. [tuning ends] All this happened, more or less. In 1910, T. S. Eliot started work on "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", which at the time was deemed barely poetry, with one reviewer imagining Eliot saying"I'll just put down the first thing that comes into my head, and call it 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.'" It is now considered one of the great classics of modernist literature. In 1969, Kurt Vonnegut wrote "Slaughterhouse-Five, or, The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death", a book in which the protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, comes unstuck in time, and starts living a nonlinear life, hopping around between times reliving his experiences in the Second World War, and future experiences up to 1976 after being kidnapped by beings from the planet Tralfamadore. Or perhaps he has flashbacks and hallucinations after having a breakdown from PTSD. It is now considered one of the great classics of modernist literature or of science fiction, depending on how you look at it. In 1953, Theodore Sturgeon wrote More Than Human. It is now considered one of the great classics of science fiction. In 1950, L. Ron Hubbard wrote Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. It is now considered either a bad piece of science fiction or one of the great revelatory works of religious history, depending on how you look at it. In 1994, 1995, and 1996 the composer John Oswald released, first as two individual CDs and then as a double-CD, an album called Grayfolded, which the composer says in the liner notes he thinks of as existing in Tralfamadorian time. The Tralfamadorians in Vonnegut's novels don't see time as a linear thing with a beginning and end, but as a continuum that they can move between at will. When someone dies, they just think that at this particular point in time they're not doing so good, but at other points in time they're fine, so why focus on the bad time? In the book, when told of someone dying, the Tralfamadorians just say "so it goes". In between the first CD's release and the release of the double-CD version, Jerry Garcia died. From August 1942 through August 1995, Jerry Garcia was alive. So it goes. Shall we go, you and I? [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Dark Star (Omni 3/30/94)"] "One principle has become clear. Since motives are so frequently found in combination, it is essential that the complex types be analyzed and arranged, with an eye kept single nevertheless to the master-theme under discussion. Collectors, both primary and subsidiary, have done such valiant service that the treasures at our command are amply sufficient for such studies, so extensive, indeed, that the task of going through them thoroughly has become too great for the unassisted student. It cannot be too strongly urged that a single theme in its various types and compounds must be made predominant in any useful comparative study. This is true when the sources and analogues of any literary work are treated; it is even truer when the bare motive is discussed. The Grateful Dead furnishes an apt illustration of the necessity of such handling. It appears in a variety of different combinations, almost never alone. Indeed, it is so widespread a tale, and its combinations are so various, that there is the utmost difficulty in determining just what may properly be regarded the original kernel of it, the simple theme to which other motives were joined. Various opinions, as we shall see, have been held with reference to this matter, most of them justified perhaps by the materials in the hands of the scholars holding them, but none quite adequate in view of later evidence." That's a quote from The Grateful Dead: The History of a Folk Story, by Gordon Hall Gerould, published in 1908. Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse-Five opens with a chapter about the process of writing the novel itself, and how difficult it was. He says "I would hate to tell you what this lousy little book cost me in money and anxiety and time. When I got home from the Second World War twenty-three years ago, I thought it would be easy for me to write about the destruction of Dresden, since all I would have to do would be to report what I had seen. And I thought, too, that it would be a masterpiece or at least make me a lot of money, since the subject was so big." This is an episode several of my listeners have been looking forward to, but it's one I've been dreading writing, because this is an episode -- I think the only one in the series -- where the format of the podcast simply *will not* work. Were the Grateful Dead not such an important band, I would skip this episode altogether, but they're a band that simply can't be ignored, and that's a real problem here. Because my intent, always, with this podcast, is to present the recordings of the artists in question, put them in context, and explain why they were important, what their music meant to its listeners. To put, as far as is possible, the positive case for why the music mattered *in the context of its time*. Not why it matters now, or why it matters to me, but why it matters *in its historical context*. Whether I like the music or not isn't the point. Whether it stands up now isn't the point. I play the music, explain what it was they were doing, why they were doing it, what people saw in it. If I do my job well, you come away listening to "Blue Suede Shoes" the way people heard it in 1956, or "Good Vibrations" the way people heard it in 1966, and understanding why people were so impressed by those records. That is simply *not possible* for the Grateful Dead. I can present a case for them as musicians, and hope to do so. I can explain the appeal as best I understand it, and talk about things I like in their music, and things I've noticed. But what I can't do is present their recordings the way they were received in the sixties and explain why they were popular. Because every other act I have covered or will cover in this podcast has been a *recording* act, and their success was based on records. They may also have been exceptional live performers, but James Brown or Ike and Tina Turner are remembered for great *records*, like "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" or "River Deep, Mountain High". Their great moments were captured on vinyl, to be listened back to, and susceptible of analysis. That is not the case for the Grateful Dead, and what is worse *they explicitly said, publicly, on multiple occasions* that it is not possible for me to understand their art, and thus that it is not possible for me to explain it. The Grateful Dead did make studio records, some of them very good. But they always said, consistently, over a thirty year period, that their records didn't capture what they did, and that the only way -- the *only* way, they were very clear about this -- that one could actually understand and appreciate their music, was to see them live, and furthermore to see them live while on psychedelic drugs. [Excerpt: Grateful Dead crowd noise] I never saw the Grateful Dead live -- their last UK performance was a couple of years before I went to my first ever gig -- and I have never taken a psychedelic substance. So by the Grateful Dead's own criteria, it is literally impossible for me to understand or explain their music the way that it should be understood or explained. In a way I'm in a similar position to the one I was in with La Monte Young in the last episode, whose music it's mostly impossible to experience without being in his presence. This is one reason of several why I placed these two episodes back to back. Of course, there is a difference between Young and the Grateful Dead. The Grateful Dead allowed -- even encouraged -- the recording of their live performances. There are literally thousands of concert recordings in circulation, many of them of professional quality. I have listened to many of those, and I can hear what they were doing. I can tell you what *I* think is interesting about their music, and about their musicianship. And I think I can build up a good case for why they were important, and why they're interesting, and why those recordings are worth listening to. And I can certainly explain the cultural phenomenon that was the Grateful Dead. But just know that while I may have found *a* point, *an* explanation for why the Grateful Dead were important, by the band's own lights and those of their fans, no matter how good a job I do in this episode, I *cannot* get it right. And that is, in itself, enough of a reason for this episode to exist, and for me to try, even harder than I normally do, to get it right *anyway*. Because no matter how well I do my job this episode will stand as an example of why this series is called "*A* History", not *the* history. Because parts of the past are ephemeral. There are things about which it's true to say "You had to be there". I cannot know what it was like to have been an American the day Kennedy was shot, I cannot know what it was like to be alive when a man walked on the Moon. Those are things nobody my age or younger can ever experience. And since August the ninth, 1995, the experience of hearing the Grateful Dead's music the way they wanted it heard has been in that category. And that is by design. Jerry Garcia once said "if you work really hard as an artist, you may be able to build something they can’t tear down, you know, after you’re gone... What I want to do is I want it here. I want it now, in this lifetime. I want what I enjoy to last as long as I do and not last any longer. You know, I don’t want something that ends up being as much a nuisance as it is a work of art, you know?" And there's another difficulty. There are only two points in time where it makes sense to do a podcast episode on the Grateful Dead -- late 1967 and early 1968, when the San Francisco scene they were part of was at its most culturally relevant, and 1988 when they had their only top ten hit and gained their largest audience. I can't realistically leave them out of the story until 1988, so it has to be 1968. But the songs they are most remembered for are those they wrote between 1970 and 1972, and those songs are influenced by artists and events we haven't yet covered in the podcast, who will be getting their own episodes in the future. I can't explain those things in this episode, because they need whole episodes of their own. I can't not explain them without leaving out important context for the Grateful Dead. So the best I can do is treat the story I'm telling as if it were in Tralfamadorian time. All of it's happening all at once, and some of it is happening in different episodes that haven't been recorded yet. The podcast as a whole travels linearly from 1938 through to 1999, but this episode is happening in 1968 and 1972 and 1988 and 1995 and other times, all at once. Sometimes I'll talk about things as if you're already familiar with them, but they haven't happened yet in the story. Feel free to come unstuck in time and revisit this time after episode 167, and 172, and 176, and 192, and experience it again. So this has to be an experimental episode. It may well be an experiment that you think fails. If so, the next episode is likely to be far more to your taste, and much shorter than this or the last episode, two episodes that between them have to create a scaffolding on which will hang much of the rest of this podcast's narrative. I've finished my Grateful Dead script now. The next one I write is going to be fun: [Excerpt: Grateful Dead, "Dark Star"] Infrastructure means everything. How we get from place to place, how we transport goods, information, and ourselves, makes a big difference in how society is structured, and in the music we hear. For many centuries, the prime means of long-distance transport was by water -- sailing ships on the ocean, canal boats and steamboats for inland navigation -- and so folk songs talked about the ship as both means of escape, means of making a living, and in some senses as a trap. You'd go out to sea for adventure, or to escape your problems, but you'd find that the sea itself brought its own problems. Because of this we have a long, long tradition of sea shanties which are known throughout the world: [Excerpt: A. L. Lloyd, "Off to Sea Once More"] But in the nineteenth century, the railway was invented and, at least as far as travel within a landmass goes, it replaced the steamboat in the popular imaginary. Now the railway was how you got from place to place, and how you moved freight from one place to another. The railway brought freedom, and was an opportunity for outlaws, whether train robbers or a romanticised version of the hobo hopping onto a freight train and making his way to new lands and new opportunity. It was the train that brought soldiers home from wars, and the train that allowed the Great Migration of Black people from the South to the industrial North. There would still be songs about the riverboats, about how ol' man river keeps rolling along and about the big river Johnny Cash sang about, but increasingly they would be songs of the past, not the present. The train quickly replaced the steamboat in the iconography of what we now think of as roots music -- blues, country, folk, and early jazz music. Sometimes this was very literal. Furry Lewis' "Kassie Jones" -- about a legendary train driver who would break the rules to make sure his train made the station on time, but who ended up sacrificing his own life to save his passengers in a train crash -- is based on "Alabamy Bound", which as we heard in the episode on "Stagger Lee", was about steamboats: [Excerpt: Furry Lewis, "Kassie Jones"] In the early episodes of this podcast we heard many, many, songs about the railway. Louis Jordan saying "take me right back to the track, Jack", Rosetta Tharpe singing about how "this train don't carry no gamblers", the trickster freight train driver driving on the "Rock Island Line", the mystery train sixteen coaches long, the train that kept-a-rollin' all night long, the Midnight Special which the prisoners wished would shine its ever-loving light on them, and the train coming past Folsom Prison whose whistle makes Johnny Cash hang his head and cry. But by the 1960s, that kind of song had started to dry up. It would happen on occasion -- "People Get Ready" by the Impressions is the most obvious example of the train metaphor in an important sixties record -- but by the late sixties the train was no longer a symbol of freedom but of the past. In 1969 Harry Nilsson sang about how "Nobody Cares About the Railroads Any More", and in 1968 the Kinks sang about "The Last of the Steam-Powered Trains". When in 1968 Merle Haggard sang about a freight train, it was as a memory, of a child with hopes that ended up thwarted by reality and his own nature: [Excerpt: Merle Haggard, "Mama Tried"] And the reason for this was that there had been another shift, a shift that had started in the forties and accelerated in the late fifties but had taken a little time to ripple through the culture. Now the train had been replaced in the popular imaginary by motorised transport. Instead of hopping on a train without paying, if you had no money in your pocket you'd have to hitch-hike all the way. Freedom now meant individuality. The ultimate in freedom was the biker -- the Hell's Angels who could go anywhere, unburdened by anything -- and instead of goods being moved by freight train, increasingly they were being moved by truck drivers. By the mid-seventies, truck drivers took a central place in American life, and the most romantic way to live life was to live it on the road. On The Road was also the title of a 1957 novel by Jack Kerouac, which was one of the first major signs of this cultural shift in America. Kerouac was writing about events in the late forties and early fifties, but his book was also a precursor of the sixties counterculture. He wrote the book on one continuous sheet of paper, as a stream of consciousness. Kerouac died in 1969 of an internal haemmorage brought on by too much alcohol consumption. So it goes. But the big key to this cultural shift was caused by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, a massive infrastructure spending bill that led to the construction of the modern American Interstate Highway system. This accelerated a program that had already started, of building much bigger, safer, faster roads. It also, as anyone who has read Robert Caro's The Power Broker knows, reinforced segregation and white flight. It did this both by making commuting into major cities from the suburbs easier -- thus allowing white people with more money to move further away from the cities and still work there -- and by bulldozing community spaces where Black people lived. More than a million people lost their homes and were forcibly moved, and orders of magnitude more lost their communities' parks and green spaces. And both as a result of deliberate actions and unconscious bigotry, the bulk of those affected were Black people -- who often found themselves, if they weren't forced to move, on one side of a ten-lane highway where the park used to be, with white people on the other side of the highway. TheFederal-Aid Highway Act gave even more power to the unaccountable central planners like Robert Moses, the urban planner in New York who managed to become arguably the most powerful man in the city without ever getting elected, partly by slowly compromising away his early progressive ideals in the service of gaining more power. Of course, not every new highway was built through areas where poor Black people lived. Some were planned to go through richer areas for white people, just because you can't completely do away with geographical realities. For example one was planned to be built through part of San Francisco, a rich, white part. But the people who owned properties in that area had enough political power and clout to fight the development, and after nearly a decade of fighting it, the development was called off in late 1966. But over that time, many of the owners of the impressive buildings in the area had moved out, and they had no incentive to improve or maintain their properties while they were under threat of demolition, so many of them were rented out very cheaply. And when the beat community that Kerouac wrote about, many of whom had settled in San Francisco, grew too large and notorious for the area of the city they were in, North Beach, many of them moved to these cheap homes in a previously-exclusive area. The area known as Haight-Ashbury. [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Grayfolded"] Stories all have their starts, even stories told in Tralfamadorian time, although sometimes those starts are shrouded in legend. For example, the story of Scientology's start has been told many times, with different people claiming to have heard L. Ron Hubbard talk about how writing was a mug's game, and if you wanted to make real money, you needed to get followers, start a religion. Either he said this over and over and over again, to many different science fiction writers, or most science fiction writers of his generation were liars. Of course, the definition of a writer is someone who tells lies for money, so who knows? One of the more plausible accounts of him saying that is given by Theodore Sturgeon. Sturgeon's account is more believable than most, because Sturgeon went on to be a supporter of Dianetics, the "new science" that Hubbard turned into his religion, for decades, even while telling the story. The story of the Grateful Dead probably starts as it ends, with Jerry Garcia. There are three things that everyone writing about the Dead says about Garcia's childhood, so we might as well say them here too. The first is that he was named by a music-loving father after Jerome Kern, the songwriter responsible for songs like "Ol' Man River" (though as Oscar Hammerstein's widow liked to point out, "Jerome Kern wrote dum-dum-dum-dum, *my husband* wrote 'Ol' Man River'" -- an important distinction we need to bear in mind when talking about songwriters who write music but not lyrics). The second is that when he was five years old that music-loving father drowned -- and Garcia would always say he had seen his father dying, though some sources claim this was a false memory. So it goes. And the third fact, which for some reason is always told after the second even though it comes before it chronologically, is that when he was four he lost two joints from his right middle finger. Garcia grew up a troubled teen, and in turn caused trouble for other people, but he also developed a few interests that would follow him through his life. He loved the fantastical, especially the fantastical macabre, and became an avid fan of horror and science fiction -- and through his love of old monster films he became enamoured with cinema more generally. Indeed, in 1983 he bought the film rights to Kurt Vonnegut's science fiction novel The Sirens of Titan, the first story in which the Tralfamadorians appear, and wrote a script based on it. He wanted to produce the film himself, with Francis Ford Coppola directing and Bill Murray starring, but most importantly for him he wanted to prevent anyone who didn't care about it from doing it badly. And in that he succeeded. As of 2023 there is no film of The Sirens of Titan. He loved to paint, and would continue that for the rest of his life, with one of his favourite subjects being Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster. And when he was eleven or twelve, he heard for the first time a record that was hugely influential to a whole generation of Californian musicians, even though it was a New York record -- "Gee" by the Crows: [Excerpt: The Crows, "Gee"] Garcia would say later "That was an important song. That was the firstkind of, like where the voices had that kind of not-trained-singervoices, but tough-guy-on-the-street voice." That record introduced him to R&B, and soon he was listening to Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, to Ray Charles, and to a record we've not talked about in the podcast but which was one of the great early doo-wop records, "WPLJ" by the Four Deuces: [Excerpt: The Four Deuces, "WPLJ"] Garcia said of that record "That was one of my anthem songs whenI was in junior high school and high school and around there. That wasone of those songs everybody knew. And that everybody sang. Everybodysang that street-corner favorite." Garcia moved around a lot as a child, and didn't have much time for school by his own account, but one of the few teachers he did respect was an art teacher when he was in North Beach, Walter Hedrick. Hedrick was also one of the earliest of the conceptual artists, and one of the most important figures in the San Francisco arts scene that would become known as the Beat Generation (or the Beatniks, which was originally a disparaging term). Hedrick was a painter and sculptor, but also organised happenings, and he had also been one of the prime movers in starting a series of poetry readings in San Francisco, the first one of which had involved Allen Ginsberg giving the first ever reading of "Howl" -- one of a small number of poems, along with Eliot's "Prufrock" and "The Waste Land" and possibly Pound's Cantos, which can be said to have changed twentieth-century literature. Garcia was fifteen when he got to know Hedrick, in 1957, and by then the Beat scene had already become almost a parody of itself, having become known to the public because of the publication of works like On the Road, and the major artists in the scene were already rejecting the label. By this point tourists were flocking to North Beach to see these beatniks they'd heard about on TV, and Hedrick was actually employed by one cafe to sit in the window wearing a beret, turtleneck, sandals, and beard, and draw and paint, to attract the tourists who flocked by the busload because they could see that there was a "genuine beatnik" in the cafe. Hedrick was, as well as a visual artist, a guitarist and banjo player who played in traditional jazz bands, and he would bring records in to class for his students to listen to, and Garcia particularly remembered him bringing in records by Big Bill Broonzy: [Excerpt: Big Bill Broonzy, "When Things Go Wrong (It Hurts Me Too)"] Garcia was already an avid fan of rock and roll music, but it was being inspired by Hedrick that led him to get his first guitar. Like his contemporary Paul McCartney around the same time, he was initially given the wrong instrument as a birthday present -- in Garcia's case his mother gave him an accordion -- but he soon persuaded her to swap it for an electric guitar he saw in a pawn shop. And like his other contemporary, John Lennon, Garcia initially tuned his instrument incorrectly. He said later "When I started playing the guitar, believe me, I didn’t knowanybody that played. I mean, I didn’t know anybody that played theguitar. Nobody. They weren’t around. There were no guitar teachers.You couldn’t take lessons. There was nothing like that, you know?When I was a kid and I had my first electric guitar, I had it tunedwrong and learned how to play on it with it tuned wrong for about ayear. And I was getting somewhere on it, you know… Finally, I met aguy that knew how to tune it right and showed me three chords, and itwas like a revelation. You know what I mean? It was like somebody gaveme the key to heaven." He joined a band, the Chords, which mostly played big band music, and his friend Gary Foster taught him some of the rudiments of playing the guitar -- things like how to use a capo to change keys. But he was always a rebellious kid, and soon found himself faced with a choice between joining the military or going to prison. He chose the former, and it was during his time in the Army that a friend, Ron Stevenson, introduced him to the music of Merle Travis, and to Travis-style guitar picking: [Excerpt: Merle Travis, "Nine-Pound Hammer"] Garcia had never encountered playing like that before, but he instantly recognised that Travis, and Chet Atkins who Stevenson also played for him, had been an influence on Scotty Moore. He started to realise that the music he'd listened to as a teenager was influenced by music that went further back. But Stevenson, as well as teaching Garcia some of the rudiments of Travis-picking, also indirectly led to Garcia getting discharged from the Army. Stevenson was not a well man, and became suicidal. Garcia decided it was more important to keep his friend company and make sure he didn't kill himself than it was to turn up for roll call, and as a result he got discharged himself on psychiatric grounds -- according to Garcia he told the Army psychiatrist "I was involved in stuff that was more importantto me in the moment than the army was and that was the reason I waslate" and the psychiatrist thought it was neurotic of Garcia to have his own set of values separate from that of the Army. After discharge, Garcia did various jobs, including working as a transcriptionist for Lenny Bruce, the comedian who was a huge influence on the counterculture. In one of the various attacks over the years by authoritarians on language, Bruce was repeatedly arrested for obscenity, and in 1961 he was arrested at a jazz club in North Beach. Sixty years ago, the parts of speech that were being criminalised weren't pronouns, but prepositions and verbs: [Excerpt: Lenny Bruce, "To is a Preposition, Come is a Verb"] That piece, indeed, was so controversial that when Frank Zappa quoted part of it in a song in 1968, the record label insisted on the relevant passage being played backwards so people couldn't hear such disgusting filth: [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Harry You're a Beast"] (Anyone familiar with that song will understand that the censored portion is possibly the least offensive part of the whole thing). Bruce was facing trial, and he needed transcripts of what he had said in his recordings to present in court. Incidentally, there seems to be some confusion over exactly which of Bruce's many obscenity trials Garcia became a transcriptionist for. Dennis McNally says in his biography of the band, published in 2002, that it was the most famous of them, in autumn 1964, but in a later book, Jerry on Jerry, a book of interviews of Garcia edited by McNally, McNally talks about it being when Garcia was nineteen, which would mean it was Bruce's first trial, in 1961. We can put this down to the fact that many of the people involved, not least Garcia, lived in Tralfamadorian time, and were rather hazy on dates, but I'm placing the story here rather than in 1964 because it seems to make more sense that Garcia would be involved in a trial based on an incident in San Francisco than one in New York. Garcia got the job, even though he couldn't type, because by this point he'd spent so long listening to recordings of old folk and country music that he was used to transcribing indecipherable accents, and often, as Garcia would tell it, Bruce would mumble very fast and condense multiple syllables into one. Garcia was particularly impressed by Bruce's ability to improvise but talk in entire paragraphs, and he compared his use of language to bebop. Another thing that was starting to impress Garcia, and which he also compared to bebop, was bluegrass: [Excerpt: Bill Monroe, "Fire on the Mountain"] Bluegrass is a music that is often considered very traditional, because it's based on traditional songs and uses acoustic instruments, but in fact it was a terribly *modern* music, and largely a postwar creation of a single band -- Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys. And Garcia was right when he said it was "white bebop" -- though he did say "The only thing it doesn’t have is theharmonic richness of bebop. You know what I mean? That’s what it’smissing, but it has everything else." Both bebop and bluegrass evolved after the second world war, though they were informed by music from before it, and both prized the ability to improvise, and technical excellence. Both are musics that involved playing *fast*, in an ensemble, and being able to respond quickly to the other musicians. Both musics were also intensely rhythmic, a response to a faster paced, more stressful world. They were both part of the general change in the arts towards immediacy that we looked at in the last episode with the creation first of expressionism and then of pop art. Bluegrass didn't go into the harmonic explorations that modern jazz did, but it was absolutely as modern as anything Charlie Parker was doing, and came from the same impulses. It was tradition and innovation, the past and the future simultaneously. Bill Monroe, Jackson Pollock, Charlie Parker, Jack Kerouac, and Lenny Bruce were all in their own ways responding to the same cultural moment, and it was that which Garcia was responding to. But he didn't become able to play bluegrass until after a tragedy which shaped his life even more than his father's death had. Garcia had been to a party and was in a car with his friends Lee Adams, Paul Speegle, and Alan Trist. Adams was driving at ninety miles an hour when they hit a tight curve and crashed. Garcia, Adams, and Trist were all severely injured but survived. Speegle died. So it goes. This tragedy changed Garcia's attitudes totally. Of all his friends, Speegle was the one who was most serious about his art, and who treated it as something to work on. Garcia had always been someone who fundamentally didn't want to work or take any responsibility for anything. And he remained that way -- except for his music. Speegle's death changed Garcia's attitude to that, totally. If his friend wasn't going to be able to practice his own art any more, Garcia would practice his, in tribute to him. He resolved to become a virtuoso on guitar and banjo. His girlfriend of the time later said“I don’t know if you’ve spent time with someone rehearsing ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown’ on a banjo for eight hours, but Jerry practiced endlessly. He really wanted to excel and be the best. He had tremendous personal ambition in the musical arena, and he wanted to master whatever he set out to explore. Then he would set another sight for himself. And practice another eight hours a day of new licks.” But of course, you can't make ensemble music on your own: [Excerpt: Jerry Garcia and Bob Hunter, "Oh Mary Don't You Weep" (including end)] "Evelyn said, “What is it called when a person needs a … person … when you want to be touched and the … two are like one thing and there isn’t anything else at all anywhere?” Alicia, who had read books, thought about it. “Love,” she said at length." That's from More Than Human, by Theodore Sturgeon, a book I'll be quoting a few more times as the story goes on. Robert Hunter, like Garcia, was just out of the military -- in his case, the National Guard -- and he came into Garcia's life just after Paul Speegle had left it. Garcia and Alan Trist met Hunter ten days after the accident, and the three men started hanging out together, Trist and Hunter writing while Garcia played music. Garcia and Hunter both bonded over their shared love for the beats, and for traditional music, and the two formed a duo, Bob and Jerry, which performed together a handful of times. They started playing together, in fact, after Hunter picked up a guitar and started playing a song and halfway through Garcia took it off him and finished the song himself. The two of them learned songs from the Harry Smith Anthology -- Garcia was completely apolitical, and only once voted in his life, for Lyndon Johnson in 1964 to keep Goldwater out, and regretted even doing that, and so he didn't learn any of the more political material people like Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, and Bob Dylan were doing at the time -- but their duo only lasted a short time because Hunter wasn't an especially good guitarist. Hunter would, though, continue to jam with Garcia and other friends, sometimes playing mandolin, while Garcia played solo gigs and with other musicians as well, playing and moving round the Bay Area and performing with whoever he could: [Excerpt: Jerry Garcia, "Railroad Bill"] "Bleshing, that was Janie’s word. She said Baby told it to her. She said it meant everyone all together being something, even if they all did different things. Two arms, two legs, one body, one head, all working together, although a head can’t walk and arms can’t think. Lone said maybe it was a mixture of “blending” and “meshing,” but I don’t think he believed that himself. It was a lot more than that." That's from More Than Human In 1961, Garcia and Hunter met another young musician, but one who was interested in a very different type of music. Phil Lesh was a serious student of modern classical music, a classically-trained violinist and trumpeter whose interest was solidly in the experimental and whose attitude can be summed up by a story that's always told about him meeting his close friend Tom Constanten for the first time. Lesh had been talking with someone about serialism, and Constanten had interrupted, saying "Music stopped being created in 1750 but it started again in 1950". Lesh just stuck out his hand, recognising a kindred spirit. Lesh and Constanten were both students of Luciano Berio, the experimental composer who created compositions for magnetic tape: [Excerpt: Luciano Berio, "Momenti"] Berio had been one of the founders of theStudio di fonologia musicale di Radio Milano, a studio for producing contemporary electronic music where John Cage had worked for a time, and he had also worked with the electronic music pioneer Karlheinz Stockhausen. Lesh would later remember being very impressed when Berio brought a tape into the classroom -- the actual multitrack tape for Stockhausen's revolutionary piece Gesang Der Juenglinge: [Excerpt: Karlheinz Stockhausen, "Gesang Der Juenglinge"] Lesh at first had been distrustful of Garcia -- Garcia was charismatic and had followers, and Lesh never liked people like that. But he was impressed by Garcia's playing, and soon realised that the two men, despite their very different musical interests, had a lot in common. Lesh was interested in the technology of music as well as in performing and composing it, and so when he wasn't studying he helped out by engineering at the university's radio station. Lesh was impressed by Garcia's playing, and suggested to the presenter of the station's folk show, the Midnight Special, that Garcia be a guest. Garcia was so good that he ended up getting an entire solo show to himself, where normally the show would feature multiple acts. Lesh and Constanten soon moved away from the Bay Area to Las Vegas, but both would be back -- in Constanten's case he would form an experimental group in San Francisco with their fellow student Steve Reich, and that group (though not with Constanten performing) would later premiere Terry Riley's In C, a piece influenced by La Monte Young and often considered one of the great masterpieces of minimalist music. By early 1962 Garcia and Hunter had formed a bluegrass band, with Garcia on guitar and banjo and Hunter on mandolin, and a rotating cast of other musicians including Ken Frankel, who played banjo and fiddle. They performed under different names, including the Tub Thumpers, the Hart Valley Drifters, and the Sleepy Valley Hog Stompers, and played a mixture of bluegrass and old-time music -- and were very careful about the distinction: [Excerpt: The Hart Valley Drifters, "Cripple Creek"] In 1993, the Republican political activist John Perry Barlow was invited to talk to the CIA about the possibilities open to them with what was then called the Information Superhighway. He later wrote, in part "They told me they'd brought Steve Jobs in a few weeks before to indoctrinate them in modern information management. And they were delighted when I returned later, bringing with me a platoon of Internet gurus, including Esther Dyson, Mitch Kapor, Tony Rutkowski, and Vint Cerf. They sealed us into an electronically impenetrable room to discuss the radical possibility that a good first step in lifting their blackout would be for the CIA to put up a Web site...We told them that information exchange was a barter system, and that to receive, one must also be willing to share. This was an alien notion to them. They weren't even willing to share information among themselves, much less the world." 1962 brought a new experience for Robert Hunter. Hunter had been recruited into taking part in psychological tests at Stanford University, which in the sixties and seventies was one of the preeminent universities for psychological experiments. As part of this, Hunter was given $140 to attend the VA hospital (where a janitor named Ken Kesey, who had himself taken part in a similar set of experiments a couple of years earlier, worked a day job while he was working on his first novel) for four weeks on the run, and take different psychedelic drugs each time, starting with LSD, so his reactions could be observed. (It was later revealed that these experiments were part of a CIA project called MKUltra, designed to investigate the possibility of using psychedelic drugs for mind control, blackmail, and torture. Hunter was quite lucky in that he was told what was going to happen to him and paid for his time. Other subjects included the unlucky customers of brothels the CIA set up as fronts -- they dosed the customers' drinks and observed them through two-way mirrors. Some of their experimental subjects died by suicide as a result of their experiences. So it goes. ) Hunter was interested in taking LSD after reading Aldous Huxley's writings about psychedelic substances, and he brought his typewriter along to the experiment. During the first test, he wrote a six-page text, a short excerpt from which is now widely quoted, reading in part "Sit back picture yourself swooping up a shell of purple with foam crests of crystal drops soft nigh they fall unto the sea of morning creep-very-softly mist ... and then sort of cascade tinkley-bell-like (must I take you by the hand, ever so slowly type) and then conglomerate suddenly into a peal of silver vibrant uncomprehendingly, blood singingly, joyously resounding bells" Hunter's experience led to everyone in their social circle wanting to try LSD, and soon they'd all come to the same conclusion -- this was something special. But Garcia needed money -- he'd got his girlfriend pregnant, and they'd married (this would be the first of several marriages in Garcia's life, and I won't be covering them all -- at Garcia's funeral, his second wife, Carolyn, said Garcia always called her the love of his life, and his first wife and his early-sixties girlfriend who he proposed to again in the nineties both simultaneously said "He said that to me!"). So he started teaching guitar at a music shop in Palo Alto. Hunter had no time for Garcia's incipient domesticity and thought that his wife was trying to make him live a conventional life, and the two drifted apart somewhat, though they'd still play together occasionally. Through working at the music store, Garcia got to know the manager,Troy Weidenheimer, who had a rock and roll band called the Zodiacs. Garcia joined the band on bass, despite that not being his instrument. He later said "Troy was a lot of fun, but I wasn’t good enough a musicianthen to have been able to deal with it. I was out of my idiom, really,’cause when I played with Troy I was playing electric bass, youknow. I never was a good bass player. Sometimes I was playing in thewrong key and didn’t even [fuckin’] know it. I couldn’t hear thatlow, after playing banjo, you know, and going to electric...But Troy taught me the principle of, hey, you know, just stompyour foot and get on it. He was great. A great one for the instantarrangement, you know. And he was also fearless for that thing of getyour friends to do it." Garcia's tenure in the Zodiacs didn't last long, nor did this experiment with rock and roll, but two other members of the Zodiacs will be notable later in the story -- the harmonica player, an old friend of Garcia's named Ron McKernan, who would soon gain the nickname Pig Pen after the Peanuts character, and the drummer, Bill Kreutzmann: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Drums/Space (Skull & Bones version)"] Kreutzmann said of the Zodiacs "Jerry was the hired bass player and I was the hired drummer.I only remember playing that one gig with them, but I was in way over my head. I always did that. I always played things that were really hard and it didn’t matter. I just went for it." Garcia and Kreutzmann didn't really get to know each other then, but Garcia did get to know someone else who would soon be very important in his life. Bob Weir was from a very different background than Garcia, though both had the shared experience of long bouts of chronic illness as children. He had grown up in a very wealthy family, and had always been well-liked, but he was what we would now call neurodivergent -- reading books about the band he talks about being dyslexic but clearly has other undiagnosed neurodivergences, which often go along with dyslexia -- and as a result he was deemed to have behavioural problems which led to him getting expelled from pre-school and kicked out of the cub scouts. He was never academically gifted, thanks to his dyslexia, but he was always enthusiastic about music -- to a fault. He learned to play boogie piano but played so loudly and so often his parents sold the piano. He had a trumpet, but the neighbours complained about him playing it outside. Finally he switched to the guitar, an instrument with which it is of course impossible to make too loud a noise. The first song he learned was the Kingston Trio's version of an old sea shanty, "The Wreck of the John B": [Excerpt: The Kingston Trio, "The Wreck of the John B"] He was sent off to a private school in Colorado for teenagers with behavioural issues, and there he met the boy who would become his lifelong friend, John Perry Barlow. Unfortunately the two troublemakers got on with each other *so* well that after their first year they were told that it was too disruptive having both of them at the school, and only one could stay there the next year. Barlow stayed and Weir moved back to the Bay Area. By this point, Weir was getting more interested in folk music that went beyond the commercial folk of the Kingston Trio. As he said later "There was something in there that was ringing my bells. What I had grown up thinking of as hillbilly music, it started to have some depth for me, and I could start to hear the music in it. Suddenly, it wasn’t just a bunch of ignorant hillbillies playing what they could. There was some depth and expertise and stuff like that to aspire to.” He moved from school to school but one thing that stayed with him was his love of playing guitar, and he started taking lessons fromTroy Weidenheimer, but he got most of his education going to folk clubs and hootenannies. He regularly went to the Tangent, a club where Garcia played, but Garcia's bluegrass banjo playing was far too rigorous for a free spirit like Weir to emulate, and instead he started trying to copy one of the guitarists who was a regular there, Jorma Kaukonnen. On New Year's Eve 1963 Weir was out walking with his friends Bob Matthews and Rich Macauley, and they passed the music shop where Garcia was a teacher, and heard him playing his banjo. They knocked and asked if they could come in -- they all knew Garcia a little, and Bob Matthews was one of his students, having become interested in playing banjo after hearing the theme tune to the Beverly Hillbillies, played by the bluegrass greats Flatt and Scruggs: [Excerpt: Flatt and Scruggs, "The Beverly Hillbillies"] Garcia at first told these kids, several years younger than him, that they couldn't come in -- he was waiting for his students to show up. But Weir said“Jerry, listen, it’s seven-thirty on New Year’s Eve, and I don’t think you’re going to be seeing your students tonight.” Garcia realised the wisdom of this, and invited the teenagers in to jam with him. At the time, there was a bit of a renaissance in jug bands, as we talked about back in the episode on the Lovin' Spoonful. This was a form of music that had grown up in the 1920s, and was similar and related to skiffle and coffee-pot bands -- jug bands would tend to have a mixture of portable string instruments like guitars and banjos, harmonicas, and people using improvised instruments, particularly blowing into a jug. The most popular of these bands had been Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers, led by banjo player Gus Cannon and with harmonica player Noah Lewis: [Excerpt: Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers, "Viola Lee Blues"] With the folk revival, Cannon's work had become well-known again. The Rooftop Singers, a Kingston Trio style folk group, had had a hit with his song "Walk Right In" in 1963, and as a result of that success Cannon had even signed a record contract with Stax -- Stax's first album ever, a month before Booker T and the MGs' first album, was in fact the eighty-year-old Cannon playing his banjo and singing his old songs. The rediscovery of Cannon had started a craze for jug bands, and the most popular of the new jug bands was Jim Kweskin's Jug Band, which did a mixture of old songs like "You're a Viper" and more recent material redone in the old style. Weir, Matthews, and Macauley had been to see the Kweskin band the night before, and had been very impressed, especially by their singer MariaD’Amato -- who would later marry her bandmate Geoff Muldaur and take his name -- and her performance of Leiber and Stoller's "I'm a Woman": [Excerpt: Jim Kweskin's Jug Band, "I'm a Woman"] Matthews suggested that they form their own jug band, and Garcia eagerly agreed -- though Matthews found himself rapidly moving from banjo to washboard to kazoo to second kazoo before realising he was surplus to requirements. Robert Hunter was similarly an early member but claimed he "didn’t have the embouchure" to play the jug, and was soon also out. He moved to LA and started studying Scientology -- later claiming that he wanted science-fictional magic powers, which L. Ron Hubbard's new religion certainly offered. The group took the name Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Champions -- apparently they varied the spelling every time they played -- and had a rotating membership that at one time or another included about twenty different people, but tended always to have Garcia on banjo, Weir on jug and later guitar, and Garcia's friend Pig Pen on harmonica: [Excerpt: Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Champions, "On the Road Again"] The group played quite regularly in early 1964, but Garcia's first love was still bluegrass, and he was trying to build an audience with his bluegrass band, The Black Mountain Boys. But bluegrass was very unpopular in the Bay Area, where it was simultaneously thought of as unsophisticated -- as "hillbilly music" -- and as elitist, because it required actual instrumental ability, which wasn't in any great supply in the amateur folk scene. But instrumental ability was something Garcia definitely had, as at this point he was still practising eight hours a day, every day, and it shows on the recordings of the Black Mountain Boys: [Excerpt: The Black Mountain Boys, "Rosa Lee McFall"] By the summer, Bob Weir was also working at the music shop, and so Garcia let Weir take over his students while he and the Black Mountain Boys' guitarist Sandy Rothman went on a road trip to see as many bluegrass musicians as they could and to audition for Bill Monroe himself. As it happened, Garcia found himself too shy to audition for Monroe, but Rothman later ended up playing with Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. On his return to the Bay Area, Garcia resumed playing with the Uptown Jug Champions, but Pig Pen started pestering him to do something different. While both men had overlapping tastes in music and a love for the blues, Garcia's tastes had always been towards the country end of the spectrum while Pig Pen's were towards R&B. And while the Uptown Jug Champions were all a bit disdainful of the Beatles at first -- apart from Bob Weir, the youngest of the group, who thought they were interesting -- Pig Pen had become enamoured of another British band who were just starting to make it big: [Excerpt: The Rolling Stones, "Not Fade Away"] 29) Garcia liked the first Rolling Stones album too, and he eventually took Pig Pen's point -- the stuff that the Rolling Stones were doing, covers of Slim Harpo and Buddy Holly, was not a million miles away from the material they were doing as Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Champions. Pig Pen could play a little electric organ, Bob had been fooling around with the electric guitars in the music shop. Why not give it a go? The stuff bands like the Rolling Stones were doing wasn't that different from the electric blues that Pig Pen liked, and they'd all seen A Hard Day's Night -- they could carry on playing with banjos, jugs, and kazoos and have the respect of a handful of folkies, or they could get electric instruments and potentially have screaming girls and millions of dollars, while playing the same songs. This was a convincing argument, especially when Dana Morgan Jr, the son of the owner of the music shop, told them they could have free electric instruments if they let him join on bass. Morgan wasn't that great on bass, but what the hell, free instruments. Pig Pen had the best voice and stage presence, so he became the frontman of the new group, singing most of the leads, though Jerry and Bob would both sing a few songs, and playing harmonica and organ. Weir was on rhythm guitar, and Garcia was the lead guitarist and obvious leader of the group. They just needed a drummer, and handily Bill Kreutzmann, who had played with Garcia and Pig Pen in the Zodiacs, was also now teaching music at the music shop. Not only that, but about three weeks before they decided to go electric, Kreutzmann had seen the Uptown Jug Champions performing and been astonished by Garcia's musicianship and charisma, and said to himself "Man, I’m gonna follow that guy forever!" The new group named themselves the Warlocks, and started rehearsing in earnest. Around this time, Garcia also finally managed to get some of the LSD that his friend Robert Hunter had been so enthusiastic about three years earlier, and it was a life-changing experience for him. In particular, he credited LSD with making him comfortable being a less disciplined player -- as a bluegrass player he'd had to be frighteningly precise, but now he was playing rock and needed to loosen up. A few days after taking LSD for the first time, Garcia also heard some of Bob Dylan's new material, and realised that the folk singer he'd had little time for with his preachy politics was now making electric music that owed a lot more to the Beat culture Garcia considered himself part of: [Excerpt: Bob Dylan, "Subterranean Homesick Blues"] Another person who was hugely affected by hearing that was Phil Lesh, who later said "I couldn’t believe that was Bob Dylan on AM radio, with an electric band. It changed my whole consciousness: if something like that could happen, the sky was the limit." Up to that point, Lesh had been focused entirely on his avant-garde music, working with friends like Steve Reich to push music forward, inspired by people like John Cage and La Monte Young, but now he realised there was music of value in the rock world. He'd quickly started going to rock gigs, seeing the Rolling Stones and the Byrds, and then he took acid and went to see his friend Garcia's new electric band play their third ever gig. He was blown away, and very quickly it was decided that Lesh would be the group's new bass player -- though everyone involved tells a different story as to who made the decision and how it came about, and accounts also vary as to whether Dana Morgan took his sacking gracefully and let his erstwhile bandmates keep their instruments, or whether they had to scrounge up some new ones. Lesh had never played bass before, but he was a talented multi-instrumentalist with a deep understanding of music and an ability to compose and improvise, and the repertoire the Warlocks were playing in the early days was mostly three-chord material that doesn't take much rehearsal -- though it was apparently beyond the abilities of poor Dana Morgan, who apparently had to be told note-by-note what to play by Garcia, and learn it by rote. Garcia told Lesh what notes the strings of a bass were tuned to, told him to borrow a guitar and practice, and within two weeks he was on stage with the Warlocks: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, “Grayfolded"] In September 1995, just weeks after Jerry Garcia's death, an article was published in Mute magazine identifying a cultural trend that had shaped the nineties, and would as it turned out shape at least the next thirty years. It's titled "The Californian Ideology", though it may be better titled "The Bay Area Ideology", and it identifies a worldview that had grown up in Silicon Valley, based around the ideas of the hippie movement, of right-wing libertarianism, of science fiction authors, and of Marshall McLuhan. It starts "There is an emerging global orthodoxy concerning the relation between society, technology and politics. We have called this orthodoxy `the Californian Ideology' in honour of the state where it originated. By naturalising and giving a technological proof to a libertarian political philosophy, and therefore foreclosing on alternative futures, the Californian Ideologues are able to assert that social and political debates about the future have now become meaningless. The California Ideology is a mix of cybernetics, free market economics, and counter-culture libertarianism and is promulgated by magazines such as WIRED and MONDO 2000 and preached in the books of Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly and others. The new faith has been embraced by computer nerds, slacker students, 30-something capitalists, hip academics, futurist bureaucrats and even the President of the USA himself. As usual, Europeans have not been slow to copy the latest fashion from America. While a recent EU report recommended adopting the Californian free enterprise model to build the 'infobahn', cutting-edge artists and academics have been championing the 'post-human' philosophy developed by the West Coast's Extropian cult. With no obvious opponents, the global dominance of the Californian ideology appears to be complete." [Excerpt: Grayfolded] The Warlocks' first gig with Phil Lesh on bass was on June the 18th 1965, at a club called Frenchy's with a teenage clientele. Lesh thought his playing had been wooden and it wasn't a good gig, and apparently the management of Frenchy's agreed -- they were meant to play a second night there, but turned up to be told they'd been replaced by a band with an accordion and clarinet. But by September the group had managed to get themselves a residency at a small bar named the In Room, and playing there every night made them cohere. They were at this point playing the kind of sets that bar bands everywhere play to this day, though at the time the songs they were playing, like "Gloria" by Them and "In the Midnight Hour", were the most contemporary of hits. Another song that they introduced into their repertoire was "Do You Believe in Magic" by the Lovin' Spoonful, another band which had grown up out of former jug band musicians. As well as playing their own sets, they were also the house band at The In Room and as such had to back various touring artists who were the headline acts. The first act they had to back up was Cornell Gunter's version of the Coasters. Gunter had brought his own guitarist along as musical director, and for the first show Weir sat in the audience watching the show and learning the parts, staring intently at this musical director's playing. After seeing that, Weir's playing was changed, because he also picked up how the guitarist was guiding the band while playing, the small cues that a musical director will use to steer the musicians in the right direction. Weir started doing these things himself when he was singing lead -- Pig Pen was the frontman but everyone except Bill sang sometimes -- and the group soon found that rather than Garcia being the sole leader, now whoever was the lead singer for the song was the de facto conductor as well. By this point, the Bay Area was getting almost overrun with people forming electric guitar bands, as every major urban area in America was. Some of the bands were even having hits already -- We Five had had a number three hit with "You Were On My Mind", a song which had originally been performed by the folk duo Ian and Sylvia: [Excerpt: We Five, "You Were On My Mind"] Although the band that was most highly regarded on the scene, the Charlatans, was having problems with the various record companies they tried to get signed to, and didn't end up making a record until 1969. If tracks like "Number One" had been released in 1965 when they were recorded, the history of the San Francisco music scene may have taken a very different turn: [Excerpt: The Charlatans, "Number One"] Bands like Jefferson Airplane, the Great Society, and Big Brother and the Holding Company were also forming, and Autumn Records was having a run of success with records by the Beau Brummels, whose records were produced by Autumn's in-house A&R man, Sly Stone: [Excerpt: The Beau Brummels, "Laugh Laugh"] The Warlocks were somewhat cut off from this, playing in a dive bar whose clientele was mostly depressed alcoholics. But the fact that they were playing every night for an audience that didn't care much gave them freedom, and they used that freedom to improvise. Both Lesh and Garcia were big fans of John Coltrane, and they started to take lessons from his style of playing. When the group played "Gloria" or "Midnight Hour" or whatever, they started to extend the songs and give themselves long instrumental passages for soloing. Garcia's playing wasn't influenced *harmonically* by Coltrane -- in fact Garcia was always a rather harmonically simple player. He'd tend to play lead lines either in Mixolydian mode, which is one of the most standard modes in rock, pop, blues, and jazz, or he'd play the notes of the chord that was being played, so if the band were playing a G chord his lead would emphasise the notes G, B, and D. But what he was influenced by was Coltrane's tendency to improvise in long, complex, phrases that made up a single thought -- Coltrane was thinking musically in paragraphs, rather than sentences, and Garcia started to try the same kind of thing. And under him Lesh was slowly starting to innovate in his bass playing. Lesh was also thinking in terms of Coltrane, but also of the way classical and baroque composers would use bass lines contrapuntally. Of all the band Lesh had the least knowledge of what the norms of popular music forms like rock and roll and blues were, and so his use of the bass inadvertently paralleled the moves being made by a lot of other bass players around this time, now that recording techniques were improving and allowing much better definition of bass sounds on record. Up to about 1965 the bass on rock and roll records was almost always playing very simple lines -- at its most complicated it'd be something like a boogie walking bassline, but more often it would be the root and maybe fifth of the chord, simple whole notes dead on the beat, often locked in with the bass drum. Lesh was one of the first bass players to start playing after people like James Jamerson, Paul McCartney, and Brian Wilson started coming up with more through-composed parts for rock music, and that became his natural idiom. What Lesh was doing was not what one might think of as conventional rhythm section work at all, and he would often syncopate his lines, only rarely coming in on the one of a bar as a normal bass player would, but often coming in half a beat later. The group started to develop a conversational approach to performance, with the instrumentalists, especially Lesh and Garcia, entering into a dialogue with each other, all doing their own thing. They were particularly influenced by "Cleo's Back" by Junior Walker and the All-Stars, a Motown instrumental, and it's fascinating to listen to that record in this context. "Cleo's Back" is clearly an attempt to replicate Stax records like "Green Onions", but the Walker record has each of the musicians doing his own thing, rather than playing in tight lockstep. They're all paying attention to the groove, but they're riffing on it, coming in and out when they have something to say, playing off each other as if they all think they're the star soloist but still somehow working as an ensemble: [Excerpt: Junior Walker & the All-Stars, "Cleo's Back"] By the time the Warlocks had finished their stint at the In Room, the San Francisco psychedelic rock scene had exploded, almost without the group realising it, and record companies were on the lookout. San Francisco was clearly the next big thing to exploit, and Autumn Records was right there. After Sly Stone had had hits with the Beau Brummels and minor success with the Mojo Men, they were on a bit of a high and were auditioning bands left and right. The recording of the Charlatans we heard earlier was from a session they did for Autumn that didn't get released, and Sly Stone was just about to start work with the Great Society, but Stone was apparently not present when the Warlocks did their audition for the label in November 1965: [Excerpt: The Warlocks, "Can't Come Down"] But for that audition, the group actually performed under another name, The Emergency Crew, because Phil Lesh had been looking through records in a shop and found one by another group called the Warlocks. McNally in his biography suggests that this is likely the Warlocks who included two-thirds of ZZ Top, but as far as I can tell that band didn't release a record until a few months after this. Nor of course is it the Velvet Underground, who never released a record under that name. There were, it turns out, a lot of bands who decided in the mid-sixties to call themselves The Warlocks -- I've found evidence of at least ten, many of whom released singles. My guess is that the record that Lesh had found was this one, an attempt by a band from Massachusetts to start a dance craze, released on Decca in June 1965. Lesh remembered the record he'd seen as being on Columbia, but otherwise this fits: [Excerpt: The Warlocks, "Temper Tantrum"] Oddly, the B-side to that track was a cover of James Brown's "I'll Go Crazy", which was a song that was also in the set of the Bay Area Warlocks. The group got together in Phil Lesh's house and started throwing out names. When nobody liked any of anyone else's suggestions, they started thumbing through reference books -- dictionaries, books of quotations, and so on -- and eventually Garcia found what he and Lesh thought the perfect name, though Bob Weir wasn't so keen. The Grateful Dead is a motif from many folk stories throughout the world. To quote from Gordon Hall Gerould's book on the subject: "A man finds a corpse lying unburied, and out of pure philanthropy procures interment for it at great personal inconvenience. Later he is met by the ghost of the dead man, who in many cases promises him help on condition of receiving, in return, half of whatever he gets. The hero obtains a wife (or some other reward), and, when called upon, is ready to fulfil his bargain as to sharing his possessions." Gerould identifies variants of this story all over the world, and sees it crop up as an element in many, many, stories. It exists in endless variations with no single canonical version, as so many folk stories and songs do. None of the band knew much of this at the time, but Lesh in particular was so enthusiastic about the name that the matter was settled. The Warlocks were now the Grateful Dead: [Excerpt: “Grayfolded”] In Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle, there's a religion made up by a calypso singer named Bokonon, which includes a concept called a karass. To quote from the book "We Bokononists believe that humanity is organized into teams,teams that do God's Will without ever discovering what they aredoing. Such a team is called a karass by Bokonon" A karass doesn't necessarily know it's a karass -- it's a collection of people whose lives are intertwined in ways they will never fully understand. Later in the book he goes on to define another term: "A wampeter is the pivot of a karass. No karass iswithout a wampeter, Bokonon tells us, just as no wheel iswithout a hub.Anything can be a wampeter: a tree, a rock, an animal, anidea, a book, a melody, the Holy Grail. Whatever it is, themembers of its karass revolve about it in the majestic chaos ofa spiral nebula. The orbits of the members of a karass abouttheir common wampeter are spiritual orbits, naturally. It issouls and not bodies that revolve." In Vonnegut's twice-fictional religion, there are always two wampeters for every karass, one waxing and one waning. And there's no doubt that one of the wampeters around which the karass that encompassed the Grateful Dead at this time was revolving was Neal Cassady: [Excerpt: Bob Weir "Cassidy"] Cassady is difficult to sum up, especially at a remove of nearly sixty years. He was a vital link between two different versions of the counterculture -- the Beats of the fifties and the hippies of the sixties -- and everyone who knew him talks about him as having been a great artist and a vital inspiration to them. He was regarded as a peer by Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Jerry Garcia. But while Kesey and Kerouac's art was their novels, Ginsberg's was his poetry, and Garcia's was his guitar playing -- all things that one can point to and analyse and that exist as works of art, according to Garcia "Neal was a guy who was like an artist without an art. He was his art, you know?" He meant that very literally. He said "If you’re doing something and eventually you’re doing it well enough to where there’s a flow to it, then you know when the flow is there and you know when it ain’t. And it’s that same thing. But like, most people do it the way I’ve done it—the way most conventional artists deal with it at that level is to take up a discipline, one specific thing, scope in on it, concentrate your energy on it, like an alchemist, and work on it and work on it, and that becomes the way of telling whether you’re on or not, and then all your energy goes into it. Neal’s way of doing that was to eliminate the tool, you know, even though he probably wasn’t conscious of it initially and used to envy that discipline. Eventually he became that whole thing—all of his surfaces, if you imagine human beings as having many surfaces, all of his surfaces were on that edge of on-ness and off-ness, and being conscious of whether you’re on or off. That whole thing of balancing on the end of a stepladder, you know, the kind of stuff that Neal could do. I mean, when he was on, he could really, because he worked at it, man. He spent a lot of the time doing it. Everybody else thought it was crazy weirdness, but he was working on it." Cassady had been a petty criminal for a great part of his youth, and had been arrested a number of times for car theft, shoplifting, and possession of stolen goods. But he was also mentored by a renowned educator, Justin Brierly, who saw potential in him. Through one of Brierly's other students, after getting out of prison when he was nineteen he met Jack Kerouac, and the two travelled across the country on several occasions -- with Cassady becoming the model for Dean Moriarty, the main character in Kerouac's On The Road. Cassady asked Kerouac to teach him how to write, though he never finished a completed work in his lifetime, but according to many sources while Kerouac was teaching Cassady, Cassady was also teaching Kerouac, and the prose style which made Kerouac famous was in large part an imitation of Cassady's style. In 1962, Cassady read Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, and identified so strongly with the protagonist, Randle McMurphy, and his fight against a system that considers him insane and eventually breaks him, that he tracked down Kesey and the two became friends. By this time Kesey was a strong advocate for the use of LSD -- not in controlled, experimental, safe conditions like those advocated by Timothy Leary at this point, but for general, uninhibited, recreational use. When in 1964 Kesey needed to travel to New York in connection with the publication of his second novel, he and Cassady and a group of other people, who dubbed themselves the Merry Pranksters, decided to make it a ritual event -- they were going to retrace the East-West migration that had characterised white people's journey in America, and do it backwards. They were going to go on the road, and bring West Coast weirdness to the heartlands and East Coast. They got a bus, and painted it in psychedelic colours -- and note that this is in June 1964, before even A Hard Day's Night had come out, to give some perspective on where the general culture was at -- and where the destination should be they simply wrote "Furthur" (spelled with a u instead of an e, apparently as a mistake, but taken as serendipity), and went out on the road. They attempted to make a film of the journey, and they filmed extensive material. So extensive, indeed, that the task of going through it thoroughly became too great for the unassisted Kesey, and a film didn't come out until 2011. But the Merry Pranksters' journey and attempted film did, as the Tralfamadorians among you will know, become the inspiration for another film that was released: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Magical Mystery Tour"] After this, Kesey's home became something of a commune with various of the Pranksters often in attendance. In 1965 a young journalist named Hunter S. Thompson, working on a book about the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, decided that it might be interesting to bring them along to meet the Pranksters, and a party was thrown for the Angels at Kesey's house, with Allen Ginsberg and Ram Dass also attending. This went well enough that there started to be *weekly* parties organised by the Pranksters, and just after the Warlocks changed their name to the Grateful Dead, in November 1965, several of them attended one of these parties, where they took acid and had a great time with people like Kesey and Ginsberg. Shortly after that, the Pranksters decided to do something a little bigger -- they were going to turn their parties into full-blown Happenings, in the way we talked about last episode, and the Grateful Dead were going to be involved, providing music. Part of the reasoning for this was that the film that had been made of the road trip was clearly not yet ready, but they could show bits of it in these Happenings as essentially guerilla marketing, establishing an underground reputation for when it was finally released. These Happenings were to be called Acid Tests, and the main way they were distinct from the other happenings we've talked about was that everyone involved would be on acid. Or at least, almost everyone -- a small number never indulged, notably Pig Pen, whose drug of choice was always alcohol, not anything psychedelic. At a typical one of these acid tests, the Grateful Dead would play their music, which from the few surviving recordings of them in 1966 was a mixture of fairly standard R&B: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "I'm a Hog For You Baby (acid test)"] And rather unformed psychedelic jamming: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Caution (Do Not Step on Tracks) (acid test)"] Film of the Pranksters' road trip would be shown, some of the Pranksters would make their own music (though they couldn't play instruments), Kesey would write messages on slides which would be projected while the band were playing, and Neal Cassady would juggle hammers. After the first of the Acid Tests involving the Dead, they quickly found themselves with a team -- co-managers Rock Scully, who they met at the Acid Test, and Danny Rifkin, and sound man Owsley Stanley, who became interested in doing the band's sound after an acid trip in which he claimed he could see the patterns the sound was making and knew how to improve them. Stanley was the first private individual in the world, outside industry and academia, to figure out how to synthesise his own LSD, and he used the money he made from this to help support the group in their career, buying equipment. He would also record all the group's shows (and others he engineered) to check his own work back, and he kept almost all of these recordings, starting a practice that would lead to the Grateful Dead being the most exhaustively documented live act of the rock era. Within two months of the first Acid Test the group found themselves playing to six thousand people at the Trips Festival, and they soon built up enough of a following that they actually decamped with the Pranksters to LA, spending two months there holding acid tests while working on original material and trying to get a little privacy as they worked out how to deal with their new followers. They returned to San Francisco after a couple of months, thoroughly disillusioned with LA, and in July they released a single on the tiny San Francisco-based indie label Scorpio Records: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Don't Ease Me In" (use single mix from YouTube as it has reverb)] "people still laugh about as much as they ever did, despite their shrunken brains. If a bunch of them are lying around on a beach, and one of them farts, everybody else laughs and laughs, just as people would have done a million years ago.” That's from Galapagos, by Kurt Vonnegut.The narrator in that novel is the son of Kilgore Trout, an unsuccessful and rather bad science fiction writer who appears in several of Vonnegut's novels as an inspirational figure who writes mostly for himself and doesn't really realise that he has any fans, let alone that some of his fans regard him as some sort of guru with great wisdom. There are two main models for Trout -- one is Vonnegut's friend Theodore Sturgeon, and the other is Vonnegut himself. While the Dead had been working on original material, they apparently chose not to record any -- while both tracks on the single were credited to Garcia as songwriter on the label, they were actually traditional jug band songs that had been in their repertoire while they were still Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Champions. The single was only released in very limited quantities, but at least they had now actually made a record, even if the only place to buy a copy was the Psychedelic Shop on Haight Street. The Grateful Dead by this point were just one of several bands in the Haight-Ashbury area, and not necessarily the most successful -- that would be jefferson Airplane, who were actually releasing records, or maybe the Great Society. Or Quicksilver Messenger Service. Or the Charlatans. Or Big Brother and the Holding Company. All these bands were regularly playing sets around a local circuit, with two venues in particular standing out -- the Avalon Ballroom, which was run by Chet Helms and the Family Dog commune, and the Fillmore, run by Bill Graham. The Avalon was a friendlier venue, and everyone liked Helms more, and it had a better light show, but Graham was a better businessman, the Fillmore had a better sound system -- bought from Owsley during one of his periodic fallings-out with the Dead -- and Graham was also more interested in putting on a wider variety of acts. Graham would listen to the musicians who played his venue, and would bring in outside acts that they suggested, and often juxtapose wildly different performers like the avant-garde jazz pianist Cecil Taylor and the Yardbirds. The reputation that Graham got was of someone who would rip off the artists who were performing for him, but was so good at business that they'd still end up better off than playing for anyone else. By late 1966 the group were essentially living in two communes -- Garcia, Weir, Pig Pen, their managers, and assorted girlfriends and roadies in a house on Ashbury, and Lesh and Kreutzmann and their partners a couple of blocks away (they'd originally lived with the others, but Lesh had soon bolted after having to share a room with Garcia, who snored very loudly). That wasn't the only bodily function that was causing problems for the group. Weir had by this point given up on LSD -- joining Pig Pen, who'd never used it -- but while Pig Pen was drinking a bottle of whisky a day, Weir had given up in order to become healthier, and had taken up a vegetarian diet which led to a severe flatulence problem. There were other issues starting to develop between Garcia and Weir as well. By this point a group of hippie anarchists called the Diggers had taken up residence in the area, and they were giving away free food, scrounged or stolen from local shops and cooked, as a combination of political act and performance art piece -- anyone getting their free food had to step through a frame, because inspired by John Cage they thought that the act of putting a frame round something made it art. The Diggers also insisted that music should be free, and that it belonged to the people who shouldn't have to pay to get it. Garcia had some sympathy for this attitude, and the Dead would often play free shows, but he was also pragmatic enough to realise that if the Dead didn't get paid for their work he'd have to get an actual job, which would be horrifying. The way Garcia squared this was to insist that the group needed to get good enough to be *worth* paying, and this led to him pressuring Weir, who was the youngest of the band members and the least facile on his instrument. Weir decided he needed to figure out a way for a rhythm player to function in a band with a soloist who was inspired by John Coltrane, and eventually hit on the idea of, rather than looking to rhythm guitarists like Steve Cropper, as most musicians in his position would, listening to McCoy Tyner, the piano player in Coltrane's quartet, and copying his style: [Excerpt: John Coltrane, "My Favorite Things"] "To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans. A true fan is defined as a fan that will buy anything you produce. These diehard fans will drive 200 miles to see you sing; they will buy the hardback and paperback and audible versions of your book; they will purchase your next figurine sight unseen; they will pay for the “best-of” DVD version of your free youtube channel; they will come to your chef’s table once a month. If you have roughly a thousand of true fans like this (also known as super fans), you can make a living — if you are content to make a living but not a fortune. Here’s how the math works. You need to meet two criteria. First, you have to create enough each year that you can earn, on average, $100 profit from each true fan. That is easier to do in some arts and businesses than others, but it is a good creative challenge in every area because it is always easier and better to give your existing customers more, than it is to find new fans. Second, you must have a direct relationship with your fans. That is, they must pay you directly. You get to keep all of their support, unlike the small percent of their fees you might get from a music label, publisher, studio, retailer, or other intermediate. If you keep the full $100 of each true fan, then you need only 1,000 of them to earn $100,000 per year. That’s a living for most folks." That's from an essay called 1000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly, who along with Stewart Brand, one of the people who organised the Trips Festival, set up the early online community The WELL. Kelly later founded Wired magazine. The essay appears inTools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferris. In late 1966 the Dead put out their first T-shirt, designed by Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse who did the group's early posters, which had an image of Pig Pen on it. They also started to move away from their association with Kesey and the acid tests. The final break came when Kesey negotiated a plea bargain for some legal trouble, which involved him committing to doing a final acid test style show, but with a "don't do acid any more, kids" type message. Kesey announced that the Dead would be playing this, without asking them, and on a night when they were booked to play elsewhere. They still considered doing it until one of the Pranksters told Danny Rifkin that the plan for the event was to play one last big prank and dose the entire audience with LSD. Unlike many in the Dead's circle, Rifkin detested the idea of dosing people without their consent, and he was also worried that if the performance went ahead, Bill Graham, who was meant to be promoting it, would lose his promoter's license. The group pulled out, and Kesey ended up doing a much smaller event. By this point the Dead were a powerful live band, though very far from the style that they would become known for in later years. Listening to live recordings from the summer of 1966, they're a conventional garage band, not a million miles away from other bands from the area like the Standells or the Count Five, though with a more imaginative guitarist than those bands: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Cream Puff War (live in Vancouver)"] And it was that powerful live band that Joe Smith of Warner Brothers Records came to see, after being informed that the San Francisco scene was ripe with potentially successful bands that they could pick up for bargain prices. Over the autumn, Warners negotiated a deal with the group for a ten thousand dollar advance, and assurances that they would be given a certain amount of special treatment. Rather than being put through their customary marketing machine, the label would treat them the way they treated country artists, giving them special marketing for their niche genre. Smith was very eager to get the Dead signed -- other than the Everly Brothers, who were making great records but no longer having hits, Warners had few rock acts, and was mostly known for the artists on its Reprise subsidiary -- a label that had been started by Frank Sinatra and still mostly had artists of Sinatra's generation (plus the mildly successful teenpop band Dino, Desi, and Billy, two of whom were the sons of Sinatra's celebrity friends). They were trying desperately to build up a rock roster, and San Francisco was the obvious place to turn, since LA had already been picked clean -- as we heard in the episode on "Heroes and Villains" they also bought up Autumn Records around this time and got Lenny Waronker, Van Dyke Parks and their circle to work with that label's group of San Francisco artists. Smith said later of signing the Dead“That was one of the two or three most important signings in allthose years. It changed the nature and opinion of therecord company. We were out in front. It was important to indicate wewere more than Dean Martin and Sinatra—that we were hip.” For this reason they made another important concession, which would have a profound impact on the way the group's sound evolved. The standard record contract at this time paid performers per song, and that made sense for a time when most songs were about two or three minutes long -- you'd need at least ten songs to make up an album, and so bands were being incentivised to produce as many of those two or three minute pop songs as possible. But the Grateful Dead liked to stretch out and play long solos, and Rock Scully had heard that there was another way to structure these contracts. He'd worked at the Monterey Jazz Festival, and there he'd heard that jazz musicians were paid by the minute of recording, not by the song, which was how they could afford to do those long exploratory improvisational tracks that could last an entire side of an album. Scully insisted on this being the case for the Grateful Dead's contract too, and Smith agreed. By the time of the group's first sessions for Warners, Garcia at least had some studio experience. As we heard in the episode on Jefferson Airplane, Garcia had been involved in the recording of their album Surrealistic Pillow, at least according to most participants, though the record's producer always said he wasn't involved. Certainly some tracks sound very much like they have Garcia playing on them: [Excerpt: Jefferson Airplane, "Today"] In January 1967, the group made their first album. Garcia later said of it "At that time we had no real record consciousness. We were just going to go down to L.A. and make a record. We were completely naïve about it. We had a producer we had chosen because he’d been the engineer on a couple of Rolling Stones records that we liked the sound of; that was as much as we were into record-making." Dave Hassinger had definitely engineered a lot of Rolling Stones records -- he'd been the group's main US engineer for the run of hit singles and albums they'd had in the previous couple of years -- but Garcia also knew him from working with Jefferson Airplane, as he'd engineered their album. Hassinger was a super-competent engineer who had worked on everything from the TAMI Show to the Chipmunks' album of Beatles covers, and he and Garcia had got on well. But Hassinger had only recently moved into production rather than engineering, and the rules of the studio they were working in meant that he had to use the studio's staff engineer rather than do the job himself as he wanted, and as Hassinger himself said the band didn't want to hear what a conventional producer had to say -- they just went in and bashed out versions of their live set of the time, though as always they found themselves unable to let loose and improvise in the studio without the feedback of the audience. The first single, "The Golden Road (to Unlimited Devotion)", failed to chart: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "The Golden Road (to Unlimited Devotion)"] That track was actually recorded in San Francisco later, after the record company said they needed a single. Other than that, the album, which was just titled The Grateful Dead, only took four days to record, including the time spent mixing, and for the most part it sounds like any other pop album of the period -- Bob Weir sounds spookily like Peter Tork at points. Despite Pig Pen being the band's frontman and most popular member, he only gets one lead vocal, on the blues standard "Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl", with the rest of the leads being shared between Garcia and Weir, but his keyboard is all over the album. At this point, the group weren't writing much of their own material, and other than the group composition "The Golden Road", the only original is Garcia's "Cream Puff War", with everything else being standard folk-club material like Bonnie Dobson's apocalyptic ballad "Morning Dew": [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Morning Dew"] or jug band material they'd been playing when they were still the Uptown Jug Champions, like "Viola Lee Blues", originally written by Noah Lewis and performed by Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers, which at just over ten minutes long was the only truly extended track on the album: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Viola Lee Blues"] Garcia said at the time "I think our album is honest. It sounds just like us. It even has mistakes on it. But it also has a certain amount of excitement on it. It sounds like we felt good when we were making it. We made it in a short period—four days—and it’s the material we’d been doing onstage for quite a long time. It sounds like one of our good sets." Phil Lesh, not really getting the hang of this promotion business, said in an interview at the time "I think it’s a turd." The album wasn't a success, and only reached number sixty-nine on the album charts. But the group's reputation as a live act was steadily improving. A couple of weeks before the studio dates they'd performed at the Human Be-In, a massive outdoor show in San Francisco with speeches from people like Timothy Leary and the political activist Jerry Rubin, food distributed for free by the Diggers (paid for by Owsley, who was also distributing the acid), security provided by the Hell's Angels, and performances by Jefferson Airplane, Blue Cheer, and Big Brother and the Holding Company. Twenty thousand people turned up for that event, and they were all astonished to find that there were *that many* people in what they all thought of up to that point as a rather small scene. The gathering of that many people in one place to hear the new psychedelic music got the biggest national and international media exposure the San Francisco scene had ever had, and soon everything that wanted to be cool and hip had the suffix "-in", in imitation of the Be-In -- there were love-ins, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In on TV, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono having bed-ins. Soon San Francisco, and the Haight-Ashbury area, was once again being overrun by the kind of tourists who ten years earlier had come looking for beatniks, only this time they were looking for hippies, or trying to become hippies, as the Mothers of Invention would satirise the next year: [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Who Needs the Peace Corps?"] The Human Be-In was also one of the precursors to the Monterey Pop Festival, which of course, as we talked about in episode 151, was only possible because the Grateful Dead persuaded the other San Francisco bands to play, and where of course the Dead played what they considered an incredibly sub-par show sandwiched between the Who and Jimi Hendrix, both of whom blew them off the stage. The Dead's performance was so bad that none of it was used in the film. The Dead did, though, come out ahead from the show -- apparently they stole the PA system. [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Grayfolded"] There is of course a reason that the Californian ideology became centred in California and developed in the way it did, and that reason is of course infrastructure. Many people who were influential on the Californian ideology, like the postmodernist science fiction writer Robert Anton Wilson, would argue that if you plotted a timeline of the most innovative people in human history, that timeline would slowly move west and slightly north, accelerating over the centuries, as the most radical thinkers followed the Sun, so in the last few centuries the greatest innovations had come from Greece, then Italy, then France, then England, then New York, and then finally the West Coast of the USA. According to Wilson and his friends like Timothy Leary, now that wave had finally reached the Pacific there was only one place left to go, and so humanity would fulfil its manifest destiny and head up into the stars. Other, less teleologically-minded, thinkers have suggested that the growth of that ideology had more to do with the fact that the Bay Area had... well, a bay. Which meant that it was a natural area for naval bases, and thus for much of the twentieth century a hub of military activity more generally. And this meant that when the US Government wanted to fund research into military technology -- like rockets, or like the computer systems that would be needed to guide missiles, or like a communications network that would allow those computers to communicate, the Bay Area's institutions of higher learning were the best places to turn to, and so places like Berkeley and Stanford got vast military research grants, and so became the cutting-edge institutions for those topics. And so Berkeley, for example, counts among its alumni Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, Gordon Moore, the semiconductor researcher who co-founded Intel and coined "Moore's Law", and Eric Schmidt, a software engineer who went on to become the CEO of Google; while Stanford produced seventeen of the forty-four winners of the Turing Award for computer science to date, and was also the place where in order "to exploit new computer technologies to meet the needs of military command and control against nuclear threats, achieve survivable control of US nuclear forces, and improve military tactical and management decision making" as the director of theDefense Advanced Research Projects Agency put it, they developed what was then called ARPANET but later became known as the Internet -- the first ever ARPANET message, the word "login", was sent from CalTech to Stanford, though problems meant that only the first two letters arrived. So many advances in computer science came out of the military-funded institutions in the Bay Area that soon corporations started building their own facilities there to hire all the bright young graduates, and Silicon Valley was built, starting with Xerox's Palo Alto Research Centre, where basically every personal computing technology of the nineties was invented in the seventies. And so young men (and it was, sadly, almost all men, sexism in science and technology being what it is) flocked to the Bay Area to work with this cutting-edge technology. Many of these people were the kind of staggeringly bright, vaguely idealistic people who had been inspired by science fiction stories to build technology for a better, utopian, future. They wanted to go where the best tech was, to have the best toys to play with, but they often didn't like the idea of being funded by the defence industry, because these were young men at a time when the US was prosecuting an unpopular war in which their friends were being called up to fight. But they didn't *dislike* that idea enough not to take the money and play with the toys, especially when what they were doing wasn't *exactly* weapons research. I mean, yes, they were being funded by the Department of Defence, but they weren't building *bombs*. They were making computers talk to each other. And so, rationalisation being what it is, they leapt on any ideas that would let them do defence-department-funded work while still having a clear conscience. And one of those ideas was one that was very current among the hippies of the Bay Area, people like Stewart Brand. The idea was that all large institutions were just jokes, figments of the imagination that didn't really exist, that they're what Vonnegut in Cat's Cradle talks about as "a false _karass_... a seeming team that wasmeaningless in terms of the ways God gets things done...what Bokonon calls a _granfalloon_... examples of_granfalloons_ are the Communist party, the Daughters of theAmerican Revolution, the General Electric Company, theInternational Order of Odd Fellows--and any nation, anytime,anywhere. As Bokonon invites us to sing along with him: If you wish to study a _granfalloon_, Just remove the skin of a toy balloon. " So the Department of Defence and the government weren't real. What was real was individuals, taking individual actions -- and those individual actions would somehow coalesce into a collective higher purpose without organisation. Individuals all doing their own thing, together and leaderless, the same way the Grateful Dead all improvised their own parts and the sound gelled. That idea appealed a *lot* to these bright young men. And this gentle hippie idea of freedom also fit in with the rugged individualist heroic idea of freedom that they'd read about in all their old science fiction magazines, a hypercapitalist pioneering libertarian idea promulgated by editors like John W. Campbell. And it didn't hurt, of course, that those ideas of individual freedom also meant that you didn't have to feel guilty about becoming very, very rich... [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Grayfolded"] There were several other changes to the world of the Dead in 1967, too. In March, on a trip to play in New York, Bob Weir reconnected with his old friend John Perry Barlow, who would become a major figure in the band's lives over the next few years. And there was a new band member too. The story of how Mickey Hart came to join the Grateful Dead has never quite made sense. The way Hart always tells the story, he was at the Fillmore watching Count Basie and hanging out with Basie's drummer, Sonny Payne, who was one of *the* great jazz drummers of all time: [Excerpt: Count Basie, "Ol' Man River"] And Count Basie definitely did play the Fillmore in August 1967, as support to Chuck Berry on one of the wonderfully eclectic bills that Bill Graham put together. But Sonny Payne wasn't in Basie's band in 1967 -- he'd stopped working with Basie the previous year, and Basie's main drummer in 1967 was Ed Shaughnessey, before Harold Jones took over for a five-year stint. Possibly this was a situation like David Bowie and Lou Reed. Either way, Hart met Bill Kreutzmann at the gig, and the two hit it off immediately -- and that wasn't the only thing they hit. They spent much of the rest of the night going around the streets of San Francisco drumming on bins, cars, lampposts and so on together. A little while later, Hart came to see Kreutzmann's band, and was impressed. Soon he was in the band as their second drummer. This actually opened up a lot of possibilities for the group. Lesh didn't play like a conventional bass player, which meant that the group didn't have as firmly rhythmic a sound as other bands. Hart moved in with Kreutzmann and Lesh and Hart and Kreutzmann soon started spending hours playing together, learning each other's idiosyncracies. They even tried hypnotising each other so that they could be more in tune with each other, which led to some people in the band's circle wondering if Hart had hypnotised Kreutzmann into letting him join the band. (They also tried hypnotising Pig Pen, but it just made him walk into a door). Shortly after Hart joined the band, the group decided they had to get away from Haight-Ashbury. What had seemed like an idyllic community soon became, in the words of George Harrison who had visited the area that summer, "like the Bowery". There were drug dealers getting murdered, teenage girls getting raped, and the group themselves got busted for dope possession. On October the sixth, the Diggers held a funeral for the hippie movement. The Summer of Love was over. Most of the band moved to Marin County -- Pig Pen stayed behind at first, though he followed later -- and it's at this point that the band became the Grateful Dead as they are in the popular imaginary, the experimental psychedelic act. Robert Hunter had been in Mexico for a while, but he'd been in touch with Garcia, and had sent Garcia some poems, which Garcia had set to music -- Garcia had never liked writing lyrics. Hunter had now returned to San Francisco, and was made a non-performing member of the band, with the job of writing lyrics for the band's music. The first song he wrote with the band, rather than at a distance, became the non-album single "Dark Star". Hunter heard the band rehearsing what was then an instrumental and came up with the first verse straight away: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Dark Star"] Hunter would later acknowledge that he was inspired by the start of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock -- "Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherized upon a table; Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, The muttering retreats Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells: Streets that follow like a tedious argument Of insidious intent To lead you to an overwhelming question" When "Dark Star" came out as a single, it wasn't a success, and was only a two-and-a-half-minute song. It wasn't even included on the album which they were recording at the time, Anthem of the Sun, though that did feature Hunter's first contribution to the band, a lyric called "Alligator" which was used on one of the two tracks for the "Pig Pen side" of the album: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Alligator"] Anthem of the Sun was the first Grateful Dead album to consist entirely of original material -- material published by the band's own publishing company, Ice-Nine, which was named after a substance in Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle. Ice-Nine, in the novel, is an allotrope of water that's solid at room temperature, and that makes any other water touching it become solid. One crystal of Ice-Nine dropped in an ocean would eventually freeze the entire ocean. Vonnegut always claimed the inspiration for this idea came from the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Irving Langmuir, but it was also an idea that John Campbell, the science fiction editor who worked with Theodore Sturgeon and L. Ron Hubbard, had been suggesting to authors since the 1940s (though Campbell may also have got it from Langmuir). That album had a much more difficult genesis than their first album. They started sessions with Hassinger in LA, but soon moved to better studios in New York. And then to other studios in New York... when they started the sessions, they had two main songs they wanted to work on, "Alligator", and one they hadn't titled yet and just called "The Other One", which eventually became a suite entitled "That's it for the Other One". Along with the new members Hart and Hunter, there was another addition to the group at this point -- Lesh brought in his old friend Tom Constanten, who at the time was in the military, working as a computer programmer on an Air Force base in Las Vegas, and secretly using their IBM machines to create electronic music, but who would take leaves of absence to join the group in the studio and help them create new sonic textures, with John Cage-inspired prepared pianos and electronic noises. (Constanten was famously a Scientologist, but he had his religion listed with the Air Force as Buddhist. Whenever he needed time off he'd make up a Buddhist holiday and get a pass). [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "That's it for the Other One"] Hassinger soon got exasperated with the band's endless tinkering -- according to one story the final straw came when Bob Weir wanted to record some silence from the desert so they could get the sound of "thick air" to add to the recordings, though the story is told in different ways that make Weir's request seem more or less reasonable depending on who is telling the story and when -- and the group and their sound engineer Dan Healy began working on their own, recording an assortment of exotic instruments and sounds like a gyroscope spinning on a piano soundboard. But the group still weren't happy with the sounds they were getting in the studio, and eventually Lesh hit on an idea -- they'd take the recordings of their live performances of these songs and create collages, mixing live and studio performance together, sometimes layering multiple performances from different shows on top of each other. It would be like Charles Ives, whose work often involved the orchestra playing two different songs at the same time. Lesh, Garcia, and Healy spent a huge amount of time in the studio, with Healy, who understood the equipment intimately, helping translate the ideas of Lesh and Garcia, who took charge of this editing process and kept asking things like "can we make a sound purple?" The resulting album, with two tracks sung by Pig Pen, one by Weir, and two duets between Garcia and Weir, is probably the most experimental record the Dead ever made, and the polar opposite of their first album. It's the one time in their career that the Dead really used the studio to its full potential, and it's all the more surprising that they did that by using so much live material: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "That's it for the Other One"] Those lyrics about "cowboy Neal" were written by Bob Weir on the fourth of February 1968, while the band were on tour. When he got back to San Francisco, he learned that that same day Neal Cassady had died. The night before he'd gone walking down a railway track trying to get from one town to another. He'd only been wearing a T-shirt and jeans, it was raining and he'd taken barbituates. He collapsed and was found comatose, and died of exposure. He was only forty-one. So it goes. Anthem of the Sun was not a particular success, either critically or commercially, and is the kind of album that can only be appreciated with a little distance from its release. The album is very much of a part with other contemporaneous albums whose reputation have grown over the ensuing decades. Its experiments with tape and musique concrete put it somewhere in the same ballpark as the Beach Boys' Smiley Smile, which a few years later Garcia would cite as his favourite album of all time, but which at the time was dismissed as stoned nonsense that was trying too hard: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "She's Going Bald"] While its collaging and mixture of folk and psychedelia is very much the same kind of thing that the Incredible String Band were doing on The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter: [Excerpt: The Incredible String Band, "A Very Cellular Song"] By this time, many of the groups were getting sick of working with Bill Graham, and the Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and some of the other groups decided to open their own venue, run as a collective. As Bob Weir later said "We were young and strong and high on ourselves. At that point, Bill Graham wasn’t the huge mogul that he became, and we thought, “There’s room in this town for us, too!” We were also acutely aware that Bill was stealing from us, and he made no bones about it, but he also made no bones about the fact that we’d never catch him. That said, we probably did better working for him than we would’ve done working for someone who wasn’t stealing from us, because he always managed to sell more tickets. He managed to get more people into the building and he knew how to get around the fire marshals and all that kind of stuff. So he was a crook, but he was a great one." The Carousel Ballroom, however, only lasted a few months before they realised that musicians and business are not a good mixture. The ballroom closed, and soon reopened under a new name -- Bill Graham had set up a Fillmore East in New York, and now he closed down his original Fillmore -- largely because it was in a Black neighbourhood and the hippies were no more immune to racism than anyone else -- and rebranded the former Carousel as the Fillmore West. At the group's first gig at the newly-renamed Fillmore West they spiked Bill Graham, giving him acid without his consent. This was sadly a common practice for the band -- and they didn't just do it to their human friends, but to animals, with Hart occasionally giving acid to a horse he owned. Graham, who didn't use the drug, knew this was a practice of theirs, so refused to eat or drink anything they had been near, and got his wife to put his own food and a thermos into a paper bag which was then sealed with wax, and would be the only food he'd touch while he was there, so he knew it was untouched. But he thought he'd be safe with a can of 7-Up, because after all, it was a sealed can, he opened it himself and drank it down with none of them being able to touch it. Except that they'd used a hypodermic needle to inject LSD into all the 7-Up cans backstage, and then warned each other not to drink them if they didn't want to be dosed. They were *that* desperate to make sure that everyone around them used the same drugs as them, and *that* unconcerned about basic notions of consent. Remarkably, Graham continued to work with them for the rest of his life. (That story, like many with the Dead, is told as happening in different ways at different times. I've placed it here because the other main version of the story places it at a time when Mickey Hart wasn't in the band, and he remembers it happening and Graham remembered him being there.) The Carousel closed at the end of June 1968, the album came out in July 1968, and in August 1968 the group fired Bob Weir and Pig Pen. Or at least they tried to. Lesh, and to a lesser extent the other three, had grown increasingly impatient with the two of them. Garcia was the leader, and he was a virtuoso guitarist by this point. The drummers were working together to investigate polyrhythms and were innovating on their instruments. Lesh was generally regarded as one of the most innovative bass players in the business. But Weir, the youngest and most naive of the band members, was not yet able to translate his McCoy Tyner ideas into playing, and Hart described him as playing "little waterfalls" rather than proper rhythm guitar. And Pig Pen, meanwhile, had never been into this psychedelic thing in the first place. He wanted to be a bluesman, and simply had no interest in doing extended spacey jams influenced by John Cage and Charles Ives and Edgard Varese and John Coltrane. But somehow, even after sacking the two members who the rest regarded as deadweight, they just... stayed in the band. Garcia in particular was too nonconfrontational to actually properly sack someone -- or indeed to make any kind of decision at all. Everyone else thought of him as the leader, the guru, the person in charge. He thought of himself as just one of the band, and went to great lengths to avoid the responsibility everyone else was putting on him. So the Grateful Dead carried on as a six-piece, but played fewer gigs, and instead Mickey Hart and the Heartbeats -- Garcia, Lesh, Hart, and Kreutzmann -- played their own separate gigs, with the idea that they would become the main band and the Grateful Dead would wither away. That didn't happen, though. Lesh liked to compare the Grateful Dead to the characters in More Than Human by Sturgeon, how when they were working together -- bleshing in Sturgeon's term -- they were like a single organism rather than separate individuals. As Owsley later put it, "you can't fire your left hand just because it doesn't write as nicely as your right". And without Weir and Pig Pen, that feeling simply wasn't there. So they came up with another solution. By this point, Tom Constaten had left the Air Force, and so he was available to join the group. The decision to add Constanten to the band was made by Lesh and Garcia, without consulting the other members, and not everyone was happy about it -- they felt that Constanten was far too intellectual a player and was never really comfortable jamming, and some of them didn't like his abstinence from drugs (because they're banned by Scientology). Constanten also found playing in a live band difficult because of the levels of amplification. But it meant that Pig Pen could play congas and harmonica and be more of a frontman for much of the show and not have to be the sole keyboard player, and that in turn gave Weir a chance to develop his style more now there was another avant-garde player on stage with Lesh and Garcia: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "That's It For the Other One, San Francisco February 1969"] And Weir did eventually find his style, and as the band's instrumental jams grew more complex, he went from being dead weight to being hugely important to the group's sound. Whereas in most rock bands the bass player would provide a steady harmonic root to keep the rest of the band in place, Lesh didn't play that way, and so both Garcia and Lesh were usually playing improvisational melody lines, twisting round each other and going in different directions. But any two notes played at the same time imply a chord, and the two were often implying all sorts of complex harmonics. Weir's job during an improvisation came to be to listen to what Lesh and Garcia were doing, figure out what chord they were implying, and play that chord -- *and* to figure out where both of them were going in their different directions, figure out what chords they were *going* to be implying, and figure out a smooth route between them that sounded musical and anticipated their decisions. While Weir and Pig Pen were mostly out of the band, the group recorded their third album, provisionally titled Earthquake Country, and even though Constanten was involved, and on stage they were going steadily more experimental, in the studio the band were being influenced by the same return to roots music the Tralfamadorians among you will remember from other episodes, acts like The Band. It was essentially a Garcia solo album in all but name, with all the songs having Garcia singing lead, and all but one being Garcia/Hunter songs (the other, opener "St. Stephen", was by Garcia, Hunter, and Lesh). It was in many ways a return to the kind of music that Garcia had been doing before psychedelia, a nice simple album that would keep the record company happy after the massive cost overruns and general headaches caused in recording Anthem of the Sun. And then they discovered that a sixteen-track machine existed, and scrapped the entire album and rerecorded it using the new technology, this time with Pig Pen and Weir involved (though not very heavily, and some sources say Pig Pen's not on the album at all), giving the rootsy Americana songs a little more of the oddness the band had live: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead. "Mountains of the Moon (original mix)"] This made the album once again go massively over budget, and also ended up a little like a falling between two stools, and in 1971 Garcia and Lesh went back into the studio to remix the album, making it sound slightly more like a conventional country-rock album, though nothing could make a track like "What's Become of the Baby?" sound conventional: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "What's Become of the Baby? (remix)"] The album, named Aoxomoxoa, was a failure both commercially and by the band's own standards, and is neither an album that has become beloved by the group's fans as some of the later ones have, nor a record that stands out as an interesting time capsule like Anthem of the Sun does. It has some songs that became well loved as part of the group's live sets, but it's the group in transitional mode. And then almost straight away came an album that did not go over budget at all, and that almost every Grateful Dead fan holds up as the peak of their vinyl career. After having used sixteen-track recording in the studio for the first time, they now decided to take a sixteen-track recorder into their regular gigs at the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore West, and record what is generally cited as the first live recording using sixteen tracks. It's also often claimed to be the first live double album, but as far as I'm aware the first popular music live double-album was actually the 1950 release of Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall shows, the ones we talked about in episode one. Live/Dead mostly came about because Aoxomoxoa was so expensive that the group needed to record two cheap albums if they and Warner Brothers ever wanted to make a profit on their deal. Cutting a live double-album essentially gave them three records for the price of one. And Live/Dead was essentially two records for the price of one. Sides three and four were a blues album -- though note that I say sides three and four, not disc two. In a very Tralfamadorian move, the record's order was shuffled about -- like many double albums at the time, it was set up for record-changers that could stack multiple discs, so sides one and three were on one disc and sides two and four were on the other. Side four was dominated by a ten-minute version of Reverend Gary Davis' blues classic "Death Don't Have No Mercy", along with an eight-minute experimental piece just titled "Feedback" and the old Bahamian hymn "I Bid You Goodnight", which the group probably learned from the Incredible String Band's recording. Side three was where Pig Pen got to shine for the only time on the album -- for much of it he's relegated to playing congas, in a band with two other percussionists. But side three is a single track -- a fifteen-minute hyperextended version of Bobby Bland's "Turn On Your Lovelight", presumably inspired by the similarly extended versions that Van Morrison's group Them used to do. It sounds utterly unlike the Grateful Dead as they're normally thought of, but it makes a lot more sense of their repeated statements that they were always more inspired by the Rolling Stones than the Beatles: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Turn on Your Lovelight"] Side two was a medley of two songs -- an extended version of "St. Stephen" from Aoxomoxoa, and a song with lyrics by Hunter and, unusually, music by Lesh, who only very rarely contributed songs to the band. That song was called "The Eleven", because of its time signature, which is usually given as 11/8. This sounds more complex than it is, as it's basically just three bars of three and one bar of two, repeated -- "one-two-three one-two-three one-two-three one-twoone-two-three one-two-three one-two-three one-twoone-two-three one-two-three one-two-three one-two": [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "The Eleven" (from about 5:40, record so it synchs with the rhythm at the end there)] Robert Christagu called that medley "the finest rock improvisation ever recorded". Though the band were less impressed with "The Eleven" generally. Garcia said of it "you’re trapped in this very fast-moving little chord pattern which is tough to play gracefully through, except for the most obvious [shit], which is what I did on “The Eleven.” When we went in to the E minor, then it started to get weird. We used to do these revolving patterns against each other where we would play 11 against 33. So one part of the band was playing a big thing that revolved in 33 beats, or 66 beats, and the other part of the band would be tying that into the 11 figure. That’s what made those things sound like “Whoa—what the hell is going on?” It was thrilling, but we used to rehearse a lot to get that effect. It sounded like chaos, but it was in reality hard rehearsal." Lesh, its composer, was similarly in two minds, saying it "was really designed to be a rhythm trip. It wasn’t designed to be a song. That more or less came later, as a way to give it more justification, or something, to work in a rock ’n’ roll set. We could’ve used it just as a transition, which is what it was, really. It was really too restrictive, and the vocal part—the song part—was dumb." But the opening track is the one that arguably defined the band in the minds of many listeners. The single version of "Dark Star", which had sunk without a trace the previous year, was an upbeat two-and-a-half-minute pop song. The version on Live/Dead was twenty-three minutes, and took up the whole of side one: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Dark Star (Live/Dead version)"] In the months since the single's release, "Dark Star" had changed utterly. As Tom Constanten later said "“Dark Star” is a tremendously adaptable piece—I can’t think offhand of any other piece that is so comfortable to just ease into and work out for a while and leads to as many interesting places, and then you just ease out of it. It’s simple enough to be malleable but complex enough to be interesting. It isn’t like some of the jams … let’s say, one that has just one or two chords that alternate. You get into this sort of generic jam, which might be nice for shifting gears or moving to another piece, but it doesn’t engender as many ideas of its own. It doesn’t suggest as many as the changes of “Dark Star” do. Certain motifs were integrated over time, almost like an aural tradition. I viewed the piece not so much as something written out, but as a galaxy that would be entered at any of several places. That appealed to me from my aleatoric sixties days—John Cage and all. And naturally, in the sense that every performance would be unique, with one-of-a-kind moments that were completely spontaneous. We were just exploring the map—the dimensional, capillarious intestine of … cosmic goop" It was now, and would remain until 1974, the centrepiece of the group's live set, though the group didn't play it, or any song, every night. But it was a regular, and for much of that time, it and "Turn On Your Lovelight" would be the two poles around which the set was based -- "Dark Star" would be the track which would allow Garcia, in particular, to wander into new realms on the guitar, while "Turn On Your Lovelight" would be the closer, a chance for Pig Pen to shine but also to leave the audience on a high with a straightforward, uptempo, upbeat, danceable song. Of course, at this point, much of the Dead's set was built around improvisation anyway, and increasingly the group didn't have a planned-out setlist, or endings and beginnings of songs. Instead, the whole performance would be a continuous piece of music, with the group flowing from one song to another as the mood took them, ending songs by going into freeflowing jams which someone would usually then transition into the start of another song, with the rest of the group following him. Live/Dead was not a commercial success, only reaching number sixty-five on the album charts, but for the first time it gave people who hadn't seen the group live some idea of what they'd been missing. But soon after it came out, the group would have changed again: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, Grayfolded] There were a number of disappointments for the group in the months after Live/Dead was recorded. As the Tralfamadorians among you will remember from episode 192, just as they had at Monterey the group turned in a well-below-par performance at Woodstock, not helped by Bob Weir getting literally blown across the stage by an electric shock caused by a badly-grounded mic.The Dead's performance was so bad that none of it was used in the film. The group had also taken on Mickey Hart's father, Lenny, to help them with the business side of management. The Harts had been semi-estranged, and Lenny Hart had become an evangelical preacher, but Mickey knew that his father had a good head for money. What he didn't know, yet, was that Lenny Hart's good head for money was mostly a good head for getting money for Lenny Hart. Without the band's knowledge, Lenny had renegotiated their contract with Warner Brothers, and had claimed a seventy-five-thousand dollar advance, which he had kept for himself. They wouldn't find out about this for a while, and meanwhile things were happening like sheriffs coming on stage at the start of one show to repossess Pig Pen's organ because the band owed money they hadn't repaid. Then the group tried to organise a free concert in London, with Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills, and Nash, who you will also remember from episode 192, which would have been the Grateful Dead's first show outside North America, but when Rock Scully flew over to the UK to organise the show, he was busted for possession of LSD -- which he later claimed had been planted by Lenny Hart to get him out of the way while Hart organised the Warner's deal. That show didn't get organised, but the Rolling Stones' team were involved in helping bail Scully out, and that created a tie between the two organisations. A tie which meant that when the Rolling Stones wanted to organise a free concert on the West Coast at the end of their US tour in late 1969, the Grateful Dead's management were involved in helping set it up, and Alembic, the company that Owsley had started to produce equipment primarily for the group, was put in charge of sorting out the sound. The Dead also helped the Stones liaise with the Hells Angels who provided security for the event. The Tralfamadorians among you will remember from episode 176 what happened at Altamont. So it goes. And then in New Orleans, the band -- apart from Pig Pen and Constanten, neither of whom used illegal substances -- and several of the crew were busted for drug possession. They eventually had the charges dropped after Joe Smith at Warner Brothers made a large campaign contribution to the re-election campaign of DA Jim Garrison, but this caused a lot of inconvenience for the group -- not least that it was not Owsley's first arrest, and it made it difficult for him to travel with the group for a while, causing one of his periodic steps away from the group. Someone else who was stepping away from the group was Tom Constanten. He'd only been a member of the group for a little under two years, but he'd found playing in a live situation more difficult than he'd thought. He was fundamentally a studio musician, whose best work was planned, not improvised, and he often couldn't hear himself on stage because of the relatively primitive amplification of the time, even despite Owsley's best efforts. He'd also felt a little like a pawn in the band -- he'd been brought in by Garcia and Lesh without much consultation with the others, and he was viewed in particular as "Phil's man", and so criticising him, the new boy, was a good way for other band members to weaken Lesh within the group's power structure. He was also regarded as a bit holier-than-thou for his promotion of Scientology. While Garcia, Hunter, and Weir had all dabbled in it at one time or another, and Garcia, Lesh, Weir, and Constanten had even played benefit concerts for Scientology in a country band they had as a side project, Constanten was the only one who stuck with it, and that made him something of an outsider. The decision for Constanten to leave the group was apparently mutual and amicable, and came in New Orleans at the time of the bust. Constanten's first major work after leaving the Dead was to provide orchestrations on a track on the Incredible String Band's new Scientology-themed concept album, U: [Excerpt: The Incredible String Band, "The Queen of Love"] Constanten went on to work with many influential and experimental musicians, hold down some academic posts in music composition, and, in recent years, play with Jefferson Starship and sit in with a large number of Grateful Dead tribute bands. He is also the only one of the five keyboard players to have officially become full members of the Grateful Dead not to have died a horribly premature death. I mention this here because this is another of the many difficulties I have had putting this episode together, and another reason I have to let my own personality intrude in this episode and actually talk in it about the writing process. Normally when something happens over and over again to a band or artist, it becomes part of the structure of an episode or even a series of episodes. I can turn it into a neat pattern or a running joke. Oh look, here's another Ink Spots intro that sounds the same. Oh look, another band has turned Rod Stewart down. Every instinct in my body as a writer tells me to do the same with the Grateful Dead's keyboard players. Every instinct as a human being tells me that to make light of the tragic deaths of four men who still have loved ones who are alive and might hear this episode would be abhorrent and monstrous. I have had to put in considerable effort with the structuring of this episode so that that does *not* become a running joke. But still, it is something that will repeat several times in the remainder of the episode. But Tom Constanten is alive, and we can be thankful for that. The time Constanten was in the band is considered by many fans to be the group's most interesting period as a live act (though there are partisans for various other points in their career), and it is certainly the most experimental period in the studio, and the change from the latter is part of the reason he left. When he had joined the group, psychedelia had been at its height, and every band wanted to push the limits of what could be done in the studio. But rather quickly after that, the tide had changed musically. As the Tralfamadorians among you will know from episodes 167 through 178 inclusive, and from many other episodes after that point, rock music from early 1968 entered a period, largely inspired by a band called The Band who we'll be talking about soon, in which musicians were no longer asking Alice when she's ten feet tall or picturing themselves on a boat on a river, but rather singing about steamboats and trains and a pastoral past. There was a convergence of hippie psychedelia with the blues roots of many of the newer British artists, and with the country and folk roots of many American rock stars.This was paralleling a new movement in country music which had its roots in the Bakersfield Sound of people like Buck Owens, and which would later become known as Outlaw Country, but at the time was being talked of as Progressive Country. The result was that you'd have albums like the Everly Brothers' Roots, which saw them covering the early San Francisco band the Beau Brummels and new songwriters like Randy Newman, but also country records by Glen Campbell, George Jones, Jimmie Rodgers and Merle Haggard, and giving it all a psychedelic sweetness: [Excerpt: The Everly Brothers, "Sing Me Back Home"] The Grateful Dead were as swept up in this movement as anyone, and at one point Garcia was even talking about the group as now being a Bakersfield Sound group -- though this seems to have been more overenthusiastic hyperbole than anything else. The Bakersfield Sound is hard to pin down, but pretty much everyone is agreed that the sound of Buck Owens and his Buckaroos is the epitome of the sound, and their tight, precise, disciplined playing, spiky Telecaster attack with few or no effects, and preference for highly-rehearsed simple clean lines, often played in unison, couldn't be further from the Dead's loose, individualistic, playing style, preference for Gibsons, and use of as many effects as they could: [Excerpt: Buck Owens, "I've Got a Tiger By the Tail"] It's hard to find examples of two guitar duos that are further apart than Buck Owens and Don Rich on the one hand and Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir on the other. That said, Garcia was sincere in his love for this music, and he'd even taken up playing the pedal steel guitar, and had formed a country band, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, which at various times would also include Hart, Lesh, and very occasionally Weir, and where Garcia played pedal steel rather than electric guitar. They included many covers of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard songs in their early sets, though San Francisco's looser playing style didn't really fit the material: [Excerpt: New Riders of the Purple Sage, "I've Got a Tiger By the Tail"] Hart would soon leave the New Riders and be replaced by Spencer Dryden of Jefferson Airplane, and Garcia would also depart after their first album, but the New Riders of the Purple Sage, who continue performing to this day, would continue to be associated with the Grateful Dead over the coming years, often acting as a support act for them. The Grateful Dead's stage show would still continue to involve long, improvised, jams, and those would be the things that the audience would most want to hear, but on record it was a different proposition. Garcia in particular had always loved country and folk music, and it couldn't have escaped anyone's attention that the studio experimentation on the last couple of albums had sent the group vastly over budget, while their friends in other bands were selling millions with albums that took a fraction of the time to record. As Bob Weir said "From a record company standpoint and the way the media’s set up these days, it’s easier to sell songs than it is to sell improvisational long pieces. That’s one of the restrictions of the art of making a record encompasses the music, how long the piece is going to be, how appealing and how accessible it is to the audience. By accessible I mean easily understood. As opposed to John Coltrane, who played some dynamite music—I mean some really fantastic music—but he was never any superstar. And he had not much of an audience, because not many people could understand what he was playing. It bugs you if you are playing music the best you can play it and not many people are listening. And just because you’re a performer, a performer wants people to listen. Generally, you might consider changing your material or finding a new sort of material that more people will be interested in listening to and at the same time you will be interested in playing it. That’s kind of where we settled down, at least with Workingman’s Dead." The new stripped-down lineup of the Grateful Dead went into the studio with a new attitude -- they were going to cut an album like they had with their first record. Get it done in three weeks, keep it simple, make it about the songs. They could always be extended into jams on stage. They went into the studios with their sound engineers Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor-Jackson, who acted as co-producers with the group. They cut simple demos of all the songs they had, and then the songs were put into a proper sequence, as the group had learned from Sgt Pepper that the flow of an album from one song to another mattered. They then went off and listened to the demo album, and rehearsed all the songs with the flow and feel of the finished album in mind. The resulting album, Workingman's Dead, is considered by many fans to be their first truly great studio album, and it's one of the few that has a substantial number of defenders despite it sounding nothing like the extended jams they were known for on stage. It's a collection of relatively concise songs -- only one of them going over five minutes, and none going over six -- like "Dire Wolf", a song about fate and predestination, and how everything is predetermined, inspired partly by a viewing of the Basil Rathbone version of The Hound of the Baskervilles on TV, though little of that inspiration shows up in the finished song: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Dire Wolf"] The influence of the Bakersfield sound on that track is very noticeable, but Tralfamadorians will also notice that the records we looked at in episodes 172 and 192 were hugely influential on the group's sound at this point. In particular, the Dead's newfound attention to their harmony vocals, on this album and the next one, was a conscious attempt to copy their friends Crosby, Stills, and Nash. As Weir put it "we’ve been hanging out with David Crosby and Stephen Stills, particularly, and listening to them sing together, and just blown out by the fact that they really can sing together; and we began to realize that we had been neglecting our own vocal presentation for instrumental presentation. And so we started working on our vocal arrangements, and choral arrangements. As it turned out, the next record we did had a lot of that on it. And it represented a marked change from the way we had sounded in the past, though none of us had really given it any thought." The other most notable song on the album, "Casey Jones", also indirectly has a cinematic inspiration. The film Easy Rider had been a huge hit in the counterculture, especially among the elements of it that overlapped with the Hell's Angels and other biker groups -- Robert Hunter, for example, had gone to see the film rather than go to Altamont, as he'd had a bad feeling about the concert which proved to be accurate. That film had had a number of huge effects -- it basically started the New Hollywood that would define cinema in the seventies, it made Jack Nicholson a star -- but Dennis Hopper summed up the biggest when he said“The cocaine problem in the United States is really because of me.There was no cocaine before Easy Rider on the street. After Easy Rider it was everywhere.” Cocaine had gone from being an unpopular, unfashionable drug to almost overnight being *the* drug of choice for people who wanted to think themselves hip. And since "cocaine" rhymes with "train", it was inevitable that when Garcia and Hunter decided to update the legend of Casey Jones, that would get added to the legend: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Casey Jones"] The group later disclaimed the idea that it was in some way promoting cocaine use, with Garcia in particular saying "It’s clearly an anti-coke song. The words aren’t light, good-time words—it’s just the feeling of it. We were manipulating a couple of things consciously when we put that song together. First of all, there’s a whole tradition of cocaine songs, there’s a tradition of train songs, and there’s a tradition of Casey Jones songs. And we’ve been doing a thing, ever since Aoxomoxoa, of building on a tradition that’s already there. Like “Dupree’s Diamond Blues.” But the group were using cocaine a lot at this point, and initially it seemed to be a positive influence on the group, giving them additional energy in the studio. It was only later that it would start to cause real problems for them. The new album was extremely popular with the record company. Joe Smith of Warners, when he heard it, hugged co-producer Bob Matthews and said "I can hear the vocals!" and allegedly ran into the corridors and grabbed people, ecstatically shouting "We've got a single! We've got a single!" The single in question, "Uncle John's Band" was edited into a single mix that Garcia later called "an atrocity", with gaps left in the vocals where words like "goddam" were used in the unexpurgated version.Apologies for the poor sound quality of this. As far as I'm able to discover, that single edit has never been released on CD or as a download, and so I've had to use a vinyl rip from a YouTube channel called "scratchy 45s": [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead "Uncle John's Band (single mix)"] But it did give the group their first entry onto the Hot One Hundred, making number sixty-nine on the charts. And the album itself did even better, making number twenty-seven on the album charts. After a string of flops, this new version of the Grateful Dead looked like they might be on to a winner. And they needed one. The group were also busily rearranging their management team. Rock Scully would still be involved, but from this point on he was an advisor paid by the record label rather than being on the band's payroll himself. But the big change, and the one that meant they needed money, was that Lenny Hart had been revealed to have been stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the band. He disappeared with their money, and there was some talk of sending Hell's Angels after him to get the money back, but Garcia, who despite his passivity and unwillingness to take a formal leadership role was always informally accepted as their leader, decided that his karma would probably get him so they didn't need to take any action. In early 1970, the group played the Fillmore supported by Miles Davis, who had just released his Bitches' Brew album, which was the most influential album on the new genre of jazz-rock: [Excerpt: Miles Davis, "Great Expectations"] The group were all amazed by Davis, and his performance renewed their interest in improvisation, though they were still for the moment even more interested in writing the kind of songs that would earn them enough money that they could make back the money Lenny Hart had stolen. They went on a big multi-artist tour across Canada with Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, The Band, Buddy Guy and others, all travelling by train, but the shows were disrupted by protestors who insisted that they should all be playing for free, not for money, and who were storming one of the venues, with thousands of people trying to get in for free. Garcia eventually managed to calm the protests by organising a free show in a park, with some of the acts including the Dead playing both shows, but he -- understandably -- resented this. He said of the protests "I think the musician’s first responsibility is to play music as well as he can, and that’s the most important thing. And any responsibility to anyone else is just journalistic fiction, or political fiction. Because that [bullshit] about “the people’s music,” man—where’s that at, what’s that supposed to mean? It wasn’t any “people” who sat with me while I learned to play the guitar. I mean, who paid the dues? I mean, if “the people” think that way, they can [fucking] make their own music. And besides, when somebody says “people,” to me it means everybody. It means cops, the guys who drive the limousine, the [fucker] who runs the elevator. Everybody." Much of the tour was spent with Janis Joplin trying to persuade the Grateful Dead, who other than Pig Pen were not big drinkers, to get drunk with her. She succeeded, but they got their revenge by spiking her and her band on the last day of the tour with acid. According to at least one book, the vector for the acid was Janis' birthday cake, which was shared with a number of members of the Calgary Police Department. Some of the bands on the tour actually decided it would be a plan to hijack the train and drive it down to San Francisco after the tour, but luckily rather than "driving that train high on cocaine" they realised that the power had been switched off when they got to their destination, so they had no way to get it to move. While the group were still playing big, multi-act, events like this though, they had also started a new style of touring, one that was designed to maximise money and also give them the time to play all the music they wanted. Where up to this point the norm for a Grateful Dead show had been for them to go on as part of a bill with two or three other acts, now they started touring as "An Evening With the Grateful Dead". The show would start with a performance by the "acoustic Dead", performing largely their new song-oriented material: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "I Know You Rider (Harpur College Binghamton)"] That would follow with a performance by the New Riders of the Purple Sage, featuring Garcia and Hart, and then to finish off an electric set -- or sometimes a show broken into two sets -- featuring as wide a variety of songs as they could fit in, from their long jams like "The Other One": [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "The Other One(Harpur College Binghamton)"] To covers of James Brown songs: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "It's a Man's World(Harpur College Binghamton)"] These shows would last for five hours, and would require no other bands, just the Dead and the people in their immediate circle. This made them both more artistically fulfilling and, crucially, more fiscally rewarding, than playing on a package with other bands. And these shows went along with another innovation, one that came from Rock Scully, and which eventually changed everything for the Dead, who at this point were an act with no hit singles and only one moderately-successful album, in a world where record sales and radio play were all. The Tralfamadorians among you have obviously heard other episodes in which I talk about the rise of FM radio, but in brief, frequency modulation, or FM, was an alternative way of transmitting radio to amplitude modulation, or AM, which had been the norm up until the late sixties and would remain important for a long time to come. Because of the bands allocated to the different types of radio in most countries, AM radio could be broadcast for thousands of miles, while FM radio could only be heard dozens of miles away at most, and so AM dominated among the big commercial broadcasters, while FM was at this point mostly only used by small community radio stations, college stations and the like. But those stations were more likely to play obscure music than the big stations were, and they could also take advantage of one big difference that FM radio had -- there was a consistent standard for broadcasting stereo in FM, while at the time AM radio could only be broadcast in mono. This made those small community stations perfect for a new format, Album Oriented Radio, which went on to define what in America is now known as "classic rock". Those stations didn't have to worry about pleasing massive audiences, so they could play stereo album tracks rather than just singles, which were only released in mono. And they also started broadcasting concerts. Indeed, one show at the Winterland Arena on October the fourth 1970 became the first ever *quadrophonic* broadcast, as two different FM stations, KQED and KSAN, both broadcast different simultaneous stereo mixes that you could play together (though here you're only going to hear it in mono of course): [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Till the Morning Comes (Live at Winterland Arena on 1970-10-04)"] And this -- broadcasting of live shows -- became the Grateful Dead's salvation. Because as Sam Cutler, their road manager, who joined them from the Rolling Stones after Altamont, said "There was a way in which FM radio could be used to reach markets that hadn’t been touched. So, for example, in Pennsylvania, you wanted to do a gig at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, which holds 18,000 people. The promoter would say, “We’d love to put you on at the Spectrum, but you aren’t even going to sell eight hundred tickets.” So how do we get this exposed to enough people that they can sell out the Spectrum? One of the keys to that was FM radio and college radio stations. We took Pennsylvania as a market area, and worked on playing at different colleges where there were 15,000 to 20,000 resident people, and used the FM radio station in that market to reach more people. You play in the state universities of Pennsylvania in order that when you play in a Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, people actually come to you. They’re drawn to you, and they know about you. Then you broadcast live for free. That just snowballed. The band, in those four years, went from not selling very many tickets to being very successful." These radio broadcasts meant that over a period of a couple of years, the Grateful Dead went from playing to a few hundred people at most, anywhere but San Francisco, New York, and a couple of other major cities, to playing to huge crowds of thousands. And those broadcasts also started to be taped, and people started making copies of the tapes for their friends... By 1971 this success was already causing problems of its own, with Garcia saying "The Grateful Dead has become incredibly popular and we can’t play a small hall anymore without having 3,000 people outside wanting to get in. Our classic situation the last six months has been people breaking down the doors and just coming in. We have to play 7,000 to 10,000 seats to be able to get people in at a reasonable price. Just to do it. It’s weird. Here’s what we’re wondering: Do we really want to do that? When it comes down to it, we’re just heads. We’re not interested in creating a lot of [fucking] trouble and being superstars and all that [shit]. We’re just playing, getting off, out to have a good time and giving it all a chance to happen. And all of a sudden there are all these problems making it more difficult to do, and it’s getting to be where it’s not fun. We have to play shows like some military campaigns just to make sure the equipment guys don’t have to be fighting thousands of people to save the [shit]." But back in 1970 it's a plan to save the band financially at all. Although at that point the hope of commercial success in recordings was also still alive. Indeed, right after the release of Workingman's Dead, the group went into the studio to record another album, one that would generally be considered the closest thing they came to a studio masterpiece: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Ripple"] American Beauty was an album that was haunted by parental loss. There was the loss of Mickey Hart's father from the group's management, of course, an estrangement that hurt him deeply. But in August 1970 Garcia's mother was in a car crash, and died in hospital of her injuries a month later, and at the same time Lesh's father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. So it goes. But rather than wallow, the band made their most optimistic album, and the most collaborative studio album they'd made to that point. They threw themselves into their work to distract themselves from their problems, and gathered as many of their friends around them as they could. Friends of theirs like Jefferson Airplane, David Crosby, Neil Young, and Carlos Santana were all recording in the same studio complex around that time, and Lesh described it as "jammer heaven". Those musicians weren't included in the sessions themselves -- though various members of the New Riders and other, less famous, friends of the band contributed additional instruments -- but they were around, and added to a family feeling for the sessions. And while the previous two albums had been made up almost entirely of songs by Garcia and Hunter, the other band members contributed songs to American Beauty. The album opened with a song whose music Lesh wrote for his dying father, with lyrics by Hunter, and which featured Lesh's first lead vocal and guest appearances by a couple of members of the New Riders of the Purple Sage: [Excerpt: Grateful Dead, "Box of Rain"] In 1995 that became the last song the Grateful Dead ever played live. The album also featured another song that would become a live favourite, "Sugar Magnolia", written by Weir and Hunter: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Sugar Magnolia"] And what turned out to be Pig Pen's only solo songwriting credit on a Grateful Dead album, "Operator": [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Operator"] Almost all the rest of the album was made up of Garcia and Hunter collaborations (with John Dawson of the New Riders collaborating with them on "Friend of the Devil"). But the song that was chosen as the single -- and once again released in a single edit, though this time that single has been included on official CD releases -- is the song that for the next eighteen years at least would be their most well-known song, and that had music that evolved out of a jam between Garcia, Weir, and Lesh. The lyrics to "Truckin'" were written by Hunter after he went out on tour with the band for the first time and got to experience what life on the road was like: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Truckin' (single edit)"] From this point on, Hunter would be a regular backstage presence, as he was considered a non-performing member of the band. Indeed the backstage areas of Dead shows were growing somewhat crowded, as the band's crew became larger, and as more and more people got admitted to the Grateful Dead "family". "Truckin'" was another minor hit like "Casey Jones" had been, reaching number sixty-four, and the album also made the top thirty. The group weren't having massive hit records, but they were doing much better than they had been. Over the next few months, in between gigs, the band members, particularly Garcia and Hart, spent a lot of time in Wally Heider's studio, where they had recorded American Beauty, with the friends who had created that "jammer heaven". Garcia, Hart, and Kreutzmann all added parts to tracks on Blows Against the Empire, the science fiction concept album by members of Jefferson Airplane that became the first Jefferson Starship album, and which also featured David Crosby and Graham Nash: [Excerpt: Jefferson Starship, "Have You Seen the Stars Tonite"] Garcia, Lesh, Kreutzmann, and Hart also guested on several tracks on David Crosby's album If I Could Only Remember My Name, which also featured Neil Young, Nash, several of Jefferson Airplane, and Joni Mitchell: [Excerpt: David Crosby, "What Are Their Names?"] And Garcia and Lesh guested on Graham Nash's Songs For Beginners, which also featured Crosby, Young, and John Barbata, the former Turtles drummer who had just been working with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and would soon join Jefferson Airplane: [Excerpt: Graham Nash,"I Used to Be a King"] This music was all, as you can hear, very much in the same area as the two Grateful Dead albums of 1970, all acoustic guitar and pedal steel and vocal harmonies. But live, the group were still spending at least as much of their time playing long pieces like "Dark Star" as they were the more commercial songs: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Dark Star (live at Port Chester, NY)"] That performance of "Dark Star",which many fans of the group consider the best ever, is a historic one. That would be the last time that Pig Pen and Mickey Hart would both play on the same stage together. February the eighteenth 1971 was the last performance by the lineup of the Grateful Dead that had made their most successful records. Mickey Hart had taken his father's betrayal of the group very, very badly. While almost all the group were having drug problems at this time -- everyone except Pig Pen was using cocaine, and Pig Pen's alcohol dependency had by this point become even worse than the other members' more illicit habits -- Hart was spiralling. According to Kreutzmann's autobiography, Hart had developed a serious heroin habit at this point, and according to everyone he was depressed and feeling guilty over the way his father had betrayed the people he thought of as his brothers. Things came to a head on the eighteenth of February. Hart was simply too much of a mess, mentally, to play. Luckily for the group, they had a hypnotist on hand -- they were playing a short residency, and as part of that run of shows they were taking part in an ESP experiment where the audience tried to send images to a sleeping experimental recipient elsewhere. The hypnotist managed to get Hart into a state to play that show, and then he was driven back to his mother's house, where he was medicated and slept for three days. The group continued with Kreutzmann as their only drummer. But there was another change that happened that week, during the same run of shows. Bob Weir had been writing more music, and had of course been collaborating with the band's resident lyricist, Hunter. But Hunter thought that Weir was showing disrespect for his lyrics -- though Weir argued no more so than Garcia did. Backstage they got into a fight over the way the band were now playing "Sugar Magnolia", which had started out as a gentle country song but by this point had evolved into a fast rocker, and Weir would sometimes improvise new words: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Sugar Magnolia (live at Port Chester, NY)"] "Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather. We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear." That's from A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, by John Perry Barlow, from 1996. Backstage after the show was Weir's old friend John Perry Barlow, who by this time was a part-time writer who'd taken an advance for a novel he had no intention of writing and had used it to travel the world before becoming a cocaine dealer -- the capacity in which he was backstage. He was just about to travel to his family's ranch in Wyoming, because his father was ill and would die the next year. So it goes. Barlow would spend the next twenty years running the family business and living out his cowboy fantasies -- fantasies that would also appear in a lot of the writing he would do over that time period. He would also get very involved in Republican politics, including helping run Dick Cheney's first Senatorial campaign. Much of Barlow's writing would end up being scripts for films that were never made, but for which Barlow was nonetheless paid, but the work he would become best known for -- at least up until his promotion in the nineties into the position of leading propagandist for Internet anarchocapitalism and the Californian ideology -- was started backstage in February 1971. Hunter and Weir were having an argument about Weir's attitude to Hunter's lyrics, and Hunter turned to Barlow and after determining that Barlow had written poetry in college and thus could presumably write lyrics, said"Take him, he's yours." From that point on there were two main songwriting teams for the Grateful Dead -- Hunter and Garcia and Barlow and Weir. 1971 continued to be a year of changes and loss. Over the spring, both of Weir's parents died -- each on the other's birthday. So it goes. And while Bill Graham would continue to be the promoter who booked many of the Dead's most prominent gigs, the move in the rock world from bands playing theatres to amphitheatres and stadiums meant that his venues were no longer economical for him to operate, and so the Fillmores East and West, the two venues that had been most welcoming for the Dead, announced their closure. The bands who played the Fillmore East in its last weeks tended to bring on special guests to make the event special -- the Mothers of Invention brought John Lennon and Yoko Ono on, for example -- and the Grateful Dead were no exception, bringing another famous Californian band out to play a few of their own hits, and to jam on songs that both bands often included in their respective sets, like "Riot in Cell Block #9", "Johnny B Goode", and Merle Haggard's "Okie From Muskogee": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys and the Grateful Dead, "Okie From Muskogee"] As the Tralfamadorians among us heard in episode 177, the Beach Boys were at a low ebb in their fortunes at this time, and the endorsement of the Grateful Dead helped them gain the appreciation of a hip college audience, which was a major part in the revival of their fortunes in the seventies. By contrast, at the group's last performance at the Fillmore West, which was being filmed for Bill Graham's documentary The Last Days of the Fillmore, was so bad that they asked that none of it be used in the film, though Graham eventually persuaded them to let him use performances of "Casey Jones" and "Johnny B Goode": [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Johnny B. Goode (Last Days of the Fillmore)"] Garcia was asked about that show the next year and said "We struggled to avoid getting into the movie because it was like really a notably bad night for us and the tapes were a drag, and everybody was out of tune and everything, and we were - it was that thing of not having played for a couple of weeks, you know, three or four weeks we'd been in the studio...But finally Graham just hassled us and hassled us and we finally went for it. We doctored 'em up a bit." That said, while the band were notably out of tune at points during the show, it wasn't a completely meritless one -- indeed, a little over an hour of that show (not including the two songs used in the Fillmore film, recently got a release as a bonus disc on the fiftieth anniversary deluxe edition of the band's next album. That album was a double-disc live album recorded mostly at the group's Fillmore East shows over the spring, and consisting, other than an extended version of "The Other One", largely of cover versions of blues, rockabilly, and country songs: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Me and Bobby McGee (Skull and Roses)"] While that was billed as a live album, it actually had quite a few overdubs. Pig Pen's playing had been increasingly erratic, and he had become severely ill, suffering from delirium tremens. He'd started to cut down on the drinking, but he'd still ended up in the hospital in September, where he was treated for a perforated ulcer and hepatitis. Given Pig Pen's condition, organ parts were overdubbed on three of the songs by Garcia's friend and occasional performance partner Merl Saunders. The album caused a major problem between the group and their record label. Not because it was a second double-live album -- that made sense, especially given there was no overlap in the repertoire on the two albums. No, the problem was the group's chosen title -- Skull[fuck]. Warner Brothers were adamant that you couldn't release an album with a title like Skull[fuck]. You simply couldn't use the word [fuck], or any of the other seven words you can't say on television or in a podcast with a clean rating, in a title and expect it to be stocked on shelves. The group were equally adamant that it couldn't be called anything else. Eventually Warners asked for a meeting about this. The group agreed, but said that as they were a democracy the meeting had to involve *everyone* in their organisation. All fifty-five of them. Eventually the meeting hammered out a compromise -- the album would go out without a title, just labelled "Grateful Dead", which was taken as its title -- all the true Deadheads continued referring to it by its original name, f-word intact, while almost everyone else ended up referring to it as "Skull and Roses" after the cover image, to stop it being confused with their eponymous studio album from a few years earlier. In return for this concession, Warners agreed to give it a huge marketing budget, and it became their first album to go gold: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Big Railroad Blues"] As 1971 came to an end, the group had a further change in lineup. Donna Jean Godchaux had been a member of a vocal group called Southern Comfort, who had become the go-to session backing singers at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, and we actually heard her singing in the episode before last: [Excerpt: Johnny Jenkins, "I Walk on Guilded Splinters"] She had also recorded backing vocals in several other studios in the South, including, as the Tralfamadorians among you will remember, on Elvis' number one hit "Suspicious Minds": [Excerpt: Elvis Presley, "Suspicious Minds"] (Incidentally, and as a sign of the kind of reason this episode took so very long to do, every source on the Grateful Dead I've read uses phrasing like "she’d been part of a female vocal group in her teens and worked as a session singer in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where she performed on such records as Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds.”" -- "Suspicious Minds" was famously recorded at American Sound Studios in Memphis, not in Muscle Shoals, with some extra work by Felton Jarvis in Las Vegas afterwards. This meant I had to take time out to find a source for Godchaux being on the record that *didn't* trace back to a source on the Grateful Dead. But she's credited under her maiden name in Ernst Jorgenson's book on Elvis' sessions, so anyone else who has that problem in future can relax). She had given up on session work and moved to California, where she met her husband, Keith Godchaux. Keith was a resentful lounge pianist who was playing muzak he didn't like, but who desperately wanted to be playing modal jazz and bebop. However, after Donna Jean saw the Grateful Dead live, both of them became interested in the group, even though neither had any background in the Dead's kind of music. One day, a friend of theirs suggested they put on a Grateful Dead album, and Keith said he'd rather be playing the music than listening to it. That gave Donna-Jean an idea. She took Keith to one of the small duo gigs that Garcia played when the Dead weren't playing -- Garcia would pretty much constantly perform live every chance he could get. This one was a performance with the jazz keyboard player Howard Wales, with whom Garcia had recently recorded the duo album Hooteroll: [Excerpt: Jerry Garcia and Howard Wales, "Uncle Martin's"] She grabbed Garcia between sets and told him "this is your new keyboard player". What she didn't know, of course, was that Pig Pen was in the hospital and increasingly in no state to play even when he wasn't. Indeed, they'd actually tried auditioning Howard Wales, but come to the conclusion that while they liked his playing, they brought the worst out of each other -- the group egging Wales on to be too experimental, and him doing likewise for the group. Garcia got Keith in to audition, first just for him, and then bringing in first Kreutzmann and then the whole band. Keith Godchaux was now the Grateful Dead's main keyboard player, though Pig Pen would still perform whenever he was well enough, and to the extent he could. Keith's playing was considered revelatory at this time -- he's been compared to the legendary Nashville session player Floyd Cramer for his playing on the country tunes, and called "a cross between Chick Corea and Little Richard" for his more experimental playing. Within a few months, Donna Jean would also join on backing and occasional lead vocals, becoming the only woman ever to be a member of the group. The new expanded lineup of the group got ready to head out on the road for their first tour of Europe, but before they did, there were some solo albums to get released: [Excerpt: Jerry Garcia, "Deal"] The band's contract with Warners allowed them to make solo albums, and Jerry Garcia's first true solo album, simply titled Garcia, had a simple motivation behind it -- he wanted to buy a house, and if he turned in an album relatively cheaply, the advance would be enough for a downpayment on one. As he said later, there was a reason that the first track on the album was called "Deal" while the last was "The Wheel" -- the album was him wheeling and dealing for a house. So in the summer it had been decided that Garcia and Weir would both do solo albums. Garcia's solo album was actually recorded in July 1971, before Pig Pen's illness worsened. Garcia was a perfectionist in the studio and wanted to make an album where he had total control -- somewhat in the same spirit as Roy Wood's Boulders, although Garcia couldn't play drums or write lyrics, so there were a whole six people in the studio some of the time -- Garcia himself, playing everything except drums; the Dead's sound engineers Bob and Betty; Ramrod the guitar tech who everyone regarded as at least as much a part of the Dead's spirit as any band member -- sort of the Dead's equivalent of Mal Evans or Neil Aspinall, and who was given the job of co-producing the album, in part to give him an extra payday; Kreutzmann on drums; and Robert Hunter to write the lyrics. The album was recorded at Wally Heider's studio, where the Dead and most of their friends regularly recorded, the "jam heaven" we talked about earlier, so to discourage the kind of party atmosphere that led to fun times but expensive records, they put up a sign saying "Anita Bryant Session" -- Bryant was a moderately-successful middle-of-the-road singer who had been heavily involved in campaigns to prosecute the Doors for indecency, and is now best known for being a raging homophobic bigot whose campaigns against gay people in the seventies featured exactly the same kind of language and accusations her ideological fellows are currently weaponising against trans people today. Nobody wants to spend time around anyone like that, and so the sessions were safe from interruption. The album was later more or less dismissed by Garcia, and it was disliked by the record label because even on the new album-oriented stations it was unlikely that the commercial tracks would get played -- there were plenty of commercial sounding tracks, like "The Wheel": [Excerpt: Jerry Garcia, "The Wheel"] But interspersed with those songs on the album were things like "Spidergawd": [Excerpt: Jerry Garcia, "Spidergawd"] And the album was mastered without much gap between the tracks, meaning that DJs cueing up a singalong that wasn't a million miles away from the stuff the Eagles would soon be having hits with might inadvertently get a blast of Varese-alike musique concrete. Bob Weir's solo album, recorded around February 1972, had a very different story. While Garcia was so musically fecund that he could just turn out new songs in the studio, Weir had to be encouraged by Garcia to write at all, but by all accounts Garcia, who hated the responsibility that came with leadership and refused to take it even though everyone around him insisted that he was the leader of the group, wanted to encourage the band to have another focus other than just him. Weir's first solo album, Ace, came together in something of a rush. He had studio time set aside for the album, but had almost no songs, and drove up to Barlow's ranch for a frenetic writing session that led to a collection of songs that ended up almost all becoming staples of the Grateful Dead's repertoire: [Excerpt: Bob Weir, "Cassidy"] Weir and Barlow found writing together much more congenial than Weir and Hunter had. Often the process was far more collaborative than the simple music/lyrics split that Weir had had with Hunter -- Weir would bring Barlow just a chord sequence with no melody line, Barlow would come up with lyrics and sing them over the chord sequence, coming up with a melody line as he did so, and then Weir would rework Barlow's melody line into something different, while also changing the lyrics around and adding new ones. The album did include two songs that Weir had already written with Hunter and erstwhile Dead drummer Mickey Hart, "Greatest Story Ever Told" and "Playing in the Band" : [Excerpt: Bob Weir, "Playing in the Band"] That had actually already appeared in live form on the Skull and Roses album, and Hart also did a version of that song on his own first solo album, released towards the end of 1972. There's also one song credited to Weir on his own, "One More Saturday Night", though apparently that started as a collaboration with Hunter before Weir rewrote it to get rid of Hunter's contributions. But the rest of the album is Weir and Barlow, and mostly shows the particular ideas of freedom that Barlow brought to the group -- he was equally influenced by the idea of cowboys and the Old West and the modern-day Easy Rider style bikers who would head out on the highway, looking for adventure and whatever came their way. People who lived free of government interference and age of consent laws, where men could be men and live as Americans should: [Excerpt: Bob Weir, "Mexicali Blues"] While Ace was released as a Bob Weir album, it is in fact a Grateful Dead album, and the single "One More Saturday Night" was released as by "The Grateful Dead with Bobby Ace". Weir initially started recording the album without the rest of the band other than Kreutzmann -- Dave Torbert, the bass player for the New Riders of the Purple Sage, contributed to the opening song -- but soon Rock Scully persuaded him that the easiest way to make the album would just be to persuade his bandmates to record it with him. Other than Pig Pen, who wasn't well enough to join them, all the other members of the Dead at the time -- Garcia, Lesh, Kreutzmann, and the Godschauxes -- contributed to the album, and other than Torbert's bass on"Greatest Story Ever Told" and some string and horn parts, all the parts on the album are played and sung by Grateful Dead members. It's just as much a Grateful Dead album as any of the group's previous studio albums, and contains as many of the songs that they became known for as any of the others: [Excerpt: Bob Weir, "One More Saturday Night"] The comic strip Dilbert, by Scott Adams, became in the 1990s a touchstone for a whole generation of tech workers, especially in the Bay Area, as the titular character, named by one of Adams' colleagues at Pacific Bell, the San Francisco-based telephone company that at that time was moving into computer networking and was a hotbed of the San Francisco hacker culture, came to symbolise the struggles of the software engineers who were being kept down and in their place by the pointy-haired boss, who didn't understand as much as the engineers he was in charge of. The message of the comic at that time was that the people in charge should step aside and let the people who knew what they were talking about -- the people who really knew computers -- do their thing. In more recent years, the comic started to present the boss as a more and more sympathetic figure, and more of the jokes became about attacking what Adams would refer to as "wokeness", such as consideration for people of colour, trans people, and so on. Eventually this year the strip was cancelled -- in the actual, not metaphorical, sense -- as Adams was videoed making explicitly white-separatist remarks. [Excerpt: Grayfolded] The Dead's trip to Europe in 1972 saw Pig Pen returning to the group. He was still very, very ill, and could no longer drink alcohol at all -- and obviously he had not been taking recreational drugs anyway. He was very withdrawn, but apparently his gentle character shone through even more on that trip than normally. Pig Pen was pretty much universally considered the nicest person in the band, even though he was the scariest-looking of the band. While the others mostly looked like cuddly hippies but could be utterly cold-minded when they needed to be for the good of the band, Pig Pen was regarded by everyone who spoke about him in later decades as being practically a saint. That's not really the case for the people he was hanging around with though. On the European tour, Pig Pen chose to spend most of the time with the crew rather than his bandmates, and the Grateful Dead were getting a reputation as having a crew you didn't want to mess with. The group's sound and lighting system were getting much more complex and much more physically difficult to get in place, and they were attracting the kind of crew who had to be good at quickly and efficiently dealing with physical problems. The crew also had to deal with all the other problems that the rock stars didn't want to know about, and thus essentially became enforcers. There are lots of stories in this period of crew members cutting the microphone cords of people in the audience taping the shows, and of Sam Cutler threatening promoters with guns to make them pay up (though Cutler always denied those stories and said he'd never owned a gun). They were temperamentally very different from the band members -- the iron fist around which the velvet glove of the band were wrapped -- and so a certain amount of natural separation happened. On the European tour there were two buses, and while there was no formal rule as to who sat where, and people could travel on whichever they wished, one bus had almost all the band, other than Pig Pen, and a couple of the crew, while the other mostly had the crew, plus Pig Pen. As is the way of things, the two buses developed two ostensible characters, and the people on them got nicknames. The people on the band bus were "Bozos", partly because they sometimes wore clown masks to freak out the people of Europe as they drove past, and partly after I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus, a comedy science fiction album by the Firesign Theater parodying futurism, religious creation myths, artificial intelligence, and the idea of government by machines: [Excerpt: The Firesign Theater, "I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus"] The people on the other bus, by contrast, were Bolos. And over the course of the trip, Robert Hunter worked out a complex fake religion in the tradition of other comedy religions like Bokononism or Discordianism which were popular in the part of the counterculture that overlapped with science fiction fandom. This religion, whose patron saint was St. Dilbert, saw Bozos and Bolos as two necessary opposing forces like yin and yang. Hunter named the religion Hypnocracy, as a parody of Technocracy, a movement that had reached its height of popularity in the 1930s but still clings on to life to this day, and to which a friend of Garcia belonged. Technocracy was a huge influence on Golden Age science fiction, particularly on writers who came up through John W Campbell's editing of Astounding magazine, like Theodore Sturgeon, L. Ron Hubbard, and Robert A. Heinlein, and held a lot of beliefs, but primarily that society should be organised scientifically, with scientists and technicians and engineers in charge, not politicians. This idea didn't tend to appeal to actual scientists, who could see the flaws in the argument, but did appeal to cranks who thought of themselves as scientists, and for a while had quite a widespread following in North America. The leader of the Technocracy movement in Canada, for example, was oneJoshua Haldeman, a former rodeo performer turned chiropractor who later went on to campaign against Coca-Cola, before moving his family to apartheid South Africa because he thought Canada was morally degenerate. His thinking appears to have had an influence on his grandson, Elon Musk, a follower of the Californian Ideology who tweeted in 2019 that he was“accelerating Starship development to build the Martian Technocracy.” Obviously ridiculous people like this deserved mockery, and soon Hypnocracy became the philosophy of the people on the tour -- at least those on the Bozo bus. The European tour was regarded by everyone involved as one of the great experiences of their lives, and the group were playing better than ever before. Many fans consider their performance of "Dark Star" in Dusseldorf to be one of their finest ever: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Dark Star (Dusseldorf 1972)"] While others point to the performance from London on the same tour: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Dark Star (Wembley, April 1972) "] By this point "Dark Star" had become a massive event, something audiences looked forward to. You didn't get it every show, but when you did you knew you were going to get something special. It was considered something rather apart from the group's other material. Lesh once said "Dark Star is always playing somewhere. All we do is tap into it." The group were all, other than Pig Pen, playing at their best, and band members have all especially pointed out how well Kreutzmann was playing at the time. Hart's departure had freed Kreutzmann up -- when you have two drummers, each drummer has to stay in sync with the other, and can't make the tiny adjustments to tempo and feel that a single drummer has the freedom to do. Lesh later said "Billy played like a young god. I mean, he was everywhere on the drums, and just kickin’ our butts every which way, which is what drummers live to do, you know." Donna Jean agreed, saying "Billy was so there with what the Grateful Dead’s music was all about; he was always postured to play anything. He never set down a 2 and 4 that you couldn’t get away from; Billy’s left and right arm were always postured at any millisecond to take that rhythm anywhere that it needed to go. That’s the beauty of Billy Kreutzmann’s playing. He played like a dancer." Of course, a massive touring operation like the Grateful Dead's was expensive to bring across to Europe, and the only sensible way they could do it was to release yet another live album -- this time a triple one. Although Europe '72 is, while often considered the pinnacle of the group's work, not exactly live. The group were pleased with their instrumental playing, but not with their vocals, and so most of the vocals on the album were rerecorded in the studio back in the US -- but not done the conventional way, with the band members using headphones and singing into the mic. Instead, to make sure that the vocal tracks sounded as they would have live, with instrumental bleed-through to make them fit the ambience, the group's entire stage setup was replicated in the studio, with the amps positioned as they would normally be and the mics spaced exactly as they would be in a live performance. The instruments were played back through the same amps they'd used on stage, and the group redid their parts, including a couple of vocals from Pig Pen: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "It Hurts Me Too"] Those would be his last contributions to a Grateful Dead record. He played only one show with the group after the European tour, in June, and then he stayed at home, trying to get well. As Bob Weir would later explain "Pig Pen had been slowing down and gradually getting sicker, and his musical output was tapering, so by the time he had to stay off the road, he hadn’t been contributing that much so it didn’t have that major an impact. Coincidentally, I started to hit my stride around the same time, and with Pig Pen sick, there was a need for me to do more." While he was at home, he was working on some songs for a possible solo album, or maybe to contribute to the next Dead album. But as it turned out, they would never see release. Pig Pen died, alone, at home, of an internal haemmorage brought on by too much alcohol consumption, on the eighth of March 1973. So it goes. He was twenty-seven. And this leads me to another thing I need to say. There is an utterly pernicious concept called the twenty-seven club, based around the fact that several musicians died at that age. We've already seen one of these, Jesse Belvin, but we're sadly going to see a number more of them between now and episode two hundred, including one next episode. Various conspiracies and attempts at adding mystical significance have become attached to this idea -- an idea which has no basis in truth. Musicians, even famous ones, are no more likely to die aged twenty-seven than at any other age. But there *is* some suggestion that some of the later ones, especially those who died by suicide or overdose, were motivated in part by the romanticising of these deaths. So I want to say clearly, this is the *only* time I will ever mention the "27 Club". Like the Grateful Dead's keyboard players dying, this is not a fun pattern that one can play enjoyable games with, this is talented, often troubled, young people, scarcely more than children, dying in horrible ways. I will have no part, however small, in adding to the belief that great art requires self-destruction or that one should die young and leave a beautiful corpse. [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "It Hurts Me Too"] Pig Pen's death was, in many ways, the end of the Grateful Dead as they had been to that point. But there were other changes afoot. The group had decided to set up their own record label, Grateful Dead Records. Initially this was planned to be something that would allow the group to be totally independent and be distributed entirely through channels other than the mainstream record industry. As Garcia said "It’s dumb to complain about all that record company [bullshit]. I mean, if you’re enough of an [asshole] to stick it up where they can shoot at it, you can’t complain for getting shot. It was our blunder and we’ve been living with our mistake all these years. Now, hopefully we’re free to make our own mistakes." As it turned out, their own mistakes would be just as bad as any that Warners had made, and Grateful Dead Records would shut down in 1976. It would later be revived in the nineties as an archive label. But it did mean that the band were in total control of their next few studio albums, with no oversight, which led to unfortunate missteps like Weir and Barlow's "Money Money", a song which complains about women being gold-diggers, but also about feminism: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Money Money"] In truth, the group's studio albums were increasingly becoming afterthoughts -- as Garcia said in 1973 "There are a lot of people on our payroll, and we can’t really count that much on record royalties to take care of business. The live shows we do are the main source of income for the band, and we’ve been playing an awful lot to pay off our overhead." Part of the reason for starting Grateful Dead Records had been to try to increase their share of the revenue from the records, but as it turned out they wanted neither to be in the record business nor to be in the studio. The group recorded six studio albums between 1973 and 1981, and of course as with every band of their size some of them have their ardent defenders, but even among that relatively small portion of Grateful Dead fans who defend their studio work, most agree that their great period in the studio ended with American Beauty. But the band was becoming very successful on tour, and developing a devoted fanbase. They were helped in this by the packaging of the Skull and Roses album, which included a message saying "Dead freaks unite. Who are you? Where are you? How are you? Send us your name and address and we’ll keep you informed.” Within a couple of years, the group had a mailing list of forty thousand people, who got sent "Dead Head Newsletters" (which popularised the term "Deadhead") which of course contained information about tour dates and new releases, but which also included the kind of stuff that bands would now have on their social media pages, the kind of thing that builds what is now called a parasocial relationship. Hunter was particularly involved in this, creating cartoons and anecdotes about Hypnocracy and the teachings of St. Dilbert, many of which involve him giving "hot foots", a kind of practical joke that involves setting the victim's shoes on fire when they're not looking. Many of these stories also said a lot about the band's attitude to authority and to the kind of people who looked to them for authority, as in one that reads "St. Dilbert was walking in the market one day when up staggered a Bozo to ask his opinion on whether the king, Who had been caught with his hand in exchequer, ought to abdicate, be deposed, have his hand cut off, or be given a medal. With very little pondering, the Dilbert is said to have replied: "You Bozos slay me. You pick a king who best represents the sum of your individual lameness to rule you, and then complain because he has a big red nose." While considering this reply, the Bozo smelled smoke, and looking down realized that the Dilbert had, once again, placed a lighted match between his toes." [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Grayfolded"] Even though they were only a middling success on record, the group were becoming ridiculously successful, to the extent that in 1973, on a bill with the Band and the Allman Brothers Band in Watkins Glen, they played to an audience which for decades held the Guinness record for the largest attendance at a festival ever, and according to some was the largest gathering of humans in American history to that point. The highways around the area had to be closed because of the traffic, with people making it on foot. A hundred and fifty thousand people had bought tickets, but most got in free. Estimates put the crowd size at somewhere near six hundred thousand, which if true and given the age of the people attending would mean that roughly one in every three people in their late teens and early twenties from the area stretching from Boston to New York were there. The crowd for that event was so big that new technologies had to be introduced in the sound systems -- delay lines that allowed speakers to be placed further apart to account for the speed of sound. And this kind of thing was the problem. The group were touring to try to make money, but to play to huge crowds you needed more equipment, and if you wanted crowds of this size to hear you properly, you needed equipment that had never been developed before. Eventually Owsley and sound engineer Dan Healey came up with a system they called the Wall of Sound which would give perfect sound in any venue. That is, in any venue it could fit in. It consisted of 641 speakers, and needed five trucks to get it to a venue. Many venues couldn't take its weight. It also took two days to set up. Which meant that they needed *two* walls of sound, and two whole crews -- one to go ahead to set up the next show while the Dead were playing one the other crew had set up. This is a period when the shows were generally considered exceptional, but the band were supposed to be doing this to earn a living, but they found that as the audience grew, the costs associated with playing to an audience that size grew. And it just wasn't fun any more, not least because half the band were dealing with serious cocaine problems by this point. So in October 1974 the group decided to just stop. They played a final concert at the Winterland, which was filmed for a film that Garcia later edited, and declared they were going on hiatus. Much to Kreutzmann's chagrin, Mickey Hart turned up and was invited to rejoin them for this last show: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Eyes of the World (live at the Winterland)"] By this time there were creative and personal splits in the band and the crew, everything from the drugs they preferred (some of the Dead were by this point trying to be clean-living while others were taking everything they could, and several people involved were annoyed by the insistence of the crew at the last show that nobody could go on stage without taking acid first) to what kind of music they should be making. They sacked a big chunk of the crew, dismantled the Wall of Sound, and spent eighteen months off tour, only playing a small number of one-off shows. But they found that they didn't know what to do if they weren't touring, and ended up getting back together, with Hart in the band once more, as he would be for the rest of its career, and touring again, starting off by playing smaller venues with a smaller crew. But something was missing. Some of the shows were as good as they'd ever been -- a 1977 show at Cornell University is often cited as their best show ever: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Dancing in the Street"] And there were other shows, like a performance at the pyramids in Egypt, which were fondly remembered for reasons other than the musical. But something about the spirit of the shows was generally lacking, which can probably be summed up best by saying that between 1976 and 1984 they only played "Dark Star" five times. When asked about it, Garcia would say that he felt that the group had said everything they could say with that song, but that they felt obliged to try it every so often just in case. The sets tended to be far more structured, with rigidly defined areas of improvisation, rather than the loose, smooth, movement between ideas of the earlier performances. Part of the problem was that several of the band had developed heroin addictions -- Garcia would struggle with his until the day he died -- and part of it was that after the hiatus, Keith Godchaux's playing no longer seemed to fit with the band the way it had. By mutual agreement, Keith and Donna left the band in February 1979, and formed their own band, but tragically Keith died in a car accident in July 1980. So it goes. Keith's replacement was Brent Mydland, who had played in Bob Weir's side band Bobby and the Midnites, and he was considered a better fit, and that change led to the band being somewhat reinvigorated: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Grayfolded"] In early 1976 Bob Weir had said "If it turns out that to avoid problems we have to play the big indoor places again, we just won’t do it. We won’t go out on the road. We’ll just stay home and make records." By late 1976, the Grateful Dead were playing the big indoor places again. And they continued playing bigger and bigger places. As the group were reliant on money from live shows, of course the venues they were playing grew, and they hit upon a totally different way of making money from what anyone else in the rock business was doing at the time. They didn't make a studio album between 1981 and 1987, but in that time they became a bigger and bigger live act, because they finally figured out some of what was giving them a fanbase, and started to exploit it. People had always traded tapes of Dead shows, but up until the early eighties, the group had discouraged this, as all bands did, fearing bootlegging. What they realised was that since they weren't making much money from records anyway, traded tapes weren't cutting into their profits much. What they *were* doing was acting as advertising for the live shows, where they *were* making money. They went from cutting the mics of tapers to setting up special "tapers areas" at shows, reserved areas where people could record the shows, so long as they only traded the recordings, never sold them. These tapes being traded led to the creation of a whole fan culture, analysing the different shows, and commenting on what was the best version of each song, what was the best era of the band, and so on. People started to go to *every* show they could, travelling to see each show on a tour, sometimes seeing literally hundreds of shows. A thriving ecosystem of small businesses started to follow the group, selling home-made merchandise (and the group brought the best of these people in to make their own merchandise, which they sold through their mailing list) or food in the parking lots to concert-goers. The parking lots themselves became party spaces, so much so that a lot of people would follow the band from town to town not to go to the gigs, but to party in the parking lots. The group encouraged this kind of thing by setting up their own ticketing company, and allocating chunks of tickets to people on their mailing list, which encouraged more people to sign up for the list, which encouraged them to think of themselves as "Dead Heads". The Dead didn't understand their fanbase -- everything you read about them suggests that they didn't really get *why* this was happening -- but between good luck and good management they'd managed to hit on a formula which is now the one used by every single artist who makes a living in the Internet era, thirty years before it started to become just the way you do things. Build a core audience by making work available for free or cheap, and then charge the true fans for extras, like live shows or merchandise or Patreon bonuses. And there's a reason that everyone working in a creative field is following the example set by the Grateful Dead: [Excerpt: Grayfolded] The Grateful Dead's fanbase were intimately connected with the Internet from even before the World Wide Web became a thing. LONG before. The group's geographic connection to the Bay Area, and its connection to psychedelic drugs -- many of the 70s generation of computer scientists were interested in expanding their own intelligence as well as that of their computers -- and vague science fictional leanings, meant that they were a natural fit for the kind of person who was online when there were only a handful of networked computers in the world. The first web page came online in August 1991. The first Grateful Dead email list was started in the seventies, by researchers in the AI department in Stanford. When Usenet came along, originally there was just one newsgroup for music, but so many people were posting about the Grateful Dead that the moderators of that newsgroup eventually suggested that a separate Dead newsgroup be set up so anyone who wanted to talk about any other bands could get a word in edgewise, and they became the first band to have their own newsgroup. A 1994 book called Skeleton Key -- a guide to the culture of Dead fandom -- has a whole appendix called "How to Become a Nethead", which lists phone numbers of nineteen Grateful Dead bulletin boards along with their modem bitrates, and which says that there were at the time forty thousand subscribers to the Grateful Dead newsgroups, at a time when almost nobody was yet online. Rather charmingly, it says of the newsgroup "before you post your first message, take stock: Writing to tens of thousands of people at once is not quite like writing a personal letter. You should take care that the information you are publishing is accurate." The bulletin board The WELL, set up in 1985 by Stewart Brand, one of the organisers of the Trips Festival, became a huge gathering place for Dead fans, and for people in the group's organisation, especially Barlow, who got into talks on the WELL that led to him co-founding the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the first civil liberties organisation devoted to speech on the Internet, and Brand sat on the board. Brand's slogan "Information wants to be free" became a rallying cry on the Internet well into the new millennium, and the culture of the Internet, and of Silicon Valley, grew up *heavily* influenced by the Grateful Dead's fan culture, and in particular by their encouragement of tape trading. *Everything* about the way that music technology, and entertainment technology more broadly, evolved -- the growth of filesharing, the embrace by record companies of streaming as a way to provide music free at the point of listening to meet that demand, and the fact that where thirty years ago mid-level bands made a modest income from recordings and toured to promote them, while now they make a modest income from touring but release records to promote the tour... all of that comes back to the fact that it was Grateful Dead fans who were the first online, and who shaped the culture of the Internet in ways, good and bad, that we're still seeing today. It may not be an exaggeration to say that the Grateful Dead have had a more lasting, and greater, cultural impact than the Beatles, despite not even having a thousandth of their fanbase or their specifically musical influence. The whole Californian ideology, in all its self-contradictory complexity, is in many ways an outgrowth of Deadhead ideology, for better and for worse. And *that* is why I had to cover the Grateful Dead in such depth here. Because without them, the very model I use to fund this podcast would not exist. If it had been fans of Frank Zappa or the Velvet Underground who had been working in Stanford's AI lab, rather than the Dead, the world would be unrecognisable now. [Excerpt: Grayfolded] But while the Dead were growing their audience, they were not doing well. And much of that was down to Jerry Garcia. Garcia's heroin addiction was getting worse, to the point where he was nodding off on stage at times, and the man who had spent most of the seventies desperate to play music was now starting to resent being on stage, because the crowds had grown too big. Once again they were touring not because they wanted to, but because they had obligations to all their employees to keep the show on the road no matter what their health, playing more to support the crew than for pleasure. Eventually, Garcia collapsed. His health had deteriorated thanks to his heroin use, he had undiagnosed diabetes, and he dehydrated on a hot day. He was rushed to hospital, and given Valium, which the doctors didn't know he was allergic to. He was in a coma for several days, and when he came out of it his memory was scrambled. He had to relearn how to play the guitar and banjo, spending months with the help of his friend Merl Saunders, slowly piecing his skills back together. And for a while, at least, he came off the heroin and controlled his diet. The group started rehearsing again, and at first it seemed like Garcia wouldn't be good enough, but then one day in October 1986, Mickey Hart came into the Dead's office smiling and saying "We just did a really good ‘Dark Star'. It's back." They started booking a comeback tour the same day. Garcia's first show back with the group opened with a song which they'd been playing for ages, but which took on a new life as an anthem of Garcia's recovery, and which would become the lead-off single for their first studio album in six years: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Touch of Grey"] And that, twenty-two years after the band formed, gave them their first and only hit single. In part it was because the time was ripe. 1987 saw a lot of media coverage of the twentieth anniversary of the Summer of Love, and also as the Tralfamadorians among you will know, the late eighties saw mini career peaks for a host of the Dead's contemporaries, with the period between late 1986 and late 1989 seeing Paul Simon, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and George Harrison all making commercially successful albums that were hailed as returns to form after a patchy decade, and Dylan and Harrison's supergroup the Travelling Wilburys become a minor phenomenon. Other than Simon, the Dead were very slightly ahead of the curve in appealing to an audience of Boomers starting to enter middle age and get nostalgic for the musicians of their youth, and while "Touch of Grey" is not an entirely happy lyric, lines like "a touch of grey kind of suits you anyway" will have given it appeal. But the success was also helped, even more, by the video, the first one the group ever did, which was filmed after one of the group's shows and featured life-size skeleton puppets, modeled after the skeletons that had appeared on many of the group's album covers, playing the song in front of the audience (with a fun moment on the line "dog has not been fed in years" when a dog runs on to the stage and steals Mickey Hart's legbone, and a roadie has to chase the dog down and reattach the bone to the drummer) before turning into the real Dead lipsynching their hit. It was huge on MTV, and got the record into the top ten, making the Grateful Dead finally a one-hit wonder: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Touch of Grey"] But that success brought its own problems. The group's audience became even more massive, with an influx of new fans who the Deadhead culture found it difficult to absorb and enculturate. But at least at first, the Grateful Dead were enthusiastic about their new audience, and that enthusiasm was infectious. They did a co-headlining tour that year with Bob Dylan, acting as his backing band as well as his support act. The shows weren't great, and the live album that resulted has often been called the worst thing either the Dead or Dylan has ever done: [Excerpt: Dylan and the Dead, "All Along the Watchtower"] But Dylan was enthused enough by the experience of performing with the group, and by their evident enjoyment of performing on stage, that he started what has come to be known as the "Never-Ending Tour" the next year, and other than a break in 2020 at the height of the covid-19 pandemic he's kept an intense concert schedule ever since, having played over three thousand shows in the thirty-five years since then. The late eighties also saw a change in the sound of the Grateful Dead, as the group started to experiment more with MIDI controlled instruments. Oddly this meant that Brent Mydland, on keyboards, moved steadily more towards playing patches that sounded like "real" acoustic instruments, while Mickey Hart, for example, would be playing percussion that triggered a whole bank of different sounds. Garcia was particularly pleased with the ability to use his guitar as a MIDI controller and play sounds like a soprano sax -- he talked in interviews about how he would use it to imitate Eric Dolphy. For a while, "Dark Star" came back into the set, now augmented by MIDI, but its place as the part of the set that encouraged the group to improvise had been taken by a piece called "Space", and while they played it a lot it never took off the way it used to. But the group were having problems. Now they had a hit, their already fanatical audience was being joined by another group of new fans, who hadn't previously been part of the Deadhead culture and didn't know its unspoken rules. And they were playing the biggest venues in America -- by now they were far and away the most financially successful touring act around. By late 1987 Garcia was already saying "The audience requires the band, the band requires the audience, you know what I mean? And anything short of live performances is short of live performances. So some sort of video isn’t going to get it. Bigger venues isn’t going to get it. When you’re at the stadium, that’s it, that’s the top end, and that’s already not that great … As far as I can tell, we’re at the cul-de-sac, the end of popular music success. It doesn’t mean there’s no place to go from here. But now we have to be creative on this level as well, and invent where we’re going to go." MTV did a Day of the Dead, where they devoted a whole day to the group, and that included a lot of coverage of the party scene in the parking lots, and suddenly *those* became exponentially greater, filled with people who didn't even intend to see the group live, but were just there to hang out outside and get drunk and stoned. This started to cause problems for the infrastructure of any city and venue where the group played, and required yet more work from their staff. According to some in the Dead's management team at that point, if they played a sixty-thousand-seat stadium there'd be a further thirty-thousand people outside. They were back in the position they'd been in in the seventies, playing to massive audiences not for the pleasure of playing, but because now they were a multi-million-dollar industry. They had to perform to pay the roadies, and the staff in their ticket company, and the promoters, and the staff on their mailing list... there were hundreds of people relying on the group for a pay-cheque, and the bigger they got, the bigger the organisation behind them. By 1989 Robert Hunter was saying "This is our big, big problem now: what to do with the unruly factor now that’s causing a large group situation to become aggravated and exhibit mob behavior. I don’t know; I don’t know that anybody’s ever known, short of imposing absolute authoritarian control, and that is of course the opposite of what the Grateful Dead stand for. Will we be forced to become our own opposites? Interesting philosophical question." [Excerpt: Grayfolded] By 1989 the group started to clamp down on the people selling merchandise outside the shows, in order to cut down on the number of people outside causing a nuisance. This led to a huge backlash from the fans, which led to the group and their organisation deciding the fans were just entitled. At the end of 1989, Brent Mydland had his first overdose. Like all the group's official keyboard players, Mydland was a retiring, quiet, submissive personality, and nobody in the band up to that point seems to have even known he was using heroin, though they all knew he also had a drinking problem. When it happened, he was put on probation by the band and told to clean up, but he didn't, and in July 1990 he had his second, fatal, overdose. So it goes. Garcia was particularly hit by this death. He'd been the closest in the band to Mydland, but also, to quote Dennis McNally, who at the time was the group's publicist (and was closer to Garcia than to the other members) "My theory was that Jerry to some extent took some responsibility for Brent’s death. He recognized that the internal dynamics of the Grateful Dead—the way they treated each other as human beings—was a fraud, was non-supportive, non-anything that any human being would want to be a part of. Look how these guys managed to pick the same personality four times. Pigpen was the starter: all three of his successors had the same emotionally vulnerable personality...But they were so devastated, and being “manly men,” they wouldn’t talk about it, they wouldn’t confront it, they just tried to put themselves in total denial, get another keyboard player, and keep going. It was almost archetypal, the way they failed to deal with what had just happened to them. I think Jerry knew this, whether he wanted to admit it out loud or not, and it put him in a bad place, and you can hear it in his guitar playing for the rest of his life." The group were meant to be on tour four weeks after Mydland's death, and they had such a huge staff that cancelling the tour was not an option. They had four weeks to find a keyboard player. They ended up choosing two. The Dead had had two keyboard players for much the seventies -- even when Tom Constanten had left but before Keith Godchaux joined, various other players, especially Lesh's friend Ned Langin, had played with them on stage though hadn't formally joined the band, and Langin had played with the group consistently for a period up to the hiatus -- and they went back to this for their first summer tour of the nineties. For many of the shows they were joined by Bruce Hornsby, a longtime Deadhead who had become a star a few years earlier with his hit "The Way it Is": [Excerpt: Bruce Hornsby and the Range, "The Way It Is"] Hornsby was a big star in his own right, but still played with the group for about a hundred shows in the early nineties. The official story as it's always told is that Hornsby was never an official member of the group and was just there to help them ease the new guy in, but reading between the lines of various statements -- always a dangerous thing to do -- it seems like Hornsby was trying to push the group out of their comfort zone and towards playing more experimentally, and the group were happy going through the motions, and he eventually tired of this. That new guy -- who did become a full member of the group, and would stay with them until the end -- was Vince Welnick. Welnick came from a very different sort of music to anything the group had done before -- he was a founder-member of the wonderfully camp art-pop proto-punk glam band the Tubes: [Excerpt: The Tubes, "Don't Touch Me There"] After seventeen years with the Tubes, Welnick had left them to tour with Todd Rundgren, who he played with for a few months before joining the Dead. Welnick wasn't hugely familiar with their music, but had been casually friendly with Garcia since the early seventies, when the Tubes had played on the same bill as Garcia when he did some solo shows. Welnick took a scholarly attitude to the music, and studied it carefully, listening back to shows every night and taking notes. But Garcia's mental health went downhill after Myland's death, and it took a further knock when in October 1991 Bill Graham died in a helicopter crash. So it goes. Soon Garcia was back on the heroin, and according to Welnick would sometimes fall asleep on stage in the middle of guitar solos, wake up, and then carry on playing. Hornsby would occasionally rejoin them as the nineties went on, and he wasn't flattering about what he saw. He said later "I sat in with them a couple of times. In ’94, I remember playing with them at Giants Stadium, and it was just horrifically bad. They all knew it, the [band members] were all bummed and embarrassed. I’m looking out at the audience, I’m playing accordion, and I’m standing there in the midst of a sea of mediocrity on the bandstand. Everyone knew it—it wasn’t just me—and you’re looking out and seeing these people going completely crazy, and you’re going, “This is surreal and strange.” It was hard. It was tough for everybody, because no one seemed to be able to reach Garcia. That was tough." The last time Jerry Garcia ever performed "Dark Star" was at the Omni in Atlanta in 1994. Far from the extended jams of old that could last forty minutes, it was only ten minutes long. He only sang the first verse. The song would remain forever unfinished: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Dark Star (Omni 1994)" same clip as at the start] Garcia was clearly very ill at this point, and would only tour for another year or so before checking himself into a stint in rehab which, as it turned out, he would never leave, and which would end the Grateful Dead. But it wouldn't end their organisation, because having already invented the way that all new up-and-coming artists now have to build a career, they now invented, twenty years early, the way that all rock stars of their age monetise their intellectual property. By the early nineties, the group had discovered that there was money to be made from their old live recordings, recordings that nobody had thought had any value. They started releasing albums of classic old shows, most of which most Deadheads already had tape copies of, and were astonished to find that they sold in phenomenal amounts, so much so that in the years after Garcia's death the group actually made more money from archive CDs and sales of merchandise than they had from touring while he was alive. Indeed, they were so successful that at one point many of the band members threatened to sue archive.org, the epitome of the "Information must be free" idea, which had a vast trove of the recordings the group had previously encouraged fans to share, to get them to take them down. But Lesh, who had become estranged from the other three, had something of a Damascene conversion to the Deadhead cause and now thought of himself as the fans' representative and a representative of integrity -- he had earlier said "The Grateful Dead have never accepted corporate sponsorship or venture capital money, and I remain unalterably opposed to any deal that would lease, license or otherwise collateralize the music in the vault”. When he heard about the proposed lawsuit he went ballistic and posted a statement on his website saying“I was not part of this decision-making process and I was not notified that the shows were going to be pulled. I do feel that the music is the Grateful Dead’s legacy and I hope that one way or another all of it is available for those who want it,” The group reversed course and came to a compromise which allowed archive.org to keep the soundboard tapes as streaming only, with the lower-quality audience recordings still available for free download, a compromise which is still in place. They also tried to do some interesting things with the archive material, even before Garcia's death. For example Phil Lesh invited the avant-garde composer John Oswald, who made music using sampling in what he called "Plunderphonics", to do an extended composition using versions of "Dark Star", mixing and matching different performances from over the decades, putting some in reverse, layering them on top of each other. The result was the only Grateful Dead recording on which every official member of the band -- Garcia, Lesh, Weir, Kreutzmann, Constanten, Pig Pen, Keith and Donna-Jean Godchaux, Brent Mydland, and Vince Welnick, all appeared: [Excerpt: Grayfolded] In 2006, the Grateful Dead leased all their intellectual property to Rhino Records, a subsidiary of Warners, for thirty million dollars for a ten-year lease -- a lease that has since been renewed. Mickey Hart said“I think it was a common thought that if we got rid of the business, we might become friends again, we might actually play again. We really love each other, and, deep down, we’re tied at the heart." The same week, Ram Rod, the roadie who had been considered the heart and soul of the group's crew, died of lung cancer. So it goes. Vince Welnick had continued touring with Bob Weir's side band Ratdog for a while after the Grateful Dead had split, but had been sacked from Ratdog after a suicide attempt -- he was replaced by, of all people, Chuck Berry's old piano player Johnny Johnson. He'd been suffering from depression ever since the group split, and would struggle with it for the rest of his life. He did play occasionally with some of the other ex-members for a couple of years after the split, but was not invited to take part in partial reunions advertised as "featuring the former members of the Grateful Dead", under names like The Other Ones and The Dead, and he'd been heartbroken not to be included. As far as he was concerned, he *was* a member of the Grateful Dead - he said“I am and always will be a member of the Grateful Dead. It’s a lifetime thing that Jerry bestows upon a person.” Two weeks after the Vault was moved to Warners, Welnick, who hadn't spoken with the other members of the band in years, died by suicide. So it goes. Phil Lesh performs with a group called Phil Lesh and Friends. Weir, Kreutzmann, and Hart have spent the last few years performing as Dead & Company with singer and guitarist John Mayer. They recently announced a farewell tour for this summer, and even more recently announced that Kreutzmann will not be joining the tour, though they didn't say why other than a "shift in creative direction". In 1994, 1995, and 1996 the composer John Oswald released, first as two individual CDs and then as a double-CD, an album called Grayfolded, which the composer says in the liner notes he thinks of as existing in Tralfamadorian time. The Tralfamadorians in Vonnegut's novels don't see time as a linear thing with a beginning and end, but as a continuum that they can move between at will. When someone dies, they just think that at this particular point in time they're not doing so good, but at other points in time they're fine, so why focus on the bad time? In the book, when told of someone dying, the Tralfamadorians just say "so it goes". In between the first CD's release and the release of the double-CD version, Jerry Garcia died. From August 1942 through August 1995, Jerry Garcia was alive. So it goes. Shall we go, you and I? [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "I Bid You Goodnight" into very end of Grayfolded] ... Read more

20 May 2023

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20 May 2023


#208

Episode 164: “White Light/White Heat” by the Velvet Underground

Episode 164 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “White Light/White Heat” and the career of the Velvet Underground. This is a long one, lasting three hours and twenty minutes. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a twenty-three minute bonus episode available, [on “Why Don’t You Smile Now?” by the Downliners Sect] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/80624667) . Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at  [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust)  and  [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/episode-164-white-light-white-heat-by-the-velvet-underground/#more-1712) ... Read more

03 Apr 2023

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03 Apr 2023


#207

Episode 163: “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding

Episode 163 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay”, Stax Records, and the short, tragic, life of Otis Redding. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a twenty-three minute bonus episode available, on [“Soul Man” by Sam and Dave] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/79253988) . Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust) and [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/episode-163-sittin-on-the-dock-of-the-bay-by-otis-redding/#more-1667) ... Read more

27 Feb 2023

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27 Feb 2023


#206

Episode 162: “Daydream Believer” by the Monkees

Episode 162 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Daydream Believer”, and the later career of the Monkees, and how four Pinocchios became real boys. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a twenty-minute bonus episode available, [on “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/77982678?pr=true) . Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at  [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust)  and  [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/episode-162-daydream-believer-by-the-monkees/#more-1645) ... Read more

31 Jan 2023

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31 Jan 2023


#205

Episode 161: “Alone Again Or” by Love

Episode one hundred and sixty-one of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Alone Again Or”, the career of Love, and the making of Forever Changes. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a twenty-minute bonus episode available, on [“Susan” by the Buckinghams] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/77200267) Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at  [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust)  and  [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/episode-161-alone-again-or-by-love/#more-1607) ... Read more

13 Jan 2023

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13 Jan 2023


#204

XMAS BONUS: “Christmas Time is Here Again” by the Beatles

As we’re in the period between Christmas and New Year, the gap between episodes is going to be longer than normal, and the podcast proper is going to be back on January the ninth. So nobody has to wait around for another fortnight for a new episode, I thought I’d upload some old Patreon bonus episodes to fill the gap. Every year around Christmas the bonus episodes I do tend to be on Christmas songs and so this week I’m uploading three of those. These are older episodes, so don’t have the same production values as more recent episodes, and are also shorter than more recent bonuses, but I hope they’re still worth listening to. [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/xmas-bonus-christmas-time-is-here-again-by-the-beatles/#more-1570) ... Read more

29 Dec 2022

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29 Dec 2022


#203

XMAS BONUS: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

As we’re in the period between Christmas and New Year, the gap between episodes is going to be longer than normal, and the podcast proper is going to be back on January the ninth. So nobody has to wait around for another fortnight for a new episode, I thought I’d upload some old Patreon bonus episodes to fill the gap. Every year around Christmas the bonus episodes I do tend to be on Christmas songs and so this week I’m uploading three of those. These are older episodes, so don’t have the same production values as more recent episodes, and are also shorter than more recent bonuses, but I hope they’re still worth listening to. [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/xmas-bonus-rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer/#more-1566) ... Read more

28 Dec 2022

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28 Dec 2022


#202

XMAS BONUS: Little St. Nick

As we’re in the period between Christmas and New Year, the gap between episodes is going to be longer than normal, and the podcast proper is going to be back on January the ninth. So nobody has to wait around for another fortnight for a new episode, I thought I’d upload some old Patreon bonus episodes to fill the gap. Every year around Christmas the bonus episodes I do tend to be on Christmas songs and so this week I’m uploading three of those. These are older episodes, so don’t have the same production values as more recent episodes, and are also shorter than more recent bonuses, but I hope they’re still worth listening to. [(more…)] (https://500songs.com/podcast/xmas-bonus-little-st-nick/#more-1561) ... Read more

27 Dec 2022

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27 Dec 2022


#201

Episode 160: “Flowers in the Rain” by the Move

Episode 160 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Flowers in the Rain" by the Move, their transition into ELO, and the career of Roy Wood. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a twenty-minute bonus episode available, on ["The Chipmunk Song" by Canned Heat] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/76255150) . Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at  [http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust] (http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust)  and  [http://sitcomclub.com/] (http://sitcomclub.com/) Note I say "And on its first broadcast, as George Martin's theme tune for the new station faded, Tony Blackburn reached for a record." -- I should point out that after Martin's theme fades, Blackburn talks over a brief snatch of a piece by Johnny Dankworth. Resources As so many of the episodes recently have had no Mixcloud due to the number of songs by one artist, I’ve decided to start splitting the mixes of the recordings excerpted in the podcasts into two parts. Here’s [part one] (https://www.mixcloud.com/AndrewHickey/500-songs-supplemental-160a-flowers-in-the-rain-part-one/) and [part two] (https://www.mixcloud.com/AndrewHickey/500-songs-supplemental-160b-flowers-in-the-rain-part-2/) . There are not many books about Roy Wood, and I referred to both of the two that seem to exist -- [this biography] (https://amzn.to/3hJAnp2) by John van der Kiste, and [this album guide] (https://amzn.to/3HYMfOK) by James R Turner.  I also referred to [this biography of Jeff Lynne] (https://amzn.to/3Vk4KAh) by van der Kiste, [The Electric Light Orchestra Story] (https://amzn.to/3BVPEde) by Bev Bevan, and  [Mr Big] (https://amzn.to/3HVdXMg) by Don Arden with Mick Wall.  Most of the more comprehensive compilations of the Move's material are out of print, but [this single-CD-plus-DVD anthology] (https://amzn.to/3FODnbU) is the best compilation that's in print. [This] (https://amzn.to/3WydOlS) is the one collection of Wood's solo and Wizzard hits that seems currently in print, and for those who want to investigate further, [this cheap box set] (https://amzn.to/3POIihl) has the last Move album, the first ELO album, the first Wizzard album, Wood's solo Boulders, and a later Wood solo album, for the price of a single CD. Transcript Before I start, a brief note. This episode deals with organised crime, and so contains some mild descriptions of violence, and also has some mention of mental illness and drug use, though not much of any of those things. And it's probably also important to warn people that towards the end there's some Christmas music, including excerpts of a song that is inescapable at this time of year in the UK, so those who work in retail environments and the like may want to listen to this later, at a point when they're not totally sick of hearing Christmas records. Most of the time, the identity of the party in government doesn't make that much of a difference to people's everyday lives.  At least in Britain, there tends to be a consensus ideology within the limits of which governments of both main parties tend to work. They will make a difference at the margins, and be more or less competent, and more or less conservative or left-wing, more or less liberal or authoritarian, but life will, broadly speaking, continue along much as before for most people. Some will be a little better or worse off, but in general steering the ship of state is a matter of a lot of tiny incremental changes, not of sudden u-turns. But there have been a handful of governments that have made big, noticeable, changes to the structure of society, reforms that for better or worse affect the lives of every person in the country. Since the end of the Second World War there have been two UK governments that made economic changes of this nature. The Labour government under Clement Atlee which came into power in 1945, and which dramatically expanded the welfare state, introduced the National Health Service, and nationalised huge swathes of major industries, created the post-war social democratic consensus which would be kept to with only minor changes by successive governments of both major parties for decades. The next government to make changes to the economy of such a radical nature was the Conservative government which came to power under Margaret Thatcher in 1979, which started the process of unravelling that social democratic consensus and replacing it with a far more hypercapitalist economic paradigm, which would last for the next several decades. It's entirely possible that the current Conservative government, in leaving the EU, has made a similarly huge change, but we won't know that until we have enough distance from the event to know what long-term changes it's caused. Those are economic changes. Arguably at least as impactful was the Labour government led by Harold Wilson that came to power in 1964, which did not do much to alter the economic consensus, but revolutionised the social order at least as much. Largely because of the influence of Roy Jenkins, the Home Secretary for much of that time, between 1964 and the end of the sixties, Britain abolished the death penalty for murder, decriminalised some sex acts between men in private, abolished corporal punishment in prisons, legalised abortion in certain circumstances, and got rid of censorship in the theatre. They also vastly increased spending on education, and made many other changes. By the end of their term, Britain had gone from being a country with laws reflecting a largely conservative, authoritarian, worldview to one whose laws were some of the most liberal in Europe, and society had started changing to match. There were exceptions, though, and that government did make some changes that were illiberal. They brought in increased restrictions on immigration, starting a worrying trend that continues to this day of governments getting ever crueler to immigrants, and they added LSD to the list of illegal drugs. And they brought in the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act, banning the pirate stations. We've mentioned pirate radio stations very briefly, but never properly explained them. In Britain, at this point, there was a legal monopoly on broadcasting. Only the BBC could run a radio station in the UK, and thanks to agreements with the Musicians' Union, the BBC could only play a very small amount of recorded music, with everything else having to be live performances or spoken word. And because it had a legal obligation to provide something for everyone, that meant the tiny amount of recorded music that was played on the radio had to cover all genres, meaning that even while Britain was going through the most important changes in its musical history, pop records were limited to an hour or two a week on British radio. Obviously, that wasn't going to last while there was money to be made, and the record companies in particular wanted to have somewhere to showcase their latest releases. At the start of the sixties, Radio Luxembourg had become popular, broadcasting from continental Europe but largely playing shows that had been pre-recorded in London. But of course, that was far enough away that it made listening to the transmissions difficult. But a solution presented itself: [Excerpt: The Fortunes, "Caroline"] Radio Caroline still continues to this day, largely as an Internet-based radio station, but in the mid-sixties it was something rather different. It was one of a handful of radio stations -- the pirate stations -- that broadcast from ships in international waters. The ships would stay three miles off the coast of Britain, close enough for their broadcasts to be clearly heard in much of the country, but outside Britain's territorial waters. They soon became hugely popular, with Radio Caroline and Radio London the two most popular, and introduced DJs like Tony Blackburn, Dave Lee Travis, Kenny Everett, and John Peel to the airwaves of Britain. The stations ran on bribery and advertising, and if you wanted a record to get into the charts one of the things you had to do was bribe one of the big pirate stations to playlist it, and with this corruption came violence, which came to a head when as we heard in the episode on “Here Comes the Night”, in 1966 Major Oliver Smedley, a failed right-wing politician and one of the directors of Radio Caroline, got a gang of people to board an abandoned sea fort from which a rival station was broadcasting and retrieve some equipment he claimed belonged to him. The next day, Reginald Calvert, the owner of the rival station, went to Smedley's home to confront him, and Smedley shot him dead, claiming self-defence. The jury in Smedley's subsequent trial took only a minute to find him not guilty and award him two hundred and fifty guineas to cover his costs. This was the last straw for the government, which was already concerned that the pirates' transmitters were interfering with emergency services transmissions, and that proper royalties weren't being paid for the music broadcast (though since much of the music was only on there because of payola, this seems a little bit of a moot point).  They introduced legislation which banned anyone in the UK from supplying the pirate ships with records or other supplies, or advertising on the stations. They couldn't do anything about the ships themselves, because they were outside British jurisdiction, but they could make sure that nobody could associate with them while remaining in the UK. The BBC was to regain its monopoly (though in later years some commercial radio stations were allowed to operate). But as well as the stick, they needed the carrot. The pirate stations *had* been filling a real need, and the biggest of them were getting millions of listeners every day. So the arrangements with the Musicians' Union and the record labels were changed, and certain BBC stations were now allowed to play a lot more recorded music per day. I haven't been able to find accurate figures anywhere -- a lot of these things were confidential agreements -- but it seems to have been that the so-called "needle time" rules were substantially relaxed, allowing the BBC to separate what had previously been the Light Programme -- a single radio station that played all kinds of popular music, much of it live performances -- into two radio stations that were each allowed to play as much as twelve hours of recorded music per day, which along with live performances and between-track commentary from DJs was enough to allow a full broadcast schedule. One of these stations, Radio 2, was aimed at older listeners, and to start with mostly had programmes of what we would now refer to as Muzak, mixed in with the pop music of an older generation -- crooners and performers like Englebert Humperdinck. But another, Radio 1, was aimed at a younger audience and explicitly modelled on the pirate stations, and featured many of the DJs who had made their names on those stations. And on its first broadcast, as George Martin's theme tune for the new station faded, Tony Blackburn reached for a record. At different times Blackburn has said either that he was just desperately reaching for whatever record came to hand or that he made a deliberate choice because the record he chose had such a striking opening that it would be the perfect way to start a new station: [Excerpt: Tony Blackburn first radio show into "Flowers in the Rain" by the Move] You may remember me talking in the episode on "Here Comes the Night" about how in 1964 Dick Rowe of Decca, the manager Larry Page, and the publicist and co-owner of Radio Caroline Phil Solomon were all trying to promote something called Brumbeat as the answer to Merseybeat – Brummies, for those who don't know, are people from Birmingham. Brumbeat never took off the way Merseybeat did, but several bands did get a chance to make records, among them Gerry Levene and the Avengers: [Excerpt: Gerry Levene and the Avengers, "Dr. Feelgood"] That was the only single the Avengers made, and the B-side wasn't even them playing, but a bunch of session musicians under the direction of Bert Berns, and the group split up soon afterwards, but several of the members would go on to have rather important careers. According to some sources, one of their early drummers was John Bohnam, who you can be pretty sure will be turning up later in the story, while the drummer on that track was Graeme Edge, who would later go on to co-found the Moody Blues.  But today it's the guitarist we'll be looking at. Roy Wood had started playing music when he was very young -- he'd had drum lessons when he was five years old, the only formal musical tuition he ever had, and he'd played harmonica around working men's clubs as a kid. And as a small child he'd loved classical music, particularly Tchaikovsky and Elgar. But it wasn't until he was twelve that he decided that he wanted to be a guitarist. He went to see the Shadows play live, and was inspired by the sound of Hank Marvin's guitar, which he later described as sounding "like it had been dipped in Dettol or something": [Excerpt: The Shadows, "Apache"] He started begging his parents for a guitar, and got one for his thirteenth birthday -- and by the time he was fourteen he was already in a band, the Falcons, whose members were otherwise eighteen to twenty years old, but who needed a lead guitarist who could play like Marvin. Wood had picked up the guitar almost preternaturally quickly, as he would later pick up every instrument he turned his hand to, and he'd also got the equipment. His friend Jeff Lynne later said "I first saw Roy playing in a church hall in Birmingham and I think his group was called the Falcons. And I could tell he was dead posh because he had a Fender Stratocaster and a Vox AC30 amplifier. The business at the time. I mean, if you've got those, that's it, you're made." It was in the Falcons that Wood had first started trying to write songs, at first instrumentals in the style of the Shadows, but then after the Beatles hit the charts he realised it was possible for band members to write their own material, and started hesitantly trying to write a few actual songs. Wood had moved on from the Falcons to Gerry Levene's band, one of the biggest local bands in Birmingham, when he was sixteen, which is also when he left formal education, dropping out from art school -- he's later said that he wasn't expelled as such, but that he and the school came to a mutual agreement that he wouldn't go back there. And when Gerry Levene and the Avengers fell apart after their one chance at success hadn't worked out, he moved on again to an even bigger band. Mike Sheridan and the Night Riders had had two singles out already, both produced by Cliff Richard's producer Norrie Paramor, and while they hadn't charted they were clearly going places. They needed a new guitarist, and Wood was by far the best of the dozen or so people who auditioned, even though Sheridan was very hesitant at first -- the Night Riders were playing cabaret, and all dressed smartly at all times, and this sixteen-year-old guitarist had turned up wearing clothes made by his sister and ludicrous pointy shoes. He was the odd man out, but he was so good that none of the other players could hold a candle to him, and he was in the Night Riders by the time of their third single, "What a Sweet Thing That Was": [Excerpt: Mike Sheridan and the Night Riders, "What a Sweet Thing That Was"] Sheridan later said "Roy was and still is, in my opinion, an unbelievable talent. As stubborn as a mule and a complete extrovert. Roy changed the group by getting us into harmonies and made us realize there was better material around with more than three chords to play. This was our turning point and we became a group's group and a bigger name." -- though there are few other people who would describe Wood as extroverted, most people describing him as painfully shy off-stage. "What a  Sweet Thing That Was" didn't have any success, and nor did its follow-up, "Here I Stand", which came out in January 1965. But by that point, Wood had got enough of a reputation that he was already starting to guest on records by other bands on the Birmingham scene, like "Pretty Things" by Danny King and the Mayfair Set: [Excerpt: Danny King and the Mayfair Set, "Pretty Things"] After their fourth single was a flop, Mike Sheridan and the Night Riders changed their name to Mike Sheridan's Lot, and the B-side of their first single under the new name was a Roy Wood song, the first time one of his songs was recorded. Unfortunately the song, modelled on "It's Not Unusual" by Tom Jones, didn't come off very well, and Sheridan blamed himself for what everyone was agreed was a lousy sounding record: [Excerpt: Mike Sheridan's Lot, "Make Them Understand"] Mike Sheridan's Lot put out one final single, but the writing was on the wall for the group. Wood left, and soon after so did Sheridan himself. The remaining members regrouped under the name The Idle Race, with Wood's friend Jeff Lynne as their new singer and guitarist. But Wood wouldn't remain without a band for long. He'd recently started hanging out with another band, Carl Wayne and the Vikings, who had also released a couple of singles, on Pye: [Excerpt: Carl Wayne and the Vikings, "What's the Matter Baby"] But like almost every band from Birmingham up to this point, the Vikings' records had done very little, and their drummer had quit, and been replaced by Bev Bevan, who had been in yet another band that had gone nowhere, Denny Laine and the Diplomats, who had released one single under the name of their lead singer Nicky James, featuring the Breakaways, the girl group who would later sing on "Hey Joe", on backing vocals: [Excerpt: Nicky James, "My Colour is Blue"] Bevan had joined Carl Wayne's group, and they'd recorded one track together, a cover version of "My Girl", which was only released in the US, and which sank without a trace: [Excerpt: Carl Wayne and the Vikings, "My Girl"] It was around this time that Wood started hanging around with the Vikings, and they would all complain about how if you were playing the Birmingham circuit you were stuck just playing cover versions, and couldn't do anything more interesting.  They were also becoming more acutely aware of how successful they *could* have been, because one of the Brumbeat bands had become really big. The Moody Blues, a supergroup of players from the best bands in Birmingham who featured Bev Bevan's old bandmate Denny Laine and Wood's old colleague Graeme Edge, had just hit number one with their version of "Go Now": [Excerpt: The Moody Blues, "Go Now"] So they knew the potential for success was there, but they were all feeling trapped. But then Ace Kefford, the bass player for the Vikings, went to see Davy Jones and the Lower Third playing a gig: [Excerpt: Davy Jones and the Lower Third, "You've Got a Habit of Leaving"] Also at the gig was Trevor Burton, the guitarist for Danny King and the Mayfair Set. The two of them got chatting to Davy Jones after the gig, and eventually the future David Bowie told them that the two of them should form their own band if they were feeling constricted in their current groups. They decided to do just that, and they persuaded Carl Wayne from Kefford's band to join them, and got in Wood.  Now they just needed a drummer. Their first choice was John Bonham, the former drummer for Gerry Levene and the Avengers who was now drumming in a band with Kefford's uncle and Nicky James from the Diplomats. But Bonham and Wayne didn't get on, and so Bonham decided to remain in the group he was in, and instead they turned to Bev Bevan, the Vikings' new drummer.  (Of the other two members of the Vikings, one went on to join Mike Sheridan's Lot in place of Wood, before leaving at the same time as Sheridan and being replaced by Lynne, while the other went on to join Mike Sheridan's New Lot, the group Sheridan formed after leaving his old group. The Birmingham beat group scene seems to have only had about as many people as there were bands, with everyone ending up a member of twenty different groups). The new group called themselves the Move, because they were all moving on from other groups, and it was a big move for all of them. Many people advised them not to get together, saying they were better off where they were, or taking on offers they'd got from more successful groups -- Carl Wayne had had an offer from a group called the Spectres, who would later become famous as Status Quo, while Wood had been tempted by Tony Rivers and the Castaways, a group who at the time were signed to Immediate Records, and who did Beach Boys soundalikes and covers: [Excerpt: Tony Rivers and the Castaways, "Girl Don't Tell Me"] Wood was a huge fan of the Beach Boys and would have fit in with Rivers, but decided he'd rather try something truly new. After their first gig, most of the people who had warned against the group changed their minds. Bevan's best friend, Bobby Davis, told Bevan that while he'd disliked all the other groups Bevan had played in, he liked this one. (Davis would later become a famous comedian, and have a top five single himself in the seventies, produced by Jeff Lynne and with Bevan on the drums, under his stage name Jasper Carrott): [Excerpt: Jasper Carrott, "Funky Moped"] Most of their early sets were cover versions, usually of soul and Motown songs, but reworked in the group's unique style. All five of the band could sing, four of them well enough to be lead vocalists in their own right (Bevan would add occasional harmonies or sing novelty numbers) and so they became known for their harmonies -- Wood talked at the time about how he wanted the band to have Beach Boys harmonies but over instruments that sounded like the Who. And while they were mostly doing cover versions live, Wood was busily writing songs. Their first recording session was for local radio, and at that session they did cover versions of songs by Brenda Lee, the Isley Brothers, the Orlons, the Marvelettes, and Betty Everett, but they also performed four songs written by Wood, with each member of the front line taking a lead vocal, like this one with Kefford singing: [Excerpt: The Move, "You're the One I Need"] The group were soon signed by Tony Secunda, the manager of the Moody Blues, who set about trying to get the group as much publicity as possible. While Carl Wayne, as the only member who didn't play an instrument, ended up the lead singer on most of the group's early records, Secunda started promoting Kefford, who was younger and more conventionally attractive than Wayne, and who had originally put the group together, as the face of the group, while Wood was doing most of the heavy lifting with the music. Wood quickly came to dislike performing live, and to wish he could take the same option as Brian Wilson and stay home and write songs and make records while the other four went out and performed, so Kefford and Wayne taking the spotlight from him didn't bother him at the time, but it set the group up for constant conflicts about who was actually the leader of the group. Wood was also uncomfortable with the image that Secunda set up for the group. Secunda decided that the group needed to be promoted as "bad boys", and so he got them to dress up as 1930s gangsters, and got them to do things like smash busts of Hitler, or the Rhodesian dictator Ian Smith, on stage. He got them to smash TVs on stage too, and in one publicity stunt he got them to smash up a car, while strippers took their clothes off nearby -- claiming that this was to show that people were more interested in violence than in sex. Wood, who was a very quiet, unassuming, introvert, didn't like this sort of thing, but went along with it. Secunda got the group a regular slot at the Marquee club, which lasted several months until, in one of Secunda's ideas for publicity, Carl Wayne let off smoke bombs on stage which set fire to the stage. The manager came up to try to stop the fire, and Wayne tossed the manager's wig into the flames, and the group were banned from the club (though the ban was later lifted). In another publicity stunt, at the time of the 1966 General Election, the group were photographed with "Vote Tory" posters, and issued an invitation to Edward Heath, the leader of the Conservative Party and a keen amateur musician, to join them on stage on keyboards. Sir Edward didn't respond to the invitation. All this publicity led to record company interest. Joe Boyd tried to sign the group to Elektra Records, but much as with The Pink Floyd around the same time, Jac Holzman wasn't interested. Instead they signed with a new production company set up by Denny Cordell, the producer of the Moody Blues' hits. The contract they signed was written on the back of a nude model, as yet another of Secunda's publicity schemes. The group's first single, "Night of Fear" was written by Wood and an early sign of his interest in incorporating classical music into rock: [Excerpt: The Move, "Night of Fear"] Secunda claimed in the publicity that that song was inspired by taking bad acid and having a bad trip, but in truth Wood was more inspired by brown ale than by brown acid -- he and Bev Bevan would never do any drugs other than alcohol. Wayne did take acid once, but didn't like it, though Burton and Kefford would become regular users of most drugs that were going. In truth, the song was not about anything more than being woken up in the middle of the night by an unexpected sound and then being unable to get back to sleep because you're scared of what might be out there. The track reached number two on the charts in the UK, being kept off the top by "I'm a Believer" by the Monkees, and was soon followed up by another song which again led to assumptions of drug use. "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" wasn't about grass the substance, but was inspired by a letter to Health and Efficiency, a magazine which claimed to be about the nudist lifestyle as an excuse for printing photos of naked people at a time before pornography laws were liberalised. The letter was from a reader saying that he listened to pop music on the radio because "where I live it's so quiet I can hear the grass grow!" Wood took that line and turned it into the group's next single, which reached number five: [Excerpt: The Move, "I Can Hear the Grass Grow"] Shortly after that, the group played two big gigs at Alexandra Palace. The first was the Fourteen-Hour Technicolor Dream, which we talked about in the Pink Floyd episode. There Wood had one of the biggest thrills of his life when he walked past John Lennon, who saluted him and then turned to a friend and said "He's brilliant!" -- in the seventies Lennon would talk about how Wood was one of his two favourite British songwriters, and would call the Move "the Hollies with balls". The other gig they played at Alexandra Palace was a "Free the Pirates" benefit show, sponsored by Radio Caroline, to protest the imposition of the Marine Broadcasting (Offences) Act.  Despite that, it was, of course, the group's next single that was the first one to be played on Radio One. And that single was also the one which kickstarted Roy Wood's musical ambitions.  The catalyst for this was Tony Visconti. Visconti was a twenty-three-year-old American who had been in the music business since he was sixteen, working the typical kind of jobs that working musicians do, like being for a time a member of a latter-day incarnation of the Crew-Cuts, the white vocal group who had had hits in the fifties with covers of "Sh'Boom" and “Earth Angel”. He'd also recorded two singles as a duo with his wife Siegrid, which had gone nowhere: [Excerpt: Tony and Siegrid, "Up Here"] Visconti had been working for the Richmond Organisation as a staff songwriter when he'd met the Move's producer Denny Cordell. Cordell was in the US to promote a new single he had released with a group called Procol Harum, "A Whiter Shade of Pale", and Visconti became the first American to hear the record, which of course soon became a massive hit: [Excerpt: Procol Harum, "A Whiter Shade of Pale"] While he was in New York, Cordell also wanted to record a backing track for one of his other hit acts, Georgie Fame. He told Visconti that he'd booked several of the best session players around, like the jazz trumpet legend Clark Terry, and thought it would be a fun session. Visconti asked to look at the charts for the song, out of professional interest, and Cordell was confused -- what charts? The musicians would just make up an arrangement, wouldn't they? Visconti asked what he was talking about, and Cordell talked about how you made records -- you just got the musicians to come into the studio, hung around while they smoked a few joints and worked out what they were going to play, and then got on with it. It wouldn't take more than about twelve hours to get a single recorded that way. Visconti was horrified, and explained that that might be how they did things in London, but if Cordell tried to make a record that way in New York, with an eight-piece group of session musicians who charged union scale, and would charge double scale for arranging work on top, then he'd bankrupt himself. Cordell went pale and said that the session was in an hour, what was he going to do? Luckily, Cordell had a copy of the demo with him, and Visconti, who unlike Cordell was a trained musician, quickly sat down and wrote an arrangement for him, sketching out parts for guitar, bass, drums, piano, sax, and trumpets. The resulting arrangement wasn't perfect -- Visconti had to write the whole thing in less than an hour with no piano to hand -- but it was good enough that Cordell's production assistant on the track, Harvey Brooks of the group Electric Flag, who also played bass on the track, could tweak it in the studio, and the track was recorded quickly, saving Cordell a fortune: [Excerpt: Georgie Fame, "Because I Love You"] One of the other reasons Cordell had been in the US was that he was looking for a production assistant to work with him in the UK to help translate his ideas into language the musicians could understand. According to Visconti he said that he was going to try asking Phil Spector to be his assistant, and Artie Butler if Spector said no.  Astonishingly, assuming he did ask them, neither Phil Spector nor Artie Butler (who was the arranger for records like "Leader of the Pack" and "I'm a Believer" among many, many, others, and who around this time was the one who suggested to Louis Armstrong that he should record "What a Wonderful World") wanted to fly over to the UK to work as Denny Cordell's assistant, and so Cordell turned back to Visconti and invited him to come over to the UK. The main reason Cordell needed an assistant was that he had too much work on his hands -- he was currently in the middle of recording albums for three major hit groups -- Procol Harum, The Move, and Manfred Mann -- and he physically couldn't be in multiple studios at once. Visconti's first work for him was on a Manfred Mann session, where they were recording the Randy Newman song "So Long Dad" for their next single. Cordell produced the rhythm track then left for a Procol Harum session, leaving Visconti to guide the group through the overdubs, including all the vocal parts and the lead instruments: [Excerpt: Manfred Mann, "So Long Dad"] The next Move single, "Flowers in the Rain", was the first one to benefit from Visconti's arrangement ideas. The band had recorded the track, and Cordell had been unhappy with both the song and performance, thinking it was very weak compared to their earlier singles -- not the first time that Cordell would have a difference of opinion with the band, who he thought of as a mediocre pop group, while they thought of themselves as a heavy rock band who were being neutered in the studio by their producer.  In particular, Cordell didn't like that the band fell slightly out of time in the middle eight of the track. He decided to scrap it, and get the band to record something else. Visconti, though, thought the track could be saved. He told Cordell that what they needed to do was to beat the Beatles, by using a combination of instruments they hadn't thought of. He scored for a quartet of wind instruments -- oboe, flute, clarinet, and French horn, in imitation of Mendelssohn: [Excerpt: The Move, "Flowers in the Rain"] And then, to cover up the slight sloppiness on the middle eight, Visconti had the wind instruments on that section recorded at half speed, so when played back at normal speed they'd sound like pixies and distract from the rhythm section: [Excerpt: The Move, "Flowers in the Rain"] Visconti's instincts were right. The single went to number two, kept off the top spot by Englebert Humperdinck, who spent 1967 keeping pretty much every major British band off number one, and thanks in part to it being the first track played on Radio 1, but also because it was one of the biggest hits of 1967, it's been the single of the Move's that's had the most airplay over the years. Unfortunately, none of the band ever saw a penny in royalties from it. It was because of another of Tony Secunda's bright ideas. Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister at the time, was very close to his advisor Marcia Williams, who started out as his secretary, rose to be his main political advisor, and ended up being elevated to the peerage as Baroness Falkender. There were many, many rumours that Williams was corrupt -- rumours that were squashed by both Wilson and Williams frequently issuing libel writs against newspapers that mentioned them -- though it later turned out that at least some of these were the work of Britain's security services, who believed Wilson to be working for the KGB (and indeed Williams had first met Wilson at a dinner with Khrushchev, though Wilson was very much not a Communist) and were trying to destabilise his government as a result. Their personal closeness also led to persistent rumours that Wilson and Williams were having an affair. And Tony Secunda decided that the best way to promote "Flowers in the Rain" was to print a postcard with a cartoon of Wilson and Williams on it, and send it out. Including sticking a copy through the door of ten Downing St, the Prime Minister's official residence. This backfired *spectacularly*. Wilson sued the Move for libel, even though none of them had known of their manager's plans, and as a result of the settlement it became illegal for any publication to print the offending image (though it can easily be found on the Internet now of course), everyone involved with the record was placed under a permanent legal injunction to never discuss the details of the case, and every penny in performance or songwriting royalties the track earned would go to charities of Harold Wilson's choice. In the 1990s newspaper reports said that the group had up to that point lost out on two hundred thousand pounds in royalties as a result of Secunda's stunt, and given the track's status as a perennial favourite, it's likely they've missed out on a similar amount in the decades since. Incidentally, while every member of the band was banned from ever describing the postcard, I'm not, and since Wilson and Williams are now both dead it's unlikely they'll ever sue me. The postcard is a cartoon in the style of Aubrey Beardsley, and shows Wilson as a grotesque naked homunculus sat on a bed, with Williams naked save for a diaphonous nightgown through which can clearly be seen her breasts and genitals, wearing a Marie Antoinette style wig and eyemask and holding a fan coquettishly, while Wilson's wife peers at them through a gap in the curtains. The text reads "Disgusting Depraved Despicable, though Harold maybe is the only way to describe "Flowers in the Rain" The Move, released Aug 23" The stunt caused huge animosity between the group and Secunda, not only because of the money they lost but also because despite Secunda's attempts to associate them with the Conservative party the previous year, Ace Kefford was upset at an attack on the Labour leader -- his grandfather was a lifelong member of the Labour party and Kefford didn't like the idea of upsetting him. The record also had a knock-on effect on another band. Wood had given the song "Here We Go Round the Lemon Tree" to his friends in The Idle Race, the band that had previously been Mike Sheridan and the Night Riders, and they'd planned to use their version as their first single: [Excerpt: The Idle Race, "Here We Go Round the Lemon Tree"] But the Move had also used the song as the B-side for their own single, and "Flowers in the Rain" was so popular that the B-side also got a lot of airplay. The Idle Race didn't want to be thought of as a covers act, and so "Lemon Tree" was pulled at the last minute and replaced by "Impostors of Life's Magazine", by the group's guitarist Jeff Lynne: [Excerpt: The Idle Race, "Impostors of Life's Magazine"] Before the problems arose, the Move had been working on another single. The A-side, "Cherry Blossom Clinic", was a song about being in a psychiatric hospital, and again had an arrangement by Visconti, who this time conducted a twelve-piece string section: [Excerpt: The Move, "Cherry Blossom Clinic"] The B-side, meanwhile, was a rocker about politics: [Excerpt: The Move, "Vote For Me"] Given the amount of controversy they'd caused, the idea of a song about mental illness backed with one about politics seemed a bad idea, and so "Cherry Blossom Clinic" was kept back as an album track while "Vote For Me" was left unreleased until future compilations. The first Wood knew about "Cherry Blossom Clinic" not being released was when after a gig in London someone -- different sources have it as Carl Wayne or Tony Secunda -- told him that they had a recording session the next morning for their next single and asked what song he planned on recording. When he said he didn't have one, he was sent up to his hotel room with a bottle of Scotch and told not to come down until he had a new song. He had one by 8:30 the next morning, and was so drunk and tired that he had to be held upright by his bandmates in the studio while singing his lead vocal on the track. The song was inspired by "Somethin' Else", a track by Eddie Cochran, one of Wood's idols: [Excerpt: Eddie Cochran, "Somethin' Else"] Wood took the bass riff from that and used it as the basis for what was the Move's most straight-ahead rock track to date. As 1967 was turning into 1968, almost universally every band was going back to basics, recording stripped down rock and roll tracks, and the Move were no exception. Early takes of "Fire Brigade" featured Matthew Fisher of Procol Harum on piano, but the final version featured just guitar, bass, drums and vocals, plus a few sound effects: [Excerpt: The Move, "Fire Brigade"] While Carl Wayne had sung lead or co-lead on all the Move's previous singles, he was slowly being relegated into the background, and for this one Wood takes the lead vocal on everything except the brief bridge, which Wayne sings: [Excerpt: The Move, "Fire Brigade"] The track went to number three, and while it's not as well-remembered as a couple of other Move singles, it was one of the most influential. Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols has often said that the riff for "God Save the Queen" is inspired by "Fire Brigade": [Excerpt: The Sex Pistols, "God Save the Queen"] The reversion to a heavier style of rock on "Fire Brigade" was largely inspired by the group's new friend Jimi Hendrix. The group had gone on a package tour with The Pink Floyd (who were at the bottom of the bill), Amen Corner, The Nice, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and had become good friends with Hendrix, often jamming with him backstage. Burton and Kefford had become so enamoured of Hendrix that they'd both permed their hair in imitation of his Afro, though Burton regretted it -- his hair started falling out in huge chunks as a result of the perm, and it took him a full two years to grow it out and back into a more natural style. Burton had started sharing a flat with Noel Redding of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Burton and Wood had also sung backing vocals with Graham Nash of the Hollies on Hendrix's "You Got Me Floatin'", from his Axis: Bold as Love album: [Excerpt: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "You Got Me Floatin'"] In early 1968, the group's first album came out. In retrospect it's arguably their best, but at the time it felt a little dated -- it was a compilation of tracks recorded between late 1966 and late 1967, and by early 1968 that might as well have been the nineteenth century. The album included their two most recent singles, a few more songs arranged by Visconti, and three cover versions -- versions of Eddie Cochran's "Weekend", Moby Grape's "Hey Grandma", and the old standard "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart", done copying the Coasters' arrangement with Bev Bevan taking a rare lead vocal. By this time there was a lot of dissatisfaction among the group. Most vocal -- or least vocal, because by this point he was no longer speaking to any of the other members, had been Ace Kefford. Kefford felt he was being sidelined in a band he'd formed and where he was the designated face of the group. He'd tried writing songs, but the only one he'd brought to the group, "William Chalker's Time Machine", had been rejected, and was eventually recorded by a group called The Lemon Tree, whose recording of it was co-produced by Burton and Andy Fairweather-Low of Amen Corner: [Excerpt: The Lemon Tree, "William Chalker's Time Machine"] He was also, though the rest of the group didn't realise it at the time, in the middle of a mental breakdown, which he later attributed to his overuse of acid. By the time the album, titled Move, came out, he'd quit the group. He formed a new group, The Ace Kefford Stand, with Cozy Powell on drums, and they released one single, a cover version of the Yardbirds' "For Your Love", which didn't chart: [Excerpt: The Ace Kefford Stand, "For Your Love"] Kefford recorded a solo album in 1968, but it wasn't released until an archival release in 2003, and he spent most of the next few decades dealing with mental health problems. The group continued on as a four-piece, with Burton moving over to bass. While they thought about what to do -- they were unhappy with Secunda's management, and with the sound that Cordell was getting from their recordings, which they considered far wimpier than their live sound -- they released a live EP of cover versions, recorded at the Marquee. The choice of songs for the EP showed their range of musical influences at the time, going from fifties rockabilly to the burgeoning progressive rock scene, with versions of Cochran's "Somethin' Else", Jerry Lee Lewis' "It'll Be Me", "So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star" by the Byrds, "Sunshine Help Me" by Spooky Tooth, and "Stephanie Knows Who" by Love: [Excerpt: The Move, "Stephanie Knows Who"] Incidentally, later that year they headlined a gig at the Royal Albert Hall with the Byrds as the support act, and Gram Parsons, who by that time was playing guitar for the Byrds, said that the Move did "So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star" better than the Byrds did. The EP, titled "Something Else From the Move", didn't do well commercially, but it did do something that the band thought important -- Trevor Burton in particular had been complaining that Denny Cordell's productions "took the toughness out" of the band's sound, and was worried that the group were being perceived as a pop band, not as a rock group like his friends in the Jimi Hendrix Experience or Cream. There was an increasing tension between Burton, who wanted to be a heavy rocker, and the older Wayne, who thought there was nothing at all wrong with being a pop band. The next single, "Wild Tiger Woman", was much more in the direction that Burton wanted their music to go. It was ostensibly produced by Cordell, but for the most part he left it to the band, and as a result it ended up as a much heavier track than normal. Roy Wood had only intended the song as an album track, and Bevan and Wayne were hesitant about it being a single, but Burton was insistent -- "Wild Tiger Woman" was going to be the group's first number one record: [Excerpt: The Move, "Wild Tiger Woman"] In fact, it turned out to be the group's first single not to chart at all, after four top ten singles in a row.  The group were now in crisis. They'd lost Ace Kefford, Burton and Wayne were at odds, and they were no longer guaranteed hitmakers. They decided to stop working with Cordell and Secunda, and made a commitment that if the next single was a flop, they would split up. In any case, Roy Wood was already thinking about another project. Even though the group's recent records had gone in a guitar-rock direction, he thought maybe you could do something more interesting. Ever since seeing Tony Visconti conduct orchestral instruments playing his music, he'd been thinking about it. As he later put it "I thought 'Well, wouldn't it be great to get a band together, and rather than advertising for a guitarist how about advertising for a cellist or a French horn player or something? There must be lots of young musicians around who play the... instruments that would like to play in a rock kind of band.' That was the start of it, it really was, and I think after those tracks had been recorded with Tony doing the orchestral arrangement, that's when I started to get bored with the Move, with the band, because I thought 'there's something more to it'". He'd started sketching out plans for an expanded lineup of the group, drawing pictures of what it would look like on stage if Carl Wayne was playing timpani while there were cello and French horn players on stage with them. He'd even come up with a name for the new group -- a multi-layered pun. The group would be a light orchestra, like the BBC Light Orchestra, but they would be playing electrical instruments, and also they would have a light show when they performed live, and so he thought "the Electric Light Orchestra" would be a good name for such a group. The other band members thought this was a daft idea, but Wood kept on plotting. But in the meantime, the group needed some new management. The person they chose was Don Arden. We talked about Arden quite a bit in the last episode, but he's someone who is going to turn up a lot in future episodes, and so it's best if I give a little bit more background about him. Arden was a manager of the old school, and like several of the older people in the music business at the time, like Dick James or Larry Page, he had started out as a performer, doing an Al Jolson tribute act, and he was absolutely steeped in showbusiness -- his wife had been a circus contortionist before they got married, and when he moved from Manchester to London their first home had been owned by Winifred Atwell, a boogie piano player who became the first Black person to have a UK number one -- and who is *still* the only female solo instrumentalist to have a UK number one -- with her 1954 hit "Let's Have Another Party": [Excerpt: WInifred Atwell, "Let's Have Another Party"] That was only Atwell's biggest in a long line of hits, and she'd put all her royalties into buying properties in London, one of which became the Ardens' home. Arden had been considered quite a promising singer, and had made a few records in the early 1950s. His first recordings, of material in Yiddish aimed at the Jewish market, are sadly not findable online, but he also apparently recorded as a session singer for Embassy Records. I can't find a reliable source for what records he sang on for that label, which put out budget rerecordings of hits for sale exclusively through Woolworths, but according to Wikipedia one of them was Embassy's version of "Blue Suede Shoes", put out under the group name "The Canadians", and the lead vocal on that track certainly sounds like it could be him: [Excerpt: The Canadians, "Blue Suede Shoes"] As you can tell, rock and roll didn't really suit Arden's style, and he wisely decided to get out of performance and into behind-the-scenes work, though he would still try on occasion to make records of his own -- an acetate exists from 1967 of him singing "Sunrise, Sunset": [Excerpt: Don Arden, "Sunrise, Sunset"] But he'd moved first into promotion -- he'd been the promoter who had put together tours of the UK for Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Brenda Lee and others which we mentioned in the second year of the podcast -- and then into management. He'd first come into management with the Animals -- apparently acting at that point as the money man for Mike Jeffries, who was the manager the group themselves dealt with. According to Arden -- though his story differs from the version of the story told by others involved -- the group at some point ditched Arden for Allen Klein, and when they did, Arden's assistant Peter Grant, another person we'll be hearing a lot more of, went with them.  Arden, by his own account, flew over to see Klein and threatened to throw him out of the window of his office, which was several stories up. This was a threat he regularly made to people he believed had crossed him -- he made a similar threat to one of the Nashville Teens, the first group he managed after the Animals, after the musician asked what was happening to the group's money. And as we heard last episode, he threatened Robert Stigwood that way when Stigwood tried to get the Small Faces off him. One of the reasons he'd signed the Small Faces was that Steve Marriott had gone to the Italia Conti school, where Arden had sent his own children, Sharon and David, and David had said that Marriott was talented. And David was also a big reason the Move came over to Arden. After the Small Faces had left him, Arden had bought Galaxy Entertaimnent, the booking agency that handled bookings for Amen Corner and the Move, among many other acts. Arden had taken over management of Amen Corner himself, and had put his son David in charge of liaising with Tony Secunda about the Move.  But David Arden was sure that the Move could be an albums act, not just a singles act, and was convinced the group had more potential than they were showing, and when they left Secunda, Don Arden took them on as his clients, at least for the moment. Secunda, according to Arden (who is not the most reliable of witnesses, but is unfortunately the only one we have for a lot of this stuff) tried to hire someone to assassinate Arden, but Arden quickly let Secunda know that if anything happened to Arden, Secunda himself would be dead within the hour. As "Wild Tiger Woman" hadn't been a hit, the group decided to go back to their earlier "Flowers in the Rain" style, with "Blackberry Way": [Excerpt: The Move, "Blackberry Way"] That track was produced by Jimmy Miller, who was producing the Rolling Stones and Traffic around this time, and featured the group's friend Richard Tandy on harpsichord. It's also an example of the maxim "Good artists copy, great artists steal". There are very few more blatant examples of plagiarism in pop music than the middle eight of "Blackberry Way". Compare Harry Nilsson's "Good Old Desk": [Excerpt: Nilsson, "Good Old Desk"] to the middle eight of "Blackberry Way": [Excerpt: The Move, "Blackberry Way"] "Blackberry Way" went to number one, but that was the last straw for Trevor Burton -- it was precisely the kind of thing he *didn't* want to be doing,. He was so sick of playing what he thought of as cheesy pop music that at one show he attacked Bev Bevan on stage with his bass, while Bevan retaliated with his cymbals. He stormed off stage, saying he was "tired of playing this crap". After leaving the group, he almost joined Blind Faith, a new supergroup that members of Cream and Traffic were forming, but instead formed his own supergroup, Balls. Balls had a revolving lineup which at various times included Denny Laine, formerly of the Moody Blues, Jackie Lomax, a singer-songwriter who was an associate of the Beatles, Richard Tandy who had played on "Blackberry Way", and Alan White, who would go on to drum with the band Yes. Balls only released one single, "Fight for My Country", which was later reissued as a Trevor Burton solo single: [Excerpt: Balls, "Fight For My Country"] Balls went through many lineup changes, and eventually seemed to merge with a later lineup of the Idle Race to become the Steve Gibbons Band, who were moderately successful in the seventies and eighties. Richard Tandy covered on bass for a short while, until Rick Price came in as a permanent replacement. Before Price, though, the group tried to get Hank Marvin to join, as the Shadows had then split up, and Wood was willing to move over to bass and let Marvin play lead guitar. Marvin turned down the offer though. But even though "Blackberry Way" had been the group's biggest hit to date, it marked a sharp decline in the group's fortunes.  Its success led Peter Walsh, the manager of Marmalade and the Tremeloes, to poach the group from Arden, and even though Arden took his usual heavy-handed approach -- he describes going and torturing Walsh's associate, Clifford Davis, the manager of Fleetwood Mac, in his autobiography -- he couldn't stop Walsh from taking over. Unfortunately, Walsh put the group on the chicken-in-a-basket cabaret circuit, and in the next year they only released one record, the single "Curly", which nobody was happy with. It was ostensibly produced by Mike Hurst, but Hurst didn't turn up to the final sessions and Wood did most of the production work himself, while in the next studio over Jimmy Miller, who'd produced "Blackberry Way", was producing "Honky Tonk Women" by the Rolling Stones. The group were getting pigeonholed as a singles group, at a time when album artists were the in thing. In a three-year career they'd only released one album, though they were working on their second. Wood was by this point convinced that the Move was unsalvageable as a band, and told the others that the group was now just going to be a launchpad for his Electric Light Orchestra project. The band would continue working the chicken-in-a-basket circuit and releasing hit singles, but that would be just to fund the new project -- which they could all be involved in if they wanted, of course. Carl Wayne, on the other hand, was very, very, happy playing cabaret, and didn't see the need to be doing anything else. He made a counter-suggestion to Wood -- keep The Move together indefinitely, but let Wood do the Brian Wilson thing and stay home and write songs. Wayne would even try to get Burton and Kefford back into the band. But Wood wasn't interested. Increasingly his songs weren't even going to the Move at all. He was writing songs for people like Cliff Bennett and the Casuals. He wrote "Dance Round the Maypole" for Acid Gallery: [Excerpt: Acid Gallery, "Dance Round the Maypole"] On that, Wood and Jeff Lynne sang backing vocals. Wood and Lynne had been getting closer since Lynne had bought a home tape recorder which could do multi-tracking -- Wood had wanted to buy one of his own after "Flowers in the Rain", but even though he'd written three hit singles at that point his publishing company wouldn't give him an advance to buy one, and so he'd started using Lynne's. The two have often talked about how they'd recorded the demo for "Blackberry Way" at Lynne's parents' house, recording Wood's vocal on the demo with pillows and cushions around his head so that his singing wouldn't wake Lynne's parents. Lynne had been another person that Wood had asked to join the group when Burton left, but Lynne was happy with The Idle Race, where he was the main singer and songwriter, though their records weren't having any success: [Excerpt: The Idle Race, "I Like My Toys"] While Wood was writing material for other people, the only one of those songs to become a hit was "Hello Suzie", written for Amen Corner, which became a top five single on Immediate Records: [Excerpt: Amen Corner, "Hello Suzie"] While the Move were playing venues like Batley Variety Club in Britain, when they went on their first US tour they were able to play for a very different audience. They were unknown in the US, and so were able to do shows for hippie audiences that had no preconceptions about them, and did things like stretch "Cherry Blossom Clinic" into an eight-minute-long extended progressive rock jam that incorporated bits of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring", the Nutcracker Suite, and the Sorcerer's Apprentice: [Excerpt: The Move, "Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited (live at the Fillmore West)"] All the group were agreed that those shows were the highlight of the group's career. Even Carl Wayne, the band member most comfortable with them playing the cabaret circuit, was so proud of the show at the Fillmore West which that performance is taken from that when the tapes proved unusable he kept hold of them, hoping all his life that technology would progress to the point where they could be released and show what a good live band they'd been, though as things turned out they didn't get released until after his death. But when they got back to the UK it was back to the chicken-in-a-basket circuit, and back to work on their much-delayed second album. That album, Shazam!, was the group's attempt at compromise between their different visions. With the exception of one song, it's all heavy rock music, but Wayne, Wood, and Price all co-produced, and Wayne had the most creative involvement he'd ever had. Side two of the album was all cover versions, chosen by Wayne, and Wayne also went out onto the street and did several vox pops, asking members of the public what they thought of pop music: [Excerpt: Vox Pops from "Don't Make My Baby Blue"] There were only six songs on the album, because they were mostly extended jams. Other than the three cover versions chosen by Wayne, there was a sludge-metal remake of "Hello Suzie", the new arrangement of "Cherry Blossom Clinic" they'd been performing live, retitled "Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited", and only one new original, "Beautiful Daughter", which featured a string arrangement by Visconti, who also played bass: [Excerpt: The Move, "Beautiful Daughter"] And Carl Wayne sang lead on five of the six tracks, which given that one of the reasons Wayne was getting unhappy with the band was that Wood was increasingly becoming the lead singer, must have been some comfort. But it wasn't enough. By the time Shazam! came out, with a cover drawn by Mike Sheridan showing the four band members as superheroes, the band was down to three -- Carl Wayne had quit the group, for a solo career. He continued playing the cabaret circuit, and made records, but never had another hit, but he managed to have a very successful career as an all-round entertainer, acting on TV and in the theatre, including a six-year run as the narrator in the musical Blood Brothers, and replacing Alan Clarke as the lead singer of the Hollies. He died in 2004. As soon as Wayne left the group, the three remaining band members quit their management and went back to Arden. And to replace Wayne, Wood once again asked Jeff Lynne to join the group. But this time the proposition was different -- Lynne wouldn't just be joining the Move, but he would be joining the Electric Light Orchestra. They would continue putting out Move records and touring for the moment, and Lynne would be welcome to write songs for the Move so that Wood wouldn't have to be the only writer, but they'd be doing it while they were planning their new group.  Lynne was in, and the first single from the new lineup was a return to the heavy riff rock style of "Wild Tiger Woman", "Brontosaurus": [Excerpt: The Move, "Brontosaurus"] But Wayne leaving the group had put Wood in a difficult position. He was now the frontman, and he hated that responsibility -- he said later "if you look at me in photos of the early days, I'm always the one hanging back with my head down, more the musician than the frontman." So he started wearing makeup, painting his face with triangles and stars, so he would be able to hide his shyness. And it worked -- and "Brontosaurus" returned the group to the top ten. But the next single, "When Alice Comes Back to the Farm", didn't chart at all. The first album for the new Move lineup, Looking On, was to finish their contract with their current record label. Many regard it as the group's "Heavy metal album", and it's often considered the worst of their four albums, with Bev Bevan calling it "plodding", but that's as much to do with Bevan's feeling about the sessions as anything else -- increasingly, after the basic rhythm tracks had been recorded, Wood and Lynne would get to work without the other two members of the band, doing immense amounts of overdubbing.  And that continued after Looking On was finished. The group signed a new contract with EMI's new progressive rock label, Harvest, and the contract stated that they were signing as "the Move performing as The Electric Light Orchestra". They started work on two albums' worth of material, with the idea that anything with orchestral instruments would be put aside for the first Electric Light Orchestra album, while anything with just guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, and horns would be for the Move. The first Electric Light Orchestra track, indeed, was intended as a Move B-side. Lynne came in with a song based around a guitar riff, and with lyrics vaguely inspired by the TV show The Prisoner, about someone with a number instead of a name running, trying to escape, and then eventually dying.  But then Wood decided that what the track really needed was cello. But not cello played in the standard orchestral manner, but something closer to what the Beatles had done on "I am the Walrus". He'd bought a cheap cello himself, and started playing Jimi Hendrix riffs on it, and Lynne loved the sound of it, so onto the Move's basic rhythm track they overdubbed fifteen cello tracks by Wood, and also two French horns, also by Wood: [Excerpt: The Electric Light Orchestra, "10538 Overture"] The track was named "10538 Overture", after they saw the serial number 1053 on the console they were using to mix the track, and added the number 8 at the end, making 10538 the number of the character in the song. Wood and Lynne were so enamoured with the sound of their new track that they eventually got told by the other two members of the group that they had to sit in the back when the Move were driving to gigs, so they couldn't reach the tape player, because they'd just keep playing the track over and over again. So they got a portable tape player and took that into the back seat with them to play it there. After finishing some pre-existing touring commitments, the Move and Electric Light Orchestra became a purely studio group, and Rick Price quit the bands -- he needed steady touring work to feed his family, and went off to form another band, Mongrel. Around this time, Wood also took part in another strange project. After Immediate Records collapsed, Andrew Oldham needed some fast money, so he and Don Arden put together a fake group they could sign to EMI for ten thousand pounds.  The photo of the band Grunt Futtock was of some random students, and that was who Arden and Oldham told EMI was on the track, but the actual performers on the single included Roy Wood, Steve Marriott, Peter Frampton, and Andy Bown, the former keyboard player of the Herd: [Excerpt: Grunt Futtock, "Rock 'n' Roll Christian"] Nobody knows who wrote the song, although it's credited to Bernard Webb, which is a pseudonym Paul McCartney had previously used -- but everyone knew he'd used the pseudonym, so it could very easily be a nod to that. The last Move album, Message From The Country, didn't chart -- just like the previous two hadn't. But Wood's song "Tonight" made number eleven, the follow-up, "Chinatown", made number twenty-three, and then the final Move single, "California Man", a fifties rock and roll pastiche, made the top ten: [Excerpt: The Move, "California Man"] In the US, that single was flipped, and the B-side, Lynne's song "Do Ya", became the only Move song ever to make the Hot One Hundred, reaching number ninety-nine: [Excerpt: The Move, "Do Ya"] By the time "California Man" was released, the Electric Light Orchestra were well underway. They'd recorded their first album, whose biggest highlights were Lynne's "10538 Overture" and Wood's "Whisper in the Night": [Excerpt: The Electric Light Orchestra, "Whisper in the Night"] And they'd formed a touring lineup, including Richard Tandy on keyboards and several orchestral instrumentalists. Unfortunately, there were problems developing between Wood and Lynne. When the Electric Light Orchestra toured, interviewers only wanted to speak to Wood, thinking of him as the band leader, even though Wood insisted that he and Lynne were the joint leaders. And both men had started arguing a lot, to the extent that at some shows they would refuse to go on stage because of arguments as to which of them should go on first. Wood has since said that he thinks most of the problems between Lynne and himself were actually caused by Don Arden, who realised that if he split the two of them into separate acts he could have two hit groups, not one. If that was the plan, it worked, because by the time "10538 Overture" was released as the Electric Light Orchestra's first single, and made the top ten -- while "California Man" was also still in the charts -- it was announced that Roy Wood was now leaving the Electric Light Orchestra, as were keyboard player Bill Hunt and cellist Hugh McDowell. They were going to form a new group with Rick Price and the two drummers from Mongrel, Charlie Grima and Keith Smart, plus saxophone players Mike Burney and Nick Pentelow. Of course, ELO, as the Electric Light Orchestra soon became known, went on to have a string of hits through the seventies and eighties, featuring Lynne on vocals and guitar and Bevan on drums, like "Mr. Blue Sky": [Excerpt: ELO, "Mr. Blue Sky"] and "Don't Bring Me Down": [Excerpt: ELO, "Don't Bring Me Down"] And it's very likely Jeff Lynne will turn up in future episodes, and we'll get more of his story then. Bev Bevan, once ELO split up, led a band called ELO Part II for a while, then led a band calling itself The Move, much to Wood's disgust, sometimes with Trevor Burton involved. He also played briefly with Black Sabbath, and is currently in a country-folk band called Quill. Wood and Price's new band, though, went in a different direction altogether. After having done psychedelic pop, heavy rock, and orchestral progressive music, Wood now wanted to make music inspired by that of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson -- wall of sound pop music -- and the riffs of the fifties rock and roll he'd always loved. And that's what Wizzard did.  Wizzard's first single, "Ball Park Incident", came out in November 1972 and made the top ten, meaning Wood had had top ten singles with three different bands in the space of six months: [Excerpt: Wizzard, "Ball Park Incident"] While Wizzard were a glam-pop singles group making catchy three-minute pop records, their albums were something else. Their first album, Wizzard Brew, was their only one to chart -- it only made number twenty-nine, and contained tracks like the thirteen-minute jazz-rock epic "Meet Me at the Jailhouse": [Excerpt: Wizzard, "Meet Me at the Jailhouse"] Their second album, Introducing Eddie and the Falcons, was a collection of fifties rock pastiches, while the third, Main Street, didn't get released at all at the time, as it was just considered too strange. Which is odd, because Wood was simultaneously working on an even stranger album, one he'd started work on while the Move were still going.  Wood later said of the album in question, Boulders, "This was at the time when people were leaving bands and going out on their own, and then bringing an album out and calling it a solo album. And I thought 'Well, that's not a solo album! A solo album is when you write all the songs, you do all the arrangements, you play all the instruments yourself, you design the album cover, drive the van, and make the sandwiches and the tea, you know? That's a solo album.' Which is what I was determined to do." And he certainly managed. Other than a harmonium part that opens the first track, which is played by one of the album's engineers, every note on Boulders is written and performed by Wood, who is credited with banjo, bells, cello, cowbell, double bass, drums, glockenspiel, guitar, bass, harp, harp guitar, piano, recorder, saxophone, sitar, slide guitar, tambourine, trumpet, violin, washboard, water bowl, lead and backing vocals, production, liner notes and cover art. The single from Boulders, "Dear Elaine", made number eleven on the charts: [Excerpt: Roy Wood, "Dear Elaine"] But rather astonishingly Boulders itself became the biggest hit album of any that Wood was ever involved in, reaching number twelve. This despite it having songs like "Miss Clarke and the Computer", a song sung from the perspective of a computer who's in love with a maintenance engineer who has been sent out to dismantle it: [Excerpt: Roy Wood, "Miss Clarke and the Computer"] While he was working on that, though, he'd also continued working with Wizzard, and Wizzard's second single was also Wood's second number one, "See My Baby Jive": [Excerpt: Wizzard, "See My Baby Jive"] Just before that had come out, ELO had put out a cover version of "Roll Over Beethoven" which EMI had publicised as "the follow-up to California Man", and so the B-side to "See My Baby Jive" was an instrumental whose full title was "Bend Over Beethoven (the official follow-up to "California Man")" "See My Baby Jive" was followed up by "Angel Fingers", another number one, while "Dear Elaine" was followed up by "Forever", a pastiche of Neil Sedaka and the Beach Boys which the Beach Boys themselves liked so much that Wood was invited to join them in the recording of their hit "It's OK". Wood has talked about visiting Brian Wilson's house and being greeted by Wilson's daughters Carnie and Wendy, later of Wilson Phillips, singing "Forever": [Excerpt: Roy Wood, "Forever"] That came out at the end of 1973 and made the top ten in the UK in early 1974. In total, from singles released in 1973 either by Wizzard or by Wood solo, Wood spent fifty-two weeks in the charts at the time. I say "at the time" because the last Wizzard single released in 1973 has spent a lot more time on the charts since. In 1972, John Lennon had released "Happy Xmas (War is Over)", and for the first time British rockers had realised that there was money to be made in Christmas songs. And so after nearly a decade of no Christmas-themed records worthy of note, suddenly Elton John was asking us to "Step into Christmas", the folk-rock band Steeleye Span were charting with an a capella recording of the carol "Gaudete", and Slade were at number one with "Merry Xmas Everybody". And just below them, at number four, were Wizzard, with "I Wish it Could Be Christmas Every Day": [Excerpt: Wizzard, "I Wish it Could Be Christmas Every Day"] That track became a perennial on Christmas radio and TV, a reissue of it made the top thirty in 1984, and since downloads started counting towards the charts it has made the top forty in 2007, 2008, and then every year from 2011 on. It's at number twenty-three on the charts right now as I say this. But that would be the peak of Wood's, and Wizzard's, success. He changed record label in 1974, and some contractual difficulties made him lose a bit of momentum, though he still managed a couple more top ten hits and a fair few in the top forty. But Wizzard had become associated with the glam-rock movement, and musical fashions were changing. Not only that, Wood was simply too musically eclectic for his own good. You never knew what you were going to get with a Roy Wood album. You'd hear a single on the radio, so you knew what you were in for, but if you bought a Wizzard album you might get a collection of fifties rock pastiches or jazz skronking. And if you bought a Roy Wood solo album you might get songs about a computer in love with its killer, or you might get a note-perfect Andrews Sisters pastiche with Wood's vocals sped up to sound like women, as on the title track to his second solo album Mustard: [Excerpt: Roy Wood, "Mustard"] Wood's last charting single was in 1975, and by 1977 he was saying "I've written something like 30 hit songs, you know? It's not easy now to accept that I'm not a success anymore" He carried on making new records for another decade, with no commercial success and little critical success, but gave up after a brief cluster of releases in 1987 and 88 came to nothing. Since then, the only new recordings he's released have been a live version of "I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day", and in 1999 a rather bizarre mashup called "I Wish it Could be a Wombling Merry Christmas Every Day", which married his Christmas hit with another seventies Christmas record by the children's group the Wombles. Rather staggeringly, that did chart. Wikipedia also credits him as being part of a charity Christmas record by the DJ Mike Read under the name Shooting Stars in 2009, but Wood's credit on that seems to be just a songwriting credit, presumably because the song is just Wood's hit "Angel Fingers" slightly rewritten. Wood apparently still writes the occasional song. He tours most years around Christmas (though hasn't since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic) and always plays exactly the same setlist, in the same order, unchanged since at least 2009, and in that set are three songs that have never had an official release -- a rockabilly song called "Kiss Me Goodnight, Boadicea", a blues track called "Big Girl's Blues", and a jazz instrumental called "Roy's Revenge". But while he occasionally talks about making a new album, he's apparently decided that his body of work is OK to stand as it is without further addition. And who can blame him? But, as it's the Christmas season now, and as it's on the charts again, let's leave the episode with the song which every British person has heard in every public space every December for nearly fifty years. And if you celebrate it, a Merry Christmas to you all. [Excerpt: Wizzard, "I Wish it Could Be Christmas Every Day"] ... Read more

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22 Dec 2022