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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.

 

#199

Episode 158: “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane

Episode one hundred and fifty-eight of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “White Rabbit”, Jefferson Airplane, and the rise of the San Francisco sound. 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 ["Omaha" by Moby Grape] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/75002755) . 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 I hope to upload a Mixcloud tomorrow, and will edit it in, but have had some problems with the site today. Jefferson Airplane's first four studio albums, plus a 1968 live album, can be found in this box set. I've referred to three main books here. [Got a Revolution!: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane] (https://amzn.to/3grCnBR) by Jeff Tamarkin is written with the co-operation of the band members, but still finds room to criticise them.  [Jefferson Airplane On Track] (https://amzn.to/3OBRTru) by Richard Molesworth is a song-by-song guide to the band's music. And  [Been So Long: My Life and Music] (https://amzn.to/3UZ1Xgh) by Jorma Kaukonen is Kaukonen's autobiography. Some information on Skip Spence and Matthew Katz also comes from [What's Big and Purple and Lives in the Ocean?: The Moby Grape Story] (https://amzn.to/3OucIVv) , by Cam Cobb, which I also used for this week's bonus. 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, I need to confess an important and hugely embarrassing error in this episode. I've only ever seen Marty Balin's name written down, never heard it spoken, and only after recording the episode, during the editing process, did I discover I mispronounce it throughout. It's usually an advantage for the podcast that I get my information from books rather than TV documentaries and the like, because they contain far more information, but occasionally it causes problems like that. My apologies. Also a brief note that this episode contains some mentions of racism, antisemitism, drug and alcohol abuse, and gun violence. One of the themes we've looked at in recent episodes is the way the centre of the musical world -- at least the musical world as it was regarded by the people who thought of themselves as hip in the mid-sixties -- was changing in 1967. Up to this point, for a few years there had been two clear centres of the rock and pop music worlds. In the UK, there was London, and any British band who meant anything had to base themselves there. And in the US, at some point around 1963, the centre of the music industry had moved West. Up to then it had largely been based in New York, and there was still a thriving industry there as of the mid sixties. But increasingly the records that mattered, that everyone in the country had been listening to, had come out of LA Soul music was, of course, still coming primarily from Detroit and from the Country-Soul triangle in Tennessee and Alabama, but when it came to the new brand of electric-guitar rock that was taking over the airwaves, LA was, up until the first few months of 1967, the only city that was competing with London, and was the place to be. But as we heard in the episode on "San Francisco", with the Monterey Pop Festival all that started to change. While the business part of the music business remained centred in LA, and would largely remain so, LA was no longer the hip place to be. Almost overnight, jangly guitars, harmonies, and Brian Jones hairstyles were out, and feedback, extended solos, and droopy moustaches were in. The place to be was no longer LA, but a few hundred miles North, in San Francisco -- something that the LA bands were not all entirely happy about: [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Who Needs the Peace Corps?"] In truth, the San Francisco music scene, unlike many of the scenes we've looked at so far in this series, had rather a limited impact on the wider world of music. Bands like Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Big Brother and the Holding Company were all both massively commercially successful and highly regarded by critics, but unlike many of the other bands we've looked at before and will look at in future, they didn't have much of an influence on the bands that would come after them, musically at least. Possibly this is because the music from the San Francisco scene was always primarily that -- music created by and for a specific group of people, and inextricable from its context. The San Francisco musicians were defining themselves by their geographical location, their peers, and the situation they were in, and their music was so specifically of the place and time that to attempt to copy it outside of that context would appear ridiculous, so while many of those bands remain much loved to this day, and many made some great music, it's very hard to point to ways in which that music influenced later bands. But what they did influence was the whole of rock music culture. For at least the next thirty years, and arguably to this day, the parameters in which rock musicians worked if they wanted to be taken seriously – their aesthetic and political ideals, their methods of collaboration, the cultural norms around drug use and sexual promiscuity, ideas of artistic freedom and authenticity, the choice of acceptable instruments – in short, what it meant to be a rock musician rather than a pop, jazz, country, or soul artist – all those things were defined by the cultural and behavioural norms of the San Francisco scene between about 1966 and 68. Without the San Francisco scene there's no Woodstock, no Rolling Stone magazine, no Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, no hippies, no groupies, no rock stars. So over the next few months we're going to take several trips to the Bay Area, and look at the bands which, for a brief time, defined the counterculture in America. The story of Jefferson Airplane -- and unlike other bands we've looked at recently, like The Pink Floyd and The Buffalo Springfield, they never had a definite article at the start of their name to wither away like a vestigial organ in subsequent years -- starts with Marty Balin. Balin was born in Ohio, but was a relatively sickly child -- he later talked about being autistic, and seems to have had the chronic illnesses that so often go with neurodivergence -- so in the hope that the dry air would be good for his chest his family moved to Arizona. Then when his father couldn't find work there, they moved further west to San Francisco, in the Haight-Ashbury area, long before that area became the byword for the hippie movement. But it was in LA that he started his music career, and got his surname. Balin had been named Marty Buchwald as a kid, but when he was nineteen he had accompanied a friend to LA to visit a music publisher, and had ended up singing backing vocals on her demos. While he was there, he had encountered the arranger Jimmy Haskell. Haskell was on his way to becoming one of the most prominent arrangers in the music industry, and in his long career he would go on to do arrangements for Bobby Gentry, Blondie, Steely Dan, Simon and Garfunkel, and many others. But at the time he was best known for his work on Ricky Nelson's hits: [Excerpt: Ricky Nelson, "Hello Mary Lou"] Haskell thought that Marty had the makings of a Ricky Nelson style star, as he was a good-looking young man with a decent voice, and he became a mentor for the young man. Making the kind of records that Haskell arranged was expensive, and so Haskell suggested a deal to him -- if Marty's father would pay for studio time and musicians, Haskell would make a record with him and find him a label to put it out. Marty's father did indeed pay for the studio time and the musicians -- some of the finest working in LA at the time. The record, released under the name Marty Balin, featured Jack Nitzsche on keyboards, Earl Palmer on drums, Milt Jackson on vibraphone, Red Callender on bass, and Glen Campbell and Barney Kessell on guitars, and came out on Challenge Records, a label owned by Gene Autry: [Excerpt: Marty Balin, "Nobody But You"] Neither that, nor Balin's follow-up single, sold a noticeable amount of copies, and his career as a teen idol was over before it had begun. Instead, as many musicians of his age did, he decided to get into folk music, joining a vocal harmony group called the Town Criers, who patterned themselves after the Weavers, and performed the same kind of material that every other clean-cut folk vocal group was performing at the time -- the kind of songs that John Phillips and Steve Stills and Cass Elliot and Van Dyke Parks and the rest were all performing in their own groups at the same time. The Town Criers never made any records while they were together, but some archival recordings of them have been released over the decades: [Excerpt: The Town Criers, "900 Miles"] The Town Criers split up, and Balin started performing as a solo folkie again. But like all those other then-folk musicians, Balin realised that he had to adapt to the K/T-event level folk music extinction that happened when the Beatles hit America like a meteorite. He had to form a folk-rock group if he wanted to survive -- and given that there were no venues for such a group to play in San Francisco, he also had to start a nightclub for them to play in. He started hanging around the hootenannies in the area, looking for musicians who might form an electric band. The first person he decided on was a performer called Paul Kantner, mainly because he liked his attitude. Kantner had got on stage in front of a particularly drunk, loud, crowd, and performed precisely half a song before deciding he wasn't going to perform in front of people like that and walking off stage. Kantner was the only member of the new group to be a San Franciscan -- he'd been born and brought up in the city. He'd got into folk music at university, where he'd also met a guitar player named Jorma Kaukonen, who had turned him on to cannabis, and the two had started giving music lessons at a music shop in San Jose. There Kantner had also been responsible for booking acts at a local folk club, where he'd first encountered acts like Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, a jug band which included Jerry Garcia, Pigpen McKernan, and Bob Weir, who would later go on to be the core members of the Grateful Dead: [Excerpt: Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, "In the Jailhouse Now"] Kantner had moved around a bit between Northern and Southern California, and had been friendly with two other musicians on the Californian folk scene, David Crosby and Roger McGuinn. When their new group, the Byrds, suddenly became huge, Kantner became aware of the possibility of doing something similar himself, and so when Marty Balin approached him to form a band, he agreed. On bass, they got in a musician called Bob Harvey, who actually played double bass rather than electric, and who stuck to that for the first few gigs the group played -- he had previously been in a band called the Slippery Rock String Band. On drums, they brought in Jerry Peloquin, who had formerly worked for the police, but now had a day job as an optician. And on vocals, they brought in Signe Toley -- who would soon marry and change her name to Signe Anderson, so that's how I'll talk about her to avoid confusion. The group also needed a lead guitarist though -- both Balin and Kantner were decent rhythm players and singers, but they needed someone who was a better instrumentalist. They decided to ask Kantner's old friend Jorma Kaukonen. Kaukonen was someone who was seriously into what would now be called Americana or roots music. He'd started playing the guitar as a teenager, not like most people of his generation inspired by Elvis or Buddy Holly, but rather after a friend of his had shown him how to play an old Carter Family song, "Jimmy Brown the Newsboy": [Excerpt: The Carter Family, "Jimmy Brown the Newsboy"] Kaukonen had had a far more interesting life than most of the rest of the group. His father had worked for the State Department -- and there's some suggestion he'd worked for the CIA -- and the family had travelled all over the world, staying in Pakistan, the Philippines, and Finland. For most of his childhood, he'd gone by the name Jerry, because other kids beat him up for having a foreign name and called him a Nazi, but by the time he turned twenty he was happy enough using his birth name. Kaukonen wasn't completely immune to the appeal of rock and roll -- he'd formed a rock band, The Triumphs, with his friend Jack Casady when he was a teenager, and he loved Ricky Nelson's records -- but his fate as a folkie had been pretty much sealed when he went to Antioch College. There he met up with a blues guitarist called Ian Buchanan. Buchanan never had much of a career as a professional, but he had supposedly spent nine years studying with the blues and ragtime guitar legend Rev. Gary Davis, and he was certainly a fine guitarist, as can be heard on his contribution to The Blues Project, the album Elektra put out of white Greenwich Village musicians like John Sebastian and Dave Van Ronk playing old blues songs: [Excerpt: Ian Buchanan, "The Winding Boy"] Kaukonen became something of a disciple of Buchanan -- he said later that Buchanan probably taught him how to play because he was such a terrible player and Buchanan couldn't stand to listen to it -- as did John Hammond Jr, another student at Antioch at the same time. After studying at Antioch, Kaukonen started to travel around, including spells in Greenwich Village and in the Philippines, before settling in Santa Clara, where he studied for a sociology degree and became part of a social circle that included Dino Valenti, Jerry Garcia, and Billy Roberts, the credited writer of "Hey Joe". He also started performing as a duo with a singer called Janis Joplin. Various of their recordings from this period circulate, mostly recorded at Kaukonen's home with the sound of his wife typing in the background while the duo rehearse, as on this performance of an old Bessie Smith song: [Excerpt: Jorma Kaukonen and Janis Joplin, "Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out"] By 1965 Kaukonen saw himself firmly as a folk-blues purist, who would not even think of playing rock and roll music, which he viewed with more than a little contempt. But he allowed himself to be brought along to audition for the new group, and Ken Kesey happened to be there. Kesey was a novelist who had written two best-selling books, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes A Great Notion, and used the financial independence that gave him to organise a group of friends who called themselves the Merry Pranksters, who drove from coast to coast and back again in a psychedelic-painted bus, before starting a series of events that became known as Acid Tests, parties at which everyone was on LSD, immortalised in Tom Wolfe's book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Nobody has ever said why Kesey was there, but he had brought along an Echoplex, a reverb unit one could put a guitar through -- and nobody has explained why Kesey, who wasn't a musician, had an Echoplex to hand. But Kaukonen loved the sound that he could get by putting his guitar through the device, and so for that reason more than any other he decided to become an electric player and join the band, going out and buying a Rickenbacker twelve-string and Vox Treble Booster because that was what Roger McGuinn used. He would later also get a Guild Thunderbird six-string guitar and a Standel Super Imperial amp, following the same principle of buying the equipment used by other guitarists he liked, as they were what Zal Yanovsky of the Lovin' Spoonful used. He would use them for all his six-string playing for the next couple of years, only later to discover that the Lovin' Spoonful despised them and only used them because they had an endorsement deal with the manufacturers. Kaukonen was also the one who came up with the new group's name. He and his friends had a running joke where they had "Bluesman names", things like "Blind Outrage" and "Little Sun Goldfarb". Kaukonen's bluesman name, given to him by his friend Steve Talbot, had been Blind Thomas Jefferson Airplane, a reference to the 1920s blues guitarist Blind Lemon Jefferson: [Excerpt: Blind Lemon Jefferson, "Match Box Blues"] At the band meeting where they were trying to decide on a name, Kaukonen got frustrated at the ridiculous suggestions that were being made, and said "You want a stupid name? Howzabout this... Jefferson Airplane?" He said in his autobiography "It was one of those rare moments when everyone in the band agreed, and that was that. I think it was the only band meeting that ever allowed me to come away smiling." The newly-named Jefferson Airplane started to rehearse at the Matrix Club, the club that Balin had decided to open. This was run with three sound engineer friends, who put in the seed capital for the club. Balin had stock options in the club, which he got by trading a share of the band's future earnings to his partners, though as the group became bigger he eventually sold his stock in the club back to his business partners. Before their first public performance, they started working with a manager, Matthew Katz, mostly because Katz had access to a recording of a then-unreleased Bob Dylan song, "Lay Down Your Weary Tune": [Excerpt: Bob Dylan, "Lay Down Your Weary Tune"] The group knew that the best way for a folk-rock band to make a name for themselves was to perform a Dylan song nobody else had yet heard, and so they agreed to be managed by Katz. Katz started a pre-publicity blitz, giving out posters, badges, and bumper stickers saying "Jefferson Airplane Loves You" all over San Francisco -- and insisting that none of the band members were allowed to say "Hello" when they answered the phone any more, they had to say "Jefferson Airplane Loves You!" For their early rehearsals and gigs, they were performing almost entirely cover versions of blues and folk songs, things like Fred Neil's "The Other Side of This Life" and Dino Valenti's "Get Together" which were the common currency of the early folk-rock movement, and songs by their friends, like one called "Flower Bomb" by David Crosby, which Crosby now denies ever having written. They did start writing the odd song, but at this point they were more focused on performance than on writing. They also hired a press agent, their friend Bill Thompson. Thompson was friends with the two main music writers at the San Francisco Chronicle, Ralph Gleason, the famous jazz critic, who had recently started also reviewing rock music, and John Wasserman. Thompson got both men to come to the opening night of the Matrix, and both gave the group glowing reviews in the Chronicle. Record labels started sniffing around the group immediately as a result of this coverage, and according to Katz he managed to get a bidding war started by making sure that when A&R men came to the club there were always two of them from different labels, so they would see the other person and realise they weren't the only ones interested. But before signing a record deal they needed to make some personnel changes. The first member to go was Jerry Peloquin, for both musical and personal reasons. Peloquin was used to keeping strict time and the other musicians had a more free-flowing idea of what tempo they should be playing at, but also he had worked for the police while the other members were all taking tons of illegal drugs. The final break with Peloquin came when he did the rest of the group a favour -- Paul Kantner's glasses broke during a rehearsal, and as Peloquin was an optician he offered to take them back to his shop and fix them. When he got back, he found them auditioning replacements for him. He beat Kantner up, and that was the end of Jerry Peloquin in Jefferson Airplane. His replacement was Skip Spence, who the group had met when he had accompanied three friends to the Matrix, which they were using as a rehearsal room. Spence's friends went on to be the core members of Quicksilver Messenger Service along with Dino Valenti: [Excerpt: Quicksilver Messenger Service, "Dino's Song"] But Balin decided that Spence looked like a rock star, and told him that he was now Jefferson Airplane's drummer, despite Spence being a guitarist and singer, not a drummer. But Spence was game, and learned to play the drums. Next they needed to get rid of Bob Harvey. According to Harvey, the decision to sack him came after David Crosby saw the band rehearsing and said "Nice song, but get rid of the bass player" (along with an expletive before the word bass which I can't say without incurring the wrath of Apple). Crosby denies ever having said this. Harvey had started out in the group on double bass, but to show willing he'd switched in his last few gigs to playing an electric bass. When he was sacked by the group, he returned to double bass, and to the Slippery Rock String Band, who released one single in 1967: [Excerpt: The Slippery Rock String Band, "Tule Fog"] Harvey's replacement was Kaukonen's old friend Jack Casady, who Kaukonen knew was now playing bass, though he'd only ever heard him playing guitar when they'd played together. Casady was rather cautious about joining a rock band, but then Kaukonen told him that the band were getting fifty dollars a week salary each from Katz, and Casady flew over from Washington DC to San Francisco to join the band. For the first few gigs, he used Bob Harvey's bass, which Harvey was good enough to lend him despite having been sacked from the band. Unfortunately, right from the start Casady and Kantner didn't get on. When Casady flew in from Washington, he had a much more clean-cut appearance than the rest of the band -- one they've described as being nerdy, with short, slicked-back, side-parted hair and a handlebar moustache. Kantner insisted that Casady shave the moustache off, and he responded by shaving only one side, so in profile on one side he looked clean-shaven, while from the other side he looked like he had a full moustache. Kantner also didn't like Casady's general attitude, or his playing style, at all -- though most critics since this point have pointed to Casady's bass playing as being the most interesting and distinctive thing about Jefferson Airplane's style. This lineup seems to have been the one that travelled to LA to audition for various record companies -- a move that immediately brought the group a certain amount of criticism for selling out, both for auditioning for record companies and for going to LA at all, two things that were already anathema on the San Francisco scene. The only audition anyone remembers them having specifically is one for Phil Spector, who according to Kaukonen was waving a gun around during the audition, so he and Casady walked out. Around this time as well, the group performed at an event billed as "A Tribute to Dr. Strange", organised by the radical hippie collective Family Dog. Marvel Comics, rather than being the multi-billion-dollar Disney-owned corporate juggernaut it is now, was regarded as a hip, almost underground, company -- and around this time they briefly started billing their comics not as comics but as "Marvel Pop Art Productions". The magical adventures of Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts, and in particular the art by far-right libertarian artist Steve Ditko, were regarded as clear parallels to both the occult dabblings and hallucinogen use popular among the hippies, though Ditko had no time for either, following as he did an extreme version of Ayn Rand's Objectivism. It was at the Tribute to Dr. Strange that Jefferson Airplane performed for the first time with a band named The Great Society, whose lead singer, Grace Slick, would later become very important in Jefferson Airplane's story: [Excerpt: The Great Society, "Someone to Love"] That gig was also the first one where the band and their friends noticed that large chunks of the audience were now dressing up in costumes that were reminiscent of the Old West. Up to this point, while Katz had been managing the group and paying them fifty dollars a week even on weeks when they didn't perform, he'd been doing so without a formal contract, in part because the group didn't trust him much. But now they were starting to get interest from record labels, and in particular RCA Records desperately wanted them. While RCA had been the label who had signed Elvis Presley, they had otherwise largely ignored rock and roll, considering that since they had the biggest rock star in the world they didn't need other ones, and concentrating largely on middle-of-the-road acts. But by the mid-sixties Elvis' star had faded somewhat, and they were desperate to get some of the action for the new music -- and unlike the other major American labels, they didn't have a reciprocal arrangement with a British label that allowed them to release anything by any of the new British stars. The group were introduced to RCA by Rod McKuen, a songwriter and poet who later became America's best-selling poet and wrote songs that sold over a hundred million copies. At this point McKuen was in his Jacques Brel phase, recording loose translations of the Belgian songwriter's songs with McKuen translating the lyrics: [Excerpt: Rod McKuen, "Seasons in the Sun"] McKuen thought that Jefferson Airplane might be a useful market for his own songs, and brought the group to RCA. RCA offered Jefferson Airplane twenty-five thousand dollars to sign with them, and Katz convinced the group that RCA wouldn't give them this money without them having signed a management contract with him. Kaukonen, Kantner, Spence, and Balin all signed without much hesitation, but Jack Casady didn't yet sign, as he was the new boy and nobody knew if he was going to be in the band for the long haul. The other person who refused to sign was Signe Anderson. In her case, she had a much better reason for refusing to sign, as unlike the rest of the band she had actually read the contract, and she found it to be extremely worrying. She did eventually back down on the day of the group's first recording session, but she later had the contract renegotiated. Jack Casady also signed the contract right at the start of the first session -- or at least, he thought he'd signed the contract then. He certainly signed *something*, without having read it. But much later, during a court case involving the band's longstanding legal disputes with Katz, it was revealed that the signature on the contract wasn't Casady's, and was badly forged. What he actually *did* sign that day has never been revealed, to him or to anyone else. Katz also signed all the group as songwriters to his own publishing company, telling them that they legally needed to sign with him if they wanted to make records, and also claimed to RCA that he had power of attorney for the band, which they say they never gave him -- though to be fair to Katz, given the band members' habit of signing things without reading or understanding them, it doesn't seem beyond the realms of possibility that they did. The producer chosen for the group's first album was Tommy Oliver, a friend of Katz's who had previously been an arranger on some of Doris Day's records, and whose next major act after finishing the Jefferson Airplane album was Trombones Unlimited, who released records like "Holiday for Trombones": [Excerpt: Trombones Unlimited, "Holiday For Trombones"] The group weren't particularly thrilled with this choice, but were happier with their engineer, Dave Hassinger, who had worked on records like "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones, and had a far better understanding of the kind of music the group were making. They spent about three months recording their first album, even while continually being attacked as sellouts. The album is not considered their best work, though it does contain "Blues From an Airplane", a collaboration between Spence and Balin: [Excerpt: Jefferson Airplane, "Blues From an Airplane"] Even before the album came out, though, things were starting to change for the group. Firstly, they started playing bigger venues -- their home base went from being the Matrix club to the Fillmore, a large auditorium run by the promoter Bill Graham. They also started to get an international reputation. The British singer-songwriter Donovan released a track called "The Fat Angel" which namechecked the group: [Excerpt: Donovan, "The Fat Angel"] The group also needed a new drummer. Skip Spence decided to go on holiday to Mexico without telling the rest of the band. There had already been some friction with Spence, as he was very eager to become a guitarist and songwriter, and the band already had three songwriting guitarists and didn't really see why they needed a fourth. They sacked Spence, who went on to form Moby Grape, who were also managed by Katz: [Excerpt: Moby Grape, "Omaha"] For his replacement they brought in Spencer Dryden, who was a Hollywood brat like their friend David Crosby -- in Dryden's case he was Charlie Chaplin's nephew, and his father worked as Chaplin's assistant. The story normally goes that the great session drummer Earl Palmer recommended Dryden to the group, but it's also the case that Dryden had been in a band, the Heartbeats, with Tommy Oliver and the great blues guitarist Roy Buchanan, so it may well be that Oliver had recommended him. Dryden had been primarily a jazz musician, playing with people like the West Coast jazz legend Charles Lloyd, though like most jazzers he would slum it on occasion by playing rock and roll music to pay the bills. But then he'd seen an early performance by the Mothers of Invention, and realised that rock music could have a serious artistic purpose too. He'd joined a band called The Ashes, who had released one single, the Jackie DeShannon song "Is There Anything I Can Do?" in December 1965: [Excerpt: The Ashes, "Is There Anything I Can Do?"] The Ashes split up once Dryden left the group to join Jefferson Airplane, but they soon reformed without him as The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, who hooked up with Gary Usher and released several albums of psychedelic sunshine pop. Dryden played his first gig with the group at a Republican Party event on June the sixth, 1966. But by the time Dryden had joined, other problems had become apparent. The group were already feeling like it had been a big mistake to accede to Katz's demands to sign a formal contract with him, and Balin in particular was getting annoyed that he wouldn't let the band see their finances. All the money was getting paid to Katz, who then doled out money to the band when they asked for it, and they had no idea if he was actually paying them what they were owed or not. The group's first album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, finally came out in September, and it was a comparative flop. It sold well in San Francisco itself, selling around ten thousand copies in the area, but sold basically nothing anywhere else in the country -- the group's local reputation hadn't extended outside their own immediate scene. It didn't help that the album was pulled and reissued, as RCA censored the initial version of the album because of objections to the lyrics. The song "Runnin' Round This World" was pulled off the album altogether for containing the word "trips", while in "Let Me In" they had to rerecord two lines -- “I gotta get in, you know where" was altered to "You shut the door now it ain't fair" and "Don't tell me you want money" became "Don't tell me it's so funny". Similarly in "Run Around" the phrase "as you lay under me" became "as you stay here by me". Things were also becoming difficult for Anderson. She had had a baby in May and was not only unhappy with having to tour while she had a small child, she was also the band member who was most vocally opposed to Katz. Added to that, her husband did not get on well at all with the group, and she felt trapped between her marriage and her bandmates. Reports differ as to whether she quit the band or was fired, but after a disastrous appearance at the Monterey Jazz Festival, one way or another she was out of the band. Her replacement was already waiting in the wings. Grace Slick, the lead singer of the Great Society, had been inspired by going to one of the early Jefferson Airplane gigs. She later said "I went to see Jefferson Airplane at the Matrix, and they were making more money in a day than I made in a week. They only worked for two or three hours a night, and they got to hang out. I thought 'This looks a lot better than what I'm doing.' I knew I could more or less carry a tune, and I figured if they could do it I could." She was married at the time to a film student named Jerry Slick, and indeed she had done the music for his final project at film school, a film called "Everybody Hits Their Brother Once", which sadly I can't find online. She was also having an affair with Jerry's brother Darby, though as the Slicks were in an open marriage this wasn't particularly untoward. The three of them, with a couple of other musicians, had formed The Great Society, named as a joke about President Johnson's programme of the same name. The Great Society was the name Johnson had given to his whole programme of domestic reforms, including civil rights for Black people, the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts, and more. While those projects were broadly popular among the younger generation, Johnson's escalation of the war in Vietnam had made him so personally unpopular that even his progressive domestic programme was regarded with suspicion and contempt. The Great Society had set themselves up as local rivals to Jefferson Airplane -- where Jefferson Airplane had buttons saying "Jefferson Airplane Loves You!" the Great Society put out buttons saying "The Great Society Really Doesn't Like You Much At All". They signed to Autumn Records, and recorded a song that Darby Slick had written, titled "Someone to Love" -- though the song would later be retitled "Somebody to Love": [Excerpt: The Great Society, "Someone to Love"] That track was produced by Sly Stone, who at the time was working as a producer for Autumn Records. The Great Society, though, didn't like working with Stone, because he insisted on them doing forty-five takes to try to sound professional, as none of them were particularly competent musicians. Grace Slick later said "Sly could play any instrument known to man. He could have just made the record himself, except for the singers. It was kind of degrading in a way" -- and on another occasion she said that he *did* end up playing all the instruments on the finished record. "Someone to Love" was put out as a promo record, but never released to the general public, and nor were any of the Great Society's other recordings for Autumn Records released. Their contract expired and they were let go, at which point they were about to sign to Mercury Records, but then Darby Slick and another member decided to go off to India for a while. Grace's marriage to Jerry was falling apart, though they would stay legally married for several years, and the Great Society looked like it was at an end, so when Grace got the offer to join Jefferson Airplane to replace Signe Anderson, she jumped at the chance. At first, she was purely a harmony singer -- she didn't take over any of the lead vocal parts that Anderson had previously sung, as she had a very different vocal style, and instead she just sang the harmony parts that Anderson had sung on songs with other lead vocalists. But two months after the album they were back in the studio again, recording their second album, and Slick sang lead on several songs there. As well as the new lineup, there was another important change in the studio. They were still working with Dave Hassinger, but they had a new producer, Rick Jarrard. Jarrard was at one point a member of the folk group The Wellingtons, who did the theme tune for "Gilligan's Island", though I can't find anything to say whether or not he was in the group when they recorded that track: [Excerpt: The Wellingtons, "The Ballad of Gilligan's Island"] Jarrard had also been in the similar folk group The Greenwood County Singers, where as we heard in the episode on "Heroes and Villains" he replaced Van Dyke Parks. He'd also released a few singles under his own name, including a version of Parks' "High Coin": [Excerpt: Rick Jarrard, "High Coin"] While Jarrard had similar musical roots to those of Jefferson Airplane's members, and would go on to produce records by people like Harry Nilsson and The Family Tree, he wasn't any more liked by the band than their previous producer had been. So much so, that a few of the band members have claimed that while Jarrard is the credited producer, much of the work that one would normally expect to be done by a producer was actually done by their friend Jerry Garcia, who according to the band members gave them a lot of arranging and structural advice, and was present in the studio and played guitar on several tracks. Jarrard, on the other hand, said categorically "I never met Jerry Garcia. I produced that album from start to finish, never heard from Jerry Garcia, never talked to Jerry Garcia. He was not involved creatively on that album at all." According to the band, though, it was Garcia who had the idea of almost doubling the speed of the retitled "Somebody to Love", turning it into an uptempo rocker: [Excerpt: Jefferson Airplane, "Somebody to Love"] And one thing everyone is agreed on is that it was Garcia who came up with the album title, when after listening to some of the recordings he said "That's as surrealistic as a pillow!" It was while they were working on the album that was eventually titled Surrealistic Pillow that they finally broke with Katz as their manager, bringing Bill Thompson in as a temporary replacement. Or at least, it was then that they tried to break with Katz. Katz sued the group over their contract, and won. Then they appealed, and they won. Then Katz appealed the appeal, and the Superior Court insisted that if he wanted to appeal the ruling, he had to put up a bond for the fifty thousand dollars the group said he owed them. He didn't, so in 1970, four years after they sacked him as their manager, the appeal was dismissed. Katz appealed the dismissal, and won that appeal, and the case dragged on for another three years, at which point Katz dragged RCA Records into the lawsuit. As a result of being dragged into the mess, RCA decided to stop paying the group their songwriting royalties from record sales directly, and instead put the money into an escrow account. The claims and counterclaims and appeals *finally* ended in 1987, twenty years after the lawsuits had started and fourteen years after the band had stopped receiving their songwriting royalties. In the end, the group won on almost every point, and finally received one point three million dollars in back royalties and seven hundred thousand dollars in interest that had accrued, while Katz got a small token payment. Early in 1967, when the sessions for Surrealistic Pillow had finished, but before the album was released, Newsweek did a big story on the San Francisco scene, which drew national attention to the bands there, and the first big event of what would come to be called the hippie scene, the Human Be-In, happened in Golden Gate Park in January. As the group's audience was expanding rapidly, they asked Bill Graham to be their manager, as he was the most business-minded of the people around the group. The first single from the album, "My Best Friend", a song written by Skip Spence before he quit the band, came out in January 1967 and had no more success than their earlier recordings had, and didn't make the Hot 100. The album came out in February, and was still no higher than number 137 on the charts in March, when the second single, "Somebody to Love", was released: [Excerpt: Jefferson Airplane, "Somebody to Love"] That entered the charts at the start of April, and by June it had made number five. The single's success also pushed its parent album up to number three by August, just behind the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Monkees' Headquarters. The success of the single also led to the group being asked to do commercials for Levis jeans: [Excerpt: Jefferson Airplane, "Levis commercial"] That once again got them accused of selling out. Abbie Hoffman, the leader of the Yippies, wrote to the Village Voice about the commercials, saying "It summarized for me all the doubts I have about the hippie philosophy. I realise they are just doing their 'thing', but while the Jefferson Airplane grooves with its thing, over 100 workers in the Levi Strauss plant on the Tennessee-Georgia border are doing their thing, which consists of being on strike to protest deplorable working conditions." The third single from the album, "White Rabbit", came out on the twenty-fourth of June, the day before the Beatles recorded "All You Need is Love", nine days after the release of "See Emily Play", and a week after the group played the Monterey Pop Festival, to give you some idea of how compressed a time period we've been in recently. We talked in the last episode about how there's a big difference between American and British psychedelia at this point in time, because the political nature of the American counterculture was determined by the fact that so many people were being sent off to die in Vietnam. Of all the San Francisco bands, though, Jefferson Airplane were by far the least political -- they were into the culture part of the counterculture, but would often and repeatedly disavow any deeper political meaning in their songs. In early 1968, for example, in a press conference, they said “Don't ask us anything about politics. We don't know anything about it. And what we did know, we just forgot.” So it's perhaps not surprising that of all the American groups, they were the one that was most similar to the British psychedelic groups in their influences, and in particular their frequent references to children's fantasy literature. "White Rabbit" was a perfect example of this. It had started out as "White Rabbit Blues", a song that Slick had written influenced by Alice in Wonderland, and originally performed by the Great Society: [Excerpt: The Great Society, "White Rabbit"] Slick explained the lyrics, and their association between childhood fantasy stories and drugs, later by saying "It's an interesting song but it didn't do what I wanted it to. What I was trying to say was that between the ages of zero and five the information and the input you get is almost indelible. In other words, once a Catholic, always a Catholic. And the parents read us these books, like Alice in Wonderland where she gets high, tall, and she takes mushrooms, a hookah, pills, alcohol. And then there's The Wizard of Oz, where they fall into a field of poppies and when they wake up they see Oz. And then there's Peter Pan, where if you sprinkle white dust on you, you could fly. And then you wonder why we do it? Well, what did you read to me?" While the lyrical inspiration for the track was from Alice in Wonderland, the musical inspiration is less obvious. Slick has on multiple occasions said that the idea for the music came from listening to Miles Davis' album "Sketches of Spain", and in particular to Davis' version of -- and I apologise for almost certainly mangling the Spanish pronunciation badly here -- "Concierto de Aranjuez", though I see little musical resemblance to it myself. [Excerpt: Miles Davis, "Concierto de Aranjuez"] She has also, though, talked about how the song was influenced by Ravel's "Bolero", and in particular the way the piece keeps building in intensity, starting softly and slowly building up, rather than having the dynamic peaks and troughs of most music. And that is definitely a connection I can hear in the music: [Excerpt: Ravel, "Bolero"] Jefferson Airplane's version of "White Rabbit", like their version of "Somebody to Love", was far more professional, far -- and apologies for the pun -- slicker than The Great Society's version. It's also much shorter. The version by The Great Society has a four and a half minute instrumental intro before Slick's vocal enters. By contrast, the version on Surrealistic Pillow comes in at under two and a half minutes in total, and is a tight pop song: [Excerpt: Jefferson Airplane, "White Rabbit"] Jack Casady has more recently said that the group originally recorded the song more or less as a lark, because they assumed that all the drug references would mean that RCA would make them remove the song from the album -- after all, they'd cut a song from the earlier album because it had a reference to a trip, so how could they possibly allow a song like "White Rabbit" with its lyrics about pills and mushrooms? But it was left on the album, and ended up making the top ten on the pop charts, peaking at number eight: [Excerpt: Jefferson Airplane, "White Rabbit"] In an interview last year, Slick said she still largely lives off the royalties from writing that one song. It would be the last hit single Jefferson Airplane would ever have. Marty Balin later said "Fame changes your life. It's a bit like prison. It ruined the band. Everybody became rich and selfish and self-centred and couldn't care about the band. That was pretty much the end of it all. After that it was just working and living the high life and watching the band destroy itself, living on its laurels." They started work on their third album, After Bathing at Baxter's, in May 1967, while "Somebody to Love" was still climbing the charts. This time, the album was produced by Al Schmitt. Unlike the two previous producers, Schmitt was a fan of the band, and decided the best thing to do was to just let them do their own thing without interfering. The album took months to record, rather than the weeks that Surrealistic Pillow had taken, and cost almost ten times as much money to record. In part the time it took was because of the promotional work the band had to do. Bill Graham was sending them all over the country to perform, which they didn't appreciate. The group complained to Graham in business meetings, saying they wanted to only play in big cities where there were lots of hippies. Graham pointed out in turn that if they wanted to keep having any kind of success, they needed to play places other than San Francisco, LA, New York, and Chicago, because in fact most of the population of the US didn't live in those four cities. They grudgingly took his point. But there were other arguments all the time as well. They argued about whether Graham should be taking his cut from the net or the gross. They argued about Graham trying to push for the next single to be another Grace Slick lead vocal -- they felt like he was trying to make them into just Grace Slick's backing band, while he thought it made sense to follow up two big hits with more singles with the same vocalist. There was also a lawsuit from Balin's former partners in the Matrix, who remembered that bit in the contract about having a share in the group's income and sued for six hundred thousand dollars -- that was settled out of court three years later. And there were interpersonal squabbles too. Some of these were about the music -- Dryden didn't like the fact that Kaukonen's guitar solos were getting longer and longer, and Balin only contributed one song to the new album because all the other band members made fun of him for writing short, poppy, love songs rather than extended psychedelic jams -- but also the group had become basically two rival factions. On one side were Kaukonen and Casady, the old friends and virtuoso instrumentalists, who wanted to extend the instrumental sections of the songs more to show off their playing. On the other side were Grace Slick and Spencer Dryden, the two oldest members of the group by age, but the most recent people to join. They were also unusual in the San Francisco scene for having alcohol as their drug of choice -- drinking was thought of by most of the hippies as being a bit classless, but they were both alcoholics. They were also sleeping together, and generally on the side of shorter, less exploratory, songs. Kantner, who was attracted to Slick, usually ended up siding with her and Dryden, and this left Balin the odd man out in the middle. He later said "I got disgusted with all the ego trips, and the band was so stoned that I couldn't even talk to them. Everybody was in their little shell". While they were still working on the album, they released the first single from it, Kantner's "The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil". The "Pooneil" in the song was a figure that combined two of Kantner's influences: the Greenwich Village singer-songwriter Fred Neil, the writer of "Everybody's Talkin'" and "Dolphins"; and Winnie the Pooh. The song contained several lines taken from A.A. Milne's children's stories: [Excerpt: Jefferson Airplane, "The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil"] That only made number forty-two on the charts. It was the last Jefferson Airplane single to make the top fifty. At a gig in Bakersfield they got arrested for inciting a riot, because they encouraged the crowd to dance, even though local by-laws said that nobody under sixteen was allowed to dance, and then they nearly got arrested again after Kantner's behaviour on the private plane they'd chartered to get them back to San Francisco that night. Kantner had been chain-smoking, and this annoyed the pilot, who asked Kantner to put his cigarette out, so Kantner opened the door of the plane mid-flight and threw the lit cigarette out. They'd chartered that plane because they wanted to make sure they got to see a new group, Cream, who were playing the Fillmore: [Excerpt: Cream, "Strange Brew"] After seeing that, the divisions in the band were even wider -- Kaukonen and Casady now *knew* that what the band needed was to do long, extended, instrumental jams. Cream were the future, two-minute pop songs were the past. Though they weren't completely averse to two-minute pop songs. The group were recording at RCA studios at the same time as the Monkees, and members of the two groups would often jam together. The idea of selling out might have been anathema to their *audience*, but the band members themselves didn't care about things like that. Indeed, at one point the group returned from a gig to the mansion they were renting and found squatters had moved in and were using their private pool -- so they shot at the water. The squatters quickly moved on. As Dryden put it "We all -- Paul, Jorma, Grace, and myself -- had guns. We weren't hippies. Hippies were the people that lived on the streets down in Haight-Ashbury. We were basically musicians and art school kids. We were into guns and machinery" After Bathing at Baxter's only went to number seventeen on the charts, not a bad position but a flop compared to their previous album, and Bill Graham in particular took this as more proof that he had been right when for the last few months he'd been attacking the group as self-indulgent. Eventually, Slick and Dryden decided that either Bill Graham was going as their manager, or they were going. Slick even went so far as to try to negotiate a solo deal with Elektra Records -- as the voice on the hits, everyone was telling her she was the only one who mattered anyway. David Anderle, who was working for the label, agreed a deal with her, but Jac Holzman refused to authorise the deal, saying "Judy Collins doesn't get that much money, why should Grace Slick?" The group did fire Graham, and went one further and tried to become his competitors. They teamed up with the Grateful Dead to open a new venue, the Carousel Ballroom, to compete with the Fillmore, but after a few months they realised they were no good at running a venue and sold it to Graham. Graham, who was apparently unhappy with the fact that the people living around the Fillmore were largely Black given that the bands he booked appealed to mostly white audiences, closed the original Fillmore, renamed the Carousel the Fillmore West, and opened up a second venue in New York, the Fillmore East. The divisions in the band were getting worse -- Kaukonen and Casady were taking more and more speed, which was making them play longer and faster instrumental solos whether or not the rest of the band wanted them to, and Dryden, whose hands often bled from trying to play along with them, definitely did not want them to. But the group soldiered on and recorded their fourth album, Crown of Creation. This album contained several songs that were influenced by science fiction novels. The most famous of these was inspired by the right-libertarian author Robert Heinlein, who was hugely influential on the counterculture. Jefferson Airplane's friends the Monkees had already recorded a song based on Heinlein's The Door Into Summer, an unintentionally disturbing novel about a thirty-year-old man who falls in love with a twelve-year-old girl, and who uses a combination of time travel and cryogenic freezing to make their ages closer together so he can marry her: [Excerpt: The Monkees, "The Door Into Summer"] Now Jefferson Airplane were recording a song based on Heinlein's most famous novel, Stranger in a Strange Land. Stranger in a Strange Land has dated badly, thanks to its casual homophobia and rape-apologia, but at the time it was hugely popular in hippie circles for its advocacy of free love and group marriages -- so popular that a religion, the Church of All Worlds, based itself on the book. David Crosby had taken inspiration from it and written "Triad", a song asking two women if they'll enter into a polygamous relationship with him, and recorded it with the Byrds: [Excerpt: The Byrds, "Triad"] But the other members of the Byrds disliked the song, and it was left unreleased for decades. As Crosby was friendly with Jefferson Airplane, and as members of the band were themselves advocates of open relationships, they recorded their own version with Slick singing lead: [Excerpt: Jefferson Airplane, "Triad"] The other song on the album influenced by science fiction was the title track, Paul Kantner's "Crown of Creation". This song was inspired by The Chrysalids, a novel by the British writer John Wyndham. The Chrysalids is one of Wyndham's most influential novels, a post-apocalyptic story about young children who are born with mutant superpowers and have to hide them from their parents as they will be killed if they're discovered. The novel is often thought to have inspired Marvel Comics' X-Men, and while there's an unpleasant eugenic taste to its ending, with the idea that two species can't survive in the same ecological niche and the younger, "superior", species must outcompete the old, that idea also had a lot of influence in the counterculture, as well as being a popular one in science fiction. Kantner's song took whole lines from The Chrysalids, much as he had earlier done with A.A. Milne: [Excerpt: Jefferson Airplane, "Crown of Creation"] The Crown of Creation album was in some ways a return to the more focused songwriting of Surrealistic Pillow, although the sessions weren't without their experiments. Slick and Dryden collaborated with Frank Zappa and members of the Mothers of Invention on an avant-garde track called "Would You Like a Snack?" (not the same song as the later Zappa song of the same name) which was intended for the album, though went unreleased until a CD box set decades later: [Excerpt: Grace Slick and Frank Zappa, "Would You Like a Snack?"] But the finished album was generally considered less self-indulgent than After Bathing at Baxter's, and did better on the charts as a result. It reached number six, becoming their second and last top ten album, helped by the group's appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in September 1968, a month after it came out. That appearance was actually organised by Colonel Tom Parker, who suggested them to Sullivan as a favour to RCA Records. But another TV appearance at the time was less successful. They appeared on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, one of the most popular TV shows among the young, hip, audience that the group needed to appeal to, but Slick appeared in blackface. She's later said that there was no political intent behind this, and that she was just trying the different makeup she found in the dressing room as a purely aesthetic thing, but that doesn't really explain the Black power salute she gives at one point. Slick was increasingly obnoxious on stage, as her drinking was getting worse and her relationship with Dryden was starting to break down. Just before the Smothers Brothers appearance she was accused at a benefit for the Whitney Museum of having called the audience "filthy Jews", though she has always said that what she actually said was "filthy jewels", and she was talking about the ostentatious jewellery some of the audience were wearing. The group struggled through a performance at Altamont -- an event we will talk about in a future episode, so I won't go into it here, except to say that it was a horrifying experience for everyone involved -- and performed at Woodstock, before releasing their fifth studio album, Volunteers, in 1969: [Excerpt: Jefferson Airplane, "Volunteers"] That album made the top twenty, but was the last album by the classic lineup of the band. By this point Spencer Dryden and Grace Slick had broken up, with Slick starting to date Kantner, and Dryden was also disappointed at the group's musical direction, and left. Balin also left, feeling sidelined in the group. They released several more albums with varying lineups, including at various points their old friend David Frieberg of Quicksilver Messenger Service, the violinist Papa John Creach, and the former drummer of the Turtles, Johnny Barbata. But as of 1970 the group's members had already started working on two side projects -- an acoustic band called Hot Tuna, led by Kaukonen and Casady, which sometimes also featured Balin, and a project called Paul Kantner's Jefferson Starship, which also featured Slick and had recorded an album, Blows Against the Empire, the second side of which was based on the Robert Heinlein novel Back to Methuselah, and which became one of the first albums ever nominated for science fiction's Hugo Awards: [Excerpt: Jefferson Starship, "Have You Seen The Stars Tonite"] That album featured contributions from David Crosby and members of the Grateful Dead, as well as Casady on two tracks, but  in 1974 when Kaukonen and Casady quit Jefferson Airplane to make Hot Tuna their full-time band, Kantner, Slick, and Frieberg turned Jefferson Starship into a full band. Over the next decade, Jefferson Starship had a lot of moderate-sized hits, with a varying lineup that at one time or another saw several members, including Slick, go and return, and saw Marty Balin back with them for a while. In 1984, Kantner left the group, and sued them to stop them using the Jefferson Starship name. A settlement was reached in which none of Kantner, Slick, Kaukonen, or Casady could use the words "Jefferson" or "Airplane" in their band-names without the permission of all the others, and the remaining members of Jefferson Starship renamed their band just Starship -- and had three number one singles in the late eighties with Slick on lead, becoming far more commercially successful than their precursor bands had ever been: [Excerpt: Starship, "We Built This City on Rock & Roll"] Slick left Starship in 1989, and there was a brief Jefferson Airplane reunion tour, with all the classic members but Dryden, but then Slick decided that she was getting too old to perform rock and roll music, and decided to retire from music and become a painter, something she's stuck to for more than thirty years. Kantner and Balin formed a new Jefferson Starship, called Jefferson Starship: The Next Generation, but Kantner died in January 2016, coincidentally on the same day as Signe Anderson, who had occasionally guested with her old bandmates in the new version of the band. Balin, who had quit the reunited Jefferson Starship due to health reasons, died two years later. Dryden had died in 2005. Currently, there are three bands touring that descend directly from Jefferson Airplane. Hot Tuna still continue to perform, there's a version of Starship that tours featuring one original member, Mickey Thomas, and the reunited Jefferson Starship still tour, led by David Frieberg. Grace Slick has given the latter group her blessing, and even co-wrote one song on their most recent album, released in 2020, though she still doesn't perform any more. Jefferson Airplane's period in the commercial spotlight was brief -- they had charting singles for only a matter of months, and while they had top twenty albums for a few years after their peak, they really only mattered to the wider world during that brief period of the Summer of Love. But precisely because their period of success was so short, their music is indelibly associated with that time. To this day there's nothing as evocative of summer 1967 as "White Rabbit", even for those of us who weren't born then. And while Grace Slick had her problems, as I've made very clear in this episode, she inspired a whole generation of women who went on to be singers themselves, as one of the first prominent women to sing lead with an electric rock band. And when she got tired of doing that, she stopped, and got on with her other artistic pursuits, without feeling the need to go back and revisit the past for ever diminishing returns. One might only wish that some of her male peers had followed her example. ... Read more

23 Nov 2022

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23 Nov 2022


#198

Episode 157: “See Emily Play” by The Pink Floyd

Episode one hundred and fifty-seven of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “See Emily Play", the birth of the UK underground, and the career of Roger Barrett, known as Syd. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a twenty-five-minute bonus episode available, [on "First Girl I Loved" by the Incredible String Band] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/74382033) . 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 No Mixcloud this time, due to the number of Pink Floyd songs. I referred to two biographies of Barrett in this episode -- [ A Very Irregular Head by Rob Chapman] (https://amzn.to/3Ee1dxU) is the one I would recommend, and the one whose narrative I have largely followed. Some of the information has been superseded by newer discoveries, but Chapman is almost unique in people writing about Barrett in that he actually seems to care about the facts and try to get things right rather than make up something more interesting.  [Crazy Diamond by Mike Watkinson and Pete Anderson] (https://amzn.to/3UltUP8) is much less reliable, but does have quite a few interview quotes that aren't duplicated by Chapman. Information about Joe Boyd comes from Boyd's book  [White Bicycles] (https://amzn.to/3DOCLC6) . In this and future episodes on Pink Floyd I'm also relying on Nick Mason's  [Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd] (https://amzn.to/3EeAfX7) and  [Pink Floyd: All the Songs] (https://amzn.to/3hr4AZG)  by Jean-Michel Guesdon and Philippe Margotin. The compilation  [Relics] (https://amzn.to/3hthLsM) contains many of the most important tracks from Barrett's time with Pink Floyd, while  [Piper at the Gates of Dawn] (https://amzn.to/3DSMbMC) is his one full album with them. Those who want a fuller history of his time with the group will want to get Piper and also the box set [ Cambridge St/ation 1965-1967] (https://amzn.to/3Akopsj) . Barrett only released two solo albums during his career. They're available as a bundle [here] (https://amzn.to/3DNuluM) . Completists will also want the rarities and outtakes collection  [Opel. ] (https://amzn.to/3tfoglT) ERRATA: I talk about “Interstellar Overdrive” as if Barrett wrote it solo. The song is credited to all four members, but it was Barrett who came up with the riff I talk about. And annoyingly, given the lengths I went to to deal correctly with Barrett's name, I repeatedly refer to "Dave" Gilmour, when Gilmour prefers David. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon.  [Why not join them?] (http://patreon.com/AndrewHickey) Transcript A note before I begin -- this episode deals with drug use and mental illness, so anyone who might be upset by those subjects might want to skip this one. But also, there's a rather unique problem in how I deal with the name of the main artist in the story today. The man everyone knows as Syd Barrett was born Roger Barrett, used that name with his family for his whole life, and in later years very strongly disliked being called "Syd", yet everyone other than his family called him that at all times until he left the music industry, and that's the name that appears on record labels, including his solo albums. I don't believe it's right to refer to people by names they choose not to go by themselves, but the name Barrett went by throughout his brief period in the public eye was different from the one he went by later, and by all accounts he was actually distressed by its use in later years. So what I'm going to do in this episode is refer to him as "Roger Barrett" when a full name is necessary for disambiguation or just "Barrett" otherwise, but I'll leave any quotes from other people referring to "Syd" as they were originally phrased. In future episodes on Pink Floyd, I'll refer to him just as Barrett, but in episodes where I discuss his influence on other artists, I will probably have to use "Syd Barrett" because otherwise people who haven't listened to this episode won't know what on Earth I'm talking about. Anyway, on with the show. “It’s gone!” sighed the Rat, sinking back in his seat again. “So beautiful and strange and new. Since it was to end so soon, I almost wish I had never heard it. For it has roused a longing in me that is pain, and nothing seems worth while but just to hear that sound once more and go on listening to it for ever. No! There it is again!” he cried, alert once more. Entranced, he was silent for a long space, spellbound. “Now it passes on and I begin to lose it,” he said presently. “O Mole! the beauty of it! The merry bubble and joy, the thin, clear, happy call of the distant piping! Such music I never dreamed of, and the call in it is stronger even than the music is sweet! Row on, Mole, row! For the music and the call must be for us.” That's a quote from a chapter titled "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" from the classic children's book The Wind in the Willows -- a book which for most of its length is a fairly straightforward story about anthropomorphic animals having jovial adventures, but which in that one chapter has Rat and Mole suddenly encounter the Great God Pan and have a hallucinatory, transcendental experience caused by his music, one so extreme it's wiped from their minds, as they simply cannot process it. The book, and the chapter, was a favourite of Roger Barrett, a young child born in Cambridge in 1946. Barrett came from an intellectual but not especially bookish family. His father, Dr. Arthur Barrett, was a pathologist -- there's a room in Addenbrooke's Hospital named after him -- but he was also an avid watercolour painter, a world-leading authority on fungi, and a member of the Cambridge Philharmonic Society who was apparently an extraordinarily good singer; while his mother Winifred was a stay-at-home mother who was nonetheless very active in the community, organising a local Girl Guide troupe. They never particularly encouraged their family to read, but young Roger did particularly enjoy the more pastoral end of the children's literature of the time. As well as the Wind in the Willows he also loved Alice in Wonderland, and the Little Grey Men books -- a series of stories about tiny gnomes and their adventures in the countryside. But his two big passions were music and painting. He got his first ukulele at age eleven, and by the time his father died, just before Roger's sixteenth birthday, he had graduated to playing a full-sized guitar. At the time his musical tastes were largely the same as those of any other British teenager -- he liked Chubby Checker, for example -- though he did have a tendency to prefer the quirkier end of things, and some of the first songs he tried to play on the guitar were those of Joe Brown: [Excerpt: Joe Brown, "I'm Henry VIII I Am"] Barrett grew up in Cambridge, and for those who don't know it, Cambridge is an incubator of a very particular kind of eccentricity. The university tends to attract rather unworldly intellectual overachievers to the city -- people who might not be able to survive in many other situations but who can thrive in that one -- and every description of Barrett's father suggests he was such a person -- Barrett's sister Rosemary has said that she believes that most of the family were autistic, though whether this is a belief based on popular media portrayals or a deeper understanding I don't know. But certainly Cambridge is full of eccentric people with remarkable achievements, and such people tend to have children with a certain type of personality, who try simultaneously to live up to and rebel against expectations of greatness that come from having parents who are regarded as great, and to do so with rather less awareness of social norms than the typical rebel has. In the case of Roger Barrett, he, like so many others of his generation, was encouraged to go into the sciences -- as indeed his father had, both in his career as a pathologist and in his avocation as a mycologist. The fifties and sixties were a time, much like today, when what we now refer to as the STEM subjects were regarded as new and exciting and modern. But rather than following in his father's professional footsteps, Roger Barrett instead followed his hobbies. Dr. Barrett was a painter and musician in his spare time, and Roger was to turn to those things to earn his living. For much of his teens, it seemed that art would be the direction he would go in. He was, everyone agrees, a hugely talented painter, and he was particularly noted for his mastery of colours. But he was also becoming more and more interested in R&B music, especially the music of Bo Diddley, who became his new biggest influence: [Excerpt: Bo Diddley, "Who Do You Love?"] He would often spend hours with his friend Dave Gilmour, a much more advanced guitarist, trying to learn blues riffs. By this point Barrett had already received the nickname "Syd". Depending on which story you believe, he either got it when he started attending a jazz club where an elderly jazzer named Sid Barrett played, and the people were amused that their youngest attendee, like one of the oldest, was called Barrett; or, more plausibly, he turned up to a Scout meeting once wearing a flat cap rather than the normal scout beret, and he got nicknamed "Sid" because it made him look working-class and "Sid" was a working-class sort of name. In 1962, by the time he was sixteen, Barrett joined a short-lived group called Geoff Mott and the Mottoes, on rhythm guitar. The group's lead singer, Geoff Mottlow, would go on to join a band called the Boston Crabs who would have a minor hit in 1965 with a version of the Coasters song "Down in Mexico": [Excerpt: The Boston Crabs, "Down in Mexico"] The bass player from the Mottoes, Tony Sainty, and the drummer Clive Welham, would go on to form another band, The Jokers Wild, with Barrett's friend Dave Gilmour. Barrett also briefly joined another band, Those Without, but his time with them was similarly brief. Some sources -- though ones I consider generally less reliable -- say that the Mottoes' bass player wasn't Tony Sainty, but was Roger Waters, the son of one of Barrett's teachers, and that one of the reasons the band split up was that Waters had moved down to London to study architecture. I don't think that's the case, but it's definitely true that Barrett knew Waters, and when he moved to London himself the next year to go to Camberwell Art College, he moved into a house where Waters was already living. Two previous tenants at the same house, Nick Mason and Richard Wright, had formed a loose band with Waters and various other amateur musicians like Keith Noble, Shelagh Noble, and Clive Metcalfe. That band was sometimes known as the Screaming Abdabs, The Megadeaths, or The Tea Set -- the latter as a sly reference to slang terms for cannabis -- but was mostly known at first as Sigma 6, named after a manifesto by the novelist Alexander Trocchi for a kind of spontaneous university. They were also sometimes known as Leonard's Lodgers, after the landlord of the home that Barrett was moving into, Mike Leonard, who would occasionally sit in on organ and would later, as the band became more of a coherent unit, act as a roadie and put on light shows behind them -- Leonard was himself very interested in avant-garde and experimental art, and it was his idea to play around with the group's lighting. By the time Barrett moved in with Waters in 1964, the group had settled on the Tea Set name, and consisted of Waters on bass, Mason on drums, Wright on keyboards, singer Chris Dennis, and guitarist Rado Klose. Of the group, Klose was the only one who was a skilled musician -- he was a very good jazz guitarist, while the other members were barely adequate. By this time Barrett's musical interests were expanding to include folk music -- his girlfriend at the time talked later about him taking her to see Bob Dylan on his first UK tour and thinking "My first reaction was seeing all these people like Syd. It was almost as if every town had sent one Syd Barrett there. It was my first time seeing people like him." But the music he was most into was the blues. And as the Tea Set were turning into a blues band, he joined them. He even had a name for the new band that would make them more bluesy. He'd read the back of a record cover which had named two extremely obscure blues musicians -- musicians he may never even have heard. Pink Anderson: [Excerpt: Pink Anderson, "Boll Weevil"] And Floyd Council: [Excerpt: Floyd Council, "Runaway Man Blues"] Barrett suggested that they put together the names of the two bluesmen, and presumably because "Anderson Council" didn't have quite the right ring, they went for The Pink Floyd -- though for a while yet they would sometimes still perform as The Tea Set, and they were sometimes also called The Pink Floyd Sound. Dennis left soon after Barrett joined, and the new five-piece Pink Floyd Sound started trying to get more gigs. They auditioned for Ready Steady Go! and were turned down, but did get some decent support slots, including for a band called the Tridents: [Excerpt: The Tridents, "Tiger in Your Tank"] The members of the group were particularly impressed by the Tridents' guitarist and the way he altered his sound using feedback -- Barrett even sent a letter to his girlfriend with a drawing of the guitarist, one Jeff Beck, raving about how good he was. At this point, the group were mostly performing cover versions, but they did have a handful of originals, and it was these they recorded in their first demo sessions in late 1964 and early 1965. They included "Walk With Me Sydney", a song written by Roger Waters as a parody of "Work With Me Annie" and "Dance With Me Henry" -- and, given the lyrics, possibly also Hank Ballard's follow-up "Henry's Got Flat Feet (Can't Dance No More) and featuring Rick Wright's then-wife Juliette Gale as Etta James to Barrett's Richard Berry: [Excerpt: The Tea Set, "Walk With Me Sydney"] And four songs by Barrett, including one called "Double-O Bo" which was a Bo Diddley rip-off, and "Butterfly", the most interesting of these early recordings: [Excerpt: The Tea Set, "Butterfly"] At this point, Barrett was very unsure of his own vocal abilities, and wrote a letter to his girlfriend saying "Emo says why don't I give up 'cos it sounds horrible, and I would but I can't get Fred to join because he's got a group (p'raps you knew!) so I still have to sing." "Fred" was a nickname for his old friend Dave Gilmour, who was playing in his own band, Joker's Wild, at this point. Summer 1965 saw two important events in the life of the group. The first was that Barrett took LSD for the first time. The rest of the group weren't interested in trying it, and would indeed generally be one of the more sober bands in the rock business, despite the reputation their music got. The other members would for the most part try acid once or twice, around late 1966, but generally steer clear of it. Barrett, by contrast, took it on a very regular basis, and it would influence all the work he did from that point on. The other event was that Rado Klose left the group. Klose was the only really proficient musician in the group, but he had very different tastes to the other members, preferring to play jazz to R&B and pop, and he was also falling behind in his university studies, and decided to put that ahead of remaining in the band. This meant that the group members had to radically rethink the way they were making music. They couldn't rely on instrumental proficiency, so they had to rely on ideas. One of the things they started to do was use echo. They got primitive echo devices and put both Barrett's guitar and Wright's keyboard through them, allowing them to create new sounds that hadn't been heard on stage before. But they were still mostly doing the same Slim Harpo and Bo Diddley numbers everyone else was doing, and weren't able to be particularly interesting while playing them. But for a while they carried on doing the normal gigs, like a birthday party they played in late 1965, where on the same bill was a young American folk singer named Paul Simon, and Joker's Wild, the band Dave Gilmour was in, who backed Simon on a version of "Johnny B. Goode". A couple of weeks after that party, Joker's Wild went into the studio to record their only privately-pressed five-song record, of them performing recent hits: [Excerpt: Joker's Wild, "Walk Like a Man"] But The Pink Floyd Sound weren't as musically tight as Joker's Wild, and they couldn't make a living as a cover band even if they wanted to. They had to do something different. Inspiration then came from a very unexpected source. I mentioned earlier that one of the names the group had been performing under had been inspired by a manifesto for a spontaneous university by the writer Alexander Trocchi. Trocchi's ideas had actually been put into practice by an organisation calling itself the London Free School, based in Notting Hill. The London Free School was an interesting mixture of people from what was then known as the New Left, but who were already rapidly aging, the people who had been the cornerstone of radical campaigning in the late fifties and early sixties, who had run the Aldermaston marches against nuclear weapons and so on, and a new breed of countercultural people who in a year or two would be defined as hippies but at the time were not so easy to pigeonhole. These people were mostly politically radical but very privileged people -- one of the founder members of the London Free School was Peter Jenner, who was the son of a vicar and the grandson of a Labour MP -- and they were trying to put their radical ideas into practice. The London Free School was meant to be a collective of people who would help each other and themselves, and who would educate each other. You'd go to the collective wanting to learn how to do something, whether that's how to improve the housing in your area or navigate some particularly difficult piece of bureaucracy, or how to play a musical instrument, and someone who had that skill would teach you how to do it, while you hopefully taught them something else of value. The London Free School, like all such utopian schemes, ended up falling apart, but it had a wider cultural impact than most such schemes. Britain's first underground newspaper, the International Times, was put together by people involved in the Free School, and the annual Notting Hill Carnival, which is now one of the biggest outdoor events in Britain every year with a million attendees, came from the merger of outdoor events organised by the Free School with older community events. A group of musicians called AMM was associated with many of the people involved in the Free School. AMM performed totally improvised music, with no structure and no normal sense of melody and harmony: [Excerpt: AMM, "What Is There In Uselesness To Cause You Distress?"] Keith Rowe, the guitarist in AMM, wanted to find his own technique uninfluenced by American jazz guitarists, and thought of that in terms that appealed very strongly to the painterly Barrett, saying "For the Americans to develop an American school of painting, they somehow had to ditch or lose European easel painting techniques. They had to make a break with the past. What did that possibly mean if you were a jazz guitar player? For me, symbolically, it was Pollock laying the canvas on the floor, which immediately abandons European easel technique. I could see that by laying the canvas down, it became inappropriate to apply easel techniques. I thought if I did that with a guitar, I would just lose all those techniques, because they would be physically impossible to do." Rowe's technique-free technique inspired Barrett to make similar noises with his guitar, and to think less in terms of melody and harmony than pure sound. AMM's first record came out in 1966. Four of the Free School people decided to put together their own record label, DNA, and they got an agreement with Elektra Records to distribute its first release -- Joe Boyd, the head of Elektra in the UK, was another London Free School member, and someone who had plenty of experience with disruptive art already, having been on the sound engineering team at the Newport Folk Festival when Dylan went electric. AMM went into the studio and recorded AMMMusic: [Excerpt: AMM, "What Is There In Uselesness To Cause You Distress?"] After that came out, though, Peter Jenner, one of the people who'd started the label, came to a realisation. He said later "We'd made this one record with AMM. Great record, very seminal, seriously avant-garde, but I'd started adding up and I'd worked out that the deal we had, we got two percent of retail, out of which we, the label, had to pay for recording costs and pay ourselves. I came to the conclusion that we were going to have to sell a hell of a lot of records just to pay the recording costs, let alone pay ourselves any money and build a label, so I realised we had to have a pop band because pop bands sold a lot of records. It was as simple as that and I was as naive as that." Jenner abandoned DNA records for the moment, and he and his friend Andrew King decided they were going to become pop managers. and they found The Pink Floyd Sound playing at an event at the Marquee, one of a series of events that were variously known as Spontaneous Underground and The Trip. Other participants in those events included Soft Machine; Mose Allison; Donovan, performing improvised songs backed by sitar players; Graham Bond; a performer who played Bach pieces while backed by African drummers; and The Poison Bellows, a poetry duo consisting of Spike Hawkins and Johnny Byrne, who may of all of these performers be the one who other than Pink Floyd themselves has had the most cultural impact in the UK -- after writing the exploitation novel Groupie and co-writing a film adaptation of Spike Milligan's war memoirs, Byrne became a TV screenwriter, writing many episodes of Space: 1999 and Doctor Who before creating the long-running TV series Heartbeat. Jenner and King decided they wanted to sign The Pink Floyd Sound and make records with them, and the group agreed -- but only after their summer holidays. They were all still students, and so they dispersed during the summer. Waters and Wright went on holiday to Greece, where they tried acid for the first of only a small number of occasions and were unimpressed, while Mason went on a trip round America by Greyhound bus. Barrett, meanwhile, stayed behind, and started writing more songs, encouraged by Jenner, who insisted that the band needed to stop relying on blues covers and come up with their own material, and who saw Barrett as the focus of the group. Jenner later described them as "Four not terribly competent musicians who managed between them to create something that was extraordinary. Syd was the main creative drive behind the band - he was the singer and lead guitarist. Roger couldn't tune his bass because he was tone deaf, it had to be tuned by Rick. Rick could write a bit of a tune and Roger could knock out a couple of words if necessary. 'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun' was the first song Roger ever wrote, and he only did it because Syd encouraged everyone to write. Syd was very hesitant about his writing, but when he produced these great songs everyone else thought 'Well, it must be easy'" Of course, we know this isn't quite true -- Waters had written "Walk with me Sydney" -- but it is definitely the case that everyone involved thought of Barrett as the main creative force in the group, and that he was the one that Jenner was encouraging to write new material. After the summer holidays, the group reconvened, and one of their first actions was to play a benefit for the London Free School. Jenner said later "Andrew King and myself were both vicars' sons, and we knew that when you want to raise money for the parish you have to have a social. So in a very old-fashioned way we said 'let's put on a social'. Like in the Just William books, like a whist drive. We thought 'You can't have a whist drive. That's not cool. Let's have a band. That would be cool.' And the only band we knew was the band I was starting to get involved with." After a couple of these events went well, Joe Boyd suggested that they make those events a regular club night, and the UFO Club was born. Jenner and King started working on the light shows for the group, and then bringing in other people, and the light show became an integral part of the group's mystique -- rather than standing in a spotlight as other groups would, they worked in shadows, with distorted kaleidoscopic lights playing on them, distancing themselves from the audience. The highlight of their sets was a long piece called "Interstellar Overdrive", and this became one of the group's first professional recordings, when they went into the studio with Joe Boyd to record it for the soundtrack of a film titled Tonite Let's All Make Love in London. There are conflicting stories about the inspiration for the main riff for "Interstellar Overdrive". One apparent source is the riff from Love's version of the Bacharach and David song "My Little Red Book". Depending on who you ask, either Barrett was obsessed with Love's first album and copied the riff, or Peter Jenner tried to hum him the riff and Barrett copied what Jenner was humming: [Excerpt: Love, "My Little Red Book"] More prosaically, Roger Waters has always claimed that the main inspiration was from "Old Ned", Ron Grainer's theme tune for the sitcom Steptoe and Son (which for American listeners was remade over there as Sanford and Son): [Excerpt: Ron Grainer, "Old Ned"] Of course it's entirely possible, and even likely, that Barrett was inspired by both, and if so that would neatly sum up the whole range of Pink Floyd's influences at this point. "My Little Red Book" was a cover by an American garage-psych/folk-rock band of a hit by Manfred Mann, a group who were best known for pop singles but were also serious blues and jazz musicians, while Steptoe and Son was a whimsical but dark and very English sitcom about a way of life that was slowly disappearing. And you can definitely hear both influences in the main riff of the track they recorded with Boyd: [Excerpt: The Pink Floyd, "Interstellar Overdrive"] "Interstellar Overdrive" was one of two types of song that The Pink Floyd were performing at this time -- a long, extended, instrumental psychedelic excuse for freaky sounds, inspired by things like the second disc of Freak Out! by the Mothers of Invention. When they went into the studio again with Boyd later in January 1967, to record what they hoped would be their first single, they recorded two of the other kind of songs -- whimsical story songs inspired equally by the incidents of everyday life and by children's literature. What became the B-side, "Candy and a Currant Bun", was based around the riff from "Smokestack Lightnin'" by Howlin' Wolf: [Excerpt: Howlin' Wolf, "Smokestack Lightnin'"] That song had become a favourite on the British blues scene, and was thus the inspiration for many songs of the type that get called "quintessentially English". Ray Davies, who was in many ways the major songwriter at this time who was closest to Barrett stylistically, would a year later use the riff for the Kinks song "Last of the Steam-Powered Trains", but in this case Barrett had originally written a song titled "Let's Roll Another One", about sexual longing and cannabis. The lyrics were hastily rewritten in the studio to remove the controversial drug references-- and supposedly this caused some conflict between Barrett and Waters, with Waters pushing for the change, while Barrett argued against it, though like many of the stories from this period this sounds like the kind of thing that gets said by people wanting to push particular images of both men. Either way, the lyric was changed to be about sweet treats rather than drugs, though the lascivious elements remained in. And some people even argue that there was another lyric change -- where Barrett sings "walk with me", there's a slight "f" sound in his vocal. As someone who does a lot of microphone work myself, it sounds to me like just one of those things that happens while recording, but a lot of people are very insistent that Barrett is deliberately singing a different word altogether: [Excerpt: The Pink Floyd, "Candy and a Currant Bun"] The A-side, meanwhile, was inspired by real life. Both Barrett and Waters had mothers who used  to take in female lodgers, and both had regularly had their lodgers' underwear stolen from washing lines. While they didn't know anything else about the thief, he became in Barrett's imagination a man who liked to dress up in the clothing after he stole it: [Excerpt: The Pink Floyd, "Arnold Layne"] After recording the two tracks with Joe Boyd, the natural assumption was that the record would be put out on Elektra, the label which Boyd worked for in the UK, but Jac Holzman, the head of Elektra records, wasn't interested, and so a bidding war began for the single, as by this point the group were the hottest thing in London. For a while it looked like they were going to sign to Track Records, the label owned by the Who's management, but in the end EMI won out. Right as they signed, the News of the World was doing a whole series of articles about pop stars and their drug use, and the last of the articles talked about The Pink Floyd and their association with LSD, even though they hadn't released a record yet. EMI had to put out a press release saying that the group were not psychedelic, insisting"The Pink Floyd are not trying to create hallucinatory effects in their audience." It was only after getting signed that the group became full-time professionals. Waters had by this point graduated from university and was working as a trainee architect, and quit his job to become a pop star. Wright dropped out of university, but Mason and Barrett took sabbaticals. Barrett in particular seems to have seen this very much as a temporary thing, talking about how he was making so much money it would be foolish not to take the opportunity while it lasted, but how he was going to resume his studies in a year. "Arnold Layne" made the top twenty, and it would have gone higher had the pirate radio station Radio London, at the time the single most popular radio station when it came to pop music, not banned the track because of its sexual content. However, it would be the only single Joe Boyd would work on with the group. EMI insisted on only using in-house producers, and so while Joe Boyd would go on to a great career as a producer, and we'll see him again, he was replaced with Norman Smith. Smith had been the chief engineer on the Beatles records up to Rubber Soul, after which he'd been promoted to being a producer in his own right, and Geoff Emerick had taken over. He also had aspirations to pop stardom himself, and a few years later would have a transatlantic hit with "Oh Babe, What Would You Say?" under the name Hurricane Smith: [Excerpt: Hurricane Smith, "Oh Babe, What Would You Say?"] Smith's production of the group would prove controversial among some of the group's longtime fans, who thought that he did too much to curtail their more experimental side, as he would try to get the group to record songs that were more structured and more commercial, and would cut down their improvisations into a more manageable form. Others, notably Peter Jenner, thought that Smith was the perfect producer for the group. They started work on their first album, which was mostly recorded in studio three of Abbey Road, while the Beatles were just finishing off work on Sgt Pepper in studio two. The album was titled The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, after the chapter from The Wind in the Willows, and other than a few extended instrumental showcases, most of the album was made up of short, whimsical, songs by Barrett that were strongly infused with imagery from late-Victorian and Edwardian children's books. This is one of the big differences between the British and American psychedelic scenes. Both the British and American undergrounds were made up of the same type of people -- a mixture of older radical activists, often Communists, who had come up in Britain in the Ban the Bomb campaigns and in America in the Civil Rights movement; and younger people, usually middle-class students with radical politics from a privileged background, who were into experimenting with drugs and alternative lifestyles. But the  social situations were different. In America, the younger members of the underground were angry and scared, as their principal interest was in stopping the war in Vietnam in which so many of them were being killed. And the music of the older generation of the underground, the Civil Rights activists, was shot through with influence from the blues, gospel, and American folk music, with a strong Black influence. So that's what the American psychedelic groups played, for the most part, very bluesy, very angry, music, By contrast, the British younger generation of hippies were not being drafted to go to war, and mostly had little to complain about, other than a feeling of being stifled by their parents' generation's expectations. And while most of them were influenced by the blues, that wasn't the music that had been popular among the older underground people, who had either been listening to experimental European art music or had been influenced by Ewan MacColl and his associates into listening instead to traditional old English ballads, things like the story of Tam Lin or Thomas the Rhymer, where someone is spirited away to the land of the fairies: [Excerpt: Ewan MacColl, "Thomas the Rhymer"] As a result, most British musicians, when exposed to the culture of the underground over here, created music that looked back to an idealised childhood of their grandparents' generation, songs that were nostalgic for a past just before the one they could remember (as opposed to their own childhoods, which had taken place in war or the immediate aftermath of it, dominated by poverty, rationing, and bomb sites (though of course Barrett's childhood in Cambridge had been far closer to this mythic idyll than those of his contemporaries from Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle, or London). So almost every British musician who was making music that might be called psychedelic was writing songs that were influenced both by experimental art music and by pre-War popular song, and which conjured up images from older children's books. Most notably of course at this point the Beatles were recording songs like "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" about places from their childhood, and taking lyrical inspiration from Victorian circus posters and the works of Lewis Carroll, but Barrett was similarly inspired. One of the books he loved most as a child was "The Little Grey Men" by BB, a penname for Denys Watkins-Pitchford. The book told the story of three gnomes,  Baldmoney, Sneezewort, and Dodder, and their adventures on a boat when the fourth member of their little group, Cloudberry, who's a bit of a rebellious loner and more adventurous than the other three, goes exploring on his own and they have to go off and find him. Barrett's song "The Gnome" doesn't use any precise details from the book, but its combination of whimsy about a gnome named Grimble-gromble and a reverence for nature is very much in the mould of BB's work: [Excerpt: The Pink Floyd, "The Gnome"] Another huge influence on Barrett was Hillaire Belloc. Belloc is someone who is not read much any more, as sadly he is mostly known for the intense antisemitism in some of his writing, which stains it just as so much of early twentieth-century literature is stained, but he was one of the most influential writers of the early part of the twentieth century. Like his friend GK Chesterton he was simultaneously an author of Catholic apologia and a political campaigner -- he was a Liberal MP for a few years, and a strong advocate of an economic system known as Distributism, and had a peculiar mixture of very progressive and extremely reactionary ideas which resonated with a lot of the atmosphere in the British underground of the time, even though he would likely have profoundly disapproved of them. But Belloc wrote in a variety of styles, including poems for children, which are the works of his that have aged the best, and were a huge influence on later children's writers like Roald Dahl with their gleeful comic cruelty. Barrett's "Matilda Mother" had lyrics that were, other than the chorus where Barrett begs his mother to read him more of the story, taken verbatim from three poems from Belloc's Cautionary Tales for Children -- "Jim, Who Ran away from his Nurse, and was Eaten by a Lion", "Henry King (Who chewed bits of String, and was cut off in Dreadful Agonies)", and "Matilda (Who Told Lies and Was Burned to Death)" -- the titles of those give some idea of the kind of thing Belloc would write: [Excerpt: The Pink Floyd, "Matilda Mother (early version)"] Sadly for Barrett, Belloc's estate refused to allow permission for his poems to be used, and so he had to rework the lyrics, writing new fairy-tale lyrics for the finished version. Other sources of inspiration for lyrics came from books like the I Ching, which Barrett used for "Chapter 24", having bought a copy from the Indica Bookshop, the same place that John Lennon had bought The Psychedelic Experience, and there's been some suggestion that he was deliberately trying to copy Lennon in taking lyrical ideas from a book of ancient mystic wisdom. During the recording of Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the group continued playing live. As they'd now had a hit single, most of their performances were at Top Rank Ballrooms and other such venues around the country, on bills with other top chart groups, playing to audiences who seemed unimpressed or actively hostile. They also, though made two important appearances. The more well-known of these was at the 14-Hour Technicolor Dream, a benefit for International Times magazine with people including Yoko Ono, their future collaborator Ron Geesin, John's Children, Soft Machine, and The Move also performing. The 14-Hour Technicolor Dream is now largely regarded as *the* pivotal moment in the development of the UK counterculture, though even at the time some participants noted that there seemed to be a rift developing between the performers, who were often fairly straightforward beer-drinking ambitious young men who had latched on to kaftans and talk about enlightenment as the latest gimmick they could use to get ahead in the industry, and the audience who seemed to be true believers. Their other major performance was at an event called "Games for May -- Space Age Relaxation for the Climax of Spring", where they were able to do a full long set in a concert space with a quadrophonic sound system, rather than performing in the utterly sub-par environments most pop bands had to at this point. They came up with a new song written for the event, which became their second single, "See Emily Play". [Excerpt: The Pink Floyd, "See Emily Play"] Emily was apparently always a favourite name of Barrett's, and he even talked with one girlfriend about the possibility of naming their first child Emily, but the Emily of the song seems to have had a specific inspiration. One of the youngest attendees at the London Free School was an actual schoolgirl, Emily Young, who would go along to their events with her schoolfriend Anjelica Huston (who later became a well-known film star). Young is now a world-renowned artist, regarded as arguably Britain's greatest living stone sculptor, but at the time she was very like the other people at the London Free School -- she was from a very privileged background, her father was Wayland Young, 2nd Baron Kennet, a Labour Peer and minister who later joined the SDP. But being younger than the rest of the attendees, and still a little naive, she was still trying to find her own personality, and would take on attributes and attitudes of other people without fully understanding them,  hence the song's opening lines, "Emily tries, but misunderstands/She's often inclined to borrow somebody's dream til tomorrow". The song gets a little darker towards the end though, and the image in the last verse, where she puts on a gown and floats down a river forever *could* be a gentle, pastoral, image of someone going on a boat ride, but it also could be a reference to two rather darker sources. Barrett was known to pick up imagery both from classic literature and from Arthurian legend, and so the lines inevitably conjure up both the idea of Ophelia drowning herself and of the Lady of Shallot in Tennyson's Arthurian poem, who is trapped in a tower but finds a boat, and floats down the river to Camelot but dies before the boat reaches the castle: [Excerpt: The Pink Floyd, "See Emily Play"] The song also evokes very specific memories of Barrett's childhood -- according to Roger Waters, the woods mentioned in the lyrics are meant to be woods in which they had played as children, on the road out of Cambridge towards the Gog and Magog Hills. The song was apparently seven minutes long in its earliest versions, and required a great deal of editing to get down to single length, but it was worth it, as the track made the top ten. And that was where the problems started. There are two different stories told about what happened to Roger Barrett over the next forty years, and both stories are told by people with particular agendas, who want particular versions of him to become the accepted truth. Both stories are, in the extreme versions that have been popularised, utterly incompatible with each other, but both are fairly compatible with the scanty evidence we have. Possibly the truth lies somewhere between them. In one version of the story, around this time Barrett had a total mental breakdown, brought on or exacerbated by his overuse of LSD and Mandrax (a prescription drug consisting of a mixture of the antihistamine diphenhydramine and the sedative methaqualone, which was marketed in the US under the brand-name Quaalude), and that from late summer 1967 on he was unable to lead a normal life, and spent the rest of his life as a burned-out shell. The other version of the story is that Barrett was a little fragile, and did have periods of mental illness, but for the most part was able to function fairly well. In this version of the story, he was neurodivergent, and found celebrity distressing, but more than that he found the whole process of working within commercial restrictions upsetting -- having to appear on TV pop shows and go on package tours was just not something he found himself able to do, but he was responsible for a whole apparatus of people who relied on him and his group for their living. In this telling, he was surrounded by parasites who looked on him as their combination meal-ticket-cum-guru, and was simply not suited for the role and wanted to sabotage it so he could have a private life instead. Either way, *something* seems to have changed in Barrett in a profound way in the early summer of 1967. Joe Boyd talks about meeting him after not having seen him for a few weeks, and all the light being gone from his eyes. The group appeared on Top of the Pops, Britain's top pop TV show, three times to promote "See Emily Play", but by the third time Barrett didn't even pretend to mime along with the single. Towards the end of July, they were meant to record a session for the BBC's Saturday Club radio show, but Barrett walked out of the studio before completing the first song. It's notable that Barrett's non-cooperation or inability to function was very much dependent on circumstance. He was not able to perform for Saturday Club, a mainstream pop show aimed at a mass audience, but gave perfectly good performances on several sessions for John Peel's radio show The Perfumed Garden, a show firmly aimed at Pink Floyd's own underground niche. On the thirty-first of July, three days after the Saturday Club walkout, all the group's performances for the next month were cancelled, due to "nervous exhaustion". But on the eighth of August, they went back into the studio, to record "Scream Thy Last Scream", a song Barrett wrote and which Nick Mason sang: [Excerpt: Pink Floyd, "Scream Thy Last Scream"] That was scheduled as the group's next single, but the record company vetoed it, and it wouldn't see an official release for forty-nine years. Instead they recorded another single, "Apples and Oranges": [Excerpt: Pink Floyd, "Apples and Oranges"] That was the last thing the group released while Barrett was a member. In November 1967 they went on a tour of the US, making appearances on American Bandstand and the Pat Boone Show, as well as playing several gigs. According to legend, Barrett was almost catatonic on the Pat Boone show, though no footage of that appears to be available anywhere -- and the same things were said about their performance on Bandstand, and when that turned up, it turned out Barrett seemed no more uncomfortable miming to their new single than any of the rest of the band, and was no less polite when Dick Clark asked them questions about hamburgers. But on shows on the US tour, Barrett would do things like detune his guitar so it just made clanging sounds, or just play a single note throughout the show. These are, again, things that could be taken in two different ways, and I have no way to judge which is the more correct. On one level, they could be a sign of a chaotic, disordered, mind, someone dealing with severe mental health difficulties. On the other, they're the kind of thing that Barrett was applauded and praised for in the confines of the kind of avant-garde underground audience that would pay to hear AMM or Yoko Ono, the kind of people they'd been performing for less than a year earlier, but which were absolutely not appropriate for a pop group trying to promote their latest hit single. It could be that Barrett was severely unwell, or it could just be that he wanted to be an experimental artist and his bandmates wanted to be pop stars -- and one thing absolutely everyone agrees is that the rest of the group were more ambitious than Barrett was. Whichever was the case, though, something had to give. They cut the US tour short, but immediately started another British package tour, with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Move, Amen Corner and the Nice. After that tour they started work on their next album, A Saucerful of Secrets. Where Barrett was the lead singer and principal songwriter on Piper at the Gates of Dawn, he only sings and writes one song on A Saucerful of Secrets, which is otherwise written by Waters and Wright, and only appears at all on two more of the tracks -- by the time it was released he was out of the group. The last song he tried to get the group to record was called "Have You Got it Yet?" and it was only after spending some time rehearsing it that the rest of the band realised that the song was a practical joke on them -- every time they played it, he would change the song around so they would mess up, and pretend they just hadn't learned the song yet. They brought in Barrett's old friend Dave Gilmour, initially to be a fifth member on stage to give the band some stability in their performances, but after five shows with the five-man lineup they decided just not to bother picking Barrett up, but didn't mention he was out of the group, to avoid awkwardness. At the time, Barrett and Rick Wright were flatmates, and Wright would actually lie to Barrett and say he was just going out to buy a packet of cigarettes, and then go and play gigs without him. After a couple of months of this, it was officially announced that Barrett was leaving the group. Jenner and King went with him, convinced that he was the real talent in the group and would have a solo career, and the group carried on with new management. We'll be looking at them more in future episodes. Barrett made a start at recording a solo album in mid-1968, but didn't get very far. Jenner produced those sessions, and later said "It seemed a good idea to go into the studio because I knew he had the songs. And he would sometimes play bits and pieces and you would think 'Oh that's great.' It was a 'he's got a bit of a cold today and it might get better' approach. It wasn't a cold -- and you knew it wasn't a cold -- but I kept thinking if he did the right things he'd come back to join us. He'd gone out and maybe he'd come back. That was always the analogy in my head. I wanted to make it feel friendly for him, and that where we were was a comfortable place and that he could come back and find himself again. I obviously didn't succeed." A handful of tracks from those sessions have since been released, including a version of “Golden Hair”, a setting by Barrett of a poem by James Joyce that he would later revisit: [Excerpt: Syd Barrett, “Golden Hair (first version)”] Eleven months later, he went back into the studio again, this time with producer Malcolm Jones, to record an album that later became The Madcap Laughs, his first solo album. The recording process for the album has been the source of some controversy, as initially Jones was producing the whole album, and they were working in a way that Barrett never worked before. Where previously he had cut backing tracks first and only later overdubbed his vocals, this time he started by recording acoustic guitar and vocals, and then overdubbed on top of that. But after several sessions, Jones was pulled off the album, and Gilmour and Waters were asked to produce the rest of the sessions. This may seem a bit of a callous decision, since Gilmour was the person who had replaced Barrett in his group, but apparently the two of them had remained friends, and indeed Gilmour thought that Barrett had only got better as a songwriter since leaving the band. Where Malcolm Jones had been trying, by his account, to put out something that sounded like a serious, professional, record, Gilmour and Waters seemed to regard what they were doing more as producing a piece of audio verite documentary, including false starts and studio chatter. Jones believed that this put Barrett in a bad light, saying the outtakes "show Syd, at best as out of tune, which he rarely was, and at worst as out of control (which, again, he never was)." Gilmour and Waters, on the other hand, thought that material was necessary to provide some context for why the album wasn't as slick and professional as some might have hoped. The eventual record was a hodge-podge of different styles from different sessions, with bits from the Jenner sessions, the Jones sessions, and the Waters and Gilmour sessions all mixed together, with some tracks just Barrett badly double-tracking himself with an acoustic guitar, while other tracks feature full backing by Soft Machine. However, despite Jones' accusations that the album was more-or-less sabotaged by Gilmour and Waters, the fact remains that the best tracks on the album are the ones Barrett's former bandmates produced, and there are some magnificent moments on there. But it's a disturbing album to listen to, in the same way other albums by people with clear talent but clear mental illness are, like Skip Spence's Oar, Roky Erickson's later work, or the Beach Boys Love You. In each case, the pleasure one gets is a real pleasure from real aesthetic appreciation of the work, but entangled with an awareness that the work would not exist in that form were the creator not suffering. The pleasure doesn't come from the suffering -- these are real artists creating real art, not the kind of outsider art that is really just a modern-day freak-show -- but it's still inextricable from it: [Excerpt: Syd Barrett, "Dark Globe"] The Madcap Laughs did well enough that Barrett got to record a follow-up, titled simply Barrett. This one was recorded over a period of only a handful of months, with Gilmour and Rick Wright producing, and a band consisting of Gilmour, Wright, and drummer Jerry Shirley. The album is generally considered both more consistent and less interesting than The Madcap Laughs, with less really interesting material, though there are some enjoyable moments on it: [Excerpt: Syd Barrett, "Effervescing Elephant"] But the album is a little aimless, and people who knew him at the time seem agreed that that was a reflection of his life. He had nothing he *needed* to be doing -- no  tour dates, no deadlines, no pressure at all, and he had a bit of money from record royalties -- so he just did nothing at all. The one solo gig he ever played, with the band who backed him on Barrett, lasted four songs, and he walked off half-way through the fourth. He moved back to Cambridge for a while in the early seventies, and he tried putting together a new band with Twink, the drummer of the Pink Fairies and Pretty Things, Fred Frith, and Jack Monck, but Frith left after one gig. The other three performed a handful of shows either as "Stars" or as "Barrett, Adler, and Monck", just in the Cambridge area, but soon Barrett got bored again. He moved back to London, and in 1974 he made one final attempt to make a record, going into the studio with Peter Jenner, where he recorded a handful of tracks that were never released. But given that the titles of those tracks were things like "Boogie #1", "Boogie #2", "Slow Boogie", "Fast Boogie", "Chooka-Chooka Chug Chug" and "John Lee Hooker", I suspect we're not missing out on a lost masterpiece. Around this time there was a general resurgence in interest in Barrett, prompted by David Bowie having recorded a version of "See Emily Play" on his covers album Pin-Ups, which came out in late 1973: [Excerpt: David Bowie, "See Emily Play"] At the same time, the journalist Nick Kent wrote a long profile of Barrett, The Cracked Ballad of Syd Barrett, which like Kent's piece on Brian Wilson a year later, managed to be a remarkable piece of writing with a sense of sympathy for its subject and understanding of his music, but also a less-than-accurate piece of journalism which led to a lot of myths and disinformation being propagated. Barrett briefly visited his old bandmates in the studio in 1975 while they were recording the album Wish You Were Here -- some say even during the recording of the song "Shine On, You Crazy Diamond", which was written specifically about Barrett, though Nick Mason claims otherwise -- and they didn't recognise him at first, because by this point he had a shaved head and had put on a great deal of weight. He seemed rather sad, and that was the last time any of them saw him, apart from Roger Waters, who saw him in Harrod's a few years later. That time, as soon as Barrett recognised Waters, he dropped his bag and ran out of the shop. For the next thirty-one years, Barrett made no public appearances. The last time he ever voluntarily spoke to a journalist, other than telling them to go away, was in 1982, just after he'd moved back to Cambridge, when someone doorstopped him and he answered a few questions and posed for a photo before saying "OK! That's enough, this is distressing for me, thank you." He had the reputation for the rest of his life of being a shut-in, a recluse, an acid casualty. His family, on the other hand, have always claimed that while he was never particularly mentally or physically healthy, he wasn't a shut-in, and would go to the pub, meet up with his mother a couple of times a week to go shopping, and chat to the women behind the counter at Sainsbury's and at the pharmacy. He was also apparently very good with children who lived in the neighbourhood. Whatever the truth of his final decades, though, however mentally well or unwell he actually was, one thing is very clear, which is that he was an extremely private man, who did not want attention, and who was greatly distressed by the constant stream of people coming and looking through his letterbox, trying to take photos of him, trying to interview him, and so on. Everyone on his street knew that when people came asking which was Syd Barrett's house, they were meant to say that no-one of that name lived there -- and they were telling the truth. By the time he moved back, he had stopped answering to "Syd" altogether, and according to his sister "He came to hate the name latterly, and what it meant." He did, in 2001, go round to his sister's house to watch a documentary about himself on the TV -- he didn't own a TV himself -- but he didn't enjoy it and his only comment was that the music was too noisy. By this point he never listened to rock music, just to jazz and classical music, usually on the radio. He was financially secure -- Dave Gilmour made sure that when compilations came out they always included some music from Barrett's period in the group so he would receive royalties, even though Gilmour had no contact with him after 1975 -- and he spent most of his time painting -- he would take photos of the paintings when they were completed, and then burn the originals. There are many stories about those last few decades, but given how much he valued his privacy, it wouldn't be right to share them. This is a history of rock music, and 1975 was the last time Roger Keith Barrett ever had anything to do with rock music voluntarily. He died of cancer in 2006, and at his funeral there was a reading from The Little Grey Men, which was also quoted in the Order of Service -- "The wonder of the world, the beauty and the power, the shapes of things, their colours lights and shades; these I saw. Look ye also while life lasts.” There was no rock music played at Barrett's funeral -- instead there were a selection of pieces by Handel, Haydn, and Bach, ending with Bach's Allemande from the Partita No. IV in D major, one of his favourite pieces: [Excerpt: Glenn Gould, "Allemande from the Partita No. IV in D major"]  As they stared blankly in dumb misery deepening as they slowly realised all they had seen and all they had lost, a capricious little breeze, dancing up from the surface of the water, tossed the aspens, shook the dewy roses and blew lightly and caressingly in their faces; and with its soft touch came instant oblivion. For this is the last best gift that the kindly demi-god is careful to bestow on those to whom he has revealed himself in their helping: the gift of forgetfulness. Lest the awful remembrance should remain and grow, and overshadow mirth and pleasure, and the great haunting memory should spoil all the after-lives of little animals helped out of difficulties, in order that they should be happy and lighthearted as before. Mole rubbed his eyes and stared at Rat, who was looking about him in a puzzled sort of way. “I beg your pardon; what did you say, Rat?” he asked. “I think I was only remarking,” said Rat slowly, “that this was the right sort of place, and that here, if anywhere, we should find him. And look! Why, there he is, the little fellow!” And with a cry of delight he ran towards the slumbering Portly. But Mole stood still a moment, held in thought. As one wakened suddenly from a beautiful dream, who struggles to recall it, and can re-capture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty of it, the beauty! Till that, too, fades away in its turn, and the dreamer bitterly accepts the hard, cold waking and all its penalties; so Mole, after struggling with his memory for a brief space, shook his head sadly and followed the Rat. ... Read more

08 Nov 2022

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08 Nov 2022


#197

Episode 156: “I Was Made to Love Her” by Stevie Wonder

Episode one hundred and fifty-six of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “I Was Made to Love Her", the early career of Stevie Wonder, and the Detroit riots of 1967. 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 "Groovin'" by the Young Rascals] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/73766829) . 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 As usual, I’ve put together  [a Mixcloud playlist] (https://www.mixcloud.com/AndrewHickey/500-songs-supplemental-156-i-was-made-to-love-her/)  of all the recordings excerpted in this episode. The best value way to get all of Stevie Wonder's early singles is [ this MP3 collection] (https://amzn.to/3SyiIgD) , which has the original mono single mixes of fifty-five tracks for a very reasonable price. For those who prefer physical media, [this] (https://amzn.to/3WaXJDF) is a decent single-CD collection of his early work at a very low price indeed. As well as the general Motown information listed below, I’ve also referred to [ Signed, Sealed, and Delivered: The Soulful Journey of Stevie Wonder by Mark Ribowsky,] (https://amzn.to/3FcDLSz) which rather astonishingly is the only full-length biography of Wonder, to [Higher Ground: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the Rise and Fall of American Soul by Craig Werner] (https://amzn.to/3Tw8Bu3) , and to  [Detroit 67: The Year That Changed Soul by Stuart Cosgrove.] (https://amzn.to/3TQaDVj) 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. [How Sweet It Is by Lamont Dozier and Scott B. Bomar ] (https://amzn.to/3bZd5q6) is Dozier’s autobiography, while  [Come and Get These Memories by Brian and Eddie Holland and Dave Thompson] (https://amzn.to/3903ey8)  is the Holland brothers’. [Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson by "Dr Licks"] (https://amzn.to/3f8iMWt) is a mixture of a short biography of the great bass player, and tablature of his most impressive bass parts. And  [Motown Junkies] (https://motownjunkies.co.uk/)  is an infrequently-updated blog looking at (so far) the first 694 tracks released on Motown singles. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon.  [Why not join them?] (http://patreon.com/AndrewHickey) Transcript A quick note before I begin -- this episode deals with disability and racism, and also deals from the very beginning with sex work and domestic violence. It also has some discussion of police violence and sexual assault. As always I will try to deal with those subjects as non-judgementally and sensitively as possible, but if you worry that anything about those subjects might disturb you, please check the transcript. Calvin Judkins was not a good man. Lula Mae Hardaway thought at first he might be, when he took her in, with her infant son whose father had left before the boy was born. He was someone who seemed, when he played the piano, to be deeply sensitive and emotional, and he even did the decent thing and married her when he got her pregnant. She thought she could save him, even though he was a street hustler and not even very good at it, and thirty years older than her -- she was only nineteen, he was nearly fifty. But she soon discovered that he wasn't interested in being saved, and instead he was interested in hurting her. He became physically and financially abusive, and started pimping her out. Lula would eventually realise that Calvin Judkins was no good, but not until she got pregnant again, shortly after the birth of her second son. Her third son was born premature -- different sources give different numbers for how premature, with some saying four months and others six weeks -- and while he apparently went by Stevland Judkins throughout his early childhood, the name on his birth certificate was apparently Stevland Morris, Lula having decided not to give another child the surname of her abuser, though nobody has ever properly explained where she got the surname "Morris" from. Little Stevland was put in an incubator with an oxygen mask, which saved the tiny child's life but destroyed his sight, giving him a condition called retinopathy of prematurity -- a condition which nowadays can be prevented and cured, but in 1951 was just an unavoidable consequence for some portion of premature babies. Shortly after the family moved from Saginaw to Detroit, Lula kicked Calvin out, and he would remain only a peripheral figure in his children's lives, but one thing he did do was notice young Stevland's interest in music, and on his increasingly infrequent visits to his wife and kids -- visits that usually ended with violence -- he would bring along toy instruments for the young child to play, like a harmonica and a set of bongos. Stevie was a real prodigy, and by the time he was nine he had a collection of real musical instruments, because everyone could see that the kid was something special. A neighbour who owned a piano gave it to Stevie when she moved out and couldn't take it with her. A local Lions Club gave him a drum kit at a party they organised for local blind children, and a barber gave him a chromatic harmonica after seeing him play his toy one. Stevie gave his first professional performance when he was eight. His mother had taken him to a picnic in the park, and there was a band playing, and the little boy got as close to the stage as he could and started dancing wildly. The MC of the show asked the child who he was, and he said "My name is Stevie, and I can sing and play drums", so of course they got the cute kid up on stage behind the drum kit while the band played Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love": [Excerpt: Johnny Ace, "Pledging My Love"] He did well enough that they paid him seventy-five cents -- an enormous amount for a small child at that time -- though he was disappointed afterwards that they hadn't played something faster that would really allow him to show off his drumming skills. After that he would perform semi-regularly at small events, and always ask to be paid in quarters rather than paper money, because he liked the sound of the coins -- one of his party tricks was to be able to tell one coin from another by the sound of them hitting a table. Soon he formed a duo with a neighbourhood friend, John Glover, who was a couple of years older and could play guitar while Stevie sang and played harmonica and bongos. The two were friends, and both accomplished musicians for their age, but that wasn't the only reason Stevie latched on to Glover. Even as young as he was, he knew that Motown was soon going to be the place to be in Detroit if you were a musician, and Glover had an in -- his cousin was Ronnie White of the Miracles. Stevie and John performed as a duo everywhere they could and honed their act, performing particularly at the talent shows which were such an incubator of Black musical talent at the time, and they also at this point seem to have got the attention of Clarence Paul, but it was White who brought the duo to Motown. Stevie and John first played for White and Bobby Rodgers, another of the Miracles, then when they were impressed they took them through the several layers of Motown people who would have to sign off on signing a new act. First they were taken to see Brian Holland, who was a rising star within Motown as "Please Mr. Postman" was just entering the charts. They impressed him with a performance of the Miracles song "Bad Girl": [Excerpt: The Miracles, "Bad Girl"] After that, Stevie and John went to see Mickey Stevenson, who was at first sceptical, thinking that a kid so young -- Stevie was only eleven at the time -- must be some kind of novelty act rather than a serious musician. He said later "It was like, what's next, the singing mouse?" But Stevenson was won over by the child's talent. Normally, Stevenson had the power to sign whoever he liked to the label, but given the extra legal complications involved in signing someone under-age, he had to get Berry Gordy's permission. Gordy didn't even like signing teenagers because of all the extra paperwork that would be involved, and he certainly wasn't interested in signing pre-teens. But he came down to the studio to see what Stevie could do, and was amazed, not by his singing -- Gordy didn't think much of that -- but by his instrumental ability. First Stevie played harmonica and bongos as proficiently as an adult professional, and then he made his way around the studio playing on every other instrument in the place -- often only a few notes, but competent on them all. Gordy decided to sign the duo -- and the initial contract was for an act named "Steve and John" -- but it was soon decided to separate them. Glover would be allowed to hang around Motown while he was finishing school, and there would be a place for him when he finished -- he later became a staff songwriter, working on tracks for the Four Tops and the Miracles among others, and he would even later write a number one hit, "You Don't Have to be a Star (to be in My Show)" for Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr -- but they were going to make Stevie a star right now. The man put in charge of that was Clarence Paul. Paul, under his birth name of Clarence Pauling, had started his career in the "5" Royales, a vocal group he formed with his brother Lowman Pauling that had been signed to Apollo Records by Ralph Bass, and later to King Records. Paul seems to have been on at least some of the earliest recordings by the group, so is likely on their first single, "Give Me One More Chance": [Excerpt: The "5" Royales, "Give Me One More Chance"] But Paul was drafted to go and fight in the Korean War, and so wasn't part of the group's string of hit singles, mostly written by his brother Lowman, like "Think", which later became better known in James Brown's cover version, or "Dedicated to the One I Love", later covered by the Shirelles, but in its original version dominated by Lowman's stinging guitar playing: [Excerpt: The "5" Royales, "Dedicated to the One I Love"] After being discharged, Clarence had shortened his name to Clarence Paul, and had started recording for all the usual R&B labels like Roulette and Federal, with little success: [Excerpt: Clarence Paul, "I'm Gonna Love You, Love You Til I Die"] He'd also co-written "I Need Your Lovin'", which had been an R&B hit for Roy Hamilton: [Excerpt: Roy Hamilton, "I Need Your Lovin'"] Paul had recently come to work for Motown – one of the things Berry Gordy did to try to make his label more attractive was to hire the relatives of R&B stars on other labels, in the hopes of getting them to switch to Motown – and he was the new man on the team, not given any of the important work to do. He was working with acts like Henry Lumpkin and the Valladiers, and had also been the producer of "Mind Over Matter", the single the Temptations had released as The Pirates in a desperate attempt to get a hit: [Excerpt: The Pirates, "Mind Over Matter"] Paul was the person you turned to when no-one else was interested, and who would come up with bizarre ideas. A year or so after the time period we're talking about, it was him who produced an album of country music for the Supremes, before they'd had a hit, and came up with "The Man With the Rock and Roll Banjo Band" for them: [Excerpt: The Supremes, "The Man With The Rock and Roll Banjo Band"] So, Paul was the perfect person to give a child -- by this time twelve years old -- who had the triple novelties of being a multi-instrumentalist, a child, and blind. Stevie started spending all his time around the Motown studios, partly because he was eager to learn everything about making records and partly because his home life wasn't particularly great and he wanted to be somewhere else. He earned the affection and irritation, in equal measure, of people at Motown both for his habit of wandering into the middle of sessions because he couldn't see the light that showed that the studio was in use, and for his practical joking. He was a great mimic, and would do things like phoning one of the engineers and imitating Berry Gordy's voice, telling the engineer that Stevie would be coming down, and to give him studio equipment to take home. He'd also astonish women by complimenting them, in detail, on their dresses, having been told in advance what they looked like by an accomplice. But other "jokes" were less welcome -- he would regularly sexually assault women working at Motown, grabbing their breasts or buttocks and then claiming it was an accident because he couldn't see what he was doing. Most of the women he molested still speak of him fondly, and say everybody loved him, and this may even be the case -- and certainly I don't think any of us should be judged too harshly for what we did when we were twelve -- but this kind of thing led to a certain amount of pressure to make Stevie's career worth the extra effort he was causing everyone at Motown. Because Berry Gordy was not impressed with Stevie's vocals, the decision was made to promote him as a jazz instrumentalist, and so Clarence Paul insisted that his first release be an album, rather than doing what everyone would normally do and only put out an album after a hit single. Paul reasoned that there was no way on Earth they were going to be able to get a hit single with a jazz instrumental by a twelve-year-old kid, and eventually persuaded Gordy of the wisdom of this idea. So they started work on The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie, released under his new stagename of Little Stevie Wonder, supposedly a name given to him after Berry Gordy said "That kid's a wonder!", though Mickey Stevenson always said that the name came from a brainstorming session between him and Clarence Paul. The album featured Stevie on harmonica, piano, and organ on different tracks, but on the opening track, "Fingertips", he's playing the bongos that give the track its name: [Excerpt: Little Stevie Wonder, "Fingertips (studio version)"] The composition of that track is credited to Paul and the arranger Hank Cosby, but Beans Bowles, who played flute on the track, always claimed that he came up with the melody, and it seems quite likely to me that most of the tracks on the album were created more or less as jam sessions -- though Wonder's contributions were all overdubbed later. The album sat in the can for several months -- Berry Gordy was not at all sure of its commercial potential. Instead, he told Paul to go in another direction -- focusing on Wonder's blindness, he decided that what they needed to do was create an association in listeners' minds with Ray Charles, who at this point was at the peak of his commercial power. So back into the studio went Wonder and Paul, to record an album made up almost entirely of Ray Charles covers, titled Tribute to Uncle Ray. (Some sources have the Ray Charles tribute album recorded first -- and given Motown's lax record-keeping at this time it may be impossible to know for sure -- but this is the way round that Mark Ribowsky's biography of Wonder has it). But at Motown's regular quality control meeting it was decided that there wasn't a single on the album, and you didn't release an album like that without having a hit single first. By this point, Clarence Paul was convinced that Berry Gordy was just looking for excuses not to do anything with Wonder -- and there may have been a grain of truth to that. There's some evidence that Gordy was worried that the kid wouldn't be able to sing once his voice broke, and was scared of having another Frankie Lymon on his hands. But the decision was made that rather than put out either of those albums, they would put out a single. The A-side was a song called "I Call it Pretty Music But the Old People Call it the Blues, Part 1", which very much played on Wonder's image as a loveable naive kid: [Excerpt: Little Stevie Wonder, "I Call it Pretty Music But the Old People Call it the Blues, Part 1"] The B-side, meanwhile, was part two -- a slowed-down, near instrumental, version of the song, reframed as an actual blues, and as a showcase for Wonder's harmonica playing rather than his vocals. The single wasn't a hit, but it made number 101 on the Billboard charts, just missing the Hot One Hundred, which for the debut single of a new artist wasn't too bad, especially for Motown at this point in time, when most of its releases were flopping. That was good enough that Gordy authorised the release of the two albums that they had in the can. The next single, "Little Water Boy", was a rather baffling duet with Clarence Paul, which did nothing at all on the charts. [Excerpt: Clarence Paul and Little Stevie Wonder, "Little Water Boy"] After this came another flop single, written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Janie Bradford, before the record that finally broke Little Stevie Wonder out into the mainstream in a big way. While Wonder hadn't had a hit yet, he was sent out on the first Motortown Revue tour, along with almost every other act on the label. Because he hadn't had a hit, he was supposed to only play one song per show, but nobody had told him how long that song should be. He had quickly become a great live performer, and the audiences were excited to watch him, so when he went into extended harmonica solos rather than quickly finishing the song, the audience would be with him. Clarence Paul, who came along on the tour, would have to motion to the onstage bandleader to stop the music, but the bandleader would know that the audiences were with Stevie, and so would just keep the song going as long as Stevie was playing. Often Paul would have to go on to the stage and shout in Wonder's ear to stop playing -- and often Wonder would ignore him, and have to be physically dragged off stage by Paul, still playing, causing the audience to boo Paul for stopping him from playing. Wonder would complain off-stage that the audience had been enjoying it, and didn't seem to get it into his head that he wasn't the star of the show, that the audiences *were* enjoying him, but were *there* to see the Miracles and Mary Wells and the Marvelettes and Marvin Gaye. This made all the acts who had to go on after him, and who were running late as a result, furious at him -- especially since one aspect of Wonder's blindness was that his circadian rhythms weren't regulated by sunlight in the same way that the sighted members of the tour's were. He would often wake up the entire tour bus by playing his harmonica at two or three in the morning, while they were all trying to sleep. Soon Berry Gordy insisted that Clarence Paul be on stage with Wonder throughout his performance, ready to drag him off stage, so that he wouldn't have to come out onto the stage to do it. But one of the first times he had done this had been on one of the very first Motortown Revue shows, before any of his records had come out. There he'd done a performance of "Fingertips", playing the flute part on harmonica rather than only playing bongos throughout as he had on the studio version -- leaving the percussion to Marvin Gaye, who was playing drums for Wonder's set: [Excerpt: Little Stevie Wonder, "Fingertips (Parts 1 & 2)"] But he'd extended the song with a little bit of call-and-response vocalising: [Excerpt: Little Stevie Wonder, "Fingertips (Parts 1 & 2)"] After the long performance ended, Clarence Paul dragged Wonder off-stage and the MC asked the audience to give him a round of applause -- but then Stevie came running back on and carried on playing: [Excerpt: Little Stevie Wonder, "Fingertips (Parts 1 & 2)"] By this point, though, the musicians had started to change over -- Mary Wells, who was on after Wonder, was using different musicians from his, and some of her players were already on stage. You can hear Joe Swift, who was playing bass for Wells, asking what key he was meant to be playing in: [Excerpt: Little Stevie Wonder, "Fingertips (Parts 1 & 2)"] Eventually, after six and a half minutes, they got Wonder off stage, but that performance became the two sides of Wonder's next single, with "Fingertips Part 2", the part with the ad lib singing and the false ending, rather than the instrumental part one, being labelled as the side the DJs should play. When it was released, the song started a slow climb up the charts, and by August 1963, three months after it came out, it was at number one -- only the second ever Motown number one, and the first ever live single to get there. Not only that, but Motown released a live album -- Recorded Live, the Twelve-Year-Old Genius (though as many people point out he was thirteen when it was released -- he was twelve when it was recorded though) and that made number one on the albums chart, becoming the first Motown album ever to do so. They followed up "Fingertips" with a similar sounding track, "Workout, Stevie, Workout", which made number thirty-three. After that, his albums -- though not yet his singles -- started to be released as by "Stevie Wonder" with no "Little" -- he'd had a bit of a growth spurt and his voice was breaking, and so marketing him as a child prodigy was not going to work much longer and they needed to transition him into a star with adult potential. In the Motown of 1963 that meant cutting an album of standards, because the belief at the time in Motown was that the future for their entertainers was doing show tunes at the Copacabana. But for some reason the audience who had wanted an R&B harmonica instrumental with call-and-response improvised gospel-influenced yelling was not in the mood for a thirteen year old singing "Put on a Happy Face" and "When You Wish Upon a Star", and especially not when the instrumental tracks were recorded in a key that suited him at age twelve but not thirteen, so he was clearly straining. "Fingertips" being a massive hit also meant Stevie was now near the top of the bill on the Motortown Revue when it went on its second tour. But this actually put him in a precarious position. When he had been down at the bottom of the bill and unknown, nobody expected anything from him, and he was following other minor acts, so when he was surprisingly good the audiences went wild. Now, near the top of the bill, he had to go on after Marvin Gaye, and he was not nearly so impressive in that context. The audiences were polite enough, but not in the raptures he was used to. Although Stevie could still beat Gaye in some circumstances. At Motown staff parties, Berry Gordy would always have a contest where he'd pit two artists against each other to see who could win the crowd over, something he thought instilled a fun and useful competitive spirit in his artists. They'd alternate songs, two songs each, and Gordy would decide on the winner based on audience response. For the 1963 Motown Christmas party, it was Stevie versus Marvin. Wonder went first, with "Workout, Stevie, Workout", and was apparently impressive, but then Gaye topped him with a version of "Hitch-Hike". So Stevie had to top that, and apparently did, with a hugely extended version of "I Call it Pretty Music", reworked in the Ray Charles style he'd used for "Fingertips". So Marvin Gaye had to top that with the final song of the contest, and he did, performing "Stubborn Kind of Fellow": [Excerpt: Marvin Gaye, "Stubborn Kind of Fellow"] And he was great. So great, it turned the crowd against him. They started booing, and someone in the audience shouted "Marvin, you should be ashamed of yourself, taking advantage of a little blind kid!" The crowd got so hostile Berry Gordy had to stop the performance and end the party early. He never had another contest like that again. There were other problems, as well. Wonder had been assigned a tutor, a young man named Ted Hull, who began to take serious control over his life. Hull was legally blind, so could teach Wonder using Braille, but unlike Wonder had some sight -- enough that he was even able to get a drivers' license and a co-pilot license for planes. Hull was put in loco parentis on most of Stevie's tours, and soon became basically inseparable from him, but this caused a lot of problems, not least because Hull was a conservative white man, while almost everyone else at Motown was Black, and Stevie was socially liberal and on the side of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam movements. Hull started to collaborate on songwriting with Wonder, which most people at Motown were OK with but which now seems like a serious conflict of interest, and he also started calling himself Stevie's "manager" -- which did *not* impress the people at Motown, who had their own conflict of interest because with Stevie, like with all their artists, they were his management company and agents as well as his record label and publishers. Motown grudgingly tolerated Hull, though, mostly because he was someone they could pass Lula Mae Hardaway to to deal with her complaints. Stevie's mother was not very impressed with the way that Motown were handling her son, and would make her opinion known to anyone who would listen. Hull and Hardaway did not get on at all, but he could be relied on to save the Gordy family members from having to deal with her. Wonder was sent over to Europe for Christmas 1963, to perform shows at the Paris Olympia and do some British media appearances. But both his mother and Hull had come along, and their clear dislike for each other was making him stressed. He started to get pains in his throat whenever he sang -- pains which everyone assumed were a stress reaction to the unhealthy atmosphere that happened whenever Hull and his mother were in the same room together, but which later turned out to be throat nodules that required surgery. Because of this, his singing was generally not up to standard, which meant he was moved to a less prominent place on the bill, which in turn led to his mother accusing the Gordy family of being against him and trying to stop him becoming a star. Wonder started to take her side and believe that Motown were conspiring against him, and at one point he even "accidentally" dropped a bottle of wine on Ted Hull's foot, breaking one of his toes, because he saw Hull as part of the enemy that was Motown. Before leaving for those shows, he had recorded the album he later considered the worst of his career. While he was now just plain Stevie on albums, he wasn't for his single releases, or in his first film appearance, where he was still Little Stevie Wonder. Berry Gordy was already trying to get a foot in the door in Hollywood -- by the end of the decade Motown would be moving from Detroit to LA -- and his first real connections there were with American International Pictures, the low-budget film-makers who have come up a lot in connection with the LA scene. AIP were the producers of the successful low-budget series of beach party films, which combined appearances by teen heartthrobs Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in swimsuits with cameo appearances by old film stars fallen on hard times, and with musical performances by bands like the Bobby Fuller Four. There would be a couple of Motown connections to these films -- most notably, the Supremes would do the theme tune for Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine -- but Muscle Beach Party was to be the first. Most of the music for Muscle Beach Party was written by Brian Wilson, Roger Christian, and Gary Usher, as one might expect for a film about surfing, and was performed by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, the film's major musical guests, with Annette, Frankie, and Donna Loren [pron Lorren] adding vocals, on songs like "Muscle Bustle": [Excerpt: Donna Loren with Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, "Muscle Bustle"] The film followed the formula in every way -- it also had a cameo appearance by Peter Lorre, his last film appearance before his death, and it featured Little Stevie Wonder playing one of the few songs not written by the surf and car writers, a piece of nothing called "Happy Street". Stevie also featured in the follow-up, Bikini Beach, which came out a little under four months later, again doing a single number, "Happy Feelin'". To cash in on his appearances in these films, and having tried releasing albums of Little Stevie as jazz multi-instrumentalist, Ray Charles tribute act, live soulman and Andy Williams-style crooner, they now decided to see if they could sell him as a surf singer. Or at least, as Motown's idea of a surf singer, which meant a lot of songs about the beach and the sea -- mostly old standards like "Red Sails in the Sunset" and "Ebb Tide" -- backed by rather schlocky Wrecking Crew arrangements. And this is as good a place as any to take on one of the bits of disinformation that goes around about Motown. I've addressed this before, but it's worth repeating here in slightly more detail. Carol Kaye, one of the go-to Wrecking Crew bass players, is a known credit thief, and claims to have played on hundreds of records she didn't -- claims which too many people take seriously because she is a genuine pioneer and was for a long time undercredited on many records she *did* play on. In particular, she claims to have played on almost all the classic Motown hits that James Jamerson of the Funk Brothers played on, like the title track for this episode, and she claims this despite evidence including notarised statements from everyone involved in the records, the release of session recordings that show producers talking to the Funk Brothers, and most importantly the evidence of the recordings themselves, which have all the characteristics of the Detroit studio and sound like the Funk Brothers playing, and have absolutely nothing in common, sonically, with the records the Wrecking Crew played on at Gold Star, Western, and other LA studios. The Wrecking Crew *did* play on a lot of Motown records, but with a handful of exceptions, mostly by Brenda Holloway, the records they played on were quickie knock-off album tracks and potboiler albums made to tie in with film or TV work -- soundtracks to TV specials the acts did, and that kind of thing. And in this case, the Wrecking Crew played on the entire Stevie at the Beach album, including the last single to be released as by "Little Stevie Wonder", "Castles in the Sand", which was arranged by Jack Nitzsche: [Excerpt: Little Stevie Wonder, "Castles in the Sand"] Apparently the idea of surfin' Stevie didn't catch on any more than that of swingin' Stevie had earlier. Indeed, throughout 1964 and 65 Motown seem to have had less than no idea what they were doing with Stevie Wonder, and he himself refers to all his recordings from this period as an embarrassment, saving particular scorn for the second single from Stevie at the Beach, "Hey Harmonica Man", possibly because that, unlike most of his other singles around this point, was a minor hit, reaching number twenty-nine on the charts. Motown were still pushing Wonder hard -- he even got an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in May 1964, only the second Motown act to appear on it after the Marvelettes -- but Wonder was getting more and more unhappy with the decisions they were making. He loathed the Stevie at the Beach album -- the records he'd made earlier, while patchy and not things he'd chosen, were at least in some way related to his musical interests. He *did* love jazz, and he *did* love Ray Charles, and he *did* love old standards, and the records were made by his friend Clarence Paul and with the studio musicians he'd grown to know in Detroit. But Stevie at the Beach was something that was imposed on Clarence Paul from above, it was cut with unfamiliar musicians, Stevie thought the films he was appearing in were embarrassing, and he wasn't even having much commercial success, which was the whole point of these compromises. He started to get more rebellious against Paul in the studio, though many of these decisions weren't made by Paul, and he would complain to anyone who would listen that if he was just allowed to do the music he wanted to sing, the way he wanted to sing it, he would have more hits. But for nine months he did basically no singing other than that Ed Sullivan Show appearance -- he had to recover from the operation to remove the throat nodules. When he did return to the studio, the first single he cut remained unreleased, and while some stuff from the archives was released between the start of 1964 and March 1965, the first single he recorded and released after the throat nodules, "Kiss Me Baby", which came out in March, was a complete flop. That single was released to coincide with the first Motown tour of Europe, which we looked at in the episode on "Stop! In the Name of Love", and which was mostly set up to promote the Supremes, but which also featured Martha and the Vandellas, the Miracles, and the Temptations. Even though Stevie had not had a major hit in eighteen months by this point, he was still brought along on the tour, the only solo artist to be included -- at this point Gordy thought that solo artists looked outdated compared to vocal groups, in a world dominated by bands, and so other solo artists like Marvin Gaye weren't invited. This was a sign that Gordy was happier with Stevie than his recent lack of chart success might suggest. One of the main reasons that Gordy had been in two minds about him was that he'd had no idea if Wonder would still be able to sing well after his voice broke. But now, as he was about to turn fifteen, his adult voice had more or less stabilised, and Gordy knew that he was capable of having a long career, if they just gave him the proper material. But for now his job on the tour was to do his couple of hits, smile, and be on the lower rungs of the ladder. But even that was still a prominent place to be given the scaled-down nature of this bill compared to the Motortown Revues. While the tour was in England, for example, Dusty Springfield presented a TV special focusing on all the acts on the tour, and while the Supremes were the main stars, Stevie got to do two songs, and also took part in the finale, a version of "Mickey's Monkey" led by Smokey Robinson but with all the performers joining in, with Wonder getting a harmonica solo: [Excerpt: Smokey Robinson and the Motown acts, "Mickey's Monkey"] Sadly, there was one aspect of the trip to the UK that was extremely upsetting for Wonder. Almost all the media attention he got -- which was relatively little, as he wasn't a Supreme -- was about his blindness, and one reporter in particular convinced him that there was an operation he could have to restore his sight, but that Motown were preventing him from finding out about it in order to keep his gimmick going. He was devastated about this, and then further devastated when Ted Hull finally convinced him that it wasn't true, and that he'd been lied to. Meanwhile other newspapers were reporting that he *could* see, and that he was just feigning blindness to boost his record sales. After the tour, a live recording of Wonder singing the blues standard "High Heeled Sneakers" was released as a single, and barely made the R&B top thirty, and didn't hit the top forty on the pop charts. Stevie's initial contract with Motown was going to expire in the middle of 1966, so there was a year to get him back to a point where he was having the kind of hits that other Motown acts were regularly getting at this point. Otherwise, it looked like his career might end by the time he was sixteen. The B-side to "High Heeled Sneakers" was another duet with Clarence Paul, who dominates the vocal sound for much of it -- a version of Willie Nelson's country classic "Funny How Time Slips Away": [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder and Clarence Paul, "Funny How Time Slips Away"] There are a few of these duet records scattered through Wonder's early career -- we'll hear another one a little later -- and they're mostly dismissed as Paul trying to muscle his way into a revival of his own recording career as an artist, and there may be some truth in that. But they're also a natural extension of the way the two of them worked in the studio. Motown didn't have the facilities to give Wonder Braille lyric sheets, and Paul didn't trust him to be able to remember the lyrics, so often when they made a record, Paul would be just off-mic, reciting the lyrics to Wonder fractionally ahead of him singing them. So it was more or less natural that this dynamic would leak out onto records, but not everyone saw it that way. But at the same time, there has been some suggestion that Paul was among those manoeuvring to get rid of Wonder from Motown as soon as his contract was finished -- despite the fact that Wonder was the only act Paul had worked on any big hits for. Either way, Paul and Wonder were starting to chafe at working with each other in the studio, and while Paul remained his on-stage musical director, the opportunity to work on Wonder's singles for what would surely be his last few months at Motown was given to Hank Cosby and Sylvia Moy. Cosby was a saxophone player and staff songwriter who had been working with Wonder and Paul for years -- he'd co-written "Fingertips" and several other tracks -- while Moy was a staff songwriter who was working as an apprentice to Cosby. Basically, at this point, nobody else wanted the job of writing for Wonder, and as Moy was having no luck getting songs cut by any other artists and her career was looking about as dead as Wonder's, they started working together. Wonder was, at this point, full of musical ideas but with absolutely no discipline. He's said in interviews that at this point he was writing a hundred and fifty songs a month, but these were often not full songs -- they were fragments, hooks, or a single verse, or a few lines, which he would pass on to Moy, who would turn his ideas into structured songs that fit the Motown hit template, usually with the assistance of Cosby. Then Cosby would come up with an arrangement, and would co-produce with Mickey Stevenson. The first song they came up with in this manner was a sign of how Wonder was looking outside the world of Motown to the rock music that was starting to dominate the US charts -- but which was itself inspired by Motown music. We heard in the last episode on the Rolling Stones how "Nowhere to Run" by the Vandellas: [Excerpt: Martha and the Vandellas, "Nowhere to Run"] had inspired the Stones' "Satisfaction": [Excerpt: The Rolling Stones, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"] And Wonder in turn was inspired by "Satisfaction" to come up with his own song -- though again, much of the work making it into an actual finished song was done by Sylvia Moy. They took the four-on-the-floor beat and basic melody of "Satisfaction" and brought it back to Motown, where those things had originated -- though they hadn't originated with Stevie, and this was his first record to sound like a Motown record in the way we think of those things. As a sign of how, despite the way these stories are usually told, the histories of rock and soul were completely and complexly intertwined, that four-on-the-floor beat itself was a conscious attempt by Holland, Dozier, and Holland to appeal to white listeners -- on the grounds that while Black people generally clapped on the backbeat, white people didn't, and so having a four-on-the-floor beat wouldn't throw them off. So Cosby, Moy, and Wonder, in trying to come up with a "Satisfaction" soundalike were Black Motown writers trying to copy a white rock band trying to copy Black Motown writers trying to appeal to a white rock audience. Wonder came up with the basic chorus hook, which was based around a lot of current slang terms he was fond of: [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder, "Uptight"] Then Moy, with some assistance from Cosby, filled it out into a full song. Lyrically, it was as close to social comment as Motown had come at this point -- Wonder was, like many of his peers in soul music, interested in the power of popular music to make political statements, and he would become a much more political artist in the next few years, but at this point it's still couched in the acceptable boy-meets-girl romantic love song that Motown specialised in. But in 1965 a story about a boy from the wrong side of the tracks dating a rich girl inevitably raised the idea that the boy and girl might be of different races -- a subject that was very, very, controversial in the mid-sixties. [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder, "Uptight"] "Uptight" made number three on the pop charts and number one on the R&B charts, and saved Stevie Wonder's career. And this is where, for all that I've criticised Motown in this episode, their strategy paid off. Mickey Stevenson talked a lot about how in the early sixties Motown didn't give up on artists -- if someone had potential but was not yet having hits or finding the right approach, they would keep putting out singles in a holding pattern, trying different things and seeing what would work, rather than toss them aside. It had already worked for the Temptations and the Supremes, and now it had worked for Stevie Wonder. He would be the last beneficiary of this policy -- soon things would change, and Motown would become increasingly focused on trying to get the maximum returns out of a small number of stars, rather than building careers for a range of artists -- but it paid off brilliantly for Wonder. "Uptight" was such a reinvention of Wonder's career, sound, and image that many of his fans consider it the real start of his career -- everything before it only counting as prologue. The follow-up, "Nothing's Too Good For My Baby", was an "Uptight" soundalike, and as with Motown soundalike follow-ups in general, it didn't do quite as well, but it still made the top twenty on the pop chart and got to number four on the R&B chart. Stevie Wonder was now safe at Motown, and so he was going to do something no other Motown act had ever done before -- he was going to record a protest song and release it as a single. For about a year he'd been ending his shows with a version of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind", sung as a duet with Clarence Paul, who was still his on stage bandleader even though the two weren't working together in the studio as much. Wonder brought that into the studio, and recorded it with Paul back as the producer, and as his duet partner. Berry Gordy wasn't happy with the choice of single, but Wonder pushed, and Gordy knew that Wonder was on a winning streak and gave in, and so "Blowin' in the Wind" became Stevie Wonder's next single: [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder and Clarence Paul, "Blowin' in the Wind"] "Blowin' in the Wind" made the top ten, and number one on the R&B charts, and convinced Gordy that there was some commercial potential in going after the socially aware market, and over the next few years Motown would start putting out more and more political records. Because Motown convention was to have the producer of a hit record produce the next hit for that artist, and keep doing so until they had a flop, Paul was given the opportunity to produce the next single. "A Place in the Sun" was another ambiguously socially-aware song, co-written by the only white writer on Motown staff, Ron Miller, who happened to live in the same building as Stevie's tutor-cum-manager Ted Hull. "A Place in the Sun" was a pleasant enough song, inspired by "A Change is Gonna Come", but with a more watered-down, generic, message of hope, but the record was lifted by Stevie's voice, and again made the top ten. This meant that Paul and Miller, and Miller's writing partner Bryan Mills, got to work on his next  two singles -- his 1966 Christmas song "Someday at Christmas", which made number twenty-four, and the ballad "Travellin' Man" which made thirty-two. The downward trajectory with Paul meant that Wonder was soon working with other producers again. Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol cut another Miller and Mills song with him, "Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday": [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder, "Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday"] But that was left in the can, as not good enough to release, and Stevie was soon back working with Cosby. The two of them had come up with an instrumental together in late 1966, but had not been able to come up with any words for it, so they played it for Smokey Robinson, who said their instrumental sounded like circus music, and wrote lyrics about a clown: [Excerpt: The Miracles, "The Tears of a Clown"] The Miracles cut that as album filler, but it was released three years later as a single and became the Miracles' only number one hit with Smokey Robinson as lead singer. So Wonder and Cosby definitely still had their commercial touch, even if their renewed collaboration with Moy, who they started working with again, took a while to find a hit. To start with, Wonder returned to the idea of taking inspiration from a hit by a white British group, as he had with "Uptight". This time it was the Beatles, and the track "Michelle", from the Rubber Soul album: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Michelle"] Wonder took the idea of a song with some French lyrics, and a melody with some similarities to the Beatles song, and came up with "My Cherie Amour", which Cosby and Moy finished off. [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder, "My Cherie Amour"] Gordy wouldn't allow that to be released, saying it was too close to "Michelle" and people would think it was a rip-off, and it stayed in the vaults for several years. Cosby also produced a version of a song Ron Miller had written with Orlando Murden, "For Once in My Life", which pretty much every other Motown act was recording versions of -- the Four Tops, the Temptations, Billy Eckstine, Martha and the Vandellas and Barbra McNair all cut versions of it in 1967, and Gordy wouldn't let Wonder's version be put out either. So they had to return to the drawing board. But in truth, Stevie Wonder was not the biggest thing worrying Berry Gordy at this point. He was dealing with problems in the Supremes, which we'll look at in a future episode -- they were about to get rid of Florence Ballard, and thus possibly destroy one of the biggest acts in the world, but Gordy thought that if they *didn't* get rid of her they would be destroying themselves even more certainly. Not only that, but Gordy was in the midst of a secret affair with Diana Ross, Holland, Dozier, and Holland were getting restless about their contracts, and his producers kept bringing him unlistenable garbage that would never be a hit. Like Norman Whitfield, insisting that this track he'd cut with Marvin Gaye, "I Heard it Through the Grapevine", should be a single. Gordy had put his foot down about that one too, just like he had about "My Cherie Amour", and wouldn't allow it to be released. Meanwhile, many of the smaller acts on the label were starting to feel like they were being ignored by Gordy, and had formed what amounted to a union, having regular meetings at Clarence Paul's house to discuss how they could pressure the label to put the same effort into their careers as into those of the big stars. And the Funk Brothers, the musicians who played on all of Motown's hits, were also getting restless -- they contributed to the arrangements, and they did more for the sound of the records than half the credited producers; why weren't they getting production credits and royalties? Harvey Fuqua had divorced Gordy's sister Gwen, and so became persona non grata at the label and was in the process of leaving Motown, and so was Mickey Stevenson, Gordy's second in command, because Gordy wouldn't give him any stock in the company. And Detroit itself was on edge. The crime rate in the city had started to go up, but even worse, the *perception* of crime was going up. The Detroit News had been running a campaign to whip up fear, which it called its Secret Witness campaign, and running constant headlines about rapes, murders, and muggings. These in turn had led to increased calls for more funds for the police, calls which inevitably contained a strong racial element and at least implicitly linked the perceived rise in crime to the ongoing Civil Rights movement. At this point the police in Detroit were ninety-three percent white, even though Detroit's population was over thirty percent Black. The Mayor and Police Commissioner were trying to bring in some modest reforms, but they weren't going anywhere near fast enough for the Black population who felt harassed and attacked by the police, but were still going too fast for the white people who were being whipped up into a state of terror about supposedly soft-on-crime policies, and for the police who felt under siege and betrayed by the politicians. And this wasn't the only problem affecting the city, and especially affecting Black people. Redlining and underfunded housing projects meant that the large Black population was being crammed into smaller and smaller spaces with fewer local amenities. A few Black people who were lucky enough to become rich -- many of them associated with Motown -- were able to move into majority-white areas, but that was just leading to white flight, and to an increase in racial tensions. The police were on edge after the murder of George Overman Jr, the son of a policeman, and though they arrested the killers that was just another sign that they weren't being shown enough respect. They started organising "blu flu"s -- the police weren't allowed to strike, so they'd claim en masse that they were off sick, as a protest against the supposed soft-on-crime administration. Meanwhile John Sinclair was organising "love-ins", gatherings of hippies at which new bands like the MC5 played, which were being invaded by gangs of bikers who were there to beat up the hippies. And the Detroit auto industry was on its knees -- working conditions had got bad enough that the mostly Black workforce organised a series of wildcat strikes. All in all, Detroit was looking less and less like somewhere that Berry Gordy wanted to stay, and the small LA subsidiary of Motown was rapidly becoming, in his head if nowhere else, the more important part of the company, and its future. He was starting to think that maybe he should leave all these ungrateful people behind in their dangerous city, and move the parts of the operation that actually mattered out to Hollywood. Stevie Wonder was, of course, one of the parts that mattered, but the pressure was on in 1967 to come up with a hit as big as his records from 1965 and early 66, before he'd been sidetracked down the ballad route. The song that was eventually released was one on which Stevie's mother, Lula Mae Hardaway, had a co-writing credit: [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder, "I Was Made to Love Her"] "I Was Made to Love Her" was inspired by Wonder's first love, a girl from the same housing projects as him, and he talked about the song being special to him because it was true, saying it "kind of speaks of my first love to a girl named Angie, who was a very beautiful woman... Actually, she was my third girlfriend but my first love. I used to call Angie up and, like, we would talk and say, 'I love you, I love you,' and we'd talk and we'd both go to sleep on the phone. And this was like from Detroit to California, right? You know, mother said, 'Boy, what you doing - get off the phone!' Boy, I tell you, it was ridiculous." But while it was inspired by her, like with many of the songs from this period, much of the lyric came from Moy -- her mother grew up in Arkansas, and that's why the lyric started "I was born in Little Rock", as *her* inspiration came from stories told by her parents. But truth be told, the lyrics weren't particularly detailed or impressive, just a standard story of young love. Rather what mattered in the record was the music. The song was structured differently from many Motown records, including most of Wonder's earlier ones. Most Motown records had a huge amount of dynamic variation, and a clear demarcation between verse and chorus. Even a record like "Dancing in the Street", which took most of its power from the tension and release caused by spending most of the track on one chord, had the release that came with the line "All we need is music", and could be clearly subdivided into different sections. "I Was Made to Love Her" wasn't like that. There was a tiny section which functioned as a middle eight -- and which cover versions like the one by the Beach Boys later that year tend to cut out, because it disrupts the song's flow: [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder, "I Was Made to Love Her"] But other than that, the song has no verse or chorus, no distinct sections, it's just a series of lyrical couplets over the same four chords, repeating over and over, an incessant groove that could really go on indefinitely: [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder, "I Was Made to Love Her"] This is as close as Motown had come at this point to the new genre of funk, of records that were just staying with one groove throughout. It wasn't a funk record, not yet -- it was still a pop-soul record, But what made it extraordinary was the bass line, and this is why I had to emphasise earlier that this was a record by the Funk Brothers, not the Wrecking Crew, no matter how much some Crew members may claim otherwise. As on most of Cosby's sessions, James Jamerson was given free reign to come up with his own part with little guidance, and what he came up with is extraordinary. This was at a time when rock and pop basslines were becoming a little more mobile, thanks to the influence of Jamerson in Detroit, Brian Wilson in LA, and Paul McCartney in London.  But for the most part, even those bass parts had been fairly straightforward technically -- often inventive, but usually just crotchets and quavers, still keeping rhythm along with the drums rather than in dialogue with them, roaming free rhythmically. Jamerson had started to change his approach, inspired by the change in studio equipment. Motown had upgraded to eight-track recording in 1965, and once he'd become aware of the possibilities, and of the greater prominence that his bass parts could have if they were recorded on their own track, Jamerson had become a much busier player. Jamerson was a jazz musician by inclination, and so would have been very aware of John Coltrane's legendary "sheets of sound", in which Coltrane would play fast arpeggios and scales, in clusters of five and seven notes, usually in semiquaver runs (though sometimes in even smaller fractions -- his solo in Miles Davis' "Straight, No Chaser" is mostly semiquavers but has a short passage in hemidemisemiquavers): [Excerpt: Miles Davis, "Straight, No Chaser"] Jamerson started to adapt the "sheets of sound" style to bass playing, treating the bass almost as a jazz solo instrument -- though unlike Coltrane he was also very, very concerned with creating something that people could tap their feet to. Much like James Brown, Jamerson was taking jazz techniques and repurposing them for dance music. The most notable example of that up to this point had been in the Four Tops' "Bernadette", where there are a few scuffling semiquaver runs thrown in, and which is a much more fluid part than most of his playing previously: [Excerpt: The Four Tops, "Bernadette"] But on "Bernadette", Jamerson had been limited by Holland, Dozier, and Holland, who liked him to improvise but around a framework they created. Cosby, on the other hand, because he had been a Funk Brother himself, was much more aware of the musicians' improvisational abilities, and would largely give them a free hand. This led to a truly remarkable bass part on "I Was Made to Love Her", which is somewhat buried in the single mix, but Marcus Miller did an isolated recreation of the part for the accompanying CD to a book on Jamerson, Standing in the Shadows of Motown, and listening to that you can hear just how inventive it is: [Excerpt: Marcus Miller, "I Was Made to Love Her"] This was exciting stuff -- though much less so for the touring musicians who went on the road with the Motown revues while Jamerson largely stayed in Detroit recording. Jamerson's family would later talk about him coming home grumbling because complaints from the touring musicians had been brought to him, and he'd been asked to play less difficult parts so they'd find it easier to replicate them on stage. "I Was Made to Love Her" wouldn't exist without Stevie Wonder, Hank Cosby, Sylvia Moy, or Lula Mae Hardaway, but it's James Jamerson's record through and through: [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder, "I Was Made to Love Her"] It went to number two on the charts, sat between "Light My Fire" at number one, and "All You Need is Love" at number three, with the Beatles song soon to overtake it and make number one itself. But within a few weeks of "I Was Made to Love Her" reaching its chart peak, things in Detroit would change irrevocably. On the 23rd of July, the police busted an illegal drinking den. They thought they were only going to get about twenty-five people there, but there turned out to be a big party on. They tried to arrest seventy-four people, but their wagon wouldn't fit them all in so they had to call reinforcements and make the arrestees wait around til more wagons arrived. A crowd of hundreds gathered while they were waiting. Someone threw a brick at a squad car window, a rumour went round that the police had bayonetted someone, and soon the city was in flames. Riots lasted for days, with people burning down and looting businesses, but what really made the situation bad was the police's overreaction. They basically started shooting at young Black men, using them as target practice, and later claiming they were snipers, arsonists, and looters -- but there were cases like the Algiers Motel incident, where the police raided a motel where several Black men, including the members of the soul group The Dramatics, were hiding out along with a few white women. The police sexually assaulted the women, and then killed three of the men for associating with white women, in what was described as a "lynching with bullets". The policemen in question were later acquitted of all charges. The National Guard were called in, as were Federal troops -- the 82nd Airborne Division, and the 101st Airborne from Clarksville, the division in which Jimi Hendrix had recently served. After four days of rioting, one of the bloodiest riots in US history was at an end, with forty-three people dead (of whom thirty-three were Black and only one was a policeman). Official counts had 1,189 people injured, and over 7,200 arrests, almost all of them of Black people. A lot of the histories written later say that Black-owned businesses were spared during the riots, but that wasn't really the case. For example, Joe's Record Shop, owned by Joe Von Battle, who had put out the first records by C.L. Franklin and his daughter Aretha, was burned down, destroying not only the stock of records for sale but the master tapes of hundreds of recordings of Black artists, many of them unreleased and so now lost forever. John Lee Hooker, one of the artists whose music Von Battle had released, soon put out a song, "The Motor City is Burning", about the events: [Excerpt: John Lee Hooker, "The Motor City is Burning"] But one business that did remain unburned was Motown, with the Hitsville studio going untouched by flames and unlooted. Motown legend has this being down to the rioters showing respect for the studio that had done so much for Detroit, but it seems likely to have just been luck. Although Motown wasn't completely unscathed -- a National Guard tank fired a shell through the building, leaving a gigantic hole, which Berry Gordy saw as soon as he got back from a business trip he'd been on during the rioting. That was what made Berry Gordy decide once and for all that things needed to change. Motown owned a whole row of houses near the studio, which they used as additional office space and for everything other than the core business of making records. Gordy immediately started to sell them, and move the admin work into temporary rented space. He hadn't announced it yet, and it would be a few years before the move was complete, but from that moment on, the die was cast. Motown was going to leave Detroit and move to Hollywood. ... Read more

25 Oct 2022

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25 Oct 2022


#196

Admin: Podcast Now Fortnightly

Transcript You'll have noticed that my experiment with timings has been only a qualified success. While my buffer did allow me to get episodes going out weekly for a while, they've started to lag again, as events and health have derailed things -- though I have managed to get a bonus episode up for Patreon backers every week. As the upcoming episode is the second one in a row to have a significant delay, I've decided that that's a sign the weekly rate for the main podcast is clearly unsustainable with these longer episodes, even with the skip weeks -- but it's also clear that I can do a main episode every two weeks without any problem, and can get a bonus episode done every week, and that that is very, very sustainable even in times of stress. I now know for sure what my productivity rate can be. So this is an official announcement that for the foreseeable future, this is a fortnightly podcast, with episodes going up every other Monday, but with backer bonuses every week. It may return to the weekly schedule at some point, but for now that's the plan. Episode 156, on Stevie Wonder, will be up on Monday, and then the episode after that, on Pink Floyd, will be on the seventh of November. See you then. ... Read more

21 Oct 2022

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21 Oct 2022


#195

Episode 155: “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks

Episode one hundred and fifty-five ofA History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songslooks at “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks, and the self-inflicted damage the group did to their career between 1965 and 1967. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a nineteen-minute bonus episode available, on [ "Excerpt From a Teenage Opera" by Keith West] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/73156702) . 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 No Mixcloud this week, as there are too many Kinks songs. I’ve used several resources for this and future episodes on the Kinks, most notably [Ray Davies: A Complicated Life] (https://amzn.to/3cOfO5z) by Johnny Rogan and [You Really Got Me] (https://amzn.to/3uqKMqA) by Nick Hasted. [X-Rayby Ray Davies] (https://amzn.to/2PBB1qE) is a remarkable autobiography with a framing story set in a dystopian science-fiction future, while [Kinkby Dave Davies] (https://amzn.to/3mnnHlD) is more revealing but less well-written. [The Anthology 1964-1971] (https://amzn.to/3sTNeFD) is a great box set that covers the Kinks’ Pye years, which overlap almost exactly with their period of greatest creativity. For those who don’t want a full box set, [this two-CD set] (https://amzn.to/3mnylZI) covers all the big hits. And [this] (https://jennyartichoke.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/rasa-didzpetris/) is the interview with Rasa I discuss in the episode. 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 Before I start, this episode has some mentions of racism and homophobia, several discussions of physical violence, one mention of domestic violence, and some discussion of mental illness. I've tried to discuss these things with a reasonable amount of sensitivity, but there's a tabloid element to some of my sources which inevitably percolates through, so be warned if you find those things upsetting. One of the promises I made right at the start of this project was that I would not be doing the thing that almost all podcasts do of making huge chunks of the episodes be about myself -- if I've had to update people about something in my life that affects the podcast, I've done it in separate admin episodes, so the episodes themselves will not be taken up with stuff about me. The podcast is not about me. I am making a very slight exception in this episode, for reasons that will become clear -- there's no way for me to tell this particular story the way I need to without bringing myself into it at least a little. So I wanted to state upfront that this is a one-off thing. The podcast is not suddenly going to change. But one question that I get asked a lot -- far more than I'd expect -- is "do the people you talk about in the podcast ever get in touch with you about what you've said?" Now that has actually happened twice, both times involving people leaving comments on relatively early episodes. The first time is probably the single thing I'm proudest of achieving with this series, and it was a comment left on the episode on "Goodnight My Love" a couple of years back: [Excerpt: Jesse Belvin, "Goodnight My Love"] That comment was from Debra Frazier and read “Jesse Belvin is my Beloved Uncle, my mother’s brother. I’ve been waiting all my life for him to be recognized in this manner. I must say the content in this podcast is 100% correct!Joann and Jesse practically raised me. Can’t express how grateful I am. Just so glad someone got it right. I still miss them dearly to this day. My world was forever changed Feb. 6th 1960. I can remember him writing most of those songs right there in my grandmother’s living room. I think I’m his last living closest relative, that knows everything in this podcast is true." That comment by itself would have justified me doing this whole podcast. The other such comment actually came a couple of weeks ago, and was on the episode on "Only You": [Excerpt: The Platters, "Only You"] That was a longer comment, from Gayle Schrieber, an associate of Buck Ram, and started "Well, you got some of it right. Your smart-assed sarcasm and know-it-all attitude is irritating since I Do know it all from the business side but what the heck. You did better than most people – with the exception of Marv Goldberg." Given that Marv Goldberg is the single biggest expert on 1950s vocal groups in the world, I'll take that as at least a backhanded compliment. So those are the only two people who I've talked about in the podcast who've commented, but before the podcast I had a blog, and at various times people whose work I wrote about would comment -- John Cowsill of the Cowsills still remembers a blog post where I said nice things about him fourteen years ago, for example. And there was one comment on a blog post I made four or five years ago which confirmed something I'd suspected for a while… When we left the Kinks, at the end of 1964, they had just recorded their first album. That album was not very good, but did go to number three in the UK album charts, which is a much better result than it sounds. Freddie "Boom Boom" Cannon got to number one in 1960, but otherwise the only rock acts to make number one on the album charts from the start of the sixties through the end of 1967 were Elvis, Cliff Richard, the Shadows, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and the Monkees. In the first few years of the sixties they were interspersed with the 101 Strings, trad jazz, the soundtrack to West Side Story, and a blackface minstrel group, The George Mitchell Singers. From mid-1963 through to the end of 1967, though, literally the only things to get to number one on the album charts were the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Monkees, and the soundtrack to The Sound of Music. That tiny cabal was eventually broken at the end of 1967 by Val Doonican Rocks… But Gently, and from 1968 on the top of the album charts becomes something like what we would expect today, with a whole variety of different acts, I make this point to point out two things The first is that number three on the album charts is an extremely good position for the Kinks to be in -- when they reached that point the Rolling Stones' second album had just entered at number one, and Beatles For Sale had dropped to number two after eight weeks at the top -- and the second is that for most rock artists and record labels, the album market was simply not big enough or competitive enough until 1968 for it to really matter. What did matter was the singles chart. And "You Really Got Me" had been a genuinely revolutionary hit record. According to Ray Davies it had caused particular consternation to both the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds, both of whom had thought they would be the first to get to number one with a dirty, distorted, R&B-influenced guitar-riff song. And so three weeks after the release of the album came the group's second single. Originally, the plan had been to release a track Ray had been working on called "Tired of Waiting", but that was a slower track, and it was decided that the best thing to do would be to try to replicate the sound of their first hit. So instead, they released "All Day And All Of The Night": [Excerpt: The Kinks, "All Day And All Of The Night"] That track was recorded by the same team as had recorded "You Really Got Me", except with Perry Ford replacing Arthur Greenslade on piano. Once again, Bobby Graham was on drums rather than Mick Avory, and when Ray Davies suggested that he might want to play a different drum pattern, Graham just asked him witheringly "Who do you think you are?" "All Day and All of the Night" went to number two -- a very impressive result for a soundalike follow-up -- and was kept off the number one spot first by "Baby Love" by the Supremes and then by "Little Red Rooster" by the Rolling Stones. The group quickly followed it up with an EP, Kinksize Session, consisting of three mediocre originals plus the group's version of "Louie Louie". By February 1965 that had hit number one on the EP charts, knocking the Rolling Stones off. Things were going as well as possible for the group. Ray and his girlfriend Rasa got married towards the end of 1964 -- they had to, as Rasa was pregnant and from a very religious Catholic family. By contrast, Dave was leading the kind of life that can only really be led by a seventeen-year-old pop star -- he moved out of the family home and in with Mick Avory after his mother caught him in bed with five women, and once out of her watchful gaze he also started having affairs with men, which was still illegal in 1964. (And which indeed would still be illegal for seventeen-year-olds until 2001). In January, they released their third hit single, "Tired of Waiting for You". The track was a ballad rather than a rocker, but still essentially another variant on the theme of "You Really Got Me" -- a song based around a few repeated phrases of lyric, and with a chorus with two major chords a tone apart. "You Really Got Me"'s chorus has the change going up: [Plays "You Really Got Me" chorus chords] While "Tired Of Waiting For You"'s chorus has the change going down: [Plays "Tired of Waiting For You" chorus chords] But it's trivially easy to switch between the two if you play them in the same key: [Demonstrates] Ray has talked about how "Tired of Waiting for You" was partly inspired by how he felt tired of waiting for the fame that the Kinks deserved, and the music was written even before "You Really Got Me". But when they went into the studio to record it, the only lyrics he had were the chorus. Once they'd recorded the backing track, he worked on the lyrics at home, before coming back into the studio to record his vocals, with Rasa adding backing vocals on the softer middle eight: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Tired of Waiting For You"] After that track was recorded, the group went on a tour of Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong. The flight out to Australia was thirty-four hours, and also required a number of stops. One stop to refuel in Moscow saw the group forced back onto the plane at gunpoint after Pete Quaife unwisely made a joke about the recently-deposed Russian Premier Nikita Khruschev. They also had a stop of a couple of days in Mumbai, where Ray was woken up by the sounds of fishermen chanting at the riverside, and enchanted by both the sound and the image. In Adelaide, Ray and Dave met up for the first time in years with their sister Rose and her husband Arthur. Ray was impressed by their comparative wealth, but disliked the slick modernity of their new suburban home. Dave became so emotional about seeing his big sister again that he talked about not leaving her house, not going to the show that night, and just staying in Australia so they could all be a family again. Rose sadly told him that he knew he couldn't do that, and he eventually agreed. But the tour wasn't all touching family reunions. They also got into a friendly rivalry with Manfred Mann, who were also on the tour and were competing with the Kinks to be the third-biggest group in the UK behind the Beatles and the Stones, and at one point both bands ended up on the same floor of the same hotel as the Stones, who were on their own Australian tour. The hotel manager came up in the night after a complaint about the noise, saw the damage that the combined partying of the three groups had caused, and barricaded them into that floor, locking the doors and the lift shafts, so that the damage could be contained to one floor. "Tired of Waiting" hit number one in the UK while the group were on tour, and it also became their biggest hit in the US, reaching number six, so on the way home they stopped off in the US for a quick promotional appearance on Hullabaloo. According to Ray's accounts, they were asked to do a dance like Freddie and the Dreamers, he and Mick decided to waltz together instead, and the cameras cut away horrified at the implied homosexuality. In fact, examining the footage shows the cameras staying on the group as Mick approaches Ray, arms extended, apparently offering to waltz, while Ray backs off nervous and confused, unsure what's going on. Meanwhile Dave and Pete on the other side of the stage are being gloriously camp with their arms around each other's shoulders. When they finally got back to the UK, they were shocked to hear this on the radio: [Excerpt: The Who, "I Can't Explain"] Ray was horrified that someone had apparently stolen the group's sound, especially when he found out it was the Who, who as the High Numbers had had a bit of a rivalry with the group. He said later "Dave thought it was us! It was produced by Shel Talmy, like we were. They used the same session singers as us, and Perry Ford played piano, like he did on ‘All Day And All Of The Night’. I felt a bit appalled by that. I think that was worse than stealing a song – they were actually stealing our whole style!” Pete Townshend later admitted as much, saying that he had deliberately demoed "I Can't Explain" to sound as much like the Kinks as possible so that Talmy would see its potential. But the Kinks were still, for the moment, doing far better than the Who. In March, shortly after returning from their foreign tour, they released their second album, Kinda Kinks. Like their first album, it was a very patchy effort, but it made number two on the charts, behind the Rolling Stones. But Ray Davies was starting to get unhappy. He was dissatisfied with everything about his life. He would talk later about looking at his wife lying in bed sleeping and thinking "What's she doing here?", and he was increasingly wondering if the celebrity pop star life was right for him, simultaneously resenting and craving the limelight, and doing things like phoning the music papers to deny rumours that he was leaving the Kinks -- rumours which didn't exist until he made those phone calls. As he thought the Who had stolen the Kinks' style, Ray decided to go in a different direction for the next Kinks single, and recorded "Everybody's Gonna Be Happy", which was apparently intended to sound like Motown, though to my ears it bears no resemblance: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Everybody's Gonna Be Happy"] That only went to number nineteen -- still a hit, but a worry for a band who had had three massive hits in a row. Several of the band started to worry seriously that they were going to end up with no career at all. It didn't help that on the tour after recording that, Ray came down with pneumonia. Then Dave came down with bronchitis. Then Pete Quaife hit his head and had to be hospitalised with severe bleeding and concussion. According to Quaife, he fainted in a public toilet and hit his head on the bowl on the way down, but other band members have suggested that Quaife -- who had a reputation for telling tall stories, even in a band whose members are all known for rewriting history -- was ashamed after getting into a fight. In April they played the NME Poll-Winners' Party, on the same bill as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, the Moody Blues, the Searchers, Freddie And The Dreamers, Herman’s Hermits, Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders, the Rockin’ Berries, the Seekers, the Ivy League, Them, the Bachelors, Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield, Twinkle, Tom Jones, Donovan, and Sounds Incorporated. Because they got there late they ended up headlining, going on after the Beatles, even though they hadn't won an award, only come second in best new group, coming far behind the Stones but just ahead of Manfred Mann and the Animals. The next single, "Set Me Free", was a conscious attempt to correct course after "Everybody's Gonna Be Happy" had been less successful: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Set Me Free"] The song is once again repetitive, and once again based on a riff, structured similarly to "Tired of Waiting" but faster and more upbeat, and with a Beatles-style falsetto in the chorus. It worked -- it returned the group to the top ten -- but Ray wasn't happy at writing to order. He said in August of that year “I’m ashamed of that song. I can stand to hear and even sing most of the songs I’ve written, but not that one. It’s built around pure idiot harmonies that have been used in a thousand songs.” More recently he's talked about how the lyric was an expression of him wanting to be set free from the constraint of having to write a hit song in the style he felt he was outgrowing. By the time the single was released, though, it looked like the group might not even be together any longer. There had always been tensions in the band. Ray and Dave had a relationship that made the Everly Brothers look like the model of family amity, and while Pete Quaife stayed out of the arguments for the most part, Mick Avory couldn't. The core of the group had always been the Davies brothers, and Quaife had known them for years, but Avory was a relative newcomer and hadn't grown up with them, and they also regarded him as a bit less intelligent than the rest of the group. He became the butt of jokes on a fairly constant basis. That would have been OK, except that Avory was also an essentially passive person, who didn't want to take sides in conflicts, while Dave Davies thought that as he and Avory were flatmates they should be on the same side, and resented when Avory didn't take his side in arguments with Ray. As Dave remembered it, the trigger came when he wanted to change the setlist and Mick didn't support him against Ray. In others' recollection, it came when the rest of the band tried to get Dave away from a party and he got violent with them. Both may be true. Either way, Dave got drunk and threw a suitcase at the back of a departing Mick, who was normally a fairly placid person but had had enough, and so he turned round, furious, grabbed Dave, got him in a headlock and just started punching, blackening both his eyes. According to some reports, Avory was so infuriated with Dave that he knocked him out, and Dave was so drunk and angry that when he came to he went for Avory again, and got knocked out again. The next day, the group were driven to their show in separate cars -- the Davies brothers in one, the rhythm section in the other -- they had separate dressing rooms, and made their entrance from separate directions. They got through the first song OK, and then Dave Davies insulted Avory's drumming, spat at him, and kicked his drums so they scattered all over the stage. At this point, a lot of the audience were still thinking this was part of the act, but Avory saw red again and picked up his hi-hat cymbal and smashed it down edge-first onto Dave's head. Everyone involved says that if his aim had been very slightly different he would have actually killed Dave. As it is, Dave collapsed, unconscious, bleeding everywhere. Ray screamed "My brother! He's killed my little brother!" and Mick, convinced he was a murderer, ran out of the theatre, still wearing his stage outfit of a hunting jacket and frilly shirt. He was running away for his life -- and that was literal, as Britain still technically had the death penalty at this point; while the last executions in Britain took place in 1964, capital punishment for murder wasn't abolished until late 1965 -- but at the same time a gang of screaming girls outside who didn't know what was going on were chasing him because he was a pop star. He managed to get back to London, where he found that the police had been looking for him but that Dave was alive and didn't want to press charges. However, he obviously couldn't go back to their shared home, and they had to cancel gigs because Dave had been hospitalised. It looked like the group were finished for good. Four days after that, Ray and Rasa's daughter Louisa was born, and shortly after that Ray was in the studio again, recording demos: [Excerpt: Ray Davies, "I Go to Sleep (demo)"] That song was part of a project that Larry Page, the group's co-manager, and Eddie Kassner, their publisher, had of making Ray's songwriting a bigger income source, and getting his songs recorded by other artists. Ray had been asked to write it for Peggy Lee, who soon recorded her own version: [Excerpt: Peggy Lee, "I Go to Sleep"] Several of the other tracks on that demo session featured Mitch Mitchell on drums. At the time, Mitchell was playing with another band that Page managed, and there seems to have been some thought of him possibly replacing Avory in the group. But instead, Larry Page cut the Gordian knot. He invited each band member to a meeting, just the two of them -- and didn't tell them that he'd scheduled all these meetings at the same time. When they got there, they found that they'd been tricked into having a full band meeting, at which point Page just talked to them about arrangements for their forthcoming American tour, and didn't let them get a word in until he'd finished. At the end he asked if they had any questions, and Mick Avory said he'd need some new cymbals because he'd broken his old ones on Dave's head. Before going on tour, the group recorded a song that Ray had written inspired by that droning chanting he'd heard in Mumbai. The song was variously titled "See My Friend" and "See My Friends" -- it has been released under both titles, and Ray seems to sing both words at different times -- and Ray told Maureen Cleave "The song is about homosexuality… It’s like a football team and the way they’re always kissing each other.” (We will be talking about Ray Davies' attitudes towards sexuality and gender in a future episode, but suffice to say that like much of Davies' worldview, he has a weird mixture of very progressive and very reactionary views, and he is also prone to observe behaviours in other people's private lives and make them part of his own public persona). The guitar part was recorded on a bad twelve-string guitar that fed back in the studio, creating a drone sound, which Shel Talmy picked up on and heavily compressed, creating a sound that bore more than a little resemblance to a sitar: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "See My Friend"] If that had been released at the time, it would have made the Kinks into trend-setters. Instead it was left in the can for nearly three months, and in the meantime the Yardbirds released the similar-sounding "Heart Full of Soul", making the Kinks look like bandwagon-jumpers when their own record came out, and reinforcing a paranoid belief that Ray had started to develop that his competitors were stealing his ideas. The track taking so long to come out was down to repercussions from the group's American tour, which changed the course of their whole career in ways they could not possibly have predicted. This was still the era when the musicians' unions of the US and UK had a restrictive one-in, one-out policy for musicians, and you couldn't get a visa to play in the US without the musicians' union's agreement -- and the AFM were not very keen on the British invasion, which they saw as taking jobs away from their members. There are countless stories from this period of bands like the Moody Blues getting to the US only to find that the arrangements have fallen through and they can't perform. Around this time, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders were told they weren't notable enough to get permission to play more than one gig, even though they were at number one on the charts in the US at the time. So it took a great deal of effort to get the Kinks' first US tour arranged, and they had to make a good impression. Unfortunately, while the Beatles and Stones knew how to play the game and give irreverent, cheeky answers that still left the interviewers amused and satisfied, the Kinks were just flat-out confusing and rude: [Excerpt: The Kinks Interview with Clay Cole] The whole tour went badly. They were booked into unsuitable venues, and there were a series of events like the group being booked on the same bill as the Dave Clark Five, and both groups having in their contract that they would be the headliner. Promoters started to complain about them to their management and the unions, and Ray was behaving worse and worse. By the time the tour hit LA, Ray was being truly obnoxious. According to Larry Page he refused to play one TV show because there was a Black drummer on the same show. Page said that it was not about personal prejudice -- though it's hard to see how it could not be, at least in part -- but just picking something arbitrary to complain about to show he had the power to mess things up. While shooting a spot for the show Where The Action Is, Ray got into a physical fight with one of the other cast members over nothing. What Ray didn't realise was that the person in question was a representative for AFTRA, the screen performers' union, and was already unhappy because Dave had earlier refused to join the union. Their behaviour got reported up the chain. The day after the fight was supposed to be the highlight of the tour, but Ray was missing his wife. In the mid-sixties, the Beach Boys would put on a big Summer Spectacular at the Hollywood Bowl every year, and the Kinks were due to play it, on a bill which as well as the Beach Boys also featured the Byrds, the Righteous Brothers, Dino, Desi & Billy, and Sonny and Cher. But Ray said he wasn't going on unless Rasa was there. And he didn't tell Larry Page, who was there, that. Instead, he told a journalist at the Daily Mirror in London, and the first Page heard about it was when the journalist phoned him to confirm that Ray wouldn't be playing. Now, they had already been working to try to get Rasa there for the show, because Ray had been complaining for a while. But Rasa didn't have a passport. Not only that, but she was an immigrant and her family were from Lithuania, and the US State Department weren't exactly keen on people from the Eastern Bloc flying to the US. And it was a long flight. I don't know exactly how long a flight from London to LA took then, but it takes eleven and a half hours now, and it will have been around that length. Somehow, working a miracle, Larry Page co-ordinated with his co-managers Robert Wace and Grenville Collins back in London -- difficult in itself as Wace and Collins and Page and his business partner Eddie Kassner were by now in two different factions, because Ray had been manipulating them and playing them off against each other for months. But the three of them worked together and somehow got Rasa to LA in time for Ray to go on stage. Page waited around long enough to see that Ray had got on stage at the Hollywood Bowl, then flew back to London. He had had enough of Ray's nonsense, and didn't really see any need to be there anyway, because they had a road manager, their publisher, their agent, and plenty of support staff. He felt that he was only there to be someone for Ray Davies to annoy and take his frustrations out on. And indeed, once Page flew back to the UK, Ray calmed down, though how much of that was the presence of Rasa it's hard to say. Their road manager at the time though said "If Larry wasn’t there, Ray couldn’t make problems because there was nobody there to make them to. He couldn’t make problems for me because I just ignored them. For example, in Hawaii, the shirts got stolen. Ray said, ‘No way am I going onstage without my shirt.’ So I turned around and said to him, ‘Great, don’t go on!’ Of course, they went on.” They did miss the gig the next night in San Francisco, with more or less the same lineup as the Hollywood Bowl show -- they'd had problems with the promoter of that show at an earlier gig in Reno, and so Ray said they weren't going to play unless they got paid in cash upfront. When the promoter refused, the group just walked on stage, waved, and walked off. But other than that, the rest of the tour went OK. What they didn't realise until later was that they had made so many enemies on that tour that it would be impossible for them to return to the US for another four years. They weren't blacklisted, as such, they just didn't get the special treatment that was necessary to make it possible for them to visit there. From that point on they would still have a few hits in the US, but nothing like the sustained massive success they had in the UK in the same period. Ray felt abandoned by Page, and started to side more and more with Wace and Collins. Page though was still trying to promote Ray's songwriting. Some of this, like the album "Kinky Music" by the Larry Page Orchestra, released during the tour, was possibly not the kind of promotion that anyone wanted, though some of it has a certain kitsch charm: [Excerpt: The Larry Page Orchestra, "All Day And All Of The Night"] Incidentally, the guitarist on that album was Jimmy Page, who had previously played rhythm guitar on a few Kinks album tracks. But other stuff that Larry Page was doing would be genuinely helpful. For example, on the tour he had become friendly with Stone and Greene, the managers who we heard about in the Buffalo Springfield episode. At this point they were managing Sonny and Cher, and when they came over to the UK, Page took the opportunity to get Cher into the studio to cut a version of Ray's "I Go to Sleep": [Excerpt: Cher, "I Go to Sleep"] Most songwriters, when told that the biggest new star of the year was cutting a cover version of one of their tracks for her next album, would be delighted. Ray Davies, on the other hand, went to the session and confronted Page, screaming about how Page was stealing his ideas. And it was Page being marginalised that caused "See My Friend" to be delayed, because while they were in the US, Page had produced the group in Gold Star Studios, recording a version of Ray's song "Ring the Bells", and Page wanted that as the next single, but the group had a contract with Shel Talmy which said he would be their producer. They couldn't release anything Talmy hadn't produced, but Page, who had control over the group's publishing with his business partner Kassner, wouldn't let them release "See My Friend". Eventually, Talmy won out, and "See My Friend" became the group's next single. It made the top ten on the Record Retailer chart, the one that's now the official UK chart cited in most sources, but only number fifteen on the NME chart which more people paid attention to at the time, and only spent a few weeks on the charts. Ray spent the summer complaining in the music papers about how the track -- "the only one I've really liked", as he said at the time -- wasn't selling as much as it deserved, and also insulting Larry Page and boasting about his own abilities, saying he was a better singer than Andy Williams and Tony Bennett. The group sacked Larry Page as their co-manager, and legal battles between Page and Kassner on one side and Collins and Wace on the other would continue for years, tying up much of the group's money. Page went on to produce a new band he was managing, making records that sounded very like the Kinks' early hits: [Excerpt: The Troggs, "Wild Thing"] The Kinks, meanwhile, decided to go in a different direction for their new EP, Kwyet Kinks, an EP of mostly softer, folk- and country-inspired songs. The most interesting thing on Kwyet Kinks was "Well-Respected Man", which saw Ray's songwriting go in a completely different direction as he started to write gentle social satires with more complex lyrics, rather than the repetitive riff-based songs he'd been doing before. That track was released as a single in the US, which didn't have much of an EP market, and made the top twenty there, despite its use of a word that in England at the time had a double meaning -- either a cigarette or a younger boy at a public school who has to be the servant of an older boy -- but in America was only used as a slur for gay people: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Well Respected Man"] The group's next album, The Kink Kontroversy, was mostly written in a single week, and is another quickie knockoff album. It had the hit single "Til the End of the Day", another attempt at getting back to their old style of riffy rockers, and one which made the top ten. It also had a rerecorded version of "Ring the Bells", the song Larry Page had wanted to release as a single: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Ring the Bells"] I'm sure that when Ray Davies heard "Ruby Tuesday" a little over a year later he didn't feel any better about the possibility that people were stealing his ideas. The Kink Kontroversy was a transitional album for the group in many ways. It was the first album to prominently feature Nicky Hopkins, who would be an integral part of the band's sound for the next three years, and the last one to feature a session drummer (Clem Cattini, rather than Avory, played on most of the tracks). From this point on there would essentially be a six-person group of studio Kinks who would make the records -- the four Kinks themselves, Rasa Davies on backing vocals, and Nicky Hopkins on piano. At the end of 1965 the group were flailing, mired in lawsuits, and had gone from being the third biggest group in the country at the start of the year to maybe the tenth or twentieth by the end of it. Something had to change. And it did with the group's next single, which in both its sound and its satirical subject matter was very much a return to the style of "Well Respected Man". "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" was inspired by anger. Ray was never a particularly sociable person, and he was not the kind to do the rounds of all the fashionable clubs like the other pop stars, including his brother, would. But he did feel a need to make some kind of effort and would occasionally host parties at his home for members of the fashionable set. But Davies didn't keep up with fashion the way they did, and some of them would mock him for the way he dressed. At one such party he got into a fistfight with someone who was making fun of his slightly flared trousers, kicked all the guests out, and then went to a typewriter and banged out a lyric mocking the guest and everyone like him: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Dedicated Follower of Fashion"] The song wasn't popular with Ray's bandmates -- Dave thought it was too soft and wimpy, while Quaife got annoyed at the time Ray spent in the studio trying to make the opening guitar part sound a bit like a ukulele. But they couldn't argue with the results -- it went to number five on the charts, their biggest success since "Tired of Waiting for You" more than a year earlier, and more importantly in some ways it became part of the culture in a way their more recent singles hadn't. "Til The End of the Day" had made the top ten, but it wasn't a record that stuck in people's minds. But "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" was so popular that Ray soon got sick of people coming up to him in the street and singing "Oh yes he is!" at him. But then, Ray was getting sick of everything. In early 1966 he had a full-scale breakdown, brought on by the flu but really just down to pure exhaustion. Friends from this time say that Ray was an introverted control freak, always neurotic and trying to get control and success, but sabotaging it as soon as he attained it so that he didn't have to deal with the public. Just before a tour of Belgium, Rasa gave him an ultimatum -- either he sought medical help or she would leave him. He picked up their phone and slammed it into her face, blacking her eye -- the only time he was ever physically violent to her, she would later emphasise -- at which point it became imperative to get medical help for his mental condition. Ray stayed at home while the rest of the band went to Belgium -- they got in a substitute rhythm player, and Dave took the lead vocals -- though the tour didn't make them any new friends. Their co-manager Grenville Collins went along and with the tact and diplomacy for which the British upper classes are renowned the world over, would say things like “I understand every bloody word you’re saying but I won’t speak your filthy language. De Gaulle won’t speak English, why should I speak French?” At home, Ray was doing worse and worse. When some pre-recorded footage of the Kinks singing "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" came on the TV, he unplugged it and stuck it in the oven. He said later "I was completely out of my mind. I went to sleep and I woke up a week later with a beard. I don’t know what happened to me. I’d run into the West End with my money stuffed in my socks, I’d tried to punch my press agent, I was chased down Denmark Street by the police, hustled into a taxi by a psychiatrist and driven off somewhere. And I didn’t know. I woke up and I said, ‘What’s happening? When do we leave for Belgium?’ And they said, ‘Ray it’s all right. You had a collapse. Don’t worry. You’ll get better.’” He did get better, though for a long time he found himself unable to listen to any contemporary rock music other than Bob Dylan -- electric guitars made him think of the pop world that had made him ill -- and so he spent his time listening to classical and jazz records. He didn't want to be a pop star any more, and convinced himself he could quit the band if he went out on top by writing a number one single. And so he did: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Sunny Afternoon"] Or at least, I say it's a single he wrote, but it's here that I finally get to a point I've been dancing round since the beginning of the episode. The chorus line, "In the summertime", was Rasa's suggestion, and in one of the only two interviews I've ever come across with her, for Johnny Rogan's biography of Ray, she calls the song "the only one where I wrote some words". But there's evidence, including another interview with her I'll talk about in a bit, that suggests that's not quite the case. For years, I thought it was an interesting coincidence that Ray Davies' songwriting ability follows a curve that almost precisely matches that of his relationship with Rasa. At the start, he's clearly talented -- "You Really Got Me" is a great track -- but he's an unformed writer and most of his work is pretty poor stuff. Then he marries Rasa, and his writing starts to become more interesting. Rasa starts to regularly contribute in the studio, and he becomes one of the great songwriters of his generation. For a five-year period in the mid-to-late-sixties, the period when their marriage is at its strongest, Ray writes a string of classic songs that are the equal of any catalogue in popular music. Then around 1970 Rasa stops coming to the studio, and their marriage is under strain. The records become patchier -- still plenty of classic tracks, but a lot more misses. And then in 1973, she left him, and his songwriting fell off a cliff. If you look at a typical Ray Davies concert setlist from 2017, the last time he toured, he did twenty songs, of which two were from his new album, one was the Kinks' one-off hit "Come Dancing" from 1983, and every other song was from the period when he and Rasa were married. Now, for a long time I just thought that was interesting, but likely a coincidence. After all, most rock songwriters do their most important work in their twenties, divorces have a way of messing people's mental health up, musical fashions change… there are a myriad reasons why these things could be like that. But… the circumstantial evidence just kept piling up. Ray's paranoia about people stealing his ideas meant that he became a lot more paranoid and secretive in his songwriting process, and would often not tell his bandmates the titles of the songs, the lyrics, or the vocal melody, until after they'd recorded the backing tracks -- they would record the tracks knowing the chord changes and tempo, but not what the actual song was. Increasingly he would be dictating parts to Quaife and Nicky Hopkins in the studio from the piano, telling them exactly what to play. But while Pete Quaife thought that Ray was being dictatorial in the studio and resented it, he resented something else more. As late as 1999 he was complaining about, in his words, "the silly little bint from Bradford virtually running the damn studio", telling him what to do, and feeling unable to argue back even though he regarded her as "a jumped-up groupie". Dave, on the other hand, valued Rasa's musical intuition and felt that Ray was the same. And she was apparently actually more up-to-date with the music in the charts than any of the band -- while they were out on the road, she would stay at home and listen to the radio and make note of what was charting and why. All this started to seem like a lot of circumstantial evidence that Rasa was possibly far more involved in the creation of the music than she gets credit for -- and given that she was never credited for her vocal parts on any Kinks records, was it too unbelievable that she might have contributed to the songwriting without credit? But then I found the other interview with Rasa I'm aware of, a short sidebar piece I'll link in the liner notes, and I'm going to quote that here: "Rasa, however, would sometimes take a very active role during the writing of the songs, many of which were written in the family home, even on occasion adding to the lyrics. She suggested the words “In the summertime” to ‘Sunny Afternoon’, it is claimed. She now says, “I would make suggestions for a backing melody, sing along while Ray was playing the song(s) on the piano; at times I would add a lyric line or word(s). It was rewarding for me and was a major part of our life.” That was enough for me to become convinced that Rasa was a proper collaborator with Ray. I laid all this out in a blog post, being very careful how I phrased what I thought -- that while Ray Davies was probably the principal author of the songs credited to him (and to be clear, that is definitely what I think -- there's a stylistic continuity throughout his work that makes it very clear that the same man did the bulk of the work on all of it), the songs were the work of a writing partnership. As I said in that post "But even if Rasa only contributed ten percent, that seems likely to me to have been the ten percent that pulled those songs up to greatness. Even if all she did was pull Ray back from his more excessive instincts, perhaps cause him to show a little more compassion in his more satirical works (and the thing that’s most notable about his post-Rasa songwriting is how much less compassionate it is), suggest a melodic line should go up instead of down at the end of a verse, that kind of thing… the cumulative effect of those sorts of suggestions can be enormous." I was just laying out my opinion, not stating anything as a certainty, though I was morally sure that Rasa deserved at least that much credit. And then Rasa commented on the post, saying "Dear Andrew. Your article was so informative and certainly not mischaracterised. Thank you for the ’history’ of my input working with Ray. As I said previously, that time was magical and joyous." I think that's as close a statement as we're likely to get that the Kinks' biggest hits were actually the result of the songwriting team of Davies and Davies, and not of Ray alone, since nobody seems interested at all in a woman who sang on -- and likely co-wrote -- some of the biggest hit records of the sixties. Rasa gets mentioned in two sentences in the band's Wikipedia page, and as far as I can tell has only been interviewed twice -- an extensive interview by Johnny Rogan for his biography of Ray, in which he sadly doesn't seem to have pressed her on her songwriting contributions, and the sidebar above. I will probably continue to refer to Ray writing songs in this and the next episode on the Kinks, because I don't know for sure who wrote what, and he is the one who is legally credited as the sole writer. But… just bear that in mind. And bear it in mind whenever I or anyone else talk about the wives and girlfriends of other rock stars, because I'm sure she's not the only one. "Sunny Afternoon" knocked "Paperback Writer" off the number one spot, but by the time it did, Pete Quaife was out of the band. He'd fallen out with the Davies brothers so badly that he'd insisted on travelling separately from them, and he'd been in a car crash that had hospitalised him for six weeks. They'd quickly hired a temporary replacement, John Dalton, who had previously played with The Mark Four, the group that had evolved into The Creation. They needed him to mime for a TV appearance pretty much straight away, so they asked him "can you play a descending D minor scale?" and when he said yes he was hired -- because the opening of "Sunny Afternoon" used a trick Ray was very fond of, of holding a chord in the guitars while the bass descends in a scale, only changing chord when the notes would clash too badly, and then changing to the closest possible chord: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Sunny Afternoon"] Around this time, the group also successfully renegotiated their contract with Pye Records, with the help of a new lawyer they had been advised to get in touch with -- Allen Klein. As well as helping renegotiate their contracts, Klein also passed on a demo of one of Ray's new songs to Herman's Hermits. “Dandy” was going to be on the Kinks' next album, but the Hermits released it as a single in the US and took it into the top ten: [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, “Dandy”] In September, Pete Quaife formally quit the band -- he hadn't played with them in months after his accident -- and the next month the album Face To Face, recorded while Quaife was still in the group, was released. Face to Face was the group's first really solid album, and much of the album was in the same vein as "Sunny Afternoon" -- satirical songs that turned on the songwriter as much as on the people they were ostensibly about. It didn't do as well as the previous albums, but did still make the top twenty on the album chart. The group continued work, recording a new single, "Dead End Street", a song which is musically very similar to "Sunny Afternoon", but is lyrically astonishingly bleak, dealing with poverty and depression rather than more normal topics for a pop song. The group produced a promotional film for it, but the film was banned by the BBC as being in bad taste, as it showed the group as undertakers. But the single happened to be released two days after the broadcast of "Cathy Come Home", the seminal drama about homelessness, which suddenly brought homelessness onto the political agenda. While "Dead End Street" wasn't technically about homelessness, it was close enough that when the TV programme Panorama did a piece on the subject, they used "Dead End Street" to soundtrack it. The song made the top five, an astonishing achievement for something so dark: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Dead End Street"] But the track also showed the next possible breach in the Kinks' hitmaking team -- when it was originally recorded, Shel Talmy had produced it, and had a French horn playing, but after he left the session, the band brought in a trombone player to replace the French horn, and rerecorded it without him. They would continue working with him for a little while, recording some of the tracks for their next album, but by the time the next single came out, Talmy would be out of the picture for good. But Pete Quaife, on the other hand, was nowhere near as out of the group as he had seemed. While he'd quit the band in September, Ray persuaded him to rejoin the band four days before "Dead End Street" came out, and John Dalton was back to working in his day job as a builder, though we'll be hearing more from him. The group put out a single in Europe, "Mr. Pleasant", a return to the style of "Well Respected Man" and "Dedicated Follower of Fashion": [Excerpt: The Kinks, “Mr. Pleasant”] That was a big hit in the Netherlands, but it wasn't released in the UK. They were working on something rather different. Ray had had the idea of writing a song called "Liverpool Sunset", about Liverpool, and about the decline of the Merseybeat bands who had been at the top of the profession when the Kinks had been starting out. But then the Beatles had released "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane", and Ray hadn't wanted to release anything about Liverpool's geography and look like he had stolen from them, given his attitudes to plagiarism. He said later "I sensed that the Beatles weren’t going to be around long. When they moved to London, and ended up in Knightsbridge or wherever, I was still in Muswell Hill. I was loyal to my origins. Maybe I felt when they left it was all over for Merseybeat.” So instead, he -- or he and Rasa -- came up with a song about London, and about loneliness, and about a couple, Terry and Julie -- Terry was named after his nephew Terry who lived in Australia, while Julie's name came from Julie Christie, as she was then starring in a film with a Terry, Terrence Stamp: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Waterloo Sunset"] It's interesting to look at the musical inspirations for the song. Many people at the time pointed out the song's similarity to "Winchester Cathedral" by the New Vaudeville Band, which had come out six months earlier with a similar melody and was also named after a place: [Excerpt: The New Vaudeville Band, "Winchester Cathedral"] And indeed Spike Milligan had parodied that song and replaced the lyrics with something more London-centric: [Excerpt: Spike Milligan, "Tower Bridge"] But it seems likely that Ray had taken inspiration from an older piece of music. We've talked before about Ferd Grofe in several episodes -- he was the one who orchestrated the original version of "Rhapsody in Blue", who wrote the piece of music that inspired Don Everly to write "Cathy's Clown", and who wrote the first music for the Novachord, the prototype synthesiser from the 1930s. As we saw earlier, Ray was listening to a lot of classical and jazz music rather than rock at this point, and one has to wonder if, at some point during his illness the previous year, he had come across Metropolis: A Blue Fantasy, which Grofe had written for Paul Whiteman's band in 1928, very much in the style of "Rhapsody in Blue", and this section, eight and a half minutes in, in particular: [Excerpt: Paul Whiteman, "Metropolis: A Blue Fantasy" ] "Waterloo Sunset" took three weeks to record. They started out, as usual, with a backing track recorded without the rest of the group knowing anything about the song they were recording -- though the group members did contribute some ideas to the arrangement, which was unusual by this point. Pete Quaife contributed to the bass part, while Dave Davies suggested the slapback echo on the guitar: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Waterloo Sunset, Instrumental Take 2"] Only weeks later did they add the vocals. Ray had an ear infection, so rather than use headphones he sang to a playback through a speaker, which meant he had to sing more gently, giving the vocal a different tone from his normal singing style: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Waterloo Sunset"] And in one of the few contributions Rasa made that has been generally acknowledged, she came up with the "Sha la la" vocals in the middle eight: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Waterloo Sunset"] And the idea of having the track fade out on cascading, round-like vocals: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Waterloo Sunset"] Once again the Kinks were at a turning point. A few weeks after "Waterloo Sunset" came out, the Monterey Pop Festival finally broke the Who in America -- a festival the Kinks were invited to play, but had to turn down because of their visa problems. It felt like the group were being passed by -- Ray has talked about how "Waterloo Sunset" would have been another good point for him to quit the group as he kept threatening to, or at least to stay home and just make the records, like Brian Wilson, while letting the band tour with Dave on lead vocals.He decided against it, though, as he would for decades to come. That attitude, of simultaneously wanting to be part of something and be a distanced, dispassionate observer of it, is what made "Waterloo Sunset" so special. As Ray has said, in words that seem almost to invoke the story of Moses: "it’s a culmination of all my desires and hopes – it’s a song about people going to a better world, but somehow I stayed where I was and became the observer in the song rather than the person who is proactive . . . I did not cross the river. They did and had a good life apparently." Ray stayed with the group, and we'll be picking up on what he and they did next in about a year's time. "Waterloo Sunset" went to number two on the charts, and has since become the most beloved song in the Kinks' whole catalogue. It's been called "the most beautiful song in the English language", and "the most beautiful song of the rock 'n' roll era", though Ray Davies, ever self-critical when he's not being self-aggrandising, thinks it could be improved upon. But most of the rest of us disagree. As the song itself says, "Waterloo Sunset's fine". ... Read more

11 Oct 2022

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11 Oct 2022


#194

A Request

Transcript Hi. We're still on a skip week, the main podcast will be back next week, but as we've now reached a point in the podcast where more of the people discussed are living than dead, I'd just like to say something, and make a request. I've seen several people asking people mentioned in the podcast if they're listeners, on Twitter and other social media, and I would very much rather people stop doing that. Please don't tag any living subjects of my podcast episodes into tweets about those episodes. I can't stop you, of course, and I'm not meaning to shame anyone who has, as they've done it for the best of reasons, but it makes me extremely uncomfortable. I've had people take offence before at things I've written about their work which I didn't intend to be offensive. Creative people will often focus on a single negative aside in what is otherwise a wall of praise, and it can cause them real upset. I can't stop any subjects of podcast episodes from listening to them, but the podcast is not ultimately for them. The very best case scenario is that knowing those people are going to hear the podcast makes me uncomfortable and restricts what I say, making the podcast less good. The worst-case scenario is someone takes legal action because of something I've said, and the podcast has to end altogether. But mostly, I just know that if someone I've talked about is going to listen to my podcast, there's a good chance that they'll pick up on one casual remark I didn't even think about and ruminate about it all day. And I don't want to make people I admire have bad days. So please, do keep telling your friends about the podcast, but don't tell the stars I talk about. I know you all mean well when you do it, but it can cause far more harm than good. ... Read more

29 Sep 2022

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29 Sep 2022


#193

Episode 154: “Happy Together” by the Turtles

Episode one hundred and fifty-four of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs is the last of our four-part mini-series on LA sunshine pop and folk-rock in summer 1967. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a fifteen-minute bonus episode available, [on "Baby, Now That I've Found You" by the Foundations.] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/72267563) 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 There is no Mixcloud this week, because there were too many Turtles songs in the episode. There's relatively little information available about the Turtles compared to other bands of their era, and so apart from the sources on the general LA scene referenced in all these podcasts, the information here comes from a small number of sources. [This DVD] (https://amzn.to/3DI40jc) is a decent short documentary on the band's career. Howard Kaylan's autobiography, [Shell Shocked: My Life with the Turtles, Flo and Eddie, and Frank Zappa, Etc.] (https://amzn.to/3facEwR) ,  is a fun read, if inevitably biased towards his own viewpoint. Jim Pons' [Hard Core Love: Sex, Football, and Rock and Roll in the Kingdom of God] (https://amzn.to/3f937WM) is much less fun, being as it is largely organised around how his life led up to his latter-day religious beliefs, but is the only other book I'm aware of with a substantial amount of coverage of the Turtles. There are many compilations of the Turtles' material available, of which  [All The Singles] (https://amzn.to/3dw5VN6) is by far and away the best. The box set of all their albums with bonus tracks is now out of print on CD, but can still be bought [as MP3s] (https://amzn.to/3qW3CpO) . Errata I say that the clarinet and saxophone have the same fingerings. This is not strictly true -- they have very, very, similar fingerings, and the same when you're just starting out on both instruments, but the clarinet has a wider range and overblows at a perfect twelfth rather than an octave. For a beginner, as Volman and Kaylan were, they're the same though. Also, for the first day or so it was uploaded, this episode included an excerpt of the studio version of "Everyone's Gone to the Movies" by Steely Dan rather than the demo version on which Volman and Kaylan sang. That has been fixed. 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 We've spent a lot of time recently in the LA of summer 1967, at the point where the sunshine pop sound that was created when the surf harmonies of the Beach Boys collided with folk rock was at its apex, right before fashions changed and tight sunny pop songs with harmonies from LA became yesterday's news, and extended blues-rock improvisations from San Francisco became the latest in thing. This episode is the last part of this four-episode sequence, and is going to be shorter than those others. In many ways this one is a bridge between this sequence and next episode, where we travel back to London, because we're saying goodbye for a while to the LA scene, and when we do return to LA it will be, for the most part, to look at music that's a lot less sunshine and a lot more shadow. So this is a brief fade-out while we sing ba-ba-ba, a three-minute pop-song of an episode, a last bit of sunshine pop before we return to longer, more complicated, stories  in two weeks' time, at which point the sun will firmly set. Like many musicians associated with LA, Howard Kaylan was born elsewhere and migrated there as a child, and he seems to have regarded his move from upstate New York to LA as essentially a move to Disneyland itself. That impression can only have been made stronger by the fact that soon after his family moved there he got his first childhood girlfriend -- who happened to be a Mouseketeer on the TV. And TV was how young Howard filtered most of his perceptions -- particularly TV comedy. By the age of fourteen he was the president of the Soupy Sales Fan Club, and he was also obsessed with the works of Ernie Kovacs, Sid Caesar, and the great satirist and parodist Stan Freberg: [Excerpt: Stan Freberg, "St. George and the Dragonet"] Second only to his love of comedy, though, was his love of music, and it was on the trip from New York to LA that he saw a show that would eventually change his life. Along the way, his family had gone to Las Vegas, and while there they had seen Louis Prima and Keeley Smith do their nightclub act. Prima is someone I would have liked to do a full podcast episode on when I was covering the fifties, and who I did do a Patreon bonus episode on. He's now probably best known for doing the voice of King Louis in the Jungle Book: [Excerpt: Louis Prima, "I Wanna Be Like You (the Monkey Song)"] But he was also a jump blues musician who made some very good records in a similar style to Louis Jordan, like "Jump, Jive, an' Wail" [Excerpt: Louis Prima, "Jump, Jive, an' Wail"] But like Jordan, Prima dealt at least as much in comedy as in music -- usually comedy involving stereotypes about his Italian-American ethnic origins. At the time young Howard Kaylan saw him, he was working a double act with his then-wife Keeley Smith. The act would consist of Smith trying to sing a song straight, while Prima would clown around, interject, and act like a fool, as Smith grew more and more exasperated, and would eventually start contemptuously mocking Prima. [Excerpt: Louis Prima and Keeley Smith, "Embraceable You/I've Got It Bad and That Ain't Good"] This is of course a fairly standard double-act format, as anyone who has suffered through an episode of The Little and Large Show will be all too painfully aware, but Prima and Smith did it better than most, and to young Howard Kaylan, this was the greatest entertainment imaginable. But while comedy was the closest thing to Kaylan's heart, music was a close second. He was a regular listener to Art Laboe's radio show, and in a brief period as a teenage shoplifter he obtained records like Ray Charles' album Genius + Soul = Jazz: [Excerpt: Ray Charles, "One Mint Julep"] and the single "Tossin' and Turnin'" by Bobby Lewis: [Excerpt: Bobby Lewis, "Tossin' and Turnin'"] "Tossin' and Turnin'" made a deep impression on Kaylan, because of the saxophone solo, which was actually a saxophone duet. On the record, baritone sax player Frank Henry played a solo, and it was doubled by the great tenor sax player King Curtis, who was just playing a mouthpiece rather than a full instrument, making a high-pitched squeaking sound: [Excerpt: Bobby Lewis, "Tossin' and Turnin'"] Curtis was of course also responsible for another great saxophone part a couple of years earlier, on a record that Kaylan loved because it combined comedy and rock and roll, "Yakety Yak": [Excerpt: The Coasters, "Yakety Yak"] Those two saxophone parts inspired Kaylan to become a rock and roller. He was already learning the clarinet and playing part time in an amateur Dixieland band, and it was easy enough to switch to saxophone, which has the same fingering. Within a matter of weeks of starting to play sax, he was invited to join a band called the Nightriders, who consisted of Chuck Portz on bass, Al Nichol on guitar, and Glen Wilson on drums. The Nightriders became locally popular, and would perform sets largely made up of Johnny and the Hurricanes and Ventures material. While he was becoming a budding King Curtis, Kaylan was still a schoolkid, and one of the classes he found most enjoyable was choir class. There was another kid in choir who Kaylan got on with, and one day that kid, Mark Volman came up to him, and had a conversation that Kaylan would recollect decades later in his autobiography: “So I hear you’re in a rock ’n’ roll band.” “Yep.” “Um, do you think I could join it?” “Well, what do you do?” “Nothing.” “Nothing?” “Nope.” “Sounds good to me. I’ll ask Al.” Volman initially became the group's roadie and occasional tambourine player, and would also get on stage to sing a bit during their very occasional vocal numbers, but was mostly "in the band" in name only at first -- he didn't get a share of the group's money, but he was allowed to say he was in the group because that meant that his friends would come to the Nightriders' shows, and he was popular among the surfing crowd. Eventually, Volman's father started to complain that his son wasn't getting any money from being in the band, while the rest of the group were, and they explained to him that Volman was just carrying the instruments while they were all playing them. Volman's father said "if Mark plays an instrument, will you give him equal shares?" and they said that that was fair, so Volman got an alto sax to play along with Kaylan's tenor. Volman had also been taking clarinet lessons, and the two soon became a tight horn section for the group, which went through a few lineup changes and soon settled on a lineup of Volman and Kaylan on saxes, Nichol on lead guitar, Jim Tucker on rhythm guitar, Portz on bass, and Don Murray on drums. That new lineup became known as the Crossfires, presumably after the Johnny and the Hurricanes song of the same name: [Excerpt: Johnny and the Hurricanes, "Crossfire"] Volman and Kaylan worked out choreographed dance steps to do while playing their saxes, and the group even developed a group of obsessive fans who called themselves the Chunky Club, named after one of the group's originals: [Excerpt: The Crossfires, "Chunky"] At this point the group were pretty much only playing instrumentals, though they would do occasional vocals on R&B songs like "Money" or their version of Don and Dewey's "Justine", songs which required more enthusiasm than vocal ability. But their first single, released on a tiny label, was another surf instrumental, a song called "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde": [Excerpt: The Crossfires, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde"] The group became popular enough locally that they became the house band at the Revelaire Club in Redondo Beach. There as well as playing their own sets, they would also be the backing band for any touring acts that came through without their own band, quickly gaining the kind of performing ability that comes from having to learn a new artist's entire repertoire in a few days and be able to perform it with them live with little or no rehearsal. They backed artists like the Coasters, the Drifters, Bobby Vee, the Rivingtons, and dozens of other major acts, and as part of that Volman and Kaylan would, on songs that required backing vocals, sing harmonies rather than playing saxophone. And that harmony-singing ability became important when the British Invasion happened, and suddenly people didn't want to hear surf instrumentals, but vocals along the lines of the new British groups. The Crossfires' next attempt at a single was another original, this one an attempt at sounding like one of their favourite new British groups, the Kinks: [Excerpt: The Crossfires, "One Potato, Two Potato"] This change to vocals necessitated a change in the group dynamic. Volman and Kaylan ditched the saxophones, and discovered that between them they made one great frontman. The two have never been excessively close on a personal level, but both have always known that the other has qualities they needed. Frank Zappa would later rather dismissively say "I regard Howard as a fine singer, and Mark as a great tambourine player and fat person", and it's definitely true that Kaylan is one of the truly great vocalists to come out of the LA scene in this period, while Volman is merely a good harmony singer, not anything particularly special -- though he *is* a good harmony singer -- but it undersells Volman's contribution. There's a reason the two men performed together for nearly sixty years. Kaylan is a great singer, but also by nature rather reserved, and he always looked uncomfortable on stage, as well as, frankly, not exactly looking like a rock star (Kaylan describes himself not inaccurately as looking like a potato several times in his autobiography). Volman, on the other hand, is a merely good singer, but he has a naturally outgoing personality, and while he's also not the most conventionally good-looking of people he has a *memorable* appearance in a way that Kaylan doesn't. Volman could do all the normal frontman stuff, the stuff that makes a show an actual show -- the jokes, the dancing, the between-song patter, the getting the crowd going, while Kaylan could concentrate on the singing. They started doing a variation on the routine that had so enthralled Howard Kaylan when he'd seen Louis Prima and Keeley Smith do it as a child. Kaylan would stand more or less stock still, looking rather awkward, but singing like an angel, while Volman would dance around, clown, act the fool, and generally do everything he could to disrupt the performance -- short of actually disrupting it in reality. It worked, and Volman became one of that small but illustrious group of people -- the band member who makes the least contribution to the sound of the music but the biggest contribution to the feel of the band itself, and without whom they wouldn't be the same. After "One Potato, Two Potato" was a flop, the Crossfires were signed to their third label. This label, White Whale, was just starting out, and the Crossfires were to become their only real hit act. Or rather, the Turtles were. The owners of White Whale knew that they didn't have much promotional budget and that their label was not a known quantity -- it was a tiny label with no track record. But they thought of a way they could turn that to their advantage. Everyone knew that the Beatles, before Capitol had picked up their contracts, had had their records released on a bunch of obscure labels like Swan and Tollie. People *might* look for records on tiny independent labels if they thought it might be another British act who were unknown in the US but could be as good as the Beatles. So they chose a name for the group that they thought sounded as English as possible -- an animal name that started with "the", and ended in "les", just like the Beatles. The group, all teenagers at the time, were desperate enough that they agreed to change their name, and from that point on they became the Turtles. In order to try and jump on as many bandwagons as possible, the label wanted to position them as a folk-rock band, so their first single under the Turtles name was a cover of a Bob Dylan song, from Another Side of Bob Dylan: [Excerpt: Bob Dylan, "It Ain't Me Babe"] That song's hit potential had already been seen by Johnny Cash, who'd had a country hit with it a few months before. But the Turtles took the song in a different direction, inspired by Kaylan's *other* great influence, along with Prima and Smith. Kaylan was a big fan of the Zombies, one of the more interesting of the British Invasion groups, and particularly of their singer Colin Blunstone. Kaylan imitated Blunstone on the group's hit single, "She's Not There", on which Blunstone sang in a breathy, hushed, voice on the verses: [Excerpt: The Zombies, "She's Not There"] before the song went into a more stomping chorus on which Blunstone sang in a fuller voice: [Excerpt: The Zombies, "She's Not There"] Kaylan did this on the Turtles' version of "It Ain't Me Babe", starting off with a quiet verse: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "It Ain't Me Babe"] Before, like the Zombies, going into a foursquare, more uptempo, louder chorus: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "It Ain't Me Babe"] The single became a national top ten hit, and even sort of got the approval of Bob Dylan. On the group's first national tour, Dylan was at one club show, which they ended with "It Ain't Me Babe", and after the show the group were introduced to the great songwriter, who was somewhat the worse for wear. Dylan said “Hey, that was a great song you just played, man. That should be your single", and then passed out into his food. With the group's first single becoming a top ten hit, Volman and Kaylan got themselves a house in Laurel Canyon, which was not yet the rock star Mecca it was soon to become, but which was starting to get a few interesting residents. They would soon count Henry Diltz of the Modern Folk Quartet, Danny Hutton, and Frank Zappa among their neighbours. Soon Richie Furay would move in with them, and the house would be used by the future members of the Buffalo Springfield as their rehearsal space. The Turtles were rapidly becoming part of the in crowd. But they needed a follow-up single, and so Bones Howe, who was producing their records, brought in P.F. Sloan to play them a few of his new songs. They liked "Eve of Destruction" enough to earmark it as a possible album track, but they didn't think they would do it justice, and so it was passed on to Barry McGuire. But Sloan did have something for them -- a pseudo-protest song called "Let Me Be" that was very clearly patterned after their version of "It Ain't Me Babe", and which was just rebellious enough to make them seem a little bit daring, but which was far more teenage angst than political manifesto: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Let Me Be"] That did relatively well, making the top thirty -- well enough for the group to rush out an album which was padded out with some sloppy cover versions of other Dylan songs, a version of "Eve of Destruction", and a few originals written by Kaylan. But the group weren't happy with the idea of being protest singers. They were a bunch of young men who were more motivated by having a good time than by politics, and they didn't think that it made sense for them to be posing as angry politicised rebels. Not only that, but there was a significant drop-off between "It Ain't Me Babe" and "Let Me Be". They needed to do better. They got the clue for their new direction while they were in New York. There they saw their friends in the Mothers of Invention playing their legendary residency at the Garrick Theatre, but they also saw a new band, the Lovin' Spoonful, who were playing music that was clearly related to the music the Turtles were doing -- full of harmonies and melody, and inspired by folk music -- but with no sense of rebelliousness at all. They called it "Good Time Music": [Excerpt: The Lovin' Spoonful, "Good Time Music"] As soon as they got back to LA, they told Bones Howe and the executives at White Whale that they weren't going to be a folk-rock group any more, they were going to be "good time music", just like the Lovin' Spoonful. They were expecting some resistance, but they were told that that was fine, and that PF Sloan had some good time music songs too. "You Baby" made the top twenty: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "You Baby"] The Turtles were important enough in the hierarchy of LA stars that Kaylan and Tucker were even invited by David Crosby to meet the Beatles at Derek Taylor's house when they were in LA on their last tour -- this may be the same day that the Beatles met Brian and Carl Wilson, as I talked about in the episode on "All You Need is Love", though Howard Kaylan describes this as being a party and that sounded like more of an intimate gathering. If it was that day, there was nearly a third Beach Boy there. The Turtles knew David Marks, the Beach Boys' former rhythm guitarist, because they'd played a lot in Inglewood where he'd grown up, and Marks asked if he could tag along with Kaylan and Tucker to meet the Beatles. They agreed, and drove up to the house, and actually saw George Harrison through the window, but that was as close as they got to the Beatles that day. There was a heavy police presence around the house because it was known that the Beatles were there, and one of the police officers asked them to drive back and park somewhere else and walk up, because there had been complaints from neighbours about the number of cars around. They were about to do just that, when Marks started yelling obscenities and making pig noises at the police, so they were all arrested, and the police claimed to find a single cannabis seed in the car. Charges were dropped, but now Kaylan was on the police's radar, and so he moved out of the Laurel Canyon home to avoid bringing police attention to Buffalo Springfield, so that Neil Young and Bruce Palmer wouldn't get deported. But generally the group were doing well. But there was a problem. And that problem was their record label. They rushed out another album to cash in on the success of "You Baby", one that was done so quickly that it had "Let Me Be" on it again, just as the previous album had, and which included a version of the old standard "All My Trials", with the songwriting credited to the two owners of White Whale records. And they pumped out a lot of singles. A LOT of singles, ranging from a song written for them by new songwriter Warren Zevon, to cover versions of Frank Sinatra's "It Was a Very Good Year" and the old standard "We'll Meet Again". Of the five singles after "You Baby", the one that charted highest was a song actually written by a couple of the band members. But for some reason a song with verses in 5/4 time and choruses in 6/4 with lyrics like "killing the living and living to kill, the grim reaper of love thrives on pain" didn't appeal to the group's good-time music pop audience and only reached number eighty-one: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Grim Reaper of Love"] The group started falling apart. Don Murray became convinced that  the rest of the band were conspiring against him and wanted him out, so he walked out of the group in the middle of a rehearsal for a TV show. They got Joel Larson of the Grass Roots -- the group who had a number of hits with Sloan and Barri songs -- to sub for a few gigs before getting in a permanent replacement, Johnny Barbata, who came to them on the recommendation of Gene Clark, and who was one of the best drummers on the scene -- someone who was not only a great drummer but a great showman, who would twirl his drumsticks between his fingers with every beat, and who would regularly engage in drum battles with Buddy Rich. By the time they hit their fifth flop single in a row, they lost their bass player as well -- Chuck Portz decided he was going to quit music and become a fisherman instead. They replaced him with Chip Douglas of the Modern Folk Quartet. Then they very nearly lost their singers. Volman and Kaylan both got their draft notices at the same time, and it seemed likely they would end up having to go and fight in the Vietnam war. Kaylan was distraught, but his mother told him "Speak to your cousin Herb". Cousin Herb was Herb Cohen, the manager of the Mothers of Invention and numerous other LA acts, including the Modern Folk Quartet, and Kaylan only vaguely knew him at this time, but he agreed to meet up with them, and told them “Stop worrying! I got Zappa out, I got Tim Buckley out, and I’ll get you out.” Cohen told Volman and Kaylan to not wash for a week before their induction, to take every drug of every different kind they could find right before going in, to deliberately disobey every order, to fail the logic tests, and to sexually proposition the male officers dealing with the induction. They followed his orders to the letter, and got marked as 4-F, unfit for service. They still needed a hit though, and eventually they found something by going back to their good-time music idea. It was a song from the Koppelman-Rubin publishing company -- the same company that did the Lovin Spoonful's management and production. The song in question was by Alan Gordon and Gary Bonner, two former members of a group called the Magicians, who had had a minor success with a single called "An Invitation to Cry": [Excerpt: The Magicians, "An Invitation to Cry"] The Magicians had split up, and Bonner and Gordon were trying to make a go of things as professional songwriters, but had had little success to this point. The song on the demo had been passed over by everyone, and the demo was not at all impressive, just a scratchy acetate with Bonner singing off-key and playing acoustic rhythm guitar and Gordon slapping his knees to provide rhythm, but the group heard something in it. They played the song live for months, refining the arrangement, before taking it into the studio. There are arguments to this day as to who deserves the credit for the sound on "Happy Together" -- Chip Douglas apparently did the bulk of the arrangement work while they were on tour, but the group's new producer, Joe Wissert, a former staff engineer for Cameo-Parkway, also claimed credit for much of it. Either way, "Happy Together" is a small masterpiece of dynamics. The song is structured much like the songs that had made the Turtles' name, with the old Zombies idea of the soft verse and much louder chorus: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Happy Together"] But the track is really made by the tiny details of the arrangement, the way instruments and vocal parts come in and out as the track builds up, dies down, and builds again. If you listen to the isolated tracks, there are fantastic touches like the juxtaposition of the bassoon and oboe (which I think is played on a mellotron): [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Happy Together", isolated tracks] And a similar level of care and attention was put into the vocal arrangement by Douglas, with some parts just Kaylan singing solo, other parts having Volman double him, and of course the famous "bah bah bah" massed vocals: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Happy Together", isolated vocals] At the end of the track, thinking he was probably going to do another take, Kaylan decided to fool around and sing "How is the weather?", which Bonner and Gordon had jokingly done on the demo. But the group loved it, and insisted that was the take they were going to use: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Happy Together"] "Happy Together" knocked "Penny Lane" by the Beatles off the number one spot in the US, but by that point the group had already had another lineup change. The Monkees had decided they wanted to make records without the hit factory that had been overseeing them, and had asked Chip Douglas if he wanted to produce their first recordings as a self-contained band. Given that the Monkees were the biggest thing in the American music industry at the time, Douglas had agreed, and so the group needed their third bass player in a year. The one they went for was Jim Pons. Pons had seen the Beatles play at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964, and decided he wanted to become a pop star. The next day he'd been in a car crash, which had paid out enough insurance money that he was able to buy two guitars, a bass, drums, and amps, and use them to start his own band. That band was originally called The Rockwells, but quickly changed their name to the Leaves, and became a regular fixture at Ciro's on Sunset Strip, first as customers, then after beating Love in the auditions, as the new resident band when the Byrds left. For a while the Leaves had occasionally had guest vocals from a singer called Richard Marin, but Pons eventually decided to get rid of him, because, as he put it "I wanted us to look like The Beatles. There were no Mexicans in The Beatles". He is at pains in his autobiography to assure us that he's not a bigot, and that Marin understood. I'm sure he did. Marin went on to be better known as Cheech Marin of Cheech and Chong. The Leaves were signed by Pat Boone to his production company, and through that company they got signed to Mira Records. Their first single, produced by Nik Venet, had been a version of "Love Minus Zero (No Limit)", a song by Bob Dylan: [Excerpt: The Leaves, "Love Minus Zero (No Limit)"] That had become a local hit, though not a national one, and the Leaves had become one of the biggest bands on the Sunset Strip scene, hanging out with all the other bands. They had become friendly with the Doors before the Doors got a record deal, and Pat Boone had even asked for an introduction, as he was thinking of signing them, but unfortunately when he met Jim Morrison, Morrison had drunk a lot of vodka, and given that Morrison was an obnoxious drunk Boone had second thoughts, and so the world missed out on the chance of a collaboration between the Doors and Pat Boone. Their second single was "Hey Joe" -- as was their third and fourth, as we discussed in that episode: [Excerpt: The Leaves, "Hey Joe"] Their third version of "Hey Joe" had become a top forty hit, but they didn't have a follow-up, and their second album, All The Good That's Happening, while it's a good album, sold poorly. Various band members quit or fell out, and when Johnny Barbata knocked on Jim Pons' door it was an easy decision to quit and join a band that had a current number one hit. When Pons joined, the group had already recorded the Happy Together album. That album included the follow-up to "Happy Together", another Bonner and Gordon song, "She'd Rather Be With Me": [Excerpt: The Turtles, "She'd Rather Be With Me"] None of the group were tremendously impressed with that song, but it did very well, becoming the group's second-biggest hit in the US, reaching number three, and actually becoming a bigger hit than "Happy Together" in parts of Europe. Before "Happy Together" the group hadn't really made much impact outside the US. In the UK, their early singles had been released by Pye, the smallish label that had the Kinks and Donovan, but which didn't have much promotional budget, and they'd sunk without trace. For "You Baby" they'd switched to Immediate, the indie label that Andrew Oldham had set up, and it had done a little better but still not charted. But from "Happy Together" they were on Decca, a much bigger label, and "Happy Together" had made number twelve in the charts in the UK, and "She'd Rather Be With Me" reached number four. So the new lineup of the group went on a UK tour. As soon as they got to the hotel, they found they had a message from Graham Nash of the Hollies, saying he would like to meet up with them. They all went round to Nash's house, and found Donovan was also there, and Nash played them a tape he'd just been given of Sgt Pepper, which wouldn't come out for a few more days. At this point they were living every dream a bunch of Anglophile American musicians could possibly have. Jim Tucker mentioned that he would love to meet the Beatles, and Nash suggested they do just that. On their way out the door, Donovan said to them, "beware of Lennon". It was when they got to the Speakeasy club that the first faux-pas of the evening happened. Nash introduced them to Justin Hayward and John Lodge of the Moody Blues, and Volman said how much he loved their record "Go Now": [Excerpt: The Moody Blues, "Go Now"] The problem was that Hayward and Lodge had joined the group after that record had come out, to replace its lead singer Denny Laine. Oh well, they were still going to meet the Beatles, right? They got to the table where John, Paul, and Ringo were sat, at a tense moment -- Paul was having a row with Jane Asher, who stormed out just as the Turtles were getting there. But at first, everything seemed to go well. The Beatles all expressed their admiration for "Happy Together" and sang the "ba ba ba" parts at them, and Paul and Kaylan bonded over their shared love for "Justine" by Don and Dewey, a song which the Crossfires had performed in their club sets, and started singing it together: [Excerpt: Don and Dewey, "Justine"] But John Lennon was often a mean drunk, and he noticed that Jim Tucker seemed to be the weak link in the group, and soon started bullying him, mocking his clothes, his name, and everything he said. This devastated Tucker, who had idolised Lennon up to that point, and blurted out "I'm sorry I ever met you", to which Lennon just responded "You never did, son, you never did". The group walked out, hurt and confused -- and according to Kaylan in his autobiography, Tucker was so demoralised by Lennon's abuse that he quit music forever shortly afterwards, though Tucker says that this wasn't the reason he quit. From their return to LA on, the Turtles would be down to just a five-piece band. After leaving the club, the group went off in different directions, but then Kaylan (and this is according to Kaylan's autobiography, there are no other sources for this) was approached by Brian Jones, asking for his autograph because he loved the Turtles so much. Jones introduced Kaylan to the friend he was with, Jimi Hendrix, and they went out for dinner, but Jones soon disappeared with a girl he'd met. and left Kaylan and Hendrix alone. They were drinking a lot -- more than Kaylan was used to -- and he was tired, and the omelette that Hendrix had ordered for Kaylan was creamier than he was expecting... and Kaylan capped what had been a night full of unimaginable highs and lows by vomiting all over Jimi Hendrix's expensive red velvet suit. Rather amazingly after all this, the Moody Blues, the Beatles, and Hendrix, all showed up to the Turtles' London gig and apparently enjoyed it. After "She'd Rather Be With Me", the next single to be released wasn't really a proper single, it was a theme song they'd been asked to record for a dire sex comedy titled "Guide for the Married Man", and is mostly notable for being composed by John Williams, the man who would later go on to compose the music for Star Wars. That didn't chart, but the group followed it with two more top twenty hits written by Bonner and Gordon, "You Know What I Mean" and "She's My Girl". But then the group decided that Bonner and Gordon weren't giving them their best material, and started turning down their submissions, like a song called "Celebrity Ball" which they thought had no commercial potential, at least until the song was picked up by their friends Three Dog Night, retitled "Celebrate", and made the top twenty: [Excerpt: Three Dog Night, "Celebrate"] Instead, the group decided to start recording more of their own material. They were worried that in the fast-changing rock world bands that did other songwriters' material were losing credibility. But "Sound Asleep", their first effort in this new plan, only made number forty-seven on the charts. Clearly they needed a different plan. They called in their old bass player Chip Douglas, who was now an experienced hitmaker as a producer. He called in *his* friend Harry Nilsson, who wrote "The Story of Rock & Roll" for the group, but that didn't do much better, only making number forty-eight. But the group persevered, starting work on a new album produced by Douglas, The Turtles Present The Battle of the Bands, the conceit of which was that every track would be presented as being by a different band. So there were tracks by  Chief Kamanawanalea and his Royal Macadamia Nuts,  Fats Mallard and the Bluegrass Fireball, The Atomic Enchilada, and so on, all done in the styles suggested by those band names. There was even a track by "The Cross Fires": [Excerpt: The Cross Fires, "Surfer Dan"] It was the first time the group had conceived of an album as a piece, and nine of the twelve tracks were originals by the band -- there was a track written by their friend Bill Martin, and the opening track, by "The US Teens Featuring Raoul", was co-written by Chip Douglas and Harry Nilsson. But for the most part the songs were written by the band members themselves, and jointly credited to all of them. This was the democratic decision, but one that Howard Kaylan would later regret, because of the song for which the band name was just "Howie, Mark, Johnny, Jim & Al". Where all the other songs were parodies of other types of music, that one was, as the name suggests, a parody of the Turtles themselves. It was written by Kaylan in disgust at the record label, who kept pestering the group to "give us another 'Happy Together'". Kaylan got more and more angry at this badgering, and eventually thought "OK, you want another 'Happy Together'? I'll give you another 'Happy Together'" and in a few minutes wrote a song that was intended as an utterly vicious parody of that kind of song, with lyrics that nobody could possibly take seriously, and with music that was just mocking the whole structure of "Happy Together" specifically. He played it to the rest of the group, expecting them to fall about laughing, but instead they all insisted it was the group's next single. "Elenore" went to number six on the charts, becoming their biggest hit since "She'd Rather Be With Me": [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Elenore"] And because everything was credited to the group, Kaylan's songwriting royalties were split five ways. For the follow-up, they chose the one actual cover version on the album. "You Showed Me" is a song that Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark had written together in the very early days of the Byrds, and they'd recorded it as a jangly folk-rock tune in 1964: [Excerpt: The Byrds, "You Showed Me"] They'd never released that track, but Gene Clark had performed it solo after leaving the Byrds, and Douglas had been in Clark's band at the time, and liked the song. He played it for the Turtles, but when he played it for them the only instrument he had to hand was a pump organ with one of its bellows broken. Because of this, he had to play it slowly, and while he kept insisting that the song needed to be faster, the group were equally insistent that what he was playing them was the big ballad hit they wanted, and they recorded it at that tempo. "You Showed Me" became the Turtles' final top ten hit: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "You Showed Me"] But once again there were problems in the group. Johnny Barbata was the greatest drummer any of them had ever played with, but he didn't fit as a personality -- he didn't like hanging round with the rest of them when not on stage, and while there were no hard feelings, it was clear he could get a gig with pretty much anyone and didn't need to play with a group he wasn't entirely happy in. By mutual agreement, he left to go and play with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and was replaced by John Seiter from Spanky and Our Gang -- a good drummer, but not the best of the best like Barbata had been. On top of this, there were a whole host of legal problems to deal with. The Turtles were the only big act on White Whale records, though White Whale did put out some other records. For example, they'd released the single "Desdemona" by John's Children in the US: [Excerpt: John's Children, "Desdemona"] The group, being the Anglophiles they were, had loved that record, and were also among the very small number of Americans to like the music made by John's Children's guitarist's new folk duo, Tyrannosaurus Rex: [Excerpt: Tyrannosaurus Rex, "Debora"] When Tyrannosaurus Rex supported the Turtles, indeed, Volman and Kaylan became very close to Marc Bolan, and told him that the next time they were in England they'd have to get together, maybe even record together. That would happen not that many years later, with results we'll be getting to in... episode 201, by my current calculations. But John's Children hadn't had a hit, and indeed nobody on White Whale other than the Turtles had. So White Whale desperately wanted to stop the Turtles having any independence, and to make sure they continued to be their hit factory. They worked with the group's roadie, Dave Krambeck, to undermine the group's faith in their manager, Bill Utley, who supported the group in their desire for independence. Soon, Krambeck and White Whale had ousted Utley, and Krambeck had paid Utley fifty thousand dollars for their management contract, with the promise of another two hundred thousand later. That fifty thousand dollars had been taken by Krambeck as an advance against the Turtles' royalties, so they were really buying themselves out. Except that Krambeck then sold the management contract on to a New York management firm, without telling the group. He then embezzled as much of the group's ready cash as he could and ran off to Mexico, without paying Utley his two hundred thousand dollars. The Turtles were out of money, and they were being sued by Utley because he hadn't had the money he should have had, and by the big New York firm, because  since the Turtles hadn't known they were now legally their managers they were in breach of contract. They needed money quickly, and so they signed with another big management company, this one co-owned by Bill Cosby, in the belief that Cosby's star power might be able to get them some better bookings. It did -- one of the group's first gigs after signing with the new company was at the White House. It turned out they were Tricia Nixon's favourite group, and so they and the Temptations were booked at her request for a White House party. The group at first refused to play for a President they rightly thought of as a monster, but their managers insisted. That destroyed their reputation among the cool antiestablishment youth, of course, but it did start getting them well-paid corporate gigs. Right up until the point where Kaylan became sick at his own hypocrisy at playing these events, drank too much of the complimentary champagne at an event for the president of US Steel, went into a drunken rant about how sick the audience made him, and then about how his bandmates were a bunch of sellouts, threw his mic into a swimming pool, and quit while still on stage. He was out of the band for two months, during which time they worked on new material without him, before they made up and decided to work on a new album. This new album, though, was going to be more democratic. As well as being all original material, they weren't having any of this nonsense about the lead singer singing lead. This time, whoever wrote the song was going to sing lead, so Kaylan only ended up singing lead on six of the twelve songs on what turned out to be their final album, Turtle Soup. They wanted a truly great producer for the new album, and they all made lists of who they might call. The lists included a few big names like George Martin and Phil Spector, but one name kept turning up -- Ray Davies. As we'll hear in the next episode, the Kinks had been making some astonishing music since "You Really Got Me", but most of it had not been heard in the US. But the Turtles all loved the Kinks' 1968 album The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, which they considered the best album ever made: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Animal Farm"] They got in touch with Davies, and he agreed to produce the album -- the first time he did any serious outside production work -- and eventually they were able to persuade White Whale, who had no idea who he was, to allow him to produce it. The resulting album is by far the group's strongest album-length work, though there were problems -- Davies' original mix of the album was dominated by the orchestral parts written by Wrecking Crew musician Ray Pohlman, while the group thought that their own instruments should be more audible, since they were trying to prove that they were a proper band. They remixed it themselves, annoying Davies, though reissues since the eighties have reverted to a mix closer to Davies' intentions. Some of the music, like Pons' "Dance This Dance With Me", perhaps has the group trying a little *too* hard to sound like the Kinks: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Dance This Dance With Me"] But on the other hand, Kaylan's "You Don't Have to Walk in the Rain" is the group's last great pop single, and has one of the best lines of any single from the sixties -- "I look at your face, I love you anyway": [Excerpt: The Turtles, "You Don't Have to Walk in the Rain"] But the album produced no hits, and the group were getting more and more problems from their label. White Whale tried to get Volman and Kaylan to go to Memphis without the other band members to record with Chips Moman, but they refused -- the Turtles were a band, and they were proud of not having session players play their parts on the records. Instead, they started work with Jerry Yester producing on a new album, to be called Shell Shock. They did, though bow to pressure and record a terrible country track called "Who Would Ever Think That I Would Marry Margaret" backed by session players, at White Whale's insistence, but managed to persuade the label not to release it. They audited White Whale and discovered that in the first six months of 1969 alone -- a period where they hadn't sold that many records -- they'd been underpaid by a staggering six hundred and fifty thousand dollars. They sued the label for several million, and in retaliation, the label locked them out of the recording studio, locking their equipment in there. They basically begged White Whale to let them record one last great single, one last throw of the dice. Jim Pons had, for years, known a keyboard player named Bob Harris, and had recently got to know Harris' wife, Judee Sill. Sill had a troubled life -- she was a heroin addict, and had at times turned to streetwalking to earn money, and had spent time in prison for armed robbery -- but she was also an astonishing songwriter, whose music was as inspired by Bach as by any pop or folk composer. Sill had been signed to Blimp, the Turtles' new production and publishing company, and Pons was co-producing some tracks on her first album, with Graham Nash producing others. Pons thought one song from that album, "Lady-O", would be perfect for the Turtles: [Excerpt: Judee Sill, "Lady-O"] (music continues under) The Turtles stuck closely to Sill's vision of the song. So closely that you haven't noticed that before I started talking, we'd already switched from Sill's record to the Turtles' version. [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Lady-O"] That track, with Sill on guitar backing Kaylan, Volman, and Nichol's vocals, was the last Turtles single to be released while the band were together. Despite “Lady O” being as gorgeous a melody as has ever been produced in the rock world, it sank without trace, as did a single from the Shell Shock sessions released under a pseudonym, The Dedications. White Whale followed that up, to the group's disgust, with "Who Would Ever Think That I Would Marry Margaret?", and then started putting out whatever they had in the vaults, trying to get the last few pennies, even releasing their 1965 album track version of "Eve of Destruction" as if it were a new single. The band were even more disgusted when they discovered that, thanks to the flurry of suits and countersuits, they not only could no longer perform as the Turtles, but White Whale were laying legal claim to their own names. They couldn't perform under those names -- Howard Kaylan, Mark Volman, and the rest were the intellectual property of White Whale, according to the lawyers. The group split up, and Kaylan and Volman did some session work, including singing on a demo for a couple of new songwriters: [Excerpt: Steely Dan, "Everyone's Gone to the Movies"] When that demo got the songwriters a contract, one of them actually phoned up to see if Kaylan wanted a permanent job in their new band, but they didn't want Volman as well, so Kaylan refused, and Steely Dan had to do without him. Volman and Kaylan were despondent, washed-up, has-been ex-rock stars. But when they went to see a gig by their old friend Frank Zappa, it turned out that he was looking for exactly that. Of course, they couldn't use their own names, but the story of the Phlorescent Leech and Eddie is a story for another time... ... Read more

21 Sep 2022

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21 Sep 2022


#192

Episode 153: “Heroes and Villains” by the Beach Boys

Episode one hundred and fifty-three of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Heroes and Villains” by the Beach Boys, and the collapse of the Smile album. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a sixteen-minute bonus episode available, on ["I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night" by the Electric Prunes.] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/71907204) 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 There is no Mixcloud this week, because there were too many Beach Boys songs in the episode. I used many resources for this episode. As well as the books I referred to in all the Beach Boys episodes, listed below, I used Domenic Priore's book [Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson's Lost Masterpiece] (https://amzn.to/3U32SfQ) and [Richard Henderson's 33 1/3 book on Van Dyke Parks' Song Cycle] (https://amzn.to/3LalmH1) . Stephen McParland has published many, many books on the California surf and hot-rod music scenes, including several on both the Beach Boys and Gary Usher.  His books can be found at  [https://payhip.com/CMusicBooks] (https://payhip.com/CMusicBooks) Andrew Doe’s  [Bellagio 10452 ] (http://www.bellagio10452.com/) site is an invaluable resource. Jon Stebbins’  [The Beach Boys FAQ ] (https://amzn.to/2S0eQIs) is a good balance between accuracy and readability. And  [Philip Lambert’s Inside the Music of Brian Wilson] (https://amzn.to/3i22CcH)  is an excellent, though sadly out of print, musicological analysis of Wilson’s music from 1962 through 67. [Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson] (https://amzn.to/3RXpjRD) by Peter Ames Carlin is the best biography of Wilson. I have also referred to Brian Wilson’s autobiography,  [I Am Brian Wilson] (https://amzn.to/3AMbmys) , and to Mike Love’s,  [Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy] (https://amzn.to/3AMbmys) . As a good starting point for the Beach Boys’ music in general, I would recommend  [this budget-priced three-CD set] (https://amzn.to/3i0tsC9) , which has a surprisingly good selection of their material on it, including the single version of “Heroes and Villains”. The box set [The Smile Sessions ] (https://amzn.to/3wC2Ylh) contains an attempt to create a finished album from the unfinished sessions, plus several CDs of outtakes and session material. Transcript [Opening -- "intro to the album" studio chatter into "Our Prayer"] Before I start, I'd just like to note that this episode contains some discussion of mental illness, including historical negative attitudes towards it, so you may want to check the transcript or skip this one if that might be upsetting. In November and December 1966, the filmmaker David Oppenheim and the conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein collaborated on a TV film called "Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution".  The film was an early attempt at some of the kinds of things this podcast is doing, looking at how music and social events interact and evolve, though it was dealing with its present rather than the past. The film tried to cast as wide a net as possible in its fifty-one minutes. It looked at two bands from Manchester -- the Hollies and Herman's Hermits -- and how the people identified as their leaders, "Herman" (or Peter Noone) and Graham Nash, differed on the issue of preventing war: [Excerpt: Inside Pop, the Rock Revolution] And it made a star of East Coast teenage singer-songwriter Janis Ian with her song about interracial relationships, "Society's Child": [Excerpt: Janis Ian, "Society's Child"] And Bernstein spends a significant time, as one would expect, analysing the music of the Beatles and to a lesser extent the Stones, though they don't appear in the show. Bernstein does a lot to legitimise the music just by taking it seriously as a subject for analysis, at a time when most wouldn't: [Excerpt: Leonard Bernstein talking about "She Said She Said"] You can't see it, obviously, but in the clip that's from, as the Beatles recording is playing, Bernstein is conducting along with the music, as he would a symphony orchestra, showing where the beats are falling. But of course, given that this was filmed in the last two months of 1966, the vast majority of the episode is taken up with musicians from the centre of the music world at that time, LA. The film starts with Bernstein interviewing Tandyn Almer,  a jazz-influenced songwriter who had recently written the big hit "Along Comes Mary" for The Association: [Excerpt: Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution] It featured interviews with Roger McGuinn, and with the protestors at the Sunset Strip riots which were happening contemporaneously with the filming: [Excerpt: Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution] Along with Frank Zappa's rather acerbic assessment of the potential of the youth revolutionaries: [Excerpt: Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution] And ended (other than a brief post-commercial performance over the credits by the Hollies) with a performance by Tim Buckley, whose debut album, as we heard in the last episode, had featured Van Dyke Parks and future members of the Mothers of Invention and Buffalo Springfield: [Excerpt: Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution] But for many people the highlight of the film was the performance that came right before Buckley's, film of Brian Wilson playing a new song from the album he was working on. One thing I should note -- many sources say that the voiceover here is Bernstein. My understanding is that Bernstein wrote and narrated the parts of the film he was himself in, and Oppenheim did all the other voiceover writing and narration, but that Oppenheim's voice is similar enough to Bernstein's that people got confused about this: [Excerpt: Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution] That particular piece of footage was filmed in December 1966, but it wasn't broadcast until April the twenty-fifth, 1967, an eternity in mid-sixties popular music. When it was broadcast, that album still hadn't come out. Precisely one week later, the Beach Boys' publicist Derek Taylor announced that it never would: [Excerpt: Brian Wilson, "Surf's Up"] One name who has showed up in a handful of episodes recently, but who we've not talked that much about, is Van Dyke Parks. And in a story with many, many, remarkable figures, Van Dyke Parks may be one of the most remarkable of all. Long before he did anything that impinges on the story of rock music, Parks had lived the kind of life that would be considered unbelievable were it to be told as fiction. Parks came from a family that mixed musical skill, political progressiveness, and achievement. His mother was a scholar of Hebrew, while his father was a neurologist, the first doctor to admit Black patients to a white Southern hospital, and had paid his way through college leading a dance band. Parks' father was also, according to the 33 1/3 book on Song Cycle, a member of "John Philip Sousa's Sixty Silver Trumpets", but literally every reference I can find to Sousa leading a band of that name goes back to that book, so I've no idea what he was actually a member of, but we can presume he was a reasonable musician. Young Van Dyke started playing the clarinet at four, and was also a singer from a very early age, as well as playing several other instruments. He went to the American Boychoir School in Princeton, to study singing, and while there he sang with Toscaninni, Thomas Beecham, and other immensely important conductors of the era. He also had a very special accompanist for one Christmas carolling session. The choir school was based in Princeton, and one of the doors he knocked on while carolling was that of Princeton's most famous resident, Albert Einstein, who heard the young boy singing "Silent Night", and came out with his violin and played along. Young Van Dyke was only interested in music, but he was also paying the bills for his music tuition himself -- he had a job. He was a TV star. From the age of ten, he started getting roles in TV shows -- he played the youngest son in the 1953 sitcom Bonino, about an opera singer, which flopped because it aired opposite the extremely popular Jackie Gleason Show. He would later also appear in that show, as one of several child actors who played the character of Little Tommy Manicotti, and he made a number of other TV appearances, as well as having a small role in Grace Kelly's last film, The Swan, with Alec Guinness and Louis Jourdain. But he never liked acting, and just did it to pay for his education. He gave it up when he moved on to the Carnegie Institute, where he majored in composition and performance. But then in his second year, his big brother Carson asked him to drop out and move to California. Carson Parks had been part of the folk scene in California for a few years at this point. He and a friend had formed a duo called the Steeltown Two, but then both of them had joined the folk group the Easy Riders, a group led by Terry Gilkyson. Before Carson Parks joined, the Easy Riders had had a big hit with their version of "Marianne", a calypso originally by the great calypsonian Roaring Lion: [Excerpt: The Easy Riders, "Marianne"] They hadn't had many other hits, but their songs became hits for other people -- Gilkyson wrote several big hits for Frankie Laine, and the Easy Riders were the backing vocalists on Dean Martin's recording of a song they wrote, "Memories are Made of This": [Excerpt: Dean Martin and the Easy Riders, "Memories are Made of This"] Carson Parks hadn't been in the group at that point -- he only joined after they'd stopped having success -- and eventually the group had split up. He wanted to revive his old duo, the Steeltown Two, and persuaded his family to let his little brother Van Dyke drop out of university and move to California to be the other half of the duo. He wanted Van Dyke to play guitar, while he played banjo. Van Dyke had never actually played guitar before, but as Carson Parks later said "in 90 days, he knew more than most folks know after many years!" Van Dyke moved into an apartment adjoining his brother's, owned by Norm Botnick, who had until recently been the principal viola player in a film studio orchestra, before the film studios all simultaneously dumped their in-house orchestras in the late fifties, so was a more understanding landlord than most when it came to the lifestyles of musicians. Botnick's sons, Doug and Bruce, later went into sound engineering -- we've already encountered Bruce Botnick in the episode on the Doors, and he will be coming up again in the future. The new Steeltown Two didn't make any records, but they developed a bit of a following in the coffeehouses, and they also got a fair bit of session work, mostly through Terry Gilkyson, who was by that point writing songs for Disney and would hire them to play on sessions for his songs. And it was Gilkyson who both brought Van Dyke Parks the worst news of his life to that point, and in doing so also had him make his first major mark on music. Gilkyson was the one who informed Van Dyke that another of his brothers, Benjamin Riley Parks, had died in what was apparently a car accident. I say it was apparently an accident because Benjamin Riley Parks was at the time working for the US State Department, and there is apparently also some evidence that he was assassinated in a Cold War plot. Gilkyson also knew that neither Van Dyke nor Carson Parks had much money, so in order to help them afford black suits and plane tickets to and from the funeral, Gilkyson hired Van Dyke to write the arrangement for a song he had written for an upcoming Disney film: [Excerpt: Jungle Book soundtrack, "The Bare Necessities"] The Steeltown Two continued performing, and soon became known as the Steeltown Three, with the addition of a singer named Pat Peyton. The Steeltown Three recorded two singles, "Rock Mountain", under that group name: [Excerpt: The Steeltown Three, "Rock Mountain"] And a version of "San Francisco Bay" under the name The South Coasters, which I've been unable to track down. Then the three of them, with the help of Terry Gilkyson, formed a larger group in the style of the New Christy Minstrels -- the Greenwood County Singers. Indeed, Carson Parks would later claim that  Gilkyson had had the idea first -- that he'd mentioned that he'd wanted to put together a group like that to Randy Sparks, and Sparks had taken the idea and done it first. The Greenwood County Singers had two minor hot one hundred hits, only one of them while Van Dyke was in the band -- "The New 'Frankie and Johnny' Song", a rewrite by Bob Gibson and Shel Silverstein of the old traditional song "Frankie and Johnny": [Excerpt: The Greenwood County Singers, "The New Frankie and Johnny Song"] They also recorded several albums together, which gave Van Dyke the opportunity to practice his arrangement skills, as on this version of  "Vera Cruz" which he arranged: [Excerpt: The Greenwood County Singers, "Vera Cruz"] Some time before their last album, in 1965, Van Dyke left the Greenwood County Singers, and was replaced by Rick Jarrard, who we'll also be hearing more about in future episodes. After that album, the group split up, but Carson Parks would go on to write two big hits in the next few years. The first and biggest was a song he originally wrote for a side project. His future wife Gaile Foote was also a Greenwood County Singer, and the two of them thought they might become folk's answer to Sonny and Cher or Nino Tempo and April Stevens: [Excerpt: Carson and Gaile, "Somethin' Stupid"] That obviously became a standard after it was covered by Frank and Nancy Sinatra. Carson Parks also wrote "Cab Driver", which in 1968 became the last top thirty hit for the Mills Brothers, the 1930s vocal group we talked about way way back in episode six: [Excerpt: The Mills Brothers, "Cab Driver"] Meanwhile Van Dyke Parks was becoming part of the Sunset Strip rock and roll world. Now, until we get to 1967, Parks has something of a tangled timeline. He worked with almost every band around LA in a short period, often working with multiple people simultaneously, and nobody was very interested in keeping detailed notes. So I'm going to tell this as a linear story, but be aware it's very much not -- things I say in five minutes might happen after, or in the same week as, things I say in half an hour. At some point in either 1965 or 1966 he joined the Mothers of Invention for a brief while. Nobody is entirely sure when this was, and whether it was before or after their first album. Some say it was in late 1965, others in August 1966, and even the kind of fans who put together detailed timelines are none the wiser, because no recordings have so far surfaced of Parks with the band. Either is plausible, and the Mothers went through a variety of keyboard players at this time -- Zappa had turned to his jazz friend Don Preston, but found Preston was too much of a jazzer and told him to come back when he could play "Louie Louie" convincingly, asked Mac Rebennack to be in the band but sacked him pretty much straight away for drug use, and eventually turned to Preston again once Preston had learned to rock and roll. Some time in that period, Van Dyke Parks was a Mother, playing electric harpsichord. He may even have had more than one stint in the group -- Zappa said "Van Dyke Parks played electric harpsichord in and out." It seems likely, though, that it was in summer of 1966, because in an interview published in Teen Beat Magazine in December 66, but presumably conducted a few months prior, Zappa was asked to describe the band members in one word each and replied: "Ray—Mahogany Roy—Asbestos Jim—Mucilage Del—Acetate Van Dyke—Pinocchio Billy—Boom I don't know about the rest of the group—I don't even know about these guys." Sources differ as to why Parks didn't remain in the band -- Parks has said that he quit after a short time because he didn't like being shouted at, while Zappa said "Van Dyke was not a reliable player. He didn't make it to rehearsal on time and things like that." Both may be true of course, though I've not heard anyone else ever criticise Parks for his reliability. But then also Zappa had much more disciplinarian standards than most rock band leaders. It's possibly either through Zappa that he met Tom Wilson, or through Tom Wilson that he met Frank Zappa, but either way Parks, like the Mothers of Invention, was signed to MGM records in 1966, where he released two solo singles co-produced by Wilson and an otherwise obscure figure named Tim Alvorado. The first was "Number Nine", which we heard last week, backed with "Do What You Wanta": [Excerpt: Van Dyke Parks, "Do What You Wanta"] At least one source I've read says that the lyrics to "Do What You Wanta" were written not by Parks but by his friend Danny Hutton, but it's credited as a Parks solo composition on the label. It was after that that the Van Dyke Parks band -- or as they were sometimes billed, just The Van Dyke Parks formed, as we discussed last episode, based around Parks, Steve Stills, and Steve Young, and they performed a handful of shows with bass player Bobby Rae and drummer Walt Sparman, playing a mix of original material, primarily Parks' songs, and covers of things like "Dancing in the Street". The one contemporaneous review of a live show I've seen talks about  the girls in the audience screaming and how "When rhythm guitarist Steve Stillman imitated the Barry McGuire emotional scene, they almost went wiggy". But The Van Dyke Parks soon split up, and Parks the individual recorded his second single, "Come to the Sunshine": [Excerpt: Van Dyke Parks, "Come to the Sunshine"] Around the time he left the Greenwood County Singers, Van Dyke Parks also met Brian Wilson for the first time, when David Crosby took him up to Wilson's house to hear an acetate of the as-yet-unreleased track "Sloop John B". Parks was impressed by Wilson's arrangement techniques, and in particular the way he was orchestrating instrumental combinations that you couldn't do with a standard live room setup, that required overdubbing and close-micing. He said later "The first stuff I heard indicated this kind of curiosity for the recording experience, and when I went up to see him in '65 I don't even think he had the voices on yet, but I heard that long rotational breathing, that long flute ostinato at the beginning... I knew this man was a great musician." [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Sloop John B (instrumental)"] In most of 1966, though, Parks was making his living as a session keyboard player and arranger, and much of the work he was getting was through Lenny Waronker. Waronker was a second-generation music industry professional. His father, Si Waronker, had been a violinist in the Twentieth Century Fox studio orchestra before founding Liberty Records (the label which indirectly led to him becoming immortalised in children's entertainment, when Liberty Records star David Seville named his Chipmunk characters after three Liberty executives, with Simon being Si Waronker's full forename). The first release on Liberty Records had been a version of "The Girl Upstairs", an instrumental piece from the Fox film The Seven-Year Itch. The original recording of that track, for the film, had been done by the Twentieth Century Fox Orchestra, written and conducted by Alfred Newman, the musical director for Fox: [Excerpt: Alfred Newman, "The Girl Upstairs"] Liberty's soundalike version was conducted by Newman's brother Lionel, a pianist at the studio who later became Fox's musical director for TV, just as his brother was for film, but who also wrote many film scores himself. Another Newman brother, Emil, was also a film composer, but the fourth brother, Irving, had gone into medicine instead. However, Irving's son Randy wanted to follow in the family business, and he and Lenny Waronker, who was similarly following his own father by working for Liberty Records' publishing subsidiary Metric Music, had been very close friends ever since High School. Waronker got Newman signed to Metric Music, where he wrote "They Tell Me It's Summer" for the Fleetwoods: [Excerpt: The Fleetwoods, "They Tell Me It's Summer"] Newman also wrote and recorded a single of his own in 1962, co-produced by Pat Boone: [Excerpt: Randy Newman, "Golden Gridiron Boy"] Before deciding he wasn't going to make it as a singer and had better just be a professional songwriter. But by 1966 Waronker had moved on from Metric to Warner Brothers, and become a junior A&R man. And he was put in charge of developing the artists that Warners had acquired when they had bought up a small label, Autumn Records. Autumn Records was a San Francisco-based label whose main producer, Sly Stone, had now moved on to other things after producing the hit record "Laugh Laugh" for the Beau Brummels: [Excerpt: The Beau Brummels, "Laugh Laugh"] The Beau Brummels  had had another hit after that and were the main reason that Warners had bought the label, but their star was fading a little. Stone had also been mentoring several other groups, including the Tikis and the Mojo Men, who all had potential. Waronker gathered around himself a sort of brains trust of musicians who he trusted as songwriters, arrangers, and pianists -- Randy Newman, the session pianist Leon Russell, and Van Dyke Parks. Their job was to revitalise the career of the Beau Brummels, and to make both the Tikis and the Mojo Men into successes. The tactic they chose was, in Waronker's words, “Go in with a good song and weird it out.” The first good song they tried weirding out was in late 1966, when Leon Russell came up with a clarinet-led arrangement of Paul Simon's "59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy)" for the Tikis, who performed it but who thought that their existing fanbase wouldn't accept something so different, so it was put out under another name, suggested by Parks, Harpers Bizarre: [Excerpt: Harpers Bizarre, "Feeling Groovy"] Waronker said of Parks and Newman “They weren’t old school guys. They were modern characters but they had old school values regarding certain records that needed to be made, certain artists who needed to be heard regardless. So there was still that going on. The fact that ‘Feeling Groovy’ was a number 10 hit nationwide and ‘Sit Down, I Think I Love You’  made the Top 30 on Western regional radio, that gave us credibility within the company. One hit will do wonders, two allows you to take chances.” We heard "Sit Down, I Think I Love You" last episode -- that's the song by Parks' old friend Stephen Stills that Parks arranged for the Mojo Men: [Excerpt: The Mojo Men, "Sit Down, I Think I Love You"] During 1966 Parks also played on Tim Buckley's first album, as we also heard last episode: [Excerpt: Tim Buckley, "Aren't You the Girl?"] And he also bumped into Brian Wilson on occasion, as they were working a lot in the same studios and had mutual friends like Loren Daro and Danny Hutton, and he suggested the cello part on "Good Vibrations". Parks also played keyboards on "5D" by the Byrds: [Excerpt: The Byrds, "5D (Fifth Dimension)"] And on the Spirit of '67 album for Paul Revere and the Raiders, produced by the Byrds' old producer Terry Melcher. Parks played keyboards on much of the album, including the top five hit "Good Thing": [Excerpt: Paul Revere and the Raiders, "Good Thing"] But while all this was going on, Parks was also working on what would become the work for which he was best known. As I've said, he'd met Brian Wilson on a few occasions, but it wasn't until summer 1966 that the two were formally introduced by Terry Melcher, who knew that Wilson needed a new songwriting collaborator, now Tony Asher's sabbatical from his advertising job was coming to an end, and that Wilson wanted someone who could do work that was a bit more abstract than the emotional material that he had been writing with Asher. Melcher invited both of them to a party at his house on Cielo Drive -- a house which would a few years later become notorious -- which was also attended by many of the young Hollywood set of the time. Nobody can remember exactly who was at the party, but Parks thinks it was people like Jack Nicholson and Peter and Jane Fonda. Parks and Wilson hit it off, with Wilson saying later "He seemed like a really articulate guy, like he could write some good lyrics". Parks on the other hand was delighted to find that Wilson "liked Les Paul, Spike Jones, all of these sounds that I liked, and he was doing it in a proactive way." Brian suggested Parks write the finished lyrics for "Good Vibrations", which was still being recorded at this time, and still only had Tony Asher's dummy lyrics,  but Parks was uninterested. He said that it would be best if he and Brian collaborate together on something new from scratch, and Brian agreed. The first time Parks came to visit Brian at Brian's home, other than the visit accompanying Crosby the year before, he was riding a motorbike -- he couldn't afford a car -- and forgot to bring his driver's license with him. He was stopped by a police officer who thought he looked too poor to be in the area, but Parks persuaded the police officer that if he came to the door, Brian Wilson would vouch for him. Brian got Van Dyke out of any trouble because the cop's sister was a Beach Boys fan, so he autographed an album for her. Brian and Van Dyke talked for a while. Brian asked if Van Dyke needed anything to help his work go smoothly, and Van Dyke said he needed a car. Brian asked what kind. Van Dyke said that Volvos were supposed to be pretty safe. Brian asked how much they cost. Van Dyke said he thought they were about five thousand dollars. Brian called up his office and told them to get a cheque delivered to Van Dyke for five thousand dollars the next day, instantly earning Van Dyke's loyalty. After that, they got on with work. To start with, Brian played Van Dyke a melody he'd been working on, a melody based on a descending scale starting on the fourth: [Plays "Heroes and Villains" melody] Parks told Wilson that the melody reminded him vaguely of Marty Robbins' country hit "El Paso" from 1959, a song about a gunfighter, a cantina, and a dancing woman: [Excerpt: Marty Robbins, "El Paso"] Wilson said that he had been thinking along the same lines, a sort of old west story, and thought maybe it should be called "Heroes and Villains". Parks started writing, matching syllables to Wilson's pre-conceived melody -- "I've been in this town so long that back in the city I've been taken for lost and gone and unknown for a long, long time" [Excerpt: Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, "Heroes and Villains demo"] As Parks put it "The engine had started. It was very much ad hoc. Seat of the pants. Extemporaneous values were enforced. Not too much precommitment to ideas. Or, if so, equally pursuing propinquity." Slowly, over the next several months, while the five other Beach Boys were touring, Brian and Van Dyke refined their ideas about what the album they were writing, initially called Dumb Angel but soon retitled Smile, should be. For Van Dyke Parks it was an attempt to make music about America and American mythology. He was disgusted, as a patriot, with the Anglophilia that had swept the music industry since the arrival of the Beatles in America two and a half years earlier, particularly since that had happened so soon after the deaths both of President Kennedy and of Parks' own brother who was working for the government at the time he died. So for him, the album was about America, about Plymouth Rock, the Old West, California, and Hawaii. It would be a generally positive version of the country's myth, though it would of course also acknowledge the bloodshed on which the country had been built: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Bicycle Rider" section] As he put it later "I was dead set on centering my life on the patriotic ideal. I was a son of the American revolution, and there was blood on the tracks. Recent blood, and it was still drying. The whole record seemed like a real effort toward figuring out what Manifest Destiny was all about. We'd come as far as we could, as far as Horace Greeley told us to go. And so we looked back and tried to make sense of that great odyssey." Brian had some other ideas -- he had been studying the I Ching, and Subud, and he wanted to do something about the four classical elements, and something religious -- his ideas were generally rather unfocused at the time, and he had far more ideas than he knew what to usefully do with. But he was also happy with the idea of a piece about America, which fit in with his own interest in "Rhapsody in Blue", a piece that was about America in much the same way. "Rhapsody in Blue" was an inspiration for Brian primarily in how it weaved together variations on themes. And there are two themes that between them Brian was finding endless variations on. The first theme was a shuffling between two chords a fourth away from each other. [demonstrates G to C on guitar] Where these chords are both major, that's the sequence for "Fire": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow/Fire"] For the "Who ran the Iron Horse?" section of "Cabin Essence": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Cabinessence"] For "Vegetables": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Vegetables"] And more. Sometimes this would be the minor supertonic and dominant seventh of the key, so in C that would be Dm to G7: [Plays Dm to G7 fingerpicked] That's the "bicycle rider" chorus we heard earlier, which was part of a song known as "Roll Plymouth Rock" or "Do You Like Worms": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Bicycle Rider"] But which later became a chorus for "Heroes and Villains": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Heroes and Villains"] But that same sequence is also the beginning of "Wind Chimes": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Wind Chimes"] The "wahalla loo lay" section of "Roll Plymouth Rock": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Roll Plymouth Rock"] And others, but most interestingly, the minor-key rearrangement of "You Are My Sunshine" as "You Were My Sunshine": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "You Were My Sunshine"] I say that's most interesting, because that provides a link to another of the major themes which Brian was wringing every drop out of, a phrase known as "How Dry I Am", because of its use under those words in an Irving Berlin song, which was a popular barbershop quartet song but is now best known as a signifier of drunkenness in Looney Tunes cartoons: [Excerpt: Daffy Duck singing "How Dry I Am" ] The phrase is a common one in early twentieth century music, especially folk and country, as it's made up of notes in the pentatonic scale -- it's the fifth, first, second, and third of the scale, in that order: [demonstrates "How Dry I Am"] And so it's in the melody to "This Land is Your Land", for example, a song which is very much in the same spirit of progressive Americana in which Van Dyke Parks was thinking: [Excerpt: Woody Guthrie, "This Land is Your Land"] It's also the start of the original melody of "You Are My Sunshine": [Excerpt: Jimmie Davis, "You Are My Sunshine" ] Brian rearranged that melody when he stuck it into a minor key, so it's no longer "How Dry I Am" in the Beach Boys version, but if you play the "How Dry I Am" notes in a different rhythm, you get this: [Plays "He Gives Speeches" melody] Which is the start of the melody to "He Gives Speeches": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "He Gives Speeches"] Play those notes backwards, you get: [Plays "He Gives Speeches" melody backwards] Do that and add onto the end a passing sixth and then the tonic, and then you get: [Plays that] Which is the vocal *countermelody* in "He Gives Speeches": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "He Gives Speeches"] And also turns up in some versions of "Heroes and Villains": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Heroes and Villains (alternate version)"] And so on. Smile was an intricate web of themes and variations, and it incorporated motifs from many sources, both the great American songbook and the R&B of Brian's youth spent listening to Johnny Otis' radio show. There were bits of "Gee" by the Crows, of "Twelfth Street Rag", and of course, given that this was Brian Wilson, bits of Phil Spector. The backing track to the verse of "Heroes and Villains": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Heroes and Villains"] Owed more than a little to a version of "Save the Last Dance For Me" that Spector had produced for Ike and Tina Turner: [Excerpt: Ike and Tina Turner, "Save the Last Dance For Me"] While one version of the song “Wonderful” contained a rather out-of-place homage to Etta James and “The Wallflower”: [Excerpt: “Wonderful (Rock With Me Henry)”] As the recording continued, it became more and more obvious that the combination of these themes and variations was becoming a little too much for Brian.  Many of the songs he was working on were made up of individual modules that he was planning to splice together the way he had with "Good Vibrations", and some modules were getting moved between tracks, as he tried to structure the songs in the edit. He'd managed it with "Good Vibrations", but this was an entire album, not just a single, and it was becoming more and more difficult. David Anderle, who was heading up the record label the group were looking at starting, would talk about Brian playing him acetates with sections edited together one way, and thinking it was perfect, and obviously the correct way to put them together, the only possible way, and then hearing the same sections edited together in a different way, and thinking *that* was perfect, and obviously the correct way to put them together. But while a lot of the album was modular, there were also several complete songs with beginnings, middles, ends, and structures, even if they were in several movements. And those songs showed that if Brian could just get the other stuff right, the album could be very, very, special. There was "Heroes and Villains" itself, of course, which kept changing its structure but was still based around the same basic melody and story that Brian and Van Dyke had come up with on their first day working together. There was also "Wonderful", a beautiful, allusive, song about innocence lost and regained: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Wonderful"] And there was CabinEssence, a song which referenced yet another classic song, this time "Home on the Range", to tell a story of idyllic rural life and of the industrialisation which came with westward expansion: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "CabinEssence"] The arrangement for that song inspired Van Dyke Parks to make a very astute assessment of Brian Wilson. He said later "He knew that he had to adhere to the counter-culture, and I knew that I had to. I think that he was about as estranged from it as I was.... At the same time, he didn't want to lose that kind of gauche sensibility that he had. He was doing stuff that nobody would dream of doing. You would never, for example, use one string on a banjo when you had five; it just wasn't done. But when I asked him to bring a banjo in, that's what he did. This old-style plectrum thing. One string. That's gauche." Both Parks and Wilson were both drawn to and alienated from the counterculture, but in very different ways, and their different ways of relating to the counterculture created the creative tension that makes the Smile project so interesting. Parks is fundamentally a New Deal Liberal, and was excited by the progresssive nature of the counterculture, but also rather worried about its tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and to ignore the old in pursuit of the new. He was an erudite, cultured, sophisticated man who thought that there was value to be found in the works and attitudes of the past, even as one must look to the future. He was influenced by the beat poets and the avant garde art of the time, but also said of his folk music period "A harpist would bring his harp with him and he would play and recite a story which had been passed down the generations. This particular legacy continued through Arthurian legend, and then through the Middle Ages, and even into the nineteenth century. With all these songs, half of the story was the lyrics, and the folk songs were very interesting. They were tremendously thought-driven songs; there was nothing confusing about that. Even when the Kingston Trio came out -- and Brian has already admitted his debt to the Kingston Trio -- 'Tom Dooley', the story of a murder most foul 'MTA' an urban nightmare -- all of this thought-driven music was perfectly acceptable.  It was more than a teenage romantic crisis." Brian Wilson, on the other hand, was anything *but* sophisticated. He is a simple man in the best sense of the term -- he likes what he likes, doesn't like what he doesn't like, and has no pretensions whatsoever about it. He is, at heart, a middle-class middle-American brought up in suburbia, with a taste for steaks and hamburgers, broad physical comedy, baseball, and easy listening music. Where Van Dyke Parks was talking about "thought-driven music", Wilson's music, while thoughtful, has always been driven by feelings first and foremost. Where Parks is influenced by Romantic composers like Gottschalk but is fundamentally a craftsman, a traditionalist, a mason adding his work to a cathedral whose construction started before his birth and will continue after his death, Wilson's music has none of the stylistic hallmarks of Romantic music, but in its inspiration it is absolutely Romantic -- it is the immediate emotional expression of the individual, completely unfiltered. When writing his own lyrics in later years Wilson would come up with everything from almost haiku-like lyrics like "I'm a leaf on a windy day/pretty soon I'll be blown away/How long with the wind blow?/Until I die" to "He sits behind his microphone/Johnny Carson/He speaks in such a manly tone/Johnny Carson", depending on whether at the time his prime concern was existential meaninglessness or what was on the TV. Wilson found the new counterculture exciting, but was also very aware he didn't fit in. He was developing a new group of friends, the hippest of the hip in LA counterculture circles -- the singer Danny Hutton, Mark Volman of the Turtles, the writers Michael Vosse and Jules Siegel, scenester and record executive David Anderle -- but there was always the underlying implication that at least some of these people regarded him as, to use an ableist term but one which they would probably have used, an idiot savant. That they thought of him, as his former collaborator Tony Asher would later uncharitably put it, as "a genius musician but an amateur human being". So for example when Siegel brought the great postmodern novelist Thomas Pynchon to visit Brian, both men largely sat in silence, unable to speak to each other; Pynchon because he tended to be a reactive person in conversation and would wait for the other person to initiate topics of discussion, Brian because he was so intimidated by Pynchon's reputation as a great East Coast intellectual that he was largely silent for fear of making a fool of himself. It was this gaucheness, as Parks eventually put it, and Parks' understanding that this was actually a quality to be cherished and the key to Wilson's art, that eventually gave the title to the most ambitious of the complete songs the duo were working on. They had most of the song -- a song about the power of music, the concept of enlightenment, and the rise and fall of civilisations: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Surf's Up"] But Parks hadn't yet quite finished the lyric. The Beach Boys had been off on tour for much of Brian and Van Dyke's collaboration, and had just got back from their first real tour of the UK, where Pet Sounds had been a smash hit, rather than the middling success it had been in the US, and "Good Vibrations" had just become their first number one single. Brian and Van Dyke played the song for Brian's brother Dennis, the Beach Boys' drummer, and the band member most in tune with Brian's musical ambitions at this time. Dennis started crying, and started talking about how the British audiences had loved their music, but had laughed at their on-stage striped-shirt uniforms. Parks couldn't tell if he was crying because of the beauty of the unfinished song, the humiliation he had suffered in Britain, or both. Dennis then asked what the name of the song was, and as Parks later put it "Although it was the most gauche factor, and although maybe Brian thought it was the most dispensable thing, I thought it was very important to continue to use the name and keep the elephant in the room -- to keep the surfing image but to sensitise it to new opportunities. One of these would be an eco-consciousness; it would be speaking about the greening of the Earth, aboriginal people, how we had treated the Indians, taking on those things and putting them into the thoughts that come with the music. That was a solution to the relevance of the group, and I wanted the group to be relevant." Van Dyke had decided on a title: "Surf's Up": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Surf's Up"] As the group were now back from their tour, the focus for recording shifted from the instrumental sessions to vocal ones. Parks had often attended the instrumental sessions, as he was an accomplished musician and arranger himself, and would play on the sessions, but also wanted to learn from what Brian was doing -- he's stated later that some of his use of tuned percussion in the decades since, for example, has come from watching Brian's work. But while he was also a good singer, he was not a singer in the same style as the Beach Boys, and they certainly didn't need his presence at those sessions, so he continued to work on his lyrics, and to do his arrangement and session work for other artists, while they worked in the studio. He was also, though, starting to distance himself from Brian for other reasons. At the start of the summer, Brian's eccentricity and whimsy had seemed harmless -- indeed, the kind of thing he was doing, such as putting his piano in a sandbox so he could feel the sand with his feet while he wrote, seems very much on a par with Maureen Cleave's descriptions of John Lennon in the same period. They were two newly-rich, easily bored, young men with low attention spans and high intelligence who could become deeply depressed when understimulated and so would get new ideas into their heads, spend money on their new fads, and then quickly discard them. But as the summer wore on into autumn and winter, Brian's behaviour became more bizarre, and to Parks' eyes more distasteful. We now know that Brian was suffering a period of increasing mental ill-health, something that was probably not helped by the copious intake of cannabis and amphetamines he was using to spur his creativity, but at the time most people around him didn't realise this, and general knowledge of mental illness was even less than it is today. Brian was starting to do things like insist on holding business meetings in his swimming pool, partly because people wouldn't be able to spy on him, and partly because he thought people would be more honest if they were in the water. There were also events like the recording session where Wilson paid for several session musicians, not to play their instruments, but to be recorded while they sat in a pitch-black room and played the party game Lifeboat with Jules Siegel and several of Wilson's friends, most of whom were stoned and not really understanding what they were doing, while they got angrier and more frustrated. Alan Jardine -- who unlike the Wilson brothers, and even Mike Love to an extent, never indulged in illegal drugs -- has talked about not understanding why, in some vocal sessions, Brian would make the group crawl on their hands and knees while making noises like animals: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Heroes and Villains Part 3 (Animals)"] As Parks delicately put it "I sensed all that was destructive, so I withdrew from those related social encounters." What this meant though was that he was unaware that not all the Beach Boys took the same attitude of complete support for the work he and Brian had been doing that Dennis Wilson -- the only other group member he'd met at this point -- took. In particular, Mike Love was not a fan of Parks' lyrics. As he said later "I called it acid alliteration. The [lyrics are] far out. But do they relate like 'Surfin' USA,' like 'Fun Fun Fun,' like 'California Girls,' like 'I Get Around'? Perhaps not! So that's the distinction. See, I'm into success. These words equal successful hit records; those words don't" Now, Love has taken a lot of heat for this over the years, and on an artistic level that's completely understandable. Parks' lyrics were, to my mind at least, the best the Beach Boys ever had -- thoughtful, intelligent, moving, at times profound, often funny, often beautiful. But, while I profoundly disagree with Love, I have a certain amount of sympathy for his position. From Love's perspective, first and foremost, this is his source of income. He was the only one of the Beach Boys to ever have had a day job -- he'd worked at his father's sheet metal company -- and didn't particularly relish the idea of going back to manual labour if the rock star gig dried up. It wasn't that he was *opposed* to art, of course -- he'd written the lyrics to "Good Vibrations", possibly the most arty rock single released to that point, hadn't he? -- but that had been *commercial* art. It had sold. Was this stuff going to sell? Was he still going to be able to feed his wife and kids? Also, up until a few months earlier he had been Brian's principal songwriting collaborator. He was *still* the most commercially successful collaborator Brian had had. From his perspective, this was a partnership, and it was being turned into a dictatorship without him having been consulted. Before, it had been "Mike, can you write some lyrics for this song about cars?", now it was "Mike, you're going to sing these lyrics about a crow uncovering a cornfield". And not only that, but Mike had not met Brian's new collaborator, but knew he was hanging round with Brian's new druggie friends. And Brian was behaving increasingly weirdly, which Mike put down to the influence of the drugs and these new friends. It can't have helped that at the same time the group's publicist, Derek Taylor, was heavily pushing the line "Brian Wilson is a genius". This was causing Brian some distress -- he didn't think of himself as a genius, and he saw the label as a burden, something it was impossible to live up to -- but was also causing friction in the group, as it seemed that their contributions were being dismissed. Again, I don't agree with Mike's position on any of this, but it is understandable. It's also the case that Mike Love is, by nature, a very assertive and gregarious person, while Brian Wilson, for all that he took control in the studio, is incredibly conflict-avoidant and sensitive. From what I know of the two men's personalities, and from things they've said, and from the session recordings that have leaked over the years, it seems entirely likely that Love will have seen himself as having reasonable criticisms, and putting them to Brian clearly with a bit of teasing to take the sting out of them; while Brian will have seen Love as mercilessly attacking and ridiculing the work that meant so much to him in a cruel and hurtful manner, and that neither will have understood at the time that that was how the other was seeing things. Love's criticisms intensified. Not of everything -- he's several times expressed admiration for "Heroes and Villains" and "Wonderful" -- but in general he was not a fan of Parks' lyrics. And his criticisms seemed to start to affect Brian. It's difficult to say what Brian thinks about Parks' lyrics, because he has a habit in interviews of saying what he thinks the interviewer wants to hear, and the whole subject of Smile became a touchy one for him for a long time, so in some interviews he has talked about how dazzlingly brilliant they are, while at other times he's seemed to agree with Love, saying they were "Van Dyke Parks lyrics", not "Beach Boys lyrics". He may well sincerely think both at the same time, or have thought both at different times. This came to a head with a session for the tag of "Cabinessence": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Cabinessence"] Love insisted on having the line "over and over the crow flies uncover the cornfield" explained to him, and Brian eventually decided to call Van Dyke Parks and have him come to the studio. Up to this point, Parks had no idea that there was anything controversial, so when Brian phoned him up and very casually said that Mike had a few questions about the lyrics, could he come down to the studio? He went without a second thought. He later said "The only person I had had any interchange with before that was Dennis, who had responded very favorably to 'Heroes and Villains' and 'Surf's Up'. Based on that, I gathered that the work would be approved. But then, with no warning whatsoever, I got that phone call from Brian. And that's when the whole house of cards came tumbling down." Parks got to the studio, where he was confronted by an angry Mike Love, insisting he explain the lyrics. Now, as will be, I hope, clear from everything I've said, Parks and Love are very, very, *very* different people. Having met both men -- albeit only in formal fan-meeting situations where they're presenting their public face -- I actually find both men very likeable, but in very different ways. Love is gregarious, a charmer, the kind of man who would make a good salesman and who people use terms like "alpha male" about. He's tall, and has a casual confidence that can easily read as arrogance, and a straightforward sense of humour that can sometimes veer into the cruel. Parks, on the other hand, is small, meticulously well-mannered and well-spoken, has a high, precise, speaking voice which probably reads as effeminate to the kind of people who use terms like "alpha male", and the kind of devastating intelligence and Southern US attention to propriety which means that if he *wanted* to say something cruel about someone, the victim would believe themselves to have been complimented until a horrific realisation two days after the event. In every way, from their politics to their attitudes to art versus commerce to their mannerisms to their appearance, Mike Love and Van Dyke Parks are utterly different people, and were never going to mix well. And Brian Wilson, who was supposed to be the collaborator for both of them, was not mediating between them, not even expressing an opinion -- his own mental problems had reached the stage where he simply couldn't deal with the conflict. Parks felt ambushed and hurt, Love felt angry, especially when Parks could not explain the literal meaning of his lyrics. Eventually Parks just said "I have no excuse, sir", and left. Parks later said "That's when I lost interest. Because basically I was taught not to be where I wasn't wanted, and I could feel I wasn't wanted. It was like I had someone else's job, which was abhorrent to me, because I don't even want my own job. It was sad, so I decided to get away quick." Parks continued collaborating with Wilson, and continued attending instrumental sessions, but it was all wheelspinning -- no significant progress was made on any songs after that point, in early December. It was becoming clear that the album wasn't going to be ready for its planned Christmas release, and it was pushed back to January, but Brian's mental health was becoming worse and worse. One example that's often cited as giving an insight into Brian's mental state at the time is his reaction to going to the cinema to see John Frankenheimer's classic science fiction horror film Seconds. Brian came in late, and the way the story is always told, when he was sat down the screen was black and a voice said from the darkness, "Hello Mr. Wilson". That moment does not seem to correspond with anything in the actual film, but he probably came in around the twenty-four minute mark, where the main character walks down a corridor, filmed in a distorted, hallucinatory manner, to be greeted: [Excerpt: Seconds, 24:00] But as Brian watched the film, primed by this, he became distressed by a number of apparent similarities to his life. The main character was going through death and rebirth, just as he felt he was. Right after the moment I just excerpted, Mr. Wilson is shown a film, and of course Brian was himself watching a film. The character goes to the beach in California, just like Brian. The character has a breakdown on a plane, just like Brian, and has to take pills to cope, and the breakdown happens right after this: [Excerpt: Seconds, from about 44:22] A studio in California? Just like where Brian spent his working days? That kind of weird coincidence can be affecting enough in a work of art when one is relatively mentally stable, but Brian was not at all stable. By this point he was profoundly paranoid -- and he may have had good reason to be. Some of Brian's friends from this time period have insisted that Brian's semi-estranged abusive father and former manager, Murry, was having private detectives watch him and his brothers to find evidence that they were using drugs. If you're in the early stages of a severe mental illness *and* you're self-medicating with illegal drugs, *and* people are actually spying on you, then that kind of coincidence becomes a lot more distressing. Brian became convinced that the film was the work of mind gangsters, probably in the pay of Phil Spector, who were trying to drive him mad and were using telepathy to spy on him. He started to bar people who had until recently been his friends from coming to sessions -- he decided that Jules Siegel's girlfriend was a witch and so Siegel was no longer welcome -- and what had been a creative process in the studio degenerated into noodling and second-guessing himself. He also, with January having come and the album still not delivered, started doing side projects,  some of which, like his production of tracks for photographer Jasper Daily, seem evidence either of his bizarre sense of humour, or of his detachment from reality, or both: [Excerpt: Jasper Daily, "Teeter Totter Love"] As 1967 drew on, things got worse and worse. Brian was by this point concentrating on just one or two tracks, but endlessly reworking elements of them. He became convinced that the track "Fire" had caused some actual fires to break out in LA, and needed to be scrapped. The January deadline came and went with no sign of the album. To add to that, the group discovered that they were owed vast amounts of unpaid royalties by Capitol records, and legal action started which meant that even were the record to be finished it might become a pawn in the legal wrangling. Parks eventually became exasperated by Brian -- he said later "I was victimised by Brian Wilson's buffoonery" -- and he quit the project altogether in February after a row with Brian. He returned a couple of weeks later out of a sense of loyalty, but quit again in April. By April, he'd been working enough with Lenny Waronker that Waronker offered him a contract with Warner Brothers as a solo artist -- partly because Warners wanted some insight into Brian Wilson's techniques as a hit-making producer. To start with, Parks released a single, to dip a toe in the water, under the pseudonym "George Washington Brown". It was a largely-instrumental cover version of Donovan's song "Colours", which Parks chose because after seeing the film Don't Look Back, a documentary of Bob Dylan's 1965 British tour, he felt saddened at the way Dylan had treated Donovan: [Excerpt: George Washington Brown, "Donovan's Colours"] That was not a hit, but it got enough positive coverage, including an ecstatic review from Richard Goldstein in the Village Voice, that Parks was given carte blanche to create the album he wanted to create, with one of the largest budgets of any album released to that date. The result was a masterpiece, and very similar to the vision of Smile that Parks had had -- an album of clever, thoroughly American music which had more to do with Charles Ives than the British Invasion: [Excerpt: Van Dyke Parks, "The All Golden"] But Parks realised the album, titled Song Cycle, was doomed to failure when at a playback session, the head of Warner Brothers records said "Song Cycle? So where are the songs?" According to Parks, the album was only released because Jac Holzman of Elektra Records was also there, and took out his chequebook and said he'd release the album if Warners wouldn't, but it had little push, apart from some rather experimental magazine adverts which were, if anything, counterproductive. But Waronker recognised Parks' talent, and had even written into Parks' contract that Parks would be employed as a session player at scale on every session Waronker produced -- something that didn't actually happen, because Parks didn't insist on it, but which did mean Parks had a certain amount of job security. Over the next couple of years Parks and Waronker co-produced the first albums by two of their colleagues from Waronker's brains trust, with Parks arranging -- Randy Newman: [Excerpt: Randy Newman, "I Think It's Going to Rain Today"] And Ry Cooder: [Excerpt: Ry Cooder, "One Meat Ball"] Waronker would refer to himself, Parks, Cooder, and Newman as "the arts and crafts division" of Warners, and while these initial records weren't very successful, all of them would go on to bigger things. Parks would be a pioneer of music video, heading up Warners' music video department in the early seventies, and would also have a staggeringly varied career over the years, doing everything from teaming up again with the Beach Boys to play accordion on "Kokomo" to doing the string arrangements on Joanna Newsom's album Ys, collaborating with everyone from U2 to Skrillex,  discovering Rufus Wainwright, and even acting again, appearing in Twin Peaks. He also continued to make massively inventive solo albums, releasing roughly one every decade, each unique and yet all bearing the hallmarks of his idiosyncratic style. As you can imagine, he is very likely to come up again in future episodes, though we're leaving him for now. Meanwhile, the Beach Boys were floundering, and still had no album -- and now Parks was no longer working with Brian, the whole idea of Smile was scrapped. The priority was now to get a single done, and so work started on a new, finished, version of "Heroes and Villains", structured in a fairly conventional manner using elements of the Smile recordings. The group were suffering from numerous interlocking problems at this point, and everyone was stressed -- they were suing their record label, Dennis' wife had filed for divorce, Brian was having mental health problems, and Carl had been arrested for draft dodging -- though he was later able to mount a successful defence that he was a conscientious objector. Also, at some point around this time, Bruce Johnston seems to have temporarily quit the group, though this was never announced -- he doesn't seem to have been at any sessions from late May or early June through mid-September, and didn't attend the two shows they performed in that time. They were meant to have performed three shows, but even though Brian was on the board of the Monterey Pop Festival, they pulled out at the last minute, saying that they needed to deal with getting the new single finished and with Carl's draft problems. Some or all of these other issues almost certainly fed into that, but the end result was that the Beach Boys were seen to have admitted defeat, to have handed the crown of relevance off to the San Francisco groups. And even if Smile had been released, there were other releases stealing its thunder. If it had come out in December it would have been massively ahead of its time, but after the Beatles released Sgt Pepper it would have seemed like it was a cheap copy -- though Parks has always said he believes the Beatles heard some of the Smile tapes and copied elements of the recordings, though I don't hear much similarity myself. But I do hear a strong similarity in "My World Fell Down" by Sagittarius, which came out in June, and which was largely made by erstwhile collaborators of Brian -- Gary Usher produced, Glen Campbell sang lead, and Bruce Johnston sang backing vocals: [Excerpt: Sagittarius, "My World Fell Down"] Brian was very concerned after hearing that that someone *had* heard the Smile tapes, and one can understand why. When "Heroes and Villains" finally came out, it was a great single, but only made number twelve in the charts. It was fantastic, but out of step with the times, and nothing could have lived up to the hype that had built up around it: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Heroes and Villains"] Instead of Smile, the group released an album called Smiley Smile, recorded in a couple of months in Brian's home studio, with no studio musicians and no involvement from Bruce, other than the previously released singles, and with the production credited to "the Beach Boys" rather than Brian. Smiley Smile has been unfairly dismissed over the years, but it's actually an album that was ahead of its time. It's a collection of stripped down versions of Smile songs and new fragments using some of the same motifs, recorded with minimal instrumentation. Some of it is on a par with the Smile material it's based on: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Wonderful"] Some is, to my ears, far more beautiful than the Smile versions: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Wind Chimes"] And some has a fun goofiness which relates back to one of Brian's discarded ideas for Smile, that it be a humour album: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "She's Going Bald"] The album was a commercial flop, by far the least successful thing the group had released to that point in the US, not even making the top forty when it came out in September, though it made the top ten in the UK, but interestingly it *wasn't* a critical flop, at least at first. While the scrapping of Smile had been mentioned, it still wasn't widely known, and so for example Richard Goldstein, the journalist whose glowing review of "Donovan's Colours" in the Village Voice had secured Van Dyke Parks the opportunity to make Song Cycle, gave it a review in the New York Times which is written as if Goldstein at least believes it *is* the album that had been promised all along, and he speaks of it very perceptively -- and here I'm going to quote quite extensively, because the narrative about this album has always been that it was panned from the start and made the group a laughing stock: "Smiley Smile hardly reads like a rock cantata. But there are moments in songs such as 'With Me Tonight' and 'Wonderful' that soar like sacred music. Even the songs that seem irrelevant to a rock-hymn are infused with stained-glass melodies. Wilson is a sound sculptor and his songs are all harmonious litanies to the gentle holiness of love — post-Christian, perhaps but still believing. 'Wind Chimes', the most important piece on the album, is a fine example of Brian Wilson's organic pop structure. It contains three movements. First, Wilson sets a lyric and melodic mood ("In the late afternoon, you're hung up on wind chimes"). Then he introduces a totally different scene, utilizing passages of pure, wordless harmony. His two-and-a-half minute hymn ends with a third movement in which the voices join together in an exquisite round, singing the words, "Whisperin' winds set my wind chimes a-tinklin'." The voices fade out slowly, like the bittersweet afternoon in question. The technique of montage is an important aspect of Wilson's rock cantata, since the entire album tends to flow as a single composition. Songs like 'Heroes and Villains', are fragmented by speeding up or slowing down their verses and refrains. The effect is like viewing the song through a spinning prism. Sometimes, as in 'Fall Breaks and Back to Winter' (subtitled "W. Woodpecker Symphony"), the music is tiered into contrapuntal variations on a sliver of melody. The listener is thrown into a vast musical machine of countless working gears, each spinning in its own orbit." That's a discussion of the album that I hear when I listen to Smiley Smile, and the group seem to have been artistically happy with it, at least at first. They travelled to Hawaii to record a live album (with Brian, as Bruce was still out of the picture), taking the Baldwin organ that Brian used all over Smiley Smile with them, and performed rearranged versions of their old hits in the Smiley Smile style. When the recordings proved unusable, they recreated them in the studio, with Bruce returning to the group, where he would remain, with the intention of overdubbing audience noise and releasing a faked live album: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "California Girls [Lei'd studio version]"] The idea of the live album, to be called Lei'd in Hawaii, was scrapped, but that's not the kind of radical reimagining of your sound that you do if you think you've made an artistic failure. Indeed, the group's next album, Wild Honey, which came out in late 1967, is very much a successor to Smiley Smile in its stripped-down sound, but with a set of songs that have a certain amount of influence from the soul music that Carl and Mike were now listening to. [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Wild Honey"] The singles from "Wild Honey" were moderately successful, and it looked like the group were going to reinvent themselves, but then the critical consensus changed. First there was Jules Siegel's article on Smile, titled "Goodbye Surfing, Hello God", which had been intended for the Saturday Evening Post but had itself gone through endless delays, and which eventually came out in Cheetah magazine roughly a month after Smiley Smile came out, and which became the first draft of history as far as Smile was concerned -- telling the story not of an album scrapped and reworked, but of Icarus soaring too close to the sun, while his bandmates pulled the feathers off. It reinforced all the "genius" stories that Wilson had found so upsetting, while implicitly making any new music that actually got released pale in comparison to a mythical album that had never been finished and which could take on any shape the listener imagined. Meanwhile, Jann Wenner wrote an article in his new magazine Rolling Stone -- a magazine which explicitly sided with San Francisco in the war between Frisco and LA, and which over the years would contribute to almost all the LA bands being critically sidelined or forgotten in the US, no matter how good they'd been -- dismissing all the hype about the group and about Brian's genius, and arguing that they were only a moderately good pop band, and not even that good live, and should stick to the fun stuff they knew and not try to play with the big boys. And more or less overnight these two views became the sum total of American critical opinion of the Beach Boys -- a mainstream opinion that dismissed them as frothy lightweight has-beens who'd made a few good singles but had been overtaken, and a more hipsterish, underground, version that said that Brian Wilson was a genius but he had been sabotaged by his bandmates and the proof of that genius had never been released, so you'd best just take it on trust. Neither required any acknowledgement of any work the group might do in the future, any capacity of progress or relevance for them, or any reason to engage critically with any new work they did. Brian Wilson was permanently cast as either an overrated dilettante who believed his own press or a tragic victim sabotaged by his family; his bandmates, either way, as talentless hacks. And as anyone who has tried to talk about the Beach Boys online knows, that dual consensus remains largely in place today, irrespective of any actual qualities of the music. At least for the moment, though, the group were still on a commercial and critical upswing in the UK, at a time when critical reputations were much less coupled than they are now, and when Mike and Bruce decided to drop in at the Beatles' Christmas launch party for their new film, Magical Mystery Tour, they were treated as honoured guests, and invited to jam on stage with, depending on which version of events you believe, either John, Paul, and Ringo, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, or some combination of all of the above. And they had a new mutual acquaintance. A few days before, at the instigation of Dennis Wilson, the Beach Boys had met up with the Maharishi, who the Beatles had started seeing a couple of months earlier. Dennis himself didn't remain impressed with the Maharishi for long, and went off looking for another guru to follow, but Mike Love became a devoted follower, as he is to this day, and two months later Mike Love would join the Beatles and Donovan on a retreat with the Maharishi in Rishikesh, in India. What nobody could know at the time was that the songs the Beatles would write on that retreat would intersect horribly, in unpredictable ways, with Dennis Wilson's search for a guru. Ways which would ultimately lead back to the house on Cielo Drive where Brian and Van Dyke first agreed to collaborate. But that, I am glad to say, is a much darker story for another time. ... Read more

13 Sep 2022

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13 Sep 2022


#191

Episode 152: “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield

Episode 152 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “For What It's Worth”, and the short but eventful career of Buffalo Springfield. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a twenty-five-minute bonus episode available, [on "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" by Glen Campbell] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/71228480) . 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/) Erratum: I say Moby Grape never recorded the song "On the Other Side", but someone in the comments has pointed me to a demo of it which was released under the name "Stop" Resources As usual, there's a [Mixcloud mix] (https://www.mixcloud.com/AndrewHickey/500-songs-supplemental-152-for-what-its-worth/) containing all the songs excerpted in the episode. [This four-CD box set] (https://amzn.to/3KxxoKc) is the definitive collection of Buffalo Springfield's work, while if you want the mono version of the second album, the stereo version of the first, and the final album as released, but no demos or outtakes, you want [this more recent box set] (https://amzn.to/3R0f13j) . [For What It's Worth: The Story of Buffalo Springfield] (https://amzn.to/3wECy1B) by Richey Furay and John Einarson is obviously Furay's version of the story, but all the more interesting for that. For information on Steve Stills' early life I used  [Stephen Stills: Change Partners by David Roberts. ] (https://amzn.to/3CHmnV4) Information on both Stills and Young comes from  [Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young by David Browne. ] (https://amzn.to/3pWqpkA) [Jimmy McDonough's Shakey] (https://amzn.to/3R0LmH8) is the definitive biography of Neil Young, while [Young's Waging Heavy Peace is his autobiography.] (https://amzn.to/3wERYCS) 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 note before we begin -- this episode deals with various disabilities. In particular, there are descriptions of epileptic seizures that come from non-medically-trained witnesses, many of whom took ableist attitudes towards the seizures. I don't know enough about epilepsy to know how accurate their descriptions and perceptions are, and I apologise if that means that by repeating some of their statements, I am inadvertently passing on myths about the condition. When I talk about this, I am talking about the after-the-fact recollections of musicians, none of them medically trained and many of them in altered states of consciousness, about events that had happened decades earlier. Please do not take anything said in a podcast about music history as being the last word on the causes or effects of epileptic seizures, rather than how those musicians remember them. Anyway, on with the show. One of the things you notice if you write about protest songs is that a lot of the time, the songs that people talk about as being important or impactful have aged very poorly. Even great songwriters like Bob Dylan or John Lennon, when writing material about the political events of the time, would write material they would later acknowledge was far from their best. Too often a song will be about a truly important event, and be powered by a real sense of outrage at injustice, but it will be overly specific, and then as soon as the immediate issue is no longer topical, the song is at best a curio. For example, the sentencing of the poet and rock band manager John Sinclair to ten years in prison for giving two joints to an undercover police officer was hugely controversial in the early seventies, but by the time John Lennon's song about it was released, Sinclair had been freed by the Supreme Court, and very, very few people would use the song as an example of why Lennon's songwriting still has lasting value: [Excerpt: John Lennon, "John Sinclair"] But there are exceptions, and those tend to be songs where rather than talking about specific headlines, the song is about the emotion that current events have caused. Ninety years on from its first success, for example, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" still has resonance, because there are still people who are put out of work through no fault of their own, and even those of us who are lucky enough to be financially comfortable have the fear that all too soon it may end, and we may end up like Al begging on the streets: [Excerpt: Rudy Vallee, "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?"] And because of that emotional connection, sometimes the very best protest songs can take on new lives and new meanings, and connect with the way people feel about totally unrelated subjects. Take Buffalo Springfield's one hit. The actual subject of the song couldn't be any more trivial in the grand scheme of things -- a change in zoning regulations around the Sunset Strip that meant people under twenty-one couldn't go to the clubs after 10PM, and the subsequent reaction to that -- but because rather than talking about the specific incident, Steve Stills instead talked about the emotions that it called up, and just noted the fleeting images that he was left with, the song became adopted as an anthem by soldiers in Vietnam. Sometimes what a song says is nowhere near as important as how it says it. [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "For What It's Worth"] Steve Stills seems almost to have been destined to be a musician, although the instrument he started on, the drums, was not the one for which he would become best known. According to Stills, though, he always had an aptitude for rhythm, to the extent that he learned to tapdance almost as soon as he had learned to walk. He started on drums aged eight or nine, after somebody gave him a set of drumsticks. After his parents got sick of him damaging the furniture by playing on every available surface, an actual drum kit followed, and that became his principal instrument, even after he learned to play the guitar at military school, as his roommate owned one. As a teenager, Stills developed an idiosyncratic taste in music, helped by the record collection of his friend Michael Garcia. He didn't particularly like most of the pop music of the time, but he was a big fan of pre-war country music, Motown, girl-group music -- he especially liked the Shirelles -- and Chess blues. He was also especially enamoured of the music of Jimmy Reed, a passion he would later share with his future bandmate Neil Young: [Excerpt: Jimmy Reed, "Baby, What You Want Me To Do?"] In his early teens, he became the drummer for a band called the Radars, and while he was drumming he studied their lead guitarist, Chuck Schwin.  He said later "There was a whole little bunch of us who were into kind of a combination of all the blues guys and others including Chet Atkins, Dick Dale, and Hank Marvin: a very weird cross-section of far-out guitar players." Stills taught himself to play like those guitarists, and in particular he taught himself how to emulate Atkins' Travis-picking style, and became remarkably proficient at it. There exists a recording of him, aged sixteen, singing one of his own songs and playing finger-picked guitar, and while the song is not exactly the strongest thing I've ever heard lyrically, it's clearly the work of someone who is already a confident performer: [Excerpt: Stephen Stills, "Travellin'"] But the main reason he switched to becoming a guitarist wasn't because of his admiration for Chet Atkins or Hank Marvin, but because he started driving and discovered that if you have to load a drum kit into your car and then drive it to rehearsals and gigs you either end up bashing up your car or bashing up the drum kit. As this is not a problem with guitars, Stills decided that he'd move on from the Radars, and join a band named the Continentals as their rhythm guitarist, playing with lead guitarist Don Felder. Stills was only in the Continentals for a few months though, before being replaced by another guitarist, Bernie Leadon, and in general Stills' whole early life is one of being uprooted and moved around. His father had jobs in several different countries, and while for the majority of his time Stills was in the southern US, he also ended up spending time in Costa Rica -- and staying there as a teenager even as the rest of his family moved to El Salvador. Eventually, aged eighteen, he moved to New Orleans, where he formed a folk duo with a friend, Chris Sarns. The two had very different tastes in folk music -- Stills preferred Dylan-style singer-songwriters, while Sarns liked the clean sound of the Kingston Trio -- but they played together for several months before moving to Greenwich Village, where they performed together and separately. They were latecomers to the scene, which had already mostly ended, and many of the folk stars had already gone on to do bigger things. But Stills still saw plenty of great performers there -- Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonius Monk in the jazz clubs, Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, and Richard Pryor in the comedy ones, and Simon and Garfunkel, Richie Havens, Fred Neil and Tim Hardin in the folk ones -- Stills said that other than Chet Atkins, Havens, Neil, and Hardin were the people most responsible for his guitar style. Stills was also, at this time, obsessed with Judy Collins' third album -- the album which had featured Roger McGuinn on banjo and arrangements, and which would soon provide several songs for the Byrds to cover: [Excerpt: Judy Collins, "Turn, Turn, Turn"] Judy Collins would soon become a very important figure in Stills' life, but for now she was just the singer on his favourite record. While the Greenwich Village folk scene was no longer quite what it had been a year or two earlier, it was still a great place for a young talented musician to perform. As well as working with Chris Sarns, Stills also formed a trio with his friend John Hopkins and a banjo player called Peter Tork who everyone said looked just like Stills. Tork soon headed out west to seek his fortune, and then Stills got headhunted to join the Au Go Go Singers. This was a group that was being set up in the same style as the New Christy Minstrels -- a nine-piece vocal and instrumental group that would do clean-sounding versions of currently-popular folk songs. The group were signed to Roulette Records, and recorded one album, They Call Us Au-Go-Go Singers, produced by Hugo and Luigi, the production duo we've previously seen working with everyone from the Tokens to the Isley Brothers. Much of the album is exactly the same kind of thing that a million New Christy Minstrels soundalikes were putting out -- and Stills, with his raspy voice, was clearly intended to be the Barry McGuire of this group -- but there was one exception -- a song called "High Flyin' Bird", on which Stills was able to show off the sound that would later make him famous, and which became so associated with him that even though it was written by Billy Edd Wheeler, the writer of "Jackson", even the biography of Stills I used in researching this episode credits "High Flyin' Bird" as being a Stills original: [Excerpt: The Au-Go-Go Singers, "High Flyin' Bird"] One of the other members of the Au-Go-Go Singers, Richie Furay, also got to sing a lead vocal on the album, on the Tom Paxton song "Where I'm Bound": [Excerpt: The Au-Go-Go Singers, "Where I'm Bound"] The Au-Go-Go Singers got a handful of dates around the folk scene, and Stills and Furay became friendly with another singer playing the same circuit, Gram Parsons. Parsons was one of the few people they knew who could see the value in current country music, and convinced both Stills and Furay to start paying more attention to what was coming out of Nashville and Bakersfield. But soon the Au-Go-Go Singers split up. Several venues where they might otherwise have been booked were apparently scared to book an act that was associated with Morris Levy, and also the market for big folk ensembles dried up more or less overnight when the Beatles hit the music scene. But several of the group -- including Stills but not Furay -- decided they were going to continue anyway, and formed a group called The Company, and they went on a tour of Canada. And one of the venues they played was the Fourth Dimension coffee house in Fort William, Ontario, and there their support act was a rock band called The Squires: [Excerpt: The Squires, "(I'm a Man And) I Can't Cry"] The lead guitarist of the Squires, Neil Young, had a lot in common with Stills, and they bonded instantly. Both men had parents who had split up when they were in their teens, and had a successful but rather absent father and an overbearing mother. And both had shown an interest in music even as babies. According to Young's mother, when he was still in nappies, he would pull himself up by the bars  of his playpen and try to dance every time he heard "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie": [Excerpt: Pinetop Smith, "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie"] Young, though, had had one crucial experience which Stills had not had. At the age of six, he'd come down with polio, and become partially paralysed. He'd spent months in hospital before he regained his ability to walk, and the experience had also affected him in other ways. While he was recovering, he would draw pictures of trains -- other than music, his big interest, almost an obsession, was with electric train sets, and that obsession would remain with him throughout his life -- but for the first time he was drawing with his right hand rather than his left. He later said "The left-hand side got a little screwed. Feels different from the right. If I close my eyes, my left side, I really don’t know where it is—but over the years I’ve discovered that almost one hundred percent for sure it’s gonna be very close to my right side … probably to the left. That’s why I started appearing to be ambidextrous, I think. Because polio affected my left side, and I think I was left-handed when I was born. What I have done is use the weak side as the dominant one because the strong side was injured." Both Young's father Scott Young -- a very famous Canadian writer and sports broadcaster, who was by all accounts as well known in Canada during his lifetime as his son -- and Scott's brother played ukulele, and they taught Neil how to play, and his first attempt at forming a group had been to get his friend Comrie Smith to get a pair of bongos and play along with him to Preston Epps' "Bongo Rock": [Excerpt: Preston Epps, "Bongo Rock"] Neil Young had liked all the usual rock and roll stars of the fifties  -- though in his personal rankings, Elvis came a distant third behind Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis -- but his tastes ran more to the more darkly emotional. He loved "Maybe" by the Chantels, saying "Raw soul—you cannot miss it. That’s the real thing. She was believin’ every word she was singin’." [Excerpt: The Chantels, "Maybe"] What he liked more than anything was music that had a mainstream surface but seemed slightly off-kilter. He was a major fan of Roy Orbison, saying, "it’s almost impossible to comprehend the depth of that soul. It’s so deep and dark it just keeps on goin’ down—but it’s not black. It’s blue, deep blue. He’s just got it. The drama. There’s something sad but proud about Roy’s music", and he would say similar things about Del Shannon, saying "He struck me as the ultimate dark figure—behind some Bobby Rydell exterior, y’know? “Hats Off to Larry,” “Runaway,” “Swiss Maid”—very, very inventive. The stuff was weird. Totally unaffected." More surprisingly, perhaps, he was a particular fan of Bobby Darin, who he admired so much because Darin could change styles at the drop of a hat, going from novelty rock and roll like "Splish Splash" to crooning "Mack The Knife" to singing Tim Hardin songs like "If I Were a Carpenter", without any of them seeming any less authentic. As he put it later "He just changed. He’s completely different. And he’s really into it. Doesn’t sound like he’s not there. “Dream Lover,” “Mack the Knife,” “If I Were a Carpenter,” “Queen of the Hop,” “Splish Splash”—tell me about those records, Mr. Darin. Did you write those all the same day, or what happened? He just changed so much. Just kinda went from one place to another. So it’s hard to tell who Bobby Darin really was." And one record which Young was hugely influenced by was Floyd Cramer's country instrumental, "Last Date": [Excerpt: Floyd Cramer, "Last Date"] Now, that was a very important record in country music, and if you want to know more about it I strongly recommend listening to the episode of Cocaine and Rhinestones on the Nashville A-Team, which has a long section on the track, but the crucial thing to know about that track is that it's one of the earliest examples of what is known as slip-note playing, where the piano player, before hitting the correct note, briefly hits the note a tone below it, creating a brief discord. Young absolutely loved that sound, and wanted to make a sound like that on the guitar. And then, when he and his mother moved to Winnipeg after his parents' divorce, he found someone who was doing just that. It was the guitarist in a group variously known as Chad Allan and the Reflections and Chad Allan and the Expressions. That group had relatives in the UK who would send them records, and so where most Canadian bands would do covers of American hits, Chad Allan and the Reflections would do covers of British hits, like their version of Geoff Goddard's "Tribute to Buddy Holly", a song that had originally been produced by Joe Meek: [Excerpt: Chad Allan and the Reflections, "Tribute to Buddy Holly"] That would later pay off for them in a big way, when they recorded a version of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates' "Shakin' All Over", for which their record label tried to create an air of mystery by releasing it with no artist name, just "Guess Who?" on the label. It became a hit, the name stuck, and they became The Guess Who: [Excerpt: The Guess Who, "Shakin' All Over"] But at this point they, and their guitarist Randy Bachman, were just another group playing around Winnipeg. Bachman, though, was hugely impressive to Neil Young for a few reasons. The first was that he really did have a playing style that was a lot like the piano style of Floyd Cramer -- Young would later say "it was Randy Bachman who did it first. Randy was the first one I ever heard do things on the guitar that reminded me of Floyd. He’d do these pulls—“darrr darrrr,” this two-note thing goin’ together—harmony, with one note pulling and the other note stayin’ the same." Bachman also had built the first echo unit that Young heard a guitarist play in person. He'd discovered that by playing with the recording heads on a tape recorder owned by his mother, he could replicate the tape echo that Sam Phillips had used at Sun Studios -- and once he'd attached that to his amplifier, he realised how much the resulting sound sounded like his favourite guitarist, Hank Marvin of the Shadows, another favourite of Neil Young's: [Excerpt: The Shadows, "Man of Mystery"] Young soon started looking to Bachman as something of a mentor figure, and he would learn a lot of guitar techniques second hand from Bachman -- every time a famous musician came to the area, Bachman would go along and stand right at the front and watch the guitarist, and make note of the positions their fingers were in. Then Bachman would replicate those guitar parts with the Reflections, and Neil Young would stand in front of him and make notes of where *his* fingers were. Young joined a band on the local circuit called the Esquires, but soon either quit or was fired, depending on which version of the story you choose to believe. He then formed his own rival band, the Squires, with no "e", much to the disgust of his ex-bandmates. In July 1963, five months after they formed, the  Squires released their first record, "Aurora" backed with "The Sultan", on a tiny local label. Both tracks were very obviously influenced by the Shadows: [Excerpt: The Squires, "Aurora"] The Squires were a mostly-instrumental band for the first year or so they were together, and then the Beatles hit North America, and suddenly people didn't want to hear surf instrumentals and Shadows covers any more, they only wanted to hear songs that sounded a bit like the Beatles. The Squires started to work up the appropriate repertoire -- two songs that have been mentioned as in their set at this point are the Beatles album track "It Won't Be Long", and "Money" which the Beatles had also covered -- but they didn't have a singer, being an instrumental group. They could get in a singer, of course, but that would mean splitting the money with another person. So instead, the guitarist, who had never had any intention of becoming a singer, was more or less volunteered for the role. Over the next eighteen months or so the group's repertoire moved from being largely instrumental to largely vocal, and the group also seem to have shuttled around a bit between two different cities -- Winnipeg and Fort William, staying in one for a while and then moving back to the other. They travelled between the two in Young's car, a Buick Roadmaster hearse. In Winnipeg, Young first met up with a singer named Joni Anderson, who was soon to get married to Chuck Mitchell and would become better known by her married name. The two struck up a friendship, though by all accounts never a particularly close one -- they were too similar in too many ways; as Mitchell later said “Neil and I have a lot in common: Canadian; Scorpios; polio in the same epidemic, struck the same parts of our body; and we both have a black sense of humor". They were both also idiosyncratic artists who never fit very well into boxes. In Fort William the Squires made a few more records, this time vocal tracks like "I'll Love You Forever": [Excerpt: The Squires, "I'll Love You Forever"] It was also in Fort William that Young first encountered two acts that would make a huge impression on him. One was a group called The Thorns, consisting of Tim Rose, Jake Holmes, and Rich Husson. The Thorns showed Young that there was interesting stuff being done on the fringes of the folk music scene. He later said "One of my favourites was “Oh Susannah”—they did this arrangement that was bizarre. It was in a minor key, which completely changed everything—and it was rock and roll. So that idea spawned arrangements of all these other songs for me. I did minor versions of them all. We got into it. That was a certain Squires stage that never got recorded. Wish there were tapes of those shows. We used to do all this stuff, a whole kinda music—folk-rock. We took famous old folk songs like “Clementine,” “She’ll Be Comin’ ’Round the Mountain,” “Tom Dooley,” and we did them all in minor keys based on the Tim Rose arrangement of “Oh Susannah.” There are no recordings of the Thorns in existence that I know of, but presumably that arrangement that Young is talking about is the version that Rose also later did with the Big 3, which we've heard in a few other episodes: [Excerpt: The Big 3, "The Banjo Song"] The other big influence was, of course, Steve Stills, and the two men quickly found themselves influencing each other deeply. Stills realised that he could bring more rock and roll to his folk-music sound, saying that what amazed him was the way the Squires could go from "Cottonfields" (the Lead Belly song) to "Farmer John", the R&B song by Don and Dewey that was becoming a garage-rock staple. Young in turn was inspired to start thinking about maybe going more in the direction of folk music. The Squires even renamed themselves the High-Flying Birds, after the song that Stills had recorded with the Au Go Go Singers. After The Company's tour of Canada, Stills moved back to New York for a while. He now wanted to move in a folk-rock direction, and for a while he tried to persuade his friend John Sebastian to let him play bass in his new band, but when the Lovin' Spoonful decided against having him in the band, he decided to move West to San Francisco, where he'd heard there was a new music scene forming. He enjoyed a lot of the bands he saw there, and in particular he was impressed by the singer of a band called the Great Society: [Excerpt: The Great Society, "Somebody to Love"] He was much less impressed with the rest of her band, and seriously considered going up to her and asking if she wanted to work with some *real* musicians instead of the unimpressive ones she was working with, but didn't get his nerve up. We will, though, be hearing more about Grace Slick in future episodes. Instead, Stills decided to move south to LA, where many of the people he'd known in Greenwich Village were now based. Soon after he got there, he hooked up with two other musicians, a guitarist named Steve Young and a singer, guitarist, and pianist named Van Dyke Parks. Parks had a record contract at MGM -- he'd been signed by Tom Wilson, the same man who had turned Dylan electric, signed Simon and Garfunkel, and produced the first albums by the Mothers of Invention. With Wilson, Parks put out a couple of singles in 1966, "Come to the Sunshine": [Excerpt: The Van Dyke Parks, "Come to the Sunshine"] And "Number Nine", a reworking of the Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony: [Excerpt: The Van Dyke Parks, "Number Nine"]Parks, Stills, and Steve Young became The Van Dyke Parks Band, though they didn't play together for very long, with their most successful performance being as the support act for the Lovin' Spoonful for a show in Arizona. But they did have a lasting resonance -- when Van Dyke Parks finally got the chance to record his first solo album, he opened it with Steve Young singing the old folk song "Black Jack Davy", filtered to sound like an old tape: [Excerpt: Steve Young, "Black Jack Davy"] And then it goes into a song written for Parks by Randy Newman, but consisting of Newman's ideas about Parks' life and what he knew about him, including that he had been third guitar in the Van Dyke Parks Band: [Excerpt: Van Dyke Parks, "Vine Street"] Parks and Stills also wrote a few songs together, with one of their collaborations, "Hello, I've Returned", later being demoed by Stills for Buffalo Springfield: [Excerpt: Steve Stills, "Hello, I've Returned"] After the Van Dyke Parks Band fell apart, Parks went on to many things, including a brief stint on keyboards in the Mothers of Invention, and we'll be talking more about him next episode. Stills formed a duo called the Buffalo Fish, with his friend Ron Long. That soon became an occasional trio when Stills met up again with his old Greenwich Village friend Peter Tork, who joined the group on the piano. But then Stills auditioned for the Monkees and was turned down because he had bad teeth -- or at least that's how most people told the story. Stills has later claimed that while he turned up for the Monkees auditions, it wasn't to audition, it was to try to pitch them songs, which seems implausible on the face of it. According to Stills, he was offered the job and turned it down because he'd never wanted it. But whatever happened, Stills suggested they might want his friend Peter, who looked just like him apart from having better teeth, and Peter Tork got the job. But what Stills really wanted to do was to form a proper band. He'd had the itch to do it ever since seeing the Squires, and he decided he should ask Neil Young to join. There was only one problem -- when he phoned Young, the phone was answered by Young's mother, who told Stills that Neil had moved out to become a folk singer, and she didn't know where he was. But then Stills heard from his old friend Richie Furay. Furay was still in Greenwich Village, and had decided to write to Stills. He didn't know where Stills was, other than that he was in California somewhere, so he'd written to Stills' father in El Salvador. The letter had been returned, because the postage had been short by one cent, so Furay had resent it with the correct postage. Stills' father had then forwarded the letter to the place Stills had been staying in San Francisco, which had in turn forwarded it on to Stills in LA. Furay's letter mentioned this new folk singer who had been on the scene for a while and then disappeared again, Neil Young, who had said he knew Stills, and had been writing some great songs, one of which Furay had added to his own set. Stills got in touch with Furay and told him about this great band he was forming in LA, which he wanted Furay to join. Furay was in, and travelled from New York to LA, only to be told that at this point there were no other members of this great band, but they'd definitely find some soon. They got a publishing deal with Columbia/Screen Gems, which gave them enough money to not starve, but what they really needed was to find some other musicians. They did, when driving down Hollywood Boulevard on April the sixth, 1966. There, stuck in traffic going the other way, they saw a hearse... After Steve Stills had left Fort William, so had Neil Young. He hadn't initially intended to -- the High-Flying Birds still had a regular gig, but Young and some of his friends had gone away for a few days on a road trip in his hearse. But unfortunately the transmission on the hearse had died, and Young and his friends had been stranded. Many years later, he would write a eulogy to the hearse, which he and Stills would record together: [Excerpt: The Stills-Young Band, "Long May You Run"] Young and his friends had all hitch-hiked in different directions -- Young had ended up in Toronto, where his dad lived, and had stayed with his dad for a while. The rest of his band had eventually followed him there, but Young found the Toronto music scene not to his taste -- the folk and rock scenes there were very insular and didn't mingle with each other, and the group eventually split up. Young even took on a day job for a while, for the only time in his life, though he soon quit. Young started basically commuting between Toronto and New York, a distance of several hundred miles, going to Greenwich Village for a while before ending up back in Toronto, and ping-ponging between the two. In New York, he met up with Richie Furay, and also had a disastrous audition for Elektra Records as a solo artist. One of the songs he sang in the audition was "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing", the song which Furay liked so much he started performing it himself. Young doesn't normally explain his songs, but as this was one of the first he ever wrote, he talked about it in interviews in the early years, before he decided to be less voluble about his art. The song was apparently about the sense of youthful hope being crushed. The instigation for it was Young seeing his girlfriend with another man, but the central image, of Clancy not singing, came from Young's schooldays. The Clancy in question was someone Young liked as one of the other weird kids at school. He was disabled, like Young, though with MS rather than polio, and he would sing to himself in the hallways at school. Sadly, of course, the other kids would mock and bully him for that, and eventually he ended up stopping. Young said about it "After awhile, he got so self-conscious he couldn’t do his thing any more. When someone who is as beautiful as that and as different as that is actually killed by his fellow man—you know what I mean—like taken and sorta chopped down—all the other things are nothing compared to this." [Excerpt: Neil Young, "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing (Elektra demo)"] One thing I should say for anyone who listens to the Mixcloud for this episode, that song, which will be appearing in a couple of different versions, has one use of a term for Romani people that some (though not all) consider a slur. It's not in the excerpts I'll be using in this episode, but will be in the full versions on the Mixcloud. Sadly that word turns up time and again in songs of this era... When he wasn't in New York, Young was living in Toronto in a communal apartment owned by a folk singer named Vicki Taylor, where many of the Toronto folk scene would stay. Young started listening a lot to Taylor's Bert Jansch albums, which were his first real exposure to the British folk-baroque style of guitar fingerpicking, as opposed to the American Travis-picking style, and Young would soon start to incorporate that style into his own playing: [Excerpt: Bert Jansch, "Angie"] Another guitar influence on Young at this point was another of the temporary tenants of Taylor's flat, John Kay, who would later go on to be one of the founding members of Steppenwolf. Young credited Kay with having a funky rhythm guitar style that Young incorporated into his own. While he was in Toronto, he started getting occasional gigs in Detroit, which is "only" a couple of hundred miles away, set up by Joni and Chuck Mitchell, both of whom also sometimes stayed at Taylor's. And it was in Detroit that Neil Young became, albeit very briefly, a Motown artist. The Mynah Birds were a band in Toronto that had at one point included various future members of Steppenwolf, and they were unusual for the time in that they were a white band with a Black lead singer, Ricky Matthews. They also had a rich manager, John Craig Eaton, the heir to the Eaton's department store fortune, who basically gave them whatever money they wanted -- they used to go to his office and tell him they needed seven hundred dollars for lunch, and he'd hand it to them. They were looking for a new guitarist when Bruce Palmer, their bass player, bumped into Neil Young carrying an amp and asked if he was interested in joining. He was. The Mynah Birds quickly became one of the best bands in Toronto, and Young and Matthews became close, both as friends and as a performance team. People who saw them live would talk about things like a song called “Hideaway”, written by Young and Matthews, which had a spot in the middle where Young would start playing a harmonica solo, throw the harmonica up in the air mid-solo, Matthews would catch it, and he would then finish the solo. They got signed to Motown, who were at this point looking to branch out into the white guitar-group market, and they were put through the Motown star-making machine. They recorded an entire album, which remains unreleased, but they did release a single, "It's My Time": [Excerpt: The Mynah Birds, "It's My Time"] Or at least, they released a handful of promo copies. The single was pulled from release after Ricky Matthews got arrested. It turned out his birth name wasn't Ricky Matthews, but James Johnson, and that he wasn't from Toronto as he'd told everyone, but from Buffalo, New York. He'd fled to Canada after going AWOL from the Navy, not wanting to be sent to Vietnam, and he was arrested and jailed for desertion. After getting out of jail, he would start performing under yet another name, and as Rick James would have a string of hits in the seventies and eighties: [Excerpt: Rick James, "Super Freak"] Most of the rest of the group continued gigging as The Mynah Birds, but Young and Palmer had other plans. They sold the expensive equipment Eaton had bought the group, and Young bought a new hearse, which he named Mort 2 – Mort had been his first hearse. And according to one of the band's friends in Toronto, the crucial change in their lives came when Neil Young heard a song on a jukebox: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "California Dreamin'"] Young apparently heard "California Dreamin'" and immediately said "Let's go to California and become rock stars". Now, Young later said of this anecdote that "That sounds like a Canadian story to me. That sounds too real to be true", and he may well be right. Certainly the actual wording of the story is likely incorrect -- people weren't talking about "rock stars" in 1966. Google's Ngram viewer has the first use of the phrase in print being in 1969, and the phrase didn't come into widespread usage until surprisingly late -- even granting that phrases enter slang before they make it to print, it still seems implausible. But even though the precise wording might not be correct, something along those lines definitely seems to have happened, albeit possibly less dramatically. Young's friend Comrie Smith independently said that Young told him “Well, Comrie, I can hear the Mamas and the Papas singing ‘All the leaves are brown, and the skies are gray …’ I’m gonna go down to the States and really make it. I’m on my way. Today North Toronto, tomorrow the world!” Young and Palmer loaded up Mort 2 with a bunch of their friends and headed towards California. On the way, they fell out with most of the friends, who parted from them, and Young had an episode which in retrospect may have been his first epileptic seizure. They decided when they got to California that they were going to look for Steve Stills, as they'd heard he was in LA and neither of them knew anyone else in the state. But after several days of going round the Sunset Strip clubs asking if anyone knew Steve Stills, and sleeping in the hearse as they couldn't afford anywhere else, they were getting fed up and about to head off to San Francisco, as they'd heard there was a good music scene there, too. They were going to leave that day, and they were stuck in traffic on Sunset Boulevard, about to head off, when Stills and Furay came driving in the other direction. Furay happened to turn his head, to brush away a fly, and saw a hearse with Ontario license plates. He and Stills both remembered that Young drove a hearse, and so they assumed it must be him. They started honking at the hearse, then did a U-turn. They got Young's attention, and they all pulled into the parking lot at Ben Frank's, the Sunset Strip restaurant that attracted such a hip crowd the Monkees' producers had asked for "Ben Frank's types" in their audition advert. Young introduced Stills and Furay to Palmer, and now there *was* a group -- three singing, songwriting, guitarists and a bass player. Now all they needed was a drummer. There were two drummers seriously considered for the role. One of them, Billy Mundi, was technically the better player, but Young didn't like playing with him as much -- and Mundi also had a better offer, to join the Mothers of Invention as their second drummer -- before they'd recorded their first album, they'd had two drummers for a few months, but Denny Bruce, their second drummer, had become ill with glandular fever and they'd reverted to having Jimmy Carl Black play solo. Now they were looking for someone else, and Mundi took that role. The other drummer, who Young preferred anyway, was another Canadian, Dewey Martin. Martin was a couple of years older than the rest of the group, and by far the most experienced. He'd moved from Canada to Nashville in his teens, and according to Martin he had been taken under the wing of Hank Garland, the great session guitarist most famous for "Sugarfoot Rag": [Excerpt: Hank Garland, "Sugarfoot Rag"] We heard Garland playing with Elvis and others in some of the episodes around 1960, and by many reckonings he was the best session guitarist in Nashville, but in 1961 he had a car accident that left him comatose, and even though he recovered from the coma and lived another thirty-three years, he never returned to recording. According to Martin, though, Garland would still sometimes play jazz clubs around Nashville after the accident, and one day Martin walked into a club and saw him playing. The drummer he was playing with got up and took a break, taking his sticks with him, so Martin got up on stage and started playing, using two combs instead of sticks. Garland was impressed, and told Martin that Faron Young needed a drummer, and he could get him the gig. At the time Young was one of the biggest stars in country music. That year, 1961, he had three country top ten hits, including a number one with his version of Willie Nelson's "Hello Walls", produced by Ken Nelson: [Excerpt: Faron Young, "Hello Walls"] Martin joined Faron Young's band for a while, and also ended up playing short stints in the touring bands of various other Nashville-based country and rock stars, including Patsy Cline, Roy Orbison, and the Everly Brothers, before heading to LA for a while. Then Mel Taylor of the Ventures hooked him up with some musicians in the Pacific Northwest scene, and Martin started playing there under the name Sir Raleigh and the Coupons with various musicians. After a while he travelled back to LA where he got some members of the LA group Sons of Adam to become a permanent lineup of Coupons, and they recorded several singles with Martin singing lead, including the Tommy Boyce and Steve Venet song "Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day", later recorded by the Monkees: [Excerpt: Sir Raleigh and the Coupons, "Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day"] He then played with the Standells, before joining the Modern Folk Quartet for a short while, as they were transitioning from their folk sound to a folk-rock style. He was only with them for a short while, and it's difficult to get precise details -- almost everyone involved with Buffalo Springfield has conflicting stories about their own careers with timelines that don't make sense, which is understandable given that people were talking about events decades later and memory plays tricks. "Fast" Eddie Hoh had joined the Modern Folk Quartet on drums in late 1965, at which point they became the Modern Folk Quintet, and nothing I've read about that group talks about Hoh ever actually leaving, but apparently Martin joined them in February 1966, which might mean he's on their single "Night-Time Girl", co-written by Al Kooper and produced and arranged by Jack Nitzsche: [Excerpt: The Modern Folk Quintet, "Night-Time Girl"] After that, Martin was taken on by the Dillards, a bluegrass band who are now possibly most famous for having popularised the Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith song "Duellin' Banjos", which they recorded on their first album and played on the Andy Griffith Show a few years before it was used in Deliverance: [Excerpt: The Dillards, "Duellin' Banjos"] The Dillards had decided to go in a country-rock direction -- and Doug Dillard would later join the Byrds and make records with Gene Clark -- but they were hesitant about it, and after a brief period with Martin in the band they decided to go back to their drummerless lineup. To soften the blow, they told him about another band that was looking for a drummer -- their manager, Jim Dickson, who was also the Byrds' manager, knew Stills and his bandmates. Dewey Martin was in the group. The group still needed a name though. They eventually took their name from a brand of steam roller, after seeing one on the streets when some roadwork was being done. Everyone involved disagrees as to who came up with the name. Steve Stills at one point said it was a group decision after Neil Young and the group's manager Frazier Mohawk stole the nameplate off the steamroller, and later Stills said that Richey Furay had suggested the name while they were walking down the street, Dewey Martin said it was his idea, Neil Young said that he, Steve Sills, and Van Dyke Parks had been walking down the street and either Young or Stills had seen the nameplate and suggested the name, and Van Dyke Parks says that *he* saw the nameplate and suggested it to Dewey Martin: [Excerpt: Steve Stills and Van Dyke Parks on the name] For what it's worth, I tend to believe Van Dyke Parks in most instances -- he's an honest man, and he seems to have a better memory of the sixties than many of his friends who led more chemically interesting lives. Whoever came up with it, the name worked -- as Stills later put it "We thought it was pretty apt, because Neil Young is from Manitoba which is buffalo country, and  Richie Furay was from Springfield, Ohio -- and I'm the field!" It almost certainly also helped that the word "buffalo" had been in the name of Stills' previous group, Buffalo Fish. On the eleventh of April, 1966, Buffalo Springfield played their first gig, at the Troubadour, using equipment borrowed from the Dillards. Chris Hillman of the Byrds was in the audience and was impressed. He got the group a support slot on a show the Byrds and the Dillards were doing a few days later in San Bernardino. That show was compered by a Merseyside-born British DJ, John Ravenscroft, who had managed to become moderately successful in US radio by playing up his regional accent so he sounded more like the Beatles. He would soon return to the UK, and start broadcasting under the name John Peel. Hillman also got them a week-long slot at the Whisky A-Go-Go, and a bidding war started between record labels to sign the band. Dunhill offered five thousand dollars, Warners counted with ten thousand, and then Atlantic offered twelve thousand. Atlantic were *just* starting to get interested in signing white guitar groups -- Jerry Wexler never liked that kind of music, always preferring to stick with soul and R&B, but Ahmet Ertegun could see which way things were going. Atlantic had only ever signed two other white acts before -- Neil Young's old favourite Bobby Darin, who had since left the label, and Sonny and Cher. And Sonny and Cher's management and production team, Brian Stone and Charlie Greene, were also very interested in the group, who even before they had made a record had quickly become the hottest band on the circuit, even playing the Hollywood Bowl as the Rolling Stones' support act. Buffalo Springfield already had managers -- Frazier Mohawk and Richard Davis, the lighting man at the Troubadour (who was sometimes also referred to as Dickie Davis, but I'll use his full name so as not to cause unnecessary confusion in British people who remember the sports TV presenter of the same name), who Mohawk had enlisted to help him. But Stone and Greene weren't going to let a thing like that stop them. According to anonymous reports quoted without attribution in David Roberts' biography of Stills -- so take this with as many grains of salt as you want -- Stone and Greene took Mohawk for a ride around LA in a limo, just the three of them, a gun, and a used hotdog napkin. At the end of the ride, the hotdog napkin had Mohawk's scrawled signature, signing the group over to Stone and Greene. Davis stayed on, but was demoted to just doing their lights. The way things ended up, the group signed to Stone and Greene's production company, who then leased their masters to Atlantic's Atco subsidiary. A publishing company was also set up for the group's songs -- owned thirty-seven point five percent by Atlantic, thirty-seven point five percent by Stone and Greene, and the other twenty-five percent split six ways between the group and Davis, who they considered their sixth member. Almost immediately, Charlie Greene started playing Stills and Young off against each other, trying a divide-and-conquer strategy on the group. This was quite easy, as both men saw themselves as natural leaders, though Stills was regarded by everyone as the senior partner -- the back cover of their first album would contain the line "Steve is the leader but we all are". Stills and Young were the two stars of the group as far as the audience were concerned -- though most musicians who heard them play live say that the band's real strength was in its rhythm section, with people comparing Palmer's playing to that of James Jamerson. But Stills and Young would get into guitar battles on stage, one-upping each other, in ways that turned the tension between them in creative directions. Other clashes, though were more petty -- both men had very domineering mothers, who would actually call the group's management to complain about press coverage if their son was given less space than the other one. The group were also not sure about Young's voice -- to the extent that Stills was known to jokingly apologise to the audience before Young took a lead vocal -- and so while the song chosen as the group's first A-side was Young's "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing", Furay was chosen to sing it, rather than Young: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing"] On the group's first session, though, both Stills and Young realised that their producers didn't really have a clue -- the group had built up arrangements that had a complex interplay of instruments and vocals, but the producers insisted on cutting things very straightforwardly, with a basic backing track and then the vocals. They also thought that the song was too long so the group should play faster. Stills and Young quickly decided that they were going to have to start producing their own material, though Stone and Greene would remain the producers for the first album. There was another bone of contention though, because in the session the initial plan had been for Stills' song "Go and Say Goodbye" to be the A-side with Young's song as the B-side. It was flipped, and nobody seems quite sure why -- it's certainly the case that, whatever the merits of the two tracks as songs, Stills' song was the one that would have been more likely to become a hit. "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing" was a flop, but it did get some local airplay. The next single, "Burned", was a Young song as well, and this time did have Young taking the lead, though in a song dominated by harmonies: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Burned"] Over the summer, though, something had happened that would affect everything for the group -- Neil Young had started to have epileptic seizures. At first these were undiagnosed episodes, but soon they became almost routine events, and they would often happen on stage, particularly at moments of great stress or excitement. Several other members of the group became convinced -- entirely wrongly -- that Young was faking these seizures in order to get women to pay attention to him. They thought that what he wanted was for women to comfort him and mop his brow, and that collapsing would get him that. The seizures became so common that Richard Davis, the group's lighting tech, learned to recognise the signs of a seizure before it happened. As soon as it looked like Young was about to collapse the lights would turn on, someone would get ready to carry him off stage, and Richie Furay would know to grab Young's guitar before he fell so that the guitar wouldn't get damaged. Because they weren't properly grounded and Furay had an electric guitar of his own, he'd get a shock every time. Young would later claim that during some of the seizures, he would hallucinate that he was another person, in another world, living another life that seemed to have its own continuity -- people in the other world would recognise him and talk to him as if he'd been away for a while -- and then when he recovered he would have to quickly rebuild his identity, as if temporarily amnesiac, and during those times he would find things like the concept of lying painful. The group's first album came out in December, and they were very, very, unhappy with it. They thought the material was great, but they also thought that the production was terrible. Stone and Greene's insistence that they record the backing tracks first and then overdub vocals, rather than singing live with the instruments, meant that the recordings, according to Stills and Young in particular, didn't capture the sound of the group's live performance, and sounded sterile. Stills and Young thought they'd fixed some of that in the mono mix, which they spent ten days on, but then Stone and Greene did the stereo mix without consulting the band, in less than two days, and the album was released at precisely the time that stereo was starting to overtake mono in the album market. I'm using the mono mixes in this podcast, but for decades the only versions available were the stereo ones, which Stills and Young both loathed. Ahmet Ertegun also apparently thought that the demo versions of the songs -- some of which were eventually released on a box set in 2001 -- were much better than the finished studio recordings. The album was not a success on release, but it did contain the first song any of the group had written to chart. Soon after its release, Van Dyke Parks' friend Lenny Waronker was producing a single by a group who had originally been led by Sly Stone and had been called Sly and the Mojo Men. By this time Stone was no longer involved in the group, and they were making music in a very different style from the music their former leader would later become known for. Parks was brought in to arrange a baroque-pop version of Stills' album track "Sit Down I Think I Love You" for the group, and it became their only top forty hit, reaching number thirty-six: [Excerpt: The Mojo Men, "Sit Down I Think I Love You"] It was shortly after the first Buffalo Springfield album was released, though, that Steve Stills wrote what would turn out to be *his* group's only top forty single. The song had its roots in both LA and San Francisco. The LA roots were more obvious -- the song was written about a specific experience Stills had had. He had been driving to Sunset Strip from Laurel Canyon on November the twelfth 1966, and he had seen a mass of young people and police in riot gear, and he had immediately turned round, partly because he didn't want to get involved in what looked to be a riot, and partly because he'd been inspired -- he had the idea for a lyric, which he pretty much finished in the car even before he got home: [Excerpt: The Buffalo Springfield, "For What it's Worth"] The riots he saw were what became known later as the Riot on Sunset Strip. This was a minor skirmish between the police and young people of LA -- there had been complaints that young people had been spilling out of the nightclubs on Sunset Strip into the street, causing traffic problems, and as a result the city council had introduced various heavy-handed restrictions, including a ten PM curfew for all young people in the area, removing the permits that many clubs had which allowed people under twenty-one to be present, forcing the Whisky A-Go-Go to change its name just to "the Whisk", and forcing a club named Pandora's Box, which was considered the epicentre of the problem, to close altogether. Flyers had been passed around calling for a "funeral" for Pandora's Box -- a peaceful gathering at which people could say goodbye to a favourite nightspot, and a thousand people had turned up. The police also turned up, and in the heavy-handed way common among law enforcement, they managed to provoke a peaceful party and turn it into a riot. This would not normally be an event that would be remembered even a year later, let alone nearly sixty years later, but Sunset Strip was the centre of the American rock music world in the period, and of the broader youth entertainment field. Among those arrested at the riot, for example, were Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda, neither of whom were huge stars at the time, but who were making cheap B-movies with Roger Corman for American International Pictures. Among the cheap exploitation films that American International Pictures made around this time was one based on the riots, though neither Nicholson, Fonda, or Corman were involved. Riot on Sunset Strip was released in cinemas only four months after the riots, and it had a theme song by Dewey Martin's old colleagues The Standells, which is now regarded as a classic of garage rock: [Excerpt: The Standells, "Riot on Sunset Strip"] The riots got referenced in a lot of other songs, as well. The Mothers of Invention's second album, Absolutely Free, contains the song "Plastic People" which includes this section: [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Plastic People"] And the Monkees track "Daily Nightly", written by Michael Nesmith, was always claimed by Nesmith to be an impressionistic portrait of the riots, though the psychedelic lyrics sound to me more like they're talking about drug use and street-walking sex workers than anything to do with the riots: [Excerpt: The Monkees, "Daily Nightly"] But the song about the riots that would have the most lasting effect on popular culture was the one that Steve Stills wrote that night. Although how much he actually wrote, at least of the music, is somewhat open to question. Earlier that month, Buffalo Springfield had spent some time in San Francisco. They hadn't enjoyed the experience -- as an LA band, they were thought of as a bunch of Hollywood posers by most of the San Francisco scene, with the exception of one band, Moby Grape -- a band who, like them had three guitarist/singer/songwriters, and with whom they got on very well. Indeed, they got on rather better with Moby Grape than they were getting on with each other at this point, because Young and Stills would regularly get into arguments, and every time their argument seemed to be settling down, Dewey Martin would manage to say the wrong thing and get Stills riled up again -- Martin was doing a lot of speed at this point and unable to stop talking, even when it would have been politic to do so. There was even some talk while they were in San Francisco of the bands doing a trade -- Young and Pete Lewis of Moby Grape swapping places -- though that came to nothing. But Stills, according to both Richard Davis and Pete Lewis, had been truly impressed by two Moby Grape songs. One of them was a song called "On the Other Side", which Moby Grape never recorded, but which apparently had a chorus that went "Stop, can’t you hear the music ringing in your ear, right before you go, telling you the way is clear," with the group all pausing after the word "Stop". The other was a song called "Murder in my Heart for the Judge": [Excerpt: Moby Grape, "Murder in my Heart for the Judge"] The song Stills wrote had a huge amount of melodic influence from that song, and quite a bit from “On the Other Side”, though he apparently didn't notice until after the record came out, at which point he apologised to Moby Grape. Stills wasn't massively impressed with the song he'd written, and went to Stone and Greene's office to play it for them, saying "I'll play it, for what it's worth". They liked the song and booked a studio to get the song recorded and rush-released, though according to Neil Young neither Stone nor Greene were actually present at the session, and the song was recorded on December the fifth, while some outbursts of rioting were still happening, and released on December the twenty-third. [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "For What it's Worth"] The song didn't have a title when they recorded it, or so Stills thought, but when he mentioned this to Greene and Stone afterwards, they said "Of course it does. You said, 'I'm going to play the song, 'For What It's Worth'" So that became the title, although Ahmet Ertegun didn't like the idea of releasing a single with a title that wasn't in the lyric, so the early pressings of the single had "Stop, Hey, What's That Sound?" in brackets after the title. The song became a big hit, and there's a story told by David Crosby that doesn't line up correctly, but which might shed some light on why. According to Crosby, "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing" got its first airplay because Crosby had played members of Buffalo Springfield a tape he'd been given of the unreleased Beatles track "A Day in the Life", and they'd told their gangster manager-producers about it. Those manager-producers had then hired a sex worker to have sex with Crosby and steal the tape, which they'd then traded to a radio station in return for airplay. That timeline doesn't work, unless the sex worker involved was also a time traveller,  because "A Day in the Life" wasn't even recorded until January 1967 while "Clancy" came out in August 1966, and there'd been two other singles released between then and January 1967. But it *might* be the case that that's what happened with "For What It's Worth", which was released in the last week of December 1966, and didn't really start to do well on the charts for a couple of months. Right after recording the song, the group went to play a residency in New York, of which Ahmet Ertegun said “When they performed there, man, there was no band I ever heard that had the electricity of that group. That was the most exciting group I’ve ever seen, bar none. It was just mind-boggling.” During that residency they were joined on stage at various points by Mitch Ryder, Odetta, and Otis Redding. While in New York, the group also recorded "Mr. Soul", a song that Young had originally written as a folk song about his experiences with epilepsy, the nature of the soul, and dealing with fame. However, he'd noticed a similarity to "Satisfaction" and decided to lean into it. The track as finally released was heavily overdubbed by Young a few months later, but after it was released he decided he preferred the original take, which by then only existed as a scratchy acetate, which got released on a box set in 2001: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Mr. Soul (original version)"] Everyone has a different story of how the session for that track went -- at least one version of the story has Otis Redding turning up for the session and saying he wanted to record the song himself, as his follow-up to his version of "Satisfaction", but Young being angry at the idea. According to other versions of the story, Greene and Stills got into a physical fight, with Greene having to be given some of the valium Young was taking for his epilepsy to calm him down. "For What it's Worth" was doing well enough on the charts that the album was recalled, and reissued with "For What It's Worth" replacing Stills' song "Baby Don't Scold", but soon disaster struck the band. Bruce Palmer was arrested on drugs charges, and was deported back to Canada just as the song started to rise through the charts. The group needed a new bass player, fast. For a lipsynch appearance on local TV they got Richard Davis to mime the part, and then they got in Ken Forssi, the bass player from Love, for a couple of gigs. They next brought in Ken Koblun, the bass player from the Squires, but he didn't fit in with the rest of the group. The next replacement was Jim Fielder. Fielder was a friend of the group, and knew the material -- he'd subbed for Palmer a few times in 1966 when Palmer had been locked up after less serious busts. And to give some idea of how small a scene the LA scene was, when Buffalo Springfield asked him to become their bass player, he was playing rhythm guitar for the Mothers of Invention, while Billy Mundi was on drums, and had played on their second, as yet unreleased, album, Absolutely Free: [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Call any Vegetable"] And before joining the Mothers, Fielder and Mundi had also played together with Van Dyke Parks, who had served his own short stint as a Mother of Invention already, backing Tim Buckley on Buckley's first album: [Excerpt: Tim Buckley, "Aren't You the Girl?"] And the arrangements on that album were by Jack Nitzsche, who would soon become a very close collaborator with Young. "For What it's Worth" kept rising up the charts. Even though it had been inspired by a very local issue, the lyrics were vague enough that people in other situations could apply it to themselves, and it soon became regarded as an anti-war protest anthem -- something Stills did nothing to discourage, as the band were all opposed to the war. The band were also starting to collaborate with other people. When Stills bought a new house, he couldn't move in to it for a while, and so Peter Tork invited him to stay at his house. The two got on so well that Tork invited Stills to produce the next Monkees album -- only to find that Michael Nesmith had already asked Chip Douglas to do it. The group started work on a new album, provisionally titled "Stampede", but sessions didn't get much further than Stills' song "Bluebird" before trouble arose between Young and Stills. The root of the argument seems to have been around the number of songs each got on the album. With Richie Furay also writing, Young was worried that given the others' attitudes to his songwriting, he might get as few as two songs on the album. And Young and Stills were arguing over which song should be the next single, with Young wanting "Mr. Soul" to be the A-side, while Stills wanted "Bluebird" -- Stills making the reasonable case that they'd released two Neil Young songs as singles and gone nowhere, and then they'd released one of Stills', and it had become a massive hit. "Bluebird" was eventually chosen as the A-side, with "Mr. Soul" as the B-side: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Bluebird"] The "Bluebird" session was another fraught one. Fielder had not yet joined the band, and session player Bobby West subbed on bass. Neil Young had recently started hanging out with Jack Nitzsche, and the two were getting very close and working on music together. Young had impressed Nitzsche not just with his songwriting but with his arrogance -- he'd played Nitzsche his latest song, "Expecting to Fly", and Nitzsche had said halfway through "That's a great song", and Young had shushed him and told him to listen, not interrupt. Nitzsche, who had a monstrous ego himself and was also used to working with people like Phil Spector, the Rolling Stones and Sonny Bono, none of them known for a lack of faith in their own abilities, was impressed. Shortly after that, Stills had asked Nitzsche to produce "Bluebird", but Nitzsche had refused, saying he only worked with Neil. Ahmet Ertegun ended up producing, but Nitzsche still came along to the session, where he saw Stills pressuring Young to play on the track, saying "You're the lead guitarist, play it!", while Young insisted that it was Stills' song, Stills should play lead guitar, until the stress got so bad Young had a seizure. After he recovered from the seizure, he played on the track, trading licks with Stills: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Bluebird"] Ertegun tried to give the group a dose of reality at the session, trying to show them that they didn't yet have the status to act like this, saying "You will have to stop this. This is ridiculous. You see, this is Jack Nitzsche over here, and if he picks up that guitar over there and hits me in the head with it, that goes in Cashbox magazine—front page. If you two guys beat each other bloody, no one cares. No Cashbox magazine.  Understand?” The message supposedly sank in, but as Young started working with Nitzsche, he would still get infuriated when told by Nitzsche's associates that Nitzsche couldn't just drop everything any time Young wanted to record, telling them "I'm not just anybody, I'm *Neil Young*" Young and Nitzsche worked together on "Expecting to Fly", with Nitzsche cutting the backing track with Wrecking Crew players, and a backing vocal group consisting of Gloria Jones, Merry Clayton, Gracia Nitzsche, and Brenda and Patrice Holloway, while Young was touring with the group, and Young coming back to add vocals. There was one last-minute change to the song after it was recorded. They had recorded the song in May 1967, and then the Beatles released Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, with its famous ending chord of "A Day in the Life": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "A Day in the Life"] Young and Nitzsche had planned a similarly impressive last chord for "Expecting to Fly", but when they heard that, they quickly snipped the end of the track and stuck it on at the beginning instead, reversing the tape for the opening chord so it faded in rather than out: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Expecting to Fly"] The song itself shows the clear influence that the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds was having on Young at this time: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Expecting to Fly"] Young was becoming more and more convinced that he should leave the group and just work with Nitzsche. He started actually hiding from the other band members -- one time Nitzsche came home and found Young hiding in Nitzsche's son's bedroom, and Young told him that if Steve Stills came looking for him, Nitzsche should say that Young wasn't there and that Stills couldn't search the room because his kid was sleeping -- apparently Young had said he was quitting the group, Stills had stolen Young's guitar in an effort to force Young back, and Young was now afraid that Stills was going to beat him over the head with the guitar. Meanwhile, Bruce Palmer had sneaked across the border -- he'd cut his hair, got a pair of glasses and a suit, and disguised himself as a respectable businessman -- so he was back in the band and Jim Fielder was out, dumped from the group with no warning. He would soon go on to join Al Kooper in a new group, Blood, Sweat, & Tears. But even though Palmer, Young's old friend, was back, Young himself left the group. The group were booked on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, one of the most prestigious national TV spots imaginable, but Young didn't think it was the right show for the group, and said he wouldn't be doing it. The rest of the band tried to persuade him and thought they had, but then he just didn't show up for the show. Dewey Martin called his friend Otis Redding and asked if Redding would sub for Young on the show, singing "Mr. Soul", the song he'd wanted to do when he heard it, but Redding was booked to play five shows that day at the Apollo and couldn't make the live time-slot, so the group ended up cancelling their appearance. To replace Young, the group got in guitarist Doug Hastings, of the band The Daily Flash: [Excerpt: The Daily Flash, "Jack of Diamonds"] The new lineup played a couple of low-profile gigs, before playing Monterey, where David Crosby guested with the group, and they did their first performance of a song that Crosby had helped Stills write, though he was never given credit for it, "Rock and Roll Woman", inspired by Grace Slick: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Rock and Roll Woman (live at Monterey)"] The group's performance at Monterey was legendarily bad, but it did introduce Stills to several new musicians -- soon he would regularly be jamming with Buddy Miles, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby, and Noel Redding, as well as occasionally with Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz, and starting to imitate Hendrix's guitar style. He's said since that Hendrix taught him how to properly play lead guitar, and that Hendrix was his guitar mentor. Meanwhile, Young had convinced Jack Nitzsche, and Nitzsche's new production and management partner Denny Bruce, the former second drummer for the Mothers of Invention, that the three of them should move to England and start a new solo career for Young there. Young collected together things he had heard that people didn't have in the UK, to take over and shock British people with, like Road Runner cartoons and a waterpik -- a machine that sprays water on your teeth to act like dental floss -- which he decided he was going to squirt Mick Jagger with. Nitzsche and Bruce got passports, and Nitzsche even sold his house to finance the trip. And then the three of them went to IHOP for breakfast, and on the way back they were listening to the radio when they heard "Mr. Soul" come on, with the DJ afterward saying "When Neil was with ’em, baby.” Young immediately decided he wasn't going to England any more -- he was going to rejoin Buffalo Springfield. Neil was with them again, baby, and the group's second album, Buffalo Springfield Again, would be its best, with three songs each for Young and Furay and four for Stills. Young's songs were "Expecting to Fly", "Mr. Soul", and a long psychedelic epic, "Broken Arrow", which started with a fake-live performance of "Mr. Soul" sung by Dewey Martin (with screams flown in from a Beatles live recording the group somehow had access to): [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Broken Arrow"] Before going into a folk-rock verse: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Broken Arrow"] An orchestral chorus influenced by Nitzsche: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Broken Arrow"] A rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game": [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Broken Arrow"] And a clarinet-led jazz band: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Broken Arrow"] As well as "Bluebird", Stills also contributed "Rock and Roll Woman", on which it's claimed Crosby guested, while Richie Furay showed the country-rock direction the group was starting to go in with his song "A Child's Claim to Fame", written about his frustration with Young, on which James Burton guested on dobro: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "A Child's Claim to Fame"] Buffalo Springfield Again is a genuinely great album, but it didn't make the top forty, and nor did any of the three singles from it, and increasingly the band members were starting to go in their own directions. Stills at this point desperately wanted to be Jimi Hendrix, and would jam with him every chance he got and imitate Hendrix's moves on stage, and Young thought this was pathetic -- he thought Stills didn't need to be Hendrix, that he should be himself. Stills was also guesting on records by his friends. He played lead guitar on "Lady's Baby", a song Peter Tork was working on with the Monkees, though the song wouldn't be released for thirty years: [Excerpt: The Monkees, "Lady's Baby"] And played bass on "Night in the City" from Joni Mitchell's first album, which was being produced by David Crosby: [Excerpt: Joni Mitchell, "Night in the City"] In November 1967 the group went on a tour with the Beach Boys, and the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the first of two legs, the second of which was scheduled for the Spring of 1968. Bruce Palmer was friends with Owsley, the main supplier of LSD on the West Coast, and thus had an almost limitless supply, which he used pretty much every day, leading to erratic behaviour. At one show on the Beach Boys tour, Palmer wore a monk's robe and a beret, spent the first part of the show screaming at the other band members to get their guitars tuned faster, then threw his bass on the stage and stormed off, spending the rest of the set stood at the side of the stage sucking his finger, while Stills covered for him by playing bass instead. After the tour, on January the twenty-sixth, 1968, Stills and Young got into a physical fight before a show, which Dewey Martin had to break up. After the gig, Bruce Palmer was stopped by the police while driving without a license, carrying an open container of alcohol, in a car with an underage girl who was carrying cannabis. Unsurprisingly, he was deported again, and this time he was replaced by Jim Messina, who had been engineering some of the recordings the group were making. Just before the spring leg of the Beach Boys tour, there was a drug bust at a jam session with some of the group and Eric Clapton, which Stills escaped by crawling out of the window while the police were coming in. For a time it looked like both Young and Clapton might be deported, but Stills had managed to contact good lawyers while the rest of the group were arrested, so the charges were negotiated down to a single fine of three hundred dollars plus three years probation for Stills' old friend Chris Sarns. Then the first few dates of the tour, which was planned for the southern US, were cancelled after the murder of Martin Luther King. And then when they played Jacksonville, Young's mother and brother came to see the show, Dewey Martin took his top off and jumped into the audience, and the police overreacted, dragging him out and stopping the show, telling the band that they needed to get off stage immediately or be arrested. They all did, except for Young, who was having another seizure. “I saw Neil laying there,” said Messina. “I went over to make sure he was still alive and I noticed this one tear in his eye. He was totally silent. And I thought to myself at the time, ‘I think we’ve embarrassed him. His family was there to see him and this happens.’ I felt bad. I bet that night was a deciding factor in Neil’s life to get away from the Springfield.” Stills has also consistently said that on that tour, Young and Mike Love were up to something, and that Love is ultimately responsible for Young eventually leaving the group again. He's said "The inside story on that tour was Mike Love turning into this svengali influence on Neil. It was weird. They were always off in a corner, whispering. And Mike Love is just a spooky character." No-one has ever said what Young and Love were whispering about, but the Beach Boys were going through some minor personnel disruptions of their own at that time -- Bruce Johnston had left the band for a couple of months and then returned -- and they were just about to start touring with additional musicians for the first time, so Love may have been sounding Young out to join the Beach Boys as a touring guitarist or similar. It's also notable that on one live recording of a Young solo show from 1968, he's introduced as "Brother recording artist Neil Young" -- Brother Records was the label the Beach Boys set up around this time, though Young never recorded for it. Perhaps there were plans for him to do so at one point? Either way, the group split up. Furay and Messina pieced together a final contractual obligation album from old sessions and some new songs the two of them worked on, one of which would be Furay's most notable songwriting contribution to the group: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Kind Woman"] But that album, Last Time Around, wasn't a success either artistically or commercially. Furay and Messina went on to form a country-rock band, Poco, and Messina later famously formed a duo with Kenny Loggins. We won't be having any future episodes on either of them, but they're likely to pop up in episodes on other artists. Dewey Martin and Bruce Palmer, sadly, won't. Palmer had mental health problems for much of the rest of his life, and only released one solo album, in 1971, a jazz-funk-psychedelic album called The Cycle is Complete, which had four tracks, all of them extended jams called things like "Alpha-Omega-Apocalypse": [Excerpt: Bruce Palmer, "Alpha-Omega-Apocalypse"] Dewey Martin, meanwhile, was not ready to give up. He formed New Buffalo Springfield, with Gary Rowles, who would later be the lead guitarist in the 1969-1971 lineup of Love, Jim Price, who would later be a respected session horn player, and Dave Price, who was one of Davy Jones' standins for the Monkees TV series. The rest of his former bandmates sued him, and he eventually settled for being allowed to call his band New Buffalo (though it would often perform as New Buffalo Springfield anyway) in return for all his future royalties for the original group's music. That group fell apart, but Martin and Dave Price formed a second lineup of the group, which toured as New Buffalo Springfield, New Buffalo, and Blue Buffalo, and which featured Randy Fuller, Bobby Fuller's brother. Blue Buffalo then sacked Martin and changed their name to Blue Mountain Eagle, who recorded one album, plus a non-album single -- a version of Steve Stills' song "Marianne": [Excerpt: Blue Mountain Eagle, "Marianne"] Randy Fuller left Blue Mountain Eagle and joined Dewey Martin's new band, Dewey Martin and Medicine Ball, who also recorded one album, only one track of which, "Indian Child", seems to have made it into any kind of digital release, and I'm not going to excerpt that here because it's a string of offensive cliches about native Americans. Bruce Palmer also guested on that album, and Palmer would later play bass on Neil Young's album Trans and the resulting tour, which saw them making music that was very different from their Buffalo Springfield years, even on the one remake of a Buffalo Springfield song included on the album and tour: [Excerpt: Neil Young, "Mr. Soul (Live in Berlin)"] But for the most part, both Palmer and Martin spent the next several decades touring, together and separately, in bands called things like The Springfield Band, Buffalo Springfield Revisited, White Buffalo, and Buffalo Springfield Again. Sadly, when there was an actual reunion of Buffalo Springfield in 2011, both had already died -- Palmer in 2004 and Martin in 2009. As for the group's two leaders, they felt uncomfortable being even on the same record label, so Ahmet Ertegun chose to keep Stills on Atlantic and to drop Young, who moved on to Warners and made an album with Jack Nitzsche arranging, which was very much in the style of "Expecting to Fly" and "Broken Arrow": [Excerpt: Neil Young, "The Old Laughing Lady"] I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say we'll probably be hearing more from Neil Young in future episodes. As for Steve Stills, his next major contribution to a record was also his next major success. Al Kooper had recorded half an album with Mike Bloomfield, Fast Eddie Hoh, and a couple of members of the Electric Flag, but Bloomfield couldn't make the second session, so Kooper called in Stills to replace him. The resulting album was released as "Super Session", credited to Bloomfield, Kooper, and Stills: [Excerpt: Steve Stills and Al Kooper, "Season of the Witch"] Super Session went to number twelve and became a gold-selling album, and was the first hugely successful album in a new trend, the "supergroup", in which former members of several successful bands would get together and record as a new group. We'll see a few of those in 1968 and 69. Kooper apparently enjoyed working with Stills enough that he asked him to join Blood Sweat and Tears as their new vocalist -- though by all accounts Kooper himself had apparently already been kicked out of the band by that point, and it's hard to see Stills and Jim Fielder working well together in a band after Stills had sacked Fielder with no warning. Stills declined, but the idea of doing something like the Super Session again did appeal to him. All he needed was a couple more musicians. But that, of course, is a story for another time... ... 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30 Aug 2022

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30 Aug 2022


#190

Episode 151: “San Francisco” by Scott McKenzie

We start season four of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs with an extra-long look at "San Francisco" by Scott McKenzie, and at the Monterey Pop Festival, and the careers of the Mamas and the Papas and P.F. Sloan.  Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, [on "Up, Up, and Away" by the 5th Dimension.] (https://www.patreon.com/posts/70877906) 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: An incorrect version of the file was previously uploaded, with the wrong section edited in at approximately 57 minutes. This was fixed about three hours after uploading, but some streaming services may have cached the wrong file. Also I say that John Phillips wrote "No, No, No, No". I got this from an interview with McKenzie, but he must have been misremembering -- the song is a cover version of "La Poupee Qui Fait Non" by Michel Polnareff, with English-language lyrics by Geoff Stephens Resources As usual, all the songs excerpted in the podcast can be heard in full at  [Mixcloud] (https://www.mixcloud.com/AndrewHickey/500-songs-supplemental-151-san-francisco/) . Scott McKenzie's first album is available [here] (https://amzn.to/3casXIS) . There are many compilations of the Mamas and the Papas' music, but sadly none that are in print in the UK have the original mono mixes. [This set] (https://amzn.to/3KfZI40) is about as good as you're going to find, though, for the stereo versions. Information on the Mamas and the Papas came from [Go Where You Wanna Go: The Oral History of The Mamas and the Papas by Matthew Greenwald] (https://amzn.to/3dL3W7l) , [California Dreamin': The True Story Of The Mamas and Papas by Michelle Phillips] (https://amzn.to/3wp5j2a) , and  [Papa John by John Phillips and Jim Jerome.] (https://amzn.to/3AyR8cb) Information on P.F. Sloan came from [PF - TRAVELLING BAREFOOT ON A ROCKY ROAD by Stephen McParland] (https://payhip.com/b/efzi) and  [What's Exactly the Matter With Me? by P.F. Sloan and S.E. Feinberg.] (https://amzn.to/3PBrmtf) The film of the Monterey Pop Festival is available on this [Criterion Blu-Ray set] (https://amzn.to/3QK91LI) . Sadly the CD of the performances seems to be deleted. 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 Welcome to season four of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs. It's good to be back. Before we start this episode, I just want to say one thing. I get a lot of credit at times for the way I don't shy away from dealing with the more unsavoury elements of the people being covered in my podcast -- particularly the more awful men. But as I said very early on, I only cover those aspects of their life when they're relevant to the music, because this is a music podcast and not a true crime podcast. But also I worry that in some cases this might mean I'm giving a false impression of some people. In the case of this episode, one of the central figures is John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas. Now, Phillips has posthumously been accused of some truly monstrous acts, the kind of thing that is truly unforgivable, and I believe those accusations. But those acts didn't take place during the time period covered by most of this episode, so I won't be covering them here -- but they're easily googlable if you want to know. I thought it best to get that out of the way at the start, so no-one's either anxiously waiting for the penny to drop or upset that I didn't acknowledge the elephant in the room. Separately, this episode will have some discussion of fatphobia and diet culture, and of a death that is at least in part attributable to those things. Those of you affected by that may want to skip this one or read the transcript. There are also some mentions of drug addiction and alcoholism. Anyway, on with the show. One of the things that causes problems with rock history is the tendency of people to have selective memories, and that's never more true than when it comes to the Summer of Love, summer of 1967. In the mythology that's built up around it, that was a golden time, the greatest time ever, a period of peace and love where everything was possible, and the world looked like it was going to just keep on getting better. But what that means, of course, is that the people remembering it that way do so because it was the best time of their lives. And what happens when the best time of your life is over in one summer? When you have one hit and never have a second, or when your band splits up after only eighteen months, and you have to cope with the reality that your best years are not only behind you, but they weren't even best years, but just best months? What stories would you tell about that time? Would you remember it as the eve of destruction, the last great moment before everything went to hell, or would you remember it as a golden summer, full of people with flowers in their hair? And would either really be true? [Excerpt: Scott McKenzie, "San Francisco"] Other than the city in which they worked, there are a few things that seem to characterise almost all the important figures on the LA music scene in the middle part of the 1960s. They almost all seem to be incredibly ambitious, as one might imagine. There seem to be a huge number of fantasists among them -- people who will not only choose the legend over reality when it suits them, but who will choose the legend over reality even when it doesn't suit them. And they almost all seem to have a story about being turned down in a rude and arrogant manner by Lou Adler, usually more or less the same story. To give an example, I'm going to read out a bit of Ray Manzarek's autobiography here. Now, Manzarek uses a few words that I can't use on this podcast and keep a clean rating, so I'm just going to do slight pauses when I get to them, but I'll leave the words in the transcript for those who aren't offended by them: "Sometimes Jim and Dorothy and I went alone. The three of us tried Dunhill Records. Lou Adler was the head man. He was shrewd and he was hip. He had the Mamas and the Papas and a big single with Barry McGuire’s 'Eve of Destruction.' He was flush. We were ushered into his office. He looked cool. He was California casually disheveled and had the look of a stoner, but his eyes were as cold as a shark’s. He took the twelve-inch acetate demo from me and we all sat down. He put the disc on his turntable and played each cut…for ten seconds. Ten seconds! You can’t tell jack [shit] from ten seconds. At least listen to one of the songs all the way through. I wanted to rage at him. 'How dare you! We’re the Doors! This is [fucking] Jim Morrison! He’s going to be a [fucking] star! Can’t you see that? Can’t you see how [fucking] handsome he is? Can’t you hear how groovy the music is? Don’t you [fucking] get it? Listen to the words, man!' My brain was a boiling, lava-filled Jell-O mold of rage. I wanted to eviscerate that shark. The songs he so casually dismissed were 'Moonlight Drive,' 'Hello, I Love You,' 'Summer’s Almost Gone,' 'End of the Night,' 'I Looked at You,' 'Go Insane.' He rejected the whole demo. Ten seconds on each song—maybe twenty seconds on 'Hello, I Love You' (I took that as an omen of potential airplay)—and we were dismissed out of hand. Just like that. He took the demo off the turntable and handed it back to me with an obsequious smile and said, 'Nothing here I can use.' We were shocked. We stood up, the three of us, and Jim, with a wry and knowing smile on his lips, cuttingly and coolly shot back at him, 'That’s okay, man. We don’t want to be *used*, anyway.'" Now, as you may have gathered from the episode on the Doors, Ray Manzarek was one of those print-the-legend types, and that's true of everyone who tells similar stories about Lou Alder. But... there are a *lot* of people who tell similar stories about Lou Adler. One of those was Phil Sloan. You can get an idea of Sloan's attitude to storytelling from a story he always used to tell. Shortly after he and his family moved to LA from New York, he got a job selling newspapers on a street corner on Hollywood Boulevard, just across from Schwab's Drug Store. One day James Dean drove up in his Porsche and made an unusual request. He wanted to buy every copy of the newspaper that Sloan had -- around a hundred and fifty copies in total. But he only wanted one article, something in the entertainment section. Sloan didn't remember what the article was, but he did remember that one of the headlines was on the final illness of Oliver Hardy, who died shortly afterwards, and thought it might have been something to do with that. Dean was going to just clip that article from every copy he bought, and then he was going to give all the newspapers back to Sloan to sell again, so Sloan ended up making a lot of extra money that day. There is one rather big problem with that story. Oliver Hardy died in August 1957, just after the Sloan family moved to LA. But James Dean died in September 1955, two years earlier. Sloan admitted that, and said he couldn't explain it, but he was insistent. He sold a hundred and fifty newspapers to James Dean two years after Dean's death. When not selling newspapers to dead celebrities, Sloan went to Fairfax High School, and developed an interest in music which was mostly oriented around the kind of white pop vocal groups that were popular at the time, groups like the Kingston Trio, the Four Lads, and the Four Aces. But the record that made Sloan decide he wanted to make music himself was "Just Goofed" by the Teen Queens: [Excerpt: The Teen Queens, "Just Goofed"] In 1959, when he was fourteen, he saw an advert for an open audition with Aladdin Records, a label he liked because of Thurston Harris. He went along to the audition, and was successful. His first single, released as by Flip Sloan -- Flip was a nickname, a corruption of "Philip" -- was produced by Bumps Blackwell and featured several of the musicians who played with Sam Cooke, plus Larry Knechtel on piano and Mike Deasey on guitar, but Aladdin shut down shortly after releasing it, and it may not even have had a general release, just promo copies. I've not been able to find a copy online anywhere. After that, he tried Arwin Records, the label that Jan and Arnie recorded for, which was owned by Marty Melcher (Doris Day's husband and Terry Melcher's stepfather). Melcher signed him, and put out a single, "She's My Girl", on Mart Records, a subsidiary of Arwin, on which Sloan was backed by a group of session players including Sandy Nelson and Bruce Johnston: [Excerpt: Philip Sloan, "She's My Girl"] That record didn't have any success, and Sloan was soon dropped by Mart Records. He went on to sign with Blue Bird Records, which was as far as can be ascertained essentially a scam organisation that would record demos for songwriters, but tell the performers that they were making a real record, so that they would record it for the royalties they would never get, rather than for a decent fee as a professional demo singer would get. But Steve Venet -- the brother of Nik Venet, and occasional songwriting collaborator with Tommy Boyce -- happened to come to Blue Bird one day, and hear one of Sloan's original songs. He thought Sloan would make a good songwriter, and took him to see Lou Adler at Columbia-Screen Gems music publishing. This was shortly after the merger between Columbia-Screen Gems and Aldon Music, and Adler was at this point the West Coast head of operations, subservient to Don Kirshner and Al Nevins, but largely left to do what he wanted. The way Sloan always told the story, Venet tried to get Adler to sign Sloan, but Adler said his songs stunk and had no commercial potential. But Sloan persisted in trying to get a contract there, and eventually Al Nevins happened to be in the office and overruled Adler, much to Adler's disgust. Sloan was signed to Columbia-Screen Gems as a songwriter, though he wasn't put on a salary like the Brill Building songwriters, just told that he could bring in songs and they would publish them. Shortly after this, Adler suggested to Sloan that he might want to form a writing team with another songwriter, Steve Barri, who had had a similar non-career non-trajectory, but was very slightly further ahead in his career, having done some work with Carol Connors, the former lead singer of the Teddy Bears. Barri had co-written a couple of flop singles for Connors, before the two of them had formed a vocal group, the Storytellers, with Connors' sister. The Storytellers had released a single, "When Two People (Are in Love)" , which was put out on a local independent label and which Adler had licensed to be released on Dimension Records, the label associated with Aldon Music: [Excerpt: The Storytellers "When Two People (Are in Love)"] That record didn't sell, but it was enough to get Barri into the Columbia-Screen Gems circle, and Adler set him and Sloan up as a songwriting team -- although the way Sloan told it, it wasn't so much a songwriting team as Sloan writing songs while Barri was also there. Sloan would later claim "it was mostly a collaboration of spirit, and it seemed that I was writing most of the music and the lyric, but it couldn't possibly have ever happened unless both of us were present at the same time". One suspects that Barri might have a different recollection of how it went... Sloan and Barri's first collaboration was a song that Sloan had half-written before they met, called "Kick That Little Foot Sally Ann", which was recorded by a West Coast Chubby Checker knockoff who went under the name Round Robin, and who had his own dance craze, the Slauson, which was much less successful than the Twist: [Excerpt: Round Robin, "Kick that Little Foot Sally Ann"] That track was produced and arranged by Jack Nitzsche, and Nitzsche asked Sloan to be one of the rhythm guitarists on the track, apparently liking Sloan's feel. Sloan would end up playing rhythm guitar or singing backing vocals on many of the records made of songs he and Barri wrote together. "Kick That Little Foot Sally Ann" only made number sixty-one nationally, but it was a regional hit, and it meant that Sloan and Barri soon became what Sloan later described as "the Goffin and King of the West Coast follow-ups." According to Sloan "We'd be given a list on Monday morning by Lou Adler with thirty names on it of the groups who needed follow-ups to their hit." They'd then write the songs to order, and they started to specialise in dance craze songs. For example, when the Swim looked like it might be the next big dance, they wrote "Swim Swim Swim", "She Only Wants to Swim", "Let's Swim Baby", "Big Boss Swimmer", "Swim Party" and "My Swimmin' Girl" (the last a collaboration with Jan Berry and Roger Christian). These songs were exactly as good as they needed to be, in order to provide album filler for mid-tier artists, and while Sloan and Barri weren't writing any massive hits, they were doing very well as mid-tier writers. According to Sloan's biographer Stephen McParland, there was a three-year period in the mid-sixties where at least one song written or co-written by Sloan was on the national charts at any given time. Most of these songs weren't for Columbia-Screen Gems though. In early 1964 Lou Adler had a falling out with Don Kirshner, and decided to start up his own company, Dunhill, which was equal parts production company, music publishers, and management -- doing for West Coast pop singers what Motown was doing for Detroit soul singers, and putting everything into one basket. Dunhill's early clients included Jan and Dean and the rockabilly singer Johnny Rivers, and Dunhill also signed Sloan and Barri as songwriters. Because of this connection, Sloan and Barri soon became an important part of Jan and Dean's hit-making process. The Matadors, the vocal group that had provided most of the backing vocals on the duo's hits, had started asking for more money than Jan Berry was willing to pay, and Jan and Dean couldn't do the vocals themselves -- as Bones Howe put it "As a singer, Dean is a wonderful graphic artist" -- and so Sloan and Barri stepped in, doing session vocals without payment in the hope that Jan and Dean would record a few of their songs. For example, on the big hit "The Little Old Lady From Pasadena", Dean Torrence is not present at all on the record -- Jan Berry sings the lead vocal, with Sloan doubling him for much of it, Sloan sings "Dean"'s falsetto, with the engineer Bones Howe helping out, and the rest of the backing vocals are sung by Sloan, Barri, and Howe: [Excerpt: Jan and Dean, "The Little Old Lady From Pasadena"] For these recordings, Sloan and Barri were known as The Fantastic Baggys, a name which came from the Rolling Stones' manager Andrew Oldham and Mick Jagger, when the two were visiting California. Oldham had been commenting on baggys, the kind of shorts worn by surfers, and had asked Jagger what he thought of The Baggys as a group name. Jagger had replied "Fantastic!" and so the Fantastic Baggys had been born. As part of this, Sloan and Barri moved hard into surf and hot-rod music from the dance songs they had been writing previously. The Fantastic Baggys recorded their own album, Tell 'Em I'm Surfin', as a quickie album suggested by Adler: [Excerpt: The Fantastic Baggys, "Tell 'Em I'm Surfin'"] And under the name The Rally Packs they recorded a version of Jan and Dean's "Move Out Little Mustang" which featured Berry's girlfriend Jill Gibson doing a spoken section: [Excerpt: The Rally Packs, "Move Out Little Mustang"] They also wrote several album tracks for Jan and Dean, and wrote "Summer Means Fun" for Bruce and Terry -- Bruce Johnston, later of the Beach Boys, and Terry Melcher: [Excerpt: Bruce and Terry, "Summer Means Fun"] And they wrote the very surf-flavoured "Secret Agent Man" for fellow Dunhill artist Johnny Rivers: [Excerpt: Johnny Rivers, "Secret Agent Man"] But of course, when you're chasing trends, you're chasing trends, and soon the craze for twangy guitars and falsetto harmonies had ended, replaced by a craze for jangly twelve-string guitars and closer harmonies. According to Sloan, he was in at the very beginning of the folk-rock trend -- the way he told the story, he was involved in the mastering of the Byrds' version of "Mr. Tambourine Man". He later talked about Terry Melcher getting him to help out, saying "He had produced a record called 'Mr. Tambourine Man', and had sent it into the head office, and it had been rejected. He called me up and said 'I've got three more hours in the studio before I'm being kicked out of Columbia. Can you come over and help me with this new record?' I did. I went over there. It was under lock and key. There were two guards outside the door. Terry asked me something about 'Summer Means Fun'. "He said 'Do you remember the guitar that we worked on with that? How we put in that double reverb?' "And I said 'yes' "And he said 'What do you think if we did something like that with the Byrds?' "And I said 'That sounds good. Let's see what it sounds like.' So we patched into all the reverb centres in Columbia Music, and mastered the record in three hours." Whether Sloan really was there at the birth of folk rock, he and Barri jumped on the folk-rock craze just as they had the surf and hot-rod craze, and wrote a string of jangly hits including "You Baby" for the Turtles: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "You Baby"] and "I Found a Girl" for Jan and Dean: [Excerpt: Jan and Dean, "I Found a Girl"] That song was later included on Jan and Dean's Folk 'n' Roll album, which also included... a song I'm not even going to name, but long-time listeners will know the one I mean. It was also notable in that "I Found a Girl" was the first song on which Sloan was credited not as Phil Sloan, but as P.F. Sloan -- he didn't have a middle name beginning with F, but rather the F stood for his nickname "Flip". Sloan would later talk of Phil Sloan and P.F. Sloan as almost being two different people, with P.F. being a far more serious, intense, songwriter. Folk 'n' Roll also contained another Sloan song, this one credited solely to Sloan. And that song is the one for which he became best known. There are two very different stories about how "Eve of Destruction" came to be written. To tell Sloan's version, I'm going to read a few paragraphs from his autobiography: "By late 1964, I had already written ‘Eve Of Destruction,’ ‘The Sins Of A Family,’ ‘This Mornin’,’ ‘Ain’t No Way I’m Gonna Change My Mind,’ and ‘What’s Exactly The Matter With Me?’ They all arrived on one cataclysmic evening, and nearly at the same time, as I worked on the lyrics almost simultaneously. ‘Eve Of Destruction’ came about from hearing a voice, perhaps an angel’s. The voice instructed me to place five pieces of paper and spread them out on my bed. I obeyed the voice. The voice told me that the first song would be called ‘Eve Of Destruction,’ so I wrote the title at the top of the page. For the next few hours, the voice came and went as I was writing the lyric, as if this spirit—or whatever it was—stood over me like a teacher: ‘No, no … not think of all the hate there is in Red Russia … Red China!’ I didn’t understand. I thought the Soviet Union was the mortal threat to America, but the voice went on to reveal to me the future of the world until 2024. I was told the Soviet Union would fall, and that Red China would continue to be communist far into the future, but that communism was not going to be allowed to take over this Divine Planet—therefore, think of all the hate there is in Red China. I argued and wrestled with the voice for hours, until I was exhausted but satisfied inside with my plea to God to either take me out of the world, as I could not live in such a hypocritical society, or to show me a way to make things better. When I was writing ‘Eve,’ I was on my hands and knees, pleading for an answer." Lou Adler's story is that he gave Phil Sloan a copy of Bob Dylan's Bringing it All Back Home album and told him to write a bunch of songs that sounded like that, and Sloan came back a week later as instructed with ten Dylan knock-offs. Adler said "It was a natural feel for him. He's a great mimic." As one other data point, both Steve Barri and Bones Howe, the engineer who worked on most of the sessions we're looking at today, have often talked in interviews about "Eve of Destruction" as being a Sloan/Barri collaboration, as if to them it's common knowledge that it wasn't written alone, although Sloan's is the only name on the credits. The song was given to a new signing to Dunhill Records, Barry McGuire. McGuire was someone who had been part of the folk scene for years, He'd been playing folk clubs in LA while also acting in a TV show from 1961. When the TV show had finished, he'd formed a duo, Barry and Barry, with Barry Kane, and they performed much the same repertoire as all the other early-sixties folkies: [Excerpt: Barry and Barry, "If I Had a Hammer"] After recording their one album, both Barrys joined the New Christy Minstrels. We've talked about the Christys before, but they were -- and are to this day -- an ultra-commercial folk group, led by Randy Sparks, with a revolving membership of usually eight or nine singers which included several other people who've come up in this podcast, like Gene Clark and Jerry Yester. McGuire became one of the principal lead singers of the Christys, singing lead on their version of the novelty cowboy song "Three Wheels on My Wagon", which was later released as a single in the UK and became a perennial children's favourite (though it has a problematic attitude towards Native Americans): [Excerpt: The New Christy Minstrels, "Three Wheels on My Wagon"] And he also sang lead on their big hit "Green Green", which he co-wrote with Randy Sparks: [Excerpt: The New Christy Minstrels, "Green Green"] But by 1965 McGuire had left the New Christy Minstrels. As he said later "I'd sung 'Green Green' a thousand times and I didn't want to sing it again. This is January of 1965. I went back to LA to meet some producers, and I was broke. Nobody had the time of day for me. I was walking down street one time to see Dr. Strangelove and I walked by the music store, and I heard "Green Green" comin' out of the store, ya know, on Hollywood Boulevard. And I heard my voice, and I thought, 'I got four dollars in my pocket!' I couldn't believe it, my voice is comin' out on Hollywood Boulevard, and I'm broke. And right at that moment, a car pulls up, and the radio is playing 'Chim Chim Cherie" also by the Minstrels. So I got my voice comin' at me in stereo, standin' on the sidewalk there, and I'm broke, and I can't get anyone to sign me!" But McGuire had a lot of friends who he'd met on the folk scene, some of whom were now in the new folk-rock scene that was just starting to spring up. One of them was Roger McGuinn, who told him that his band, the Byrds, were just about to put out a new single, "Mr. Tambourine Man", and that they were about to start a residency at Ciro's on Sunset Strip. McGuinn invited McGuire to the opening night of that residency, where a lot of other people from the scene were there to see the new group. Bob Dylan was there, as was Phil Sloan, and the actor Jack Nicholson, who was still at the time a minor bit-part player in low-budget films made by people like American International Pictures (the cinematographer on many of Nicholson's early films was Floyd Crosby, David Crosby's father, which may be why he was there). Someone else who was there was Lou Adler, who according to McGuire recognised him instantly. According to Adler, he actually asked Terry Melcher who the long-haired dancer wearing furs was, because "he looked like the leader of a movement", and Melcher told him that he was the former lead singer of the New Christy Minstrels. Either way, Adler approached McGuire and asked if he was currently signed -- Dunhill Records was just starting up, and getting someone like McGuire, who had a proven ability to sing lead on hit records, would be a good start for the label. As McGuire didn't have a contract, he was signed to Dunhill, and he was given some of Sloan's new songs to pick from, and chose "What's Exactly the Matter With Me?" as his single: [Excerpt: Barry McGuire, "What's Exactly the Matter With Me?"] McGuire described what happened next: "It was like, a three-hour session. We did two songs, and then the third one wasn't turning out. We only had about a half hour left in the session, so I said 'Let's do this tune', and I pulled 'Eve of Destruction' out of my pocket, and it just had Phil's words scrawled on a piece of paper, all wrinkled up. Phil worked the chords out with the musicians, who were Hal Blaine on drums and Larry Knechtel on bass." There were actually more musicians than that at the session -- apparently both Knechtel and Joe Osborn were there, so I'm not entirely sure who's playing bass -- Knechtel was a keyboard player as well as a bass player, but I don't hear any keyboards on the track. And Tommy Tedesco was playing lead guitar, and Steve Barri added percussion, along with Sloan on rhythm guitar and harmonica. The chords were apparently scribbled down for the musicians on bits of greasy paper that had been used to wrap some takeaway chicken, and they got through the track in a single take. According to McGuire "I'm reading the words off this piece of wrinkled paper, and I'm singing 'My blood's so mad, feels like coagulatin'", that part that goes 'Ahhh you can't twist the truth', and the reason I'm going 'Ahhh' is because I lost my place on the page. People said 'Man, you really sounded frustrated when you were singing.' I was. I couldn't see the words!" [Excerpt: Barry McGuire, "Eve of Destruction"] With a few overdubs -- the female backing singers in the chorus, and possibly the kettledrums, which I've seen differing claims about, with some saying that Hal Blaine played them during the basic track and others saying that Lou Adler suggested them as an overdub, the track was complete. McGuire wasn't happy with his vocal, and a session was scheduled for him to redo it, but then a record promoter working with Adler was DJing a birthday party for the head of programming at KFWB, the big top forty radio station in LA at the time, and he played a few acetates he'd picked up from Adler. Most went down OK with the crowd, but when he played "Eve of Destruction", the crowd went wild and insisted he play it three times in a row. The head of programming called Adler up and told him that "Eve of Destruction" was going to be put into rotation on the station from Monday, so he'd better get the record out. As McGuire was away for the weekend, Adler just released the track as it was, and what had been intended to be a B-side became Barry McGuire's first and only number one record: [Excerpt: Barry McGuire, "Eve of Destruction"] Sloan would later claim that that song was a major reason why the twenty-sixth amendment to the US Constitution was passed six years later, because the line "you're old enough to kill but not for votin'" shamed Congress into changing the constitution to allow eighteen-year-olds to vote. If so, that would make "Eve of Destruction" arguably the single most impactful rock record in history, though Sloan is the only person I've ever seen saying that As well as going to number one in McGuire's version, the song was also covered by the other artists who regularly performed Sloan and Barri songs, like the Turtles: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Eve of Destruction"] And Jan and Dean, whose version on Folk & Roll used the same backing track as McGuire, but had a few lyrical changes to make it fit with Jan Berry's right-wing politics, most notably changing "Selma, Alabama" to "Watts, California", thus changing a reference to peaceful civil rights protestors being brutally attacked and murdered by white supremacist state troopers to a reference to what was seen, in the popular imaginary, as Black people rioting for no reason: [Excerpt: Jan and Dean, "Eve of Destruction"] According to Sloan, he worked on the Folk & Roll album as a favour to Berry, even though he thought Berry was being cynical and exploitative in making the record, but those changes caused a rift in their friendship. Sloan said in his autobiography "Where I was completely wrong was in helping him capitalize on something in which he didn’t believe. Jan wanted the public to perceive him as a person who was deeply concerned and who embraced the values of the progressive politics of the day. But he wasn’t that person. That’s how I was being pulled. It was when he recorded my actual song ‘Eve Of Destruction’ and changed a number of lines to reflect his own ideals that my principles demanded that I leave Folk City and never return." It's true that Sloan gave no more songs to Jan and Dean after that point -- but it's also true that the duo would record only one more album, the comedy concept album Jan and Dean Meet Batman, before Jan's accident. Incidentally, the reference to Selma, Alabama in the lyric might help people decide on which story about the writing of "Eve of Destruction" they think is more plausible. Remember that Lou Adler said that it was written after Adler gave Sloan a copy of Bringing it All Back Home and told him to write a bunch of knock-offs, while Sloan said it was written after a supernatural force gave him access to all the events that would happen in the world for the next sixty years. Sloan claimed the song was written in late 1964. Selma, Alabama, became national news in late February and early March 1965. Bringing it All Back Home was released in late March 1965. So either Adler was telling the truth, or Sloan really *was* given a supernatural insight into the events of the future. Now, as it turned out, while "Eve of Destruction" went to number one, that would be McGuire's only hit as a solo artist. His next couple of singles would reach the very low end of the Hot One Hundred, and that would be it -- he'd release several more albums, before appearing in the Broadway musical Hair, most famous for its nude scenes, and getting a small part in the cinematic masterpiece Werewolves on Wheels: [Excerpt: Werewolves on Wheels trailer] P.F. Sloan would later tell various stories about why McGuire never had another hit. Sometimes he would say that Dunhill Records had received death threats because of "Eve of Destruction" and so deliberately tried to bury McGuire's career, other times he would say that Lou Adler had told him that Billboard had said they were never going to put McGuire's records on the charts no matter how well they sold, because "Eve of Destruction" had just been too powerful and upset the advertisers. But of course at this time Dunhill were still trying for a follow-up to "Eve of Destruction", and they thought they might have one when Barry McGuire brought in a few friends of his to sing backing vocals on his second album. Now, we've covered some of the history of the Mamas and the Papas already, because they were intimately tied up with other groups like the Byrds and the Lovin' Spoonful, and with the folk scene that led to songs like "Hey Joe", so some of this will be more like a recap than a totally new story, but I'm going to recap those parts of the story anyway, so it's fresh in everyone's heads. John Phillips, Scott McKenzie, and Cass Elliot all grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, just a few miles south of Washington DC. Elliot was a few years younger than Phillips and McKenzie, and so as is the way with young men they never really noticed her, and as McKenzie later said "She lived like a quarter of a mile from me and I never met her until New York". While they didn't know who Elliot was, though, she was aware who they were, as Phillips and McKenzie sang together in a vocal group called The Smoothies. The Smoothies were a modern jazz harmony group, influenced by groups like the Modernaires, the Hi-Los, and the Four Freshmen. John Phillips later said "We were drawn to jazz, because we were sort of beatniks, really, rather than hippies, or whatever, flower children. So we used to sing modern harmonies, like Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. Dave Lambert did a lot of our arrangements for us as a matter of fact." Now, I've not seen any evidence other than Phillips' claim that Dave Lambert ever arranged for the Smoothies, but that does tell you a lot about the kind of music that they were doing. Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross were a vocalese trio whose main star was Annie Ross, who had a career worthy of an episode in itself -- she sang with Paul Whiteman, appeared in a Little Rascals film when she was seven, had an affair with Lenny Bruce, dubbed Britt Ekland's voice in The Wicker Man, played the villain's sister in Superman III, and much more. Vocalese, you'll remember, was a style of jazz vocal where a singer would take a jazz instrumental, often an improvised one, and add lyrics which they would sing, like Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross' version of "Cloudburst": [Excerpt: Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, "Cloudburst"] Whether Dave Lambert ever really did arrange for the Smoothies or not, it's very clear that the trio had a huge influence on John Phillips' ideas about vocal arrangement, as you can hear on Mamas and Papas records like "Once Was a Time I Thought": [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "Once Was a Time I Thought"] While the Smoothies thought of themselves as a jazz group, when they signed to Decca they started out making the standard teen pop of the era, with songs like "Softly": [Excerpt, The Smoothies, "Softly"] When the folk boom started, Phillips realised that this was music that he could do easily, because the level of musicianship among the pop-folk musicians was so much lower than in the jazz world. The Smoothies made some recordings in the style of the Kingston Trio, like "Ride Ride Ride": [Excerpt: The Smoothies, "Ride Ride Ride"] Then when the Smoothies split, Phillips and McKenzie formed a trio with a banjo player, Dick Weissman, who they met through Izzy Young's Folklore Centre in Greenwich Village after Phillips asked Young to name some musicians who could make a folk record with him. Weissman was often considered the best banjo player on the scene, and was a friend of Pete Seeger's, to whom Seeger sometimes turned for banjo tips. The trio, who called themselves the Journeymen, quickly established themselves on the folk scene. Weissman later said "we had this interesting balance. John had all of this charisma -- they didn't know about the writing thing yet -- John had the personality, Scott had the voice, and I could play. If you think about it, all of those bands like the Kingston Trio, the Brothers Four, nobody could really *sing* and nobody could really *play*, relatively speaking." This is the take that most people seemed to have about John Phillips, in any band he was ever in. Nobody thought he was a particularly good singer or instrumentalist -- he could sing on key and play adequate rhythm guitar, but nobody would actually pay money to listen to him do those things. Mark Volman of the Turtles, for example, said of him "John wasn't the kind of guy who was going to be able to go up on stage and sing his songs as a singer-songwriter. He had to put himself in the context of a group." But he was charismatic, he had presence, and he also had a great musical mind. He would surround himself with the best players and best singers he could, and then he would organise and arrange them in ways that made the most of their talents. He would work out the arrangements, in a manner that was far more professional than the quick head arrangements that other folk groups used, and he instigated a level of professionalism in his groups that was not at all common on the scene. Phillips' friend Jim Mason talked about the first time he saw the Journeymen -- "They were warming up backstage, and John had all of them doing vocal exercises; one thing in particular that's pretty famous called 'Seiber Syllables' -- it's a series of vocal exercises where you enunciate different vowel and consonant sounds. It had the effect of clearing your head, and it's something that really good operetta singers do." The group were soon signed by Frank Werber, the manager of the Kingston Trio, who signed them as an insurance policy. Dave Guard, the Kingston Trio's banjo player, was increasingly having trouble with the other members, and Werber knew it was only a matter of time before he left the group. Werber wanted the Journeymen as a sort of farm team -- he had the idea that when Guard left, Phillips would join the Kingston Trio in his place as the third singer. Weissman would become the Trio's accompanist on banjo, and Scott McKenzie, who everyone agreed had a remarkable voice, would be spun off as a solo artist. But until that happened, they might as well make records by themselves. The Journeymen signed to MGM records, but were dropped before they recorded anything. They instead signed to Capitol, for whom they recorded their first album: [Excerpt: The Journeymen, "500 Miles"] After recording that album, the Journeymen moved out to California, with Phillips' wife and children. But soon Phillips' marriage was to collapse, as he met and fell in love with Michelle Gilliam. Gilliam was nine years younger than him -- he was twenty-six and she was seventeen -- and she had the kind of appearance which meant that in every interview with an older heterosexual man who knew her, that man will spend half the interview talking about how attractive he found her. Phillips soon left his wife and children, but before he did, the group had a turntable hit with "River Come Down", the B-side to "500 Miles": [Excerpt: The Journeymen, "River Come Down"] Around the same time, Dave Guard *did* leave the Kingston Trio, but the plan to split the Journeymen never happened. Instead Phillips' friend John Stewart replaced Guard -- and this soon became a new source of income for Phillips. Both Phillips and Stewart were aspiring songwriters, and they collaborated together on several songs for the Trio, including "Chilly Winds": [Excerpt: The Kingston Trio, "Chilly Winds"] Phillips became particularly good at writing songs that sounded like they could be old traditional folk songs, sometimes taking odd lines from older songs to jump-start new ones, as in "Oh Miss Mary", which he and Stewart wrote after hearing someone sing the first line of a song she couldn't remember the rest of: [Excerpt: The Kingston Trio, "Oh Miss Mary"] Phillips and Stewart became so close that Phillips actually suggested to Stewart that he quit the Kingston Trio and replace Dick Weissman in the Journeymen. Stewart did quit the Trio -- but then the next day Phillips suggested that maybe it was a bad idea and he should stay where he was. Stewart went back to the Trio, claimed he had only pretended to quit because he wanted a pay-rise, and got his raise, so everyone ended up happy. The Journeymen moved back to New York with Michelle in place of Phillips' first wife (and Michelle's sister Russell also coming along, as she was dating Scott McKenzie) and on New Year's Eve 1962 John and Michelle married -- so from this point on I will refer to them by their first names, because they both had the surname Phillips. The group continued having success through 1963, including making appearances on "Hootenanny": [Excerpt: The Journeymen, "Stack O'Lee (live on Hootenanny)"] By the time of the Journeymen's third album, though, John and Scott McKenzie were on bad terms. Weissman said "They had been the closest of friends and now they were the worst of enemies. They talked through me like I was a medium. It got to the point where we'd be standing in the dressing room and John would say to me 'Tell Scott that his right sock doesn't match his left sock...' Things like that, when they were standing five feet away from each other." Eventually, the group split up. Weissman was always going to be able to find employment given his banjo ability, and he was about to get married and didn't need the hassle of dealing with the other two. McKenzie was planning on a solo career -- everyone was agreed that he had the vocal ability. But John was another matter. He needed to be in a group.  And not only that, the Journeymen had bookings they needed to complete. He quickly pulled together a group he called the New Journeymen. The core of the lineup was himself, Michelle on vocals, and banjo player Marshall Brickman. Brickman had previously been a member of a folk group called the Tarriers, who had had a revolving lineup, and had played on most of their early-sixties recordings: [Excerpt: The Tarriers, "Quinto (My Little Pony)"] We've met the Tarriers before in the podcast -- they had been formed by Erik Darling, who later replaced Pete Seeger in the Weavers after Seeger's socialist principles wouldn't let him do advertising, and Alan Arkin, later to go on to be a film star, and had had hits with "Cindy, O Cindy", with lead vocals from Vince Martin, who would later go on to be a major performer in the Greenwich Village scene, and with "The Banana Boat Song". By the time Brickman had joined, though, Darling, Arkin, and Martin had all left the group to go on to bigger things, and while he played with them for several years, it was after their commercial peak. Brickman would, though, also go on to a surprising amount of success, but as a writer rather than a musician -- he had a successful collaboration with Woody Allen in the 1970s, co-writing four of Allen's most highly regarded films -- Sleeper, Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Manhattan Murder Mystery -- and with another collaborator he later co-wrote the books for the stage musicals Jersey Boys and The Addams Family. Both John and Michelle were decent singers, and both have their admirers as vocalists -- P.F. Sloan always said that Michelle was the best singer in the group they eventually formed, and that it was her voice that gave the group its sound -- but for the most part they were not considered as particularly astonishing lead vocalists. Certainly, neither had a voice that stood out the way that Scott McKenzie's had. They needed a strong lead singer, and they found one in Denny Doherty. Now, we covered Denny Doherty's early career in the episode on the Lovin' Spoonful, because he was intimately involved in the formation of that group, so I won't go into too much detail here, but I'll give a very abbreviated version of what I said there. Doherty was a Canadian performer who had been a member of the Halifax Three with Zal Yanovsky: [Excerpt: The Halifax Three, "When I First Came to This Land"] After the Halifax Three had split up, Doherty and Yanovsky had performed as a duo for a while, before joining up with Cass Elliot and her husband Jim Hendricks, who both had previously been in the Big Three with Tim Rose: [Excerpt: Cass Elliot and the Big 3, "The Banjo Song"] Elliot, Hendricks, Yanovsky, and Doherty had formed The Mugwumps, sometimes joined by John Sebastian, and had tried to go in more of a rock direction after seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. They recorded one album together before splitting up: [Excerpt: The Mugwumps, "Searchin'"] Part of the reason they split up was that interpersonal relationships within the group were put under some strain -- Elliot and Hendricks split up, though they would remain friends and remain married for several years even though they were living apart, and Elliot had an unrequited crush on Doherty. But since they'd split up, and Yanovsky and Sebastian had gone off to form the Lovin' Spoonful, that meant that Doherty was free, and he was regarded as possibly the best male lead vocalist on the circuit, so the group snapped him up. The only problem was that the Journeymen still had gigs booked that needed to be played, one of them was in just three days, and Doherty didn't know the repertoire. This was a problem with an easy solution for people in their twenties though -- they took a huge amount of amphetamines, and stayed awake for three days straight rehearsing. They made the gig, and Doherty was now the lead singer of the New Journeymen: [Excerpt: The New Journeymen, "The Last Thing on My Mind"] But the New Journeymen didn't last in that form for very long, because even before joining the group, Denny Doherty had been going in a more folk-rock direction with the Mugwumps. At the time, John Phillips thought rock and roll was kids' music, and he was far more interested in folk and jazz, but he was also very interested in making money, and he soon decided it was an idea to start listening to the Beatles. There's some dispute as to who first played the Beatles for John in early 1965 -- some claim it was Doherty, others claim it was Cass Elliot, but everyone agrees it was after Denny Doherty had introduced Phillips to something else -- he brought round some LSD for John and Michelle, and Michelle's sister Rusty, to try. And then he told them he'd invited round a friend. Michelle Phillips later remembered, "I remember saying to the guys "I don't know about you guys, but this drug does nothing for me." At that point there was a knock on the door, and as I opened the door and saw Cass, the acid hit me *over the head*. I saw her standing there in a pleated skirt, a pink Angora sweater with great big eyelashes on and her hair in a flip. And all of a sudden I thought 'This is really *quite* a drug!' It was an image I will have securely fixed in my brain for the rest of my life. I said 'Hi, I'm Michelle. We just took some LSD-25, do you wanna join us?' And she said 'Sure...'" Rusty Gilliam's description matches this -- "It was mind-boggling. She had on a white pleated skirt, false eyelashes. These were the kind of eyelashes that when you put them on you were supposed to trim them to an appropriate length, which she didn't, and when she blinked she looked like a cow, or those dolls you get when you're little and the eyes open and close. And we're on acid. Oh my God! It was a sight! And everything she was wearing were things that you weren't supposed to be wearing if you were heavy -- white pleated skirt, mohair sweater. You know, until she became famous, she suffered so much, and was poked fun at." This gets to an important point about Elliot, and one which sadly affected everything about her life. Elliot was *very* fat -- I've seen her weight listed at about three hundred pounds, and she was only five foot five tall -- and she also didn't have the kind of face that gets thought of as conventionally attractive. Her appearance would be cruelly mocked by pretty much everyone for the rest of her life, in ways that it's genuinely hurtful to read about, and which I will avoid discussing in detail in order to avoid hurting fat listeners. But the two *other* things that defined Elliot in the minds of those who knew her were her voice -- every single person who knew her talks about what a wonderful singer she was -- and her personality. I've read a lot of things about Cass Elliot, and I have never read a single negative word about her as a person, but have read many people going into raptures about what a charming, loving, friendly, understanding person she was. Michelle later said of her "From the time I left Los Angeles, I hadn't had a friend, a buddy. I was married, and John and I did not hang out with women, we just hung out with men, and especially not with women my age. John was nine years older than I was. And here was a fun-loving, intelligent woman. She captivated me. I was as close to in love with Cass as I could be to any woman in my life at that point. She also represented something to me: freedom. Everything she did was because she wanted to do it. She was completely independent and I admired her and was in awe of her. And later on, Cass would be the one to tell me not to let John run my life. And John hated her for that." Either Elliot had brought round Meet The Beatles, the Beatles' first Capitol album, for everyone to listen to, or Denny Doherty already had it, but either way Elliot and Doherty were by this time already Beatles fans. Michelle, being younger than the rest and not part of the folk scene until she met John, was much more interested in rock and roll than any of them, but because she'd been married to John for a couple of years and been part of his musical world she hadn't really encountered the Beatles music, though she had a vague memory that she might have heard a track or two on the radio. John was hesitant -- he didn't want to listen to any rock and roll, but eventually he was persuaded, and the record was put on while he was on his first acid trip: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "I Want to Hold Your Hand"] Within a month, John Phillips had written thirty songs that he thought of as inspired by the Beatles. The New Journeymen were going to go rock and roll. By this time Marshall Brickman was out of the band, and instead John, Michelle, and Denny recruited a new lead guitarist, Eric Hord. Denny started playing bass, with John on rhythm guitar, and a violinist friend of theirs, Peter Pilafian, knew a bit of drums and took on that role. The new lineup of the group used the Journeymen's credit card, which hadn't been stopped even though the Journeymen were no more, to go down to St. Thomas in the Caribbean, along with Michelle's sister, John's daughter Mackenzie (from whose name Scott McKenzie had taken his stage name, as he was born Philip Blondheim), a pet dog, and sundry band members' girlfriends. They stayed there for several months, living in tents on the beach, taking acid, and rehearsing. While they were there, Michelle and Denny started an affair which would have important ramifications for the group later. They got a gig playing at a club called Duffy's, whose address was on Creeque Alley, and soon after they started playing there Cass Elliot travelled down as well -- she was in love with Denny, and wanted to be around him. She wasn't in the group, but she got a job working at Duffy's as a waitress, and she would often sing harmony with the group while waiting at tables. Depending on who was telling the story, either she didn't want to be in the group because she didn't want her appearance to be compared to Michelle's, or John wouldn't *let* her be in the group because she was so fat. Later a story would be made up to cover for this, saying that she hadn't been in the group at first because she couldn't sing the highest notes that were needed, until she got hit on the head with a metal pipe and discovered that it had increased her range by three notes, but that seems to be a lie. One of the songs the New Journeymen were performing at this time was "Mr. Tambourine Man". They'd heard that their old friend Roger McGuinn had recorded it with his new band, but they hadn't yet heard his version, and they'd come up with their own arrangement: [Excerpt: The New Journeymen, "Mr. Tambourine Man"] Denny later said "We were doing three-part harmony on 'Mr Tambourine Man', but a lot slower... like a polka or something! And I tell John, 'No John, we gotta slow it down and give it a backbeat.' Finally we get the Byrds 45 down here, and we put it on and turn it up to ten, and John says 'Oh, like that?' Well, as you can tell, it had already been done. So John goes 'Oh, ah... that's it...' a light went on. So we started doing Beatles stuff. We dropped 'Mr Tambourine Man' after hearing the Byrds version, because there was no point." Eventually they had to leave the island -- they had completely run out of money, and were down to fifty dollars. The credit card had been cut up, and the governor of the island had a personal vendetta against them because they gave his son acid, and they were likely to get arrested if they didn't leave the island. Elliot and her then-partner had round-trip tickets, so they just left, but the rest of them were in trouble. By this point they were unwashed, they were homeless, and they'd spent their last money on stage costumes. They got to the airport, and John Phillips tried to write a cheque for eight air fares back to the mainland, which the person at the check-in desk just laughed at. So they took their last fifty dollars and went to a casino. There Michelle played craps, and she rolled seventeen straight passes, something which should be statistically impossible. She turned their fifty dollars into six thousand dollars, which they scooped up, took to the airport, and paid for their flights out in cash. The New Journeymen arrived back in New York, but quickly decided that they were going to try their luck in California. They rented a car, using Scott McKenzie's credit card, and drove out to LA. There they met up with Hoyt Axton, who you may remember as the son of Mae Axton, the writer of "Heartbreak Hotel", and as the performer who had inspired Michael Nesmith to go into folk music: [Excerpt: Hoyt Axton, "Greenback Dollar"] Axton knew the group, and fed them and put them up for a night, but they needed somewhere else to stay. They went to stay with one of Michelle's friends, but after one night their rented car was stolen, with all their possessions in it. They needed somewhere else to stay, so they went to ask Jim Hendricks if they could crash at his place -- and they were surprised to find that Cass Elliot was there already. Hendricks had another partner -- though he and Elliot wouldn't have their marriage annulled until 1968 and were still technically married -- but he'd happily invited her to stay with them. And now all her friends had turned up, he invited them to stay as well, taking apart the beds in his one-bedroom apartment so he could put down a load of mattresses in the space for everyone to sleep on. The next part becomes difficult, because pretty much everyone in the LA music scene of the sixties was a liar who liked to embellish their own roles in things, so it's quite difficult to unpick what actually happened. What seems to have happened though is that first this new rock-oriented version of the New Journeymen went to see Frank Werber, on the recommendation of John Stewart. Werber was the manager of the Kingston Trio, and had also managed the Journeymen. He, however, was not interested -- not because he didn't think they had talent, but because he had experience of working with John Phillips previously. When Phillips came into his office Werber picked up a tape that he'd been given of the group, and said "I have not had a chance to listen to this tape. I believe that you are a most talented individual, and that's why we took you on in the first place. But I also believe that you're also a drag to work with. A pain in the ass. So I'll tell you what, before whatever you have on here sways me, I'm gonna give it back to you and say that we're not interested." Meanwhile -- and this part of the story comes from Kim Fowley, who was never one to let the truth get in the way of him taking claim for everything, but parts of it at least are corroborated by other people -- Cass Elliot had called Fowley, and told him that her friends' new group sounded pretty good and he should sign them. Fowley was at that time working as a talent scout for a label, but according to him the label wouldn't give the group the money they wanted. So instead, Fowley got in touch with Nik Venet, who had just produced the Leaves' hit version of "Hey Joe" on Mira Records: [Excerpt: The Leaves, "Hey Joe"] Fowley suggested to Venet that Venet should sign the group to Mira Records, and Fowley would sign them to a publishing contract, and they could both get rich. The trio went to audition for Venet, and Elliot drove them over -- and Venet thought the group had a great look as a quartet. He wanted to sign them to a record contract, but only if Elliot was in the group as well. They agreed, he gave them a one hundred and fifty dollar advance, and told them to come back the next day to see his boss at Mira. But Barry McGuire was also hanging round with Elliot and Hendricks, and decided that he wanted to have Lou Adler hear the four of them. He thought they might be useful both as backing vocalists on his second album and as a source of new songs. He got them to go and see Lou Adler, and according to McGuire Phillips didn't want Elliot to go with them, but as Elliot was the one who was friends with McGuire, Phillips worried that they'd lose the chance with Adler if she didn't. Adler was amazed, and decided to sign the group right then and there -- both Bones Howe and P.F. Sloan claimed to have been there when the group auditioned for him and have said "if you won't sign them, I will", though exactly what Sloan would have signed them to I'm not sure. Adler paid them three thousand dollars in cash and told them not to bother with Nik Venet, so they just didn't turn up for the Mira Records audition the next day. Instead, they went into the studio with McGuire and cut backing vocals on about half of his new album: [Excerpt: Barry McGuire with the Mamas and the Papas, "Hide Your Love Away"] While the group were excellent vocalists, there were two main reasons that Adler wanted to sign them. The first was that he found Michelle Phillips extremely attractive, and the second is a song that John and Michelle had written which he thought might be very suitable for McGuire's album. Most people who knew John Phillips think of "California Dreamin'" as a solo composition, and he would later claim that he gave Michelle fifty percent just for transcribing his lyric, saying he got inspired in the middle of the night, woke her up, and got her to write the song down as he came up with it. But Michelle, who is a credited co-writer on the song, has been very insistent that she wrote the lyrics to the second verse, and that it's about her own real experiences, saying that she would often go into churches and light candles even though she was "at best an agnostic, and possibly an atheist" in her words, and this would annoy John, who had also been raised Catholic, but who had become aggressively opposed to expressions of religion, rather than still having nostalgia for the aesthetics of the church as Michelle did. They were out walking on a particularly cold winter's day in 1963, and Michelle wanted to go into St Patrick's Cathedral and John very much did not want to. A couple of nights later, John woke her up, having written the first verse of the song, starting "All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey/I went for a walk on a winter's day", and insisting she collaborate with him. She liked the song, and came up with the lines "Stopped into a church, I passed along the way/I got down on my knees and I pretend to pray/The preacher likes the cold, he knows I'm going to stay", which John would later apparently dislike, but which stayed in the song. Most sources I've seen for the recording of "California Dreamin'" say that the lineup of musicians was the standard set of players who had played on McGuire's other records, with the addition of John Phillips on twelve-string guitar -- P.F. Sloan on guitar and harmonica, Joe Osborn on bass, Larry Knechtel on keyboards, and Hal Blaine on drums, but for some reason Stephen McParland's book on Sloan has Bones Howe down as playing drums on the track while engineering -- a detail so weird, and from such a respectable researcher, that I have to wonder if it might be true. In his autobiography, Sloan claims to have rewritten the chord sequence to "California Dreamin'". He says "Barry Mann had unintentionally showed me a suspended chord back at Screen Gems. I was so impressed by this beautiful, simple chord that I called Brian Wilson and played it for him over the phone. The next thing I knew, Brian had written ‘Don’t Worry Baby,’ which had within it a number suspended chords. And then the chord heard ’round the world, two months later, was the opening suspended chord of ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’ I used these chords throughout ‘California Dreamin’,’ and more specifically as a bridge to get back and forth from the verse to the chorus." Now, nobody else corroborates this story, and both Brian Wilson and John Phillips had the kind of background in modern harmony that means they would have been very aware of suspended chords before either ever encountered Sloan, but I thought I should mention it. Rather more plausible is Sloan's other claim, that he came up with the intro to the song. According to Sloan, he was inspired by "Walk Don't Run" by the Ventures: [Excerpt: The Ventures, "Walk Don't Run"] And you can easily see how this: [plays "Walk Don't Run"] Can lead to this: [plays "California Dreamin'"] And I'm fairly certain that if that was the inspiration, it was Sloan who was the one who thought it up. John Phillips had been paying no attention to the world of surf music when "Walk Don't Run" had been a hit -- that had been at the point when he was very firmly in the folk world, while Sloan of course had been recording "Tell 'Em I'm Surfin'", and it had been his job to know surf music intimately. So Sloan's intro became the start of what was intended to be Barry McGuire's next single: [Excerpt: Barry McGuire, "California Dreamin'"] Sloan also provided the harmonica solo on the track: [Excerpt: Barry McGuire, "California Dreamin'"] The Mamas and the Papas -- the new name that was now given to the former New Journeymen, now they were a quartet -- were also signed to Dunhill as an act on their own, and recorded their own first single, "Go Where You Wanna Go", a song apparently written by John about Michelle, in late 1963, after she had briefly left him to have an affair with Russ Titelman, the record producer and songwriter, before coming back to him: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "Go Where You Wanna Go"] But while that was put out, they quickly decided to scrap it and go with another song. The "Go Where You Wanna Go" single was pulled after only selling a handful of copies, though its commercial potential was later proved when in 1967 a new vocal group, the 5th Dimension, released a soundalike version as their second single. The track was produced by Lou Adler's client Johnny Rivers, and used the exact same musicians as the Mamas and the Papas version, with the exception of Phillips. It became their first hit, reaching number sixteen on the charts: [Excerpt: The 5th Dimension, "Go Where You Wanna Go"] The reason the Mamas and the Papas version of "Go Where You Wanna Go" was pulled was because everyone became convinced that their first single should instead be their own version of "California Dreamin'". This is the exact same track as McGuire's track, with just two changes. The first is that McGuire's lead vocal was replaced with Denny Doherty: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "California Dreamin'"] Though if you listen to the stereo mix of the song and isolate the left channel, you can hear McGuire singing the lead on the first line, and occasional leakage from him elsewhere on the backing vocal track: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "California Dreamin'"] The other change made was to replace Sloan's harmonica solo with an alto flute solo by Bud Shank, a jazz musician who we heard about in the episode on "Light My Fire", when he collaborated with Ravi Shankar on "Improvisations on the Theme  From Pather Panchali": [Excerpt: Ravi Shankar, "Improvisation on the Theme From Pather Panchali"] Shank was working on another session in Western Studios, where they were recording the Mamas and Papas track, and Bones Howe approached him while he was packing his instrument and asked if he'd be interested in doing another session. Shank agreed, though the track caused problems for him. According to Shank "What had happened was that when they had made the original backing track, they had apparently not lined it up with anything with firm pitch; it was only guitars, and it was in the cracks -- really in the cracks. I listened to the song enough to learn it, then I pulled the head joint out of my alto flute about an inch, and played it up half a step, and somehow or other we lined it up, pitch-wise. It  sounded kinda strange, and it really blew my mind, but that was because my fingers were going in spots where they normally wouldn't go." According to Lou Adler, the flute solo is spliced together from two takes, at the point where the solo goes up an octave: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "California Dreamin'"] "California Dreamin'" made the charts in January 1966, and eventually reached number four, but even though it didn't make number one it stayed on the charts so long that Cashbox magazine later listed it as the biggest hit of 1966. The follow-up, "Monday Monday", written by John Phillips alone, did reach number one: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "Monday Monday"] That also won the group a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. It was also nominated for the Best Contemporary (Rock & Roll) Recording Grammy, but lost out there, as did the other nominees "Last Train to Clarksville", "Good Vibrations", "Eleanor Rigby", and "Cherish", to "Winchester Cathedral". The group's first album, from which both those singles were taken, is generally considered the one on which John Phillips' reputation as a songwriter rests. Mark Volman of the Turtles said "John was a really good songwriter who really hit his peak with one album. I mean, he wasn't like John Sebastian who wrote and wrote and was a working-class songwriter. John Phillips hit his stride one album. If you listen to that first album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears, it was John's one contribution. If you go to the next album, those songs were not as great. There were sporadic moments of good songwriting, but John Phillips' contribution to the landscape of musical history was on that one album" Even there, only seven songs on the album were originals, with the other five being cover versions or, in the case of their version of "You Baby", a hit for the Turtles, they used a track that Sloan and Barri had recorded as a demo, onto which the group overdubbed new vocals. During the recording of the first album, the group were all living together, and getting on great. They made occasional live appearances -- their first performance as the Mamas and the Papas was a rather impromptu one at The Action, where the Mothers of Invention were the house band, and the Mamas and the Papas got up between their sets to do a performance with just the four voices and a twelve-string guitar, to a certain amount of confusion on the part of the audience. But for the most part they were just rehearsing and recording, and they got on great. But that wasn't to last. There's an anecdote from Guy Webster, who photographed the group's first album cover: He said "I said "This'll probably be the last time where we get together like this where you'll want to shoot the cover..." and they said "What are you talking about? That's ridiculous!" and I told them that it's just the nature of the business that little petty things come in and out of relationships in groups that are together, and after a while they don't even want to see you. I had photographed the Stones, and Brian Jones, who was a friend of mine, was kind of on the outs with the group, and nobody wanted to pose together. I'm telling this to the Mamas and the Papas, and they're like "Yeah, right." Well, the next session, it was almost impossible to get the four of 'em together. That's how *fast* the insidiousness of the business started to splinter the group." The thing that really caused problems, though, was when John found out about Michelle and Denny's relationship, which ended as soon as John found out. John was hurt because his wife had been having an affair, and Denny was hurt because the affair had ended, although both men took what one might call a "Papas before Mamas" approach and decided that it was Michelle's fault for being a temptress. Michelle moved out, but John and Denny stayed living together, bonding more closely over their shared blaming of the woman they both loved. Meanwhile Cass Elliot was hurt -- she was in love with Denny, and while that love was unrequited, Cass thought that Michelle could have literally any man she wanted, so why go for the man Cass was in love with? Doherty and John Phillips wrote "I Saw Her Again" about the affair, and it became the group's third single -- though Michelle always said that it was immensely cruel that they'd made her sing on the song: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "I Saw Her Again"] "I Saw Her Again" is notable for one other reason as well. At one point, Denny Doherty came in at the wrong place, caught himself, and then came in at the right spot. Originally Bones Howe was going to edit out the mistake, but Lou Adler said to leave it in: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "I Saw Her Again"] For a while the group continued working together even though everything was strained, but while John and Michelle were split up, Michelle started having an affair with Gene Clark, formerly of the Byrds, who apparently later wrote "Tried So Hard" about their breakup: [Excerpt: Gene Clark, "Tried So Hard"] Clark came to see one of the group's shows, which happened to be on Michelle's twenty-second birthday, June the fourth 1966, and sat in the front row, and Michelle sang at him the entire show. That was the last straw for John Phillips, who persuaded the rest of the group that they needed to sack Michelle. They sent her a letter reading: "Dear Michelle, This letter is to inform you that the undersigned no longer desire to record or perform with you in the future. Moreover, the undersigned desire to terminate any business relationship with you that may have heretofore existed. To the extent there may have been any agreement between us creating a partnership, the undersigned elect to terminate and dissolve any such partnership pursuant to California Corporation Code Section 15031(1)(b). This letter should not be construed as an admission that any such partnership exists. Nothing contained in this letter should be construed as a waiver, abandonment, or relinquishment of any right or remedy which the undersigned, and each of them, may have against you. All such rights and remedies are expressly reserved. Very truly yours." Michelle was devastated, since this was basically her being cut out of the lives of everyone important to her. As she put it in her autobiography, "since it was from the Mamas and the Papas, it was therefore from my husband, from my best friend, from my lover, from my manager, my label, and my attorney". On her twenty-second birthday her entire emotional and professional support system had been taken away from her. As a replacement, they got in Jill Gibson. Gibson had been Jan Berry's girlfriend, though they'd split up shortly before Jan's accident, and she'd had a bit of a recording career as a result of the connection -- we heard her earlier on "Move On, Little Mustang", and she also cowrote "It's as Easy as 1,2,3" with Don Altfeld, which was released as a Jan and Dean B-side but had Gibson singing lead: [Excerpt: Jan and Dean, "It's As Easy as 1,2,3"] Gibson also looked quite like Michelle -- they had different jawlines, but there was a passing resemblance, especially from the distances concert audiences saw performers -- and she was dating Lou Adler. She could sing, she knew the material, and she was in. Work had already started on the second Mamas and Papas album, but Jill replaced Michelle's vocals on some, but not all, of the tracks. They'd even already taken a cover photo, so Guy Webster was called in to take a photo of Jill in exactly the same pose Michelle had been in, and paste her into the photo in Michelle's place. Jill was in the group for three months, but while she was told it was a permanent position, almost from the start there seems to have been talk of getting Michelle back. John and Michelle had almost daily phone calls, which according to Michelle basically amounted to John saying that he wanted her back as his wife but he could no longer work with her, and her saying that she wanted to be back in the group but wasn't interested in getting back together with him. But something was missing from the band's sound. Jill was a good singer -- by some accounts a better singer than Michelle -- but Michelle had a harsher, brassier, sound which contrasted well with Elliot and Doherty's voices. Michelle was the youngest of the group members, and the one who more than any of them was interested in rock and roll, and Lou Adler said of her "I think she would have loved to have been a Ronette or one of the Shangri-Las". Without that slight abrasive quality, the harmonies were missing something. Eventually they reconciled, at least for a while, and Michelle was back in the marriage and the group, with Jill being given an undisclosed large sum of money as a payoff. Michelle then replaced some of Jill's vocals on the album, some of which had in turn been replacements for Michelle, and nobody is sure any more which songs have Michelle, which have Jill, which have both, and which have Cass Elliot overdubbing herself instead of either of them, though it's almost certain Jill is on about six of the twelve tracks, including "Trip, Stumble, and Fall", which John and Michelle had written together: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "Trip, Stumble, and Fall"] As well as the problems between John and Michelle, there were other problems starting with the second album. For the first album, the group had been living together for months beforehand and spending all their time together, so they knew the material -- and the material had been written around the group members' individual voices and shaped with them. Now the only time they saw each other was in the recording studio or on tour, and so they no longer had the chemistry they used  to, and nor did they have the familiarity with the material. Everyone was developing their own problems as well. Both John Phillips and Cass Elliot were heavy drug users, while Denny Doherty was becoming an alcoholic, and everyone talks about how they had to arrange sessions so that Doherty's vocals would be recorded during the window of time between him having drunk enough to loosen up and having drunk so much that he couldn't sing. Also, John Phillips' stock of material had run dry, and they were so desperate for new material that when they were asked to guest on a TV show celebrating the songs of Rodgers and Hart they ended up using a song they recorded for the show on the album. Not only that, but they took another song from the show, "Here in My Arms": [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "Here in My Arms"] And turned it into an "original", "No Salt on Her Tail" -- John Phillips wrote new lyrics and melody to the existing track. To make the borrowing not quite so obvious, they got in organist Ray Manzarek, whose band The Doors were still unsigned at the time, to overdub a keyboard part: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "No Salt on Her Tail"] According to Manzarek, Adler tried to just pay him twenty dollars for the session. Adler's response was "I have no recollection of that. Boy, I doubt it. I have no memory of that. He remembers a lot of things about me." But the lack of material wasn't too much of a problem. As Doherty would later say "at that point, the momentum we'd created carried a lot of it. If we got one hit from each album, that was enough. One good single sold the album, and it didn't matter about the album cuts or whatever else was on the album." But there were other problems happening too as the group moved into recording their third album. Cass Elliot was becoming increasingly distant from the rest of the group -- she got pregnant and wouldn't even tell the rest of them who the father was -- and she was constantly butting heads with John Phillips. Phillips thought of himself as the group's leader, and in his mind by being able to fire and rehire his own wife he had proved his dominance over the group. Michelle had been put firmly in her place by this and wasn't making waves, and Doherty was a naturally placid person. But while Elliot was hard-working, she insisted on knowing *why* certain things were being done -- she wouldn't take direction from Phillips without understanding his reasoning. And Phillips was becoming increasingly unwilling to accommodate that kind of thing. Between the problems in his marriage, his writer's block, and his worsening drug problems, he was becoming aggressive towards anyone he viewed as a challenge, even the musicians who'd been helping him make his hit records. Where previously he would ask P.F. Sloan to come up with his own guitar parts, now he was dictating them and shouting at Sloan when he suggested an idea. He would also sometimes add or drop bars during the recording, without realising he was doing so, and then scream at Hal Blaine for "doing it wrong" when Blaine played the part as written -- at one point Blaine actually almost came to blows with him, the only time in forty years as a studio musician that he came close to attacking an artist. The third album, then, was stressful for everyone, though perhaps not as stressful as some of the stories about the group would later claim. Pretty much everyone involved would say that Cass Elliot was recording her parts for the album even up to the day she went into labour, but in fact her daughter wasn't born until two months after the record came out, though that's not to minimise how hard she had to work, being pregnant while making the album. And there are other stories about having to mic Denny Doherty up while he was lying flat on his back on top of a piano, too drunk to stand up, to get vocal takes. But the album, the Mamas and the Papas Deliver, did produce two big hits. One was a song suggested by Michelle -- when the group had been looking for cover versions, she'd kept suggesting hits from her teenage years which the rest of the group didn't know, like "I'm a Hog For You Baby" by the Coasters, "He's a Rebel", and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" Eventually she hit on a song which had been a hit in 1962 for the Shirelles: [Excerpt: The Shirelles, "Dedicated to the One I Love"] John came up with an arrangement of that, and it made number two on the charts, becoming the fifth of the group's six top five singles, and the only one with a lead from Michelle: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "Dedicated to the One I Love"] The sixth and final top five hit for the group, also on that album, was a song John and Michelle had written to explain the group's history to Lou Adler. The group had constantly been talking about all the folk-rock stars they'd known and been in bands with before any of them were successful, and "Creeque Alley" told the whole story: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "Creeque Alley"] After the release of The Mamas and the Papas Deliver, John and Michelle took on a new project, one which would end up being one of the most important things they would ever do. Jim Dickson, the manager of the Byrds, was in the process of splitting away from the band, but he had recently organised a rather big benefit concert featuring Hugh Masakela, the South African jazz trumpeter who had recently guested on the Byrds' single "So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star": [Excerpt: The Byrds, "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star"] Masakela had enjoyed the benefit show, and had suggested to Dickson and his co-promoter Alan Pariser that they might want to put on another similar show. Masakela's initial idea was to do it in Mexico, but Dickson thought about the likely audience -- mostly American hippies -- and what would happen to several thousand long-haired drug users at the border between the two countries, and decided to do it closer to home. They decided that Monterey might be an option -- Monterey is a town in central California, about eighty miles south of San Francisco and about three hundred miles north of LA, and it already had an established and long-running annual jazz festival and a more recently established folk festival. Why not a pop festival? At least, that's the way Dickson told the story – the way Steve Stills would always tell the story, it had all been Stills' idea, and he'd suggested the whole thing, including the location, to Pariser. They got in touch with Benny Shapiro, who ran the Monterey Folk Festival, to get some advice as to how to put something like that on in Monterey, and through him they booked the first act other than Masakela -- Shapiro was Ravi Shankar's West Coast promoter, and offered them Shankar's services for three thousand dollars. Shankar was at the time probably the single most admired musician among the hip crowd of musicians, and with him on board, they could get anyone they wanted. The next people they asked were the Mamas and the Papas, and at that point everything changed. John Phillips and Lou Adler both fell *heavily* in love with the idea of doing a *big* pop festival, the first one devoted to pop music rather than jazz or folk. As it happened, it took so long to set up that Monterey would end up being the second pop festival, as the Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival near San Francisco happened just the week before, with several of the same acts. But Monterey, which took place over the weekend between the first two Beatles recording sessions for "All You Need is Love", became the model which all future rock and pop festivals would follow, and gets regarded by most as the start of the "Summer of Love". Phillips and Adler had a vision, and they quickly bought out the original promoters and took on the work themselves. They were going to make it a charity benefit, so none of the musicians would get paid for their appearances or for the film and live album they planned of the festival. Except Ravi Shankar, whose contract had already been signed, and who said that he wasn't going to work for free. But nobody *else* would be paid. John, Michelle, and Adler did most of the organisational work for the festival, with some help from Al Kooper and Derek Taylor, but they pulled together an advisory board of their friends in the music industry including Elliot, Lennon and McCartney, Andrew Oldham, Simon and Garfunkel, and Brian Wilson. Those people mostly did very little, with one exception we'll get to in a minute, but they all pitched in money to help pay for the festival's costs, and they also made suggestions of which artists to include. The Beatles and Oldham suggested the hot names from the British scene -- Eric Burdon and his New Animals, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and the Who, the latter two of whom had not yet had any real success in the US -- and also suggested that Otis Redding, Lou Rawls, and Booker T and the MGs be included on the bill. Meanwhile the LA contingent were getting their own friends involved, and so as well as the Mamas and the Papas, the Beach Boys were booked to headline (though they pulled out for reasons we'll discuss in episode 153), and the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield were on the bill, as was the Dunhill act Johnny Rivers. But if they were going to hold a festival near San Francisco, they also needed to get some of the local San Francisco bands on the bill. A huge music scene had sprung up there almost overnight, which we're going to look at in future episodes, and they would have to acknowledge that in some way. But there was a problem. That scene had set itself up very consciously in opposition to the music coming out of LA, which was against everything they stood for -- it was Hollywood and plastic and commercial and made by big corporations. The San Francisco groups wouldn't even speak to any of the LA groups. So Paul Simon was enlisted as an ambassador. He was neutral in the war between Northern and Southern California, as he was from New York, so he made the fraught trip into enemy territory, visiting the Grateful Dead in San Francisco, and coming back with their list of demands. The Grateful Dead, if they were going to do the show, wanted a day basically put aside for the San Francisco scene -- they wanted Big Brother and the Holding Company, Country Joe and the Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Jefferson Airplane all on, and all on the same day. As it eventually worked out, all those acts did play, and all on the same day, but the Grateful Dead actually played the day after their San Francisco peers. But an agreement had been reached. And John Phillips had come up with a theme song for the event. After Scott McKenzie had left the Journeymen, his career had floundered. He had tried for a solo career, and had signed to Capitol records and recorded two singles for them, but tracks like his version of the old Webb Pierce country hit "There Stands the Glass" had not exactly set the world on fire: [Excerpt: Scott McKenzie, "There Stands the Glass"] Capitol had dropped him, and then he'd signed with Epic records, and John Phillips had written "No, No, No, No" for him, which Adler had produced: [Excerpt: Scott McKenzie, "No, No, No, No"] By 1967 McKenzie was despondent. He was staying with the Phillipses in their house, and one day Paul McCartney had come to visit. McKenzie had given McCartney and Mal Evans a lift to the airport, and McCartney had asked him what he did for a living. McKenzie said he was a singer, and McCartney asked what kind of things he sang... and McKenzie realised he didn't know what kind of things he sang. John Phillips told him they would have to find something for him to sing, so then he would know. By this point, Lou Adler had sold his shares in Dunhill to his business partners, and had started up a new label, Ode, with McKenzie as his first signing. He got John Phillips to write a song for McKenzie to sing, and John decided to make the song a message to anyone who was going to be travelling to the festival, to tell them that they should be cool and relaxed and not cause problems for anyone. The recording was arranged hastily and in secret -- they thought that Cass and Denny might complain about Phillips giving hits away to other artists, and they also worried that Adler's erstwhile partners might cause problems for John writing a song for anyone not on Dunhill. The song was released as a single a month before the festival, and became a worldwide hit, going top five in the USA and making number one in the UK: [Excerpt: Scott McKenzie, "San Francisco (Wear Flowers in Your Hair)"] The Monterey International Pop Festival is something we're going to be coming back to time and again in the next few months, which is why I placed this episode at this point in the narrative, at the start of a new year of stories. In many ways it is *the* pivotal moment in the transition between pop and rock music. It was referred to as a pop festival, and at this point "rock and roll" was not a term that most successful bands would have used for themselves -- rock and roll either meant music from the fifties like Elvis and Gene Vincent, or it meant girl groups and soul singers -- the Supremes were a rock and roll group. Bands like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones would never have referred to themselves as rock bands at this point -- they were pop groups or R&B bands, not rock bands. But Monterey was where that started to change, and it was where the narrative of what artists mattered to the hippie generation was really set. And in the war for the minds of the hippie generation, San Francisco beat LA so completely that it distorted the whole of rock history for decades, something that wasn't helped with the dawn of rock journalism happening around the same time and being dominated by the San Francisco partisans at Rolling Stone. This even though right up until the last minute it was entirely possible that none of the San Francisco bands would even play. Many of them were being managed by Bob Dylan's manager Albert Grossman, who was well known for his extreme approach to management and brinksmanship, and he was attempting to renegotiate some of the contracts even as bands were going on stage. We're going to look at many of these performances in greater detail in future, as we deal with many of these bands and artists in their own episodes, but the San Francisco bands were young and hungry and playing to the biggest audiences they'd ever played to, and so bands like Jefferson Airplane gave tight, convincing performances: [Excerpt: Jefferson Airplane, "Somebody to Love"] While the unknown band Big Brother and the Holding Company, with their lead singer Janis Joplin, became many people's highlight of the show with their version of Big Mama Thornton's "Ball and Chain": [Excerpt: Big Brother and the Holding Company, "Ball and Chain"] While the San Francisco bands blew everyone away, LA was much, much, less well represented. The Beach Boys had dropped out, and they'd decided not to invite the Monkees, even though they were the biggest band in the world at that point, because even the “LA plastic Hollywood types” thought they were above that kind of thing -- though both Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork came along anyway, and Tork introduced his friends The Buffalo Springfield. So the two most commercial acts from LA at the time weren't there. As for the up-and-coming acts, Love were invited but Arthur Lee wouldn't travel out of LA, the Mothers of Invention were playing a month-long residency in New York on the other side of the continent, and Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band had to pull out shortly before the event after their guitarist, Ry Cooder, quit.  And I've seen multiple explanations for why the Doors weren't going to be playing, with some of the band members, notably Manzarek, saying it was because Lou Adler resented them for becoming successful after he'd turned them down, but other explanations I've seen include that the band were dealing with various small life emergencies like minor surgery and family members having kids, and that they were booked to play in New York So that left the established but not absolute top-tier LA acts. The Association, who opened the whole festival, actually gave one of the tightest performances of the weekend: [Excerpt: The Association, "Along Comes Mary (live at Monterey Pop)"] Unfortunately, while they did a great set musically, they looked out of place. They had the same kind of suits, haircuts, and stage formation as the Beatles or Stones had in 1965. In June 1967 a band looking like that might as well have been from the Medieval era, and their performance wasn't even used in the film of the event. Johnny Rivers was wildly out of place with his set of fifties covers, and Buffalo Springfield were missing their guitarist, Neil Young. David Crosby sat in with them in his place, and while they managed just about to get through the set, they generally considered it an embarrassment: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing (live at Monterey)"] 71) And Crosby also dominated the Byrds' set, where they refused to play any of their old hits, and instead did a set that sounds almost garage-punk: [Excerpt: The Byrds, "Hey Joe (live at Monterey)"] 72) Even though it had been organised entirely by LA people, the Monterey International Pop Festival seemed almost specifically designed to prove the San Francisco musicians right. On the evidence of that weekend, the LA groups were a bunch of posers who couldn't really play and relied on clever record production to make themselves seem half-decent, and that's largely how the LA scene went down in the first drafts of rock history as a result. But the real highlights of the festival weren't from either of the warring Californian scenes. Rather they were the acts that had been suggested by the Beatles and Oldham. Otis Redding's performance was the set that brought him to the attention of the white rock audience, who had previously been largely unaware of how astonishing he was: [Excerpt: Otis Redding, "Respect"] And while the Grateful Dead had been seen as the one band that they *must* get, half the oral histories of the event literally forget that they were there, because they were on between the two biggest breakout stars of the show. At this point, while the Who were in the very top tier of bands in the UK, with seven top ten hits, and were regarded by their peers as the most exciting live act around, they'd only had one top thirty hit in the US, with their most recent single, "Happy Jack", which was not regarded as their best work and which had only got to number twenty-four: [Excerpt: The Who, "Happy Jack"] The Who's show was devastating, with a psychedelic light show, Keith Moon setting off smoke bombs, and at the end of the set Pete Townshend smashing his guitar to pieces while Moon smashed his drumkit up -- as technicians busily ran around the stage trying to limit the damage being done to the festival's equipment. But as well as the pyrotechnics there was also actual musical quality to their performance: [Excerpt: The Who, "My Generation (live at Monterey)"] After that, the Who went on a fifty-five date US tour as the support act to Herman's Hermits. The other breakout Monterey act, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, also toured on a similarly incongruous bill after Micky Dolenz saw them at the festival and invited them to be the Monkees' support act. The Grateful Dead, stuck between those two powerhouse live acts, gave what they would later claim was one of their worst performances: [Excerpt: Jerry Garcia talking about Monterey ] Though the one song from their performance that was filmed, a version of "Viola Lee Blues" that's in the special features of the Critierion Blu-Ray edition of the film of the festival, is perfectly fine, if hardly life-changing: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Viola Lee Blues (live at Monterey)"] And then the Jimi Hendrix Experience came on, and Hendrix was determined to overshadow the Who. Hendrix had had three top ten hit singles in the UK in the previous six months, but had not yet charted in the US -- a double-A-side version of "Purple Haze" and "The Wind Cries Mary" was released the same weekend as the festival, presumably in the hopes of capitalising on any publicity from it, but it only reached the heady heights of number sixty-seven in the charts. But the group's performance at Monterey was one that nobody would ever forget. It had already been set up by David Crosby the day before, when he'd introduced the Byrds' version of "Hey Joe" by talking about Love, the Leaves, Tim Rose, and "a cat who's gonna perform here, Jimi Hendrix". Hendrix was still so new to songwriting that half the Experience's set was cover versions, including of course their own version of "Hey Joe": [Excerpt: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Hey Joe (live at Monterey)"] And the closing song, a version of "Wild Thing": [Excerpt: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Wild Thing (live at Monterey)"] Hendrix first played the song, then while the other musicians continued playing he humped his guitar, and then for a finale and a way to one-up Townshend smashing his guitar took a can of lighter fluid, held it out at approximately penis height, squirted the fluid all over his guitar, then set it on fire before smashing it. The sound you hear here is the sound of the crackling flames being picked up by the guitar's pickups and feeding back through the amps: [Excerpt: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Wild Thing (live at Monterey)"] Watching the footage of that performance, large chunks of the audience don't seem to know what's going on, but Michelle Phillips, Cass Elliot, and Micky Dolenz all seem to be in states of utter ecstasy watching him. One person who wasn't so ecstatic was Ravi Shankar. He'd thought Simon and Garfunkel were extremely good on the first night, and he'd been very impressed by both Otis Redding and Janis Joplin, who he thought "sang from her guts, like some of the olden-days jazz singers". But to a man to whom music was holy, smashing a musical instrument was sacrilege. And after Hendrix came the closing performance of the show, and what was meant to be the highlight for everyone who had organised it -- the Mamas and the Papas, with Scott McKenzie guesting to sing "San Francisco". But there was a problem. The group hadn't rehearsed together in months. John and Michelle had been busy organising the festival, Cass had been busy with her newborn baby, and Denny had been so depressed that John and Michelle had got back together that he'd basically spent three months inside a bottle, drunk out of his mind and not even really registering that he was meant to be performing at the festival until the final day, when he flew into LA from the Virgin Islands, where he'd been for those three months. He also didn't have any coherent idea of the geography of California, despite having lived there for a couple of years, and vaguely thought that Monterey was "just down the coast from Santa Barbara" and was horrified to be told by his friend that it would be an eight-hour drive and they would have to leave *right then*. Depending on which version of the story you believe, he either arrived *right* before the group were due on stage or just before Hendrix's set -- either way, there was no time for even a cursory rehearsal before the group went on stage, with Joe Osborn, Larry Knechtel, touring guitarist Eric Horn, and their touring drummer "Fast" Eddie Hoh, and performed what was meant to be the great climax of the festival, but instead turned out to be the great anticlimax of it, and of the Mamas and the Papas' career. To quote from John Phillips' autobiography: "We ran out on stage and did our songs completely out of tune from start to finish. In parts, we weren't even close. We hadn't sung in months. We hadn't rehearsed at Monterey because Denny wasn't around. Cass had been partying all weekend. Mitch and I were too busy at the site to worry about harmonies and arrangements. I was fried on speed. I had been up for most of the past week." Everyone agrees that the performance was possibly the worst the group ever gave, and they were the worst act on the festival, though listening to the recordings it doesn't sound *that* much more incompetent than many of the other performers, though there are some excruciatingly poor harmonies at points: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "Monday Monday (live at Monterey)"] As for Scott McKenzie, as John Phillips put it "He was so off and out of it that he sang in a chord sequence that was the reverse of what the band were playing": [Excerpt: Scott McKenzie and the Mamas and the Papas, "San Francisco (live at Monterey)"] Though I have to say that to my ears, the problem sounds more with the twelve-string guitar player, one John Phillips, than with McKenzie's singing. Monterey was essentially the end of the careers of both McKenzie and the Mamas and the Papas. McKenzie's follow-up single, "Like an Old-Time Movie", written by John Phillips, only made number twenty-four: [Excerpt: Scott McKenzie, "Like an Old-Time Movie"] He recorded one more album, three years later, this time made up of songs he'd written himself, but never had another hit, and he retired from music for a time in 1970. Meanwhile the Mamas and the Papas struggled on for a while longer, and started work on a fourth album. But halfway through recording, they made a promotional trip to the UK, where Cass got arrested for reasons that are unclear, but seem to have been connected to some criminal associates of her then-partner. She was let go the next day, but had a traumatic time, including being strip-searched, and was telling someone about her horrific ordeal when John Phillips came up to her and started correcting her about her own experiences. That was the last straw. She was not putting up with John Phillips for one second more, and she quit the group. She did come back long enough to finish up the album, which included a version of "Dream a Little Dream of Me", a song suggested by Michelle, who had known one of the song's writers when she was a kid. It was released as a single, but credited to "Mama Cass with the Mamas and the Papas" in the US, and just to "Mama Cass" in the UK: [Excerpt: Mama Cass, "Dream a Little Dream of Me"] That made the top twenty, significantly outperforming the last few Mamas and Papas singles, and Elliot had a relatively successful solo career, with two more top thirty hits, both written by Mann and Weil, "It's Getting Better" and "Make Your Own Kind of Music": [Excerpt: Cass Elliot, "Make Your Own Kind of Music"] After a rough first attempt at a Las Vegas residency -- she lost a hundred pounds in weight, but as a result developed gastric and throat problems, and had to cancel almost straight away -- she became a beloved entertainer, appearing in several TV specials, and doing residencies in Las Vegas and the London Palladium. The other group members all released solo records too, but with no success. Probably the best of them is Denny Doherty's version of the Millennium's "To Claudia on Thursday": [Excerpt: Denny Doherty, "To Claudia on Thursday"] John and Michelle's marriage fell apart for good, and John's drug use became much, much, worse. Eventually, the new owners of the group's record label sued them for a million dollars, and to settle the lawsuit they recorded a contractual obligation album, People Like Us, three years after they'd split, but they didn't get together for the recordings, just overdubbing parts as and when necessary. In 1974, while staying in a flat owned by Harry Nilsson, Cass Elliot died of a heart attack, aged only thirty-two. She had just completed a residency at the London Palladium, for which she had once again lost a lot of weight after having put all the weight from her earlier attempt at weight loss back on. It's well known that repeated crash dieting, extreme weight loss, and yo-yoing weight can cause heart trouble. That was the end of the Mamas and the Papas as the original band, but not quite the end for the group altogether. While Michelle Phillips went on to a successful acting career, and still acts today, John sank into depression and spent time in prison on drugs charges -- he would remain an addict for the rest of his life. As an attempt to get himself together after his prison time, he formed "the New Mamas and Papas", initially with a lineup of himself, Scott McKenzie, Denny Doherty, his daughter Mackenzie Phillips, and replacing Cass Elliot Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane of Spanky And Our Gang, and they started playing the nostalgia circuit: [Excerpt: The New Mamas and Papas, "California Dreamin'"] At the same time, the Beach Boys were in a career slump, putting out odd one-off flop singles for film soundtracks, and often finding it difficult to get record contracts. One of the few recordings they made in the early eighties was for a cassette-only release, only sold through Radio Shack, put together by Terry Melcher and Daryl Dragon of the Captain & Tennille. The cassette contained new recordings by The Association, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and the Rip Chords, plus solo tracks by Mike Love and duets between Love and Dean Torrence, plus the Beach Boys' version of "California Dreamin", produced by Melcher, featuring a guest spot by Roger McGuinn on guitar. Unsurprisingly, the cassette didn't exactly set the music world alight, but a couple of years later the Beach Boys were putting out a new greatest hits album, and a slightly remixed version of "California Dreamin'" was stuck on that and put out as a single, and while it only made the lower reaches of the Hot One Hundred, it made the Adult Contemporary top ten, thanks in large part to a video which got a lot of play on MTV, featuring the Beach Boys, McGuinn, and cameos from Michelle and John, the latter as a saxophone-playing priest: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "California Dreamin'"] At this point, there were lots of connections between the Beach Boys, Melcher, and the Mamas and the Papas, including that John and Michelle's daughter Chynna was a school friend of Brian Wilson's daughters Carnie and Wendy, and would soon form her own vocal group with them, and at some point Terry Melcher got hold of a demo that John Phillips had recorded, of a song he and Scott McKenzie had written together: [Excerpt: John Phillips, "Kokomo"] Melcher and Mike Love rewrote the lyric extensively, dropped Phillips' original middle eight altogether, and added a new chorus, listing place-names in the same way the Beach Boys had for "California Girls" and "Surfin' USA". It was put out as one of those throwaway film soundtrack singles, for a forgettable Tom Cruise film, Cocktail, but rather remarkably, thanks to a video featuring shots from the film intercut with the Beach Boys performing on a beach, it became the Beach Boys' first number one in twenty-two years, and their only one without any participation from Brian Wilson: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Kokomo"] For the rest of the eighties and nineties, the New Mamas and Papas toured with a revolving lineup. There would be various female singers, and usually at least one, sometimes two, of John Phillips, Denny Doherty, Scott McKenzie, and Barry McGuire, depending on who had fallen out with who, and who was in rehab. The New Mamas and Papas ended with Phillips' death in 2000, and Denny Doherty died in 2007, while Scott McKenzie died in 2012. Barry McGuire is still alive, and is now a contemporary Christian performer. His most recent album seems to have come out in 2000 -- it's called Eve of Destruction: 20 Inspirational Classics -- and he also rerecorded "Eve of Destruction" as "Eve 2012": [Excerpt: Barry McGuire, "Eve 2012"] As for P.F. Sloan, he retired from the music business in 1972, for reasons he variously gave as being ill (he would suffer from chronic illnesses for decades before apparently being cured by a faith healer), being tired of making music, and having his life threatened by the owners of Dunhill Records. He infrequently gave interviews and made records over the next few decades, before recovering his strength enough to work on what he considered his magnum opus. He saw a performance of Beethoven's music and became fascinated at what he saw as the parallels between Beethoven and himself -- he very much saw Beethoven as the P.F. Sloan of his time. He immediately started work on a musical, Louis! Louis! (Louis is the French equivalent of Ludwig, Beethoven's first name), which eventually became his 2015 album, My Beethoven, a concept album that was equal parts autobiography and biography of Beethoven: [Excerpt: P.F. Sloan, "This Love"] But by this point, Sloan was more myth than man. And this was largely because of Jimmy Webb. Webb had, in 1970, decided that he wasn't going to just be a songwriter for other people, but that he was going to be an artist in his own right, and put out a solo album. And one of the people who inspired him to do that was Sloan, who he thought of as one of the first of the great commercial songwriters to pursue his own artistic path. And as such, he wrote a tribute to him, a song called "P.F. Sloan". The problem was, Sloan had already pretty much vanished from the scene -- as the song's lyrics said, starting "I have been seeking P.F. Sloan, but no-one knows where he has gone". Many people listening to the song assumed that Sloan was a character Webb had made up -- and Sloan would later claim that he and Webb had fallen out in the seventies and as a result Webb had gone around claiming just that, rather than acknowledging that Sloan was a real person, though I've not seen any interviews where Webb did that and have seen several where he very explicitly credits the real man as an inspiration. To make matters worse, in the eighties, Eugene Landy, the abusive psychotherapist who used his position with his patient Brian Wilson to get himself credited as a co-writer and producer on many of Wilson's songs, insisted in many interviews that *he* was P.F. Sloan, claiming Sloan was a pseudonym and he had written all those songs. With Sloan out of the industry, many people believed him, at least until the extent of his other lies became clear. So while Sloan did write his own autobiography, What's Exactly the Matter With Me? in 2014, by the time of his death, to most of those who knew his name at all, P.F. Sloan wasn't a man, a songwriter who had written for the Turtles and Jan and Dean and had a big folk-rock hit. He was an idea -- the idea of songwriting artistry, of inspiration, and of someone who would take his own path rather than submit to commercial pressures. The idea of musical innovation, of endless possibilities, and of being young in the mid-sixties, when it seemed the young people might still make a better world. The truth? Well, that didn't matter. What mattered, always, was the song: [Excerpt: Jimmy Webb, "P.F. Sloan" into theme music] ... Read more

22 Aug 2022

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22 Aug 2022


#189

Season Four Announcement

Transcript This is the official announcement that episode one hundred and fifty-one will be up in precisely one week. I've just finished recording it, and am now in the process of recording episodes one hundred and fifty-two through one hundred and fifty-four while Tilt edits one hundred and fifty-one. For those of you who are Patreon backers, the Patreon-only Q&A is up now. This will be the start of season four, which is going to work slightly differently from previous seasons, because of the time off I gave myself. I now have a better idea of how much work I can do in parallel, and I've come to the conclusion that the most sustainable release pattern is going to be two weeks on, one week off, so you'll be getting four episodes every six weeks. I will still release Patreon bonuses on the weeks I don't release a mainline episode. The episodes are going to be written and recorded in batches of four, and the general plan is going to be that every batch of four will have a long episode -- a ninety-minute or two-hour one -- a short half-hour episode, and two other episodes which will probably be about an hour but can vary depending on time constraints. In this batch, episode 151 is going to be the long one, episode 154 the shortest, and the two in the middle will be middling length. So, join us back here in a week, for the ghost of James Dean, a prediction of the future, and the start of the summer of love. ... Read more

14 Aug 2022

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14 Aug 2022


#188

July 2022 Q&A

While I'm still on hiatus, I invited questions from listeners. This is an hour-long podcast answering some of them. (Another hour-long Q&A for Patreon backers only will go up next week). 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/) There is a Mixcloud of the music excerpted here which can be found at [https://www.mixcloud.com/AndrewHickey/500-songs-supplemental-qa-edition/] (https://www.mixcloud.com/AndrewHickey/500-songs-supplemental-qa-edition/) Click below for a transcript: Hello and welcome to the Q&A  episode I'm doing while I'm working on creating a backlog. I'm making good progress on that, and still hoping and expecting to have episode 151 up some time in early August, though I don't have an exact date yet. I was quite surprised by the response to my request for questions, both at the amount of it and at where it came from. I initially expected to get a fair few comments on the main podcast, and a handful on the Patreon, and then I could do a reasonable-length Q&A podcast from the former and a shorter one from the latter. Instead, I only got a couple of questions on the main episode, but so many on the Patreon that I had to stop people asking only a day or so after posting the request for questions. So instead of doing one reasonable length podcast and one shorter one, I'm actually doing two longer ones. What I'm going to do is do all the questions asked publicly, plus all the questions that have been asked multiple times, in this one, then next week I'm going to put up the more niche questions just for Patreon backers. However, I'm not going to answer *all* of the questions. I got so many questions so quickly that there's not space to answer them all, and several of them were along the lines of "is artist X going to get an episode?" which is a question I generally don't answer -- though I will answer a couple of those if there's something interesting to say about them. But also, there are some I've not answered for another reason. As you may have noticed, I have a somewhat odd worldview, and look at the world from a different angle from most people sometimes. Now there were several questions where someone asked something that seems like a perfectly reasonable question, but contains a whole lot of hidden assumptions that that person hadn't even considered -- about music history, or about the process of writing and researching, or something else. Now, to answer that kind of question at all often means unpacking those hidden assumptions, which can sometimes make for an interesting answer -- after all, a lot of the podcast so far has been me telling people that what they thought they knew about music history was wrong -- but when it's a question being asked by an individual and you answer that way, it can sometimes, frankly, make you look like a horribly unpleasant person, or even a bully. "Don't you even know the most basic things about historical research? I do! You fool! Hey everyone else listening, this person thinks you do research in *this* way, but everyone knows you do it *that* way!" Now, that is never how I would intend such answers to come across -- nobody can be blamed for not knowing what they don't know -- but there are some questions where no matter how I phrased the answer, it came across sounding like that. I'll try to hold those over for future Q&A episodes if I can think of ways of unpicking the answers in such a way that I'm not being unconscionably rude to people who were asking perfectly reasonable questions. Some of the answers that follow might still sound a bit like that to be honest, but if you asked a question and my answer sounds like that to you, please know that it wasn't meant to. There's a lot to get through, so let's begin: Steve from Canada asks: “Which influential artist or group has been the most challenging to get information on in the last 50 podcasts? We know there has been a lot written about the Beatles, Beach Boys, Motown as an entity, the Monkees and the Rolling Stones, but you mentioned in a tweet that there’s very little about some bands like the Turtles, who are an interesting story. I had never heard of Dino Valenti before this broadcast – but he appeared a lot in the last batch – so it got me curious. [Excerpt: The Move, “Useless Information”] In the last fifty episodes there's not been a single one that's made it to the podcast where it was at all difficult to get information. The problem with many of them is that there's *too much* information out there, rather than there not being enough. No matter how many books one reads on the Beatles, one can never read more than a fraction of them, and there's huge amounts of writing on the Rolling Stones, on Hendrix, on the Doors, on the Byrds... and when you're writing about those people, you *know* that you're going to miss out something or get something wrong, because there's one more book out there you haven't read which proves that one of the stories you're telling is false. This is one of the reasons the episodes have got so much longer, and taken so much more time. That wasn't the case in the first hundred episodes -- there were a lot of artists I covered there, like Gene and Eunice, or the Chords, or Jesse Belvin, or Vince Taylor who there's very little information about. And there are some coming up who there's far less information about than people in the last fifty episodes. But every episode since the Beatles has had a surfeit of information. There is one exception -- I wanted to do a full episode on "Rescue Me" by Fontella Bass, because it would be an interesting lens through which to look at how Chess coped with the change in Black musical styles in the sixties. But there was so little information available about her I ended up relegating it to a Patreon bonus episode, because she makes those earlier artists look well-documented. Which leads nicely into the next question. Nora Tillman asks "Forgive this question if you’ve answered it before: is there literally a list somewhere with 500 songs you’ve chosen? Has the list changed since you first composed it? Also, when did you first conceive of this list?" [Excerpt: John Reed and the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, "As Someday it May Happen"] Many people have asked this question, or variations upon it. The answer is yes and no. I made a list when I started that had roughly two hundred songs I knew needed to be on there, plus about the same number again of artists who needed to be covered but whose precise songs I hadn't decided on. To make the initial list I pulled a list out of my own head, and then I also checked a couple of other five-hundred-song lists -- the ones put out by Rolling Stone magazine and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- not because I wanted to use their lists; I have very little time for rock critical orthodoxy, as most of my listeners will likely have realised by now, but because I wanted to double-check that I hadn't missed anything obvious out, and that if I was missing something off their lists, I knew *why* I was missing it. To take a ludicrous example, I wouldn't want to get to the end of the 1960s and have someone say "Wait a minute, what about the Beatles?" and think "I *knew* I'd forgotten something!" Then, at the start of each fifty-episode season, I put together a more rigorous list of the fifty songs coming up, in order. Those lists *can* still change with the research -- for example, very early on in the research for the podcast, I discovered that even though I was completely unfamiliar with "Ko Ko Mo" by Gene and Eunice, it was a hugely important and influential record at the time, and so I swapped that in for another song. Or more recently, I initially intended to have the Doors only have one episode, but when I realised how much I was having to include in that episode I decided to give them a second one. And sometimes things happen the other way -- I planned to do full episodes on Jackie Shane and Fontella Bass, but for both of them I couldn't find enough information to get a decent episode done, so they ended up being moved to Patreon episodes. But generally speaking that fifty-song list for a year's episodes is going to remain largely unchanged. I know where I'm going, I know what most of the major beats of the story are, but I'm giving myself enough flexibility to deviate if I find something I need to include. Connected with this, Rob Johnson asks how I can be confident I'll get back to some stories in later episodes. Well, like I say, I have a pretty much absolute idea of what I'm going to do in the next year, and there are a lot of individual episodes where I know the structure of the episode long before we get to it. As an example here... I don't want to give too much away, and I'm generally not going to be answering questions about "will artist X be appearing?", but Rob also asked about one artist. I can tell you that that artist is one who will not be getting a full episode -- and I already said in the Patreon episode about that artist that they won't -- but as I also said in that episode they *will* get a significant amount of time in another episode, which I now know is going to be 180, which will also deal with another artist from the same state with the same forename, even though it's actually about two English bands. I've had the structure of that episode planned out since literally before I started writing episode one. On the other hand, episode 190 is a song that wasn't originally going to be included at all. I was going to do a 1967 song by the same artist, but then found out that a fact I'd been going to use was disputed, which meant that track didn't need to be covered, but the artist still did, to finish off a story I'd started in a previous episode. Patrick asks:"I am currently in the middle of reading 1971: Never a Dull Moment by David Hepworth and I’m aware that Apple TV have produced a documentary on how music changed that year as well and I was wondering what your opinion on that subject matter? I imagine you will be going into some detail on future podcasts, but until recently I never knew people considered 1971 as a year that brought about those changes." [Excerpt: Rod Stewart, "Angel"] I've not yet read Hepworth's book, but that it's named after an album which came out in 1972 (which is the album that track we just heard came from) says something about how the idea that any one year can in itself be a turning point for music is a little overstated -- and the Apple documentary is based on Hepworth's book, so it's not really multiple people making that argument. Now, as it happens, 1971 is one of the break points for the podcast -- episodes 200 and 201 are both records from July 1971, and both records that one could argue were in their own way signifiers of turning points in rock music history. And as with 1967 it's going to have more than its fair share of records, as it bridges the gap of two seasons. But I think one could make similar arguments for many, many years, and 1971 is  not one of the most compelling cases. I can't say more before I read Hepworth's book, which won't be for a few months yet. I'm instinctively dubious of these "this year was the big year that changed everything" narratives, but Hepworth's a knowledgeable enough writer that I wouldn't want to dismiss his thesis without even reading the book. Roger Pannell asks I’m a fairly recent joiner-in too so you may have answered this before. What is the theme tune to the podcast please. [Excerpt: The Boswell Sisters, “Rock and Roll”] The theme song to the podcast is "Rock and Roll" by the Boswell Sisters. The version I use is not actually the version that was released as a single, but a very similar performance that was used in the film Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round in 1931. I chose it in part because it may well be the first ever record to contain the phrase "rock and roll" (though as I've said many times there's no first anything, and there are certainly many records which talk about rocking and/or rolling -- just none I know of with that phrase) so it evokes rock and roll history, partly because the recording is out of copyright, and partly just because I like the Boswell Sisters. Several people asked questions along the lines of this one from Christopher Burnett "Just curious if there's any future episodes planned on any non-UK or non-North American songs? The bonus episodes on the Mops and Kyu Sakamoto were fascinating." [Excerpt: Kyu Sakamoto, "Sukiyaki"] Sadly, there won't be as many episodes on musicians from outside the UK and North America as I'd like. The focus of the podcast is going to be firmly on British, American, Irish, and Canadian musicians, with a handful from other Anglophone countries like Australia and Jamaica. There *are* going to be a small number of episodes on non-Anglophone musicians, but very few. Sadly, any work of history which engages with injustices still replicates some of those injustices, and one of the big injustices in rock history is that most rock musicians have been very insular, and there has been very little influence from outside the Anglophone world, which means that I can't talk much about influential records made by musicians from elsewhere.  Also, in a lot of cases most of the writing about them is in other languages, and I'm shamefully monolingual (I have enough schoolboy French not to embarrass myself, but not enough to read a biography without a dictionary to hand, and that's it). There *will* be quite a few bonus episodes on musicians from non-Anglophone countries though, because this *is* something that I'm very aware of as a flaw, and if I can find ways of bringing the wider story into the podcast I will definitely do so, even if it means changing my plans somewhat, but I'm afraid they'll largely be confined to Patreon bonuses rather than mainline episodes. Ed Cunard asks "Is there a particular set of songs you're not looking forward to because you don't care for them, but intend to dive into due to their importance?" [Excerpt: Jackie Shane, "Don't Play That Song"] There are several, and there already have been some, but I'm not going to say what they are as part of anything to do with the podcast (sometimes I might talk about how much I hate a particular record on my personal Twitter account or something, but I try not to on the podcast's account, and I'm certainly not going to in an episode of the podcast itself). One of the things I try to do with the podcast is to put the case forward as to why records were important, why people liked them at the time, what they got out of them. I can't do that if I make it about my own personal tastes. I know for a fact that there are people who have come away from episodes on records I utterly despise saying "Wow! I never liked that record before, but I do now!" and that to me shows that I have succeeded -- I've widened people's appreciation for music they couldn't appreciate before. Of course, it's impossible to keep my own tastes from showing through totally, but even there people tend to notice much more my like or dislike for certain people rather than for their music, and I don't feel anything like as bad for showing that. So I have a policy generally of just never saying which records in the list I actually like and which I hate. You'll often be able to tell from things I talk about elsewhere, but I don't want anyone to listen to an episode and be prejudiced not only against the artist but against the episode  by knowing going in that I dislike them, and I also don't want anyone to feel like their favourite band is being given short shrift. There are several records coming up that I dislike myself but where I know people are excited about hearing the episode, and the last thing I want to do is have those people who are currently excited go in disappointed before they even hear it. Matt Murch asks: "Do you anticipate tackling the shift in rock toward harder, more seriously conceptual moves in 1969 into 1970, with acts like Led Zeppelin, The Who (again), Bowie, etc. or lighter soul/pop artists such as Donna Summer, Carly Simon or the Carpenters? Also, without giving too much away, is there anything surprising you've found in your research that you're excited to cover? [Excerpt: Robert Plant, "If I Were a Carpenter"] OK, for the first question... I don't want to say exactly who will and won't be covered in future episodes, because when I say "yes, X will be covered" or "no, Y will not be covered", it invites a lot of follow-up discussion along the lines of "why is X in there and not Y?" and I end up having to explain my working, when the episodes themselves are basically me explaining my working. What I will say is this... the attitude I'm taking towards who gets included and who gets excluded is, at least in part, influenced by an idea in cognitive linguistics called prototype theory. According to this theory, categories aren't strictly bounded like in Aristotelian thought -- things don't have strict essences that mean they definitely are or aren't members of categories. But rather, categories have fuzzy boundaries, and there are things at the centre that are the most typical examples of the category, and things at the border that are less typical. For example, a robin is a very "birdy" bird -- it's very near the centre of the category of bird, it has a lot of birdness -- while an ostrich is still a bird, but much less birdy, it's sort of in the fuzzy boundary area. When you ask people to name a bird, they're more likely to name a robin than an ostrich, and if you ask them “is an ostrich a bird?” they take longer to answer than they do when asked about robins. In the same way, a sofa is nearer the centre of the category of "furniture" than a wardrobe is. Now, I am using an exceptionally wide definition of what counts as rock music, but at the same time, in order for it to be a history of rock music, I do have to spend more time in the centre of the concept than around the periphery. My definition would encompass all the artists you name, but I'm pretty sure that everyone would agree that the first three artists you name are much closer to the centre of the concept of "rock music" than the last three. That's not to say anyone on either list is definitely getting covered or is definitely *not* getting covered -- while I have to spend more time in the centre than the periphery, I do have to spend some time on the periphery, and my hope is to cover as many subgenres and styles as I can -- but that should give an idea of how I'm approaching this. As for the second question -- there's relatively little that's surprising that I've uncovered in my research so far, but that's to be expected. The period from about 1965 through about 1975 is the most over-covered period of rock music history, and so the basic facts for almost every act are very, very well known to people with even a casual interest. For the stuff I'm doing in the next year or so, like the songs I've covered for the last year, it's unlikely that anything exciting will come up until very late in the research process, the times when I'm pulling everything together and notice one little detail that's out of place and pull on that thread and find the whole story unravelling. Which may well mean, of course, that there *are* no such surprising things. That's always a possibility in periods where we're looking at things that have been dealt with a million times before, and this next year may largely be me telling stories that have already been told. Which is still of value, because I'm putting them into a larger context of the already-released episodes, but we'll see if anything truly surprising happens. I certainly hope it does. James Kosmicki asks "Google Podcasts doesn't seem to have any of the first 100 episodes - are they listed under a different name perhaps?" [Excerpt: REM, "Disappear"] I get a number of questions like this, about various podcast apps and sites, and I'm afraid my answer is always the same -- there's nothing I can do about this, and it's something you'd have to take up with the site in question. Google Podcasts picks up episodes from the RSS feed I provide, the same as every other site or app. It's using the right feed, that feed has every episode in it, and other sites and apps are working OK with it. In general, I suggest that rather than streaming sites like Google Podcasts or Stitcher or Spotify, where the site acts as a middleman and they serve the podcast to you from their servers, people should use a dedicated podcast app like RadioPublic or Pocketcasts or gPodder, where rather than going from a library of podcast episodes that some third party has stored, you're downloading the files direct from the original server, but I understand that sometimes those apps are more difficult to use, especially for less tech-savvy people. But generally, if an episode is in some way faulty or missing on the 500songs.com webpage, that's something I can do something about. If it's showing up wrong on Spotify or Google Podcasts or Stitcher or whatever, that's a problem at their end. Sorry. Darren Johnson asks "were there any songs that surprised you? Which one made the biggest change between what you thought you knew and what you learned researching it?" [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Goodbye Surprise"] Well, there have been a few, in different ways. The most surprising thing for me actually was in the most recent episode when I discovered the true story behind the "bigger than Jesus" controversy during my reading. That was a story I'd known one way for my entire life -- literally I think I first read about that story when I was six or seven -- and it turned out that not one thing I'd read on the subject had explained what had really happened. But then there are other things like the story of "Ko Ko Mo", which was a record I wasn't even planning on covering at first, but which turned out to be one of the most important records of the fifties. But I actually get surprised relatively little by big-picture things. I'll often discover fun details or new connections between things I hadn't noticed before, but the basic outlines of the story never change that much -- I've been reading about music history literally since I learned how to read, and while I do a deep dive for each episode, it's very rare that I discover anything that totally changes my perspective. There is always a process of reevaluation going on, and a change in the emphases in my thought, so for example when I started the project I knew Johnny Otis would come up a fair bit in the early years, and knew he was a major figure, but was still not giving him the full credit he deserved in my head. The same goes for Jesse Belvin, and as far as background figures go Lester Sill and Milt Gabler. But all of these were people I already knew were important, i just hadn't connected all the dots in my head. I've also come to appreciate some musicians more than I did previously. But there are very few really major surprises, which is probably to be expected -- I got into this already knowing a *LOT*, because otherwise I wouldn't have thought this was a project I could take on. Tracey Germa -- and I'm sorry, I don't know if that's pronounced with a hard or soft G, so my apologies if I mispronounced it -- asks: "Hi Andrew. We love everything about the podcast, but are especially impressed with the way you couch your trigger warnings and how you embed social commentary into your analysis of the music. You have such a kind approach to understanding human experiences and at the same time you don’t balk at saying the hard things some folks don’t want to hear about their music heroes. So, the question is - where does your social justice/equity/inclusion/suffer no fools side come from? Your family? Your own experiences? School/training?” [Excerpt: Elvis Costello and the Attractions, "Little Triggers"] Well, firstly, I have to say that people do say  this kind of thing to me quite a lot, and I'm grateful when they say it, but I never really feel comfortable with it, because frankly I think I do very close to the absolute minimum, and I get by because of the horribly low expectations our society has for allocishet white men, which means that making even the tiniest effort possible to be a decent human being looks far more impressive by comparison than it actually is. I genuinely think I don't do a very good job of this at all, although I do try, and that's not false modesty there. But to accept the premise of the question for a moment, there are a couple of answers. My parents are both fairly progressive both politically and culturally,  for the time and place where they raised me. They both had strong political convictions, and while they didn't have access to much culture other than what was on TV or in charting records or what have you -- there was no bookshop or record shop in our town, and obviously no Internet back then -- they liked the stuff out of that mix that was forward-thinking, and so was anti-racist, accepting of queerness, and so on. From a very early age, I was listening to things like "Glad to be Gay" by the Tom Robinson Band. So from before I really even understood what those concepts were, I knew that the people I admired thought that homophobia and racism were bad things. I was also bullied a lot at school, because I was autistic and fat and wore glasses and a bunch of other reasons. So I hated bullying and never wanted to be a bully. I get very, very, *very* angry at cruelty and at abuses of power -- as almost all autistic people do, actually. And then, in my twenties and thirties, for a variety of reasons I ended up having a social circle that was predominantly queer and/or disabled and/or people with mental health difficulties. And when you're around people like that, and you don't want to be a bully, you learn to at least try to take their feelings into consideration, though I slipped up a great deal for a long time, and still don't get everything right. So that's the "social justice" side of things. The other side, the "understanding human experiences" side... well, everyone has done awful things at times, and I would hope that none of us would be judged by our worst behaviours. "Use every man to his desert and who should 'scape whipping?" and all that. But that doesn't mean those worst behaviours aren't bad, and that they don't hurt people, and denying that only compounds the injustice. People are complicated, societies are complicated, and everyone is capable of great good and great evil. In general I tend to avoid a lot of the worst things the musicians I talk about did, because the podcast *is* about the music, but when their behaviour affects the music, or when I would otherwise be in danger of giving a truly inaccurate picture of someone, I have to talk about those things. You can't talk about Jerry Lee Lewis without talking about how his third marriage derailed his career, you can't talk about Sam Cooke without talking about his death, and to treat those subjects honestly you have to talk about the reprehensible sides of their character. Of course, in the case of someone like Lewis, there seems to be little *but* a reprehensible side, while someone like Cooke could be a horrible, horrible person, but even the people he hurt the most also loved him dearly because of his admirable qualities. You *have* to cover both aspects of someone like him if you want to be honest, and if you're not going to be honest why bother trying to do history at all? Lester Dragstedt says (and I apologise if I mispronounced that): "I absolutely love this podcast and the perspective you bring. My only niggle is that the sound samples are mixed so low. When listening to your commentary about a song at voice level my fingers are always at the volume knob to turn up when the song comes in." [Excerpt: Bjork, "It's Oh So Quiet"] This is something that gets raised a lot, but it's not something that's ever going to change. When I started the podcast, I had the music levels higher, and got complaints about that, so I started mixing them lower. I then got complaints about *that*, so I did a poll of my Patreon backers to see what they thought, and by about a sixty-forty margin they wanted the levels to be lower, as they are now, rather than higher as they were earlier. Basically, there seem to be two groups of listeners. One group mostly listens with headphones, and doesn't like it when the music gets louder, because it hurts their ears. The other group mostly listens in their cars, and the music gets lost in the engine noise. That's a gross oversimplification, and there are headphone listeners who want the music louder and car listeners who want the music quieter, but the listenership does seem to split roughly that way, and there are slightly more headphone listeners. Now, it's literally *impossible* for me to please everyone, so I've given up trying with this, and it's *not* going to change. Partly because the majority of my backers voted one way, partly because it's just easier to leave things the way they are rather than mess with them given that no matter what I do someone will be unhappy, and partly because both Tilt when he edits the podcast and I when I listen back and tweak his edit are using headphones, and *we* don't want to hurt our ears either. Eric Peterson asks "if we are basically in 1967 that is when we start seeing Country artists like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings - the Man who Survived the Day the Music Died - start to bring more rock songs into their recordings and start to set the ground work in many ways for Country Rock ... how do you envision bringing the role they play in the History of Rock and Roll into the podcast?" [Excerpt: The Del McCoury Band, "Nashville Cats"] I will of course be dealing with country rock as one of the subgenres I discuss -- though there's only one real country-rock track coming up in the next fifty, but there'll be more as I get into the seventies, and there are several artists coming up with at least some country influence. But I won't be looking at straight country musicians like Jennings or Cash except through the lens of rock musicians they inspired -- things like me talking about Johnny Cash briefly in the intro to the "Hey Joe" episode. I think Cocaine and Rhinestones is already doing a better job of covering country music than I ever could, and so those people will only touch the story tangentially. Nili Marcia says: "If one asks a person what's in that room it would not occur to one in 100 to mention the air that fills it. Something so ubiquitous as riff--I don't know what a riff actually is! Will you please define riff, preferably with examples." Now this is something I actually thought I'd explained way back in episode one, and I have a distinct memory of doing so, but I must have cut that part out -- maybe I recorded it so badly that part couldn't be salvaged, which happened sometimes in the early days -- because I just checked and there's no explanation there. I would have come back to this at some point if I hadn't been thinking all along that I'd covered it right at the start, because you're right, it is a term that needs definition. A riff is, simply, a repeated, prominent, instrumental figure. The term started out in jazz, and there it was a term for a phrase that would be passed back and forth between different instruments -- a trumpet might play a phrase, then a saxophone copy it, then back to the trumpet, then back to the saxophone. But quickly it became a term for a repeated figure that becomes the main accompaniment part of a song, over which an instrumentalist might solo or a singer might sing, but which you remember in its own right. A few examples of well-known riffs might include "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple: [Excerpt: Deep Purple, "Smoke on the Water"] "I Feel Fine" by the Beatles: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "I Feel Fine"] "Last Train to Clarksville" by the Monkees: [Excerpt: The Monkees, "Last Train to Clarksville"] The bass part in “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie: [Excerpt: Queen and David Bowie, “Under Pressure”] Or the Kingsmen's version of "Louie Louie": [Excerpt: The Kingsmen, "Louie Louie"] Basically, if you can think of a very short, prominent, instrumental idea that gets repeated over and over, that's a riff. Erik Pedersen says "I love the long episodes and I suspect you do too -- thoroughness. of this kind is something few get the opportunity to do -- but have you ever, after having written a long one, decided to cut them significantly? Are there audio outtakes you might string together one day?" [Excerpt: Bing Crosby and Les Paul, "It's Been a Long, Long Time"] I do like *having* done the long episodes, and sometimes I enjoy doing them, but other times I find it frustrating that an episode takes so long, because there are other stories I want to move on to. I'm trying for more of a balance over the next year, and we'll see how that works out. I want to tell the story in the depth it deserves, and the longer episodes allow me to do that, and to experiment with narrative styles and so on, but I also want to get the podcast finished before I die of old age. Almost every episode has stuff that gets cut, but it's usually in the writing or recording stage -- I'll realise a bit of the episode is boring and just skip it while I'm recording, or I'll cut out an anecdote or something because it looks like it's going to be a flabby episode and I want to tighten it up, or sometimes I'll realise that because of my mild speech impediments a sentence is literally unspeakable, and I'll rework it. It's very, very rare that I'll cut anything once it's been recorded, and if I do it's generally because when I listen back after it's been edited I'll realise I'm repeating myself or I made a mistake and need to cut a sentence because I said the wrong name, that sort of thing. I delete all the audio outtakes, but even if I didn't there would be nothing worth releasing. A few odd, out of context sentences, the occasional paragraph just repeating something I'd already said, a handful of actual incorrect facts, and a lot of me burping, or trying to say a difficult name three times in a row, or swearing when the phone rings in the middle of a long section. Lucy Hewitt says "Something that interests me, and that I’m sure you will cover is how listeners consume music and if that has an impact. In my lifetime we’ve moved from a record player which is fixed in one room to having a music collection with you wherever you go, and from hoping that the song you want to hear might be played on the radio to calling it up whenever you want. Add in the rise of music videos, and MTV, and the way in which people access music has changed a lot over the decades. But has that affected the music itself?" [Excerpt: Bow Wow Wow "C30 C60 C90 Go!"] It absolutely has affected the music itself in all sorts of ways, some of which I've touched on already and some of which I will deal with as we go through the story, though the story I'm telling will end around the time of Napster and so won't involve streaming services and so forth. But every technology change leads to a change in the sound of music in both obvious and non-obvious ways. When AM radio was the most dominant form of broadcasting, there was no point releasing singles in stereo, because at that time there were no stereo AM stations. The records also had to be very compressed, so the sound would cut through the noise and interference. Those records would often be very bass-heavy and have a very full, packed, sound. In the seventies, with the rise of eight-track players, you'd often end up with soft-rock and what would later get termed yacht rock having huge success. That music, which is very ethereal and full of high frequencies, is affected less negatively by some of the problems that came with eight-track players, like the tape stretching slightly. Then post-1974 and the OPEC oil crisis, vinyl became more expensive, which meant that records started being made much thinner, which meant you couldn't cut grooves as deeply, which meant you lost bass response, which again changed the sound of records – and also explains why when CDs came out, people started thinking they sounded better than records, because they *did* sound better than the stuff that was being pressed in the late seventies and early eighties, which was so thin it was almost transparent, even though they sounded nowhere near as good as the heavy vinyl pressings of the fifties and sixties. And then the amount of music one could pack into a CD encouraged longer tracks... A lot of eighties Hi-NRG and dance-pop music, like the records made by Stock, Aitken, and Waterman, has almost no bass but lots of skittering high-end percussion sounds -- tons of synthesised sleighbells and hi-hats and so on -- because a lot of disco equipment had frequency-activated lights, and the more high-end stuff was going on, the more the disco lights flashed... We'll look at a lot of these changes as we go along, but every single new format, every new way of playing an old format, every change in music technology, changes what music gets made quite dramatically. Lucas Hubert asks: “Black Sabbath being around the corner, how do you plan on dealing with Heavy Metal? I feel like for now, what is popular and what has had a big impact in Rock history coincide. But that kind of change with metal, no? (Plus, prog and metal are more based on albums than singles, I think.)” [Excerpt: Black Sabbath, “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”] I plan on dealing with metal the same way I've been dealing with every other subgenre. We are, yes, getting into a period where influence and commercial success don't correlate quite as firmly as they did in the early years -- though really we've already been there for quite some time. I've done two episodes so far on the Byrds, a group who only had three top-twenty singles in the US and two in the UK, but only did a bonus episode on Herman's Hermits, who had fourteen in the US and seventeen in the UK. I covered Little Richard but didn't cover Pat Boone, even though Boone had the bigger hits with Richard's songs. In every subgenre there are going to be massive influences who had no hits, and people who had lots of hits but didn't really make much of a wider impact on music, and I'll be dealing with the former more than the latter. But also, I'll be dealing most with people who were influential *and* had lots of hits -- if nothing else because while influence and chart success aren't a one-to-one correlation, they're still somewhat correlated. So it's unlikely you'll see me cover your favourite Scandinavian Black Metal band who only released one album of which every copy was burned in a mysterious fire two days after release, but you can expect most of the huge names in metal to be covered. Though even there, simply because of the number of subgenres I'm going to cover, I'm going to miss some big ones. Related to the question about albums, Svennie asks “This might be a bit of a long winded question so just stick with me here. As the music you cover becomes more elaborate, and the albums become bigger in scale, how do you choose a song which you build the story around while also telling the story of that album? I ask this specifically with the White Album in mind, where you’ve essentially got four albums in one. To that end, what song would you feel defines the White Album?” [Excerpt: The Beatles, “Revolution #9”] Well, you'll see how I cover the White Album in episode one hundred and seventy-two -- we're actually going to have quite a long stretch with no Beatles songs covered because I'm going to backfill a lot of 1967 and then we're getting to the Beatles again towards the end of 1968, but it'll be another big one when we get there. But in the general case... the majority of albums to come still had singles released off them, and a lot of what I'm going to be looking at in the next year or two is still hit singles, even if the singles are by people known as album bands. Other times, a song wasn't a single, but maybe it was covered by someone else -- if I know I'm going to cover a rock band and I also know that one of the soul artists who would do rock covers as album tracks did a version of one of their songs, and I'm going to cover that soul artist, say, then if I do the song that artist covered I can mention it in the episode on the soul singer and tie the two episodes together a bit. In other cases there's a story behind a particular track that's more interesting than other tracks, or the track is itself a cover version of someone else's record, which lets me cover both artists in a single episode, or it's the title track of the album. A lot of people have asked me this question about how I'd deal with albums as we get to the late sixties and early seventies, but looking at the list of the next fifty episodes, there's actually only two where I had to think seriously about which song I chose from an album -- in one case, I chose the title track, in the other case I just chose the first song on the album (though in that case I may end up choosing another song from the same album if I end up finding a way to make that a more interesting episode). The other forty-eight were all very, very obvious choices. Gary Lucy asks “Do you keep up with contemporary music at all? If so, what have you been enjoying in 2022 so far…and if not, what was the most recent “new” album you really got into?” [Excerpt: Stew and the Negro Problem, "On the Stage of a Blank White Page"] I'm afraid I don't. Since I started doing the podcast, pretty much all of my listening time has been spent on going back to much older music, and even before that, when I was listening to then-new music it was generally stuff that was very much inspired by older music, bands like the Lemon Twigs, who probably count as the last new band I really got into with their album Do Hollywood, which came out in 2016 but which I think I heard in 2018. I'm also now of that age where 2018 seems like basically yesterday, and when I keep thinking "what relatively recent albums have I liked?" I think of things like The Reluctant Graveyard by Jeremy Messersmith, which is from 2010, or Ys by Joanna Newsom, which came out in 2006. Not because I haven't bought records released since then, but because my sense of time is so skewed that summer 1994 and summer 1995 feel like epochs apart, hugely different times in every way, but every time from about 2005 to 2020 is just "er... a couple of years ago? Maybe?" So without going through every record I've bought in the last twenty years and looking at the release date I couldn't tell you what still counts as contemporary and what's old enough to vote. I have recently listened a couple of times to an album by a band called Wet Leg, who are fairly new, but other than that I can't say. But probably the most recent albums to become part of my regular listening rotation are two albums which came out simultaneously in 2018 by Stew and the Negro Problem, Notes of a Native Song, which is a song cycle about James Baldwin and race in America, and The Total Bent, which is actually the soundtrack to a stage musical, and which I think many listeners to the podcast might find interesting, and which is what that last song excerpt was taken from. It's basically a riff on the idea of The Jazz Singer, but set in the Civil Rights era, and about a young politically-radical Black Gospel songwriter who writes songs for his conservative preacher father to sing, but who gets persuaded to become a rock and roll performer by a white British record producer who fetishises Black music. It has a *lot* to say about religion, race, and politics in America -- a couple of the song titles, to give you some idea, are "Jesus Ain't Sitting in the Back of the Bus" and "That's Why He's Jesus and You're Not, Whitey". It's a remarkable album, and it deals with enough of the same subjects I've covered here that I think any listeners will find it interesting. Unfortunately, it was released through the CDBaby store, which closed down a few months later, and unlike most albums released through there it doesn't seem to have made its way onto any of the streaming platforms or digital stores other than Apple Music, which rather limits its availability. I hope it comes out again soon. Alec Dann says “I haven't made it to the Sixties yet so pardon if you have covered this: what was the relationship between Sun and Stax in their heyday? Did musicians work in both studios?” [Excerpt: Booker T. and the MGs, "Green Onions"] I've covered this briefly in a couple of the episodes on Stax, but the short version is that Sun was declining just as Stax was picking up. Jim Stewart, who founded Stax, was inspired in part by Sam Phillips, and there was a certain amount of cross-fertilisation, but not that much. Obviously Rufus Thomas recorded for both labels, and there were a few other connections -- Billy Lee Riley, for example, who I did an episode on for his Sun work, also recorded at the Stax studio before going on to be a studio musician in LA, and it was actually at a Billy Lee Riley session that went badly that Booker T and the MGs recorded "Green Onions". Also, Sun had a disc-cutting machine and Stax didn't, so when they wanted to get an acetate cut to play for DJs they'd take it to Sun -- it was actually Scotty Moore, who was working for Sun as a general engineer and producer as well as playing RCA Elvis sessions by 1962, who cut the first acetate copy of "Green Onions". But in general the musicians playing at Stax were largely the next generation of musicians -- people who'd grown up listening to the records Sam Phillips had put out in the very early fifties by Black musicians, and with very little overlap. Roger Stevenson asks "This project is going to take the best part of 7 years to complete. Do you have contingency plans in case of major problems? And please look after yourself - this project is gong to be your legacy." [Excerpt: Bonzo Dog Doodah Band, "Button Up Your Overcoat"] I'm afraid there's not much I can do if major problems come up -- by major problems I'm talking about things that prevent me from making the podcast altogether, like being unable to think or write or talk. By its nature, the podcast is my writing and my research and my voice, and if I can't do those things... well, I can't do them. I *am* trying to build in some slack again -- that's why this month off has happened -- so I can deal with delays and short-term illnesses and other disruptions, but if it becomes impossible to do it becomes impossible to do, and there's nothing more I can do about it. Mark Lipson asks "I’d like to know which episodes you’ve released have been the most & least popular? And going forward, which episodes do you expect to be the most popular? Just curious to know what music most of your listeners listen to and are interested in." [Excerpt: Sly and the Family Stone, "Somebody's Watching You"] I'm afraid I honestly don't know. Most podcasters have extensive statistical tools available to them, which tell them which episodes are most popular, what demographics are listening to the podcast, where they are in the world, and all that kind of thing. They use that information to sell advertising spots, which is how they make most of their money. You can say "my podcast is mostly listened to by seventy-five year-olds who google for back pain relief -- the perfect demographic for your orthopedic mattresses" or "seven thousand people who downloaded my latest episode also fell for at least one email claiming to be from the wallet inspector last year, so my podcast is listened to by the ideal demographic for cryptocurrency investment". Now, I'm lucky enough to be making enough money from my Patreon supporters' generosity that I don't have to sell advertising, and I hope I never do have to. I said at the very start of the process that I would if it became necessary, but that I hoped to keep it ad-free, and people have frankly been so astonishingly generous I should never have to do ads -- though I do still reserve the right to change my mind if the support drops off. Now, my old podcast host gave me access to that data as standard. But when I had to quickly change providers, I decided that I wasn't going to install any stats packages to keep track of people. I can see a small amount of information about who actually visits the website, because wordpress.com gives you that information – not your identities but just how many people come from which countries, and what sites linked them. But if you're downloading the podcast through a podcast app, or listening through Spotify or Stitcher or wherever, I've deliberately chosen not to access that data. I don't need to know who my audience is, or which episodes they like the most -- and if I did, I have a horrible feeling I'd start trying to tailor the podcast to be more like what the existing listeners like, and by doing so lose the very things that make it unique. Once or twice a month I'll look at the major podcast charts, I check the Patreon every so often to see if there's been a massive change in subscriber numbers, but other than that I decided I'm just not going to spy on my listeners (though pretty much every other link in the chain does, I'm afraid, because these days the entire Internet is based on spying on people). So the only information I have is the auto-generated "most popular episodes" thing that comes up on the front page, which everyone can see, and which shows the episodes people who actually visit the site are listening to most in the last few days, but which doesn't count anything from more than a few days ago, and which doesn't count listens from any other source, and which I put there basically so new listeners can see which ones are popular. At the moment that's showing that the most listened episodes recently are the two most recent full episodes -- "Respect" and "All You Need is Love" -- the most recent of the Pledge Week episodes, episodes one and two, so people are starting at the beginning, and right now there's also the episodes on "Ooby Dooby", "Needles and Pins", "God Only Knows", "She Loves You" and "Hey Joe". But in a couple of days' time those last five will be totally different. And again, that's just the information from people actually visiting the podcast website. I've deliberately chosen not to know what people listening in any other way are doing -- so if you've decided to just stream that bit of the Four Tops episode where I do a bad Bob Dylan impression five thousand times in a row, you can rest assured I have no idea you're doing it and your secret is totally safe. Anyway, that's all I have time for in this episode. In a week or so I'll post a similar-length episode for Patreon backers only, and then a week or two after that the regular podcast will resume, with a story involving folk singers, jazz harmony, angelic visitations and the ghost of James Dean. See you then. ... Read more

30 Jul 2022

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30 Jul 2022


#187

PLEDGE WEEK: “You’re Gonna Miss Me” by The Thirteenth Floor Elevators

This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to [patreon.com/andrewhickey] (http://patreon.com/andrewhickey) and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript Just a note before I begin, this episode deals with mental illness and with the methods, close to torture, used to treat it in the middle of the last century, so anyone for whom that's a delicate subject may want to skip this one. There's a term that often gets used about some musicians, "outsider music", and it's a term that I'm somewhat uncomfortable with. It's a term that gets applied to anyone eccentric, whether someone like Jandek who releases his own albums through mail order and just does his own thing, or someone like Hasil Adkins who made wild rockabilly music, or an entertainer like Tiny Tim who had a bizarre but consistent view of showbusiness, or a band like the Shaggs who were just plain incompetent, or people like Wesley Willis or Wild Man Fischer who had serious mental health problems. The problem with the term is that it erases these differences, and that it assumes that the most interesting thing about the music is the person behind it. It also erases talent, especially in the case of mentally ill artists. There are several mutually incompatible assumptions about creative artists who have mental health problems. One is that their music should be treated like a freak show, and either appreciated for that reason (if you're someone who gets their entertainment from someone else's suffering) or disdained (if you don't want to do that). Other people think that the mental illness *makes* the music, that great art comes from mental health problems, while yet others will argue that someone's art has nothing at all to do with their mental health, and is not influenced by it in any way. All of these positions are, of course, wrong. Mental illness doesn't stop someone from making great art -- except when it takes away the ability to make art at all of course -- people like Brian Wilson or Vincent Van Gogh are testament to that, and their best work has nothing to do with a freak show. But nor does it grant the ability to make great art. Someone with no musical talent who develops schizophrenia just becomes a schizophrenic person with no musical talent. But to say that mental illness doesn't affect the work is also nonsense. Everything about someone's life affects their art, especially something as important as their mental health. And the real problem with these labels comes with those artists who don't manage to develop a substantial body of work before their illness sets in. Those with real musical talent, but who end up getting put in the outsider artist bucket because their work is so obviously affected by their illness. And one of those is Roky Erickson, of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators. Erickson started his career aged fifteen with a group based in Austin, Texas, called the Spades -- and I hope that this wasn't intended as a racial slur, as the word was sometimes used at this time. Their first single, "We Sell Soul", released in 1965, shows the clear influence of "Gloria" by Them: [Excerpt: The Spades, "We Sell Soul"] That was a regional hit, and so their second single, the first song that Erickson had ever written, was recorded in the same style: [Excerpt: The Spades, "You're Gonna Miss Me"] But by December 1965, Erickson had left the Spades, and joined Stacy Sutherland, Benny Thurman, and John Ike Walton, the members of another band called the Lingsmen. They were joined by a fifth man, Tommy Hall, who became the band's lyricist, liner-note writer, and general spokesman, and who played an electric jug, creating an effect somewhere between bubbling and a wobble board. Hall started calling the group's music "psychedelic rock" in late 1965 after being influenced by Timothy Leary, and I've seen some people say he was the first person ever to use the term. The group released a rerecorded version of "You're Gonna Miss Me" on a small local label: [Excerpt: The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, "You're Gonna Miss Me"] That was released in January 1966, and later picked up by a larger label, International Artists, which was the home of a lot of Texan psychedelic bands, like the Golden Dawn and the Red Crayola. It spent most of the year slowly climbing the charts, eventually reaching number fifty-five -- the highest chart position the group would ever have. It was included on their debut album, The Psychedelic Sounds of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, released towards the end of the year, by which time Thurman had been replaced by Ronnie Leatherman on bass. The album's liner notes were written by Hall and had a large amount of advocacy for the use of psychedelic drugs -- as did the music itself, though some of this was a little more subtle, like the song "Fire Engine", where the line "let me take you to the empty place" was meant to sound like "DMT place", DMT being a psychedelic drug: [Excerpt: The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, "Fire Engine"] Around this time, the band crossed paths with Janis Joplin, who was a big fan of the group and who they tried to get to join them, but Joplin decided to move to California instead. Tommy Hall was a huge advocate for both the potential of LSD to open people's minds, and of the general semantics of Alfred Korzybski, and his enthusiasm for both showed up on the group's second album. Unfortunately, not all of the group were of quite the same mind, and Leatherman and Walton left early in the sessions for that album, Easter Everywhere, which was considered not quite up to the standards of the previous album, though Erickson and Hall's eight-minute long "Slip Inside This House" is a favourite of most of the fans. [Excerpt: The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, "Slip Inside This House"] Unfortunately, the band started to disintegrate. The core of Erickson, Hall, and Sutherland remained together, but various bass players and drummers came and went -- though one of the band's rhythm sections, Duke Davis and Danny Thomas, was good enough that the band's label got them to back Lightnin' Hopkins on his album Free Form Patterns. According to reports I've read, Davis and Thomas were both on acid during the session, but they still play solidly throughout: [Excerpt: Lightnin' Hopkins, "Give Me Time to Think"] Another potential bass player at this point was a roommate of Erickson's, who Erickson tried to get into the band but who Hall turned down. Townes Van Zandt later went on to rather bigger things. Erickson also started to have some mental problems -- apparently taking LSD literally every day for years is not great for you. And when he was arrested for marijuana possession, he decided to use his mental health as a way to get out of a potential ten-year jail sentence, by getting three years in a psychiatric hospital instead. He later claimed that he was lying about his problems and acting mad to get this sentence, but he had been having problems before then. Hall and Sutherland and their current rhythm section finished up a few demos, and the record label put out one final album made up of outtakes, plus a faked live album with crowd noise overdubbed on some earlier studio recordings, but with their lead singer in hospital for three years the band split up. Hall became a Scientologist and quit the music industry altogether. If Erickson *was* faking his illness when he went into the hospital, he wasn't faking it by the time he came out. Psychiatric medicine was still in its infancy then. It's far from wonderful today, but at least in general you can be relatively sure that the treatment won't make you worse. That wasn't the case in the late sixties and early seventies, and Erickson was forced through multiple sessions of electro-shock therapy. (To be clear, electro-shock therapy can sometimes be effective for some conditions when done properly and with the patient's consent. This wasn't either.) When Erickson finally got out, he tried to put his life back together, and formed a new band called Bleib Alien, later renamed Roky Erickson and the Aliens, who made hard rock records with lyrics about science fiction and horror themes like zombies, fire demons, medical experimentation, and two-headed dogs: [Excerpt: Roky Erickson and the Aliens, "Two-Headed Dog"] Erickson became a cult artist, cited as an influence by everyone from Henry Rollins to ZZ Top, and intermittently released recordings for the next few decades, but he spent much of the time dealing with severe, untreated, schizophrenia. There are many stories about this time that get shared, and are easy to find online, but which I'm not going to repeat here because they tend to be shared in a freak-show manner. But by 2001 he was placed in the legal custody of his brother . This kind of situation is often abused, but in Erickson's case it seems to have done him good. His brother got him legal and medical help, and helped him start finally receiving royalties on some of his records. There was a one-off fiftieth anniversary reunion of most of the living original members of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, and in 2010 Erickson released his finest album, a collaboration with the band Okkervil River, True Love Cast Out All Evil: [Excerpt: Roky Erickson and Okkervil River, "Ain't Blues Too Bad"] By all accounts the last years of Erickson's life were happier and more comfortable than any he'd had. He got to tour the world, playing for appreciative crowds, he got his schizophrenia under control, and he was able to live a relatively independent life, and to know that new generations of musicians admired his work. He died in 2019, aged seventy-one. ... Read more

16 Jul 2022

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16 Jul 2022


#186

Pledge Week: “Rescue Me” by Fontella Bass

This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to [patreon.com/andrewhickey] (http://patreon.com/andrewhickey) and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript Today we're going to look at a record which I actually originally intended to do a full episode on, but by an artist about whom there simply isn't enough information out there to pull together a full episode -- though some of this information will show up in other contexts in future episodes. So we're going to have a Patreon bonus episode on one of the great soul-pop records of the mid 1960s -- "Rescue Me" by Fontella Bass: [Excerpt: Fontella Bass, "Rescue Me"] Fontella Bass was actually a second-generation singer. Her mother, Martha Bass, was a great gospel singer, who had been trained by Willie Mae Ford Smith, who was often considered the greatest female gospel singer of the twentieth century but who chose only to perform live and on the radio rather than make records. Martha Bass had sung for a short time with the Clara Ward Singers, one of the most important and influential of gospel groups: [Excerpt: The Clara Ward Singers, "Wasn't It A Pity How They Punished My Lord?"] Fontella had been trained by her mother, but she got her start in secular music rather than the gospel music her mother stuck to. She spent much of the early sixties working as a piano player and singer in the band of Little Milton, the blues singer. I don't know exactly which records of his she's on, but she was likely on his top twenty R&B hit "So Mean to Me": [Excerpt: Little Milton, "So Mean to Me"] One night, Little Milton didn't turn up for a show, and so Bass was asked to take the lead vocals until he arrived. Milton's bandleader Oliver Sain was impressed with her voice, and when he quit working with Milton the next year, he took Bass with him, starting up a new act, "The Oliver Sain Soul Revue featuring Fontella and Bobby McClure". She signed to Bobbin Records, where she cut "I Don't Hurt Any More", a cover of an old Hank Snow country song, in 1962: [Excerpt: Fontella Bass, "I Don't Hurt Any More"] After a couple of records with Bobbin, she signed up with Ike Turner, who by this point was running a couple of record labels. She released a single backed by the Ikettes, "My Good Loving": [Excerpt: Fontella Bass, "My Good Loving"] And a duet with Tina Turner, "Poor Little Fool": [Excerpt: Fontella Bass and Tina Turner, "Poor Little Fool"] At the same time she was still working with Sain and McClure, and Sain's soul revue got signed to Checker records, the Chess subsidiary, which was now starting to make soul records, usually produced by Roquel Davis, Berry Gordy's former collaborator, and written or co-written by Carl Smith. These people were also working with Jackie Wilson at Brunswick, and were part of the same scene as Carl Davis, the producer who had worked with Curtis Mayfield, Major Lance, Gene Chandler and the rest. So this was a thriving scene -- not as big as the scenes in Memphis or Detroit, but definitely a group of people who were capable of making big soul hits.  Bass and McClure recorded a couple of duo singles with Checker, starting with "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing": [Excerpt: Fontella Bass and Bobby McClure, "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing"] That made the top forty on the pop charts, and number five on the R&B charts. But the follow-up only made the R&B top forty and didn't make the pop charts at all. But Bass would soon release a solo recording, though one with prominent backing vocals by Minnie Ripperton, that would become one of the all-time soul classics -- a Motown soundalike that was very obviously patterned after the songs that Holland, Dozier, and Holland were writing, and which captured their style perfectly: [Excerpt: Fontella Bass, "Rescue Me"] There's some dispute as to who actually wrote "Rescue Me". The credited songwriters are Carl Smith and Raynard Miner, but Bass has repeatedly claimed that she wrote most of the song herself, and that Roquel Davis had assured her that she would be fairly compensated, but she never was. According to Bass, when she finally got her first royalty cheque from Chess, she was so disgusted at the pitiful amount of money she was getting that she tore the cheque up and threw it back across the desk. Her follow-up to "Rescue Me", "Recovery", didn't do so well, making the lower reaches of the pop top forty: [Excerpt: Fontella Bass, "Recovery"] Several more singles were released off Bass' only album on Chess, but she very quickly became disgusted with the whole mainstream music industry. By this point she'd married the avant-garde jazz trumpeter Lester Bowie, and she started performing with his group, the Art Ensemble of Chicago. The music she recorded with the group is excellent, but if anyone bought The Art Ensemble of Chicago With Fontella Bass, the first of the two albums she recorded with the group, expecting something like "Rescue Me", they were probably at the very least bemused by what they got -- two twenty-minute-long tracks that sound like this: [Excerpt: The Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass: "How Strange/Ole Jed"] In between the two albums she recorded with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Bass also recorded a second solo album, but after it had little success she largely retired from music to raise her four children, though she would make the odd guest appearance on her husband's records. In the 1990s she made a few gospel records with her mother and her younger brother, the R&B singer David Peaston, and toured a little both on the nostalgia circuit and performing gospel, but she never returned to being a full-time musician. Both she and her brother died in 2012, Peaston from complications of diabetes, Bass from a heart attack after a series of illnesses. "Rescue Me" was her only big hit, and she retired at a point when she was still capable of making plenty of interesting music, but Fontella Bass still had a far more interesting, and fulfilling, career than many other artists who continue trying to chase the ghost of their one hit. She made music on her own terms, and nobody else's, right up until the end. ... Read more

15 Jul 2022

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15 Jul 2022


#185

PLEDGE WEEK: “I’m Henry VIII I Am” by Herman’s Hermits

This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to [patreon.com/andrewhickey] (http://patreon.com/andrewhickey) and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript Today's backer-only episode is an extra-long one -- it runs about as long as some of the shorter main episodes -- but it also might end up containing material that gets repeated in the main podcast at some point, because a lot of British rock and pop music gets called, often very incorrectly, music-hall, and so the subject of the music halls is one that may well have to be explained in a future episode. But today we're going to look at one of the very few pop hits of the sixties that is incontrovertibly based in the music-hall tradition -- Herman's Hermits singing "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am": [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am"] The term "music hall" is one that has been widely misused over the years. People talk about it as being a genre of music, when it's anything but. Rather, the music hall -- which is the British equivalent of the American vaudeville -- was the most popular form of entertainment, first under that name and then under the name "variety", for more than a century, only losing its popularity when TV and rock-and-roll between them destroyed the market for it. Even then, TV variety shows rooted in the music hall continued, explicitly until the 1980s, with The Good Old Days, and implicitly until the mid-1990s. As you might imagine, for a form of entertainment that lasted over a hundred years, there's no such thing as "music-hall music" as a singular thing, any more than there exists a "radio music" or a "television music". Many music-hall acts were non-musical performers -- comedians, magicians, acrobats, and so forth -- but among those who did perform music, there were all sorts of different styles included, from folk song to light opera, to ragtime, and especially minstrel songs -- the songs of Stephen Foster were among the very first transatlantic hits. We obviously don't have any records from the first few decades of the music hall, but we do have sheet music, and we know that the first big British hit song was "Champagne Charlie", originally performed by George Leybourne, and here performed by Derek B Scott, a professor of critical musicology at the university of Leeds: [Excerpt: Derek B. Scott, "Champagne Charlie"] If you've ever heard the phrase "the Devil has all the best tunes", that song is why. William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, set new lyrics to it and made it into a hymn, and when asked why, he replied "Why should the Devil have all the good tunes?" The phrase had been used earlier, but it was Booth who popularised it. "Champagne Charlie" also has rather morbid associations, because it was sung by the crowd at the last public execution in Britain, so it often gets used in horror and mystery films set in Victorian London, so chances are if you recognised the song it's because you've heard it in a film about Jack the Ripper or Jekyll and Hyde. But the music hall, like all popular entertainment, demanded a whole stream of new material. The British Tin Pan Alley publishers and songwriters who wrote much of the early British rock and roll we've looked at started out in music hall, and almost every British popular song up until the rise of jazz, and most after that until the fifties, was performed in the music halls. We do have recordings from the later part of the music-hall era, of course, and they show what a wide variety of music was performed there, from pitch-black comedy songs like "Murders", by George Grossmith, the son of the co-writer of Diary of a Nobody: [Excerpt: George Grossmith, "Murders"] To sing-along numbers like "Waiting at the Church" by Vesta Victoria: [Excerpt: Vesta Victoria, "Waiting at the Church"] And one of the most-recorded music-hall performers, Harry Champion, a London performer who sang very wordy songs, at a fast tempo, usually with a hornpipe rhythm and often about food, like "A Little Bit of Cucumber" or his most famous song "Boiled Beef and Carrots": [Excerpt: Harry Champion, "Boiled Beef and Carrots"] But one that wasn't about food, and was taken a bit slower than his normal patter style, was "I'm Henry the VIII I Am": [Excerpt: Harry Champion, "I'm Henry VIII, I Am"] (Incidentally, the song as written on the sheet music has "Henery" rather than "Henry", and most people sing it "Enery", but the actual record by Champion uses "Henry" on the label, as does the Hermits' version, so that's what I'm going with). Fifty years after Champion, the song was recorded by Joe Brown. We've talked about Brown before in the main podcast, but for those of you who don't remember, he's one of the best British rock and roll musicians of the fifties, and still performing today, and he has a real love of pre-war pop songs, and he would perform them regularly with his band, the Bruvvers. Those of you who've heard the Beatles performing "Sheikh of Araby" on their Decca audition, they're copying Brown's version of that song -- George Harrison was a big fan of Brown. Brown's version of "I'm Henry the Eighth I Am" gave it a rock and roll beat, and dropped the verse, leaving only the refrain: [Excerpt: Joe Brown and the Bruvvers, "I'm Henry the Eighth I Am"] Enter Herman's Hermits, four years later. In 1964, Herman's Hermits, a beat group from Manchester led by singer Peter Noone, had signed with Mickie Most and had a UK number one with "I'm Into Something Good", a Goffin and King song originally written for Earl-Jean of the Cookies: [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "I'm Into Something Good"] That would be their only UK number one, though they'd have several more top ten hits over here. It only made number thirteen in the US, but their second US single (not released as a single over here), "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat", went to number two in the States. From that point on, the group's career would diverge enormously between the US and the UK -- half their US hits were never released as singles in the UK, and vice versa. Several records, like their cover version of Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World", were released in both countries, but in general they went in two very different directions. In the UK they tended to release fairly normal beat-group records like "No Milk Today", written by Graham Gouldman, who was also writing hits for the Yardbirds and the Hollies: [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "No Milk Today"] That only charted in the US when it was later released as a B-side. Meanwhile, in the US, they pursued a very different strategy. Since the "British Invasion" was a thing, and so many British bands were doing well in the States partly because of the sheer novelty of them being British, Herman's Hermits based their career on appealing to American Anglophiles. This next statement might be a little controversial, even offensive to some listeners, so I apologise, but it's the truth. There is a large contingent of people in America who genuinely believe that they love Britain and British things, but who have no actual idea what British culture is actually like. They like a version of Britain that has been constructed entirely from pop-culture aimed at an American market, and have a staggeringly skewed vision of what Britain is actually like, one that is at best misguided and at worst made up of extremely offensive stereotypes. People who think they know all about the UK because they've spent a week going round a handful of tourist traps in central London and they've watched every David Tennant episode of Doctor Who. (Please note that I am not, here, engaging in reflex anti-Americanism, as so many British people do on this topic, because I know very well that there is an equally wrong kind of British person who worships a fictional America which has nothing to do with the real country -- as any American who has come over to the UK and seen cans of hot dog sausages in brine with "American style" and an American flag on the label will shudderingly attest. Fetishising of a country not one's own exists in every culture, and about every culture, whether it's American weebs who think they know about Japan or British Communists who were insistent that the Soviet Union under Stalin was a utopia). For their US-only singles, most of which were massive hits, Herman's Hermits played directly to that audience. The group's first single in this style was "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter", written by the actor Trevor Peacock, now best known for playing Jim in The Vicar of Dibley, but at the time best known as a songwriter for groups like the Vernons Girls and  for writing linking material for Six-Five Special and Oh Boy! That song was written for a TV play and originally performed by the actor Tom Courtenay: [Excerpt: Tom Courtenay, "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter"] The Hermits copied Courtenay's record closely, down to Noone imitating Courtenay's vocals: [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter"] That became their first US number one, and the group went all-in on appealing to that particular market. Noone started singing, not in the pseudo-American style that, say, Mick Jagger sings in (and early-sixties Jagger is a perfect example of the British equivalent of those American Anglophiles, loving but not understanding Black America), and not in his own Manchester accent, but in a faked Cockney accent, doing what is essentially a bad impersonation of Anthony Newley. (Davy Jones, who like Noone was a Mancunian who had started his career in the Manchester-set soap opera Coronation Street, was also doing the same thing at the time, in his performances as the Artful Dodger in the Broadway version of Oliver! -- we'll talk more about Jones in future episodes of the main podcast, but he, like Noone, was someone who was taking aim at this market.) Noone's faked accent varied a lot, sometimes from syllable to syllable, and on records like "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter" and the Hermits' version of the old George Formby song "Leaning on a Lamp Post" he sounds far more Northern than on other songs -- fitting into a continuum of Lancashire novelty performers that stretched at least from Formby's father, George Formby senior, all the way to Frank Sidebottom. But on the Hermits' version of "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am", Noone is definitely trying to sound as London as he can, and he and the group copy Joe Brown's arrangement: [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "I'm Henry the Eighth I Am"] That also became an American number one, and Herman's Hermits had truly found their niche. They spent the next three years making an odd mixture of catchy pop songs by writers like Graham Gouldman or PF Sloan, which became UK hits, and the very different type of music typified by "I'm Henry the Eighth I Am". Eventually, though, musical styles changed, and the group stopped having hits in either country. Peter Noone left the group in 1971, and they made some unsuccessful records without him before going on to the nostalgia circuit. Noone's solo career started relatively successfully, with a version of David Bowie's "Oh! You Pretty Things", backed by Bowie and the Spiders From Mars: [Excerpt: Peter Noone, "Oh! You Pretty Things"] That made the top twenty in the UK, but Noone had no further solo success. These days, there are two touring versions of Herman's Hermits -- in the US, Noone has toured as "Herman's Hermits featuring Peter Noone", with no other original members, since the 1980s. Drummer Barry Whitwham and lead guitarist Derek Leckenby kept the group going in the rest of the world until Leckenby's death in 1994 -- since then Whitwham has toured as Herman's Hermits without any other original members. Herman's Hermits may not have the respect that some of their peers had, but they had incredible commercial success at their height, made some catchy pop records, and became the first English group to realise there was a specific audience of Anglophiles in the US that they could market to. Without that, much of the subsequent history of music might have been very different. ... Read more

14 Jul 2022

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14 Jul 2022


#184

PLEDGE WEEK: “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James and the Shondells

This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to [patreon.com/andrewhickey] (http://patreon.com/andrewhickey) and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript In today's main episode we look at the career of Bobby Fuller, who many have speculated died because of in some way upsetting the Mafia. So in this bonus episode we're going to look at someone who had a much longer, more successful, career, and did so because he managed *not* to upset the Mafia. We're going to look at the involvement of Morris Levy in the birth of bubblegum, and at "Hanky Panky" by Tommy James and the Shondells: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "Hanky Panky"] The original lineup of the Shondells started out when Tommy James was only twelve years old, and still going by his birth name Tommy Jackson. They performed for three years under various names before, in 1962, recording their first single, "Long Pony Tail", under the name Tom and the Tornadoes: [Excerpt: Tom and the Tornadoes, "Long Pony Tail"] That was actually a cover version of a song originally recorded by the Fireballs, a group that Norman Petty had produced a couple of minor hits for at that point, and who would go on to have a number one with "Sugar Shack", but who are now best known for being the group that Petty got to overdub new instrumental backing on Buddy Holly's acoustic demos so he could keep releasing posthumous hits. "Long Pony Tail" was not a hit, and soon the group had changed their name to the Shondells, inspired by the local one-hit wonder Troy Shondell, who had had a hit with "This Time": [Excerpt: Troy Shondell, "This Time"] The group continued making records on tiny labels with no promotional budget for several years, until they recorded a song called "Hanky Panky". That song had been written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, and released as a B-side by Barry and Greenwich's studio group The Raindrops: [Excerpt: The Raindrops, "Hanky Panky"] That record had never been a hit, supposedly because the song to which it was a B-side, “That Boy John”, made people think of John F Kennedy, who was killed shortly after the record's release. But a copy had been picked up by a musician in Michigan, who had added the song to his group's live set, and it had become popular. Another local group, the Spinners -- not the vocal group from Detroit, or the British folk group, but another group of the same name -- saw the reaction that band had from the song, and added it to their own sets. They hadn't got a copy of the record themselves, so they didn't know all the words, so they just made new ones up, other than "My baby does the hanky-panky". When Tommy James saw the reaction the Spinners had, he felt he had to grasp an opportunity. Back in 1960, Joe Jones had recorded "California Sun", a song written by Henry Glover, on Roulette Records: [Excerpt: Joe Jones, "California Sun"] Another group on the same local scene as the Shondells, the Princeton Five, had been playing that song in their sets -- and then a third local group, the Playmates, renamed themselves the Rivieras, ripped off the Princeton Five's arrangement of the song before the Princeton Five could record it, and made the national top ten with it: [Excerpt: The Rivieras, "California Sun"] The lesson was clear -- if a local band starts doing well with a song, it's winner-takes-all and whoever gets into the studio first gets the hit. So the Shondells went into the studio and quickly cut their version, based on what they could remember of what the Spinners could remember of someone else's live versions of “Hanky Panky”, making up new words where they didn't know the real ones. It was released on a tiny local label called Snap: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "Hanky Panky"] The record was a very minor local hit, but didn't get any airplay in major markets, and the Shondells split up, and James joined a new group, the Koachmen. The Koachmen toured for a while, playing dead-end gigs and scraping a living for many months, with constant lineup changes, until eventually also calling it quits. It was then that James got the shocking news that "Hanky Panky" was now number one in Pittsburgh. Somehow a local dance promoter had found the record and started playing it at club nights. It had gone down shockingly well, so a Pittsburgh company just started pressing up more copies from the single, and it sold eighty thousand copies in ten days. The company pressing the record got in touch with the owner of Snap Records, who told Tommy that he needed to put together a new Shondells quickly. As it turned out, there was another band in the area who were called the Shandells (according to James' autobiography -- other sources say they were called the Raconteurs). James became their lead singer and changed the group's name to the Shondells, James went to New York to try to get the newly-successful record national distribution, and to get his new Shondells signed. There was the start of a bidding war, with Red Bird, Atlantic, RCA and others all interested... until Morris Levy of Roulette Records phoned the owners of all the other labels and told them "This is my record". James was quickly persuaded that it wasn't a good idea to refuse offers made by someone with Levy's mob connections, and Tommy James and the Shondells signed to Roulette Records. "Hanky Panky" was reissued and went to number one. The group had a series of hits from 1966 through 1967, including "I Think We're Alone Now", written for the group by their producer Ritchie Cordell: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "I Think We're Alone Now"] And "Mony Mony", a group effort written by several people including Cordell and James, inspired by a large flashing neon sign advertising Mutual of New York: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "Mony Mony"] These early hits helped define bubblegum music, and were massively successful. Levy took a fatherly interest in James, and while he refused ever to pay the royalty rates in James' contract -- James estimates he is owed thirty to forty million dollars in unpaid royalties -- he did make sure that James got what Levy thought was a fair amount, and the two had a good relationship, though James resented much of Levy's attitude towards his music, and had very real qualms about working for a mobster. James particularly disliked the pressure he was under to produce hit singles rather than grow as an artist. James was, though, allowed to change styles as the times changed, and moved into psychedelic rock, co-writing and recording the number one hit "Crimson and Clover" with the group's drummer: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "Crimson and Clover"] And "Crystal Blue Persuasion", inspired by the Book of Revelation, with two other band members, which went to number two: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "Crystal Blue Persuasion"] In 1970, James went solo, having another major hit with "Draggin' the Line": [Excerpt: Tommy James, "Draggin' the Line"] He also co-wrote and produced the big hit "Tighter Tighter" for Alive N Kickin': [Excerpt: Alive N Kickin', "Tighter Tighter"] But two changes in the early seventies saw James lose his commercial momentum. The first was that he started more explicitly writing about his Christian faith, including titling a solo album "Christian of the World". The other, more serious, problem was that a mob war started in New York, with one of the families opposed to Levy's targeting Levy's friends. Levy made James get out of New York and move to Nashville to keep safe, and James moved into country music while he was there, but was unsuccessful in his new genre. James eventually escaped from Levy, as Levy's control over his music industry holdings slipped with his loss of dominance in the mob, but James never returned to commercial success, though his old hits continued to have influence on the next generation of bubblegum pop -- in 1987, Tiffany's cover version of "I Think We're Alone Now" was knocked off number one by Billy Idol's version of "Mony Mony". He currently tours as a nostalgia act, and finally receives royalties from his hits. He's often somewhat dismissed as a minor act, but James, with and without the Shondells, had a hugely impressive run of hit singles, and his catalogue is probably due reevaluation. ... Read more

13 Jul 2022

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13 Jul 2022


#183

PLEDGE WEEK: “The Name Game” by Shirley Ellis

This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to [patreon.com/andrewhickey] (http://patreon.com/andrewhickey) and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript Today we're going to take a look at someone who had two big hits, one of which has entered into American pop culture to a ludicrous extent -- long before I ever heard the song I was familiar with references to it in everything from the Simpsons to Stephen King books -- and the other of which is known all over the world, but about whom there's almost no available information, outside the liner notes to one CD. We're going to look at Shirley Ellis, and at "The Name Game": [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "The Name Game"] When I say there's almost no available information about Shirley Ellis, I mean it. Normally, with someone who had a couple of major hits in the mid-sixties, there's at least a couple of fan pages out there, but other than a more-perfunctory-than-usual page on Spectropop, there's basically nothing about Shirley Ellis, possibly because unlike most of her contemporaries, even though she lived until 2005 she never hit the nostalgia circuit. The information that is out there is contradictory as well. Some sources have her being born in 1941, while others place her birth much further back, in 1929. I suspect the latter date is more accurate, and that she trimmed a few years off her age when she became a star. Pretty much all the information I'm using here comes from the liner notes of the one CD currently in print from a legitimate source of Ellis' work, and that CD also has a problem which will affect this episode. Ellis released two albums, "In Action" and "The Name Game", which had nine tracks in common. On "In Action", they were overdubbed with crowd noises, more or less at random, to make them sound like they were live recordings, while "The Name Game" had the unadorned studio recordings. Unfortunately, the CD I'm using, for some unfathomable reason, chose to use the fake-live versions, and so that's what I've been forced to excerpt. Ellis grew up in the Bronx, in a family with roots in the West Indies, and started out as many young singers did, winning the talent contest at the Harlem Apollo. But her initial success came as a songwriter, when she wrote a couple of songs for the Sh-Booms -- the group who had formerly been known as the Chords before legal problems led them to rename themselves after their biggest hit: [Excerpt: The Sh-Booms -- "Pretty Wild"] She also wrote "One Two, I Love You" for the Heartbreakers, which pointed the way to the kind of novelty song based around counting and clapping rhymes with which she would have her biggest hits: [Excerpt: The Heartbreakers, "One Two, I Love You"] But while she'd had these minor successes as a songwriter, it wasn't until she teamed up with a more successful writer that she started to make the records for which she was remembered. Ellis was introduced by her husband's cousin to Lincoln Chase, who became her manager, record producer, and writing partner. Chase had already written a number of hits on his own, including "Such a Night" for Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters: [Excerpt: The Drifters, "Such a Night"] which had also been a hit for Johnnie Ray, and "Jim Dandy" for LaVern Baker: [Excerpt: LaVern Baker, "Jim Dandy"] As well as songs for Big Maybelle, Ruth Brown and others. Chase and Ellis spent a couple of years releasing unsuccessful singles under Ellis' full married name, Shirley Elliston, before releasing "The Real Nitty Gritty". Both song and artist soon had their names shortened, and "The Nitty Gritty" by Shirley Ellis went to number eight on the pop charts: [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "The Nitty Gritty"] A couple of follow-ups, starting with "That's What the Nitty-Gritty Is" were unsuccessful, and then Shirley got very unlucky. She recorded a version of Chase's "Such a Night", which had been a hit twice before: [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "Such a Night"] That started rising up the charts -- and then RCA released Elvis' recording from four years earlier, which had just been an album track, as a single, and that went top twenty, and stopped Ellis' single getting any traction: [Excerpt: Elvis Presley, "Such a Night"] But Ellis came back with "The Name Game", which she co-wrote with Chase, based on a game she used to play as a child: [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "The Name Game"] That made number three on the charts, and became an ongoing reference point for a whole generation of Americans. The follow-up, credited to Chase alone, was based on another children's game, and made the US top ten, and also made the top ten in the UK: [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "The Clapping Song"] For a while in early 1965, Ellis was a big star, big enough that her songs were getting novelty cover versions by people like Soupy Sales: [Excerpt: Soupy Sales, "The Name Game"] But unfortunately, her next couple of singles flopped, and people seemed to only want one kind of record from Shirley Ellis. She and Chase came up with some unsuccessful experiments, like "You Better Be Good World", an attempt at getting on the protest song bandwagon by singing about nuclear war, while also recording a Christmas song -- the two didn't really mix: [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "You Better Be Good World"] After that, more attempts at songs along the lines of her hits followed, like "The Puzzle Song", and "Ever See a Diver Kiss His Wife While The Bubbles Bounce About Above the Water?", but there were no more hits, and Ellis retired in 1968. Chase went on to record a solo album under his own name, which has sadly never been reissued on CD, but I found a vinyl rip on a dodgy MP3 site a while back, and it's fascinating stuff, somewhere between Frank Zappa and George Clinton at points, and quite politically pointed: [Excerpt: Lincoln Chase, "Amos X, Andy Lumumba, and Aunt Jemima No More"] Chase would die in the early eighties, but he and Ellis would go on to get credit for a hit song written almost twenty years after his death. In 1981, the disco artist Stacy Lattislaw would record "Attack of the Name Game", which was inspired by Ellis' hit, and so Chase and Ellis got co-writing credit for it: [Excerpt: Stacy Lattislaw, "Attack of the Name Game"] That wasn't a hit, but in 1999 Mariah Carey and Jay-Z built the number one hit "Heartbreaker" around a sample of that record, meaning that Ellis and Chase got credit for that, too: [Excerpt: Mariah Carey, Heartbreaker] That's not the only influence Ellis had in more recent times -- several people have pointed out the similarity in style between some of Amy Winehouse's records, like "Rehab", and Ellis' big hits. Shirley Ellis, unlike many of her contemporaries, never came out of retirement, and she died in 2005, probably aged seventy-six. ... Read more

12 Jul 2022

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12 Jul 2022


#182

PLEDGE WEEK: “Blues Run the Game” by Jackson C Frank

This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to [patreon.com/andrewhickey] (http://patreon.com/andrewhickey) and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript Before I start, a warning. Even though this episode is short it deals with many, many, upsetting subjects. If you're likely to be upset by a story dealing with the death and disfigurement of small children, disability, mental illness, gun violence and eye injuries, you're probably best off skipping this episode altogether, as it deals with these subjects right from after the first excerpt of music until the end. It's not a happy story. In this week's main episode we talk briefly about a record that Paul Simon produced while he was in Britain, before "The Sound of Silence" became a big hit. The performer whose record he produced only released that one album in his lifetime, but it's a record that had an outsized influence on the British folk-music scene. So today, we're going to have a look at the tragic life of Jackson C Frank, and at "Blues Run the Game": [Excerpt: Jackson C Frank, "Blues Run the Game"] Jackson C Frank's life started to go badly, irrevocably, wrong, when he was just eleven years old. His family lived in Buffalo, New York, where the winters are long and cold, and Jackson was a Baby Boomer. Because of the tremendous number of new children going through the school system, the brick schoolhouse at the school he attended had been augmented with an annexe, made out of wood, and he was in that annexe, in a music lesson, when the boiler exploded and set fire to it. Jackson was one of the lucky ones. That fire took the life of fifteen of his classmates, and spurred a national movement towards banning timber buildings for schools and the institution of fire drills, which up to that point had not been a thing. Jackson got thrown out of a window by a teacher, and the snow put out the flames on his back, meaning he "only" suffered burns over sixty percent of his body, scarring him for life. He had to spend a year in hospital, have a tracheotomy, and have a metal plate put in his head. He developed thyroid problems, got calcium deposits that built up over the years and frequently left him in agony, and always walked with a limp and only had limited movement in his arms. Many celebrities did things to comfort the children, who became nationally known. Kirk Douglas came to the hospital to visit them, and later in his childhood Jackson was able to go and meet Elvis, who became a big inspiration for the young man. He spent his teenage years going around the local music scene, including spending a long time with a friend who later became known as John Kay of Steppenwolf, but then when he turned twenty-one he got a massive insurance payout that had been held in trust for him. I've seen different numbers for this -- it was either fifty or a hundred thousand dollars, and in modern terms that would be about ten times that much. Being a young man, he didn't want to invest it, he wanted to buy expensive cars. He wanted an Aston Martin and a Bentley, and Britain was where they made Aston Martins and Bentleys, so he caught a boat to England, and on the trip over started writing songs, including the one that would become his best known: [Excerpt: Jackson C Frank, "Blues Run the Game"] Once he was in the UK, Frank moved into Judith Piepe's flat, where he started a relationship with an eighteen-year-old nurse, who was also trying to be a singer. Frank encouraged her to follow her dreams and become a professional, and Sandy Denny would later record some of his songs, and wrote the song "Next Time Around" about him: [Excerpt: Sandy Denny, "Next Time Around"] While he was in London, he became well known on the folk circuit, regularly playing Les Cousins, and as Ralph McTell put it, "EVERYONE" sang 'Blues Run the Game'". Over the years, the song has been performed by everyone from Bert Jansch: [Excerpt: Bert Jansch, "Blues Run the Game"] to Counting Crows: [Excerpt: Counting Crows, "Blues Run the Game"] Frank's own version of the song was recorded on his one and only album,  which was produced by Paul Simon, as we heard in the main episode. That album also included songs like "Carnival", which has now possibly become the song of Frank's that has been heard by most people, as it was featured both on the soundtrack and in the dialogue of the 2019 film Joker: [Excerpt: Jackson C Frank, "Carnival"] The album didn't sell, and Frank returned to the US, after marrying Elaine Sedgwick, the cousin of Edie Sedgwick. He was missed when he left, and Roy Harper, another folk musician who played the same circuit, wrote "My Friend" about his departure: [Excerpt: Roy Harper, "My Friend"] When he came back in 1968 to do a couple of shows, though, his depression, which had always been bad since the fire, had worsened. Al Stewart said "He proceeded to fall apart before our very eyes. His style that everyone loved was melancholy, very tuneful things. He started doing things that were completely impenetrable. They were basically about psychological angst, played at full volume with lots of thrashing. I don't remember a single word of them – it just did not work. There was one review that said he belonged on a psychologist's couch." He was withdrawn, and wouldn't speak to people, and he had writer's block. To make matters worse, his home life was also going awfully. His insurance money had all run out, but Paul Simon had given him a loan of three thousand dollars, with Simon taking Frank's publishing as surety, so he could start a business, but the business failed and Simon kept the publishing. In 1971, when Art Garfunkel was recording his first solo album, he asked Frank if he had a song that might be suitable. Frank had actually written a new song, "Juliette": [Excerpt: Jackson C Frank, "Juliette"] Unfortunately, when he turned up to see Garfunkel, he brought along a few hippy friends, who all made fun of Garfunkel for being a sell-out, and so Garfunkel didn't record the song, though he did give Frank a new guitar. By the early seventies, Frank was in a very bad way. He and his wife had had two children, but one had died of cystic fibrosis, and the marriage had ended. He spent periods of time in psychiatric hospitals, and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, though he always said himself that he wasn't schizophrenic, he was suffering from depression because of the loss of his son. He was living off handouts from friends, even as his songs were inspiring new artists like Nick Drake, who recorded four of his songs: [Excerpt: Nick Drake, "Here Comes the Blues"] In the early eighties he was living with his parents, but then in 1984 while his mother was in hospital he got an idea -- he could go to New York and find his old friend Paul, and ask him for his publishing back, or maybe just for some money. He didn't leave a note, and his parents had no idea where he'd gone. He did go to New York, but he couldn't find his friend, and he ended up homeless, living on the streets, and in and out of psychiatric institutions. In the early nineties, a fan tracked him down and helped sort out some accommodation for him in Woodstock, where he'd lived in his twenties. By this time he was in an awful physical and mental state, and the fan described him as looking like the Elephant man because of the bloating from his thyroid problems and his joint issues affecting his posture (though I have to say that from the couple of photos I've seen of him at this time, that's quite an exaggeration). But just to rub salt in the wound, after the accommodation had been arranged, but before he'd had a chance to move, he was sat on a park bench in Queens, and some kids, shooting randomly with a pellet gun, hit him in his left eye, permanently blinding him in that eye. His rediscovery got a bit of publicity, and led to his album being reissued on CD. He also started writing again, and recorded some demos on a cheap cassette recorder in 1997, many of which have since been released on various compilations: [Excerpt: Jackson C Frank, "(Tumble) in the Wind"] But 1997 was also the year that Frank moved into a care home, and he wouldn't record any more after that. In 1998, Paul Simon finally returned his publishing to him, presumably having given up on ever getting his three thousand dollars back. And on March the third, 1999, one day after his fifty-sixth birthday, Jackson C Frank died of pneumonia. His game had finally run to its end. ... Read more

11 Jul 2022

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11 Jul 2022


#181

PLEDGE WEEK: “Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band

This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to [patreon.com/andrewhickey] (http://patreon.com/andrewhickey) and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript A few episodes back, we took a look at the Who's early records, and in passing we talked about the Ivy League, the studio group who sang backing vocals on their first single under that name. In this bonus episode, we're going to look at one of the biggest hits any of the members of the Ivy League were involved in -- a record that became a massive hit, won a Grammy, and changed the career direction of one of the most important comedy bands in Britain. We're going to look at "Winchester Cathedral" by the New Vaudeville Band: [Excerpt: The New Vaudeville Band, "Winchester Cathedral"] In his book Revolution in the Head, Ian MacDonald makes the point that the quintessential line in British psychedelia is from George Harrison's "It's All Too Much", where Harrison sings "Show me that I'm everywhere, and get me home for tea". Whereas American psychedelia is often angry and rebellious -- understandably, since it was often being made by people who were scared of being drafted to fight in a senseless war, and who were living through a time of great instability more generally -- British psychedelia was tinged with nostalgia, both for childhood and for a lost past of the Empire that had now ended. Now, we're going to get into that in much, much, greater detail when we look at the records the Beatles, the Kinks, the Who and others made in this period, but suffice to say that *one* of the several streams of thought that shaped the youth culture of Britain in the 1960s was a nationalistic one, partly in reaction to a perceived dominance by American culture and a belief that there were things about British culture that deserved celebrating too. And part and parcel of that was a celebration of the popular culture of the 1920s and thirties, the height of Britain's influence in the world. This nationalism, incidentally, was *not* necessarily an entirely regressive or reactionary thing, though it certainly had those elements -- there was a strong progressive element to it, and we'll be unpacking the tensions in it in future episodes. For the moment, just take it that we're not talking about the sort of flag-waving xenophobia that has tainted much of modern politics, but something more complicated. This complex relationship with the past had been evident as early as the very early 1960s, with acts like the Alberts and the Temperance Seven reviving 1920s novelty songs in what would now be considered a postmodern style: [Excerpt: The Temperance Seven, "You're Driving Me Crazy "] That had temporarily gone into abeyance with the rise of the Beatles and the bands that followed in their wake, making guitar music inspired by American Black musicians the new popular thing in British culture. But that stream of the culture was definitely there, and it was only a matter of time before music business professionals would notice it again and start to try to capitalise on it. And Geoff Stephens did just that. Stephens was an odd character, who had entered the music business at a relatively late age. Until the age of thirty he worked in a variety of jobs, including as a teacher and an air traffic controller, but he was also involved in amateur theatrics, putting on revues with friends for which he co-wrote songs and sketches. He then went on to write satirical sketches for radio comedy, writing for a programme hosted by Basil Boothroyd, the editor of Punch, and started submitting songs to Denmark Street publishers. Through his submissions, he got a job as a song plugger with a publishing company, and from there moved into writing songs professionally himself. His first hit, co-written as many of his songs were with Les Reed, was "Tell Me When", the debut single for the Applejacks, which made the top ten: [Excerpt: The Applejacks, "Tell Me When"] Many hits as a writer and producer soon followed, including writing "The Crying Game" for Dave Berry: [Excerpt: Dave Berry, "The Crying Game"] And signing Donovan and co-producing his first two albums and earliest hit singles: [Excerpt: Donovan, "Catch the Wind"] Stephens had been making hits for a couple of years when he conceived the novelty record "Winchester Cathedral", which he recorded with John Carter of the Ivy League on lead vocals, imitating the style of Rudy Vallee, one of the most popular singers of the 1920s, who sang through a megaphone -- he became popular before electronic amplification was a big thing. The record was made by session players, and released under the name "The New Vaudeville Band": [Excerpt: The New Vaudeville Band, "Winchester Cathedral"] The record immediately began to sell. It became a massive, massive, worldwide hit, selling three million copies and inspiring a cover version by Rudy Vallee himself: [Excerpt: Rudy Vallee, "Winchester Cathedral"] Oddly, this wasn't the last time in the sixties that a major hit would be inspired by the sound of Rudy Vallee... But Stephens had a problem. People wanted the New Vaudeville Band to tour, and he didn't actually have a touring act. So he turned to the next best thing. The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band were a band of dadaist comedy performers who had a wonderful stage act, which among other things involved their lead singer Vivian Stanshall wearing a gold lame Elvis suit, their drummer Sam Spoons playing spoons and washboard, and comedy moments like band members holding up speech bubbles, so for example when someone took a solo, one of the other members might hold up a cardboard speech bubble saying "Wow! I'm really expressing myself!" Their repertoire largely consisted of novelty tunes -- some from the fifties, but mostly songs they'd learned from old 78s from the 1920s, like their first single: [Excerpt: The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, "My Brother Makes the Noises for the Talkies"] As Bonzos guitarist Neil Innes always told the story, Geoff Stephens was friends with the band's trumpet player Bob Kerr, and called him up asking if the Bonzo Dog  Doo-Dah Band wanted to be the touring New Vaudeville Band. Kerr was excited -- his band would get to be proper pop stars! But when he went to talk to the rest of the group, they were dismissive. They were conceptual artists and creative people, and didn't want to be a manufactured pop band. Bob Kerr, on the other hand, thought that being paid vastly more money to do exactly the same stuff he was doing for next to nothing sounded like a great idea, and quit the band. The next thing the rest of his bandmates knew, they were watching him on Top of the Pops, performing with a band with a spoons player, a lead singer who wore a gold lame suit, and band members holding up cardboard speech bubbles. Kerr had taken the group's entire act, and they had to reinvent themselves, turning from 1920s pastiche to modern rock music -- and the chances are very good that we'll be following them up in the future. But of course, as well as an act, the new group needed a singer, and for that Stephens turned to Alan Klein. Now, this is not the Allen Klein who we've mentioned in the main podcast, and who will be coming up again in future episodes. This Alan Klein was someone who had been on the margins of the music industry as a writer and performer for some time. He'd made records with Joe Meek: [Excerpt: Alan Klein, "Striped Purple Shirt"] and he'd co-written the musical What A Crazy World, which had been made into a film which featured his songs being sung by Joe Brown, Marty Wilde, Freddie and the Dreamers, and...Harry H Corbett: [Excerpt: Harry H Corbett: "Things We Never Had"] He'd also made a single solo album, "Well, At Least it's British", which took a satirical look at British life in the 1960s that was hugely influential on Britpop in the 1990s, though the record sold almost nothing at the time: [Excerpt: Alan Klein, "Twentieth-Century Englishman"] With Klein as the new lead singer, the New Vaudeville Band were a real band. And indeed, they had three more top forty hits in the UK, though their most successful song after "Winchester Cathedral" was a song that Stephens and Les Reed wrote for them which wasn't a hit for them: [Excerpt: The New Vaudeville Band, "There's a Kind of Hush"] That *did*, though, become a big hit for Herman's Hermits: [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "There's a Kind of Hush"] The New Vaudeville Band were shortlived -- they only had a handful of hits, and Bob Kerr soon left the group after falling out with their manager, Peter Grant -- another figure who we'll definitely be hearing a lot more from in future episodes of the main podcast. Kerr formed Bob Kerr's Whoopee Band with Sam Spoons and Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell, two other former members of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and they had a quietly successful career doing the same act that the early Bonzos had -- all three men also joined in Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band reunion tours in 2006 and 2016. A revived version of the New Vaudeville Band, featuring only the drummer from the touring lineup, performed in the 70s and 80s to little success. But the group's biggest legacy remained their first hit, which actually won the Grammy for Best Contemporary (Rock & Roll) Recording in 1967, beating out a shortlist of "Eleanor Rigby", "Monday Monday", "Cherish", "Good Vibrations", and "Last Train to Clarksville". You can decide for yourselves if "Winchester Cathedral" was, in hindsight, a better record than those. But whether it was or not, it was a fun record that made a lot of people happy. Geoff Stephens, its creator, is unlikely to feature further in this podcast. He wrote many more hit records, but they were almost exclusively for artists like Dana, Tom Jones, Wayne Newton, Ken Dodd, and Mary Hopkin, whose careers lie largely outside the scope of a history of rock music, however broadly defined. He had a long and successful career, but died last Christmas Eve, aged eighty-six, from pneumonia, having been weakened by an earlier bout of covid. So as we enter a second Covid Christmas, I'd just like to say I hope you're all vaccinated, boosted, and otherwise safe. I'm hoping to get one more episode and bonus out before Xmas Eve, and I hope to see you all still here in the New Year. Vo-de-o-do [Excerpt: The New Vaudeville Band, “Winchester Cathedral”] ... Read more

10 Jul 2022

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10 Jul 2022