American record label
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. 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 and http://sitcomclub.com/ Erratum I refer to Back to Methuselah by Robert Heinlein. This is of course a play by George Bernard Shaw. What I meant to say was Methuselah's Children. 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 by Jeff Tamarkin is written with the co-operation of the band members, but still finds room to criticise them. Jefferson Airplane On Track by Richard Molesworth is a song-by-song guide to the band's music. And Been So Long: My Life and Music 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, 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? 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.
Today's guest is Co-Chair and COO of Warner Chappell Music (WCM), the global publishing arm of Warner Music Group. She is at the forefront of a new generation of music executives at the intersections of creative and commercial, entertainment and technology. Known for being a champion of songwriters and their songs, her dynamic, innovative approach drives the development and promotion of music creators at all stages of their careers. Along with Warner Chappell's Co-Chair and CEO, Guy Moot, our guest oversees the company's global business, which includes a full spectrum of high-touch support services focused on creating transformational opportunities for its legendary roster of songwriters and rich catalog of songs. Since starting at WCM, she and Guy have built a culture of service and creative identity anchored in the company's shared values of curiosity, collaboration, and commitment.Prior to joining WCM in June 2018, she was one of three partners at the acclaimed independent music publisher SONGS. During her time at SONGS, the company built a roster of over 300 songwriters, signing Lorde, The Weeknd, Diplo, and many others. She has also held positions at Universal Music Publishing, DreamWorks Music Publishing, and Elektra Records. As one of the leading voices in the music industry, our guest has been named one of Billboard's “Women in Music: The Most Powerful Executives in the Industry” for the past seven years running as well as included in the publication's esteemed “Power 100” list in both 2019, 2020 and 2022. She was also recognized on Variety's Variety500, along with the publication's LA Women's Impact Report. She holds a BA degree in Communications from the University of Southern California. And The Executive Is… Carianne Marshall! Watercolor by: Michael Richey White Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Host Nate Wilcox asks John about the ups and downs and self-imposed limitations that kept Arthur Lee and Love strictly a Southern California phenomenon.Buy the book and support the podcast.Download this episode.Have a question or a suggestion for a topic or person for Nate to interview? Email firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow us on Twitter.Follow us on Facebook.Let It Roll is proud to be part of Pantheon Podcasts.
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. 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 and 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 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 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. In this and future episodes on Pink Floyd I'm also relying on Nick Mason's Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd and Pink Floyd: All the Songs by Jean-Michel Guesdon and Philippe Margotin. The compilation Relics contains many of the most important tracks from Barrett's time with Pink Floyd, while Piper at the Gates of Dawn 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. Barrett only released two solo albums during his career. They're available as a bundle here. Completists will also want the rarities and outtakes collection Opel. 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? 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.
In this episode we welcome the legendary Billy James, all the way from the Bay Area, and tap him for his memories of working with Bob Dylan, the Doors and more.We start with Dylan and the interview the young Minnesotan gave to Billy in October 1961 in the latter's capacity as a Columbia Records publicist. Billy reminisces about his early interactions with the kid born Zimmerman; we hear a snatch of that 1961 audio, plus two clips from Eric Von Schmidt talking to Larry Jaffee about his friendship with Bob in that same period. In passing, we mention two great Dylan pieces by the week's featured scribe Greil Marcus, author of a new Bob "biography in seven songs" entitled Folk Music.From the early Bob years we switch coasts to California, where Billy worked in Columbia's Hollywood office and fell in with the Byrds between arranging press conferences for Patti Page, Percy Faith and his beloved Tony Bennett (pictured in the photo Billy is holding above). Finally, he talks about Terry Melcher, Elektra Records, the Doors, and the significant part he played in putting Laurel Canyon on L.A.'s pop map after moving up there from Beverly Hills in 1965...Many thanks to special guest Billy James; you can book his Airbnb in Redwood City here.Pieces discussed: Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan audio, Dylan #2, Eric Von Schmidt, The Billy James Underground, Billy James interviewed by Richie Unterberger, Time Out of Mind, Preemptive Obituaries and Prince's Dirty Mind.
In this episode we welcome the legendary Billy James, all the way from the Bay Area, and tap him for his memories of working with Bob Dylan, the Doors and more.We start with Dylan and the interview the young Minnesotan gave to Billy in October 1961 in the latter's capacity as a Columbia Records publicist. Billy reminisces about his early interactions with the kid born Zimmerman; we hear a snatch of that 1961 audio, plus two clips from Eric Von Schmidt talking to Larry Jaffee about his friendship with Bob in that same period. In passing, we mention two great Dylan pieces by the week's featured scribe Greil Marcus, author of a new Bob "biography in seven songs" entitled Folk Music.From the early Bob years we switch coasts to California, where Billy worked in Columbia's Hollywood office and fell in with the Byrds between arranging press conferences for Patti Page, Percy Faith and his beloved Tony Bennett (pictured in the photo Billy is holding above). Finally, he talks about Terry Melcher, Elektra Records, the Doors, and the significant part he played in putting Laurel Canyon on L.A.'s pop map after moving up there from Beverly Hills in 1965...Many thanks to special guest Billy James; you can book his Airbnb in Redwood City here.Pieces discussed: Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan audio, Dylan #2, Eric Von Schmidt, The Billy James Underground, Billy James interviewed by Richie Unterberger, Time Out of Mind, Preemptive Obituaries and Prince's Dirty Mind.
Songwriter/Musician/Activist, Sara Hickman, talks about learning to manifest from an early age, the Ozark Smile Sisters, HSPVA, being Pen Pals with George Burns and later singing with him, Elektra Records, recording with members of King Crimson, and her own coloring book! Recorded at Arlyn Studios and hosted by Karl Anderson.
Patrice Rushen is the type of musician whose skill set can't be neatly summed up in a few sentences. After studying to become a classically trained pianist—work that began while she was barely a toddler—she arranged, performed and composed three albums of jazz fusion for Prestige records in the mid-'70s, all while landing sessions playing with the likes of Donald Byrd and Jean-Luc Ponty. She was already a highly respected arranger, writer and instrumentalist in her scene and one of the few women at the time to lead their own band and control the creative process. But it was her five album stint for Elektra Records that really brought her virtuosic musicianship, songwriting and her voice to disco and R&B. If you haven't heard her music yourself, you've almost definitely heard it sampled by the likes of Mary J. Blige, George Michael and the Men In Black theme song (calling it a sample is generous—the producers more or less added Will Smith's vocals to a modernised version of her 1982 composition "Forget Me Nots."). Apart from her career as a performing and recording artist, she's also a veteran music director, calling the shots for big budget tours, awards ceremonies and TV shows. She even composes symphonic pieces for orchestras and has a growing portfolio of film soundtracks. Listen back to Zakia Sewell's 2019 conversation with the veteran artist to learn more about her multifaceted career.
When I was a teenager in eastern Pennsylvania in the 1960s I was a dedicated reader of Sing Out! Magazine. I couldn't always afford to buy it but the music store where I took guitar lessons let me read each new issue as I waited for my bus ride home. I also lived for the reprints from Sing Out! and that's where I first heard of Woody Guthrie. I read of his passing in the pages of Sing Out! in 1967. Elektra Records has released “Home in this World,” a collection of new renditions of some of his Dust Bowl Ballads. Selections from that CD, classic versions of Woody's songs and songs about Woody Guthrie … this week on the Sing Out! Radio Magazine.Pete Seeger / “If I Had A Hammer”(excerpt) / Songs of Hope and Struggle / Smithsonian Folkways Milnes and Hammond / “Sandy River Belle” / Hell Up Coal Holler / ShanachieShovels and Rope / “Dust Bowl Blues” / Home in this World-Woody Guthrie's Dust Bowl Ballads / ElektraWoody Guthrie / “Talking Dust Bowl Blues” / The Ultimate Collection / Not NowJohn McCutcheon / “Ludlow Massacre” / This Land: Woody Guthrie's America / AppalsongsThe Duhks / “Pretty Boy Floyd-Stoney Point” / Your Daughters & Your Sons / Sugar HillRamblin' Jack Elliot / “New York Town” / Jack Elliot Sings Songs of Woody Guthrie / Prestige-FolkloreRy Cooder / “Jesus and Woody” / The Prodigal Son / FantasyMilnes and Hammond / “Red Buck-Jodie-West Fork Girls” / Hell Up Coal Holler / ShanachieWatkins Family Hour / “Blowin' Down this Dusty Road” / Home in this World-Woody Guthrie's Dust Bowl Ballads / ElektraWoody Guthrie w/ Cisco Houston / “Train Ride Medley Part 1&2” / Long Ways to Travel / Smithsonian FolkwaysThe Maddox Brothers & Rose / “Philadelphia Lawyer” / Vol.1 / ArhoolieWill Geer / “Reading Woody Guthrie” / Folkways The Original Vision / Smithsonian FolkwaysPete Seeger / “If I Had A Hammer”(excerpt) / Songs of Hope and Struggle / Smithsonian Folkways
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. 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 and 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 and Richard Henderson's 33 1/3 book on Van Dyke Parks' Song Cycle. 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 Andrew Doe's Bellagio 10452 site is an invaluable resource. Jon Stebbins' The Beach Boys FAQ is a good balance between accuracy and readability. And Philip Lambert's Inside the Music of Brian Wilson 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 by Peter Ames Carlin is the best biography of Wilson. I have also referred to Brian Wilson's autobiography, I Am Brian Wilson, and to Mike Love's, Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy. As a good starting point for the Beach Boys' music in general, I would recommend this budget-priced three-CD set, 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 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" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ap4MMn7LpzA ] 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" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYvgNEU4Am8] 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 albu
Hi everybody and welcome to this week's episode of Attendance Bias. I am your host, Brian Weinstein. We have a very special guest for today's episode. For the most part, Attendance Bias is focused on fans of the band, and each fan tells his or her story. But once in a long while, a person directly associated with the band will come on the podcast to talk about their history with Phish and to break down a special show or jam. Tom Marshall has been on the pod, Sue Drew who was the band's A&R rep at Elektra Records told her story, and today's guest ranks right up there in his ability to tell about his Phish experience from the inside out. And today's guest is member of the Giant Country Horns and current trumpet player for Roomful of Blues, Carl “Gears” Gerhard. Carl chose to tell about his gig with Phish at Arrowhead Ranch, NY, on July 21, 1991.If you got into Phish at a time when tape collecting was still part of the experience, there is no doubt that this gig came across your radar at some point. The second of two shows, this fan favorite was the midway point of the July 1991 horn tour, and you could tell that the band–the full band–was feeling it, full throttle. Aside from the music, though, a main goal of this podcast is to help the listener feel as though he or she is right there with the guest, feeling and experiencing the show that's being discussed. What makes today's episode special is that Carl is able to get us backstage and onstage with Phish as he tells us about the conversations and decisions that led to the horn tour, and what it felt like to collaborate with Phish and the other members of the Giant Country Horns. More important than anything, though, is that Carl was extremely generous with his time and his words, welcoming us into the world that was Phish tour in the early 90s.So let's join Carl to talk about Tony Bennett, life in the Navy, and 48 hour marathon rehearsals, as we discuss Phish's show from 7/21/91 at Arrowhead Ranch.
We had the pleasure of interviewing MILES over Zoom video.MILES' story might be almost as wild as his fusion of breezy hip-hop, earthshaking pop, and grimy rock. The St. Louis-born and Los Angeles-based singer and rapper bobs and weaves past genre lines with an unpredictable and undeniable style of his own. Predestining their son for music, mom and dad named him in homage to jazz icon Miles Davis. In turn, MILES cranked his old man's jazz records as well as Kirk Franklin, Bill Withers, Lauryn Hill, Black Eyed Peas, and Lil Wayne. MILES developed a following online in 2020 before cooking up “WHAT IN TARNATION” back in St. Louis. Beyond inspiring thousands of TikTok videos, it raked in over six million streams as he signed to Elektra Records. He maintained his momentum with the captivating, high-energy follow up singles “DESPERADOS” and “MOSH PIT.”After generating 20 million-plus streams, MILES perfects his vision on his 2022 debut EP, NEVER HAVE I EVER [Elektra Records], with its title track featuring legendary multi-platinum and GRAMMY® Award-nominated musician Travis Barker.We want to hear from you! Please email Tera@BringinitBackwards.com. www.BringinitBackwards.com #podcast #interview #bringinbackpod #MILES #NeverHaveIEver #WholelottaMiles #NewMusic #zoom Listen & Subscribe to BiB https://www.bringinitbackwards.com/follow/ Follow our podcast on Instagram and Twitter! https://www.facebook.com/groups/bringinbackpod
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. 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 and http://sitcomclub.com/ Resources As usual, there's a Mixcloud mix containing all the songs excerpted in the episode. This four-CD box set 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. For What It's Worth: The Story of Buffalo Springfield 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. Information on both Stills and Young comes from Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young by David Browne. Jimmy McDonough's Shakey is the definitive biography of Neil Young, while Young's Waging Heavy Peace is his autobiography. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. 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 t