Podcasts about Moby Grape

American rock group

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Moby Grape



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The BOB & TOM Show Free Podcast
B&T Extra: Oscar Nods and Moby Grape!

The BOB & TOM Show Free Podcast

Play Episode Listen Later Mar 8, 2023 26:32

On this Bob & Tom Extra: We have Oscar nods, Moby Grape, and Halloween! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

Michigan Music History Podcast -- MMHP989
MMHP Season 3 Ep:9--Dennis Loren Master Poster Artist Part 2 of 3

Michigan Music History Podcast -- MMHP989

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 5, 2023 61:22

  Renown for his LEGENDARY Poster art, from Detroit to San Francisco and beyond, artist/musician/storyteller/Military Vet Dennis Loren has been a staple in visuals and artistic music since the dawn of rock and roll. Dennis takes us on a journey from Michigan to San Francisco and back--right up to delivering Carlos Santana's mail back in the day to marking The White Stripes music take over in the late '90s. Still working art for San Francisco music collective Moonalice (among others), Loren was there when Hendrix arrived, when the Dead and Moby Grape escaped, from Skip Spence's first visions of grandeur to when Roky Erickson was on his final comeback in grand style. MC5/Stooges/New York Dolls. You name it, Dennis had a part of it. Please enjoy Part 2 of 3--our second meeting from the fall, following the massive storm that broke up the first taping. Dig in...three straight weeks with the vision of Dennis Loren...  

Michigan Music History Podcast -- MMHP989
MMHP Season 3 Ep:8--Dennis Loren Master Poster Artist Part 1 of 3

Michigan Music History Podcast -- MMHP989

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 29, 2022 63:08

Renown for his LEGENDARY Poster art, from Detroit to San Francisco and beyond, artist/musician/storyteller/Military Vet Dennis Loren has been a staple in visuals and artistic music since the dawn of rock and roll. Dennis takes us on a journey from Michigan to San Francisco and back--right up to delivering Carlos Santana's mail back in the day to marking The White Stripes music take over in the late '90s. Still working art for San Francisco music collective Moonalice (among others), Loren was there when Hendrix arrived, when the Dead and Moby Grape escaped, from Skip Spence's first visions of grandeur to when Roky Erickson was on his final comeback in grand style. MC5/Stooges/New York Dolls. You name it, Dennis had a part of it. Please enjoy Part 1 of 3--our original taping was cut short by a massive storm. Dig in...three straight weeks with the vision of Dennis Loren...

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs
Episode 160: “Flowers in the Rain” by the Move

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 22, 2022

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

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A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs
Episode 158: “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 23, 2022

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.

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Submarino Amarillo 2.0
Submarino Amarillo 2.0 - 18.11.2022

Submarino Amarillo 2.0

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 18, 2022 60:02

Podcast del programa Submarino Amarillo 2.0, emitido en Radio Círculo el 18 de Noviembre de 2022. En el Submarino de hoy descubrimos tesoros de Lathums, Wunderhorse, Nic Cester, Phoenix, Arctic Monkeys, Alabama Shakes y Fino Oyonarte. En nuestra segunda parte del recorrido rescatamos canciones de Emitt Rhodes, Arthur Alexander y Moby Grape. Y como siempre llegamos a Liverpool para escuchar la historia detrás de una de las canciones de los Beatles. Hoy una canción optimista escrita por Paul McCartney con colaboración especial de John Lennon para la parte central: We Can Work it Out. No nos faltéis, viajeros del rock and roll

beatles liverpool rock and roll john lennon paul mccartney arctic monkeys alabama shakes submarino radio c moby grape arthur alexander emitt rhodes submarino amarillo we can work
Along the Way Life's Journey
Walter Santos: Singing Worship Through the Years

Along the Way Life's Journey

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 12, 2022 33:41

As a professional percussionist, Santos has played with the "Who's Who" in the world of modern jazz and rock music. Now he sings and plays for the only one "Who" that matters: Jesus Christ. Born in New York City, Santos learned percussion in the deep ethnic neighborhoods of that city. He grew up during a time (in the late 1950s) when "Doo-wop" became particularly popular. Santos got his first break in the music business by playing percussion at Carnegie Hall on the same bill as the legendary jazz group "The Jazz Crusaders." and George Benson. That introduction eventually opened doors for him to play with other renowned jazz musicians of the time, including Weather Report, Wayne Shorter, Charles Earland, Stanley Turrentine, and Les McCann and many others. Later, his talents as a percussionist allowed him to play along with such famous bands as Charlie Daniels, Moby Grape, The Marshall Tucker Band, The Outlaws, Pure Prairie League. But he had a terrible secret that was destroying his life -- he was addicted to drugs, a habit that nearly had him sentenced to life imprisonment. Then finally Rock n Roll hall of fame Icon Dion DiMucci of Dion and The Belmont's fame showed him the way home to Jesus Christ. Now Santos tours the world constantly sharing the good news that has truly set him free.                                                 Follow Santos: Website: http://www.santosministries.org Drug Addiction Help: http://www.santosministries.org/addiction-help.html Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/santosdoowop Twitter: https://twitter.com/sanwop Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/doowop4u/ Follow Carl: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/toeverypageaturning/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarlBuccellatoAuthor LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carl-buccellato-60234139/ YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVB3YH1iQxK4IL4ya5j4-Jg Website: https://toeverypageaturning.com/ Produced by: https://socialchameleon.us/

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs
Episode 152: “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs

Play Episode Listen Later Aug 30, 2022

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 tension between them in creative directions. Other clashes, though were more petty -- both men had very domineering mothers, who would actually call the group's management to complain about press coverage if their son was given less space than the other one. The group were also not sure about Young's voice -- to the extent that Stills was known to jokingly apologise to the audience before Young took a lead vocal -- and so while the song chosen as the group's first A-side was Young's "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing", Furay was chosen to sing it, rather than Young: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing"] On the group's first session, though, both Stills and Young realised that their producers didn't really have a clue -- the group had built up arrangements that had a complex interplay of instruments and vocals, but the producers insisted on cutting things very straightforwardly, with a basic backing track and then the vocals. They also thought that the song was too long so the group should play faster. Stills and Young quickly decided that they were going to have to start producing their own material, though Stone and Greene would remain the producers for the first album. There was another bone of contention though, because in the session the initial plan had been for Stills' song "Go and Say Goodbye" to be the A-side with Young's song as the B-side. It was flipped, and nobody seems quite sure why -- it's certainly the case that, whatever the merits of the two tracks as songs, Stills' song was the one that would have been more likely to become a hit. "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing" was a flop, but it did get some local airplay. The next single, "Burned", was a Young song as well, and this time did have Young taking the lead, though in a song dominated by harmonies: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Burned"] Over the summer, though, something had happened that would affect everything for the group -- Neil Young had started to have epileptic seizures. At first these were undiagnosed episodes, but soon they became almost routine events, and they would often happen on stage, particularly at moments of great stress or excitement. Several other members of the group became convinced -- entirely wrongly -- that Young was faking these seizures in order to get women to pay attention to him. They thought that what he wanted was for women to comfort him and mop his brow, and that collapsing would get him that. The seizures became so common that Richard Davis, the group's lighting tech, learned to recognise the signs of a seizure before it happened. As soon as it looked like Young was about to collapse the lights would turn on, someone would get ready to carry him off stage, and Richie Furay would know to grab Young's guitar before he fell so that the guitar wouldn't get damaged. Because they weren't properly grounded and Furay had an electric guitar of his own, he'd get a shock every time. Young would later claim that during some of the seizures, he would hallucinate that he was another person, in another world, living another life that seemed to have its own continuity -- people in the other world would recognise him and talk to him as if he'd been away for a while -- and then when he recovered he would have to quickly rebuild his identity, as if temporarily amnesiac, and during those times he would find things like the concept of lying painful. The group's first album came out in December, and they were very, very, unhappy with it. They thought the material was great, but they also thought that the production was terrible. Stone and Greene's insistence that they record the backing tracks first and then overdub vocals, rather than singing live with the instruments, meant that the recordings, according to Stills and Young in particular, didn't capture the sound of the group's live performance, and sounded sterile. Stills and Young thought they'd fixed some of that in the mono mix, which they spent ten days on, but then Stone and Greene did the stereo mix without consulting the band, in less than two days, and the album was released at precisely the time that stereo was starting to overtake mono in the album market. I'm using the mono mixes in this podcast, but for decades the only versions available were the stereo ones, which Stills and Young both loathed. Ahmet Ertegun also apparently thought that the demo versions of the songs -- some of which were eventually released on a box set in 2001 -- were much better than the finished studio recordings. The album was not a success on release, but it did contain the first song any of the group had written to chart. Soon after its release, Van Dyke Parks' friend Lenny Waronker was producing a single by a group who had originally been led by Sly Stone and had been called Sly and the Mojo Men. By this time Stone was no longer involved in the group, and they were making music in a very different style from the music their former leader would later become known for. Parks was brought in to arrange a baroque-pop version of Stills' album track "Sit Down I Think I Love You" for the group, and it became their only top forty hit, reaching number thirty-six: [Excerpt: The Mojo Men, "Sit Down I Think I Love You"] It was shortly after the first Buffalo Springfield album was released, though, that Steve Stills wrote what would turn out to be *his* group's only top forty single. The song had its roots in both LA and San Francisco. The LA roots were more obvious -- the song was written about a specific experience Stills had had. He had been driving to Sunset Strip from Laurel Canyon on November the twelfth 1966, and he had seen a mass of young people and police in riot gear, and he had immediately turned round, partly because he didn't want to get involved in what looked to be a riot, and partly because he'd been inspired -- he had the idea for a lyric, which he pretty much finished in the car even before he got home: [Excerpt: The Buffalo Springfield, "For What it's Worth"] The riots he saw were what became known later as the Riot on Sunset Strip. This was a minor skirmish between the police and young people of LA -- there had been complaints that young people had been spilling out of the nightclubs on Sunset Strip into the street, causing traffic problems, and as a result the city council had introduced various heavy-handed restrictions, including a ten PM curfew for all young people in the area, removing the permits that many clubs had which allowed people under twenty-one to be present, forcing the Whisky A-Go-Go to change its name just to "the Whisk", and forcing a club named Pandora's Box, which was considered the epicentre of the problem, to close altogether. Flyers had been passed around calling for a "funeral" for Pandora's Box -- a peaceful gathering at which people could say goodbye to a favourite nightspot, and a thousand people had turned up. The police also turned up, and in the heavy-handed way common among law enforcement, they managed to provoke a peaceful party and turn it into a riot. This would not normally be an event that would be remembered even a year later, let alone nearly sixty years later, but Sunset Strip was the centre of the American rock music world in the period, and of the broader youth entertainment field. Among those arrested at the riot, for example, were Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda, neither of whom were huge stars at the time, but who were making cheap B-movies with Roger Corman for American International Pictures. Among the cheap exploitation films that American International Pictures made around this time was one based on the riots, though neither Nicholson, Fonda, or Corman were involved. Riot on Sunset Strip was released in cinemas only four months after the riots, and it had a theme song by Dewey Martin's old colleagues The Standells, which is now regarded as a classic of garage rock: [Excerpt: The Standells, "Riot on Sunset Strip"] The riots got referenced in a lot of other songs, as well. The Mothers of Invention's second album, Absolutely Free, contains the song "Plastic People" which includes this section: [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Plastic People"] And the Monkees track "Daily Nightly", written by Michael Nesmith, was always claimed by Nesmith to be an impressionistic portrait of the riots, though the psychedelic lyrics sound to me more like they're talking about drug use and street-walking sex workers than anything to do with the riots: [Excerpt: The Monkees, "Daily Nightly"] But the song about the riots that would have the most lasting effect on popular culture was the one that Steve Stills wrote that night. Although how much he actually wrote, at least of the music, is somewhat open to question. Earlier that month, Buffalo Springfield had spent some time in San Francisco. They hadn't enjoyed the experience -- as an LA band, they were thought of as a bunch of Hollywood posers by most of the San Francisco scene, with the exception of one band, Moby Grape -- a band who, like them had three guitarist/singer/songwriters, and with whom they got on very well. Indeed, they got on rather better with Moby Grape than they were getting on with each other at this point, because Young and Stills would regularly get into arguments, and every time their argument seemed to be settling down, Dewey Martin would manage to say the wrong thing and get Stills riled up again -- Martin was doing a lot of speed at this point and unable to stop talking, even when it would have been politic to do so. There was even some talk while they were in San Francisco of the bands doing a trade -- Young and Pete Lewis of Moby Grape swapping places -- though that came to nothing. But Stills, according to both Richard Davis and Pete Lewis, had been truly impressed by two Moby Grape songs. One of them was a song called "On the Other Side", which Moby Grape never recorded, but which apparently had a chorus that went "Stop, can't you hear the music ringing in your ear, right before you go, telling you the way is clear," with the group all pausing after the word "Stop". The other was a song called "Murder in my Heart for the Judge": [Excerpt: Moby Grape, "Murder in my Heart for the Judge"] The song Stills wrote had a huge amount of melodic influence from that song, and quite a bit from “On the Other Side”, though he apparently didn't notice until after the record came out, at which point he apologised to Moby Grape. Stills wasn't massively impressed with the song he'd written, and went to Stone and Greene's office to play it for them, saying "I'll play it, for what it's worth". They liked the song and booked a studio to get the song recorded and rush-released, though according to Neil Young neither Stone nor Greene were actually present at the session, and the song was recorded on December the fifth, while some outbursts of rioting were still happening, and released on December the twenty-third. [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "For What it's Worth"] The song didn't have a title when they recorded it, or so Stills thought, but when he mentioned this to Greene and Stone afterwards, they said "Of course it does. You said, 'I'm going to play the song, 'For What It's Worth'" So that became the title, although Ahmet Ertegun didn't like the idea of releasing a single with a title that wasn't in the lyric, so the early pressings of the single had "Stop, Hey, What's That Sound?" in brackets after the title. The song became a big hit, and there's a story told by David Crosby that doesn't line up correctly, but which might shed some light on why. According to Crosby, "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing" got its first airplay because Crosby had played members of Buffalo Springfield a tape he'd been given of the unreleased Beatles track "A Day in the Life", and they'd told their gangster manager-producers about it. Those manager-producers had then hired a sex worker to have sex with Crosby and steal the tape, which they'd then traded to a radio station in return for airplay. That timeline doesn't work, unless the sex worker involved was also a time traveller,  because "A Day in the Life" wasn't even recorded until January 1967 while "Clancy" came out in August 1966, and there'd been two other singles released between then and January 1967. But it *might* be the case that that's what happened with "For What It's Worth", which was released in the last week of December 1966, and didn't really start to do well on the charts for a couple of months. Right after recording the song, the group went to play a residency in New York, of which Ahmet Ertegun said “When they performed there, man, there was no band I ever heard that had the electricity of that group. That was the most exciting group I've ever seen, bar none. It was just mind-boggling.” During that residency they were joined on stage at various points by Mitch Ryder, Odetta, and Otis Redding. While in New York, the group also recorded "Mr. Soul", a song that Young had originally written as a folk song about his experiences with epilepsy, the nature of the soul, and dealing with fame. However, he'd noticed a similarity to "Satisfaction" and decided to lean into it. The track as finally released was heavily overdubbed by Young a few months later, but after it was released he decided he preferred the original take, which by then only existed as a scratchy acetate, which got released on a box set in 2001: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Mr. Soul (original version)"] Everyone has a different story of how the session for that track went -- at least one version of the story has Otis Redding turning up for the session and saying he wanted to record the song himself, as his follow-up to his version of "Satisfaction", but Young being angry at the idea. According to other versions of the story, Greene and Stills got into a physical fight, with Greene having to be given some of the valium Young was taking for his epilepsy to calm him down. "For What it's Worth" was doing well enough on the charts that the album was recalled, and reissued with "For What It's Worth" replacing Stills' song "Baby Don't Scold", but soon disaster struck the band. Bruce Palmer was arrested on drugs charges, and was deported back to Canada just as the song started to rise through the charts. The group needed a new bass player, fast. For a lipsynch appearance on local TV they got Richard Davis to mime the part, and then they got in Ken Forssi, the bass player from Love, for a couple of gigs. They next brought in Ken Koblun, the bass player from the Squires, but he didn't fit in with the rest of the group. The next replacement was Jim Fielder. Fielder was a friend of the group, and knew the material -- he'd subbed for Palmer a few times in 1966 when Palmer had been locked up after less serious busts. And to give some idea of how small a scene the LA scene was, when Buffalo Springfield asked him to become their bass player, he was playing rhythm guitar for the Mothers of Invention, while Billy Mundi was on drums, and had played on their second, as yet unreleased, album, Absolutely Free: [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Call any Vegetable"] And before joining the Mothers, Fielder and Mundi had also played together with Van Dyke Parks, who had served his own short stint as a Mother of Invention already, backing Tim Buckley on Buckley's first album: [Excerpt: Tim Buckley, "Aren't You the Girl?"] And the arrangements on that album were by Jack Nitzsche, who would soon become a very close collaborator with Young. "For What it's Worth" kept rising up the charts. Even though it had been inspired by a very local issue, the lyrics were vague enough that people in other situations could apply it to themselves, and it soon became regarded as an anti-war protest anthem -- something Stills did nothing to discourage, as the band were all opposed to the war. The band were also starting to collaborate with other people. When Stills bought a new house, he couldn't move in to it for a while, and so Peter Tork invited him to stay at his house. The two got on so well that Tork invited Stills to produce the next Monkees album -- only to find that Michael Nesmith had already asked Chip Douglas to do it. The group started work on a new album, provisionally titled "Stampede", but sessions didn't get much further than Stills' song "Bluebird" before trouble arose between Young and Stills. The root of the argument seems to have been around the number of songs each got on the album. With Richie Furay also writing, Young was worried that given the others' attitudes to his songwriting, he might get as few as two songs on the album. And Young and Stills were arguing over which song should be the next single, with Young wanting "Mr. Soul" to be the A-side, while Stills wanted "Bluebird" -- Stills making the reasonable case that they'd released two Neil Young songs as singles and gone nowhere, and then they'd released one of Stills', and it had become a massive hit. "Bluebird" was eventually chosen as the A-side, with "Mr. Soul" as the B-side: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Bluebird"] The "Bluebird" session was another fraught one. Fielder had not yet joined the band, and session player Bobby West subbed on bass. Neil Young had recently started hanging out with Jack Nitzsche, and the two were getting very close and working on music together. Young had impressed Nitzsche not just with his songwriting but with his arrogance -- he'd played Nitzsche his latest song, "Expecting to Fly", and Nitzsche had said halfway through "That's a great song", and Young had shushed him and told him to listen, not interrupt. Nitzsche, who had a monstrous ego himself and was also used to working with people like Phil Spector, the Rolling Stones and Sonny Bono, none of them known for a lack of faith in their own abilities, was impressed. Shortly after that, Stills had asked Nitzsch

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Stereo Embers: The Podcast
Stereo Embers The Podcast: John C. Butler (Diesel Park West)

Stereo Embers: The Podcast

Play Episode Listen Later Aug 10, 2022 77:33

“Not Quite The American Dream” They may have gotten their start as the Filberts around 1980, but before too long they rechristened themselves Diesel Park West. They put out a string of singles like When The Hoodoo Comes and Jackie's Still Sad before their debut album Shakespeare Alabama hit shelves in 1989. To date the band has put out ten records including Decency, Thought For Food and their brand new one Not Quite The American Dream. Influenced by West Coast bands like Moby Grape and The Byrds, The Diesels have had quite a career—they've opened for Big Country, been signed by EMI, and had Belinda Carlisle of The Go-Gos cover their track I See No Ships. Singer John C Butler has put out fabulous solo albums—Worthless Bastard Rock is a personal favorite—and the band has released a Byrds covers album, live stuff and bunch of EPs along the way. But the fact remains: the Diesels don't stop. And why should they? There's pretty much nobody else who can jangle and chime and roll out hook after hook the way they do, and Not Quite The American Dream is further evidence that Diesel Park West remain vital, dynamic and as fabulous as ever. www.dieselparkwest.com www.bombshellradio.com www.alexgreenonline.com Stereo Embers The Podcast Twitter: @emberseditor Instagram: @emberspodcast Email: editor@stereoembersmagazine.com