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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.

america tv love music american new york history black church children chicago hollywood disney master apple uk rock washington mexico british san francisco west washington dc holiday arizona ohio spanish arts alabama spain tennessee detroit revolution strange north fame record island heroes jews nazis empire rev stone matrix vietnam ocean tribute southern california catholic mothers beatles cd crown cia philippines rolling stones west coast thompson oz wizard elvis rock and roll finland xmen pakistan bay area volunteers parks snacks villains garcia dolphins reports ashes turtles nest lives bob dylan purple big brother bands medicare san jose airplanes northern americana invention woodstock omaha lsd cream satisfaction ballad pink floyd elvis presley belgians newsweek republican party dino added californians marvel comics peter pan medicaid other side state department katz antioch grateful dead chronicle baxter alice in wonderland miles davis peace corps rock and roll hall of fame spence lovin family tree triumphs carousel mixcloud buchanan charlie chaplin tilt san francisco chronicle sly would you like frank zappa santa clara kt starship janis joplin national endowment ayn rand headquarters schmitt chaplin hippies monkees slick steely dan bakersfield triad concierto old west garfunkel rock music elektra rca runnin sketches buddy holly greenwich village milne white rabbit phil spector village voice get together zappa haskell byrds ravel spoonful jerry garcia levis heartbeats doris day stranger in a strange land jefferson airplane fillmore brian jones steve ditko george bernard shaw glen campbell bolero david crosby my best friend wyndham levi strauss all you need lonely hearts club band harry nilsson whitney museum superior court methuselah jacques brel sgt pepper judy collins heinlein ed sullivan show dryden tom wolfe buffalo springfield weavers bessie smith rca records objectivism great society robert heinlein altamont ken kesey jefferson starship run around bob weir this life john phillips acid tests holding company golden gate park sly stone aranjuez ricky nelson bill graham haight ashbury elektra records grace slick san franciscan ditko carter family bluesman john sebastian family dog colonel tom parker tennessee georgia abbie hoffman mercury records town criers bill thompson roger mcguinn balin jorma charles lloyd fillmore east rickenbacker smothers brothers merry pranksters van dyke parks mystic arts gary davis tommy oliver one flew over the cuckoo hot tuna monterey pop festival john wyndham milt jackson antioch college jorma kaukonen jackie deshannon we built this city mothers of invention dave van ronk cass elliot echoplex monterey jazz festival yippies fillmore west mickey thomas ian buchanan slicks moby grape roy buchanan jimmy brown jack nitzsche wellingtons quicksilver messenger service paul kantner kesey al schmitt marty balin kantner casady all worlds surrealistic pillow blues project jack casady fred neil bob harvey bobby gentry skip spence billy roberts john hammond jr jac holzman papa john creach tilt araiza
The 500 with Josh Adam Meyers
297 - The Mothers of Invention - We're Only in It for the Money - Joe DeRosa

The 500 with Josh Adam Meyers

Play Episode Listen Later Sep 28, 2022 82:06


Comedian Joe DeRosa returns to worship at the altar of his heroes: weirdo rock icons The Mother of Invention and their 1968 album We're Only in It for the Money. Follow Joe on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/joederosacomedy/ Follow Joe on Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/joederosacomedy Check out Joe's website: https://www.joederosainfo.com/ Follow Josh on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/joshadammeyers/ Follow Josh on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoshAdamMeyers Follow Josh on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joshameyers Follow The 500 on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the500podcast/ Follow The 500 on Twitter: https://twitter.com/the500podcast Follow The 500 on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The500PodcastWithJAM/ Email the show: 500podcast@gmail.com Check the show website: http://the500podcast.com Trade Coffee is offering our listeners a total of $30 off your first order plus free shipping at drinktrade.com/the500 Sign up today at butcherbox.com/THE500 to get two, 10 oz New York strip steaks and 8 oz of lobster claw and knuckle meat FREE in your first order. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Prisioneiros do Rock!
Episódio 120 - Amigo Oculto: "Over-Nite Sensation", Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention

Prisioneiros do Rock!

Play Episode Listen Later Sep 3, 2022 61:00


No quadro Amigo Oculto, um de nós escolhe um disco que os outros dois não conhecem e irão avaliar se seria ou não um bom presente. Neste episódio, Cristian desafia Jair e Filipe a escutar Over-Nite Sensation, álbum do Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, lançado em setembro de 1973. Um dos maiores sucessos da longa (loooonga) carreira discográfica de Zappa, Over-Nite Sensation consegue ser experimental e pop, louco e delicioso, inovador e cheio de referências.

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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Elaine's Kitchen Table Podcast | The Business of Real Life | Lessons for Success in Business and Parenting
Mom Makers - Mothers of Invention, With Lori Turk and Christine Kizik (replay)

Elaine's Kitchen Table Podcast | The Business of Real Life | Lessons for Success in Business and Parenting

Play Episode Listen Later Jul 18, 2022 52:45


Inventors Lori (founder of Safe Grate) and Christine (founder of Sola Skin Care), both went a very smart route when creating their products. They discovered a need in their life, did the research, and fulfilled the need themselves! Listen in as these ladies have a candid conversation about: Patents - Yay? Nay? What type? What type of research to do - and when to stop researching and get moving Using your own needs as impetus to create products others like you will want Their own founder stories Going for it, making mistakes, making changes, and setting boundaries What you start with is not what you end with And much more! Show notes: www.elaineskitchentable.com/098 Connect with Lori: Website: https://www.safegrate.ca/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/april.ideas/ Email: lori@april-ideas.com Connect with Christine: Website: https://solaskincare.com/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sola.skincare/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/solaskincare Connect with Elaine: Website: https://elaineskitchentable.com Instagram: @elainetancomeau LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elainetancomeau/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ElainesKitchenTable Twitter: https://twitter.com/chatwithelaine Get a free chapter from Elaine's book, Sell Your Passion: https://elaineskitchentable.com/book/ Episode Sponsor: Easy Daysies - help your family have easier days!  

Islas de Robinson
Islas de Robinson - Noche de insomnio - 04/07/22

Islas de Robinson

Play Episode Listen Later Jul 3, 2022 59:02


Esta semana en Islas de Robinson, un glorioso batiburrillo, con clásicos peculiares a mediados-finales de los 70. Una de esas noches.... Suenan: SPARKS - "GET IN THE SWING" ("INDISCREET", 1975) / STACKRIDGE - "HIGHBURY INCIDENT ("RAINY JULY MORNING") ("EXTRAVAGANZA", 1975) / 10CC - "LAZY WAYS" ("HOW DARE YOU?", 1976) / KLAATU - "WE'RE OFF YOU KNOW" ("HOPE", 1977) / FRANK ZAPPA & THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION - "SAN BER'DINO" ("ONE SIZE FEETS ALL", 1975) / HATFIELD AND THE NORTH - "SHARE IT" ("ROTTERS CLUB", 1975) / PETER HAMMILL - "LOST AND FOUND" ("OVER", 1977) / KEVIN AYERS - "BALLAD OF A SALESMAN WHO SOLD HIMSELF" ("RAINBOW TAKEAWAY", 1 Escuchar audio

All My Favorite Songs
All My Favorite Songs 036 by Frank Zappa - Fraudulent DJ (part 2 of 2)

All My Favorite Songs

Play Episode Listen Later Jun 25, 2022


Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American musician, singer, composer, songwriter and bandleader. His work is characterized by nonconformity, free-form improvisation, sound experiments, musical virtuosity and satire of American culture. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa composed rock, pop, jazz, jazz fusion, orchestral and musique concrète works, and produced almost all of the 60-plus albums that he released with his band the Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist. Zappa also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers. He is considered one of the most innovative and stylistically diverse musicians of his generation. On a number of occasions Zappa appeared in radio show slots, airing and generally discussing his favored music, or occasionally guesting on a 'club turntable', describing himself as a 'Fraudulent DJ'. In this episode, part two of a series of two, all the tracks in chronological order as selected by Zappa (with exception of most of his own tracks) for all his DJ appearances that have been documented, and that took place between 1968 and 1984. Lineup: Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, The Clovers, The Lamplighters, The Mothers Of Invention, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, Igor Stravinsky, Columbia Symphony Orchestra, John Lee Hooker, The Rolling Stones, The Young Rascals, Howlin' Wolf, The Velours, The Channels, Earl Lewis, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Blondie, The Specials, Gerry & The Holograms, Nina Hagen, The Jets, Konrad Koselleck Big Band, Ellen Ten Damme, U.K. Subs, Snuky Tate, Robert & Johnny, The Flying Lizards, Joe Jackson, Gary Numan, The Police, Destroy All Monsters, The Saints, L Shankar, The Tubes, Suburban Lawns, Captain Beefheart, John Cooper Clarke, Public Image Ltd., The Firemen, The Deadliners, Plastics, Jeff Simmons, New Musik, Edgard Varèse, Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Christopher Lyndon-Gee, ZZ Top, The Velvet Underground, Nico, Black Sabbath, Lene Lovich, The GTOs, Queen, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Top Charts D.J., The Beatles, SpizzEnergi, Traffic, Wild Man Fischer, Lew Lewis, Tomorrow, Frankie Valli, Blue Öyster Cult, Foreigner, ACDC, Sue Saad & the Next, Van Halen, Buzzcocks, The Jam, Pink Floyd, Journey

All My Favorite Songs
All My Favorite Songs 035 by Frank Zappa - Fraudulent DJ (part 1 of 2)

All My Favorite Songs

Play Episode Listen Later Jun 16, 2022


Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American musician, singer, composer, songwriter and bandleader. His work is characterized by nonconformity, free-form improvisation, sound experiments, musical virtuosity and satire of American culture. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa composed rock, pop, jazz, jazz fusion, orchestral and musique concrète works, and produced almost all of the 60-plus albums that he released with his band the Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist. Zappa also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers. He is considered one of the most innovative and stylistically diverse musicians of his generation. On a number of occasions Zappa appeared in radio show slots, airing and generally discussing his favored music, or occasionally guesting on a 'club turntable', describing himself as a 'Fraudulent DJ'. In this episode, part one of a series of two, all the tracks in chronological order as selected by Zappa (with exception of most of his own tracks) for all his DJ appearances that have been documented, and that took place between 1968 and 1984. Lineup: Frank Zappa, The Mothers Of Invention, Ewan MacColl, The Hollywood Persuaders, Pierre Boulez, Hilary Summers, Ensemble Intercontemporain, The Dreamlovers, The Penguins, Charles Mingus, Frankie Lee Sims, Vernon Green & The Medallions, Richard Berry & The Dreamers, The Paragons, Big Moose, The Turbans, Johnny Guitar Watson, The Spaniels, J.B. Lenoir, Vernon Green, The Medallions, Bill Haley & His Comets, The Chips, The Velvets, Richard Berry & The Pharaohs, Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, The Feathers, Don & Dewey, The Jewels, The Cufflinks, Johnny Ace, Wilbur Whitfield & The Pleasers, Hank Ballard & The Midnighters, Jackie & The Starlites, The Cellos, The Rolling Crew, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Paul Robeson, Huey 'Piano' Smith, Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown, The Six Teens, The Laurie Sisters, Lloyd Terrell, Ruben And The Jets, The Hawks, The Olympics, Andre Williams, The Gaylarks, Little Sunny Day and the Clouds, The Clovers, The Harptones, Baby Ray And The Ferns, Muddy Waters, The Shaggs, Richard Berry, The Robins, Bob Landers, Willie Joe, Tony Allen, Peppermint Harris, The El Dorados, The 5 Campbells, Elmore James, The Moonlighters, Don Julian, The Larks, Lloyd Price, The Solitaires, Black Oak Arkansas, Edgard Varèse, Frederic Waldman, NY Wind Ensemble, Olivier Messiaen, BBC Symphony OrchestraAntal Dorati, Antal Doráti, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Anton Webern, Nürnberg Symphony Orchestra, Othmar Maga

Músicas abiertas
Músicas Abiertas - 60. Dinamarca, años 70 (parte 1): psicodelia, progresivo y jazz-rock

Músicas abiertas

Play Episode Listen Later May 20, 2022 61:29


Durante los años 70 se produjo en los países nórdicos una escena rock con particularidades distintivas y de una gran riqueza en cada uno ellos. Hoy vamos a comenzar un repaso por la escena de Dinamarca, un país en el que la música norteamericana de la costa oeste fue una enorme influencia, así como los Mothers Of Invention de Frank Zappa, una de las mayores inspiraciones de los músicos nórdicos durante los años 70 por el enorme impacto que tuvieron sus conciertos allí a finales de los 60. Repertorio: 1. Long Before I Was Born - The Savage Rose (In The Plain) 2. Alrune Rod - Alrune Rod (Alrune Rod) 3. Burnin Red Ivanhoe - Avez-Vous Kaskelainen?/Kaske-Vous Karsemose (WWW) 4. Mindnight Sun - Living On The Hill (Mindnight Sun) 5. Culpeper's Orchard - Teaparty For An Orchard (Culpeper's Orchard)

Novara Media
ACFM Microdose: Mothers of Invention W/ Katrine Marçal

Novara Media

Play Episode Listen Later May 19, 2022 58:19


Throughout history, countless good ideas have been side-lined or dismissed because they were put forward by women. That’s the frustration which motivates historian Katrine Marçal, who delves into her myth-busting research for a Microdose all about technology’s missed turnings. With ACFM host Nadia Idle, the author of Mother of Invention: How Good Ideas Get Ignored […]

Whole 'Nuther Thing
Episode 680: Whole 'Nuther Thing May 8, 2022

Whole 'Nuther Thing

Play Episode Listen Later May 9, 2022 115:36


"A diamond necklace played the pawnHand in hand some drummed along, ohTo a handsome man and batonA blind class aristocracyBack through the opera glass you seeThe pit and the pendulum drawnColuminated ruins dominoCanvass the town and brush the backdropAre you sleeping?"Surfs Up, so join me as we "Step Into The Liquid" and catch a set or two on the Sunday Edition of Whole 'Nuther Thing. Joining us will be the Mothers Of Invention, Batdorf & Rodney, David Bowie, Blood Sweat & Tears, Wings, Orleans, Loggins & Messina, Bob James, Simon & Garfunkel, ELO, The Shirelles, Beatles, Paul Simon, Jefferson Starship, Elton John, Rolling Stones, Sweet, America, Trevor Gordon Hall, Randy Newman, Fleetwood Mac, Ernie K Doe, Joe Walsh and The Beach Boys...

Prophets, Wizards & The Quest to Value Nature
Special: Creating Dynamic Conservation

Prophets, Wizards & The Quest to Value Nature

Play Episode Listen Later Mar 7, 2022 83:07


Where does agricultural meet conservation? And what tools, approaches and relationships can lead to dynamic change? In this special Alexandra is joined by four experts for a roundtable discussion hosted by The Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies. Dr Camilla Moonen - from the Agroecology Group at Sant'Anna, Diego Guidotti - CEO of the agritech company Aedit, Andrea Gennai -from the Foreste Casentinesi National Park + University of Pisa and Lorenzo Costa - Permaculture systems designer, farmer and communicator, Tuscany. 

Prophets, Wizards & The Quest to Value Nature
Viewpoints In The Landscape

Prophets, Wizards & The Quest to Value Nature

Play Episode Listen Later Feb 14, 2022 74:52


So how can we value nature in our food system hands-on? And what are the social contexts in play? We catch up with Dr Lee-Ann Sutherland - Dir. of the James Hutton Institute's International Land Use Study Center, Cristóbal Reina- olive farmer + hunting society president and Bertrand Frézel - Peasant Farmers' Union Rep, to continue our quest... Episode show notes: https://linktr.ee/prophets_wizards_pod

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs
Episode 140: “Trouble Every Day” by the Mothers of Invention

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 25, 2021


Episode one hundred and forty of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Trouble Every Day" by the Mothers of Invention, and the early career of Frank Zappa. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on "Christmas Time is Here Again" by the Beatles. 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 I'm away from home as I upload this and haven't been able to do a Mixcloud, but will hopefully edit a link in in a week or so if I remember. The main biography I consulted for this was Electric Don Quixote by Neil Slaven. Zappa's autobiography, The Real Frank Zappa Book, is essential reading if you're a fan of his work. Information about Jimmy Carl Black's early life came from Black's autobiography, For Mother's Sake. Zappa's letter to Varese is from this blog, which also contains a lot of other useful information on Zappa. For information on the Watts uprising, I recommend Johnny Otis' Listen to the Lambs. And the original mix of Freak Out is currently available not on the CD issue of Freak Out itself, which is an eighties remix, but on this "documentary" set. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Just a quick note before I begin -- there are a couple of passing references in this episode to rape and child abuse. I don't believe there's anything that should upset anyone, but if you're worried, you might want to read the transcript on the podcast website before or instead of listening. But also, this episode contains explicit, detailed, descriptions of racial violence carried out by the police against Black people, including against children. Some of it is so distressing that even reading the transcript might be a bit much for some people. Sometimes, in this podcast, we have to go back to another story we've already told. In most cases, that story is recent enough that I can just say, "remember last episode, when I said...", but to tell the story of the Mothers of Invention, I have to start with a story that I told sixty-nine episodes ago, in episode seventy-one, which came out nearly two years ago. In that episode, on "Willie and the Hand Jive", I briefly told the story of Little Julian Herrera at the start. I'm going to tell a slightly longer version of the story now. Some of the information at the start of this episode will be familiar from that and other episodes, but I'm not going to expect people to remember something from that long ago, given all that's happened since. The DJ Art Laboe is one of the few figures from the dawn of rock and roll who is still working. At ninety-six years old, he still promotes concerts, and hosts a syndicated radio show on which he plays "Oldies but Goodies", a phrase which could describe him as well as the music. It's a phrase he coined -- and trademarked -- back in the 1950s, when people in his audience would ask him to play records made a whole three or four years earlier, records they had listened to in their youth. Laboe pretty much single-handedly invented the rock and roll nostalgia market -- as well as being a DJ, he owned a record label, Original Sound, which put out a series of compilation albums, Oldies But Goodies, starting in 1959, which started to cement the first draft of the doo-wop canon. These were the first albums to compile together a set of older rock and roll hits and market them for nostalgia, and they were very much based on the tastes of his West Coast teenage listenership, featuring songs like "Earth Angel" by the Penguins: [Excerpt: The Penguins, "Earth Angel"] But also records that had a more limited geographic appeal, like "Heaven and Paradise" by Don Julian and the Meadowlarks: [Excerpt: Don Julian and the Meadowlarks, "Heaven and Paradise"] As well as being a DJ and record company owner, Laboe was the promoter and MC for regular teenage dances at El Monte Legion Stadium, at which Kip and the Flips, the band that featured Sandy Nelson and Bruce Johnston, would back local performers like the Penguins, Don and Dewey, or Ritchie Valens, as well as visiting headliners like Jerry Lee Lewis. El Monte stadium was originally chosen because it was outside the LA city limits -- at the time there were anti-rock-and-roll ordinances that meant that any teenage dance had to be approved by the LA Board of Education, but those didn't apply to that stadium -- but it also led to Laboe's audience becoming more racially diverse. The stadium was in East LA, which had a large Mexican-American population, and while Laboe's listenership had initially been very white, soon there were substantial numbers of Mexican-American and Black audience members. And it was at one of the El Monte shows that Johnny Otis discovered the person who everyone thought was going to become the first Chicano rock star, before even Ritchie Valens, in 1957, performing as one of the filler acts on Laboe's bill. He signed Little Julian Herrera, a performer who was considered a sensation in East LA at the time, though nobody really knew where he lived, or knew much about him other than that he was handsome, Chicano, and would often have a pint of whisky in his back pocket, even though he was under the legal drinking age. Otis signed Herrera to his label, Dig Records, and produced several records for him, including the record by which he's now best remembered, "Those Lonely Lonely Nights": [Excerpt: Little Julian Herrera, "Those Lonely, Lonely, Nights"] After those didn't take off the way they were expected to, Herrera and his vocal group the Tigers moved to another label, one owned by Laboe, where they recorded "I Remember Linda": [Excerpt: Little Julian Herrera and the Tigers, "I Remember Linda"]  And then one day Johnny Otis got a knock on his door from the police. They were looking for Ron Gregory. Otis had never heard of Ron Gregory, and told them so. The police then showed him a picture. It turned out that Julian Herrera wasn't Mexican-American, and wasn't from East LA, but was from Massachusetts. He had run away from home a few years back, hitch-hiked across the country, and been taken in by a Mexican-American family, whose name he had adopted. And now he was wanted for rape. Herrera went to prison, and when he got out, he tried to make a comeback, but ended up sleeping rough in the basement of the stadium where he had once been discovered. He had to skip town because of some other legal problems, and headed to Tijuana, where he was last seen playing R&B gigs in 1963. Nobody knows what happened to him after that -- some say he was murdered, others that he's still alive, working in a petrol station under yet another name, but nobody has had a confirmed sighting of him since then. When he went to prison, the Tigers tried to continue for a while, but without their lead singer, they soon broke up. Ray Collins, who we heard singing the falsetto part in "I Remember Linda", went on to join many other doo-wop and R&B groups over the next few years, with little success. Then in summer 1963, he walked into a bar in Ponoma, and saw a bar band who were playing the old Hank Ballard and the Midnighters song "Work With Me Annie". As Collins later put it, “I figured that any band that played ‘Work With Me Annie' was all right,” and he asked if he could join them for a few songs. They agreed, and afterwards, Collins struck up a conversation with the guitarist, and told him about an idea he'd had for a song based on one of Steve Allen's catchphrases. The guitarist happened to be spending a lot of his time recording at an independent recording studio, and suggested that the two of them record the song together: [Excerpt: Baby Ray and the Ferns, "How's Your Bird?"] The guitarist in question was named Frank Zappa. Zappa was originally from Maryland, but had moved to California as a child with his conservative Italian-American family when his father, a defence contractor, had got a job in Monterey. The family had moved around California with his father's work, mostly living in various small towns in the Mojave desert seventy miles or so north of Los Angeles. Young Frank had an interest in science, especially chemistry, and especially things that exploded, but while he managed to figure out the ingredients for gunpowder, his family couldn't afford to buy him a chemistry set in his formative years -- they were so poor that his father regularly took part in medical experiments to get a bit of extra money to feed his kids -- and so the young man's interest was diverted away from science towards music. His first musical interest, and one that would show up in his music throughout his life, was the comedy music of Spike Jones, whose band combined virtuosic instrumental performances with sound effects: [Excerpt: Spike Jones and his City Slickers, "Cocktails for Two"] and parodies of popular classical music [Excerpt: Spike Jones and his City Slickers, "William Tell Overture"] Jones was a huge inspiration for almost every eccentric or bohemian of the 1940s and 50s -- Spike Milligan, for example, took the name Spike in tribute to him. And young Zappa wrote his first ever fan letter to Jones when he was five or six. As a child Zappa was also fascinated by the visual aesthetics of music -- he liked to draw musical notes on staves and see what they looked like. But his musical interests developed in two other ways once he entered his teens. The first was fairly typical for the musicians of his generation from LA we've looked at and will continue to look at, which is that he heard "Gee" by the Crows on the radio: [Excerpt: The Crows, "Gee"] He became an R&B obsessive at that moment, and would spend every moment he could listening to the Black radio stations, despite his parents' disapproval. He particularly enjoyed Huggy Boy's radio show broadcast from Dolphins of Hollywood, and also would religiously listen to Johnny Otis, and soon became a connoisseur of the kind of R&B and blues that Otis championed as a musician and DJ: [Excerpt: Zappa on the Late Show, “I hadn't been raised in an environment where there was a lot of music in the house. This couple that owned the chilli place, Opal and Chester, agreed to ask the man who serviced the jukebox to put in some of the song titles that I liked, because I promised that I would dutifully keep pumping quarters into this thing so that I could listen to them, and so I had the ability to eat good chilli and listen to 'Three Hours Past Midnight' by Johnny 'Guitar' Watson for most of my junior and senior year"] Johnny “Guitar” Watson, along with Guitar Slim, would become a formative influence on Zappa's guitar playing, and his playing on "Three Hours Past Midnight" is so similar to Zappa's later style that you could easily believe it *was* him: [Excerpt: Johnny "Guitar" Watson, "Three Hours Past Midnight"] But Zappa wasn't only listening to R&B. The way Zappa would always tell the story, he discovered the music that would set him apart from his contemporaries originally by reading an article in Look magazine. Now, because Zappa has obsessive fans who check every detail, people have done the research and found that there was no such article in that magazine, but he was telling the story close enough to the time period in which it happened that its broad strokes, at least, must be correct even if the details are wrong. What Zappa said was that the article was on Sam Goody, the record salesman, and talked about how Goody was so good at his job that he had even been able to sell a record of Ionisation by Edgard Varese, which just consisted of the worst and most horrible noises anyone had ever heard, just loud drumming noises and screeching sounds. He determined then that he needed to hear that album, but he had no idea how he would get hold of a copy. I'll now read an excerpt from Zappa's autobiography, because Zappa's phrasing makes the story much better: "Some time later, I was staying overnight with Dave Franken, a friend who lived in La Mesa, and we wound up going to the hi-fi place -- they were having a sale on R&B singles. After shuffling through the rack and finding a couple of Joe Huston records, I made my way toward the cash register and happened to glance at the LP bin. I noticed a strange-looking black-and-white album cover with a guy on it who had frizzy gray hair and looked like a mad scientist. I thought it was great that a mad scientist had finally made a record, so I picked it up -- and there it was, the record with "Ionisation" on it. The author of the Look article had gotten it slightly wrong -- the correct title was The Complete Works of Edgard Varèse, Volume I, including "Ionisation," among other pieces, on an obscure label called EMS (Elaine Music Store). The record number was 401.I returned the Joe Huston records and checked my pockets to see how much money I had -- I think it came to about $3.75. I'd never bought an album before, but I knew they must be expensive because mostly old people bought them. I asked the man at the cash register how much EMS 401 cost. "That gray one in the box?" he said. "$5.95." I'd been searching for that record for over a year and I wasn't about to give up. I told him I had $3.75. He thought about it for a minute, and said, "We've been using that record to demonstrate hi-fi's with -- but nobody ever buys one when we use it. I guess if you want it that bad you can have it for $3.75."" Zappa took the record home, and put it on on his mother's record player in the living room, the only one that could play LPs: [Excerpt: Edgard Varese, "Ionisation"] His mother told him he could never play that record in the living room again, so he took the record player into his bedroom, and it became his record player from that point on. Varese was a French composer who had, in his early career, been very influenced by Debussy. Debussy is now, of course, part of the classical canon, but in the early twentieth century he was regarded as radical, almost revolutionary, for his complete rewriting of the rules of conventional classical music tonality into a new conception based on chordal melodies, pedal points, and use of non-diatonic scales. Almost all of Varese's early work was destroyed in a fire, so we don't have evidence of the transition from Debussy's romantic-influenced impressionism to Varese's later style, but after he had moved to the US in 1915 he had become wildly more experimental. "Ionisation" is often claimed to be the first piece of Western classical music written only for percussion instruments. Varese was part of a wider movement of modernist composers -- for example he was the best man at Nicolas Slonimsky's wedding -- and had also set up the International Composers' Guild, whose manifesto influenced Zappa, though his libertarian politics led him to adapt it to a more individualistic rather than collective framing. The original manifesto read in part "Dying is the privilege of the weary. The present day composers refuse to die. They have realized the necessity of banding together and fighting for the right of each individual to secure a fair and free presentation of his work" In the twenties and thirties, Varese had written a large number of highly experimental pieces, including Ecuatorial, which was written for bass vocal, percussion, woodwind, and two Theremin cellos. These are not the same as the more familiar Theremin, created by the same inventor, and were, as their name suggests, Theremins that were played like a cello, with a fingerboard and bow. Only ten of these were ever made, specifically for performances of Varese's work, and he later rewrote the work to use ondes martenot instead of Theremin cellos, which is how the work is normally heard now: [Excerpt: Edgard Varese, "Ecuatorial"] But Varese had spent much of the thirties, forties, and early fifties working on two pieces that were never finished, based on science fiction ideas -- L'Astronome, which was meant to be about communication with people from the star Sirius, and Espace, which was originally intended to be performed simultaneously by choirs in Beijing, Moscow, Paris, and New York. Neither of these ideas came to fruition, and so Varese had not released any new work, other than one small piece, Étude pour espace, an excerpt from the  larger work, in Zappa's lifetime. Zappa followed up his interest in Varese's music with his music teacher, one of the few people in the young man's life who encouraged him in his unusual interests. That teacher, Mr Kavelman, introduced Zappa to the work of other composers, like Webern, but would also let him know why he liked particular R&B records. For example, Zappa played Mr. Kavelman "Angel in My Life" by the Jewels, and asked what it was that made him particularly like it: [Excerpt: The Jewels, "Angel in My Life"] The teacher's answer was that it was the parallel fourths that made the record particularly appealing. Young Frank was such a big fan of Varese that for his fifteenth birthday, he actually asked if he could make a long-distance phone call to speak to Varese. He didn't know where Varese lived, but figured that it must be in Greenwich Village because that was where composers lived, and he turned out to be right. He didn't get through on his birthday -- he got Varese's wife, who told him the composer was in Europe -- but he did eventually get to speak to him, and was incredibly excited when Varese told him that not only had he just written a new piece for the first time in years, but that it was called Deserts, and was about deserts -- just like the Mojave Desert where Zappa lived: [Excerpt: Edgard Varese, "Deserts"] As he later wrote, “When you're 15 and living in the Mojave Desert, and you find out that the World's Greatest Composer (who also looks like a mad scientist) is working in a secret Greenwich Village laboratory on a song about your hometown (so to speak), you can get pretty excited.” A year later, Zappa actually wrote to Varese, a long letter which included him telling the story about how he'd found his work in the first place, hoping to meet up with him when Zappa travelled to the East Coast to see family. I'll read out a few extracts, but the whole thing is fascinating for what it says about Zappa the precocious adolescent, and I'll link to a blog post with it in the show notes. "Dear Sir: Perhaps you might remember me from my stupid phone call last January, if not, my name again is Frank Zappa Jr. I am 16 years old… that might explain partly my disturbing you last winter. After I had struggled through Mr. Finklestein's notes on the back cover (I really did struggle too, for at the time I had had no training in music other than practice at drum rudiments) I became more and more interested in you and your music. I began to go to the library and take out books on modern composers and modern music, to learn all I could about Edgard Varese. It got to be my best subject (your life) and I began writing my reports and term papers on you at school. At one time when my history teacher asked us to write on an American that has really done something for the U.S.A. I wrote on you and the Pan American Composers League and the New Symphony. I failed. The teacher had never heard of you and said I made the whole thing up. Silly but true. That was my Sophomore year in high school. Throughout my life all the talents and abilities that God has left me with have been self developed, and when the time came for Frank to learn how to read and write music, Frank taught himself that too. I picked it all up from the library. I have been composing for two years now, utilizing a strict twelve-tone technique, producing effects that are reminiscent of Anton Webern. During those two years I have written two short woodwind quartets and a short symphony for winds, brass and percussion. I plan to go on and be a composer after college and I could really use the counsel of a veteran such as you. If you would allow me to visit with you for even a few hours it would be greatly appreciated. It may sound strange but I think I have something to offer you in the way of new ideas. One is an elaboration on the principle of Ruth Seeger's contrapuntal dynamics and the other is an extension of the twelve-tone technique which I call the inversion square. It enables one to compose harmonically constructed pantonal music in logical patterns and progressions while still abandoning tonality. Varese sent a brief reply, saying that he was going to be away for a few months, but would like to meet Zappa on his return. The two never met, but Zappa kept the letter from Varese framed on his wall for the rest of his life. Zappa soon bought a couple more albums, a version of "The Rite of Spring" by Stravinsky: [Excerpt: Igor Stravinsky, "The Rite of Spring"] And a record of pieces by Webern, including his Symphony opus 21: [Excerpt: Anton Webern, "Symphony op. 21"] (Incidentally, with the classical music here, I'm not seeking out the precise performances Zappa was listening to, just using whichever recordings I happen to have copies of). Zappa was also reading Slonimsky's works of musicology, like the Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns. As well as this "serious music" though, Zappa was also developing as an R&B musician.  He later said of the Webern album, "I loved that record, but it was about as different from Stravinsky and Varèse as you could get. I didn't know anything about twelve-tone music then, but I liked the way it sounded. Since I didn't have any kind of formal training, it didn't make any difference to me if I was listening to Lightnin' Slim, or a vocal group called the Jewels (who had a song out then called "Angel in My Life"), or Webern, or Varèse, or Stravinsky. To me it was all good music." He had started as a drummer with a group called the Blackouts, an integrated group with white, Latino, and Black members, who played R&B tracks like "Directly From My Heart to You", the song Johnny Otis had produced for Little Richard: [Excerpt: Little Richard, "Directly From My Heart to You"] But after eighteen months or so, he quit the group and stopped playing drums. Instead, he switched to guitar, with a style influenced by Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Guitar Slim. His first guitar had action so bad that he didn't learn to play chords, and moved straight on to playing lead lines with his younger brother Bobby playing rhythm. He also started hanging around with two other teenage bohemians -- Euclid Sherwood, who was nicknamed Motorhead, and Don Vliet, who called himself Don Van Vliet. Vliet was a truly strange character, even more so than Zappa, but they shared a love for the blues, and Vliet was becoming a fairly good blues singer, though he hadn't yet perfected the Howlin' Wolf imitation that would become his stock-in-trade in later years. But the surviving recording of Vliet singing with the Zappa brothers on guitar, singing a silly parody blues about being flushed down the toilet of the kind that many teenage boys would write, shows the promise that the two men had: [Excerpt: Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, "Lost in a Whirlpool"] Zappa was also getting the chance to hear his more serious music performed. He'd had the high school band play a couple of his pieces, but he also got the chance to write film music -- his English teacher, Don Cerveris, had decided to go off and seek his fortune as a film scriptwriter, and got Zappa hired to write the music for a cheap Western he'd written, Run Home Slow. The film was beset with problems -- it started filming in 1959 but didn't get finished and released until 1965 -- but the music Zappa wrote for it did eventually get recorded and used on the soundtrack: [Excerpt: Frank Zappa, "Run Home Slow Theme"] In 1962, he got to write the music for another film, The World's Greatest Sinner, and he also wrote a theme song for that, which got released as the B-side of "How's Your Bird?", the record he made with Ray Collins: [Excerpt: Baby Ray and the Ferns, "The World's Greatest Sinner"] Zappa was able to make these records because by the early sixties, as well as playing guitar in bar bands, he was working as an assistant for a man named Paul Buff. Paul Buff had worked as an engineer for a guided missile manufacturer, but had decided that he didn't want to do that any more, and instead had opened up the first independent multi-track recording studio on the West Coast, PAL Studios, using equipment he'd designed and built himself, including a five-track tape recorder. Buff engineered a huge number of surf instrumentals there, including "Wipe Out" by the Surfaris: [Excerpt: The Surfaris, "Wipe Out"] Zappa had first got to know Buff when he had come to Buff's studio with some session musicians in 1961, to record some jazz pieces he'd written, including this piece which at the time was in the style of Dave Brubeck but would later become a staple of Zappa's repertoire reorchestrated in a  rock style. [Excerpt: The PAL Studio Band, "Never on Sunday"] Buff really just wanted to make records entirely by himself, so he'd taught himself to play the rudiments of guitar, bass, drums, piano, and alto saxophone, so he could create records alone. He would listen to every big hit record, figure out what the hooks were on the record, and write his own knock-off of those. An example is "Tijuana Surf" by the Hollywood Persuaders, which is actually Buff on all instruments, and which according to Zappa went to number one in Mexico (though I've not found an independent source to confirm that chart placing, so perhaps take it with a pinch of salt): [Excerpt: The Hollywood Persuaders, "Tijuana Surf"] The B-side to that, "Grunion Run", was written by Zappa, who also plays guitar on that side: [Excerpt: The Hollywood Persuaders, "Grunion Run"] Zappa, Buff, Ray Collins, and a couple of associates would record all sorts of material at PAL -- comedy material like "Hey Nelda", under the name "Ned and Nelda" -- a parody of "Hey Paula" by Paul and Paula: [Excerpt: Ned and Nelda, "Hey Nelda"] Doo-wop parodies like "Masked Grandma": [Excerpt: The PAL Studio Band, "Masked Grandma"] R&B: [Excerpt: The PAL Studio Band, "Why Don't You Do Me Right?"] and more. Then Buff or Zappa would visit one of the local independent label owners and try to sell them the master -- Art Laboe at Original Sound released several of the singles, as did Bob Keane at Donna Records and Del-Fi. The "How's Your Bird" single also got Zappa his first national media exposure, as he went on the Steve Allen show, where he demonstrated to Allen how to make music using a bicycle and a prerecorded electronic tape, in an appearance that Zappa would parody five years later on the Monkees' TV show: [Excerpt: Steve Allen and Frank Zappa, "Cyclophony"] But possibly the record that made the most impact at the time was "Memories of El Monte", a song that Zappa and Collins wrote together about Art Laboe's dances at El Monte Stadium, incorporating excerpts of several of the songs that would be played there, and named after a compilation Laboe had put out, which had included “I Remember Linda” by Little Julian and the Tigers. They got Cleve Duncan of the Penguins to sing lead, and the record came out as by the Penguins, on Original Sound: [Excerpt: The Penguins, "Memories of El Monte"] By this point, though, Pal studios was losing money, and Buff took up the offer of a job working for Laboe full time, as an engineer at Original Sound. He would later become best known for inventing the kepex, an early noise gate which engineer Alan Parsons used on a bass drum to create the "heartbeat" that opens Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon: [Excerpt: Pink Floyd, "Speak to Me"] That invention would possibly be Buff's most lasting contribution to music, as by the early eighties, the drum sound on every single pop record was recorded using a noise gate. Buff sold the studio to Zappa, who renamed it Studio Z and moved in -- he was going through a divorce and had nowhere else to live. The studio had no shower, and Zappa had to just use a sink to wash, and he was surviving mostly off food scrounged by his resourceful friend Motorhead Sherwood. By this point, Zappa had also joined a band called the Soots, consisting of Don Van Vliet, Alex St. Clair and Vic Mortenson, and they recorded several tracks at Studio Z, which they tried to get released on Dot Records, including a cover version of Little Richard's “Slippin' and Slidin'”, and a song called “Tiger Roach” whose lyrics were mostly random phrases culled from a Green Lantern comic: [Excerpt: The Soots, "Tiger Roach"] Zappa also started writing what was intended as the first ever rock opera, "I Was a Teenage Maltshop", and attempts were made to record parts of it with Vliet, Mortenson, and Motorhead Sherwood: [Excerpt: Frank Zappa, "I Was a Teenage Maltshop"] Zappa was also planning to turn Studio Z into a film studio. He obtained some used film equipment, and started planning a science fiction film to feature Vliet, titled "Captain Beefheart Meets the Grunt People". The title was inspired by an uncle of Vliet's, who lived with Vliet and his girlfriend, and used to urinate with the door open so he could expose himself to Vliet's girlfriend, saying as he did so "Look at that! Looks just like a big beef heart!" Unfortunately, the film would not get very far. Zappa was approached by a used-car salesman who said that he and his friends were having a stag party. As Zappa owned a film studio, could he make them a pornographic film to show at the party? Zappa told him that a film wouldn't be possible, but as he needed the money, would an audio tape be acceptable? The used-car salesman said that it would, and gave him a list of sex acts he and his friends would like to hear. Zappa and a friend, Lorraine Belcher, went into the studio and made a few grunting noises and sound effects. The used-car salesman turned out actually to be an undercover policeman, who was better known in the area for his entrapment of gay men, but had decided to branch out. Zappa and Belcher were arrested -- Zappa's father bailed him out, and Zappa got an advance from Art Laboe to pay Belcher's bail. Luckily "Grunion Run" and "Memories of El Monte" were doing well enough that Laboe could give Zappa a $1500 advance. When the case finally came to trial, the judge laughed at the tape and wanted to throw the whole case out, but the prosecutor insisted on fighting, and Zappa got ten days in prison, and most of his tapes were impounded, never to be returned. He fell behind with his rent, and Studio Z was demolished. And then Ray Collins called him, asking if he wanted to join a bar band: [Excerpt: The Mothers, "Hitch-Hike"] The Soul Giants were formed by a bass player named Roy Estrada. Now, Estrada is unfortunately someone who will come up in the story a fair bit over the next year or so, as he played on several of the most important records to come out of LA in the sixties and early seventies. He is also someone about whom there's fairly little biographical information -- he's not been interviewed much, compared to pretty much everyone else, and it's easy to understand why when you realise that he's currently half-way through a twenty-five year sentence for child molestation -- his third such conviction. He won't get out of prison until he's ninety-three. He's one of the most despicable people who will turn up in this podcast, and frankly I'm quite glad I don't know more about him as a person. He was, though, a good bass player and falsetto singer, and he had released a single on King Records, an instrumental titled "Jungle Dreams": [Excerpt, Roy Estrada and the Rocketeers, "Jungle Dreams"] The other member of the rhythm section, Jimmy Carl Black, was an American Indian (that's the term he always used about himself until his death, and so that's the term I'll use about him too) from Texas. Black had grown up in El Paso as a fan of Western Swing music, especially Bob Wills, but had become an R&B fan after discovering Wolfman Jack's radio show and hearing the music of Howlin' Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson. Like every young man from El Paso, he would travel to Juarez as a teenager to get drunk, see sex shows, and raise hell. It was also there that he saw his first live blues music, watching Long John Hunter, the same man who inspired the Bobby Fuller Four, and he would always claim Hunter as the man whose shows taught him how to play the blues. Black had decided he wanted to become a musician when he'd seen Elvis perform live. In Black's memory, this was a gig where Elvis was an unknown support act for Faron Young and Wanda Jackson, but he was almost certainly slightly misremembering -- it's most likely that what he saw was Elvis' show in El Paso on the eleventh of April 1956, where Young and Jackson were also on the bill, but supporting Elvis who was headlining. Either way, Black had decided that he wanted to make girls react to him the same way they reacted to Elvis, and he started playing in various country and R&B bands. His first record was with a group called the Keys, and unfortunately I haven't been able to track down a copy (it was reissued on a CD in the nineties, but the CD itself is now out of print and sells for sixty pounds) but he did rerecord the song with a later group he led, the Mannish Boys: [Excerpt: Jimmy Carl Black and the Mannish Boys, "Stretch Pants"] He spent a couple of years in the Air Force, but continued playing music during that time, including in a band called The Exceptions which featured Peter Cetera later of the band Chicago, on bass. After a brief time working as lineman in Wichita, he moved his family to California, where he got a job teaching drums at a music shop in Anaheim, where the bass teacher was Jim Fielder, who would later play bass in Blood, Sweat, and Tears. One of Fielder's friends, Tim Buckley, used to hang around in the shop as well, and Black was at first irritated by him coming in and playing the guitars and not buying anything, but eventually became impressed by his music. Black would later introduce Buckley to Herb Cohen, who would become Buckley's manager, starting his professional career. When Roy Estrada came into the shop, he and Black struck up a friendship, and Estrada asked Black to join his band The Soul Giants, whose lineup became Estrada, Black, a sax player named Davey Coronado, a guitarist called Larry and a singer called Dave. The group got a residency at the Broadside club in Ponoma, playing "Woolly Bully" and "Louie Louie" and other garage-band staples. But then Larry and Dave got drafted, and the group got in two men called Ray -- Ray Collins on vocals, and Ray Hunt on guitar. This worked for a little while, but Ray Hunt was, by all accounts, not a great guitar player -- he would play wrong chords, and also he was fundamentally a surf player while the Soul Giants were an R&B group. Eventually, Collins and Hunt got into a fistfight, and Collins suggested that they get in his friend Frank instead. For a while, the Soul Giants continued playing "Midnight Hour" and "Louie Louie", but then Zappa suggested that they start playing some of his original material as well. Davy Coronado refused to play original material, because he thought, correctly, that it would lose the band gigs, but the rest of the band sided with the man who had quickly become their new leader. Coronado moved back to Texas, and on Mother's Day 1965 the Soul Giants changed their name to the Mothers. They got in Henry Vestine on second guitar, and started playing Zappa's originals, as well as changing the lyrics to some of the hits they were playing: [Excerpt: The Mothers, "Plastic People"] Zappa had started associating with the freak crowd in Hollywood centred around Vito and Franzoni, after being introduced by Don Cerveris, his old teacher turned screenwriter, to an artist called Mark Cheka, who Zappa invited to manage the group. Cheka in turn brought in his friend Herb Cohen, who managed several folk acts including the Modern Folk Quartet and Judy Henske, and who like Zappa had once been arrested on obscenity charges, in Cohen's case for promoting gigs by the comedian Lenny Bruce. Cohen first saw the Mothers when they were recording their appearance in an exploitation film called Mondo Hollywood. They were playing in a party scene, using equipment borrowed from Jim Guercio, a session musician who would briefly join the Mothers, but who is now best known for having been Chicago's manager and producing hit records for them and Blood, Sweat, and Tears. In the crowd were Vito and Franzoni, Bryan Maclean, Ram Dass, the Harvard psychologist who had collaborated with Timothy Leary in controversial LSD experiments that had led to both losing their jobs, and other stalwarts of the Sunset Strip scene. Cohen got the group bookings at the Whisky A-Go-Go and The Trip, two of the premier LA nightclubs, and Zappa would also sit in with other bands playing at those venues, like the Grass Roots, a band featuring Bryan Maclean and Arthur Lee which would soon change its name to Love. At this time Zappa and Henry Vestine lived together, next door to a singer named Victoria Winston, who at the time was in a duo called Summer's Children with Curt Boettcher: [Excerpt: Summer's Children, "Milk and Honey"] Winston, like Zappa, was a fan of Edgard Varese, and actually asked Zappa to write songs for Summer's Children, but one of the partners involved in their production company disliked Zappa's material and the collaboration went no further. Zappa at this point was trying to incorporate more ideas from modal jazz into his music. He was particularly impressed by Eric Dolphy's 1964 album "Out to Lunch": [Excerpt: Eric Dolphy, "Hat and Beard"] But he was also writing more about social issues, and in particular he had written a song called "The Watts Riots Song", which would later be renamed "Trouble Every Day": [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Trouble Every Day"] Now, the Watts Uprising was one of the most important events in Black American history, and it feels quite wrong that I'm covering it in an episode about a band made up of white, Latino, and American Indian people rather than a record made by Black people, but I couldn't find any way to fit it in anywhere else. As you will remember me saying in the episode on "I Fought the Law", the LA police under Chief William Parker were essentially a criminal gang by any other name -- they were incompetent, violent, and institutionally racist, and terrorised Black people. The Black people of LA were also feeling particularly aggrieved in the summer of 1965, as a law banning segregation in housing had been overturned by a ballot proposition in November 1964, sponsored by the real estate industry and passed by an overwhelming majority of white voters in what Martin Luther King called "one of the most shameful developments in our nation's history", and which Edmund Brown, the Democratic governor said was like "another hate binge which began more than 30 years ago in a Munich beer hall". Then on Wednesday, August 11, 1965, the police pulled over a Black man, Marquette Frye, for drunk driving. He had been driving his mother's car, and she lived nearby, and she came out to shout at him about drinking and driving. The mother, Rena Price, was hit by one of the policemen; Frye then physically attacked one of the police for hitting his mother, one of the police pulled out a gun, a crowd gathered, the police became violent against the crowd, a rumour spread that they had kicked a pregnant woman, and the resulting protests were exacerbated by the police carrying out what Chief Parker described as a "paramiltary" response. The National Guard were called in, huge swathes of south central LA were cordoned off by the police with signs saying things like "turn left or get shot". Black residents started setting fire to and looting local white-owned businesses that had been exploiting Black workers and customers, though this looting was very much confined to individuals who were known to have made the situation worse. Eventually it took six days for the uprising to be put down, at a cost of thirty-four deaths, 1032 injuries, and 3438 arrests. Of the deaths, twenty-three were Black civilians murdered by the police, and zero were police murdered by Black civilians (two police were killed by other police, in accidental shootings). The civil rights activist Bayard Rustin said of the uprising, "The whole point of the outbreak in Watts was that it marked the first major rebellion of Negroes against their own masochism and was carried on with the express purpose of asserting that they would no longer quietly submit to the deprivation of slum life." Frank Zappa's musical hero Johnny Otis would later publish the book Listen to the Lambs about the Watts rebellion, and in it he devotes more than thirty pages to eyewitness accounts from Black people. It's an absolutely invaluable resource. One of the people Otis interviews is Lily Ford, who is described by my copy of the book as being the "lead singer of the famous Roulettes". This is presumably an error made by the publishers, rather than Otis, because Ford was actually a singer with the Raelettes, as in Ray Charles' vocal group. She also recorded with Otis under the name "Lily of the Valley": [Excerpt: Lily of the Valley, "I Had a Sweet Dream"] Now, Ford's account deserves a large excerpt, but be warned, this is very, very difficult to hear. I gave a content warning at the beginning, but I'm going to give another one here. "A lot of our people were in the street, seeing if they could get free food and clothes and furniture, and some of them taking liquor too. But the white man was out for blood. Then three boys came down the street, laughing and talking. They were teenagers, about fifteen or sixteen years old. As they got right at the store they seemed to debate whether they would go inside. One boy started a couple of times to go. Finally he did. Now a cop car finally stops to investigate. Police got out of the car. Meanwhile, the other two boys had seen them coming and they ran. My brother-in-law and I were screaming and yelling for the boy to get out. He didn't hear us, or was too scared to move. He never had a chance. This young cop walked up to the broken window and looked in as the other one went round the back and fired some shots and I just knew he'd killed the other two boys, but I guess he missed. He came around front again. By now other police cars had come. The cop at the window aimed his gun. He stopped and looked back at a policeman sitting in a car. He aimed again. No shot. I tried to scream, but I was so horrified that nothing would come out of my throat. The third time he aimed he yelled, "Halt", and fired before the word was out of his mouth. Then he turned around and made a bull's-eye sign with his fingers to his partner. Just as though he had shot a tin can off a fence, not a human being. The cops stood around for ten or fifteen minutes without going inside to see if the kid was alive or dead. When the ambulance came, then they went in. They dragged him out like he was a sack of potatoes. Cops were everywhere now. So many cops for just one murder." [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Trouble Every Day"] There's a lot more of this sort of account in Otis' book, and it's all worth reading -- indeed, I would argue that it is *necessary* reading. And Otis keeps making a point which I quoted back in the episode on "Willie and the Hand Jive" but which I will quote again here -- “A newborn Negro baby has less chance of survival than a white. A Negro baby will have its life ended seven years sooner. This is not some biological phenomenon linked to skin colour, like sickle-cell anaemia; this is a national crime, linked to a white-supremacist way of life and compounded by indifference”. (Just a reminder, the word “Negro” which Otis uses there was, in the mid-sixties, the term of choice used by Black people.) And it's this which inspired "The Watts Riot Song", which the Mothers were playing when Tom Wilson was brought into The Trip by Herb Cohen: [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Trouble Every Day"] Wilson had just moved from Columbia, where he'd been producing Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel, to Verve, a subsidiary of MGM which was known for jazz records but was moving into rock and roll. Wilson was looking for a white blues band, and thought he'd found one. He signed the group without hearing any other songs. Henry Vestine quit the group between the signing and the first recording, to go and join an *actual* white blues band, Canned Heat, and over the next year the group's lineup would fluctuate quite a bit around the core of Zappa, Collins, Estrada, and Black, with members like Steve Mann, Jim Guercio, Jim Fielder, and Van Dyke Parks coming and going, often without any recordings being made of their performances. The lineup on what became the group's first album, Freak Out! was Zappa, Collins, Estrada, Black, and Elliot Ingber, the former guitarist with the Gamblers, who had joined the group shortly before the session and would leave within a few months. The first track the group recorded, "Any Way the Wind Blows", was straightforward enough: [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Any Way the Wind Blows"] The second song, a "Satisfaction" knock-off called "Hungry Freaks Daddy", was also fine. But it was when the group performed their third song of the session, "Who Are The Brain Police?", that Tom Wilson realised that he didn't have a standard band on his hands: [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Who Are the Brain Police?"] Luckily for everyone concerned, Tom Wilson was probably the single best producer in America to have discovered the Mothers. While he was at the time primarily known for his folk-rock productions, he had built his early career on Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra records, some of the freakiest jazz of the fifties and early sixties. He knew what needed to be done -- he needed a bigger budget. Far from being annoyed that he didn't have the white blues band he wanted, Wilson actively encouraged the group to go much, much further. He brought in Wrecking Crew members to augment the band (though one of them. Mac Rebennack, found the music so irritating he pretended he needed to go to the toilet, walked out, and never came back). He got orchestral musicians to play Zappa's scores, and allowed the group to rent hundreds of dollars of percussion instruments for the side-long track "Return of the Son of Monster Magnet", which features many Hollywood scenesters of the time, including Van Dyke Parks, Kim Fowley, future Manson family member Bobby Beausoleil, record executive David Anderle, songwriter P.F. Sloan, and cartoonist Terry Gilliam, all recording percussion parts and vocal noises: [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Return of the Son of Monster Magnet"] Such was Wilson's belief in the group that Freak Out! became only the second rock double album ever released -- exactly a week after the first, Blonde on Blonde, by Wilson's former associate Bob Dylan. The inner sleeve included a huge list of people who had influenced the record in one way or another, including people Zappa knew like Don Cerveris, Don Vliet, Paul Buff, Bob Keane, Nik Venet, and Art Laboe,  musicians who had influenced the group like Don & Dewey, Johnny Otis, Otis' sax players Preston Love and Big Jay McNeely, Eric Dolphy, Edgard Varese, Richard Berry, Johnny Guitar Watson, and Ravi Shankar, eccentric performers like Tiny Tim, DJs like Hunter Hancock and Huggy Boy, science fiction writers like Cordwainer Smith and Robert Sheckley, and scenesters like David Crosby, Vito, and Franzoni. The list of 179 people would provide a sort of guide for many listeners, who would seek out those names and find their ways into the realms of non-mainstream music, writing, and art over the next few decades. Zappa would always remain grateful to Wilson for taking his side in the record's production, saying "Wilson was sticking his neck out. He laid his job on the line by producing the album. MGM felt that they had spent too much money on the album". The one thing Wilson couldn't do, though, was persuade the label that the group's name could stay as it was. "The Mothers" was a euphemism, for a word I can't say if I want this podcast to keep its clean rating, a word that is often replaced in TV clean edits of films with "melon farmers", and MGM were convinced that the radio would never play any music by a band with that name -- not realising that that wouldn't be the reason this music wouldn't get played on the radio. The group needed to change their name. And so, out of necessity, they became the Mothers of Invention.