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Today a gem of a lost song from that golden psychedelic year of 1967. Scotland’s Donovan Philip Leitch was all of 20 when he burst upon the scene with a hit for life called Sunshine Superman, then followed that with a song about smoking banana peels called Mellow Yellow to celebrate his 21st birthday. By age 22, he was already in the popular soup of mind expansion, meditating with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and performing acoustic sets on flower strewn stages. And whenever you played this one on underground radio, people wondered where it had come from. From September of 67, the flipside of There Is a Mountain. Shake in you seeds in Mexico, here’s Donovan and Sand and Foam.
Back in 63 four teenagers from Queens formed the memorable Shangri-Las, whose sexy harmonies echoed romantic walks in the sand and falling in love with the Leader of the Pack. Was it the leather jacket, was it the grease, we’ll never know. We do know the girls pulled some wildness on the road, like the time they jacked a motorcycle that belonged to New York DJ Murray the K and it was eventually found on the roof of Brooklyn’s Fox Theatre. Here they are from 1965, produced by Shadow Morton…Betty and Mary Weiss, Marge and Mary Ann Ganser…Sophisticated Boom Boom from the Shangri Las…
When Lucky Wray and the Palamino Ranch Hands stepped into a North Carolina studio in 1955, there wasn’t a lot of evidence that the lead guitarist was on the verge of becoming a legend. Link Wray had lost a lung to tuberculosis during the Korean War, so instead of becoming a singer concentrated on bringing sounds from his guitar that no one had ever heard before. A few years later he was calling himself Ray Vernon and playing with a D.C. group called the Ray Men when he invented the power chord during an improvised song at a Virginia sock hop. It was bad from the first lick, so bad that it was banned from many Top 40 stations including those in New York City because it allegedly promoted gang violence. And it was an instrumental. Here’s Link Wray from 1958, with Rumble.
Biff Rose released his second album, Children of Light, in 1969 shortly after he confronted racism in America with a controversial poem on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. An intenerant musician ever since, Biff has never feared to play the uncomfortable card, adding a certain irony to what sounds like a humorous song. Here’s a song called Spaced Out, which shifts gears into I’ve Got You Covered. Biff Rose on Old School.
The London psychedelic underground of 1967 consisted of three bands. Pink Floyd, Tomorrow, and The Soft Machine. The latter lost key member Daevid Allen, an Australian guitarist, when the UK denied his visa, leaving the trio of organist Michael Ratledge, drummer Robert Wyatt, and lead guitarist Kevin Ayres to record their first self titled album. Jimi Hendrix’s manager liked the jazz-rock sound, and signed them for an exhausting tour of the US in 1968, opening for the Experience. Here’s the opening song from that first album, complete with the “Joy of a Toy” interlude and reprise. The Soft Machine and Hope For Happiness.
Being founding members of the Jefferson Airplane wasn’t enough for bassist Jack Casady and guitarist Jorma Kaukonen. As early as 1969 they had formed a trio with harmonica player Will Scarlet, and were jamming a sound that was less psychedelic and more bluesy than their flights with the airplane. Here’s their first song from their first release in 1970. Hot Tuna with Hesitation Blues…
Joe Meek couldn’t sing or play, but his place as a producer has solidified him in music history. As Jello Biafra once said, “You can tell a Joe Meek record a mile away.” He was a pop maven with a unique business sense…he would make records his way, then lease them to labels. Instead of a state of the art studio, he recorded in his rented flat. His life was cut short in 1967 when he killed his landlady, then himself. We’ll put the needle down just a little earlier, 1963, when he produced the first British rock and roll record to top the American charts, a year before the Beatles. Here’s The Tornadoes, produced by Joe Meek, and Telstar…
In 1967, secret agent 007, James Bond tracked Ernst Starvo Blofeld to a secret high tech hideway inside a dormant volcano in Japan. A singer of spectacular skills would be called upon to sing the theme, much like Shirley Bassey had done with Goldfinger and Tom Jones had done with Thunderball. The year before, Nancy Sinatra had outsold her famous father with a song about foot wear. Boots may be made for walking, but James Bond had a license to kill. Nancy Sinatra with You Only Live Twice.
Manfred Lubowitz was born in Johannesburg in 1940, but in Great Britain in the 60s he changed his name to Manfred Mann and started an R&B band that became popular because of pop singles. The Mann Hugg Blues Brothers were popular, but were in need of a better name. Soon they were playing on Top of the Pops and beginning a history that would go on for years with personnel changes that we could track over the course of a half hour. Or we could just play their 19th single, a surrealistic ditty called My Name is Jack from 1968.
Four members of the Chambers Brothers were really brothers—George, Willie, Joseph, and Lester, born and raised in Lee County Miss. They harmonized at the First Baptist Church until 1952 when George was drafted, then when he got out, he urged the rest of the Chambers to come to Los Angeles and have a go at the music business. They were basically unknown until they hit New York in 1965, and are remembered mostly today for a psychedelic anthem called Time has Come Today. That cut overshadowed that album, which is too bad, because all the funk, soul, and gospel meet with the sound of the 60s in every cut. The Chambers Brothers, 1968, and All Strung Out Over You…
Professor Mikey has been puzzled for many years now over this album. The fourth release by the Clash, Sandanista, in 1980 got slammed at the time for being too ambitious. What was this punk band, known globally as the only band that matters, doing Jackson Pollock sized swipes at waltz, gospel, disco, children's tunes, funk, reggae, dub, instrumentals, heavens even psychedelia? What nerve. Hey, if the critics could have read, they’d have gone after Thomas Pynchon for writing Gravity’s Rainbow. Oh well, drop the needle anywhere and you’ll find something choice. Here’s The Clash with Lightning Strikes Not Once But Twice.
I was watching late night television a few nights back, and one of my all time favorites came on, the Ramones in Rock n Roll High School. In this film, they performed a song that jogged my memory. Everybody knows their cover of California Sun, but what you might not realize is that the original hit was also a cover, a song written by R&B artist Joe Jones. One of the last great garage bands before the British invasion came out of South Bend, Indiana, with a song that rode the giant wave up the pop charts, only to be eventually wiped out by a song called I Wanna Hold Your Hand. From 1964, the Rivieras and California Sun.
Jimmie Spheeris released his first record at age 22 in 1971, called “Isle of View.” Professor Mikey’s Oklahoma radio station presented him in concert that year, but he couldn’t make a connection from Dallas, so we sent a cosmic DJ to pick him up. For 250 miles our DJ talked with Jimmie about truth, beauty, light, magic, meditation and incense. Finally, Jimmie said to him, “I’m not from here.” And that was that. His career lasted until 1984 when he hopped on his motorcycle after completing an album in Venice California and was taken out by a drunk driver. Spheeris left behind a fascinating legacy of music that skirted across genres, but usually centered around lush and romantic themes, the kind of music you hear when you find your true love in a rain soaked garden in another time. Here’s Jimmie Spheeris, and I Am The Mercury…
The Incredible Kim Fowley was the title of an album that came out just before this single, which happened in 1967 just after Fowley appeared on Frank Zappa’s FreakOUt album and before he began producing sessions for Wild Man Fischer. This would be after he produced Popsicles and Icicles for the Murmaids and before he produced the first single for the Soft Machine. Before he discovered the Runaways, before he produced music for the Modern Lovers. After he produced Alley Oop for the Hollywood Argiles, but before he produced Gene Vincent’s comeback in the 60s. You may have guessed that Kim Fowley is, was, and will be in the future, the hardest working man in the underground. From 1967 Kim Fowley performs Strangers from the Sky...
Today the first song ever released by the Flaming Groovies. This San Francisco alternative band became more of an alternative as disco took hold in the 70s, but in 1965 the band formed with a pledge to keep rock and roll within a basic blues and pop foundation, no matter how psychedelic the rest of the world might spin. When they were born they mainly the product of guitarist and singer Cyral Jordan and a rather enthusiastic singer Roy A Loney. Today the first song on their DIY 7 song LP released in 1966. They hit it big with a contract from the Epic label, produced an album that didn’t sell, and found they to be sensations in Europe at a time that they were still underground darlings in San Francisco. In this, the first song on that first release called sneakers, the jug band vibe meets the reality of electric rock and roll. The result is I’m Drowning, from the Flamin Groovies...
Today we wrap up Bad Guy week with a real monster. The Pusher. You know, the dealer is a man with love grass in his hand. But the Pusher is a monster, he’s not a natural man. The dealer for a nickel will sell you lots of sweet dreams, but the pusher Will ruin your body and leave your mind to scream. So wrote Hoyt Axton in 1963. In a better mood he had also written Joy to the World, but in this song there was no joy. Except for the band Steppenwolf who became the first to put the song on record five years later in 1968. They saw this song become the theme to the motion picture Easy Rider and become the second best known song on their album. But unlike “Born To Be Wild,” which would be played on Classic Rock radio every day for the next three centuries, The Pusher received no airplay. City officials in Winston Salem North Carolina tried unsuccessfully to persuade the band to use an alternate lyric, perhaps Gosh Darn. But it just wasn’t the same song. Some stations tried to cut the word, or bleep it, but that was rather maddening to listen to. You would find yourself saying it over and over, instead of lead singer John Kay. This was a song about a bad guy who dealt heroin and he provoked a bitter curse. Which gives us cause to warn the listening public that you are about to hear the original uncensored version of The Pusher. Specifically, you will hear a terrible couple of words my father used around the house about 40 times per day. This word is so bad, it even got referred to in the Ten Commandments, because everyone knew what it meant if you took the lord’s name in vain. So be forewarned. For the next 5:50 Steppenwolf sings their most famous anti drug song. Bad Guy wraps up with the man Lou Reed was waiting for, The Pusher.
B. B. King was still a young man when he recorded this. At age 45 in 1970 he had been making records for over two decades and had achieved national treasure status. Only a handful of the original delta bluesmen were still recording regularly in the disco decade, and none were churning out hits to a new generation of rock fans as was King. The thrill was hardly gone. B. B. had taken it to the bank. In addition to his studio output, he appeared to the stage 300 nights out of the year. Here’s two songs that roll into each other from his album “Indianola Mississippi Seeds.” ON the first short intro, B. B. sings and plays piano. Then he picks up the guitar he saved from a nightclub that had exploded in flames during a fight over a woman named Lucille, and Carole King takes over on the keyboard. Nobody Loves Me But My Mother and You’re Still My Woman. B. B. King 1970...
Garage music was not called garage at the time. Psychedelic was just coming on. The punks were having tough childhoods. This was just good raw rock and roll, created in minimal surroundings on primitive equipment who electricity depended upon finding an extension chord with the fewest knots and holes. The Shadows of Knight formed in Chicago in 1964 and recorded three albums in five years. Founding members included Warren Rogers (lead guitar), Norm Gotsch (rhythm guitar), Wayne Pursell (bass), Tom Schiffour (drums) and Jim Sohns (vocals). Kings of the Friday night illinois local dance circuit, here are the Shadows of Knight recording for a Dunwich A side single on Aug 6, 1966. Bad Little Woman...
Wynonie Harris worked in the early days of R&B. He dropped out of an Omaha high school and by age 20 was singing in gigs all over Nebraska. At age 25 he took his wife to Los Angeles, where he became known as Mr Blues at the Club Alabam. Despite the recording drought in World War II (they needed vinyl to fight the war) Harris kept up his live performances that were borderline nasty and borderline rock and roll. Good Rockin Tonight he recorded in 1948, long before Elvis ever thought about rockin. But what, pray tell, was he thinking about in 1952 when he recorded this song. It got banned by several stations. It’s about churning butter. What’s so wrong with churning butter? You are about to find out, as we drop the needle on Wynonie Harris and Keep on Churnin Til the Butter Comes...
Flutist Andy Kulberg and drummer Roy Blumenfeld headed for the Summer of Love in San Francisco shortly after their New York band, the Blues Project, dissolved in 1967. IN the Bay Area they teamed violinist Richard Greene who was into bluegrass, John Gregory who had played guitar for Mystery Trend, and Jim Roberts, whose instrument of choice was poetry. Seatrain’s music is pre fusion but progressing in a way that incorporated jazz and folk into a rock base. From their first album on A&M in 1969, here is Portrait of the Artist as a Young Lady from Seatrain...
Shuggie Otis was a guitar prodigy. The son of bandleader Johnny Otis, he got to see the business upclose from infancy. When he was 16 in 1969 when he appeared on his father’s record of “Country Girl.” Leading up to that time, he would don disguises so that he could look old enough to play in clubs headlined by the Johnny Otis Band. Today we hear a song he wrote made famous by the Brothers Johnson six years after Shuggie was inspired to write a song about the strawberry scented paper his girlfriend used to write him loveletters. A few years went by, George Johnson was dating an Otis cousin, who turned him on to THE song. George played it for brother Louis Johnson, Louis loved it and made it his wedding march. After the honeymoon, they found Quincy Jones and took the cover in a new direction. Here’s the song they flipped over. Shuggie Otis at age 17 in 1971, from Freedom Flight, and the original Strawberry Letter 23.
Here’s a song about a movie that was never filmed, a wild and woolly romp through the wild west as it appeared in the brain of David Crosby while he was probably doing damage to his liver. It’s a grand tale, an 8 minute yarn that would make Zane Grey or John Wayne proud to put on their spurs. The Duke and Eli and a bunch of other no good train robbers have returned to camp after a moonlit heist. But the law is on their tail, and you won’t believe who it is. But what is it really about? It’s really about Crosby Stills and Nash almost breaking up in 1970. Steve Stills is Eli, Graham Nash is the Duke, Neil Young is Young Billy, Raven is Rita Coolidge. Saddle up for a wild West detour into rock and roll minutia on David Crosby’s 1972 solo album “If I Could Only Remember My Name. The epic “Cowboy Movie...”
Today the story of an original that got outdistanced by the cover. Soft Cell updated Tainted Love in 1982 with a punky soul kind of backdrop that was very famous by the time it was discovered by the Coneheads. The song itself is about the soiled sheets of an affair gone bad in 1964. Gloria Jones was a bright young soul singer, but her original version is almost forgotten. Even though she re-recorded it for the disco crowd in 1976. Shortly after that, she became Marc Bolan’s girlfriend, and her dubious place in rock history is not because of this song, but because she was driving the death car when the man who was known as T Rex was killed in 1977. Here she is many years before the tragedy, 1964, Gloria Jones and Tainted Love.
By 1970 the Velvet Underground was in John Cale’s rear view mirror, and the avante garde solo career was hardly well planned. His first album as a solo act was called Vintage Violence, and was surprisingly polished and in place. Using members from Garland Jeffries band Grinder’s Switch, there’s almost a country feel to the songs. On the cover he looks like American Psycho, but in the cuts, he’s together, he’s poetic, he’s got something to say about the music business and trying to be a player in a band. Released on Mar 25, 1970, here’s the opening song on side two from John Cale’s Vintage Violence....Charlemagne...
The autumn that followed the summer of Love, 1967 was as different an autumn as the music world had ever seen. The summer wouldn’t let go, with Sgt Pepper and his lonely hearts club imitators. A new kind of radio on the FM dial had begun to toll the death of AM top 40, with it’s longer songs and it’s experimental rags. Beaming from San Francisco, you have perhaps America’s most innovative band, fueled by revolution, powered by LSD and raw talent, the Jefferson Airplane has pulled back on the throttle of rock and roll and headed for the stratosphere. Spencer Dryden serves up a back beat that is neither surf or pop. The vocals interchange between wild woman Grace Slick, her sometime love Paul Kantner, and the brooding Marty Balin. Bassist Jack Cassidy is a thumping blues bass player who teams with guitarist Jorma Kaukonen for extended conversations with no words. Their album, After Bathing at Baxter’s would have caught everyone off guard had not the world been into being caught off guard. The opening comes gliding out of clear white sky, a 2/4 rhythm with the spanking chords and a song that doesn’t really even sound like a son in the traditional sense. The Jefferson Airplane make love to each other and to you on the Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil.
In 1968, the Van Morrison we know today had yet to be revealed. His days with the Irish garage champions Them were over, his first songs as a solo act was a little tune called Brown Eyed Girl. Somewhere between that beginning and nearly a half century of popularity comes Astral Weeks, described by many who lived through that era as their favorite album of all time. There’s nothing in the Morrison catalogue like it. Instead of the swaying brassy rock bands he would assemble later, these are straight ahead jazz musicians, trying to following Van through a series of heavenly observations on lost love, solitary atmospheric memories, and profound unexplainable imagination. Pulling one song out of this album length statement is always risky, but for today’s lesson we’re going to hear a religious experience called Slim Slo Slider. Van Morrison from Astral Weeks.
In the late summer of 1961, 25 year old Roy Orbison hit the charts with a ballad he wrote over a love that didn’t last. It was two years since the breakup, Roy’s career was taking off, but he couldn’t get this pretty woman out of his mind. So he went slowly crazy in a song. It starts off slow with some quiet tom toms, then it builds and builds until the agony is too much. Two minutes and 43 seconds later the artists has come apart on one of the great high notes ever hit in rock and roll. How do you mend a broken heart? You don’t, but in this case, Roy Orbison turns it into a masterpiece. From 61, Crying…
Today a story about a long haired vegetarian who showed up in a robe and sandals backstage in LA one night with a few songs that he’d written, put them in the hands of a star, and in so doing became an unlikely songwriting sensation. What was unique was that the year was 1946, and Eden Ahbez was at least twenty years ahead of his time. World War II had been over less than a year, and the first hippy was on the scene. The story goes that he was feeding his family on three dollars a week, sleeping under the stars with his family, living on vegetables, fruits, and nuts. To anyone who listened, Ahbez, who took on the appearance of a postwar Jesus, preached the purity of nature and the opening of the mind. One night he showed up at the Million Dollar Theatre where popular singer Nat King Cole was giving a concert, and presented him with the song we are about to experience. Life Magazine ran a picture of him, bathing under a waterfall, a peaceful expression on his bearded face. The song itself was very different and very mysterious, and with the orchestration by Frank DeVol and the velvet sensibilities of the singer, it became a classic. Here’s Nat King Cole with the most famous composition of Eden Ahbez...from 1947 this is Nature Boy.
The Mar-Keys were a group of session specialists from Memphis who dictated the direction of the Stax label in creating some everlasting soul. There were usually around 10 people in the band, stars of their own instruments, including behind the scenes legends Steve Cropper, Donald Duck Dunn, Don Nix, Wayne Jackson, Jerry Lee Smoochie Smith. And Booker T Jones. And Isaac Hayes. To most Top 40 DJs, those names meant nothing, but when they were looking for an instrumental to talk over to introduce their own shows, many picked this catchy tune from 1961. It’s one of those you may have heard a few thousand times and never realized the actual title. Its the stellar brilliance of the Mar Keys and Last Night...
Separating the unknown Ted Nugent from the Ted Nugent that came to be is practically impossible. Still, there was a time before when the Detroit native came under the spell of the Stones and the Yardbirds, and formed the bands Royal High Boys and Lourdes to show his appreciation. By 1967 he had teamed with vocalist John Drake, guitarist Steve Farmer, bassist Bill White and Rick Lober on keyboards, and that thing in his hands wasn’t a crossbow, it was a Gibson Byrdland guitar. Despite the druggy invitations scattered throughout their breakthrough number, the straightlaced Nugent insisted that he was completely unaware,..that one could attain the wisdom from such an inner voyage with no chemical or distilled assistance. Come along, if you can, and dig the first shot at stardom for the man who shot his music, skinned it, and ate it. The Amboy Dukes featuring Ted Nugent, Summer of 68, a Journey to the Center of the Mind.
One of the first casualties of the British band Jethro Tull was guitarist and vocalist Mick Abrahams who left after the groups first album, citing creative differences with leader Ian Anderson. Abrahams immediately teamed up with saxophonist Jack Lancaster, bassist Andy Pyle, drummer Ron Berg, and future Yes and Flash guitarist Peter Banks. This new band was named Blodwyn Pig. Accoding to Abrahams website, a stone hippy friend came up with the name, and nobody knew what it meant. But underground DJs loved to say it. Not a big deal for Mick, who just celebrated his 65th birthday with a new website and an autobiography entitled “What is a Wommit...” Here’s the band on their second album “Getting To This” released in 1970. Blodwyn Pig and See My Way...
In the 1960s, Johnny Cash recorded a series of Americana albums. One of his more unusual but resonant projects was Bitter Tears, eight songs about the trials and transformations of native Americans. New York folksinger Peter LaFarge wrote the albums most memorable song, about a young member of the Pima tribe who helped raise the flag on Iwo Jima in World War II. Ira Hayes was a misunderstood hero to most of the world, but when Cash told the story it becames clear and permanent. Something that will last as long as the grass grows and the rivers run. Johnny Cash 1964 and the Ballad of Ira Hayes...
Junior Wells was born in Memphis. At the age of 18 in 1952 he replaced Little Walter as as the harp in the Muddy Waters Band. Today we hear a deep cut from his 1965 solo album Hoodoo Man Blues. The melody was born in the Delta and hitched a freight to Chicago. Three years later it would appear as Big Mama Thornton’s “Ball and Chain” as recorded by Janis Joplin. But here, it is simply Wells moaning just before dawn, with a guitarist credited as “Friendly Chap” on the album because of contract details. What you get is Junior Wells on vocals and harmonica, Buddy Guy on guitar, and blues as pure and honest as you will ever hear. Junior Wells, IN the Wee Small Hours of the Morning. Have mercy...
Here’s a band that got really big, back when they were still the darlings of the underground. Ian Anderson came from Scotland, moved to Blackpool when he was 12, and formed a band called the Blades. They morphed into the John Evan Band, then the John Evan Smash. Members came and went. As late as 1967 they were calling themselves Navy Blue and Bag of Blues, when they ran across a popular inventor farmer of the 18th century, and took his name. Jethro Tull would have been proud. By 1969 they were a foursome, with drummer Clive Bunker, Glenn Cornick on bass and Martin Barre, whose lead guitar sounds like it’s full and jet fuel on this cut. I went 30 years without hearing this song and today I am surprised by it’s sonic perfection. Anderson’s signature flute is there, but instead of the grandstand act he would become, you have here a balanced foursome, in sync and overpowering. It’s a ballad about a one night stand. From Stand Up, Jethro Tull and A New Day Yesterday.
Long before there was a DJ, rock and roll featured another Spooky. This would be Spooky Tooth, whose signal we pick up hovering a few miles over London in the late 60s and early 70s. Many of the band members were in mid-career. Bassist Greg Ridley would leave to go to Humble Pie, singer keyboard in a guru state of mind Gary Wright would form Wonderwheel before going solo. And badboy guitarist Luther Grosvenor would change his name to Ariel Bender and bounce to Stealers Wheel and eventually Mott the Hoople. Gary Wright would eventually become the Dream Weaver, but here is the first idea he had on the theme, a bit of a bluesy nightmare ground through the lens of the British anti-disco hard rockers thickest wireframed glasses. From Spooky Two side two, 1969 Lost in My Dream...Spooky Tooth...
The Charlie Manson Beach Boys connections begins on a late summer night in 1968, when drummer Dennis Wilson drops a couple of female hitchhikers at his house on Sunset Boulevard, one that was once owned by Will Rogers. Wilson returned from a recording session at 3 a.m. to find that the girls had invited a dozen friends over, including a strange guy who preached brotherhood and cosmic dribble. Over the next few weeks Wilson was intrigued by Manson’s music, and even took him to producer Terry Melcher’s house on Cielo Drive. Melcher didn’t care much for it, and the story goes that Manson returned to the house the next year to settle the score. By that time Melcher had moved out and Sharon Tate had moved in. Wilson’s friendship with Manson dissolved over the next year, disintegrating into death threats every time Wilson refused to fork over a thousand or so in spare change. Part of Manson’s wrath came from a song he wrote called “Cease to Exist.” Dennis liked it, but changed the words around, then dropped Manson’s name from the author credit. Here’s the finished product, Never Learn Not To Love…The Beach Boys sing Charles Manson.
Vanilla Fudge formed in New York in 1966, and forged their own unique blend of metal, psychedelia, and self importance. They broke away from their mold of doing Beatles and Supremes covers in 1968 for their second album, a concept album produced by Shadow Morton called The Beat Goes On, wherein they offered up a psychedelic stew that featured everything from the philosophy of Sonny Bono to the voice of Winston Churchill. The point was that time, and music, keep marching on, and in addition to works by Mozart, Stephen Foster, Lieber and Stoller, and Lennon and McCartney, there is a heavy but strange homage to Ludwig van Beethoven, twoo of his solo piano works, Fur Elise and Moonlight Sonata, and imagined through the blasting Hammond B3 of Mark Stein. The Vanilla Fudge do Beethoven on Old School…
Here’s another lesson from the Texas school of rock and roll. Gene Summers was a Dallas rockabilly legend, who captured the Lone Star state with his group, The Rebels. From there he went to a group called Tommy and the Tom Toms. His life in rebellious rock got him inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 1997. On this song, recorded in 1958, all squares are put on notice. Rock and roll is for kids, daddy oh. Gene Summers and the Rebels and the School of Rock and Roll…
Thomas Rapp’s group Pearls Before Swine is mistakenly thought of as a British band from time to time, although Rapp was born in North Dakota, and formed his band in Florida. The story goes that he beat out a young Bob Dylan at a talent show in the Midwest, but even more curious is the reality…that Rapp walked away from music in the 1970s to become a civil rights attorney. Here he his, from a solo project he put out in 1972, a quiet meditation about a father who happened to be a spaceman. Thomas Rapp and Stardancer..
Muddy Waters had just celebrated his 53rd birthday when he embarked on a bit of experimentation with 26 year old producer Marshall Chess. It was April of 1968, Martin Luther King had just been laid to rest, the Vietnam war was raging, and music was melting with psychedelics. Chess’s idea was to electrify Muddy, who hadn’t had a record on the charts in over ten years. The results made blues purists cringe, but today time has won out. Muddy could rock as well as he could beat the blues. He wasn't maddog crazy about it, he said the guitar sounded like a cat meowing and the drums had a loping, busy beat. But as part of the Chess family, he perservered. Traditionalist hated it, but a new generation was coming along that would take this album to heart. Here’s Muddy Waters, updating a song called “Mannish Boy” that he originally recorded in 1955. Unplugged? Hell no. This is Electric Mud…
Santo and Johnny Farina came from Brooklyn, where 22 year old Santo played a lap steel guitar. He taught his 17 year old brother Johnny to play the electric guitar. Their mother and sister helped on the composition that would earn them a gold record in 1959, along with appearances on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and Alan Freed’s show. The song would take on a life of it’s own, showing up in movies as well as hip hop samples. Santo and Johnny performed well into the 70s, in fact their version of the theme from The Godfather was huge in Italy. But the song they had to play in every performance is the instrumental that echoes drive ins, teen romance, love at the malt shop, leather jacketed legends, dreamy cheerleaders, anything you want to put with it. Santo and Johnny, and Sleepwalk…
Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan met in high school choir in Westchester, CA, and soon after formed a surf band called The Crossfires. After graduation they changed their name to The Turtles, and before long found themselves on top of the pop charts with sweet and pleasant melodies like Happy Together and She’d Rather Be With Me. When the group broke up in 1970, the duo successfully did one of the greatest career flips in music history, joining Frank Zappa’s Mother’s of Invention. Now, they could be as weird as they wanted. Soon, they were recording solo albums as The Phlorescent Leech and Eddie, Flo and Eddie for short. Which brings us to their 1972 debut in this incarnation. Flo and Eddie scale the heights of pop weirdness, with their theme song and “Feel Older Now.” The Phlorescent Leech and Eddie.
Their slogan was “entertainment through pain.” Britain’s industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle formed in London in 1975. They were vocalist/ringleader Genesis P-Orridge, his then-lover, guitarist Cosey Fanni Tutti, tape magician Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson, and keyboardist Chris Carter. They formed the Industrial label, then titled their first album, The Best of Throbbing Gristle, Vol. 2. For 1977’s The Second Annual Report of Throbbing Gristle, they only pressed 500 copies. An underground hit called "United" reappeared on 1978's D.O.A: The Third and Final Report, sped up to last all of 17 seconds. Alongside were songs like "Hamburger Lady" (inspired by a burn-unit victim) and "Death Threats" (a compilation of murderous messages left on the group's answering machine). The band has since reformed and recently released their fist album in 25 years. For old school we go back in time to the 4th studio album, just before the breakup. From 1980’s Heathen Earth, Throbbing Gristle and Adrenalin.
King Curtis sprang on to the New York City music scene in the late 50s with a smoking tenor saxophone that was heard on a lot of early hits including those by the Coasters. He signed with Atlantic and Atco records, produced some jazzy r&B discs, left for Capitol records, then returned to Atlantic in 1967 with a recipe for success. His album “King Size Soul” offered some done home covers of current hits like For What It’s Worth and A Whiter Shade of Pale, but when the King took off the crown and put on a chef’s hat, he produced one incredibly delectable musical meal. King Curtis and Memphis Soul Stew
J Frank Wilson was a one hit wonder from Lufkin Texas, who recorded a song that disturbed the older generation so much that it was pulled from many radio stations. Blue eyed Georgia soul singer Wayne Cochran had written the teen tearjerker, but it was Wilson, along with his group the Cavaliers, that took this woeful saga of death on the highway to the top of the charts, curiously right at the height of the early 60s British onslaught. He never sampled that kind of success again, tailspinning into alcoholism and eight unsuccessful marriages. He died just before his 50th birthday in 1991. Return with us now to those tragic days of yesteryear, and the biggest bummer of 1964. J. Frank Wilson and Last Kiss…
Professor Mikey is not the first person in the last half century to note that Big Mama Thornton’s version of Hound Dog, recorded almost four years before Elvis Presley got hold of it, takes on a whole new meaning when sung by a woman. And what a woman. Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller wrote the song for Thornton, who at the time was singing with the Johnny Otis band. It topped the R&B charts in 1953, then turned into a legal nightmare. The Peacock label gave Otis writing credit, then the lawyers swarmed in when various takeoffs were released. The story goes that Elvis was unaware of Big Mama’s version when he recorded what would become a monster hit in 1956. Still, savvy critics noted that the song made little sense when sung by a man. Here’s the original, exhibit A, Big Mama Thornton recording in Los Angeles on August 13, 1952.