West Coast Acid Rock – Oph & Mike’s Radio Shows

I was digging around in the archives and uncovered these scripts I produced when I was parking about with my mate Mike making Radio Shows. They were fun!!

Radio Shows

Programme 3 – West Coast Acid Rock

In 1966 it started to take off. The British Invasion of Beat Groups had sparked a resurgence of Rock music.

Dylan has raised everyone’s sensibilities with his songs of social justice, anti-war and poetic Beat poet stream of consciousness. He’d pulled song writing out of the mundane love songs and into more mature issues.

In Britain the Beatles, Stones, Yardbirds, Prettythings, Who and Animals had developed Rock Music to the forefront of Psychedelia. In the States there was a heady state of politics, anti-draft, anti- Vietnam war, Black pantherism, Weathermen, spirituality based on Zen and Indian mysticism, Jesus freakery, and Pot and acid. Revolution was in the air. The Yippies were getting going.

They set about setting up a new culture.

Acid rock came out of this.

The Byrds were an early example. They started as a beat group covering Dylan songs and were at the forefront of Folkrock. By 1967 they had developed into a West Coast Acid Rock Band and their album Notorious Byrd Brothers, made when they were on the point of splitting up was a work of sublime genius. This song was used in the legendary ‘Easy Rider’ film.

I Wasn’t born to follow – Byrds

I was introduced to the West Coast sound by Mike. He was a tall gangling youth of 19 who went to York University, worked at Weekends at Lyons bakery, and regaled me with tales of dropping acid and doing all-nighters at Middle Earth with the likes of Pink Floyd. He was growing his hair as long as he could get it and so refused to comb it in case it broke the ends off. The nearest it got to a comb was him running his fingers through it.

He introduced me to Country Joe and the Fish, the Doors and Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band.

Mike loved the Doors. He loved the front cover of their first album where Jim Morrison looked so wasted.

The Doors came out of R&B from LA. I just loved the sound of Robbie Krieger’s slide guitar. It took Elmore James to a new sound. The Doors, driven by Manzarek’s organ which also provided the bass line,  married their music to Jim’s poetry and a strange Acid mysticism.  Reality was something to be escaped from. Jim certainly escaped from it after a few short years of excess and alcoholism. He died at the age of 27.

Strange Days was probably the best album to come out of 1967.

But in 1967 Acid Rock was where it was at. Dig it man

Break on through to the other side – The Doors

Country Joe and the Fish came out of San Francisco. They had started life as a political jug-band before getting into Rock and the San Francisco Acid Rock Scene. They too had a very distinctive guitar sound courtesy of Barry Melton.

They took a more overtly political, anti-war stance than some of the other bands and in the weirdness stakes, which was one the criteria to be judged on, rated as one of the weirdest.

I caught them live in 1969 at the Royal Albert Hall. They did a little perplexing medley of country tunes like I’ve got a tiger by the tail in the middle of their set. This was very perplexing to us. We’d gone along for far outa sight acid rock. Country music was lame. Most bewildering.

They produced three excellent albums the best of which were the first two – Electric Music for the body and mind and I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to die.

Untitled protest was probably the best anti-Vietnam war song ever

Untitled Protest – Country Joe and the Fish

The third band that Mike introduced me to was the weirdest of all. Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band came out of the R&B scene in Los Angeles. The Captain, who had the most powerful voice in rock, was greatly influenced by Son House and Howlin’ Wolf.

I first saw them perform at Middle Earth on a double bill with John Mayall. They blew me away. I had never heard anything quite like it – delta blues on acid. I messed up my A Levels because of that concert. I only got 4 hours sleep and messed up a Biology exam.

I saw them at the Rainbow in the early 70s with John French, Zoot Horn Rollo, Rockette Morton and Winged Eel Fingerling. It was the best concert I have ever been to.

Sure Enough and Yes I Do, from the first album had a bit of their live magic.

Sure enough, n’ Yes I do – Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band

In San Francisco there was much going on and the counter culture was getting pretty organized with events put on by ‘The Family Dog’, be-ins, love-ins and free festivals in Golden Gate Park.

Haight Ashbury had become the focus for a lot of the action and a centre for disaffected youth.

One of the bands associated with this scene was Jefferson Airplane. Grace Slick had joined them from the Great Society and they’s soared. They’d come in from Folk roots and featured long drawn out acid drenched guitar solos and trippy light shows.

Grace brought a few of her compositions with her and propelled the band into the stratosphere.

Don’t you want somebody to love – Jefferson Airplane

Then there was the most far-out acid drenched band of all. The Grateful Dead. They started life as an R&B band called the Warlocks and then got involved with Ken Kessey (Who wrote ‘One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest’) and Owsley, who supposedly produced all the best acid for the Rock bands in the area. The Warlocks provided music – mainly feedback riven sound – for Kessey’s electric Kool Aid Acid Tests and toured round with the Merry Pranksters.

The bands tended to live on the Haight in big houses (it was a cheap run down area) in a sort of loose communal style as befitted Freaks of the new revolution. Their sound brought in Pigpen’s Blues with Garcia’s Bluegrass to create a unique sound that was best heard live,

The Grateful Dead were the masters of tie-dye and lightshows developing a music that was hypnotic and powered along through weaving long drawn out rambles – highly suited to the superstoned.

I caught the remains of Grateful Dead – under the name Furthur – the name of Ken Kessey’s bus – at the Bill Graham auditorium for New Year 2012/13. They were brilliant. Like the bringing together of the tribes.

Which Born Cross eyed is not really representational of the sound it is hard to play 20 minute tracks with 5 minutes of feedback on the radio.

Born Cross-eyed – Grateful Dead

The other big band from San Francisco was Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin. Country Joe was very keen on both Janis and Grace and featured songs about both of them on his albums – suitable titled ‘Grace’ and ‘Janis’.

Janis came from Texas and was incorporated into Big Brother because of her enormously powerful voice. She was much more of a Soul singer that other San Francisco vocalists.

Janis had her own tree in Golden Gate Park by Hippy hill. She used to sit in it with her guitar and practice.

Piece of my heart – Big Brother & the Holding company

Meanwhile in Los Angeles there was a tougher, more R & B driven sound. The Doors had already shown a bit of this but it was echoed in bands like Love and Beefheart. Love’s first couple of albums were more like proto-punk albums than Summer of Love.

Then to cap it all they brought out the brilliant ‘Forever Changes’

Arthur Lee lived in this big house called the Citadel overlooking LA. Here he surveyed the city and wrote incredible songs.

Love reformed – following Arthur’s imprisonment for fire-arm offences and the scourge of heroin. I saw them a number of times and they were brilliant.

Alone Again – Love

Buffalo Springfield brought together a bunch of strong characters including Neil Young and Stephen Stills. They brought a Folk song writing quality but were destined to fall apart.

They had an up and down relationship from there on with stints in Crosby Stills Nash and Young later.

The Buffalo Springfield were resident on Sunset Boulevard with clubs like the Whiskey a go go. The LA scene was different in feel to San Francisco. SF was more laid back but LA had a throb of violence. There were flare ups between the counter-culture and police typified in this song.

For What it’s worth – Buffalo Springfield

The Mothers of Invention are hard to categorize.  They always had a heavy reliance on satire and theatre with a good dollop of skeptical politics thrown in. Frank Zappa was very off the wall. They never really bought into the whole Summer of Love concept and were scathing of the pseudo-hippie scene and drugs without losing a bit of their counter-culture status. With doo-wop, garage punk, Jazz and theatre Frank lampoons middle American values unmercifully. It landed him in court on a number of occasions on obscenity charges. They were the freakiest band of all time and one of the best.

Their early albums were patchy with some absolute classics. It all came together for the wonderful ‘We’re only in it for the money’ with its take off of Srgt Peppers cover featuring the Mothers in drag.

Call any vegetable – Mothers of Invention

John Cipollina was brilliant. He created a unique flowing guitar playing that wended its way through Bo Diddley classics like ‘Who do you love’ and ‘Mona’ transforming them from R&B classics to acid drenched master-pieces.

Happy Trails was a masterpiece of West Coast acid rock

Who do you love – Quicksilver Messenger Service

Drugs were a defining element in the counter-culture both here and in the States. Straight culture had its alcohol and nicotine and the freaks had a different choice of mind altering substances.  Pot was widely used and viewed as essential for the appreciation of music. Its mild peace inducing vibe was central to the vibe of the time – Peace and love man. Sharing a joint was a big bonding thing between freaks. It bound the tribes together.

Amphetamine was there to give you energy – rocket fuel for all night shows, driving or working.

Acid was different. It was mind expanding and fitted in with the whole ‘find out what’s happening in cosmic reality’ zen, Buddhist vibe. It was also a big part of what going to a psychedelic concert was all about. The light shows and guitar solos weaved in and out of your mind. A concert was a trip. Jerry Garcia could work his magic in a way that couldn’t happen unstoned.

Apart from the numerous acid casualties, such as Syd Barrett and my mate Jeff Evans, the drug scene got particularly nasty with cocaine and heroin. Many great bands blew up on it. Love being a good example. They produced a brilliant couple of albums got out of their heads and melted down.

Steppenwolf summed up the attitude.

The Pusher – Steppenwolf

Hey Grandma – Moby Grape

As quickly as it came, with all its idealism, it was consumed. Fortunes were made and big business took over. The hippie dream was over and the bands all decayed with it.

We thought it was going to last for ever. We got a couple of years out of it. I got to Haight Ashbury in 1971 and caught a slight whiff of it. The streets were mainly full of pan-handlers and junkies.

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