I first saw the Nice backing PP Arnold!! I used to see them quite often. They were brilliant – great performers. They’d rock up the old classics – Keith with knives in his organ! Burning flags! Great stuff.
Progressive and Psychedelic really took off in the sixties. It was all mixed up in a great explosion of creativity. Those were the days when you could go and see anything for 25p and there were lots of free concerts and festivals. A festival would set you back £1.25p.
I saw everyone many times. It was heaven.
Here are some of my favourites:
Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac
Incredible String Band
I bet I’ve missed a few off here!!
I was in need of some sustenance. This is probably the best album that has ever been recorded.
Today I shall sit back and delight in this wonder of poetry and music! A classic!
An absolute masterpiece of an epic song. Incredible production, music, vocals and writing. Perfection.
Unlike Chicken Shack, who ill-advisedly added all those dreadful jokes on ‘OK Ken’, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac managed to combine fun and frolics, obvious enjoyment and lunacy with a great respect for authentic Blues. I used to see them regularly at the local Blues clubs. They were brilliant to listen to, great to dance to and a wonder to watch.
I’d first seen Pete Green with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers so I knew the standard of his guitar playing. In my estimation he was better in the Bluesbreakers than Clapton. He had a real finesse about the way he conjured pure notes out of the guitar. He got even better than that with Fleetwood Mac.
What also greatly attracted me to Fleetwood Mac was that superb Elmore James mimicry of Jeremy Spencer. I just loved Elmore James and delighted in someone being able to recreate it so well. It was the nearest I ever got to Elmore James.
The band was founded when Mick Fleetwood, Peter Green and John Mcvie broke away from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Mick and John provided the perfect rhythm section for Mick and the additional guitarist Jeremy Spencer to play from. The result was Blues perfection. They were effectively two different bands. When Pete played there was the beautifully crafted Blues with crystal clear notes bent and curled into immaculate shapes that slavered into your ears. When Jeremy let fly with his rollicking Elmore impressions they rocked. You can get a glimpse of that on their first album but live it was all so much greater.
Jeremy also brought in some Rock ‘n’ Roll and then they started getting Progressive along with the times and the effects of lysergic acid. Apart from the mediocre Albatross the Pete Green forays into the Progressive style were also spectacular and varied. ‘Green Manalishi’ live was a wonder to behold. It was all going great. It all added another dimension.
This was further enhanced by the addition of Christine Perfect (who married John to become McVie) and then a third and highly original guitarist and songwriter with the young Danny Kirwin.
What brought things down was the drugs and religion. Pete was given a big dose of acid in Germany and never really touched down. He ended up a messed up recluse with severe problems. Jeremy jumped ship to join an American cult.
What followed as Fleetwood Mac was another group altogether; a group that was neither a Blues group, a Progressive Rock Band nor a Rock Group. They were a Pop group and highly successful at it too.
I miss that old Blues group I used to bop about with and listen to with awe. I miss Pete’s beautiful guitar and John’s raucous slide. I’m getting all nostalgic!
I can’t really imagine Pink Floyd as an R&B outfit. Even listening to the early couple of R&B tracks that have been released doesn’t help. They still sound like Pink Floyd. But an R&B band they were until Syd Barrett discovered LSD and it opened up worlds of possibility for his mind to invent sounds that had never previously existed. He investigated the guitar for noises and bleeps that nobody else had discovered before. He utilised feed-back, distortion and weirdness to harness it into strange new songs.
This was the mid-sixties age of experimentation. Nobody took it further than Syd and Jimi. Pink Floyd were all turned on by it and excavated a seam of music that had never been explored. They invented a psychedelic world inhabited by fantasy gnomes and Sci-fi excursions through the wonders of the galaxy.
On the West Coast of America Acid Rock was rampaging out of control as the Alternative Hippie culture invaded the citadels of mainstream America and took over the radio station, TV and bemused Music Industry. In London the alternative Underground was just as pervasive and giving rise to a cacophony of explorations with Indian Ragas, Jazz improvisation, Progressive Rock, Raw Chicago Blues and Electronic surrealism. British Beat groups had evolved to investigate every available avenue of possibility. It was adapt or die; the survival of the weirdest. This was the arena into which the Pink Floyd emerged.
They soon established themselves as the darlings of the new psychedelic dungeons of London. Their light shows, stolen from the West Coast scene, and hypnotic sounds were legendary from the beginning and formed the backdrop to the all-night events and happenings such as the infamous ‘Games for May’.
The first couple of singles flopped. The rest of the country weren’t ready for them. But then they had a couple of hits that brought them to the attention of everybody else other than the small London cognisee. The release of their first album signalled their arrival and established them as a major force. It was as much an event of the year as Sgt Peppers.
Their songs were just as importantly accompanied by wacky videos that served to accentuate the weird and wonderful dadaesque world of Pink Floyd. The new spacey sound was a million miles away from the Blues of Pink Anderson and Floyd Council from whom their name had been plucked.
The Underground scene took off like Apollo 12 and was augmented by a host of benefits, free concerts and festivals that were expressions of the new alternative culture. This was no longer all about making money. It was about sharing and community. Pink Floyd were there at the forefront. They were the mainstays of the scene, the premier psychedelic band. They started recording their second album and disaster struck.
Syd had been imbibing large quantities of LSD and had begun acting strange. He had always been eccentric but this was becoming more pronounced. It became harder to communicate with him and he became increasingly erratic. At some shows he would stand there and not play anything. In the end they brought in Dave Gilmour to cover for him.
Management were torn. They saw Syd as the creative force. They went with him and imagined the band would simply fall apart. Unfortunately it was Syd who fell apart while the band went from strength to strength. They consolidated the psychedelic spaceyness of the first album and came up with a successful second while Syd’s career stuttered and fizzled out.
Pink Floyd continued their psychedelic journey into the seventies with numerous experimental albums and maintained their status as the leading light in the Underground.
In the mid-seventies, when other Prog Rock bands like Yes, Emmerson Lake & Palmer and King Crimson had descended into tedious self-indulgence, Floyd produced the most amazing album of their career – and that’s saying something! Dark Side of the Moon catapulted them to a new level of brilliance.
It was a new type of experimental music based on what had gone before. Pink Floyd had become masters of the recording studio with their tape loops and quirky sounds.
The sound was to continue through the equally brilliant Wish you were Here, Animals and The Wall. They were the biggest band in the world.
Coupled with the music were extraordinary live stadium shows with huge inflatables and lavish stage sets. They were the masters of putting on an extravaganza. Their shows were the best.
Even when Roger Waters left they continued as a trio and carried on producing excellent albums and shows. They remained one of the best bands on the planet and a immensely creative force both visually and audibly. All that artistic ability had not gone to waste.
I still miss Syd and those early psychedelic times though. Those were the days. That was the place to be.
In the UK:
Opher’s World Tributes to Rock Geniuses :
In the USA:
Opher’s World Tributes to Rock Geniuses :
Thank you for looking!
261. Jeff Beck – Truth
Jeff Beck was one of the world’s great innovative guitarists. He came from my neck of the woods in the Deep South of the Thames Delta and played in one of my local groups – The Tridents – before going on to replace Clapton in the Yardbirds. His arrival sparked the most experimental and dynamic style of the band as they moved from R&B and Pop into psychedelia. Beck’s guitar-work was highly original and innovative and drove the band into a new level. They became widely accepted on the emerging Underground scene as a serious band.
Then it all started falling apart just when it should have been at its best. The Yardbirds had taken on Jimmy Page and had the most incredible double lead guitar attack ever. However it was not to be. Jeff started becoming inconsistent and the band fell apart. Jimmy took the remnants off with him to form Led Zeppelin. Keith went off to Renaissance and Jeff went off to go solo and then form the Jeff Beck Group. That band consisted of Rod Stewart on vocals, Ronnie Wood on bass and Micky Waller on drums. It was an incredible line-up.
I saw them play a couple of times and Jeff was always stunning on guitar though I never hugely liked Rod’s vocals.
This album ‘Truth’ is one of the great albums of British Progressive Rock. It features a number of great progressive bluesy and psychedelic numbers alongside some delicate workings of traditional songs like ‘Greensleeve’ and psyched out ‘Ole’ Man River’ which I always thought were a little incongruous though they seemed to work and gave the album another dimension.
The album starts with a version of the Yardbirds ‘Shapes of things’ in a very different psychedelic arrangement. Then there was a version of Tim Roses’ ‘Morning Dew’ and ‘Beck’s Bolero’ along with some blues favourites ‘Rock my plimsoul’ (which was a psyched out version of Rock me baby), ‘I ain’t superstitious’ and ‘You shook me’. They were all given the Beck treatment.
It was widely recognised as one of the major albums of the Progressive scene.
262. Dale Hawkins – Oh Suzie Q
In 1957 Dale Hawkins recorded ‘Suzie Q’. It was not quite like anything else. It took the Rockabilly of Elvis and married to the swamp-blues of Louisiana. The result was a bluesy guitar solo, muddy beat with cowbells and a swampy style of Rock.
He followed it up with good Rockabilly tracks like ‘Juanita’ and ‘Tornado’ which both had some of the elements but did not catch that magic of the ‘Suzie Q’ brand of Swamp Rock.
‘Oh Suzie Q’ gathers those tracks together with a rocked up version of Little Walters ‘My Baby’ and some other strong songs ‘Four letter word (Rock)’ and ‘Wild, Wild World’.
If only Dale could have developed that initial Swamp Rock into something more he would have been as big as Elvis. Unfortunately his other material was good but not quite as good.
263. Big Mama Thornton – The original hound dog
Big Mama Thornton was a big lady with a really big voice. She was outrageous for her time often dressing as a man in her stage act. Like a number of R&B artists she came into secular music from a background of Gospel.
A lot of her early fifties output was good hard hitting R&B like ‘I smell a rat’ (covered by White Stripes) ‘They call me Big Mama’ and ‘You don’t move me no more. But there were two tracks that she is best remembered for. The first of these was ‘Hound Dog’. Big Mama was the first to record this Lieber & Stoller classic as early as 1952. She belted the song out to a great guitar backing and great R&B beat complete with yelps and whoops. It prompted a response song (quite common during those days) from Rufus Thomas on Sun Records and then was later rocked up by Elvis. The second was a slower bluesier song called ‘Ball and chain’. Big Mama Thornton did a really soulful version of this but it gained much more prominence when Janis Joplin turned it into an anguished gutsy song that often stole the show with the intensity she put into it.
Big Mama remains a seminal force. The original Hound Dog collection together most of her early tracks.
264. Nuggets – Original Artyfacts from the first Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968
When the British invasion took place in 1964 the Americans were shocked. They had no response. It was as if they had been invaded by aliens and did not understand the new language. However, it did not take them long to start to respond. All over the continent kids started growing their hair and forming bands. The country exploded with a plethora of new bands. Many of them were clones of British bands but many more were original and different. As the 1960s progressed these bands developed with it so that when the style turned to psychedelia they did their own versions.
There were hundreds of these bands. Every town and city had a flourishing little flocks of them all playing to their mates in the local clubs and doing their best to pull the girls. Most of them died away without leaving any trace. Some recorded the odd single which might have sold locally and a few managed to secure major label contracts.
Because this music was rehearsed in their parents garages and was performed by young kids it began to be called Garage Punk.
It would probably have languished unheard collecting dust on shelves in those same garages and occasionally being dusted off for a sentimental nostalgic evening between old friends if it wasn’t for two men. Jack Holzman (founder of Elektra records) and Lenny Kaye (later the lead guitarist for the Patti Smith Group) had the bright idea of tracking down a number of these lesser known tracks and putting them out on a double album. At the time they thought it would be an interesting project and had no idea that in the process they would create a number of distinct genres, spark a wave of interest, and have far reaching effects further down the line. They called it Nuggets because they were collecting all those fairly obscure nuggets of music from that rich vein of the 1960s.
In actual fact it was rather a strange eclectic collection of fairly disparate recordings, some of which were quite big hits, some of which were obscure, and involving a wide range of styles. They were not really all Garage Bands or Garage Punk as Lenny described them. What they did do was spark an enormous amount of interest that started that snowball rolling down the mountainside picking up the debris from the sixties as it gained momentum until it exploded on the scene with the force of a nuclear avalanche.
The album Nuggets spawned other albums and album sets – Boulders, Pebbles, Chocolate Soup for Diabetics, High in the Mid 60s, Fading Yellow, and on and on and on. I was running a History f Rock Music course back in the 1980s as an Adult Education Course and one of my students was so smitten with Nuggets that he specialised in Garage Punk and started collecting Vinyl albums. He was a young man with disposable cash and by the end of the two year course he had amassed two thousand five hundred albums of Garage Punk Bands, compilations and related material!
On the Pop side there were the Castaways, Knickerbockers and Barbarians. On the Psychedelic side there were the Electric Prunes, Seeds, Count Five, Chocolate Watch Band and Cryan’ Shames. On the Garagage Punk side you had the Leaves, Premiers and Standells. On the psyched out Bluesy side you had the Amboy Dukes, Shadows of knight and Blues Magoos. On the really weird psychedelic Punk you had the Magic Mushrooms and Mouse & the Traps. Etc.
It was an inspired choice.
265. Pebbles Vol 3 – The Acid gallery
Following the success of Nuggets there were three more series of Nuggets, followed by Boulders and then Pebbles. All over the planet people were scouring through the dusty tapes of tiny record labels to turn up the most obscure tracks by the most obscure bands.
There was a treasure trove of unheard youthful genius waiting to be exposed to the light of day (or the sound of ear). More importantly, as far as the compilers were concerned, there was money to be made.
The most interesting thing to come out of this as we found ourselves buried under collections of multiple volumes like Collecting Peppermint Clouds, Electric Lemonade, Nederland Nuggets, Gravel, Coloured Lights and Sounds, Back from the Grave, Aliens Psychos and Wild Things, Acid Visions, Acid Queens, A trip to Toytown, A trip through the sugar cube, A Deadly Dose of Wylde Psych, Circus Days, Flower Power, Garage Mechanics, Girls in the Garage, Mindrocker, Oceanic Odyssey, Psychedelic States, Syde Trips, Tripzone, Turds on a Bum Ride, Ugly Things, and We can Fly, was that there was so much of it. Not only that but it was global. Seemingly all over the world in the most unlikely places, such as Peru, Singapore and Saudi Arabia, young kids had been turned on by the Beatles and Stones, donned flares and beads, grown their hair and formed Beat groups, psychedelic outfits and aped what was going on in the States and Britain. It was universal. All the kids in Russia were dying to get Western Rock Music. Turkey was aflame with psychedelia.
Forget your cold war and global politics this was the unifying force of music, fashion and rebellion. Everyone wanted to be in a band from Australia to Iceland, Brazil to New Zealand. It brought the Berlin wall down, smashed the Iron Curtain, bulldozed the Bamboo Curtain, breached the religious divides.
All we need to solve all the world’s problems is to create another Beatles and spark off a new social rebellion on the lines of the sixties.
Anyway, enough of those flights of whimsy and back to reality, or at least the unreality of Pebbles Vol 3 – The Acid Gallery.
If you are looking for weird and wonderful then look no further. This is what happens when groups of young kids get their hands on ridiculously strong hallucinogenic substances which they indulge to extreme, learn the rudiments of an instrument, become exposed to a lot of new sounds created by their slightly older and more competent compatriots and find themselves in a recording studio with the means to indulge and experiment. Their efforts are collected here on Pebbles 3.
There are hilarious parodies such as the one of Jefferson Airplane by Jefferson Handkerchief – ‘I’m allergic to flowers’; horror stories based on a psychedelic Kafka story with ‘The Spider and the Fly’ and just psyched out weirdness like ‘Let’s take a trip’, ‘The reality of (air) fried Borsk’ and the parody of Dylan in the wonderful ‘Like a dribbling Fram’.
If you’re looking for something outlandish and different this might well be it.
266. Sam & Dave – Soul man
Both Sam and Dave started off singing Gospel in their churches before joining Gospel Bands. They met up in a Gospel band and then, after discovering that their disparate voices could gel, headed off into secular R&B. Sam had the smooth voice and Dave the more aggressive and raw. Together it worked well when doing both call-and-response or harmonising.
They soon got themselves a reputation for a dynamic act. They had their dance moves and put everything in so that they came off-stage drenched in sweat. It got them numerous nick-names like ‘The sultans of sweat’ and ‘The dynamic duo’.
It was moving to Stax and working with the MGs with people like Steve Cropper that got them their break-through as major players on the Soul scene. They had numerous hits with songs like ‘Soul Man’, ‘Hold on I’m Coming’, ‘When something is wrong with my baby’, ‘Brown sugar, Soul Sister’ and ‘You don’t know what you mean to me’.
Seemingly there was lots of tension between the two of them which led to splits, periods of time when they did not talk and even open fisticuffs.
It seemed to me that the whole Blues Brothers act was based on Sam & Dave.
267. Animals – Animals
The Animals came crashing out of Newcastle on the back of the Beat R&B boom of 1964 led by the Rolling Stones et al. They quickly established themselves as one of the rawest most authentic R&B bands in the country and stormed into the charts. Eric Burdon’s gravelly Geordie voice seemed not only well suited to the Blues but also well beyond his tender years. Amply backed by the likes of Alan Price on organ, Hilton Valentine on guitar, John Steel on drums and Chas Chandler on bass they created a unique Blues sound which can be heard on this first album. They even backed Sonny Boy Williamson on a tour of England. That album was similar to the one he did with the Yardbirds.
They specialised in cover of Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker and Chuck Berry but varied that with some Ray Charles and even Fats Domino.
This more eclectic approach led them into the rather extraordinary field of Bob Dylan. Impressed by the early Dylan albums they were taken to do a cover of a Folk song and ended up doing a traditional one by the name of ‘House of the Rising Sun’. It was so successful with the amplified guitar and Eric’s great vocal delivery that it became enormous.
Sadly, for me, that signalled the end. Instead of continuing with great R&B stuff such as the brilliant ‘Story of Bo Diddley’ which told the story of how Bo Diddley had come into their club in Newcastle with the gorgeous Duchess to listen to them play his material only to declare that they were rubbish, in favour of a more commercial sound.
This first album is them with their rawer sound and I like that best.
268. Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup – That’s Alright Mama
Arthur was a street busker and blues singer from the late forties and early fifties and was supposedly quite a large man. He did not make much of a living out of it and at one time was supposedly living in a packing crate under the platform at the Chicago railway station.
He played acoustic guitar and sometimes electrified this to record with a little combo.
His big claim to fame is that he recorded a handful of songs that were destined to become massive.
Elvis Presley came from a poor share-cropping family in Tupelo Mississippi. He was brought up in a poor area with a mixed black and white community. His musical style did not come out of nowhere. He stole it from the local blues singers that he used to love listening to.
When he recorded for Sam Philips he was doing covers of old Blues and Country songs that he’d absorbed. His genius was to give them that extra zip that changed them from Blues and Country into Rockabilly.
One of the guys that he covered was Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup. Elvis’s first release was ‘That’s alright Mama’ and he also recorded ‘My baby left me’ and ‘So glad you’re mine’.
Arthur was much more than just those three numbers and other interesting tracks include ‘Mean old Frisco’, ‘Rock me mama’ and ‘Katie Mae’.
269. Big Three – Cavern Stomp
At the time when the Beatles were emerging from Liverpool on to the world stage arguably the best band in the city was the powerhouse trio called The Big Three. They consisted of Johnny Hutchinson, Johnny Gustafson and Brian Griffiths. They were reputedly the loudest and most aggressive and something of their dynamic stage act can be heard on the fabulous four track EP ‘At the Cavern’. Supposedly the whole show at the Cavern was recorded but the tape was subsequently wiped! What an act of criminality!
Unfortunately they got a big brushed to one side and short-changed as the attention swept to the Beatles and they were never fed with good enough material or received a sympathetic recording production and so never really captured their live form on record.
There were a couple of good singles including a great version of Sam Cooke’s ‘Bring it on home to me’ and their signature tune ‘Cavern Stomp’ but never made that break-through.
That wonderful EP makes it all worthwhile though and that plus all the rest is on this album.
270. Carole King – Tapestry
Carole King was half of the song-writing duo of Goffin and King who wrote tens of hits out of their little cubby-hole in the Brill building in New York during the late 1950s and early sixties before they got blown away by the Beatles.
She went on to great success as a singer-songwriter with the release of Tapestry in 1971.
I was working as a dishwasher in this Deli on Massachusetts Avenue in Boston at the time. The radio was always blaring out amid the steam, heat and chaos behind the scenes. It kept my family of cockroaches who lived behind the dishwasher entertained.
I remember the radio station constantly playing tracks from Tapestry. I knew the whole thing backwards by the time I left that place to hitch-hike round the States. It’s indelibly imprinted and always conjures up that sweaty heat, shouting and laughs of working in that place. I made some great friends.
The album was great and had some stand out tracks – ‘I feel the earth move’, ‘So far away’, ‘It’s too late’, ‘You’ve got a friend’, ‘Will you love me tomorrow’ and ‘You make me feel (like a natural woman)’.