A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs

By Andrew Hickey

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 Sep 15, 2022
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Andrew Hickey presents a history of rock music from 1938 to 1999, looking at five hundred songs that shaped the genre.

Episode Date
Episode 154: “Happy Together” by the Turtles
Episode one hundred and fifty-four of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs is the last of our four-part mini-series on LA sunshine pop and folk-rock in summer 1967. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a fifteen-minute bonus episode available, on "Baby, Now That I've Found You" by the Foundations. 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 There is no Mixcloud this week, because there were too many Turtles songs in the episode. There's relatively little information available about the Turtles compared to other bands of their era, and so apart from the sources on the general LA scene referenced in all these podcasts, the information here comes from a small number of sources. This DVD is a decent short documentary on the band's career. Howard Kaylan's autobiography, Shell Shocked: My Life with the Turtles, Flo and Eddie, and Frank Zappa, Etc.,  is a fun read, if inevitably biased towards his own viewpoint. Jim Pons' Hard Core Love: Sex, Football, and Rock and Roll in the Kingdom of God is much less fun, being as it is largely organised around how his life led up to his latter-day religious beliefs, but is the only other book I'm aware of with a substantial amount of coverage of the Turtles. There are many compilations of the Turtles' material available, of which All The Singles is by far and away the best. The box set of all their albums with bonus tracks is now out of print on CD, but can still be bought as MP3s. Errata I say that the clarinet and saxophone have the same fingerings. This is not strictly true -- they have very, very, similar fingerings, and the same when you're just starting out on both instruments, but the clarinet has a wider range and overblows at a perfect twelfth rather than an octave. For a beginner, as Volman and Kaylan were, they're the same though. Also, for the first day or so it was uploaded, this episode included an excerpt of the studio version of "Everyone's Gone to the Movies" by Steely Dan rather than the demo version on which Volman and Kaylan sang. That has been fixed. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript We've spent a lot of time recently in the LA of summer 1967, at the point where the sunshine pop sound that was created when the surf harmonies of the Beach Boys collided with folk rock was at its apex, right before fashions changed and tight sunny pop songs with harmonies from LA became yesterday's news, and extended blues-rock improvisations from San Francisco became the latest in thing. This episode is the last part of this four-episode sequence, and is going to be shorter than those others. In many ways this one is a bridge between this sequence and next episode, where we travel back to London, because we're saying goodbye for a while to the LA scene, and when we do return to LA it will be, for the most part, to look at music that's a lot less sunshine and a lot more shadow. So this is a brief fade-out while we sing ba-ba-ba, a three-minute pop-song of an episode, a last bit of sunshine pop before we return to longer, more complicated, stories  in two weeks' time, at which point the sun will firmly set. Like many musicians associated with LA, Howard Kaylan was born elsewhere and migrated there as a child, and he seems to have regarded his move from upstate New York to LA as essentially a move to Disneyland itself. That impression can only have been made stronger by the fact that soon after his family moved there he got his first childhood girlfriend -- who happened to be a Mouseketeer on the TV. And TV was how young Howard filtered most of his perceptions -- particularly TV comedy. By the age of fourteen he was the president of the Soupy Sales Fan Club, and he was also obsessed with the works of Ernie Kovacs, Sid Caesar, and the great satirist and parodist Stan Freberg: [Excerpt: Stan Freberg, "St. George and the Dragonet"] Second only to his love of comedy, though, was his love of music, and it was on the trip from New York to LA that he saw a show that would eventually change his life. Along the way, his family had gone to Las Vegas, and while there they had seen Louis Prima and Keeley Smith do their nightclub act. Prima is someone I would have liked to do a full podcast episode on when I was covering the fifties, and who I did do a Patreon bonus episode on. He's now probably best known for doing the voice of King Louis in the Jungle Book: [Excerpt: Louis Prima, "I Wanna Be Like You (the Monkey Song)"] But he was also a jump blues musician who made some very good records in a similar style to Louis Jordan, like "Jump, Jive, an' Wail" [Excerpt: Louis Prima, "Jump, Jive, an' Wail"] But like Jordan, Prima dealt at least as much in comedy as in music -- usually comedy involving stereotypes about his Italian-American ethnic origins. At the time young Howard Kaylan saw him, he was working a double act with his then-wife Keeley Smith. The act would consist of Smith trying to sing a song straight, while Prima would clown around, interject, and act like a fool, as Smith grew more and more exasperated, and would eventually start contemptuously mocking Prima. [Excerpt: Louis Prima and Keeley Smith, "Embraceable You/I've Got It Bad and That Ain't Good"] This is of course a fairly standard double-act format, as anyone who has suffered through an episode of The Little and Large Show will be all too painfully aware, but Prima and Smith did it better than most, and to young Howard Kaylan, this was the greatest entertainment imaginable. But while comedy was the closest thing to Kaylan's heart, music was a close second. He was a regular listener to Art Laboe's radio show, and in a brief period as a teenage shoplifter he obtained records like Ray Charles' album Genius + Soul = Jazz: [Excerpt: Ray Charles, "One Mint Julep"] and the single "Tossin' and Turnin'" by Bobby Lewis: [Excerpt: Bobby Lewis, "Tossin' and Turnin'"] "Tossin' and Turnin'" made a deep impression on Kaylan, because of the saxophone solo, which was actually a saxophone duet. On the record, baritone sax player Frank Henry played a solo, and it was doubled by the great tenor sax player King Curtis, who was just playing a mouthpiece rather than a full instrument, making a high-pitched squeaking sound: [Excerpt: Bobby Lewis, "Tossin' and Turnin'"] Curtis was of course also responsible for another great saxophone part a couple of years earlier, on a record that Kaylan loved because it combined comedy and rock and roll, "Yakety Yak": [Excerpt: The Coasters, "Yakety Yak"] Those two saxophone parts inspired Kaylan to become a rock and roller. He was already learning the clarinet and playing part time in an amateur Dixieland band, and it was easy enough to switch to saxophone, which has the same fingering. Within a matter of weeks of starting to play sax, he was invited to join a band called the Nightriders, who consisted of Chuck Portz on bass, Al Nichol on guitar, and Glen Wilson on drums. The Nightriders became locally popular, and would perform sets largely made up of Johnny and the Hurricanes and Ventures material. While he was becoming a budding King Curtis, Kaylan was still a schoolkid, and one of the classes he found most enjoyable was choir class. There was another kid in choir who Kaylan got on with, and one day that kid, Mark Volman came up to him, and had a conversation that Kaylan would recollect decades later in his autobiography: “So I hear you’re in a rock ’n’ roll band.” “Yep.” “Um, do you think I could join it?” “Well, what do you do?” “Nothing.” “Nothing?” “Nope.” “Sounds good to me. I’ll ask Al.” Volman initially became the group's roadie and occasional tambourine player, and would also get on stage to sing a bit during their very occasional vocal numbers, but was mostly "in the band" in name only at first -- he didn't get a share of the group's money, but he was allowed to say he was in the group because that meant that his friends would come to the Nightriders' shows, and he was popular among the surfing crowd. Eventually, Volman's father started to complain that his son wasn't getting any money from being in the band, while the rest of the group were, and they explained to him that Volman was just carrying the instruments while they were all playing them. Volman's father said "if Mark plays an instrument, will you give him equal shares?" and they said that that was fair, so Volman got an alto sax to play along with Kaylan's tenor. Volman had also been taking clarinet lessons, and the two soon became a tight horn section for the group, which went through a few lineup changes and soon settled on a lineup of Volman and Kaylan on saxes, Nichol on lead guitar, Jim Tucker on rhythm guitar, Portz on bass, and Don Murray on drums. That new lineup became known as the Crossfires, presumably after the Johnny and the Hurricanes song of the same name: [Excerpt: Johnny and the Hurricanes, "Crossfire"] Volman and Kaylan worked out choreographed dance steps to do while playing their saxes, and the group even developed a group of obsessive fans who called themselves the Chunky Club, named after one of the group's originals: [Excerpt: The Crossfires, "Chunky"] At this point the group were pretty much only playing instrumentals, though they would do occasional vocals on R&B songs like "Money" or their version of Don and Dewey's "Justine", songs which required more enthusiasm than vocal ability. But their first single, released on a tiny label, was another surf instrumental, a song called "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde": [Excerpt: The Crossfires, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde"] The group became popular enough locally that they became the house band at the Revelaire Club in Redondo Beach. There as well as playing their own sets, they would also be the backing band for any touring acts that came through without their own band, quickly gaining the kind of performing ability that comes from having to learn a new artist's entire repertoire in a few days and be able to perform it with them live with little or no rehearsal. They backed artists like the Coasters, the Drifters, Bobby Vee, the Rivingtons, and dozens of other major acts, and as part of that Volman and Kaylan would, on songs that required backing vocals, sing harmonies rather than playing saxophone. And that harmony-singing ability became important when the British Invasion happened, and suddenly people didn't want to hear surf instrumentals, but vocals along the lines of the new British groups. The Crossfires' next attempt at a single was another original, this one an attempt at sounding like one of their favourite new British groups, the Kinks: [Excerpt: The Crossfires, "One Potato, Two Potato"] This change to vocals necessitated a change in the group dynamic. Volman and Kaylan ditched the saxophones, and discovered that between them they made one great frontman. The two have never been excessively close on a personal level, but both have always known that the other has qualities they needed. Frank Zappa would later rather dismissively say "I regard Howard as a fine singer, and Mark as a great tambourine player and fat person", and it's definitely true that Kaylan is one of the truly great vocalists to come out of the LA scene in this period, while Volman is merely a good harmony singer, not anything particularly special -- though he *is* a good harmony singer -- but it undersells Volman's contribution. There's a reason the two men performed together for nearly sixty years. Kaylan is a great singer, but also by nature rather reserved, and he always looked uncomfortable on stage, as well as, frankly, not exactly looking like a rock star (Kaylan describes himself not inaccurately as looking like a potato several times in his autobiography). Volman, on the other hand, is a merely good singer, but he has a naturally outgoing personality, and while he's also not the most conventionally good-looking of people he has a *memorable* appearance in a way that Kaylan doesn't. Volman could do all the normal frontman stuff, the stuff that makes a show an actual show -- the jokes, the dancing, the between-song patter, the getting the crowd going, while Kaylan could concentrate on the singing. They started doing a variation on the routine that had so enthralled Howard Kaylan when he'd seen Louis Prima and Keeley Smith do it as a child. Kaylan would stand more or less stock still, looking rather awkward, but singing like an angel, while Volman would dance around, clown, act the fool, and generally do everything he could to disrupt the performance -- short of actually disrupting it in reality. It worked, and Volman became one of that small but illustrious group of people -- the band member who makes the least contribution to the sound of the music but the biggest contribution to the feel of the band itself, and without whom they wouldn't be the same. After "One Potato, Two Potato" was a flop, the Crossfires were signed to their third label. This label, White Whale, was just starting out, and the Crossfires were to become their only real hit act. Or rather, the Turtles were. The owners of White Whale knew that they didn't have much promotional budget and that their label was not a known quantity -- it was a tiny label with no track record. But they thought of a way they could turn that to their advantage. Everyone knew that the Beatles, before Capitol had picked up their contracts, had had their records released on a bunch of obscure labels like Swan and Tollie. People *might* look for records on tiny independent labels if they thought it might be another British act who were unknown in the US but could be as good as the Beatles. So they chose a name for the group that they thought sounded as English as possible -- an animal name that started with "the", and ended in "les", just like the Beatles. The group, all teenagers at the time, were desperate enough that they agreed to change their name, and from that point on they became the Turtles. In order to try and jump on as many bandwagons as possible, the label wanted to position them as a folk-rock band, so their first single under the Turtles name was a cover of a Bob Dylan song, from Another Side of Bob Dylan: [Excerpt: Bob Dylan, "It Ain't Me Babe"] That song's hit potential had already been seen by Johnny Cash, who'd had a country hit with it a few months before. But the Turtles took the song in a different direction, inspired by Kaylan's *other* great influence, along with Prima and Smith. Kaylan was a big fan of the Zombies, one of the more interesting of the British Invasion groups, and particularly of their singer Colin Blunstone. Kaylan imitated Blunstone on the group's hit single, "She's Not There", on which Blunstone sang in a breathy, hushed, voice on the verses: [Excerpt: The Zombies, "She's Not There"] before the song went into a more stomping chorus on which Blunstone sang in a fuller voice: [Excerpt: The Zombies, "She's Not There"] Kaylan did this on the Turtles' version of "It Ain't Me Babe", starting off with a quiet verse: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "It Ain't Me Babe"] Before, like the Zombies, going into a foursquare, more uptempo, louder chorus: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "It Ain't Me Babe"] The single became a national top ten hit, and even sort of got the approval of Bob Dylan. On the group's first national tour, Dylan was at one club show, which they ended with "It Ain't Me Babe", and after the show the group were introduced to the great songwriter, who was somewhat the worse for wear. Dylan said “Hey, that was a great song you just played, man. That should be your single", and then passed out into his food. With the group's first single becoming a top ten hit, Volman and Kaylan got themselves a house in Laurel Canyon, which was not yet the rock star Mecca it was soon to become, but which was starting to get a few interesting residents. They would soon count Henry Diltz of the Modern Folk Quartet, Danny Hutton, and Frank Zappa among their neighbours. Soon Richie Furay would move in with them, and the house would be used by the future members of the Buffalo Springfield as their rehearsal space. The Turtles were rapidly becoming part of the in crowd. But they needed a follow-up single, and so Bones Howe, who was producing their records, brought in P.F. Sloan to play them a few of his new songs. They liked "Eve of Destruction" enough to earmark it as a possible album track, but they didn't think they would do it justice, and so it was passed on to Barry McGuire. But Sloan did have something for them -- a pseudo-protest song called "Let Me Be" that was very clearly patterned after their version of "It Ain't Me Babe", and which was just rebellious enough to make them seem a little bit daring, but which was far more teenage angst than political manifesto: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Let Me Be"] That did relatively well, making the top thirty -- well enough for the group to rush out an album which was padded out with some sloppy cover versions of other Dylan songs, a version of "Eve of Destruction", and a few originals written by Kaylan. But the group weren't happy with the idea of being protest singers. They were a bunch of young men who were more motivated by having a good time than by politics, and they didn't think that it made sense for them to be posing as angry politicised rebels. Not only that, but there was a significant drop-off between "It Ain't Me Babe" and "Let Me Be". They needed to do better. They got the clue for their new direction while they were in New York. There they saw their friends in the Mothers of Invention playing their legendary residency at the Garrick Theatre, but they also saw a new band, the Lovin' Spoonful, who were playing music that was clearly related to the music the Turtles were doing -- full of harmonies and melody, and inspired by folk music -- but with no sense of rebelliousness at all. They called it "Good Time Music": [Excerpt: The Lovin' Spoonful, "Good Time Music"] As soon as they got back to LA, they told Bones Howe and the executives at White Whale that they weren't going to be a folk-rock group any more, they were going to be "good time music", just like the Lovin' Spoonful. They were expecting some resistance, but they were told that that was fine, and that PF Sloan had some good time music songs too. "You Baby" made the top twenty: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "You Baby"] The Turtles were important enough in the hierarchy of LA stars that Kaylan and Tucker were even invited by David Crosby to meet the Beatles at Derek Taylor's house when they were in LA on their last tour -- this may be the same day that the Beatles met Brian and Carl Wilson, as I talked about in the episode on "All You Need is Love", though Howard Kaylan describes this as being a party and that sounded like more of an intimate gathering. If it was that day, there was nearly a third Beach Boy there. The Turtles knew David Marks, the Beach Boys' former rhythm guitarist, because they'd played a lot in Inglewood where he'd grown up, and Marks asked if he could tag along with Kaylan and Tucker to meet the Beatles. They agreed, and drove up to the house, and actually saw George Harrison through the window, but that was as close as they got to the Beatles that day. There was a heavy police presence around the house because it was known that the Beatles were there, and one of the police officers asked them to drive back and park somewhere else and walk up, because there had been complaints from neighbours about the number of cars around. They were about to do just that, when Marks started yelling obscenities and making pig noises at the police, so they were all arrested, and the police claimed to find a single cannabis seed in the car. Charges were dropped, but now Kaylan was on the police's radar, and so he moved out of the Laurel Canyon home to avoid bringing police attention to Buffalo Springfield, so that Neil Young and Bruce Palmer wouldn't get deported. But generally the group were doing well. But there was a problem. And that problem was their record label. They rushed out another album to cash in on the success of "You Baby", one that was done so quickly that it had "Let Me Be" on it again, just as the previous album had, and which included a version of the old standard "All My Trials", with the songwriting credited to the two owners of White Whale records. And they pumped out a lot of singles. A LOT of singles, ranging from a song written for them by new songwriter Warren Zevon, to cover versions of Frank Sinatra's "It Was a Very Good Year" and the old standard "We'll Meet Again". Of the five singles after "You Baby", the one that charted highest was a song actually written by a couple of the band members. But for some reason a song with verses in 5/4 time and choruses in 6/4 with lyrics like "killing the living and living to kill, the grim reaper of love thrives on pain" didn't appeal to the group's good-time music pop audience and only reached number eighty-one: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Grim Reaper of Love"] The group started falling apart. Don Murray became convinced that  the rest of the band were conspiring against him and wanted him out, so he walked out of the group in the middle of a rehearsal for a TV show. They got Joel Larson of the Grass Roots -- the group who had a number of hits with Sloan and Barri songs -- to sub for a few gigs before getting in a permanent replacement, Johnny Barbata, who came to them on the recommendation of Gene Clark, and who was one of the best drummers on the scene -- someone who was not only a great drummer but a great showman, who would twirl his drumsticks between his fingers with every beat, and who would regularly engage in drum battles with Buddy Rich. By the time they hit their fifth flop single in a row, they lost their bass player as well -- Chuck Portz decided he was going to quit music and become a fisherman instead. They replaced him with Chip Douglas of the Modern Folk Quartet. Then they very nearly lost their singers. Volman and Kaylan both got their draft notices at the same time, and it seemed likely they would end up having to go and fight in the Vietnam war. Kaylan was distraught, but his mother told him "Speak to your cousin Herb". Cousin Herb was Herb Cohen, the manager of the Mothers of Invention and numerous other LA acts, including the Modern Folk Quartet, and Kaylan only vaguely knew him at this time, but he agreed to meet up with them, and told them “Stop worrying! I got Zappa out, I got Tim Buckley out, and I’ll get you out.” Cohen told Volman and Kaylan to not wash for a week before their induction, to take every drug of every different kind they could find right before going in, to deliberately disobey every order, to fail the logic tests, and to sexually proposition the male officers dealing with the induction. They followed his orders to the letter, and got marked as 4-F, unfit for service. They still needed a hit though, and eventually they found something by going back to their good-time music idea. It was a song from the Koppelman-Rubin publishing company -- the same company that did the Lovin Spoonful's management and production. The song in question was by Alan Gordon and Gary Bonner, two former members of a group called the Magicians, who had had a minor success with a single called "An Invitation to Cry": [Excerpt: The Magicians, "An Invitation to Cry"] The Magicians had split up, and Bonner and Gordon were trying to make a go of things as professional songwriters, but had had little success to this point. The song on the demo had been passed over by everyone, and the demo was not at all impressive, just a scratchy acetate with Bonner singing off-key and playing acoustic rhythm guitar and Gordon slapping his knees to provide rhythm, but the group heard something in it. They played the song live for months, refining the arrangement, before taking it into the studio. There are arguments to this day as to who deserves the credit for the sound on "Happy Together" -- Chip Douglas apparently did the bulk of the arrangement work while they were on tour, but the group's new producer, Joe Wissert, a former staff engineer for Cameo-Parkway, also claimed credit for much of it. Either way, "Happy Together" is a small masterpiece of dynamics. The song is structured much like the songs that had made the Turtles' name, with the old Zombies idea of the soft verse and much louder chorus: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Happy Together"] But the track is really made by the tiny details of the arrangement, the way instruments and vocal parts come in and out as the track builds up, dies down, and builds again. If you listen to the isolated tracks, there are fantastic touches like the juxtaposition of the bassoon and oboe (which I think is played on a mellotron): [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Happy Together", isolated tracks] And a similar level of care and attention was put into the vocal arrangement by Douglas, with some parts just Kaylan singing solo, other parts having Volman double him, and of course the famous "bah bah bah" massed vocals: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Happy Together", isolated vocals] At the end of the track, thinking he was probably going to do another take, Kaylan decided to fool around and sing "How is the weather?", which Bonner and Gordon had jokingly done on the demo. But the group loved it, and insisted that was the take they were going to use: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Happy Together"] "Happy Together" knocked "Penny Lane" by the Beatles off the number one spot in the US, but by that point the group had already had another lineup change. The Monkees had decided they wanted to make records without the hit factory that had been overseeing them, and had asked Chip Douglas if he wanted to produce their first recordings as a self-contained band. Given that the Monkees were the biggest thing in the American music industry at the time, Douglas had agreed, and so the group needed their third bass player in a year. The one they went for was Jim Pons. Pons had seen the Beatles play at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964, and decided he wanted to become a pop star. The next day he'd been in a car crash, which had paid out enough insurance money that he was able to buy two guitars, a bass, drums, and amps, and use them to start his own band. That band was originally called The Rockwells, but quickly changed their name to the Leaves, and became a regular fixture at Ciro's on Sunset Strip, first as customers, then after beating Love in the auditions, as the new resident band when the Byrds left. For a while the Leaves had occasionally had guest vocals from a singer called Richard Marin, but Pons eventually decided to get rid of him, because, as he put it "I wanted us to look like The Beatles. There were no Mexicans in The Beatles". He is at pains in his autobiography to assure us that he's not a bigot, and that Marin understood. I'm sure he did. Marin went on to be better known as Cheech Marin of Cheech and Chong. The Leaves were signed by Pat Boone to his production company, and through that company they got signed to Mira Records. Their first single, produced by Nik Venet, had been a version of "Love Minus Zero (No Limit)", a song by Bob Dylan: [Excerpt: The Leaves, "Love Minus Zero (No Limit)"] That had become a local hit, though not a national one, and the Leaves had become one of the biggest bands on the Sunset Strip scene, hanging out with all the other bands. They had become friendly with the Doors before the Doors got a record deal, and Pat Boone had even asked for an introduction, as he was thinking of signing them, but unfortunately when he met Jim Morrison, Morrison had drunk a lot of vodka, and given that Morrison was an obnoxious drunk Boone had second thoughts, and so the world missed out on the chance of a collaboration between the Doors and Pat Boone. Their second single was "Hey Joe" -- as was their third and fourth, as we discussed in that episode: [Excerpt: The Leaves, "Hey Joe"] Their third version of "Hey Joe" had become a top forty hit, but they didn't have a follow-up, and their second album, All The Good That's Happening, while it's a good album, sold poorly. Various band members quit or fell out, and when Johnny Barbata knocked on Jim Pons' door it was an easy decision to quit and join a band that had a current number one hit. When Pons joined, the group had already recorded the Happy Together album. That album included the follow-up to "Happy Together", another Bonner and Gordon song, "She'd Rather Be With Me": [Excerpt: The Turtles, "She'd Rather Be With Me"] None of the group were tremendously impressed with that song, but it did very well, becoming the group's second-biggest hit in the US, reaching number three, and actually becoming a bigger hit than "Happy Together" in parts of Europe. Before "Happy Together" the group hadn't really made much impact outside the US. In the UK, their early singles had been released by Pye, the smallish label that had the Kinks and Donovan, but which didn't have much promotional budget, and they'd sunk without trace. For "You Baby" they'd switched to Immediate, the indie label that Andrew Oldham had set up, and it had done a little better but still not charted. But from "Happy Together" they were on Decca, a much bigger label, and "Happy Together" had made number twelve in the charts in the UK, and "She'd Rather Be With Me" reached number four. So the new lineup of the group went on a UK tour. As soon as they got to the hotel, they found they had a message from Graham Nash of the Hollies, saying he would like to meet up with them. They all went round to Nash's house, and found Donovan was also there, and Nash played them a tape he'd just been given of Sgt Pepper, which wouldn't come out for a few more days. At this point they were living every dream a bunch of Anglophile American musicians could possibly have. Jim Tucker mentioned that he would love to meet the Beatles, and Nash suggested they do just that. On their way out the door, Donovan said to them, "beware of Lennon". It was when they got to the Speakeasy club that the first faux-pas of the evening happened. Nash introduced them to Justin Hayward and John Lodge of the Moody Blues, and Volman said how much he loved their record "Go Now": [Excerpt: The Moody Blues, "Go Now"] The problem was that Hayward and Lodge had joined the group after that record had come out, to replace its lead singer Denny Laine. Oh well, they were still going to meet the Beatles, right? They got to the table where John, Paul, and Ringo were sat, at a tense moment -- Paul was having a row with Jane Asher, who stormed out just as the Turtles were getting there. But at first, everything seemed to go well. The Beatles all expressed their admiration for "Happy Together" and sang the "ba ba ba" parts at them, and Paul and Kaylan bonded over their shared love for "Justine" by Don and Dewey, a song which the Crossfires had performed in their club sets, and started singing it together: [Excerpt: Don and Dewey, "Justine"] But John Lennon was often a mean drunk, and he noticed that Jim Tucker seemed to be the weak link in the group, and soon started bullying him, mocking his clothes, his name, and everything he said. This devastated Tucker, who had idolised Lennon up to that point, and blurted out "I'm sorry I ever met you", to which Lennon just responded "You never did, son, you never did". The group walked out, hurt and confused -- and according to Kaylan in his autobiography, Tucker was so demoralised by Lennon's abuse that he quit music forever shortly afterwards, though Tucker says that this wasn't the reason he quit. From their return to LA on, the Turtles would be down to just a five-piece band. After leaving the club, the group went off in different directions, but then Kaylan (and this is according to Kaylan's autobiography, there are no other sources for this) was approached by Brian Jones, asking for his autograph because he loved the Turtles so much. Jones introduced Kaylan to the friend he was with, Jimi Hendrix, and they went out for dinner, but Jones soon disappeared with a girl he'd met. and left Kaylan and Hendrix alone. They were drinking a lot -- more than Kaylan was used to -- and he was tired, and the omelette that Hendrix had ordered for Kaylan was creamier than he was expecting... and Kaylan capped what had been a night full of unimaginable highs and lows by vomiting all over Jimi Hendrix's expensive red velvet suit. Rather amazingly after all this, the Moody Blues, the Beatles, and Hendrix, all showed up to the Turtles' London gig and apparently enjoyed it. After "She'd Rather Be With Me", the next single to be released wasn't really a proper single, it was a theme song they'd been asked to record for a dire sex comedy titled "Guide for the Married Man", and is mostly notable for being composed by John Williams, the man who would later go on to compose the music for Star Wars. That didn't chart, but the group followed it with two more top twenty hits written by Bonner and Gordon, "You Know What I Mean" and "She's My Girl". But then the group decided that Bonner and Gordon weren't giving them their best material, and started turning down their submissions, like a song called "Celebrity Ball" which they thought had no commercial potential, at least until the song was picked up by their friends Three Dog Night, retitled "Celebrate", and made the top twenty: [Excerpt: Three Dog Night, "Celebrate"] Instead, the group decided to start recording more of their own material. They were worried that in the fast-changing rock world bands that did other songwriters' material were losing credibility. But "Sound Asleep", their first effort in this new plan, only made number forty-seven on the charts. Clearly they needed a different plan. They called in their old bass player Chip Douglas, who was now an experienced hitmaker as a producer. He called in *his* friend Harry Nilsson, who wrote "The Story of Rock & Roll" for the group, but that didn't do much better, only making number forty-eight. But the group persevered, starting work on a new album produced by Douglas, The Turtles Present The Battle of the Bands, the conceit of which was that every track would be presented as being by a different band. So there were tracks by  Chief Kamanawanalea and his Royal Macadamia Nuts,  Fats Mallard and the Bluegrass Fireball, The Atomic Enchilada, and so on, all done in the styles suggested by those band names. There was even a track by "The Cross Fires": [Excerpt: The Cross Fires, "Surfer Dan"] It was the first time the group had conceived of an album as a piece, and nine of the twelve tracks were originals by the band -- there was a track written by their friend Bill Martin, and the opening track, by "The US Teens Featuring Raoul", was co-written by Chip Douglas and Harry Nilsson. But for the most part the songs were written by the band members themselves, and jointly credited to all of them. This was the democratic decision, but one that Howard Kaylan would later regret, because of the song for which the band name was just "Howie, Mark, Johnny, Jim & Al". Where all the other songs were parodies of other types of music, that one was, as the name suggests, a parody of the Turtles themselves. It was written by Kaylan in disgust at the record label, who kept pestering the group to "give us another 'Happy Together'". Kaylan got more and more angry at this badgering, and eventually thought "OK, you want another 'Happy Together'? I'll give you another 'Happy Together'" and in a few minutes wrote a song that was intended as an utterly vicious parody of that kind of song, with lyrics that nobody could possibly take seriously, and with music that was just mocking the whole structure of "Happy Together" specifically. He played it to the rest of the group, expecting them to fall about laughing, but instead they all insisted it was the group's next single. "Elenore" went to number six on the charts, becoming their biggest hit since "She'd Rather Be With Me": [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Elenore"] And because everything was credited to the group, Kaylan's songwriting royalties were split five ways. For the follow-up, they chose the one actual cover version on the album. "You Showed Me" is a song that Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark had written together in the very early days of the Byrds, and they'd recorded it as a jangly folk-rock tune in 1964: [Excerpt: The Byrds, "You Showed Me"] They'd never released that track, but Gene Clark had performed it solo after leaving the Byrds, and Douglas had been in Clark's band at the time, and liked the song. He played it for the Turtles, but when he played it for them the only instrument he had to hand was a pump organ with one of its bellows broken. Because of this, he had to play it slowly, and while he kept insisting that the song needed to be faster, the group were equally insistent that what he was playing them was the big ballad hit they wanted, and they recorded it at that tempo. "You Showed Me" became the Turtles' final top ten hit: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "You Showed Me"] But once again there were problems in the group. Johnny Barbata was the greatest drummer any of them had ever played with, but he didn't fit as a personality -- he didn't like hanging round with the rest of them when not on stage, and while there were no hard feelings, it was clear he could get a gig with pretty much anyone and didn't need to play with a group he wasn't entirely happy in. By mutual agreement, he left to go and play with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and was replaced by John Seiter from Spanky and Our Gang -- a good drummer, but not the best of the best like Barbata had been. On top of this, there were a whole host of legal problems to deal with. The Turtles were the only big act on White Whale records, though White Whale did put out some other records. For example, they'd released the single "Desdemona" by John's Children in the US: [Excerpt: John's Children, "Desdemona"] The group, being the Anglophiles they were, had loved that record, and were also among the very small number of Americans to like the music made by John's Children's guitarist's new folk duo, Tyrannosaurus Rex: [Excerpt: Tyrannosaurus Rex, "Debora"] When Tyrannosaurus Rex supported the Turtles, indeed, Volman and Kaylan became very close to Marc Bolan, and told him that the next time they were in England they'd have to get together, maybe even record together. That would happen not that many years later, with results we'll be getting to in... episode 201, by my current calculations. But John's Children hadn't had a hit, and indeed nobody on White Whale other than the Turtles had. So White Whale desperately wanted to stop the Turtles having any independence, and to make sure they continued to be their hit factory. They worked with the group's roadie, Dave Krambeck, to undermine the group's faith in their manager, Bill Utley, who supported the group in their desire for independence. Soon, Krambeck and White Whale had ousted Utley, and Krambeck had paid Utley fifty thousand dollars for their management contract, with the promise of another two hundred thousand later. That fifty thousand dollars had been taken by Krambeck as an advance against the Turtles' royalties, so they were really buying themselves out. Except that Krambeck then sold the management contract on to a New York management firm, without telling the group. He then embezzled as much of the group's ready cash as he could and ran off to Mexico, without paying Utley his two hundred thousand dollars. The Turtles were out of money, and they were being sued by Utley because he hadn't had the money he should have had, and by the big New York firm, because  since the Turtles hadn't known they were now legally their managers they were in breach of contract. They needed money quickly, and so they signed with another big management company, this one co-owned by Bill Cosby, in the belief that Cosby's star power might be able to get them some better bookings. It did -- one of the group's first gigs after signing with the new company was at the White House. It turned out they were Tricia Nixon's favourite group, and so they and the Temptations were booked at her request for a White House party. The group at first refused to play for a President they rightly thought of as a monster, but their managers insisted. That destroyed their reputation among the cool antiestablishment youth, of course, but it did start getting them well-paid corporate gigs. Right up until the point where Kaylan became sick at his own hypocrisy at playing these events, drank too much of the complimentary champagne at an event for the president of US Steel, went into a drunken rant about how sick the audience made him, and then about how his bandmates were a bunch of sellouts, threw his mic into a swimming pool, and quit while still on stage. He was out of the band for two months, during which time they worked on new material without him, before they made up and decided to work on a new album. This new album, though, was going to be more democratic. As well as being all original material, they weren't having any of this nonsense about the lead singer singing lead. This time, whoever wrote the song was going to sing lead, so Kaylan only ended up singing lead on six of the twelve songs on what turned out to be their final album, Turtle Soup. They wanted a truly great producer for the new album, and they all made lists of who they might call. The lists included a few big names like George Martin and Phil Spector, but one name kept turning up -- Ray Davies. As we'll hear in the next episode, the Kinks had been making some astonishing music since "You Really Got Me", but most of it had not been heard in the US. But the Turtles all loved the Kinks' 1968 album The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, which they considered the best album ever made: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Animal Farm"] They got in touch with Davies, and he agreed to produce the album -- the first time he did any serious outside production work -- and eventually they were able to persuade White Whale, who had no idea who he was, to allow him to produce it. The resulting album is by far the group's strongest album-length work, though there were problems -- Davies' original mix of the album was dominated by the orchestral parts written by Wrecking Crew musician Ray Pohlman, while the group thought that their own instruments should be more audible, since they were trying to prove that they were a proper band. They remixed it themselves, annoying Davies, though reissues since the eighties have reverted to a mix closer to Davies' intentions. Some of the music, like Pons' "Dance This Dance With Me", perhaps has the group trying a little *too* hard to sound like the Kinks: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Dance This Dance With Me"] But on the other hand, Kaylan's "You Don't Have to Walk in the Rain" is the group's last great pop single, and has one of the best lines of any single from the sixties -- "I look at your face, I love you anyway": [Excerpt: The Turtles, "You Don't Have to Walk in the Rain"] But the album produced no hits, and the group were getting more and more problems from their label. White Whale tried to get Volman and Kaylan to go to Memphis without the other band members to record with Chips Moman, but they refused -- the Turtles were a band, and they were proud of not having session players play their parts on the records. Instead, they started work with Jerry Yester producing on a new album, to be called Shell Shock. They did, though bow to pressure and record a terrible country track called "Who Would Ever Think That I Would Marry Margaret" backed by session players, at White Whale's insistence, but managed to persuade the label not to release it. They audited White Whale and discovered that in the first six months of 1969 alone -- a period where they hadn't sold that many records -- they'd been underpaid by a staggering six hundred and fifty thousand dollars. They sued the label for several million, and in retaliation, the label locked them out of the recording studio, locking their equipment in there. They basically begged White Whale to let them record one last great single, one last throw of the dice. Jim Pons had, for years, known a keyboard player named Bob Harris, and had recently got to know Harris' wife, Judee Sill. Sill had a troubled life -- she was a heroin addict, and had at times turned to streetwalking to earn money, and had spent time in prison for armed robbery -- but she was also an astonishing songwriter, whose music was as inspired by Bach as by any pop or folk composer. Sill had been signed to Blimp, the Turtles' new production and publishing company, and Pons was co-producing some tracks on her first album, with Graham Nash producing others. Pons thought one song from that album, "Lady-O", would be perfect for the Turtles: [Excerpt: Judee Sill, "Lady-O"] (music continues under) The Turtles stuck closely to Sill's vision of the song. So closely that you haven't noticed that before I started talking, we'd already switched from Sill's record to the Turtles' version. [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Lady-O"] That track, with Sill on guitar backing Kaylan, Volman, and Nichol's vocals, was the last Turtles single to be released while the band were together. Despite “Lady O” being as gorgeous a melody as has ever been produced in the rock world, it sank without trace, as did a single from the Shell Shock sessions released under a pseudonym, The Dedications. White Whale followed that up, to the group's disgust, with "Who Would Ever Think That I Would Marry Margaret?", and then started putting out whatever they had in the vaults, trying to get the last few pennies, even releasing their 1965 album track version of "Eve of Destruction" as if it were a new single. The band were even more disgusted when they discovered that, thanks to the flurry of suits and countersuits, they not only could no longer perform as the Turtles, but White Whale were laying legal claim to their own names. They couldn't perform under those names -- Howard Kaylan, Mark Volman, and the rest were the intellectual property of White Whale, according to the lawyers. The group split up, and Kaylan and Volman did some session work, including singing on a demo for a couple of new songwriters: [Excerpt: Steely Dan, "Everyone's Gone to the Movies"] When that demo got the songwriters a contract, one of them actually phoned up to see if Kaylan wanted a permanent job in their new band, but they didn't want Volman as well, so Kaylan refused, and Steely Dan had to do without him. Volman and Kaylan were despondent, washed-up, has-been ex-rock stars. But when they went to see a gig by their old friend Frank Zappa, it turned out that he was looking for exactly that. Of course, they couldn't use their own names, but the story of the Phlorescent Leech and Eddie is a story for another time...
Sep 21, 2022
Episode 153: “Heroes and Villains” by the Beach Boys
Episode one hundred and fifty-three of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Heroes and Villains” by the Beach Boys, and the collapse of the Smile album. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a sixteen-minute bonus episode available, on "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night" by the Electric Prunes. 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 There is no Mixcloud this week, because there were too many Beach Boys songs in the episode. I used many resources for this episode. As well as the books I referred to in all the Beach Boys episodes, listed below, I used Domenic Priore's book Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson's Lost Masterpiece and Richard Henderson's 33 1/3 book on Van Dyke Parks' Song Cycle. Stephen McParland has published many, many books on the California surf and hot-rod music scenes, including several on both the Beach Boys and Gary Usher.  His books can be found at https://payhip.com/CMusicBooks Andrew Doe’s Bellagio 10452 site is an invaluable resource. Jon Stebbins’ The Beach Boys FAQ is a good balance between accuracy and readability. And Philip Lambert’s Inside the Music of Brian Wilson is an excellent, though sadly out of print, musicological analysis of Wilson’s music from 1962 through 67. Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson by Peter Ames Carlin is the best biography of Wilson. I have also referred to Brian Wilson’s autobiography, I Am Brian Wilson, and to Mike Love’s, Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy. As a good starting point for the Beach Boys’ music in general, I would recommend this budget-priced three-CD set, which has a surprisingly good selection of their material on it, including the single version of “Heroes and Villains”. The box set The Smile Sessions  contains an attempt to create a finished album from the unfinished sessions, plus several CDs of outtakes and session material. Transcript [Opening -- "intro to the album" studio chatter into "Our Prayer"] Before I start, I'd just like to note that this episode contains some discussion of mental illness, including historical negative attitudes towards it, so you may want to check the transcript or skip this one if that might be upsetting. In November and December 1966, the filmmaker David Oppenheim and the conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein collaborated on a TV film called "Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution".  The film was an early attempt at some of the kinds of things this podcast is doing, looking at how music and social events interact and evolve, though it was dealing with its present rather than the past. The film tried to cast as wide a net as possible in its fifty-one minutes. It looked at two bands from Manchester -- the Hollies and Herman's Hermits -- and how the people identified as their leaders, "Herman" (or Peter Noone) and Graham Nash, differed on the issue of preventing war: [Excerpt: Inside Pop, the Rock Revolution] And it made a star of East Coast teenage singer-songwriter Janis Ian with her song about interracial relationships, "Society's Child": [Excerpt: Janis Ian, "Society's Child"] And Bernstein spends a significant time, as one would expect, analysing the music of the Beatles and to a lesser extent the Stones, though they don't appear in the show. Bernstein does a lot to legitimise the music just by taking it seriously as a subject for analysis, at a time when most wouldn't: [Excerpt: Leonard Bernstein talking about "She Said She Said"] You can't see it, obviously, but in the clip that's from, as the Beatles recording is playing, Bernstein is conducting along with the music, as he would a symphony orchestra, showing where the beats are falling. But of course, given that this was filmed in the last two months of 1966, the vast majority of the episode is taken up with musicians from the centre of the music world at that time, LA. The film starts with Bernstein interviewing Tandyn Almer,  a jazz-influenced songwriter who had recently written the big hit "Along Comes Mary" for The Association: [Excerpt: Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution] It featured interviews with Roger McGuinn, and with the protestors at the Sunset Strip riots which were happening contemporaneously with the filming: [Excerpt: Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution] Along with Frank Zappa's rather acerbic assessment of the potential of the youth revolutionaries: [Excerpt: Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution] And ended (other than a brief post-commercial performance over the credits by the Hollies) with a performance by Tim Buckley, whose debut album, as we heard in the last episode, had featured Van Dyke Parks and future members of the Mothers of Invention and Buffalo Springfield: [Excerpt: Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution] But for many people the highlight of the film was the performance that came right before Buckley's, film of Brian Wilson playing a new song from the album he was working on. One thing I should note -- many sources say that the voiceover here is Bernstein. My understanding is that Bernstein wrote and narrated the parts of the film he was himself in, and Oppenheim did all the other voiceover writing and narration, but that Oppenheim's voice is similar enough to Bernstein's that people got confused about this: [Excerpt: Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution] That particular piece of footage was filmed in December 1966, but it wasn't broadcast until April the twenty-fifth, 1967, an eternity in mid-sixties popular music. When it was broadcast, that album still hadn't come out. Precisely one week later, the Beach Boys' publicist Derek Taylor announced that it never would: [Excerpt: Brian Wilson, "Surf's Up"] One name who has showed up in a handful of episodes recently, but who we've not talked that much about, is Van Dyke Parks. And in a story with many, many, remarkable figures, Van Dyke Parks may be one of the most remarkable of all. Long before he did anything that impinges on the story of rock music, Parks had lived the kind of life that would be considered unbelievable were it to be told as fiction. Parks came from a family that mixed musical skill, political progressiveness, and achievement. His mother was a scholar of Hebrew, while his father was a neurologist, the first doctor to admit Black patients to a white Southern hospital, and had paid his way through college leading a dance band. Parks' father was also, according to the 33 1/3 book on Song Cycle, a member of "John Philip Sousa's Sixty Silver Trumpets", but literally every reference I can find to Sousa leading a band of that name goes back to that book, so I've no idea what he was actually a member of, but we can presume he was a reasonable musician. Young Van Dyke started playing the clarinet at four, and was also a singer from a very early age, as well as playing several other instruments. He went to the American Boychoir School in Princeton, to study singing, and while there he sang with Toscaninni, Thomas Beecham, and other immensely important conductors of the era. He also had a very special accompanist for one Christmas carolling session. The choir school was based in Princeton, and one of the doors he knocked on while carolling was that of Princeton's most famous resident, Albert Einstein, who heard the young boy singing "Silent Night", and came out with his violin and played along. Young Van Dyke was only interested in music, but he was also paying the bills for his music tuition himself -- he had a job. He was a TV star. From the age of ten, he started getting roles in TV shows -- he played the youngest son in the 1953 sitcom Bonino, about an opera singer, which flopped because it aired opposite the extremely popular Jackie Gleason Show. He would later also appear in that show, as one of several child actors who played the character of Little Tommy Manicotti, and he made a number of other TV appearances, as well as having a small role in Grace Kelly's last film, The Swan, with Alec Guinness and Louis Jourdain. But he never liked acting, and just did it to pay for his education. He gave it up when he moved on to the Carnegie Institute, where he majored in composition and performance. But then in his second year, his big brother Carson asked him to drop out and move to California. Carson Parks had been part of the folk scene in California for a few years at this point. He and a friend had formed a duo called the Steeltown Two, but then both of them had joined the folk group the Easy Riders, a group led by Terry Gilkyson. Before Carson Parks joined, the Easy Riders had had a big hit with their version of "Marianne", a calypso originally by the great calypsonian Roaring Lion: [Excerpt: The Easy Riders, "Marianne"] They hadn't had many other hits, but their songs became hits for other people -- Gilkyson wrote several big hits for Frankie Laine, and the Easy Riders were the backing vocalists on Dean Martin's recording of a song they wrote, "Memories are Made of This": [Excerpt: Dean Martin and the Easy Riders, "Memories are Made of This"] Carson Parks hadn't been in the group at that point -- he only joined after they'd stopped having success -- and eventually the group had split up. He wanted to revive his old duo, the Steeltown Two, and persuaded his family to let his little brother Van Dyke drop out of university and move to California to be the other half of the duo. He wanted Van Dyke to play guitar, while he played banjo. Van Dyke had never actually played guitar before, but as Carson Parks later said "in 90 days, he knew more than most folks know after many years!" Van Dyke moved into an apartment adjoining his brother's, owned by Norm Botnick, who had until recently been the principal viola player in a film studio orchestra, before the film studios all simultaneously dumped their in-house orchestras in the late fifties, so was a more understanding landlord than most when it came to the lifestyles of musicians. Botnick's sons, Doug and Bruce, later went into sound engineering -- we've already encountered Bruce Botnick in the episode on the Doors, and he will be coming up again in the future. The new Steeltown Two didn't make any records, but they developed a bit of a following in the coffeehouses, and they also got a fair bit of session work, mostly through Terry Gilkyson, who was by that point writing songs for Disney and would hire them to play on sessions for his songs. And it was Gilkyson who both brought Van Dyke Parks the worst news of his life to that point, and in doing so also had him make his first major mark on music. Gilkyson was the one who informed Van Dyke that another of his brothers, Benjamin Riley Parks, had died in what was apparently a car accident. I say it was apparently an accident because Benjamin Riley Parks was at the time working for the US State Department, and there is apparently also some evidence that he was assassinated in a Cold War plot. Gilkyson also knew that neither Van Dyke nor Carson Parks had much money, so in order to help them afford black suits and plane tickets to and from the funeral, Gilkyson hired Van Dyke to write the arrangement for a song he had written for an upcoming Disney film: [Excerpt: Jungle Book soundtrack, "The Bare Necessities"] The Steeltown Two continued performing, and soon became known as the Steeltown Three, with the addition of a singer named Pat Peyton. The Steeltown Three recorded two singles, "Rock Mountain", under that group name: [Excerpt: The Steeltown Three, "Rock Mountain"] And a version of "San Francisco Bay" under the name The South Coasters, which I've been unable to track down. Then the three of them, with the help of Terry Gilkyson, formed a larger group in the style of the New Christy Minstrels -- the Greenwood County Singers. Indeed, Carson Parks would later claim that  Gilkyson had had the idea first -- that he'd mentioned that he'd wanted to put together a group like that to Randy Sparks, and Sparks had taken the idea and done it first. The Greenwood County Singers had two minor hot one hundred hits, only one of them while Van Dyke was in the band -- "The New 'Frankie and Johnny' Song", a rewrite by Bob Gibson and Shel Silverstein of the old traditional song "Frankie and Johnny": [Excerpt: The Greenwood County Singers, "The New Frankie and Johnny Song"] They also recorded several albums together, which gave Van Dyke the opportunity to practice his arrangement skills, as on this version of  "Vera Cruz" which he arranged: [Excerpt: The Greenwood County Singers, "Vera Cruz"] Some time before their last album, in 1965, Van Dyke left the Greenwood County Singers, and was replaced by Rick Jarrard, who we'll also be hearing more about in future episodes. After that album, the group split up, but Carson Parks would go on to write two big hits in the next few years. The first and biggest was a song he originally wrote for a side project. His future wife Gaile Foote was also a Greenwood County Singer, and the two of them thought they might become folk's answer to Sonny and Cher or Nino Tempo and April Stevens: [Excerpt: Carson and Gaile, "Somethin' Stupid"] That obviously became a standard after it was covered by Frank and Nancy Sinatra. Carson Parks also wrote "Cab Driver", which in 1968 became the last top thirty hit for the Mills Brothers, the 1930s vocal group we talked about way way back in episode six: [Excerpt: The Mills Brothers, "Cab Driver"] Meanwhile Van Dyke Parks was becoming part of the Sunset Strip rock and roll world. Now, until we get to 1967, Parks has something of a tangled timeline. He worked with almost every band around LA in a short period, often working with multiple people simultaneously, and nobody was very interested in keeping detailed notes. So I'm going to tell this as a linear story, but be aware it's very much not -- things I say in five minutes might happen after, or in the same week as, things I say in half an hour. At some point in either 1965 or 1966 he joined the Mothers of Invention for a brief while. Nobody is entirely sure when this was, and whether it was before or after their first album. Some say it was in late 1965, others in August 1966, and even the kind of fans who put together detailed timelines are none the wiser, because no recordings have so far surfaced of Parks with the band. Either is plausible, and the Mothers went through a variety of keyboard players at this time -- Zappa had turned to his jazz friend Don Preston, but found Preston was too much of a jazzer and told him to come back when he could play "Louie Louie" convincingly, asked Mac Rebennack to be in the band but sacked him pretty much straight away for drug use, and eventually turned to Preston again once Preston had learned to rock and roll. Some time in that period, Van Dyke Parks was a Mother, playing electric harpsichord. He may even have had more than one stint in the group -- Zappa said "Van Dyke Parks played electric harpsichord in and out." It seems likely, though, that it was in summer of 1966, because in an interview published in Teen Beat Magazine in December 66, but presumably conducted a few months prior, Zappa was asked to describe the band members in one word each and replied: "Ray—Mahogany Roy—Asbestos Jim—Mucilage Del—Acetate Van Dyke—Pinocchio Billy—Boom I don't know about the rest of the group—I don't even know about these guys." Sources differ as to why Parks didn't remain in the band -- Parks has said that he quit after a short time because he didn't like being shouted at, while Zappa said "Van Dyke was not a reliable player. He didn't make it to rehearsal on time and things like that." Both may be true of course, though I've not heard anyone else ever criticise Parks for his reliability. But then also Zappa had much more disciplinarian standards than most rock band leaders. It's possibly either through Zappa that he met Tom Wilson, or through Tom Wilson that he met Frank Zappa, but either way Parks, like the Mothers of Invention, was signed to MGM records in 1966, where he released two solo singles co-produced by Wilson and an otherwise obscure figure named Tim Alvorado. The first was "Number Nine", which we heard last week, backed with "Do What You Wanta": [Excerpt: Van Dyke Parks, "Do What You Wanta"] At least one source I've read says that the lyrics to "Do What You Wanta" were written not by Parks but by his friend Danny Hutton, but it's credited as a Parks solo composition on the label. It was after that that the Van Dyke Parks band -- or as they were sometimes billed, just The Van Dyke Parks formed, as we discussed last episode, based around Parks, Steve Stills, and Steve Young, and they performed a handful of shows with bass player Bobby Rae and drummer Walt Sparman, playing a mix of original material, primarily Parks' songs, and covers of things like "Dancing in the Street". The one contemporaneous review of a live show I've seen talks about  the girls in the audience screaming and how "When rhythm guitarist Steve Stillman imitated the Barry McGuire emotional scene, they almost went wiggy". But The Van Dyke Parks soon split up, and Parks the individual recorded his second single, "Come to the Sunshine": [Excerpt: Van Dyke Parks, "Come to the Sunshine"] Around the time he left the Greenwood County Singers, Van Dyke Parks also met Brian Wilson for the first time, when David Crosby took him up to Wilson's house to hear an acetate of the as-yet-unreleased track "Sloop John B". Parks was impressed by Wilson's arrangement techniques, and in particular the way he was orchestrating instrumental combinations that you couldn't do with a standard live room setup, that required overdubbing and close-micing. He said later "The first stuff I heard indicated this kind of curiosity for the recording experience, and when I went up to see him in '65 I don't even think he had the voices on yet, but I heard that long rotational breathing, that long flute ostinato at the beginning... I knew this man was a great musician." [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Sloop John B (instrumental)"] In most of 1966, though, Parks was making his living as a session keyboard player and arranger, and much of the work he was getting was through Lenny Waronker. Waronker was a second-generation music industry professional. His father, Si Waronker, had been a violinist in the Twentieth Century Fox studio orchestra before founding Liberty Records (the label which indirectly led to him becoming immortalised in children's entertainment, when Liberty Records star David Seville named his Chipmunk characters after three Liberty executives, with Simon being Si Waronker's full forename). The first release on Liberty Records had been a version of "The Girl Upstairs", an instrumental piece from the Fox film The Seven-Year Itch. The original recording of that track, for the film, had been done by the Twentieth Century Fox Orchestra, written and conducted by Alfred Newman, the musical director for Fox: [Excerpt: Alfred Newman, "The Girl Upstairs"] Liberty's soundalike version was conducted by Newman's brother Lionel, a pianist at the studio who later became Fox's musical director for TV, just as his brother was for film, but who also wrote many film scores himself. Another Newman brother, Emil, was also a film composer, but the fourth brother, Irving, had gone into medicine instead. However, Irving's son Randy wanted to follow in the family business, and he and Lenny Waronker, who was similarly following his own father by working for Liberty Records' publishing subsidiary Metric Music, had been very close friends ever since High School. Waronker got Newman signed to Metric Music, where he wrote "They Tell Me It's Summer" for the Fleetwoods: [Excerpt: The Fleetwoods, "They Tell Me It's Summer"] Newman also wrote and recorded a single of his own in 1962, co-produced by Pat Boone: [Excerpt: Randy Newman, "Golden Gridiron Boy"] Before deciding he wasn't going to make it as a singer and had better just be a professional songwriter. But by 1966 Waronker had moved on from Metric to Warner Brothers, and become a junior A&R man. And he was put in charge of developing the artists that Warners had acquired when they had bought up a small label, Autumn Records. Autumn Records was a San Francisco-based label whose main producer, Sly Stone, had now moved on to other things after producing the hit record "Laugh Laugh" for the Beau Brummels: [Excerpt: The Beau Brummels, "Laugh Laugh"] The Beau Brummels  had had another hit after that and were the main reason that Warners had bought the label, but their star was fading a little. Stone had also been mentoring several other groups, including the Tikis and the Mojo Men, who all had potential. Waronker gathered around himself a sort of brains trust of musicians who he trusted as songwriters, arrangers, and pianists -- Randy Newman, the session pianist Leon Russell, and Van Dyke Parks. Their job was to revitalise the career of the Beau Brummels, and to make both the Tikis and the Mojo Men into successes. The tactic they chose was, in Waronker's words, “Go in with a good song and weird it out.” The first good song they tried weirding out was in late 1966, when Leon Russell came up with a clarinet-led arrangement of Paul Simon's "59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy)" for the Tikis, who performed it but who thought that their existing fanbase wouldn't accept something so different, so it was put out under another name, suggested by Parks, Harpers Bizarre: [Excerpt: Harpers Bizarre, "Feeling Groovy"] Waronker said of Parks and Newman “They weren’t old school guys. They were modern characters but they had old school values regarding certain records that needed to be made, certain artists who needed to be heard regardless. So there was still that going on. The fact that ‘Feeling Groovy’ was a number 10 hit nationwide and ‘Sit Down, I Think I Love You’  made the Top 30 on Western regional radio, that gave us credibility within the company. One hit will do wonders, two allows you to take chances.” We heard "Sit Down, I Think I Love You" last episode -- that's the song by Parks' old friend Stephen Stills that Parks arranged for the Mojo Men: [Excerpt: The Mojo Men, "Sit Down, I Think I Love You"] During 1966 Parks also played on Tim Buckley's first album, as we also heard last episode: [Excerpt: Tim Buckley, "Aren't You the Girl?"] And he also bumped into Brian Wilson on occasion, as they were working a lot in the same studios and had mutual friends like Loren Daro and Danny Hutton, and he suggested the cello part on "Good Vibrations". Parks also played keyboards on "5D" by the Byrds: [Excerpt: The Byrds, "5D (Fifth Dimension)"] And on the Spirit of '67 album for Paul Revere and the Raiders, produced by the Byrds' old producer Terry Melcher. Parks played keyboards on much of the album, including the top five hit "Good Thing": [Excerpt: Paul Revere and the Raiders, "Good Thing"] But while all this was going on, Parks was also working on what would become the work for which he was best known. As I've said, he'd met Brian Wilson on a few occasions, but it wasn't until summer 1966 that the two were formally introduced by Terry Melcher, who knew that Wilson needed a new songwriting collaborator, now Tony Asher's sabbatical from his advertising job was coming to an end, and that Wilson wanted someone who could do work that was a bit more abstract than the emotional material that he had been writing with Asher. Melcher invited both of them to a party at his house on Cielo Drive -- a house which would a few years later become notorious -- which was also attended by many of the young Hollywood set of the time. Nobody can remember exactly who was at the party, but Parks thinks it was people like Jack Nicholson and Peter and Jane Fonda. Parks and Wilson hit it off, with Wilson saying later "He seemed like a really articulate guy, like he could write some good lyrics". Parks on the other hand was delighted to find that Wilson "liked Les Paul, Spike Jones, all of these sounds that I liked, and he was doing it in a proactive way." Brian suggested Parks write the finished lyrics for "Good Vibrations", which was still being recorded at this time, and still only had Tony Asher's dummy lyrics,  but Parks was uninterested. He said that it would be best if he and Brian collaborate together on something new from scratch, and Brian agreed. The first time Parks came to visit Brian at Brian's home, other than the visit accompanying Crosby the year before, he was riding a motorbike -- he couldn't afford a car -- and forgot to bring his driver's license with him. He was stopped by a police officer who thought he looked too poor to be in the area, but Parks persuaded the police officer that if he came to the door, Brian Wilson would vouch for him. Brian got Van Dyke out of any trouble because the cop's sister was a Beach Boys fan, so he autographed an album for her. Brian and Van Dyke talked for a while. Brian asked if Van Dyke needed anything to help his work go smoothly, and Van Dyke said he needed a car. Brian asked what kind. Van Dyke said that Volvos were supposed to be pretty safe. Brian asked how much they cost. Van Dyke said he thought they were about five thousand dollars. Brian called up his office and told them to get a cheque delivered to Van Dyke for five thousand dollars the next day, instantly earning Van Dyke's loyalty. After that, they got on with work. To start with, Brian played Van Dyke a melody he'd been working on, a melody based on a descending scale starting on the fourth: [Plays "Heroes and Villains" melody] Parks told Wilson that the melody reminded him vaguely of Marty Robbins' country hit "El Paso" from 1959, a song about a gunfighter, a cantina, and a dancing woman: [Excerpt: Marty Robbins, "El Paso"] Wilson said that he had been thinking along the same lines, a sort of old west story, and thought maybe it should be called "Heroes and Villains". Parks started writing, matching syllables to Wilson's pre-conceived melody -- "I've been in this town so long that back in the city I've been taken for lost and gone and unknown for a long, long time" [Excerpt: Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, "Heroes and Villains demo"] As Parks put it "The engine had started. It was very much ad hoc. Seat of the pants. Extemporaneous values were enforced. Not too much precommitment to ideas. Or, if so, equally pursuing propinquity." Slowly, over the next several months, while the five other Beach Boys were touring, Brian and Van Dyke refined their ideas about what the album they were writing, initially called Dumb Angel but soon retitled Smile, should be. For Van Dyke Parks it was an attempt to make music about America and American mythology. He was disgusted, as a patriot, with the Anglophilia that had swept the music industry since the arrival of the Beatles in America two and a half years earlier, particularly since that had happened so soon after the deaths both of President Kennedy and of Parks' own brother who was working for the government at the time he died. So for him, the album was about America, about Plymouth Rock, the Old West, California, and Hawaii. It would be a generally positive version of the country's myth, though it would of course also acknowledge the bloodshed on which the country had been built: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Bicycle Rider" section] As he put it later "I was dead set on centering my life on the patriotic ideal. I was a son of the American revolution, and there was blood on the tracks. Recent blood, and it was still drying. The whole record seemed like a real effort toward figuring out what Manifest Destiny was all about. We'd come as far as we could, as far as Horace Greeley told us to go. And so we looked back and tried to make sense of that great odyssey." Brian had some other ideas -- he had been studying the I Ching, and Subud, and he wanted to do something about the four classical elements, and something religious -- his ideas were generally rather unfocused at the time, and he had far more ideas than he knew what to usefully do with. But he was also happy with the idea of a piece about America, which fit in with his own interest in "Rhapsody in Blue", a piece that was about America in much the same way. "Rhapsody in Blue" was an inspiration for Brian primarily in how it weaved together variations on themes. And there are two themes that between them Brian was finding endless variations on. The first theme was a shuffling between two chords a fourth away from each other. [demonstrates G to C on guitar] Where these chords are both major, that's the sequence for "Fire": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow/Fire"] For the "Who ran the Iron Horse?" section of "Cabin Essence": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Cabinessence"] For "Vegetables": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Vegetables"] And more. Sometimes this would be the minor supertonic and dominant seventh of the key, so in C that would be Dm to G7: [Plays Dm to G7 fingerpicked] That's the "bicycle rider" chorus we heard earlier, which was part of a song known as "Roll Plymouth Rock" or "Do You Like Worms": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Bicycle Rider"] But which later became a chorus for "Heroes and Villains": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Heroes and Villains"] But that same sequence is also the beginning of "Wind Chimes": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Wind Chimes"] The "wahalla loo lay" section of "Roll Plymouth Rock": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Roll Plymouth Rock"] And others, but most interestingly, the minor-key rearrangement of "You Are My Sunshine" as "You Were My Sunshine": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "You Were My Sunshine"] I say that's most interesting, because that provides a link to another of the major themes which Brian was wringing every drop out of, a phrase known as "How Dry I Am", because of its use under those words in an Irving Berlin song, which was a popular barbershop quartet song but is now best known as a signifier of drunkenness in Looney Tunes cartoons: [Excerpt: Daffy Duck singing "How Dry I Am" ] The phrase is a common one in early twentieth century music, especially folk and country, as it's made up of notes in the pentatonic scale -- it's the fifth, first, second, and third of the scale, in that order: [demonstrates "How Dry I Am"] And so it's in the melody to "This Land is Your Land", for example, a song which is very much in the same spirit of progressive Americana in which Van Dyke Parks was thinking: [Excerpt: Woody Guthrie, "This Land is Your Land"] It's also the start of the original melody of "You Are My Sunshine": [Excerpt: Jimmie Davis, "You Are My Sunshine" ] Brian rearranged that melody when he stuck it into a minor key, so it's no longer "How Dry I Am" in the Beach Boys version, but if you play the "How Dry I Am" notes in a different rhythm, you get this: [Plays "He Gives Speeches" melody] Which is the start of the melody to "He Gives Speeches": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "He Gives Speeches"] Play those notes backwards, you get: [Plays "He Gives Speeches" melody backwards] Do that and add onto the end a passing sixth and then the tonic, and then you get: [Plays that] Which is the vocal *countermelody* in "He Gives Speeches": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "He Gives Speeches"] And also turns up in some versions of "Heroes and Villains": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Heroes and Villains (alternate version)"] And so on. Smile was an intricate web of themes and variations, and it incorporated motifs from many sources, both the great American songbook and the R&B of Brian's youth spent listening to Johnny Otis' radio show. There were bits of "Gee" by the Crows, of "Twelfth Street Rag", and of course, given that this was Brian Wilson, bits of Phil Spector. The backing track to the verse of "Heroes and Villains": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Heroes and Villains"] Owed more than a little to a version of "Save the Last Dance For Me" that Spector had produced for Ike and Tina Turner: [Excerpt: Ike and Tina Turner, "Save the Last Dance For Me"] While one version of the song “Wonderful” contained a rather out-of-place homage to Etta James and “The Wallflower”: [Excerpt: “Wonderful (Rock With Me Henry)”] As the recording continued, it became more and more obvious that the combination of these themes and variations was becoming a little too much for Brian.  Many of the songs he was working on were made up of individual modules that he was planning to splice together the way he had with "Good Vibrations", and some modules were getting moved between tracks, as he tried to structure the songs in the edit. He'd managed it with "Good Vibrations", but this was an entire album, not just a single, and it was becoming more and more difficult. David Anderle, who was heading up the record label the group were looking at starting, would talk about Brian playing him acetates with sections edited together one way, and thinking it was perfect, and obviously the correct way to put them together, the only possible way, and then hearing the same sections edited together in a different way, and thinking *that* was perfect, and obviously the correct way to put them together. But while a lot of the album was modular, there were also several complete songs with beginnings, middles, ends, and structures, even if they were in several movements. And those songs showed that if Brian could just get the other stuff right, the album could be very, very, special. There was "Heroes and Villains" itself, of course, which kept changing its structure but was still based around the same basic melody and story that Brian and Van Dyke had come up with on their first day working together. There was also "Wonderful", a beautiful, allusive, song about innocence lost and regained: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Wonderful"] And there was CabinEssence, a song which referenced yet another classic song, this time "Home on the Range", to tell a story of idyllic rural life and of the industrialisation which came with westward expansion: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "CabinEssence"] The arrangement for that song inspired Van Dyke Parks to make a very astute assessment of Brian Wilson. He said later "He knew that he had to adhere to the counter-culture, and I knew that I had to. I think that he was about as estranged from it as I was.... At the same time, he didn't want to lose that kind of gauche sensibility that he had. He was doing stuff that nobody would dream of doing. You would never, for example, use one string on a banjo when you had five; it just wasn't done. But when I asked him to bring a banjo in, that's what he did. This old-style plectrum thing. One string. That's gauche." Both Parks and Wilson were both drawn to and alienated from the counterculture, but in very different ways, and their different ways of relating to the counterculture created the creative tension that makes the Smile project so interesting. Parks is fundamentally a New Deal Liberal, and was excited by the progresssive nature of the counterculture, but also rather worried about its tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and to ignore the old in pursuit of the new. He was an erudite, cultured, sophisticated man who thought that there was value to be found in the works and attitudes of the past, even as one must look to the future. He was influenced by the beat poets and the avant garde art of the time, but also said of his folk music period "A harpist would bring his harp with him and he would play and recite a story which had been passed down the generations. This particular legacy continued through Arthurian legend, and then through the Middle Ages, and even into the nineteenth century. With all these songs, half of the story was the lyrics, and the folk songs were very interesting. They were tremendously thought-driven songs; there was nothing confusing about that. Even when the Kingston Trio came out -- and Brian has already admitted his debt to the Kingston Trio -- 'Tom Dooley', the story of a murder most foul 'MTA' an urban nightmare -- all of this thought-driven music was perfectly acceptable.  It was more than a teenage romantic crisis." Brian Wilson, on the other hand, was anything *but* sophisticated. He is a simple man in the best sense of the term -- he likes what he likes, doesn't like what he doesn't like, and has no pretensions whatsoever about it. He is, at heart, a middle-class middle-American brought up in suburbia, with a taste for steaks and hamburgers, broad physical comedy, baseball, and easy listening music. Where Van Dyke Parks was talking about "thought-driven music", Wilson's music, while thoughtful, has always been driven by feelings first and foremost. Where Parks is influenced by Romantic composers like Gottschalk but is fundamentally a craftsman, a traditionalist, a mason adding his work to a cathedral whose construction started before his birth and will continue after his death, Wilson's music has none of the stylistic hallmarks of Romantic music, but in its inspiration it is absolutely Romantic -- it is the immediate emotional expression of the individual, completely unfiltered. When writing his own lyrics in later years Wilson would come up with everything from almost haiku-like lyrics like "I'm a leaf on a windy day/pretty soon I'll be blown away/How long with the wind blow?/Until I die" to "He sits behind his microphone/Johnny Carson/He speaks in such a manly tone/Johnny Carson", depending on whether at the time his prime concern was existential meaninglessness or what was on the TV. Wilson found the new counterculture exciting, but was also very aware he didn't fit in. He was developing a new group of friends, the hippest of the hip in LA counterculture circles -- the singer Danny Hutton, Mark Volman of the Turtles, the writers Michael Vosse and Jules Siegel, scenester and record executive David Anderle -- but there was always the underlying implication that at least some of these people regarded him as, to use an ableist term but one which they would probably have used, an idiot savant. That they thought of him, as his former collaborator Tony Asher would later uncharitably put it, as "a genius musician but an amateur human being". So for example when Siegel brought the great postmodern novelist Thomas Pynchon to visit Brian, both men largely sat in silence, unable to speak to each other; Pynchon because he tended to be a reactive person in conversation and would wait for the other person to initiate topics of discussion, Brian because he was so intimidated by Pynchon's reputation as a great East Coast intellectual that he was largely silent for fear of making a fool of himself. It was this gaucheness, as Parks eventually put it, and Parks' understanding that this was actually a quality to be cherished and the key to Wilson's art, that eventually gave the title to the most ambitious of the complete songs the duo were working on. They had most of the song -- a song about the power of music, the concept of enlightenment, and the rise and fall of civilisations: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Surf's Up"] But Parks hadn't yet quite finished the lyric. The Beach Boys had been off on tour for much of Brian and Van Dyke's collaboration, and had just got back from their first real tour of the UK, where Pet Sounds had been a smash hit, rather than the middling success it had been in the US, and "Good Vibrations" had just become their first number one single. Brian and Van Dyke played the song for Brian's brother Dennis, the Beach Boys' drummer, and the band member most in tune with Brian's musical ambitions at this time. Dennis started crying, and started talking about how the British audiences had loved their music, but had laughed at their on-stage striped-shirt uniforms. Parks couldn't tell if he was crying because of the beauty of the unfinished song, the humiliation he had suffered in Britain, or both. Dennis then asked what the name of the song was, and as Parks later put it "Although it was the most gauche factor, and although maybe Brian thought it was the most dispensable thing, I thought it was very important to continue to use the name and keep the elephant in the room -- to keep the surfing image but to sensitise it to new opportunities. One of these would be an eco-consciousness; it would be speaking about the greening of the Earth, aboriginal people, how we had treated the Indians, taking on those things and putting them into the thoughts that come with the music. That was a solution to the relevance of the group, and I wanted the group to be relevant." Van Dyke had decided on a title: "Surf's Up": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Surf's Up"] As the group were now back from their tour, the focus for recording shifted from the instrumental sessions to vocal ones. Parks had often attended the instrumental sessions, as he was an accomplished musician and arranger himself, and would play on the sessions, but also wanted to learn from what Brian was doing -- he's stated later that some of his use of tuned percussion in the decades since, for example, has come from watching Brian's work. But while he was also a good singer, he was not a singer in the same style as the Beach Boys, and they certainly didn't need his presence at those sessions, so he continued to work on his lyrics, and to do his arrangement and session work for other artists, while they worked in the studio. He was also, though, starting to distance himself from Brian for other reasons. At the start of the summer, Brian's eccentricity and whimsy had seemed harmless -- indeed, the kind of thing he was doing, such as putting his piano in a sandbox so he could feel the sand with his feet while he wrote, seems very much on a par with Maureen Cleave's descriptions of John Lennon in the same period. They were two newly-rich, easily bored, young men with low attention spans and high intelligence who could become deeply depressed when understimulated and so would get new ideas into their heads, spend money on their new fads, and then quickly discard them. But as the summer wore on into autumn and winter, Brian's behaviour became more bizarre, and to Parks' eyes more distasteful. We now know that Brian was suffering a period of increasing mental ill-health, something that was probably not helped by the copious intake of cannabis and amphetamines he was using to spur his creativity, but at the time most people around him didn't realise this, and general knowledge of mental illness was even less than it is today. Brian was starting to do things like insist on holding business meetings in his swimming pool, partly because people wouldn't be able to spy on him, and partly because he thought people would be more honest if they were in the water. There were also events like the recording session where Wilson paid for several session musicians, not to play their instruments, but to be recorded while they sat in a pitch-black room and played the party game Lifeboat with Jules Siegel and several of Wilson's friends, most of whom were stoned and not really understanding what they were doing, while they got angrier and more frustrated. Alan Jardine -- who unlike the Wilson brothers, and even Mike Love to an extent, never indulged in illegal drugs -- has talked about not understanding why, in some vocal sessions, Brian would make the group crawl on their hands and knees while making noises like animals: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Heroes and Villains Part 3 (Animals)"] As Parks delicately put it "I sensed all that was destructive, so I withdrew from those related social encounters." What this meant though was that he was unaware that not all the Beach Boys took the same attitude of complete support for the work he and Brian had been doing that Dennis Wilson -- the only other group member he'd met at this point -- took. In particular, Mike Love was not a fan of Parks' lyrics. As he said later "I called it acid alliteration. The [lyrics are] far out. But do they relate like 'Surfin' USA,' like 'Fun Fun Fun,' like 'California Girls,' like 'I Get Around'? Perhaps not! So that's the distinction. See, I'm into success. These words equal successful hit records; those words don't" Now, Love has taken a lot of heat for this over the years, and on an artistic level that's completely understandable. Parks' lyrics were, to my mind at least, the best the Beach Boys ever had -- thoughtful, intelligent, moving, at times profound, often funny, often beautiful. But, while I profoundly disagree with Love, I have a certain amount of sympathy for his position. From Love's perspective, first and foremost, this is his source of income. He was the only one of the Beach Boys to ever have had a day job -- he'd worked at his father's sheet metal company -- and didn't particularly relish the idea of going back to manual labour if the rock star gig dried up. It wasn't that he was *opposed* to art, of course -- he'd written the lyrics to "Good Vibrations", possibly the most arty rock single released to that point, hadn't he? -- but that had been *commercial* art. It had sold. Was this stuff going to sell? Was he still going to be able to feed his wife and kids? Also, up until a few months earlier he had been Brian's principal songwriting collaborator. He was *still* the most commercially successful collaborator Brian had had. From his perspective, this was a partnership, and it was being turned into a dictatorship without him having been consulted. Before, it had been "Mike, can you write some lyrics for this song about cars?", now it was "Mike, you're going to sing these lyrics about a crow uncovering a cornfield". And not only that, but Mike had not met Brian's new collaborator, but knew he was hanging round with Brian's new druggie friends. And Brian was behaving increasingly weirdly, which Mike put down to the influence of the drugs and these new friends. It can't have helped that at the same time the group's publicist, Derek Taylor, was heavily pushing the line "Brian Wilson is a genius". This was causing Brian some distress -- he didn't think of himself as a genius, and he saw the label as a burden, something it was impossible to live up to -- but was also causing friction in the group, as it seemed that their contributions were being dismissed. Again, I don't agree with Mike's position on any of this, but it is understandable. It's also the case that Mike Love is, by nature, a very assertive and gregarious person, while Brian Wilson, for all that he took control in the studio, is incredibly conflict-avoidant and sensitive. From what I know of the two men's personalities, and from things they've said, and from the session recordings that have leaked over the years, it seems entirely likely that Love will have seen himself as having reasonable criticisms, and putting them to Brian clearly with a bit of teasing to take the sting out of them; while Brian will have seen Love as mercilessly attacking and ridiculing the work that meant so much to him in a cruel and hurtful manner, and that neither will have understood at the time that that was how the other was seeing things. Love's criticisms intensified. Not of everything -- he's several times expressed admiration for "Heroes and Villains" and "Wonderful" -- but in general he was not a fan of Parks' lyrics. And his criticisms seemed to start to affect Brian. It's difficult to say what Brian thinks about Parks' lyrics, because he has a habit in interviews of saying what he thinks the interviewer wants to hear, and the whole subject of Smile became a touchy one for him for a long time, so in some interviews he has talked about how dazzlingly brilliant they are, while at other times he's seemed to agree with Love, saying they were "Van Dyke Parks lyrics", not "Beach Boys lyrics". He may well sincerely think both at the same time, or have thought both at different times. This came to a head with a session for the tag of "Cabinessence": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Cabinessence"] Love insisted on having the line "over and over the crow flies uncover the cornfield" explained to him, and Brian eventually decided to call Van Dyke Parks and have him come to the studio. Up to this point, Parks had no idea that there was anything controversial, so when Brian phoned him up and very casually said that Mike had a few questions about the lyrics, could he come down to the studio? He went without a second thought. He later said "The only person I had had any interchange with before that was Dennis, who had responded very favorably to 'Heroes and Villains' and 'Surf's Up'. Based on that, I gathered that the work would be approved. But then, with no warning whatsoever, I got that phone call from Brian. And that's when the whole house of cards came tumbling down." Parks got to the studio, where he was confronted by an angry Mike Love, insisting he explain the lyrics. Now, as will be, I hope, clear from everything I've said, Parks and Love are very, very, *very* different people. Having met both men -- albeit only in formal fan-meeting situations where they're presenting their public face -- I actually find both men very likeable, but in very different ways. Love is gregarious, a charmer, the kind of man who would make a good salesman and who people use terms like "alpha male" about. He's tall, and has a casual confidence that can easily read as arrogance, and a straightforward sense of humour that can sometimes veer into the cruel. Parks, on the other hand, is small, meticulously well-mannered and well-spoken, has a high, precise, speaking voice which probably reads as effeminate to the kind of people who use terms like "alpha male", and the kind of devastating intelligence and Southern US attention to propriety which means that if he *wanted* to say something cruel about someone, the victim would believe themselves to have been complimented until a horrific realisation two days after the event. In every way, from their politics to their attitudes to art versus commerce to their mannerisms to their appearance, Mike Love and Van Dyke Parks are utterly different people, and were never going to mix well. And Brian Wilson, who was supposed to be the collaborator for both of them, was not mediating between them, not even expressing an opinion -- his own mental problems had reached the stage where he simply couldn't deal with the conflict. Parks felt ambushed and hurt, Love felt angry, especially when Parks could not explain the literal meaning of his lyrics. Eventually Parks just said "I have no excuse, sir", and left. Parks later said "That's when I lost interest. Because basically I was taught not to be where I wasn't wanted, and I could feel I wasn't wanted. It was like I had someone else's job, which was abhorrent to me, because I don't even want my own job. It was sad, so I decided to get away quick." Parks continued collaborating with Wilson, and continued attending instrumental sessions, but it was all wheelspinning -- no significant progress was made on any songs after that point, in early December. It was becoming clear that the album wasn't going to be ready for its planned Christmas release, and it was pushed back to January, but Brian's mental health was becoming worse and worse. One example that's often cited as giving an insight into Brian's mental state at the time is his reaction to going to the cinema to see John Frankenheimer's classic science fiction horror film Seconds. Brian came in late, and the way the story is always told, when he was sat down the screen was black and a voice said from the darkness, "Hello Mr. Wilson". That moment does not seem to correspond with anything in the actual film, but he probably came in around the twenty-four minute mark, where the main character walks down a corridor, filmed in a distorted, hallucinatory manner, to be greeted: [Excerpt: Seconds, 24:00] But as Brian watched the film, primed by this, he became distressed by a number of apparent similarities to his life. The main character was going through death and rebirth, just as he felt he was. Right after the moment I just excerpted, Mr. Wilson is shown a film, and of course Brian was himself watching a film. The character goes to the beach in California, just like Brian. The character has a breakdown on a plane, just like Brian, and has to take pills to cope, and the breakdown happens right after this: [Excerpt: Seconds, from about 44:22] A studio in California? Just like where Brian spent his working days? That kind of weird coincidence can be affecting enough in a work of art when one is relatively mentally stable, but Brian was not at all stable. By this point he was profoundly paranoid -- and he may have had good reason to be. Some of Brian's friends from this time period have insisted that Brian's semi-estranged abusive father and former manager, Murry, was having private detectives watch him and his brothers to find evidence that they were using drugs. If you're in the early stages of a severe mental illness *and* you're self-medicating with illegal drugs, *and* people are actually spying on you, then that kind of coincidence becomes a lot more distressing. Brian became convinced that the film was the work of mind gangsters, probably in the pay of Phil Spector, who were trying to drive him mad and were using telepathy to spy on him. He started to bar people who had until recently been his friends from coming to sessions -- he decided that Jules Siegel's girlfriend was a witch and so Siegel was no longer welcome -- and what had been a creative process in the studio degenerated into noodling and second-guessing himself. He also, with January having come and the album still not delivered, started doing side projects,  some of which, like his production of tracks for photographer Jasper Daily, seem evidence either of his bizarre sense of humour, or of his detachment from reality, or both: [Excerpt: Jasper Daily, "Teeter Totter Love"] As 1967 drew on, things got worse and worse. Brian was by this point concentrating on just one or two tracks, but endlessly reworking elements of them. He became convinced that the track "Fire" had caused some actual fires to break out in LA, and needed to be scrapped. The January deadline came and went with no sign of the album. To add to that, the group discovered that they were owed vast amounts of unpaid royalties by Capitol records, and legal action started which meant that even were the record to be finished it might become a pawn in the legal wrangling. Parks eventually became exasperated by Brian -- he said later "I was victimised by Brian Wilson's buffoonery" -- and he quit the project altogether in February after a row with Brian. He returned a couple of weeks later out of a sense of loyalty, but quit again in April. By April, he'd been working enough with Lenny Waronker that Waronker offered him a contract with Warner Brothers as a solo artist -- partly because Warners wanted some insight into Brian Wilson's techniques as a hit-making producer. To start with, Parks released a single, to dip a toe in the water, under the pseudonym "George Washington Brown". It was a largely-instrumental cover version of Donovan's song "Colours", which Parks chose because after seeing the film Don't Look Back, a documentary of Bob Dylan's 1965 British tour, he felt saddened at the way Dylan had treated Donovan: [Excerpt: George Washington Brown, "Donovan's Colours"] That was not a hit, but it got enough positive coverage, including an ecstatic review from Richard Goldstein in the Village Voice, that Parks was given carte blanche to create the album he wanted to create, with one of the largest budgets of any album released to that date. The result was a masterpiece, and very similar to the vision of Smile that Parks had had -- an album of clever, thoroughly American music which had more to do with Charles Ives than the British Invasion: [Excerpt: Van Dyke Parks, "The All Golden"] But Parks realised the album, titled Song Cycle, was doomed to failure when at a playback session, the head of Warner Brothers records said "Song Cycle? So where are the songs?" According to Parks, the album was only released because Jac Holzman of Elektra Records was also there, and took out his chequebook and said he'd release the album if Warners wouldn't, but it had little push, apart from some rather experimental magazine adverts which were, if anything, counterproductive. But Waronker recognised Parks' talent, and had even written into Parks' contract that Parks would be employed as a session player at scale on every session Waronker produced -- something that didn't actually happen, because Parks didn't insist on it, but which did mean Parks had a certain amount of job security. Over the next couple of years Parks and Waronker co-produced the first albums by two of their colleagues from Waronker's brains trust, with Parks arranging -- Randy Newman: [Excerpt: Randy Newman, "I Think It's Going to Rain Today"] And Ry Cooder: [Excerpt: Ry Cooder, "One Meat Ball"] Waronker would refer to himself, Parks, Cooder, and Newman as "the arts and crafts division" of Warners, and while these initial records weren't very successful, all of them would go on to bigger things. Parks would be a pioneer of music video, heading up Warners' music video department in the early seventies, and would also have a staggeringly varied career over the years, doing everything from teaming up again with the Beach Boys to play accordion on "Kokomo" to doing the string arrangements on Joanna Newsom's album Ys, collaborating with everyone from U2 to Skrillex,  discovering Rufus Wainwright, and even acting again, appearing in Twin Peaks. He also continued to make massively inventive solo albums, releasing roughly one every decade, each unique and yet all bearing the hallmarks of his idiosyncratic style. As you can imagine, he is very likely to come up again in future episodes, though we're leaving him for now. Meanwhile, the Beach Boys were floundering, and still had no album -- and now Parks was no longer working with Brian, the whole idea of Smile was scrapped. The priority was now to get a single done, and so work started on a new, finished, version of "Heroes and Villains", structured in a fairly conventional manner using elements of the Smile recordings. The group were suffering from numerous interlocking problems at this point, and everyone was stressed -- they were suing their record label, Dennis' wife had filed for divorce, Brian was having mental health problems, and Carl had been arrested for draft dodging -- though he was later able to mount a successful defence that he was a conscientious objector. Also, at some point around this time, Bruce Johnston seems to have temporarily quit the group, though this was never announced -- he doesn't seem to have been at any sessions from late May or early June through mid-September, and didn't attend the two shows they performed in that time. They were meant to have performed three shows, but even though Brian was on the board of the Monterey Pop Festival, they pulled out at the last minute, saying that they needed to deal with getting the new single finished and with Carl's draft problems. Some or all of these other issues almost certainly fed into that, but the end result was that the Beach Boys were seen to have admitted defeat, to have handed the crown of relevance off to the San Francisco groups. And even if Smile had been released, there were other releases stealing its thunder. If it had come out in December it would have been massively ahead of its time, but after the Beatles released Sgt Pepper it would have seemed like it was a cheap copy -- though Parks has always said he believes the Beatles heard some of the Smile tapes and copied elements of the recordings, though I don't hear much similarity myself. But I do hear a strong similarity in "My World Fell Down" by Sagittarius, which came out in June, and which was largely made by erstwhile collaborators of Brian -- Gary Usher produced, Glen Campbell sang lead, and Bruce Johnston sang backing vocals: [Excerpt: Sagittarius, "My World Fell Down"] Brian was very concerned after hearing that that someone *had* heard the Smile tapes, and one can understand why. When "Heroes and Villains" finally came out, it was a great single, but only made number twelve in the charts. It was fantastic, but out of step with the times, and nothing could have lived up to the hype that had built up around it: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Heroes and Villains"] Instead of Smile, the group released an album called Smiley Smile, recorded in a couple of months in Brian's home studio, with no studio musicians and no involvement from Bruce, other than the previously released singles, and with the production credited to "the Beach Boys" rather than Brian. Smiley Smile has been unfairly dismissed over the years, but it's actually an album that was ahead of its time. It's a collection of stripped down versions of Smile songs and new fragments using some of the same motifs, recorded with minimal instrumentation. Some of it is on a par with the Smile material it's based on: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Wonderful"] Some is, to my ears, far more beautiful than the Smile versions: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Wind Chimes"] And some has a fun goofiness which relates back to one of Brian's discarded ideas for Smile, that it be a humour album: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "She's Going Bald"] The album was a commercial flop, by far the least successful thing the group had released to that point in the US, not even making the top forty when it came out in September, though it made the top ten in the UK, but interestingly it *wasn't* a critical flop, at least at first. While the scrapping of Smile had been mentioned, it still wasn't widely known, and so for example Richard Goldstein, the journalist whose glowing review of "Donovan's Colours" in the Village Voice had secured Van Dyke Parks the opportunity to make Song Cycle, gave it a review in the New York Times which is written as if Goldstein at least believes it *is* the album that had been promised all along, and he speaks of it very perceptively -- and here I'm going to quote quite extensively, because the narrative about this album has always been that it was panned from the start and made the group a laughing stock: "Smiley Smile hardly reads like a rock cantata. But there are moments in songs such as 'With Me Tonight' and 'Wonderful' that soar like sacred music. Even the songs that seem irrelevant to a rock-hymn are infused with stained-glass melodies. Wilson is a sound sculptor and his songs are all harmonious litanies to the gentle holiness of love — post-Christian, perhaps but still believing. 'Wind Chimes', the most important piece on the album, is a fine example of Brian Wilson's organic pop structure. It contains three movements. First, Wilson sets a lyric and melodic mood ("In the late afternoon, you're hung up on wind chimes"). Then he introduces a totally different scene, utilizing passages of pure, wordless harmony. His two-and-a-half minute hymn ends with a third movement in which the voices join together in an exquisite round, singing the words, "Whisperin' winds set my wind chimes a-tinklin'." The voices fade out slowly, like the bittersweet afternoon in question. The technique of montage is an important aspect of Wilson's rock cantata, since the entire album tends to flow as a single composition. Songs like 'Heroes and Villains', are fragmented by speeding up or slowing down their verses and refrains. The effect is like viewing the song through a spinning prism. Sometimes, as in 'Fall Breaks and Back to Winter' (subtitled "W. Woodpecker Symphony"), the music is tiered into contrapuntal variations on a sliver of melody. The listener is thrown into a vast musical machine of countless working gears, each spinning in its own orbit." That's a discussion of the album that I hear when I listen to Smiley Smile, and the group seem to have been artistically happy with it, at least at first. They travelled to Hawaii to record a live album (with Brian, as Bruce was still out of the picture), taking the Baldwin organ that Brian used all over Smiley Smile with them, and performed rearranged versions of their old hits in the Smiley Smile style. When the recordings proved unusable, they recreated them in the studio, with Bruce returning to the group, where he would remain, with the intention of overdubbing audience noise and releasing a faked live album: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "California Girls [Lei'd studio version]"] The idea of the live album, to be called Lei'd in Hawaii, was scrapped, but that's not the kind of radical reimagining of your sound that you do if you think you've made an artistic failure. Indeed, the group's next album, Wild Honey, which came out in late 1967, is very much a successor to Smiley Smile in its stripped-down sound, but with a set of songs that have a certain amount of influence from the soul music that Carl and Mike were now listening to. [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Wild Honey"] The singles from "Wild Honey" were moderately successful, and it looked like the group were going to reinvent themselves, but then the critical consensus changed. First there was Jules Siegel's article on Smile, titled "Goodbye Surfing, Hello God", which had been intended for the Saturday Evening Post but had itself gone through endless delays, and which eventually came out in Cheetah magazine roughly a month after Smiley Smile came out, and which became the first draft of history as far as Smile was concerned -- telling the story not of an album scrapped and reworked, but of Icarus soaring too close to the sun, while his bandmates pulled the feathers off. It reinforced all the "genius" stories that Wilson had found so upsetting, while implicitly making any new music that actually got released pale in comparison to a mythical album that had never been finished and which could take on any shape the listener imagined. Meanwhile, Jann Wenner wrote an article in his new magazine Rolling Stone -- a magazine which explicitly sided with San Francisco in the war between Frisco and LA, and which over the years would contribute to almost all the LA bands being critically sidelined or forgotten in the US, no matter how good they'd been -- dismissing all the hype about the group and about Brian's genius, and arguing that they were only a moderately good pop band, and not even that good live, and should stick to the fun stuff they knew and not try to play with the big boys. And more or less overnight these two views became the sum total of American critical opinion of the Beach Boys -- a mainstream opinion that dismissed them as frothy lightweight has-beens who'd made a few good singles but had been overtaken, and a more hipsterish, underground, version that said that Brian Wilson was a genius but he had been sabotaged by his bandmates and the proof of that genius had never been released, so you'd best just take it on trust. Neither required any acknowledgement of any work the group might do in the future, any capacity of progress or relevance for them, or any reason to engage critically with any new work they did. Brian Wilson was permanently cast as either an overrated dilettante who believed his own press or a tragic victim sabotaged by his family; his bandmates, either way, as talentless hacks. And as anyone who has tried to talk about the Beach Boys online knows, that dual consensus remains largely in place today, irrespective of any actual qualities of the music. At least for the moment, though, the group were still on a commercial and critical upswing in the UK, at a time when critical reputations were much less coupled than they are now, and when Mike and Bruce decided to drop in at the Beatles' Christmas launch party for their new film, Magical Mystery Tour, they were treated as honoured guests, and invited to jam on stage with, depending on which version of events you believe, either John, Paul, and Ringo, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, or some combination of all of the above. And they had a new mutual acquaintance. A few days before, at the instigation of Dennis Wilson, the Beach Boys had met up with the Maharishi, who the Beatles had started seeing a couple of months earlier. Dennis himself didn't remain impressed with the Maharishi for long, and went off looking for another guru to follow, but Mike Love became a devoted follower, as he is to this day, and two months later Mike Love would join the Beatles and Donovan on a retreat with the Maharishi in Rishikesh, in India. What nobody could know at the time was that the songs the Beatles would write on that retreat would intersect horribly, in unpredictable ways, with Dennis Wilson's search for a guru. Ways which would ultimately lead back to the house on Cielo Drive where Brian and Van Dyke first agreed to collaborate. But that, I am glad to say, is a much darker story for another time.
Sep 13, 2022
Episode 152: “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield
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/ Erratum: I say Moby Grape never recorded the song "On the Other Side", but someone in the comments has pointed me to a demo of it which was released under the name "Stop" 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 Nitzsche to produce "Bluebird", but Nitzsche had refused, saying he only worked with Neil. Ahmet Ertegun ended up producing, but Nitzsche still came along to the session, where he saw Stills pressuring Young to play on the track, saying "You're the lead guitarist, play it!", while Young insisted that it was Stills' song, Stills should play lead guitar, until the stress got so bad Young had a seizure. After he recovered from the seizure, he played on the track, trading licks with Stills: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Bluebird"] Ertegun tried to give the group a dose of reality at the session, trying to show them that they didn't yet have the status to act like this, saying "You will have to stop this. This is ridiculous. You see, this is Jack Nitzsche over here, and if he picks up that guitar over there and hits me in the head with it, that goes in Cashbox magazine—front page. If you two guys beat each other bloody, no one cares. No Cashbox magazine.  Understand?” The message supposedly sank in, but as Young started working with Nitzsche, he would still get infuriated when told by Nitzsche's associates that Nitzsche couldn't just drop everything any time Young wanted to record, telling them "I'm not just anybody, I'm *Neil Young*" Young and Nitzsche worked together on "Expecting to Fly", with Nitzsche cutting the backing track with Wrecking Crew players, and a backing vocal group consisting of Gloria Jones, Merry Clayton, Gracia Nitzsche, and Brenda and Patrice Holloway, while Young was touring with the group, and Young coming back to add vocals. There was one last-minute change to the song after it was recorded. They had recorded the song in May 1967, and then the Beatles released Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, with its famous ending chord of "A Day in the Life": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "A Day in the Life"] Young and Nitzsche had planned a similarly impressive last chord for "Expecting to Fly", but when they heard that, they quickly snipped the end of the track and stuck it on at the beginning instead, reversing the tape for the opening chord so it faded in rather than out: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Expecting to Fly"] The song itself shows the clear influence that the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds was having on Young at this time: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Expecting to Fly"] Young was becoming more and more convinced that he should leave the group and just work with Nitzsche. He started actually hiding from the other band members -- one time Nitzsche came home and found Young hiding in Nitzsche's son's bedroom, and Young told him that if Steve Stills came looking for him, Nitzsche should say that Young wasn't there and that Stills couldn't search the room because his kid was sleeping -- apparently Young had said he was quitting the group, Stills had stolen Young's guitar in an effort to force Young back, and Young was now afraid that Stills was going to beat him over the head with the guitar. Meanwhile, Bruce Palmer had sneaked across the border -- he'd cut his hair, got a pair of glasses and a suit, and disguised himself as a respectable businessman -- so he was back in the band and Jim Fielder was out, dumped from the group with no warning. He would soon go on to join Al Kooper in a new group, Blood, Sweat, & Tears. But even though Palmer, Young's old friend, was back, Young himself left the group. The group were booked on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, one of the most prestigious national TV spots imaginable, but Young didn't think it was the right show for the group, and said he wouldn't be doing it. The rest of the band tried to persuade him and thought they had, but then he just didn't show up for the show. Dewey Martin called his friend Otis Redding and asked if Redding would sub for Young on the show, singing "Mr. Soul", the song he'd wanted to do when he heard it, but Redding was booked to play five shows that day at the Apollo and couldn't make the live time-slot, so the group ended up cancelling their appearance. To replace Young, the group got in guitarist Doug Hastings, of the band The Daily Flash: [Excerpt: The Daily Flash, "Jack of Diamonds"] The new lineup played a couple of low-profile gigs, before playing Monterey, where David Crosby guested with the group, and they did their first performance of a song that Crosby had helped Stills write, though he was never given credit for it, "Rock and Roll Woman", inspired by Grace Slick: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Rock and Roll Woman (live at Monterey)"] The group's performance at Monterey was legendarily bad, but it did introduce Stills to several new musicians -- soon he would regularly be jamming with Buddy Miles, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby, and Noel Redding, as well as occasionally with Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz, and starting to imitate Hendrix's guitar style. He's said since that Hendrix taught him how to properly play lead guitar, and that Hendrix was his guitar mentor. Meanwhile, Young had convinced Jack Nitzsche, and Nitzsche's new production and management partner Denny Bruce, the former second drummer for the Mothers of Invention, that the three of them should move to England and start a new solo career for Young there. Young collected together things he had heard that people didn't have in the UK, to take over and shock British people with, like Road Runner cartoons and a waterpik -- a machine that sprays water on your teeth to act like dental floss -- which he decided he was going to squirt Mick Jagger with. Nitzsche and Bruce got passports, and Nitzsche even sold his house to finance the trip. And then the three of them went to IHOP for breakfast, and on the way back they were listening to the radio when they heard "Mr. Soul" come on, with the DJ afterward saying "When Neil was with ’em, baby.” Young immediately decided he wasn't going to England any more -- he was going to rejoin Buffalo Springfield. Neil was with them again, baby, and the group's second album, Buffalo Springfield Again, would be its best, with three songs each for Young and Furay and four for Stills. Young's songs were "Expecting to Fly", "Mr. Soul", and a long psychedelic epic, "Broken Arrow", which started with a fake-live performance of "Mr. Soul" sung by Dewey Martin (with screams flown in from a Beatles live recording the group somehow had access to): [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Broken Arrow"] Before going into a folk-rock verse: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Broken Arrow"] An orchestral chorus influenced by Nitzsche: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Broken Arrow"] A rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game": [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Broken Arrow"] And a clarinet-led jazz band: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Broken Arrow"] As well as "Bluebird", Stills also contributed "Rock and Roll Woman", on which it's claimed Crosby guested, while Richie Furay showed the country-rock direction the group was starting to go in with his song "A Child's Claim to Fame", written about his frustration with Young, on which James Burton guested on dobro: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "A Child's Claim to Fame"] Buffalo Springfield Again is a genuinely great album, but it didn't make the top forty, and nor did any of the three singles from it, and increasingly the band members were starting to go in their own directions. Stills at this point desperately wanted to be Jimi Hendrix, and would jam with him every chance he got and imitate Hendrix's moves on stage, and Young thought this was pathetic -- he thought Stills didn't need to be Hendrix, that he should be himself. Stills was also guesting on records by his friends. He played lead guitar on "Lady's Baby", a song Peter Tork was working on with the Monkees, though the song wouldn't be released for thirty years: [Excerpt: The Monkees, "Lady's Baby"] And played bass on "Night in the City" from Joni Mitchell's first album, which was being produced by David Crosby: [Excerpt: Joni Mitchell, "Night in the City"] In November 1967 the group went on a tour with the Beach Boys, and the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the first of two legs, the second of which was scheduled for the Spring of 1968. Bruce Palmer was friends with Owsley, the main supplier of LSD on the West Coast, and thus had an almost limitless supply, which he used pretty much every day, leading to erratic behaviour. At one show on the Beach Boys tour, Palmer wore a monk's robe and a beret, spent the first part of the show screaming at the other band members to get their guitars tuned faster, then threw his bass on the stage and stormed off, spending the rest of the set stood at the side of the stage sucking his finger, while Stills covered for him by playing bass instead. After the tour, on January the twenty-sixth, 1968, Stills and Young got into a physical fight before a show, which Dewey Martin had to break up. After the gig, Bruce Palmer was stopped by the police while driving without a license, carrying an open container of alcohol, in a car with an underage girl who was carrying cannabis. Unsurprisingly, he was deported again, and this time he was replaced by Jim Messina, who had been engineering some of the recordings the group were making. Just before the spring leg of the Beach Boys tour, there was a drug bust at a jam session with some of the group and Eric Clapton, which Stills escaped by crawling out of the window while the police were coming in. For a time it looked like both Young and Clapton might be deported, but Stills had managed to contact good lawyers while the rest of the group were arrested, so the charges were negotiated down to a single fine of three hundred dollars plus three years probation for Stills' old friend Chris Sarns. Then the first few dates of the tour, which was planned for the southern US, were cancelled after the murder of Martin Luther King. And then when they played Jacksonville, Young's mother and brother came to see the show, Dewey Martin took his top off and jumped into the audience, and the police overreacted, dragging him out and stopping the show, telling the band that they needed to get off stage immediately or be arrested. They all did, except for Young, who was having another seizure. “I saw Neil laying there,” said Messina. “I went over to make sure he was still alive and I noticed this one tear in his eye. He was totally silent. And I thought to myself at the time, ‘I think we’ve embarrassed him. His family was there to see him and this happens.’ I felt bad. I bet that night was a deciding factor in Neil’s life to get away from the Springfield.” Stills has also consistently said that on that tour, Young and Mike Love were up to something, and that Love is ultimately responsible for Young eventually leaving the group again. He's said "The inside story on that tour was Mike Love turning into this svengali influence on Neil. It was weird. They were always off in a corner, whispering. And Mike Love is just a spooky character." No-one has ever said what Young and Love were whispering about, but the Beach Boys were going through some minor personnel disruptions of their own at that time -- Bruce Johnston had left the band for a couple of months and then returned -- and they were just about to start touring with additional musicians for the first time, so Love may have been sounding Young out to join the Beach Boys as a touring guitarist or similar. It's also notable that on one live recording of a Young solo show from 1968, he's introduced as "Brother recording artist Neil Young" -- Brother Records was the label the Beach Boys set up around this time, though Young never recorded for it. Perhaps there were plans for him to do so at one point? Either way, the group split up. Furay and Messina pieced together a final contractual obligation album from old sessions and some new songs the two of them worked on, one of which would be Furay's most notable songwriting contribution to the group: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Kind Woman"] But that album, Last Time Around, wasn't a success either artistically or commercially. Furay and Messina went on to form a country-rock band, Poco, and Messina later famously formed a duo with Kenny Loggins. We won't be having any future episodes on either of them, but they're likely to pop up in episodes on other artists. Dewey Martin and Bruce Palmer, sadly, won't. Palmer had mental health problems for much of the rest of his life, and only released one solo album, in 1971, a jazz-funk-psychedelic album called The Cycle is Complete, which had four tracks, all of them extended jams called things like "Alpha-Omega-Apocalypse": [Excerpt: Bruce Palmer, "Alpha-Omega-Apocalypse"] Dewey Martin, meanwhile, was not ready to give up. He formed New Buffalo Springfield, with Gary Rowles, who would later be the lead guitarist in the 1969-1971 lineup of Love, Jim Price, who would later be a respected session horn player, and Dave Price, who was one of Davy Jones' standins for the Monkees TV series. The rest of his former bandmates sued him, and he eventually settled for being allowed to call his band New Buffalo (though it would often perform as New Buffalo Springfield anyway) in return for all his future royalties for the original group's music. That group fell apart, but Martin and Dave Price formed a second lineup of the group, which toured as New Buffalo Springfield, New Buffalo, and Blue Buffalo, and which featured Randy Fuller, Bobby Fuller's brother. Blue Buffalo then sacked Martin and changed their name to Blue Mountain Eagle, who recorded one album, plus a non-album single -- a version of Steve Stills' song "Marianne": [Excerpt: Blue Mountain Eagle, "Marianne"] Randy Fuller left Blue Mountain Eagle and joined Dewey Martin's new band, Dewey Martin and Medicine Ball, who also recorded one album, only one track of which, "Indian Child", seems to have made it into any kind of digital release, and I'm not going to excerpt that here because it's a string of offensive cliches about native Americans. Bruce Palmer also guested on that album, and Palmer would later play bass on Neil Young's album Trans and the resulting tour, which saw them making music that was very different from their Buffalo Springfield years, even on the one remake of a Buffalo Springfield song included on the album and tour: [Excerpt: Neil Young, "Mr. Soul (Live in Berlin)"] But for the most part, both Palmer and Martin spent the next several decades touring, together and separately, in bands called things like The Springfield Band, Buffalo Springfield Revisited, White Buffalo, and Buffalo Springfield Again. Sadly, when there was an actual reunion of Buffalo Springfield in 2011, both had already died -- Palmer in 2004 and Martin in 2009. As for the group's two leaders, they felt uncomfortable being even on the same record label, so Ahmet Ertegun chose to keep Stills on Atlantic and to drop Young, who moved on to Warners and made an album with Jack Nitzsche arranging, which was very much in the style of "Expecting to Fly" and "Broken Arrow": [Excerpt: Neil Young, "The Old Laughing Lady"] I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say we'll probably be hearing more from Neil Young in future episodes. As for Steve Stills, his next major contribution to a record was also his next major success. Al Kooper had recorded half an album with Mike Bloomfield, Fast Eddie Hoh, and a couple of members of the Electric Flag, but Bloomfield couldn't make the second session, so Kooper called in Stills to replace him. The resulting album was released as "Super Session", credited to Bloomfield, Kooper, and Stills: [Excerpt: Steve Stills and Al Kooper, "Season of the Witch"] Super Session went to number twelve and became a gold-selling album, and was the first hugely successful album in a new trend, the "supergroup", in which former members of several successful bands would get together and record as a new group. We'll see a few of those in 1968 and 69. Kooper apparently enjoyed working with Stills enough that he asked him to join Blood Sweat and Tears as their new vocalist -- though by all accounts Kooper himself had apparently already been kicked out of the band by that point, and it's hard to see Stills and Jim Fielder working well together in a band after Stills had sacked Fielder with no warning. Stills declined, but the idea of doing something like the Super Session again did appeal to him. All he needed was a couple more musicians. But that, of course, is a story for another time...
Aug 30, 2022
Episode 151: “San Francisco” by Scott McKenzie
We start season four of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs with an extra-long look at "San Francisco" by Scott McKenzie, and at the Monterey Pop Festival, and the careers of the Mamas and the Papas and P.F. Sloan.  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 "Up, Up, and Away" by the 5th Dimension. 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/ Errata: An incorrect version of the file was previously uploaded, with the wrong section edited in at approximately 57 minutes. This was fixed about three hours after uploading, but some streaming services may have cached the wrong file. Also I say that John Phillips wrote "No, No, No, No". I got this from an interview with McKenzie, but he must have been misremembering -- the song is a cover version of "La Poupee Qui Fait Non" by Michel Polnareff, with English-language lyrics by Geoff Stephens Resources As usual, all the songs excerpted in the podcast can be heard in full at Mixcloud. Scott McKenzie's first album is available here. There are many compilations of the Mamas and the Papas' music, but sadly none that are in print in the UK have the original mono mixes. This set is about as good as you're going to find, though, for the stereo versions. Information on the Mamas and the Papas came from Go Where You Wanna Go: The Oral History of The Mamas and the Papas by Matthew Greenwald, California Dreamin': The True Story Of The Mamas and Papas by Michelle Phillips, and Papa John by John Phillips and Jim Jerome. Information on P.F. Sloan came from PF - TRAVELLING BAREFOOT ON A ROCKY ROAD by Stephen McParland and What's Exactly the Matter With Me? by P.F. Sloan and S.E. Feinberg. The film of the Monterey Pop Festival is available on this Criterion Blu-Ray set. Sadly the CD of the performances seems to be deleted. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Welcome to season four of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs. It's good to be back. Before we start this episode, I just want to say one thing. I get a lot of credit at times for the way I don't shy away from dealing with the more unsavoury elements of the people being covered in my podcast -- particularly the more awful men. But as I said very early on, I only cover those aspects of their life when they're relevant to the music, because this is a music podcast and not a true crime podcast. But also I worry that in some cases this might mean I'm giving a false impression of some people. In the case of this episode, one of the central figures is John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas. Now, Phillips has posthumously been accused of some truly monstrous acts, the kind of thing that is truly unforgivable, and I believe those accusations. But those acts didn't take place during the time period covered by most of this episode, so I won't be covering them here -- but they're easily googlable if you want to know. I thought it best to get that out of the way at the start, so no-one's either anxiously waiting for the penny to drop or upset that I didn't acknowledge the elephant in the room. Separately, this episode will have some discussion of fatphobia and diet culture, and of a death that is at least in part attributable to those things. Those of you affected by that may want to skip this one or read the transcript. There are also some mentions of drug addiction and alcoholism. Anyway, on with the show. One of the things that causes problems with rock history is the tendency of people to have selective memories, and that's never more true than when it comes to the Summer of Love, summer of 1967. In the mythology that's built up around it, that was a golden time, the greatest time ever, a period of peace and love where everything was possible, and the world looked like it was going to just keep on getting better. But what that means, of course, is that the people remembering it that way do so because it was the best time of their lives. And what happens when the best time of your life is over in one summer? When you have one hit and never have a second, or when your band splits up after only eighteen months, and you have to cope with the reality that your best years are not only behind you, but they weren't even best years, but just best months? What stories would you tell about that time? Would you remember it as the eve of destruction, the last great moment before everything went to hell, or would you remember it as a golden summer, full of people with flowers in their hair? And would either really be true? [Excerpt: Scott McKenzie, "San Francisco"] Other than the city in which they worked, there are a few things that seem to characterise almost all the important figures on the LA music scene in the middle part of the 1960s. They almost all seem to be incredibly ambitious, as one might imagine. There seem to be a huge number of fantasists among them -- people who will not only choose the legend over reality when it suits them, but who will choose the legend over reality even when it doesn't suit them. And they almost all seem to have a story about being turned down in a rude and arrogant manner by Lou Adler, usually more or less the same story. To give an example, I'm going to read out a bit of Ray Manzarek's autobiography here. Now, Manzarek uses a few words that I can't use on this podcast and keep a clean rating, so I'm just going to do slight pauses when I get to them, but I'll leave the words in the transcript for those who aren't offended by them: "Sometimes Jim and Dorothy and I went alone. The three of us tried Dunhill Records. Lou Adler was the head man. He was shrewd and he was hip. He had the Mamas and the Papas and a big single with Barry McGuire’s 'Eve of Destruction.' He was flush. We were ushered into his office. He looked cool. He was California casually disheveled and had the look of a stoner, but his eyes were as cold as a shark’s. He took the twelve-inch acetate demo from me and we all sat down. He put the disc on his turntable and played each cut…for ten seconds. Ten seconds! You can’t tell jack [shit] from ten seconds. At least listen to one of the songs all the way through. I wanted to rage at him. 'How dare you! We’re the Doors! This is [fucking] Jim Morrison! He’s going to be a [fucking] star! Can’t you see that? Can’t you see how [fucking] handsome he is? Can’t you hear how groovy the music is? Don’t you [fucking] get it? Listen to the words, man!' My brain was a boiling, lava-filled Jell-O mold of rage. I wanted to eviscerate that shark. The songs he so casually dismissed were 'Moonlight Drive,' 'Hello, I Love You,' 'Summer’s Almost Gone,' 'End of the Night,' 'I Looked at You,' 'Go Insane.' He rejected the whole demo. Ten seconds on each song—maybe twenty seconds on 'Hello, I Love You' (I took that as an omen of potential airplay)—and we were dismissed out of hand. Just like that. He took the demo off the turntable and handed it back to me with an obsequious smile and said, 'Nothing here I can use.' We were shocked. We stood up, the three of us, and Jim, with a wry and knowing smile on his lips, cuttingly and coolly shot back at him, 'That’s okay, man. We don’t want to be *used*, anyway.'" Now, as you may have gathered from the episode on the Doors, Ray Manzarek was one of those print-the-legend types, and that's true of everyone who tells similar stories about Lou Alder. But... there are a *lot* of people who tell similar stories about Lou Adler. One of those was Phil Sloan. You can get an idea of Sloan's attitude to storytelling from a story he always used to tell. Shortly after he and his family moved to LA from New York, he got a job selling newspapers on a street corner on Hollywood Boulevard, just across from Schwab's Drug Store. One day James Dean drove up in his Porsche and made an unusual request. He wanted to buy every copy of the newspaper that Sloan had -- around a hundred and fifty copies in total. But he only wanted one article, something in the entertainment section. Sloan didn't remember what the article was, but he did remember that one of the headlines was on the final illness of Oliver Hardy, who died shortly afterwards, and thought it might have been something to do with that. Dean was going to just clip that article from every copy he bought, and then he was going to give all the newspapers back to Sloan to sell again, so Sloan ended up making a lot of extra money that day. There is one rather big problem with that story. Oliver Hardy died in August 1957, just after the Sloan family moved to LA. But James Dean died in September 1955, two years earlier. Sloan admitted that, and said he couldn't explain it, but he was insistent. He sold a hundred and fifty newspapers to James Dean two years after Dean's death. When not selling newspapers to dead celebrities, Sloan went to Fairfax High School, and developed an interest in music which was mostly oriented around the kind of white pop vocal groups that were popular at the time, groups like the Kingston Trio, the Four Lads, and the Four Aces. But the record that made Sloan decide he wanted to make music himself was "Just Goofed" by the Teen Queens: [Excerpt: The Teen Queens, "Just Goofed"] In 1959, when he was fourteen, he saw an advert for an open audition with Aladdin Records, a label he liked because of Thurston Harris. He went along to the audition, and was successful. His first single, released as by Flip Sloan -- Flip was a nickname, a corruption of "Philip" -- was produced by Bumps Blackwell and featured several of the musicians who played with Sam Cooke, plus Larry Knechtel on piano and Mike Deasey on guitar, but Aladdin shut down shortly after releasing it, and it may not even have had a general release, just promo copies. I've not been able to find a copy online anywhere. After that, he tried Arwin Records, the label that Jan and Arnie recorded for, which was owned by Marty Melcher (Doris Day's husband and Terry Melcher's stepfather). Melcher signed him, and put out a single, "She's My Girl", on Mart Records, a subsidiary of Arwin, on which Sloan was backed by a group of session players including Sandy Nelson and Bruce Johnston: [Excerpt: Philip Sloan, "She's My Girl"] That record didn't have any success, and Sloan was soon dropped by Mart Records. He went on to sign with Blue Bird Records, which was as far as can be ascertained essentially a scam organisation that would record demos for songwriters, but tell the performers that they were making a real record, so that they would record it for the royalties they would never get, rather than for a decent fee as a professional demo singer would get. But Steve Venet -- the brother of Nik Venet, and occasional songwriting collaborator with Tommy Boyce -- happened to come to Blue Bird one day, and hear one of Sloan's original songs. He thought Sloan would make a good songwriter, and took him to see Lou Adler at Columbia-Screen Gems music publishing. This was shortly after the merger between Columbia-Screen Gems and Aldon Music, and Adler was at this point the West Coast head of operations, subservient to Don Kirshner and Al Nevins, but largely left to do what he wanted. The way Sloan always told the story, Venet tried to get Adler to sign Sloan, but Adler said his songs stunk and had no commercial potential. But Sloan persisted in trying to get a contract there, and eventually Al Nevins happened to be in the office and overruled Adler, much to Adler's disgust. Sloan was signed to Columbia-Screen Gems as a songwriter, though he wasn't put on a salary like the Brill Building songwriters, just told that he could bring in songs and they would publish them. Shortly after this, Adler suggested to Sloan that he might want to form a writing team with another songwriter, Steve Barri, who had had a similar non-career non-trajectory, but was very slightly further ahead in his career, having done some work with Carol Connors, the former lead singer of the Teddy Bears. Barri had co-written a couple of flop singles for Connors, before the two of them had formed a vocal group, the Storytellers, with Connors' sister. The Storytellers had released a single, "When Two People (Are in Love)" , which was put out on a local independent label and which Adler had licensed to be released on Dimension Records, the label associated with Aldon Music: [Excerpt: The Storytellers "When Two People (Are in Love)"] That record didn't sell, but it was enough to get Barri into the Columbia-Screen Gems circle, and Adler set him and Sloan up as a songwriting team -- although the way Sloan told it, it wasn't so much a songwriting team as Sloan writing songs while Barri was also there. Sloan would later claim "it was mostly a collaboration of spirit, and it seemed that I was writing most of the music and the lyric, but it couldn't possibly have ever happened unless both of us were present at the same time". One suspects that Barri might have a different recollection of how it went... Sloan and Barri's first collaboration was a song that Sloan had half-written before they met, called "Kick That Little Foot Sally Ann", which was recorded by a West Coast Chubby Checker knockoff who went under the name Round Robin, and who had his own dance craze, the Slauson, which was much less successful than the Twist: [Excerpt: Round Robin, "Kick that Little Foot Sally Ann"] That track was produced and arranged by Jack Nitzsche, and Nitzsche asked Sloan to be one of the rhythm guitarists on the track, apparently liking Sloan's feel. Sloan would end up playing rhythm guitar or singing backing vocals on many of the records made of songs he and Barri wrote together. "Kick That Little Foot Sally Ann" only made number sixty-one nationally, but it was a regional hit, and it meant that Sloan and Barri soon became what Sloan later described as "the Goffin and King of the West Coast follow-ups." According to Sloan "We'd be given a list on Monday morning by Lou Adler with thirty names on it of the groups who needed follow-ups to their hit." They'd then write the songs to order, and they started to specialise in dance craze songs. For example, when the Swim looked like it might be the next big dance, they wrote "Swim Swim Swim", "She Only Wants to Swim", "Let's Swim Baby", "Big Boss Swimmer", "Swim Party" and "My Swimmin' Girl" (the last a collaboration with Jan Berry and Roger Christian). These songs were exactly as good as they needed to be, in order to provide album filler for mid-tier artists, and while Sloan and Barri weren't writing any massive hits, they were doing very well as mid-tier writers. According to Sloan's biographer Stephen McParland, there was a three-year period in the mid-sixties where at least one song written or co-written by Sloan was on the national charts at any given time. Most of these songs weren't for Columbia-Screen Gems though. In early 1964 Lou Adler had a falling out with Don Kirshner, and decided to start up his own company, Dunhill, which was equal parts production company, music publishers, and management -- doing for West Coast pop singers what Motown was doing for Detroit soul singers, and putting everything into one basket. Dunhill's early clients included Jan and Dean and the rockabilly singer Johnny Rivers, and Dunhill also signed Sloan and Barri as songwriters. Because of this connection, Sloan and Barri soon became an important part of Jan and Dean's hit-making process. The Matadors, the vocal group that had provided most of the backing vocals on the duo's hits, had started asking for more money than Jan Berry was willing to pay, and Jan and Dean couldn't do the vocals themselves -- as Bones Howe put it "As a singer, Dean is a wonderful graphic artist" -- and so Sloan and Barri stepped in, doing session vocals without payment in the hope that Jan and Dean would record a few of their songs. For example, on the big hit "The Little Old Lady From Pasadena", Dean Torrence is not present at all on the record -- Jan Berry sings the lead vocal, with Sloan doubling him for much of it, Sloan sings "Dean"'s falsetto, with the engineer Bones Howe helping out, and the rest of the backing vocals are sung by Sloan, Barri, and Howe: [Excerpt: Jan and Dean, "The Little Old Lady From Pasadena"] For these recordings, Sloan and Barri were known as The Fantastic Baggys, a name which came from the Rolling Stones' manager Andrew Oldham and Mick Jagger, when the two were visiting California. Oldham had been commenting on baggys, the kind of shorts worn by surfers, and had asked Jagger what he thought of The Baggys as a group name. Jagger had replied "Fantastic!" and so the Fantastic Baggys had been born. As part of this, Sloan and Barri moved hard into surf and hot-rod music from the dance songs they had been writing previously. The Fantastic Baggys recorded their own album, Tell 'Em I'm Surfin', as a quickie album suggested by Adler: [Excerpt: The Fantastic Baggys, "Tell 'Em I'm Surfin'"] And under the name The Rally Packs they recorded a version of Jan and Dean's "Move Out Little Mustang" which featured Berry's girlfriend Jill Gibson doing a spoken section: [Excerpt: The Rally Packs, "Move Out Little Mustang"] They also wrote several album tracks for Jan and Dean, and wrote "Summer Means Fun" for Bruce and Terry -- Bruce Johnston, later of the Beach Boys, and Terry Melcher: [Excerpt: Bruce and Terry, "Summer Means Fun"] And they wrote the very surf-flavoured "Secret Agent Man" for fellow Dunhill artist Johnny Rivers: [Excerpt: Johnny Rivers, "Secret Agent Man"] But of course, when you're chasing trends, you're chasing trends, and soon the craze for twangy guitars and falsetto harmonies had ended, replaced by a craze for jangly twelve-string guitars and closer harmonies. According to Sloan, he was in at the very beginning of the folk-rock trend -- the way he told the story, he was involved in the mastering of the Byrds' version of "Mr. Tambourine Man". He later talked about Terry Melcher getting him to help out, saying "He had produced a record called 'Mr. Tambourine Man', and had sent it into the head office, and it had been rejected. He called me up and said 'I've got three more hours in the studio before I'm being kicked out of Columbia. Can you come over and help me with this new record?' I did. I went over there. It was under lock and key. There were two guards outside the door. Terry asked me something about 'Summer Means Fun'. "He said 'Do you remember the guitar that we worked on with that? How we put in that double reverb?' "And I said 'yes' "And he said 'What do you think if we did something like that with the Byrds?' "And I said 'That sounds good. Let's see what it sounds like.' So we patched into all the reverb centres in Columbia Music, and mastered the record in three hours." Whether Sloan really was there at the birth of folk rock, he and Barri jumped on the folk-rock craze just as they had the surf and hot-rod craze, and wrote a string of jangly hits including "You Baby" for the Turtles: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "You Baby"] and "I Found a Girl" for Jan and Dean: [Excerpt: Jan and Dean, "I Found a Girl"] That song was later included on Jan and Dean's Folk 'n' Roll album, which also included... a song I'm not even going to name, but long-time listeners will know the one I mean. It was also notable in that "I Found a Girl" was the first song on which Sloan was credited not as Phil Sloan, but as P.F. Sloan -- he didn't have a middle name beginning with F, but rather the F stood for his nickname "Flip". Sloan would later talk of Phil Sloan and P.F. Sloan as almost being two different people, with P.F. being a far more serious, intense, songwriter. Folk 'n' Roll also contained another Sloan song, this one credited solely to Sloan. And that song is the one for which he became best known. There are two very different stories about how "Eve of Destruction" came to be written. To tell Sloan's version, I'm going to read a few paragraphs from his autobiography: "By late 1964, I had already written ‘Eve Of Destruction,’ ‘The Sins Of A Family,’ ‘This Mornin’,’ ‘Ain’t No Way I’m Gonna Change My Mind,’ and ‘What’s Exactly The Matter With Me?’ They all arrived on one cataclysmic evening, and nearly at the same time, as I worked on the lyrics almost simultaneously. ‘Eve Of Destruction’ came about from hearing a voice, perhaps an angel’s. The voice instructed me to place five pieces of paper and spread them out on my bed. I obeyed the voice. The voice told me that the first song would be called ‘Eve Of Destruction,’ so I wrote the title at the top of the page. For the next few hours, the voice came and went as I was writing the lyric, as if this spirit—or whatever it was—stood over me like a teacher: ‘No, no … not think of all the hate there is in Red Russia … Red China!’ I didn’t understand. I thought the Soviet Union was the mortal threat to America, but the voice went on to reveal to me the future of the world until 2024. I was told the Soviet Union would fall, and that Red China would continue to be communist far into the future, but that communism was not going to be allowed to take over this Divine Planet—therefore, think of all the hate there is in Red China. I argued and wrestled with the voice for hours, until I was exhausted but satisfied inside with my plea to God to either take me out of the world, as I could not live in such a hypocritical society, or to show me a way to make things better. When I was writing ‘Eve,’ I was on my hands and knees, pleading for an answer." Lou Adler's story is that he gave Phil Sloan a copy of Bob Dylan's Bringing it All Back Home album and told him to write a bunch of songs that sounded like that, and Sloan came back a week later as instructed with ten Dylan knock-offs. Adler said "It was a natural feel for him. He's a great mimic." As one other data point, both Steve Barri and Bones Howe, the engineer who worked on most of the sessions we're looking at today, have often talked in interviews about "Eve of Destruction" as being a Sloan/Barri collaboration, as if to them it's common knowledge that it wasn't written alone, although Sloan's is the only name on the credits. The song was given to a new signing to Dunhill Records, Barry McGuire. McGuire was someone who had been part of the folk scene for years, He'd been playing folk clubs in LA while also acting in a TV show from 1961. When the TV show had finished, he'd formed a duo, Barry and Barry, with Barry Kane, and they performed much the same repertoire as all the other early-sixties folkies: [Excerpt: Barry and Barry, "If I Had a Hammer"] After recording their one album, both Barrys joined the New Christy Minstrels. We've talked about the Christys before, but they were -- and are to this day -- an ultra-commercial folk group, led by Randy Sparks, with a revolving membership of usually eight or nine singers which included several other people who've come up in this podcast, like Gene Clark and Jerry Yester. McGuire became one of the principal lead singers of the Christys, singing lead on their version of the novelty cowboy song "Three Wheels on My Wagon", which was later released as a single in the UK and became a perennial children's favourite (though it has a problematic attitude towards Native Americans): [Excerpt: The New Christy Minstrels, "Three Wheels on My Wagon"] And he also sang lead on their big hit "Green Green", which he co-wrote with Randy Sparks: [Excerpt: The New Christy Minstrels, "Green Green"] But by 1965 McGuire had left the New Christy Minstrels. As he said later "I'd sung 'Green Green' a thousand times and I didn't want to sing it again. This is January of 1965. I went back to LA to meet some producers, and I was broke. Nobody had the time of day for me. I was walking down street one time to see Dr. Strangelove and I walked by the music store, and I heard "Green Green" comin' out of the store, ya know, on Hollywood Boulevard. And I heard my voice, and I thought, 'I got four dollars in my pocket!' I couldn't believe it, my voice is comin' out on Hollywood Boulevard, and I'm broke. And right at that moment, a car pulls up, and the radio is playing 'Chim Chim Cherie" also by the Minstrels. So I got my voice comin' at me in stereo, standin' on the sidewalk there, and I'm broke, and I can't get anyone to sign me!" But McGuire had a lot of friends who he'd met on the folk scene, some of whom were now in the new folk-rock scene that was just starting to spring up. One of them was Roger McGuinn, who told him that his band, the Byrds, were just about to put out a new single, "Mr. Tambourine Man", and that they were about to start a residency at Ciro's on Sunset Strip. McGuinn invited McGuire to the opening night of that residency, where a lot of other people from the scene were there to see the new group. Bob Dylan was there, as was Phil Sloan, and the actor Jack Nicholson, who was still at the time a minor bit-part player in low-budget films made by people like American International Pictures (the cinematographer on many of Nicholson's early films was Floyd Crosby, David Crosby's father, which may be why he was there). Someone else who was there was Lou Adler, who according to McGuire recognised him instantly. According to Adler, he actually asked Terry Melcher who the long-haired dancer wearing furs was, because "he looked like the leader of a movement", and Melcher told him that he was the former lead singer of the New Christy Minstrels. Either way, Adler approached McGuire and asked if he was currently signed -- Dunhill Records was just starting up, and getting someone like McGuire, who had a proven ability to sing lead on hit records, would be a good start for the label. As McGuire didn't have a contract, he was signed to Dunhill, and he was given some of Sloan's new songs to pick from, and chose "What's Exactly the Matter With Me?" as his single: [Excerpt: Barry McGuire, "What's Exactly the Matter With Me?"] McGuire described what happened next: "It was like, a three-hour session. We did two songs, and then the third one wasn't turning out. We only had about a half hour left in the session, so I said 'Let's do this tune', and I pulled 'Eve of Destruction' out of my pocket, and it just had Phil's words scrawled on a piece of paper, all wrinkled up. Phil worked the chords out with the musicians, who were Hal Blaine on drums and Larry Knechtel on bass." There were actually more musicians than that at the session -- apparently both Knechtel and Joe Osborn were there, so I'm not entirely sure who's playing bass -- Knechtel was a keyboard player as well as a bass player, but I don't hear any keyboards on the track. And Tommy Tedesco was playing lead guitar, and Steve Barri added percussion, along with Sloan on rhythm guitar and harmonica. The chords were apparently scribbled down for the musicians on bits of greasy paper that had been used to wrap some takeaway chicken, and they got through the track in a single take. According to McGuire "I'm reading the words off this piece of wrinkled paper, and I'm singing 'My blood's so mad, feels like coagulatin'", that part that goes 'Ahhh you can't twist the truth', and the reason I'm going 'Ahhh' is because I lost my place on the page. People said 'Man, you really sounded frustrated when you were singing.' I was. I couldn't see the words!" [Excerpt: Barry McGuire, "Eve of Destruction"] With a few overdubs -- the female backing singers in the chorus, and possibly the kettledrums, which I've seen differing claims about, with some saying that Hal Blaine played them during the basic track and others saying that Lou Adler suggested them as an overdub, the track was complete. McGuire wasn't happy with his vocal, and a session was scheduled for him to redo it, but then a record promoter working with Adler was DJing a birthday party for the head of programming at KFWB, the big top forty radio station in LA at the time, and he played a few acetates he'd picked up from Adler. Most went down OK with the crowd, but when he played "Eve of Destruction", the crowd went wild and insisted he play it three times in a row. The head of programming called Adler up and told him that "Eve of Destruction" was going to be put into rotation on the station from Monday, so he'd better get the record out. As McGuire was away for the weekend, Adler just released the track as it was, and what had been intended to be a B-side became Barry McGuire's first and only number one record: [Excerpt: Barry McGuire, "Eve of Destruction"] Sloan would later claim that that song was a major reason why the twenty-sixth amendment to the US Constitution was passed six years later, because the line "you're old enough to kill but not for votin'" shamed Congress into changing the constitution to allow eighteen-year-olds to vote. If so, that would make "Eve of Destruction" arguably the single most impactful rock record in history, though Sloan is the only person I've ever seen saying that As well as going to number one in McGuire's version, the song was also covered by the other artists who regularly performed Sloan and Barri songs, like the Turtles: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Eve of Destruction"] And Jan and Dean, whose version on Folk & Roll used the same backing track as McGuire, but had a few lyrical changes to make it fit with Jan Berry's right-wing politics, most notably changing "Selma, Alabama" to "Watts, California", thus changing a reference to peaceful civil rights protestors being brutally attacked and murdered by white supremacist state troopers to a reference to what was seen, in the popular imaginary, as Black people rioting for no reason: [Excerpt: Jan and Dean, "Eve of Destruction"] According to Sloan, he worked on the Folk & Roll album as a favour to Berry, even though he thought Berry was being cynical and exploitative in making the record, but those changes caused a rift in their friendship. Sloan said in his autobiography "Where I was completely wrong was in helping him capitalize on something in which he didn’t believe. Jan wanted the public to perceive him as a person who was deeply concerned and who embraced the values of the progressive politics of the day. But he wasn’t that person. That’s how I was being pulled. It was when he recorded my actual song ‘Eve Of Destruction’ and changed a number of lines to reflect his own ideals that my principles demanded that I leave Folk City and never return." It's true that Sloan gave no more songs to Jan and Dean after that point -- but it's also true that the duo would record only one more album, the comedy concept album Jan and Dean Meet Batman, before Jan's accident. Incidentally, the reference to Selma, Alabama in the lyric might help people decide on which story about the writing of "Eve of Destruction" they think is more plausible. Remember that Lou Adler said that it was written after Adler gave Sloan a copy of Bringing it All Back Home and told him to write a bunch of knock-offs, while Sloan said it was written after a supernatural force gave him access to all the events that would happen in the world for the next sixty years. Sloan claimed the song was written in late 1964. Selma, Alabama, became national news in late February and early March 1965. Bringing it All Back Home was released in late March 1965. So either Adler was telling the truth, or Sloan really *was* given a supernatural insight into the events of the future. Now, as it turned out, while "Eve of Destruction" went to number one, that would be McGuire's only hit as a solo artist. His next couple of singles would reach the very low end of the Hot One Hundred, and that would be it -- he'd release several more albums, before appearing in the Broadway musical Hair, most famous for its nude scenes, and getting a small part in the cinematic masterpiece Werewolves on Wheels: [Excerpt: Werewolves on Wheels trailer] P.F. Sloan would later tell various stories about why McGuire never had another hit. Sometimes he would say that Dunhill Records had received death threats because of "Eve of Destruction" and so deliberately tried to bury McGuire's career, other times he would say that Lou Adler had told him that Billboard had said they were never going to put McGuire's records on the charts no matter how well they sold, because "Eve of Destruction" had just been too powerful and upset the advertisers. But of course at this time Dunhill were still trying for a follow-up to "Eve of Destruction", and they thought they might have one when Barry McGuire brought in a few friends of his to sing backing vocals on his second album. Now, we've covered some of the history of the Mamas and the Papas already, because they were intimately tied up with other groups like the Byrds and the Lovin' Spoonful, and with the folk scene that led to songs like "Hey Joe", so some of this will be more like a recap than a totally new story, but I'm going to recap those parts of the story anyway, so it's fresh in everyone's heads. John Phillips, Scott McKenzie, and Cass Elliot all grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, just a few miles south of Washington DC. Elliot was a few years younger than Phillips and McKenzie, and so as is the way with young men they never really noticed her, and as McKenzie later said "She lived like a quarter of a mile from me and I never met her until New York". While they didn't know who Elliot was, though, she was aware who they were, as Phillips and McKenzie sang together in a vocal group called The Smoothies. The Smoothies were a modern jazz harmony group, influenced by groups like the Modernaires, the Hi-Los, and the Four Freshmen. John Phillips later said "We were drawn to jazz, because we were sort of beatniks, really, rather than hippies, or whatever, flower children. So we used to sing modern harmonies, like Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. Dave Lambert did a lot of our arrangements for us as a matter of fact." Now, I've not seen any evidence other than Phillips' claim that Dave Lambert ever arranged for the Smoothies, but that does tell you a lot about the kind of music that they were doing. Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross were a vocalese trio whose main star was Annie Ross, who had a career worthy of an episode in itself -- she sang with Paul Whiteman, appeared in a Little Rascals film when she was seven, had an affair with Lenny Bruce, dubbed Britt Ekland's voice in The Wicker Man, played the villain's sister in Superman III, and much more. Vocalese, you'll remember, was a style of jazz vocal where a singer would take a jazz instrumental, often an improvised one, and add lyrics which they would sing, like Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross' version of "Cloudburst": [Excerpt: Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, "Cloudburst"] Whether Dave Lambert ever really did arrange for the Smoothies or not, it's very clear that the trio had a huge influence on John Phillips' ideas about vocal arrangement, as you can hear on Mamas and Papas records like "Once Was a Time I Thought": [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "Once Was a Time I Thought"] While the Smoothies thought of themselves as a jazz group, when they signed to Decca they started out making the standard teen pop of the era, with songs like "Softly": [Excerpt, The Smoothies, "Softly"] When the folk boom started, Phillips realised that this was music that he could do easily, because the level of musicianship among the pop-folk musicians was so much lower than in the jazz world. The Smoothies made some recordings in the style of the Kingston Trio, like "Ride Ride Ride": [Excerpt: The Smoothies, "Ride Ride Ride"] Then when the Smoothies split, Phillips and McKenzie formed a trio with a banjo player, Dick Weissman, who they met through Izzy Young's Folklore Centre in Greenwich Village after Phillips asked Young to name some musicians who could make a folk record with him. Weissman was often considered the best banjo player on the scene, and was a friend of Pete Seeger's, to whom Seeger sometimes turned for banjo tips. The trio, who called themselves the Journeymen, quickly established themselves on the folk scene. Weissman later said "we had this interesting balance. John had all of this charisma -- they didn't know about the writing thing yet -- John had the personality, Scott had the voice, and I could play. If you think about it, all of those bands like the Kingston Trio, the Brothers Four, nobody could really *sing* and nobody could really *play*, relatively speaking." This is the take that most people seemed to have about John Phillips, in any band he was ever in. Nobody thought he was a particularly good singer or instrumentalist -- he could sing on key and play adequate rhythm guitar, but nobody would actually pay money to listen to him do those things. Mark Volman of the Turtles, for example, said of him "John wasn't the kind of guy who was going to be able to go up on stage and sing his songs as a singer-songwriter. He had to put himself in the context of a group." But he was charismatic, he had presence, and he also had a great musical mind. He would surround himself with the best players and best singers he could, and then he would organise and arrange them in ways that made the most of their talents. He would work out the arrangements, in a manner that was far more professional than the quick head arrangements that other folk groups used, and he instigated a level of professionalism in his groups that was not at all common on the scene. Phillips' friend Jim Mason talked about the first time he saw the Journeymen -- "They were warming up backstage, and John had all of them doing vocal exercises; one thing in particular that's pretty famous called 'Seiber Syllables' -- it's a series of vocal exercises where you enunciate different vowel and consonant sounds. It had the effect of clearing your head, and it's something that really good operetta singers do." The group were soon signed by Frank Werber, the manager of the Kingston Trio, who signed them as an insurance policy. Dave Guard, the Kingston Trio's banjo player, was increasingly having trouble with the other members, and Werber knew it was only a matter of time before he left the group. Werber wanted the Journeymen as a sort of farm team -- he had the idea that when Guard left, Phillips would join the Kingston Trio in his place as the third singer. Weissman would become the Trio's accompanist on banjo, and Scott McKenzie, who everyone agreed had a remarkable voice, would be spun off as a solo artist. But until that happened, they might as well make records by themselves. The Journeymen signed to MGM records, but were dropped before they recorded anything. They instead signed to Capitol, for whom they recorded their first album: [Excerpt: The Journeymen, "500 Miles"] After recording that album, the Journeymen moved out to California, with Phillips' wife and children. But soon Phillips' marriage was to collapse, as he met and fell in love with Michelle Gilliam. Gilliam was nine years younger than him -- he was twenty-six and she was seventeen -- and she had the kind of appearance which meant that in every interview with an older heterosexual man who knew her, that man will spend half the interview talking about how attractive he found her. Phillips soon left his wife and children, but before he did, the group had a turntable hit with "River Come Down", the B-side to "500 Miles": [Excerpt: The Journeymen, "River Come Down"] Around the same time, Dave Guard *did* leave the Kingston Trio, but the plan to split the Journeymen never happened. Instead Phillips' friend John Stewart replaced Guard -- and this soon became a new source of income for Phillips. Both Phillips and Stewart were aspiring songwriters, and they collaborated together on several songs for the Trio, including "Chilly Winds": [Excerpt: The Kingston Trio, "Chilly Winds"] Phillips became particularly good at writing songs that sounded like they could be old traditional folk songs, sometimes taking odd lines from older songs to jump-start new ones, as in "Oh Miss Mary", which he and Stewart wrote after hearing someone sing the first line of a song she couldn't remember the rest of: [Excerpt: The Kingston Trio, "Oh Miss Mary"] Phillips and Stewart became so close that Phillips actually suggested to Stewart that he quit the Kingston Trio and replace Dick Weissman in the Journeymen. Stewart did quit the Trio -- but then the next day Phillips suggested that maybe it was a bad idea and he should stay where he was. Stewart went back to the Trio, claimed he had only pretended to quit because he wanted a pay-rise, and got his raise, so everyone ended up happy. The Journeymen moved back to New York with Michelle in place of Phillips' first wife (and Michelle's sister Russell also coming along, as she was dating Scott McKenzie) and on New Year's Eve 1962 John and Michelle married -- so from this point on I will refer to them by their first names, because they both had the surname Phillips. The group continued having success through 1963, including making appearances on "Hootenanny": [Excerpt: The Journeymen, "Stack O'Lee (live on Hootenanny)"] By the time of the Journeymen's third album, though, John and Scott McKenzie were on bad terms. Weissman said "They had been the closest of friends and now they were the worst of enemies. They talked through me like I was a medium. It got to the point where we'd be standing in the dressing room and John would say to me 'Tell Scott that his right sock doesn't match his left sock...' Things like that, when they were standing five feet away from each other." Eventually, the group split up. Weissman was always going to be able to find employment given his banjo ability, and he was about to get married and didn't need the hassle of dealing with the other two. McKenzie was planning on a solo career -- everyone was agreed that he had the vocal ability. But John was another matter. He needed to be in a group.  And not only that, the Journeymen had bookings they needed to complete. He quickly pulled together a group he called the New Journeymen. The core of the lineup was himself, Michelle on vocals, and banjo player Marshall Brickman. Brickman had previously been a member of a folk group called the Tarriers, who had had a revolving lineup, and had played on most of their early-sixties recordings: [Excerpt: The Tarriers, "Quinto (My Little Pony)"] We've met the Tarriers before in the podcast -- they had been formed by Erik Darling, who later replaced Pete Seeger in the Weavers after Seeger's socialist principles wouldn't let him do advertising, and Alan Arkin, later to go on to be a film star, and had had hits with "Cindy, O Cindy", with lead vocals from Vince Martin, who would later go on to be a major performer in the Greenwich Village scene, and with "The Banana Boat Song". By the time Brickman had joined, though, Darling, Arkin, and Martin had all left the group to go on to bigger things, and while he played with them for several years, it was after their commercial peak. Brickman would, though, also go on to a surprising amount of success, but as a writer rather than a musician -- he had a successful collaboration with Woody Allen in the 1970s, co-writing four of Allen's most highly regarded films -- Sleeper, Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Manhattan Murder Mystery -- and with another collaborator he later co-wrote the books for the stage musicals Jersey Boys and The Addams Family. Both John and Michelle were decent singers, and both have their admirers as vocalists -- P.F. Sloan always said that Michelle was the best singer in the group they eventually formed, and that it was her voice that gave the group its sound -- but for the most part they were not considered as particularly astonishing lead vocalists. Certainly, neither had a voice that stood out the way that Scott McKenzie's had. They needed a strong lead singer, and they found one in Denny Doherty. Now, we covered Denny Doherty's early career in the episode on the Lovin' Spoonful, because he was intimately involved in the formation of that group, so I won't go into too much detail here, but I'll give a very abbreviated version of what I said there. Doherty was a Canadian performer who had been a member of the Halifax Three with Zal Yanovsky: [Excerpt: The Halifax Three, "When I First Came to This Land"] After the Halifax Three had split up, Doherty and Yanovsky had performed as a duo for a while, before joining up with Cass Elliot and her husband Jim Hendricks, who both had previously been in the Big Three with Tim Rose: [Excerpt: Cass Elliot and the Big 3, "The Banjo Song"] Elliot, Hendricks, Yanovsky, and Doherty had formed The Mugwumps, sometimes joined by John Sebastian, and had tried to go in more of a rock direction after seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. They recorded one album together before splitting up: [Excerpt: The Mugwumps, "Searchin'"] Part of the reason they split up was that interpersonal relationships within the group were put under some strain -- Elliot and Hendricks split up, though they would remain friends and remain married for several years even though they were living apart, and Elliot had an unrequited crush on Doherty. But since they'd split up, and Yanovsky and Sebastian had gone off to form the Lovin' Spoonful, that meant that Doherty was free, and he was regarded as possibly the best male lead vocalist on the circuit, so the group snapped him up. The only problem was that the Journeymen still had gigs booked that needed to be played, one of them was in just three days, and Doherty didn't know the repertoire. This was a problem with an easy solution for people in their twenties though -- they took a huge amount of amphetamines, and stayed awake for three days straight rehearsing. They made the gig, and Doherty was now the lead singer of the New Journeymen: [Excerpt: The New Journeymen, "The Last Thing on My Mind"] But the New Journeymen didn't last in that form for very long, because even before joining the group, Denny Doherty had been going in a more folk-rock direction with the Mugwumps. At the time, John Phillips thought rock and roll was kids' music, and he was far more interested in folk and jazz, but he was also very interested in making money, and he soon decided it was an idea to start listening to the Beatles. There's some dispute as to who first played the Beatles for John in early 1965 -- some claim it was Doherty, others claim it was Cass Elliot, but everyone agrees it was after Denny Doherty had introduced Phillips to something else -- he brought round some LSD for John and Michelle, and Michelle's sister Rusty, to try. And then he told them he'd invited round a friend. Michelle Phillips later remembered, "I remember saying to the guys "I don't know about you guys, but this drug does nothing for me." At that point there was a knock on the door, and as I opened the door and saw Cass, the acid hit me *over the head*. I saw her standing there in a pleated skirt, a pink Angora sweater with great big eyelashes on and her hair in a flip. And all of a sudden I thought 'This is really *quite* a drug!' It was an image I will have securely fixed in my brain for the rest of my life. I said 'Hi, I'm Michelle. We just took some LSD-25, do you wanna join us?' And she said 'Sure...'" Rusty Gilliam's description matches this -- "It was mind-boggling. She had on a white pleated skirt, false eyelashes. These were the kind of eyelashes that when you put them on you were supposed to trim them to an appropriate length, which she didn't, and when she blinked she looked like a cow, or those dolls you get when you're little and the eyes open and close. And we're on acid. Oh my God! It was a sight! And everything she was wearing were things that you weren't supposed to be wearing if you were heavy -- white pleated skirt, mohair sweater. You know, until she became famous, she suffered so much, and was poked fun at." This gets to an important point about Elliot, and one which sadly affected everything about her life. Elliot was *very* fat -- I've seen her weight listed at about three hundred pounds, and she was only five foot five tall -- and she also didn't have the kind of face that gets thought of as conventionally attractive. Her appearance would be cruelly mocked by pretty much everyone for the rest of her life, in ways that it's genuinely hurtful to read about, and which I will avoid discussing in detail in order to avoid hurting fat listeners. But the two *other* things that defined Elliot in the minds of those who knew her were her voice -- every single person who knew her talks about what a wonderful singer she was -- and her personality. I've read a lot of things about Cass Elliot, and I have never read a single negative word about her as a person, but have read many people going into raptures about what a charming, loving, friendly, understanding person she was. Michelle later said of her "From the time I left Los Angeles, I hadn't had a friend, a buddy. I was married, and John and I did not hang out with women, we just hung out with men, and especially not with women my age. John was nine years older than I was. And here was a fun-loving, intelligent woman. She captivated me. I was as close to in love with Cass as I could be to any woman in my life at that point. She also represented something to me: freedom. Everything she did was because she wanted to do it. She was completely independent and I admired her and was in awe of her. And later on, Cass would be the one to tell me not to let John run my life. And John hated her for that." Either Elliot had brought round Meet The Beatles, the Beatles' first Capitol album, for everyone to listen to, or Denny Doherty already had it, but either way Elliot and Doherty were by this time already Beatles fans. Michelle, being younger than the rest and not part of the folk scene until she met John, was much more interested in rock and roll than any of them, but because she'd been married to John for a couple of years and been part of his musical world she hadn't really encountered the Beatles music, though she had a vague memory that she might have heard a track or two on the radio. John was hesitant -- he didn't want to listen to any rock and roll, but eventually he was persuaded, and the record was put on while he was on his first acid trip: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "I Want to Hold Your Hand"] Within a month, John Phillips had written thirty songs that he thought of as inspired by the Beatles. The New Journeymen were going to go rock and roll. By this time Marshall Brickman was out of the band, and instead John, Michelle, and Denny recruited a new lead guitarist, Eric Hord. Denny started playing bass, with John on rhythm guitar, and a violinist friend of theirs, Peter Pilafian, knew a bit of drums and took on that role. The new lineup of the group used the Journeymen's credit card, which hadn't been stopped even though the Journeymen were no more, to go down to St. Thomas in the Caribbean, along with Michelle's sister, John's daughter Mackenzie (from whose name Scott McKenzie had taken his stage name, as he was born Philip Blondheim), a pet dog, and sundry band members' girlfriends. They stayed there for several months, living in tents on the beach, taking acid, and rehearsing. While they were there, Michelle and Denny started an affair which would have important ramifications for the group later. They got a gig playing at a club called Duffy's, whose address was on Creeque Alley, and soon after they started playing there Cass Elliot travelled down as well -- she was in love with Denny, and wanted to be around him. She wasn't in the group, but she got a job working at Duffy's as a waitress, and she would often sing harmony with the group while waiting at tables. Depending on who was telling the story, either she didn't want to be in the group because she didn't want her appearance to be compared to Michelle's, or John wouldn't *let* her be in the group because she was so fat. Later a story would be made up to cover for this, saying that she hadn't been in the group at first because she couldn't sing the highest notes that were needed, until she got hit on the head with a metal pipe and discovered that it had increased her range by three notes, but that seems to be a lie. One of the songs the New Journeymen were performing at this time was "Mr. Tambourine Man". They'd heard that their old friend Roger McGuinn had recorded it with his new band, but they hadn't yet heard his version, and they'd come up with their own arrangement: [Excerpt: The New Journeymen, "Mr. Tambourine Man"] Denny later said "We were doing three-part harmony on 'Mr Tambourine Man', but a lot slower... like a polka or something! And I tell John, 'No John, we gotta slow it down and give it a backbeat.' Finally we get the Byrds 45 down here, and we put it on and turn it up to ten, and John says 'Oh, like that?' Well, as you can tell, it had already been done. So John goes 'Oh, ah... that's it...' a light went on. So we started doing Beatles stuff. We dropped 'Mr Tambourine Man' after hearing the Byrds version, because there was no point." Eventually they had to leave the island -- they had completely run out of money, and were down to fifty dollars. The credit card had been cut up, and the governor of the island had a personal vendetta against them because they gave his son acid, and they were likely to get arrested if they didn't leave the island. Elliot and her then-partner had round-trip tickets, so they just left, but the rest of them were in trouble. By this point they were unwashed, they were homeless, and they'd spent their last money on stage costumes. They got to the airport, and John Phillips tried to write a cheque for eight air fares back to the mainland, which the person at the check-in desk just laughed at. So they took their last fifty dollars and went to a casino. There Michelle played craps, and she rolled seventeen straight passes, something which should be statistically impossible. She turned their fifty dollars into six thousand dollars, which they scooped up, took to the airport, and paid for their flights out in cash. The New Journeymen arrived back in New York, but quickly decided that they were going to try their luck in California. They rented a car, using Scott McKenzie's credit card, and drove out to LA. There they met up with Hoyt Axton, who you may remember as the son of Mae Axton, the writer of "Heartbreak Hotel", and as the performer who had inspired Michael Nesmith to go into folk music: [Excerpt: Hoyt Axton, "Greenback Dollar"] Axton knew the group, and fed them and put them up for a night, but they needed somewhere else to stay. They went to stay with one of Michelle's friends, but after one night their rented car was stolen, with all their possessions in it. They needed somewhere else to stay, so they went to ask Jim Hendricks if they could crash at his place -- and they were surprised to find that Cass Elliot was there already. Hendricks had another partner -- though he and Elliot wouldn't have their marriage annulled until 1968 and were still technically married -- but he'd happily invited her to stay with them. And now all her friends had turned up, he invited them to stay as well, taking apart the beds in his one-bedroom apartment so he could put down a load of mattresses in the space for everyone to sleep on. The next part becomes difficult, because pretty much everyone in the LA music scene of the sixties was a liar who liked to embellish their own roles in things, so it's quite difficult to unpick what actually happened. What seems to have happened though is that first this new rock-oriented version of the New Journeymen went to see Frank Werber, on the recommendation of John Stewart. Werber was the manager of the Kingston Trio, and had also managed the Journeymen. He, however, was not interested -- not because he didn't think they had talent, but because he had experience of working with John Phillips previously. When Phillips came into his office Werber picked up a tape that he'd been given of the group, and said "I have not had a chance to listen to this tape. I believe that you are a most talented individual, and that's why we took you on in the first place. But I also believe that you're also a drag to work with. A pain in the ass. So I'll tell you what, before whatever you have on here sways me, I'm gonna give it back to you and say that we're not interested." Meanwhile -- and this part of the story comes from Kim Fowley, who was never one to let the truth get in the way of him taking claim for everything, but parts of it at least are corroborated by other people -- Cass Elliot had called Fowley, and told him that her friends' new group sounded pretty good and he should sign them. Fowley was at that time working as a talent scout for a label, but according to him the label wouldn't give the group the money they wanted. So instead, Fowley got in touch with Nik Venet, who had just produced the Leaves' hit version of "Hey Joe" on Mira Records: [Excerpt: The Leaves, "Hey Joe"] Fowley suggested to Venet that Venet should sign the group to Mira Records, and Fowley would sign them to a publishing contract, and they could both get rich. The trio went to audition for Venet, and Elliot drove them over -- and Venet thought the group had a great look as a quartet. He wanted to sign them to a record contract, but only if Elliot was in the group as well. They agreed, he gave them a one hundred and fifty dollar advance, and told them to come back the next day to see his boss at Mira. But Barry McGuire was also hanging round with Elliot and Hendricks, and decided that he wanted to have Lou Adler hear the four of them. He thought they might be useful both as backing vocalists on his second album and as a source of new songs. He got them to go and see Lou Adler, and according to McGuire Phillips didn't want Elliot to go with them, but as Elliot was the one who was friends with McGuire, Phillips worried that they'd lose the chance with Adler if she didn't. Adler was amazed, and decided to sign the group right then and there -- both Bones Howe and P.F. Sloan claimed to have been there when the group auditioned for him and have said "if you won't sign them, I will", though exactly what Sloan would have signed them to I'm not sure. Adler paid them three thousand dollars in cash and told them not to bother with Nik Venet, so they just didn't turn up for the Mira Records audition the next day. Instead, they went into the studio with McGuire and cut backing vocals on about half of his new album: [Excerpt: Barry McGuire with the Mamas and the Papas, "Hide Your Love Away"] While the group were excellent vocalists, there were two main reasons that Adler wanted to sign them. The first was that he found Michelle Phillips extremely attractive, and the second is a song that John and Michelle had written which he thought might be very suitable for McGuire's album. Most people who knew John Phillips think of "California Dreamin'" as a solo composition, and he would later claim that he gave Michelle fifty percent just for transcribing his lyric, saying he got inspired in the middle of the night, woke her up, and got her to write the song down as he came up with it. But Michelle, who is a credited co-writer on the song, has been very insistent that she wrote the lyrics to the second verse, and that it's about her own real experiences, saying that she would often go into churches and light candles even though she was "at best an agnostic, and possibly an atheist" in her words, and this would annoy John, who had also been raised Catholic, but who had become aggressively opposed to expressions of religion, rather than still having nostalgia for the aesthetics of the church as Michelle did. They were out walking on a particularly cold winter's day in 1963, and Michelle wanted to go into St Patrick's Cathedral and John very much did not want to. A couple of nights later, John woke her up, having written the first verse of the song, starting "All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey/I went for a walk on a winter's day", and insisting she collaborate with him. She liked the song, and came up with the lines "Stopped into a church, I passed along the way/I got down on my knees and I pretend to pray/The preacher likes the cold, he knows I'm going to stay", which John would later apparently dislike, but which stayed in the song. Most sources I've seen for the recording of "California Dreamin'" say that the lineup of musicians was the standard set of players who had played on McGuire's other records, with the addition of John Phillips on twelve-string guitar -- P.F. Sloan on guitar and harmonica, Joe Osborn on bass, Larry Knechtel on keyboards, and Hal Blaine on drums, but for some reason Stephen McParland's book on Sloan has Bones Howe down as playing drums on the track while engineering -- a detail so weird, and from such a respectable researcher, that I have to wonder if it might be true. In his autobiography, Sloan claims to have rewritten the chord sequence to "California Dreamin'". He says "Barry Mann had unintentionally showed me a suspended chord back at Screen Gems. I was so impressed by this beautiful, simple chord that I called Brian Wilson and played it for him over the phone. The next thing I knew, Brian had written ‘Don’t Worry Baby,’ which had within it a number suspended chords. And then the chord heard ’round the world, two months later, was the opening suspended chord of ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’ I used these chords throughout ‘California Dreamin’,’ and more specifically as a bridge to get back and forth from the verse to the chorus." Now, nobody else corroborates this story, and both Brian Wilson and John Phillips had the kind of background in modern harmony that means they would have been very aware of suspended chords before either ever encountered Sloan, but I thought I should mention it. Rather more plausible is Sloan's other claim, that he came up with the intro to the song. According to Sloan, he was inspired by "Walk Don't Run" by the Ventures: [Excerpt: The Ventures, "Walk Don't Run"] And you can easily see how this: [plays "Walk Don't Run"] Can lead to this: [plays "California Dreamin'"] And I'm fairly certain that if that was the inspiration, it was Sloan who was the one who thought it up. John Phillips had been paying no attention to the world of surf music when "Walk Don't Run" had been a hit -- that had been at the point when he was very firmly in the folk world, while Sloan of course had been recording "Tell 'Em I'm Surfin'", and it had been his job to know surf music intimately. So Sloan's intro became the start of what was intended to be Barry McGuire's next single: [Excerpt: Barry McGuire, "California Dreamin'"] Sloan also provided the harmonica solo on the track: [Excerpt: Barry McGuire, "California Dreamin'"] The Mamas and the Papas -- the new name that was now given to the former New Journeymen, now they were a quartet -- were also signed to Dunhill as an act on their own, and recorded their own first single, "Go Where You Wanna Go", a song apparently written by John about Michelle, in late 1963, after she had briefly left him to have an affair with Russ Titelman, the record producer and songwriter, before coming back to him: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "Go Where You Wanna Go"] But while that was put out, they quickly decided to scrap it and go with another song. The "Go Where You Wanna Go" single was pulled after only selling a handful of copies, though its commercial potential was later proved when in 1967 a new vocal group, the 5th Dimension, released a soundalike version as their second single. The track was produced by Lou Adler's client Johnny Rivers, and used the exact same musicians as the Mamas and the Papas version, with the exception of Phillips. It became their first hit, reaching number sixteen on the charts: [Excerpt: The 5th Dimension, "Go Where You Wanna Go"] The reason the Mamas and the Papas version of "Go Where You Wanna Go" was pulled was because everyone became convinced that their first single should instead be their own version of "California Dreamin'". This is the exact same track as McGuire's track, with just two changes. The first is that McGuire's lead vocal was replaced with Denny Doherty: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "California Dreamin'"] Though if you listen to the stereo mix of the song and isolate the left channel, you can hear McGuire singing the lead on the first line, and occasional leakage from him elsewhere on the backing vocal track: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "California Dreamin'"] The other change made was to replace Sloan's harmonica solo with an alto flute solo by Bud Shank, a jazz musician who we heard about in the episode on "Light My Fire", when he collaborated with Ravi Shankar on "Improvisations on the Theme  From Pather Panchali": [Excerpt: Ravi Shankar, "Improvisation on the Theme From Pather Panchali"] Shank was working on another session in Western Studios, where they were recording the Mamas and Papas track, and Bones Howe approached him while he was packing his instrument and asked if he'd be interested in doing another session. Shank agreed, though the track caused problems for him. According to Shank "What had happened was that when they had made the original backing track, they had apparently not lined it up with anything with firm pitch; it was only guitars, and it was in the cracks -- really in the cracks. I listened to the song enough to learn it, then I pulled the head joint out of my alto flute about an inch, and played it up half a step, and somehow or other we lined it up, pitch-wise. It  sounded kinda strange, and it really blew my mind, but that was because my fingers were going in spots where they normally wouldn't go." According to Lou Adler, the flute solo is spliced together from two takes, at the point where the solo goes up an octave: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "California Dreamin'"] "California Dreamin'" made the charts in January 1966, and eventually reached number four, but even though it didn't make number one it stayed on the charts so long that Cashbox magazine later listed it as the biggest hit of 1966. The follow-up, "Monday Monday", written by John Phillips alone, did reach number one: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "Monday Monday"] That also won the group a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. It was also nominated for the Best Contemporary (Rock & Roll) Recording Grammy, but lost out there, as did the other nominees "Last Train to Clarksville", "Good Vibrations", "Eleanor Rigby", and "Cherish", to "Winchester Cathedral". The group's first album, from which both those singles were taken, is generally considered the one on which John Phillips' reputation as a songwriter rests. Mark Volman of the Turtles said "John was a really good songwriter who really hit his peak with one album. I mean, he wasn't like John Sebastian who wrote and wrote and was a working-class songwriter. John Phillips hit his stride one album. If you listen to that first album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears, it was John's one contribution. If you go to the next album, those songs were not as great. There were sporadic moments of good songwriting, but John Phillips' contribution to the landscape of musical history was on that one album" Even there, only seven songs on the album were originals, with the other five being cover versions or, in the case of their version of "You Baby", a hit for the Turtles, they used a track that Sloan and Barri had recorded as a demo, onto which the group overdubbed new vocals. During the recording of the first album, the group were all living together, and getting on great. They made occasional live appearances -- their first performance as the Mamas and the Papas was a rather impromptu one at The Action, where the Mothers of Invention were the house band, and the Mamas and the Papas got up between their sets to do a performance with just the four voices and a twelve-string guitar, to a certain amount of confusion on the part of the audience. But for the most part they were just rehearsing and recording, and they got on great. But that wasn't to last. There's an anecdote from Guy Webster, who photographed the group's first album cover: He said "I said "This'll probably be the last time where we get together like this where you'll want to shoot the cover..." and they said "What are you talking about? That's ridiculous!" and I told them that it's just the nature of the business that little petty things come in and out of relationships in groups that are together, and after a while they don't even want to see you. I had photographed the Stones, and Brian Jones, who was a friend of mine, was kind of on the outs with the group, and nobody wanted to pose together. I'm telling this to the Mamas and the Papas, and they're like "Yeah, right." Well, the next session, it was almost impossible to get the four of 'em together. That's how *fast* the insidiousness of the business started to splinter the group." The thing that really caused problems, though, was when John found out about Michelle and Denny's relationship, which ended as soon as John found out. John was hurt because his wife had been having an affair, and Denny was hurt because the affair had ended, although both men took what one might call a "Papas before Mamas" approach and decided that it was Michelle's fault for being a temptress. Michelle moved out, but John and Denny stayed living together, bonding more closely over their shared blaming of the woman they both loved. Meanwhile Cass Elliot was hurt -- she was in love with Denny, and while that love was unrequited, Cass thought that Michelle could have literally any man she wanted, so why go for the man Cass was in love with? Doherty and John Phillips wrote "I Saw Her Again" about the affair, and it became the group's third single -- though Michelle always said that it was immensely cruel that they'd made her sing on the song: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "I Saw Her Again"] "I Saw Her Again" is notable for one other reason as well. At one point, Denny Doherty came in at the wrong place, caught himself, and then came in at the right spot. Originally Bones Howe was going to edit out the mistake, but Lou Adler said to leave it in: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "I Saw Her Again"] For a while the group continued working together even though everything was strained, but while John and Michelle were split up, Michelle started having an affair with Gene Clark, formerly of the Byrds, who apparently later wrote "Tried So Hard" about their breakup: [Excerpt: Gene Clark, "Tried So Hard"] Clark came to see one of the group's shows, which happened to be on Michelle's twenty-second birthday, June the fourth 1966, and sat in the front row, and Michelle sang at him the entire show. That was the last straw for John Phillips, who persuaded the rest of the group that they needed to sack Michelle. They sent her a letter reading: "Dear Michelle, This letter is to inform you that the undersigned no longer desire to record or perform with you in the future. Moreover, the undersigned desire to terminate any business relationship with you that may have heretofore existed. To the extent there may have been any agreement between us creating a partnership, the undersigned elect to terminate and dissolve any such partnership pursuant to California Corporation Code Section 15031(1)(b). This letter should not be construed as an admission that any such partnership exists. Nothing contained in this letter should be construed as a waiver, abandonment, or relinquishment of any right or remedy which the undersigned, and each of them, may have against you. All such rights and remedies are expressly reserved. Very truly yours." Michelle was devastated, since this was basically her being cut out of the lives of everyone important to her. As she put it in her autobiography, "since it was from the Mamas and the Papas, it was therefore from my husband, from my best friend, from my lover, from my manager, my label, and my attorney". On her twenty-second birthday her entire emotional and professional support system had been taken away from her. As a replacement, they got in Jill Gibson. Gibson had been Jan Berry's girlfriend, though they'd split up shortly before Jan's accident, and she'd had a bit of a recording career as a result of the connection -- we heard her earlier on "Move On, Little Mustang", and she also cowrote "It's as Easy as 1,2,3" with Don Altfeld, which was released as a Jan and Dean B-side but had Gibson singing lead: [Excerpt: Jan and Dean, "It's As Easy as 1,2,3"] Gibson also looked quite like Michelle -- they had different jawlines, but there was a passing resemblance, especially from the distances concert audiences saw performers -- and she was dating Lou Adler. She could sing, she knew the material, and she was in. Work had already started on the second Mamas and Papas album, but Jill replaced Michelle's vocals on some, but not all, of the tracks. They'd even already taken a cover photo, so Guy Webster was called in to take a photo of Jill in exactly the same pose Michelle had been in, and paste her into the photo in Michelle's place. Jill was in the group for three months, but while she was told it was a permanent position, almost from the start there seems to have been talk of getting Michelle back. John and Michelle had almost daily phone calls, which according to Michelle basically amounted to John saying that he wanted her back as his wife but he could no longer work with her, and her saying that she wanted to be back in the group but wasn't interested in getting back together with him. But something was missing from the band's sound. Jill was a good singer -- by some accounts a better singer than Michelle -- but Michelle had a harsher, brassier, sound which contrasted well with Elliot and Doherty's voices. Michelle was the youngest of the group members, and the one who more than any of them was interested in rock and roll, and Lou Adler said of her "I think she would have loved to have been a Ronette or one of the Shangri-Las". Without that slight abrasive quality, the harmonies were missing something. Eventually they reconciled, at least for a while, and Michelle was back in the marriage and the group, with Jill being given an undisclosed large sum of money as a payoff. Michelle then replaced some of Jill's vocals on the album, some of which had in turn been replacements for Michelle, and nobody is sure any more which songs have Michelle, which have Jill, which have both, and which have Cass Elliot overdubbing herself instead of either of them, though it's almost certain Jill is on about six of the twelve tracks, including "Trip, Stumble, and Fall", which John and Michelle had written together: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "Trip, Stumble, and Fall"] As well as the problems between John and Michelle, there were other problems starting with the second album. For the first album, the group had been living together for months beforehand and spending all their time together, so they knew the material -- and the material had been written around the group members' individual voices and shaped with them. Now the only time they saw each other was in the recording studio or on tour, and so they no longer had the chemistry they used  to, and nor did they have the familiarity with the material. Everyone was developing their own problems as well. Both John Phillips and Cass Elliot were heavy drug users, while Denny Doherty was becoming an alcoholic, and everyone talks about how they had to arrange sessions so that Doherty's vocals would be recorded during the window of time between him having drunk enough to loosen up and having drunk so much that he couldn't sing. Also, John Phillips' stock of material had run dry, and they were so desperate for new material that when they were asked to guest on a TV show celebrating the songs of Rodgers and Hart they ended up using a song they recorded for the show on the album. Not only that, but they took another song from the show, "Here in My Arms": [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "Here in My Arms"] And turned it into an "original", "No Salt on Her Tail" -- John Phillips wrote new lyrics and melody to the existing track. To make the borrowing not quite so obvious, they got in organist Ray Manzarek, whose band The Doors were still unsigned at the time, to overdub a keyboard part: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "No Salt on Her Tail"] According to Manzarek, Adler tried to just pay him twenty dollars for the session. Adler's response was "I have no recollection of that. Boy, I doubt it. I have no memory of that. He remembers a lot of things about me." But the lack of material wasn't too much of a problem. As Doherty would later say "at that point, the momentum we'd created carried a lot of it. If we got one hit from each album, that was enough. One good single sold the album, and it didn't matter about the album cuts or whatever else was on the album." But there were other problems happening too as the group moved into recording their third album. Cass Elliot was becoming increasingly distant from the rest of the group -- she got pregnant and wouldn't even tell the rest of them who the father was -- and she was constantly butting heads with John Phillips. Phillips thought of himself as the group's leader, and in his mind by being able to fire and rehire his own wife he had proved his dominance over the group. Michelle had been put firmly in her place by this and wasn't making waves, and Doherty was a naturally placid person. But while Elliot was hard-working, she insisted on knowing *why* certain things were being done -- she wouldn't take direction from Phillips without understanding his reasoning. And Phillips was becoming increasingly unwilling to accommodate that kind of thing. Between the problems in his marriage, his writer's block, and his worsening drug problems, he was becoming aggressive towards anyone he viewed as a challenge, even the musicians who'd been helping him make his hit records. Where previously he would ask P.F. Sloan to come up with his own guitar parts, now he was dictating them and shouting at Sloan when he suggested an idea. He would also sometimes add or drop bars during the recording, without realising he was doing so, and then scream at Hal Blaine for "doing it wrong" when Blaine played the part as written -- at one point Blaine actually almost came to blows with him, the only time in forty years as a studio musician that he came close to attacking an artist. The third album, then, was stressful for everyone, though perhaps not as stressful as some of the stories about the group would later claim. Pretty much everyone involved would say that Cass Elliot was recording her parts for the album even up to the day she went into labour, but in fact her daughter wasn't born until two months after the record came out, though that's not to minimise how hard she had to work, being pregnant while making the album. And there are other stories about having to mic Denny Doherty up while he was lying flat on his back on top of a piano, too drunk to stand up, to get vocal takes. But the album, the Mamas and the Papas Deliver, did produce two big hits. One was a song suggested by Michelle -- when the group had been looking for cover versions, she'd kept suggesting hits from her teenage years which the rest of the group didn't know, like "I'm a Hog For You Baby" by the Coasters, "He's a Rebel", and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" Eventually she hit on a song which had been a hit in 1962 for the Shirelles: [Excerpt: The Shirelles, "Dedicated to the One I Love"] John came up with an arrangement of that, and it made number two on the charts, becoming the fifth of the group's six top five singles, and the only one with a lead from Michelle: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "Dedicated to the One I Love"] The sixth and final top five hit for the group, also on that album, was a song John and Michelle had written to explain the group's history to Lou Adler. The group had constantly been talking about all the folk-rock stars they'd known and been in bands with before any of them were successful, and "Creeque Alley" told the whole story: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "Creeque Alley"] After the release of The Mamas and the Papas Deliver, John and Michelle took on a new project, one which would end up being one of the most important things they would ever do. Jim Dickson, the manager of the Byrds, was in the process of splitting away from the band, but he had recently organised a rather big benefit concert featuring Hugh Masakela, the South African jazz trumpeter who had recently guested on the Byrds' single "So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star": [Excerpt: The Byrds, "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star"] Masakela had enjoyed the benefit show, and had suggested to Dickson and his co-promoter Alan Pariser that they might want to put on another similar show. Masakela's initial idea was to do it in Mexico, but Dickson thought about the likely audience -- mostly American hippies -- and what would happen to several thousand long-haired drug users at the border between the two countries, and decided to do it closer to home. They decided that Monterey might be an option -- Monterey is a town in central California, about eighty miles south of San Francisco and about three hundred miles north of LA, and it already had an established and long-running annual jazz festival and a more recently established folk festival. Why not a pop festival? At least, that's the way Dickson told the story – the way Steve Stills would always tell the story, it had all been Stills' idea, and he'd suggested the whole thing, including the location, to Pariser. They got in touch with Benny Shapiro, who ran the Monterey Folk Festival, to get some advice as to how to put something like that on in Monterey, and through him they booked the first act other than Masakela -- Shapiro was Ravi Shankar's West Coast promoter, and offered them Shankar's services for three thousand dollars. Shankar was at the time probably the single most admired musician among the hip crowd of musicians, and with him on board, they could get anyone they wanted. The next people they asked were the Mamas and the Papas, and at that point everything changed. John Phillips and Lou Adler both fell *heavily* in love with the idea of doing a *big* pop festival, the first one devoted to pop music rather than jazz or folk. As it happened, it took so long to set up that Monterey would end up being the second pop festival, as the Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival near San Francisco happened just the week before, with several of the same acts. But Monterey, which took place over the weekend between the first two Beatles recording sessions for "All You Need is Love", became the model which all future rock and pop festivals would follow, and gets regarded by most as the start of the "Summer of Love". Phillips and Adler had a vision, and they quickly bought out the original promoters and took on the work themselves. They were going to make it a charity benefit, so none of the musicians would get paid for their appearances or for the film and live album they planned of the festival. Except Ravi Shankar, whose contract had already been signed, and who said that he wasn't going to work for free. But nobody *else* would be paid. John, Michelle, and Adler did most of the organisational work for the festival, with some help from Al Kooper and Derek Taylor, but they pulled together an advisory board of their friends in the music industry including Elliot, Lennon and McCartney, Andrew Oldham, Simon and Garfunkel, and Brian Wilson. Those people mostly did very little, with one exception we'll get to in a minute, but they all pitched in money to help pay for the festival's costs, and they also made suggestions of which artists to include. The Beatles and Oldham suggested the hot names from the British scene -- Eric Burdon and his New Animals, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and the Who, the latter two of whom had not yet had any real success in the US -- and also suggested that Otis Redding, Lou Rawls, and Booker T and the MGs be included on the bill. Meanwhile the LA contingent were getting their own friends involved, and so as well as the Mamas and the Papas, the Beach Boys were booked to headline (though they pulled out for reasons we'll discuss in episode 153), and the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield were on the bill, as was the Dunhill act Johnny Rivers. But if they were going to hold a festival near San Francisco, they also needed to get some of the local San Francisco bands on the bill. A huge music scene had sprung up there almost overnight, which we're going to look at in future episodes, and they would have to acknowledge that in some way. But there was a problem. That scene had set itself up very consciously in opposition to the music coming out of LA, which was against everything they stood for -- it was Hollywood and plastic and commercial and made by big corporations. The San Francisco groups wouldn't even speak to any of the LA groups. So Paul Simon was enlisted as an ambassador. He was neutral in the war between Northern and Southern California, as he was from New York, so he made the fraught trip into enemy territory, visiting the Grateful Dead in San Francisco, and coming back with their list of demands. The Grateful Dead, if they were going to do the show, wanted a day basically put aside for the San Francisco scene -- they wanted Big Brother and the Holding Company, Country Joe and the Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Jefferson Airplane all on, and all on the same day. As it eventually worked out, all those acts did play, and all on the same day, but the Grateful Dead actually played the day after their San Francisco peers. But an agreement had been reached. And John Phillips had come up with a theme song for the event. After Scott McKenzie had left the Journeymen, his career had floundered. He had tried for a solo career, and had signed to Capitol records and recorded two singles for them, but tracks like his version of the old Webb Pierce country hit "There Stands the Glass" had not exactly set the world on fire: [Excerpt: Scott McKenzie, "There Stands the Glass"] Capitol had dropped him, and then he'd signed with Epic records, and John Phillips had written "No, No, No, No" for him, which Adler had produced: [Excerpt: Scott McKenzie, "No, No, No, No"] By 1967 McKenzie was despondent. He was staying with the Phillipses in their house, and one day Paul McCartney had come to visit. McKenzie had given McCartney and Mal Evans a lift to the airport, and McCartney had asked him what he did for a living. McKenzie said he was a singer, and McCartney asked what kind of things he sang... and McKenzie realised he didn't know what kind of things he sang. John Phillips told him they would have to find something for him to sing, so then he would know. By this point, Lou Adler had sold his shares in Dunhill to his business partners, and had started up a new label, Ode, with McKenzie as his first signing. He got John Phillips to write a song for McKenzie to sing, and John decided to make the song a message to anyone who was going to be travelling to the festival, to tell them that they should be cool and relaxed and not cause problems for anyone. The recording was arranged hastily and in secret -- they thought that Cass and Denny might complain about Phillips giving hits away to other artists, and they also worried that Adler's erstwhile partners might cause problems for John writing a song for anyone not on Dunhill. The song was released as a single a month before the festival, and became a worldwide hit, going top five in the USA and making number one in the UK: [Excerpt: Scott McKenzie, "San Francisco (Wear Flowers in Your Hair)"] The Monterey International Pop Festival is something we're going to be coming back to time and again in the next few months, which is why I placed this episode at this point in the narrative, at the start of a new year of stories. In many ways it is *the* pivotal moment in the transition between pop and rock music. It was referred to as a pop festival, and at this point "rock and roll" was not a term that most successful bands would have used for themselves -- rock and roll either meant music from the fifties like Elvis and Gene Vincent, or it meant girl groups and soul singers -- the Supremes were a rock and roll group. Bands like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones would never have referred to themselves as rock bands at this point -- they were pop groups or R&B bands, not rock bands. But Monterey was where that started to change, and it was where the narrative of what artists mattered to the hippie generation was really set. And in the war for the minds of the hippie generation, San Francisco beat LA so completely that it distorted the whole of rock history for decades, something that wasn't helped with the dawn of rock journalism happening around the same time and being dominated by the San Francisco partisans at Rolling Stone. This even though right up until the last minute it was entirely possible that none of the San Francisco bands would even play. Many of them were being managed by Bob Dylan's manager Albert Grossman, who was well known for his extreme approach to management and brinksmanship, and he was attempting to renegotiate some of the contracts even as bands were going on stage. We're going to look at many of these performances in greater detail in future, as we deal with many of these bands and artists in their own episodes, but the San Francisco bands were young and hungry and playing to the biggest audiences they'd ever played to, and so bands like Jefferson Airplane gave tight, convincing performances: [Excerpt: Jefferson Airplane, "Somebody to Love"] While the unknown band Big Brother and the Holding Company, with their lead singer Janis Joplin, became many people's highlight of the show with their version of Big Mama Thornton's "Ball and Chain": [Excerpt: Big Brother and the Holding Company, "Ball and Chain"] While the San Francisco bands blew everyone away, LA was much, much, less well represented. The Beach Boys had dropped out, and they'd decided not to invite the Monkees, even though they were the biggest band in the world at that point, because even the “LA plastic Hollywood types” thought they were above that kind of thing -- though both Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork came along anyway, and Tork introduced his friends The Buffalo Springfield. So the two most commercial acts from LA at the time weren't there. As for the up-and-coming acts, Love were invited but Arthur Lee wouldn't travel out of LA, the Mothers of Invention were playing a month-long residency in New York on the other side of the continent, and Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band had to pull out shortly before the event after their guitarist, Ry Cooder, quit.  And I've seen multiple explanations for why the Doors weren't going to be playing, with some of the band members, notably Manzarek, saying it was because Lou Adler resented them for becoming successful after he'd turned them down, but other explanations I've seen include that the band were dealing with various small life emergencies like minor surgery and family members having kids, and that they were booked to play in New York So that left the established but not absolute top-tier LA acts. The Association, who opened the whole festival, actually gave one of the tightest performances of the weekend: [Excerpt: The Association, "Along Comes Mary (live at Monterey Pop)"] Unfortunately, while they did a great set musically, they looked out of place. They had the same kind of suits, haircuts, and stage formation as the Beatles or Stones had in 1965. In June 1967 a band looking like that might as well have been from the Medieval era, and their performance wasn't even used in the film of the event. Johnny Rivers was wildly out of place with his set of fifties covers, and Buffalo Springfield were missing their guitarist, Neil Young. David Crosby sat in with them in his place, and while they managed just about to get through the set, they generally considered it an embarrassment: [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing (live at Monterey)"] 71) And Crosby also dominated the Byrds' set, where they refused to play any of their old hits, and instead did a set that sounds almost garage-punk: [Excerpt: The Byrds, "Hey Joe (live at Monterey)"] 72) Even though it had been organised entirely by LA people, the Monterey International Pop Festival seemed almost specifically designed to prove the San Francisco musicians right. On the evidence of that weekend, the LA groups were a bunch of posers who couldn't really play and relied on clever record production to make themselves seem half-decent, and that's largely how the LA scene went down in the first drafts of rock history as a result. But the real highlights of the festival weren't from either of the warring Californian scenes. Rather they were the acts that had been suggested by the Beatles and Oldham. Otis Redding's performance was the set that brought him to the attention of the white rock audience, who had previously been largely unaware of how astonishing he was: [Excerpt: Otis Redding, "Respect"] And while the Grateful Dead had been seen as the one band that they *must* get, half the oral histories of the event literally forget that they were there, because they were on between the two biggest breakout stars of the show. At this point, while the Who were in the very top tier of bands in the UK, with seven top ten hits, and were regarded by their peers as the most exciting live act around, they'd only had one top thirty hit in the US, with their most recent single, "Happy Jack", which was not regarded as their best work and which had only got to number twenty-four: [Excerpt: The Who, "Happy Jack"] The Who's show was devastating, with a psychedelic light show, Keith Moon setting off smoke bombs, and at the end of the set Pete Townshend smashing his guitar to pieces while Moon smashed his drumkit up -- as technicians busily ran around the stage trying to limit the damage being done to the festival's equipment. But as well as the pyrotechnics there was also actual musical quality to their performance: [Excerpt: The Who, "My Generation (live at Monterey)"] After that, the Who went on a fifty-five date US tour as the support act to Herman's Hermits. The other breakout Monterey act, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, also toured on a similarly incongruous bill after Micky Dolenz saw them at the festival and invited them to be the Monkees' support act. The Grateful Dead, stuck between those two powerhouse live acts, gave what they would later claim was one of their worst performances: [Excerpt: Jerry Garcia talking about Monterey ] Though the one song from their performance that was filmed, a version of "Viola Lee Blues" that's in the special features of the Critierion Blu-Ray edition of the film of the festival, is perfectly fine, if hardly life-changing: [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Viola Lee Blues (live at Monterey)"] And then the Jimi Hendrix Experience came on, and Hendrix was determined to overshadow the Who. Hendrix had had three top ten hit singles in the UK in the previous six months, but had not yet charted in the US -- a double-A-side version of "Purple Haze" and "The Wind Cries Mary" was released the same weekend as the festival, presumably in the hopes of capitalising on any publicity from it, but it only reached the heady heights of number sixty-seven in the charts. But the group's performance at Monterey was one that nobody would ever forget. It had already been set up by David Crosby the day before, when he'd introduced the Byrds' version of "Hey Joe" by talking about Love, the Leaves, Tim Rose, and "a cat who's gonna perform here, Jimi Hendrix". Hendrix was still so new to songwriting that half the Experience's set was cover versions, including of course their own version of "Hey Joe": [Excerpt: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Hey Joe (live at Monterey)"] And the closing song, a version of "Wild Thing": [Excerpt: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Wild Thing (live at Monterey)"] Hendrix first played the song, then while the other musicians continued playing he humped his guitar, and then for a finale and a way to one-up Townshend smashing his guitar took a can of lighter fluid, held it out at approximately penis height, squirted the fluid all over his guitar, then set it on fire before smashing it. The sound you hear here is the sound of the crackling flames being picked up by the guitar's pickups and feeding back through the amps: [Excerpt: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Wild Thing (live at Monterey)"] Watching the footage of that performance, large chunks of the audience don't seem to know what's going on, but Michelle Phillips, Cass Elliot, and Micky Dolenz all seem to be in states of utter ecstasy watching him. One person who wasn't so ecstatic was Ravi Shankar. He'd thought Simon and Garfunkel were extremely good on the first night, and he'd been very impressed by both Otis Redding and Janis Joplin, who he thought "sang from her guts, like some of the olden-days jazz singers". But to a man to whom music was holy, smashing a musical instrument was sacrilege. And after Hendrix came the closing performance of the show, and what was meant to be the highlight for everyone who had organised it -- the Mamas and the Papas, with Scott McKenzie guesting to sing "San Francisco". But there was a problem. The group hadn't rehearsed together in months. John and Michelle had been busy organising the festival, Cass had been busy with her newborn baby, and Denny had been so depressed that John and Michelle had got back together that he'd basically spent three months inside a bottle, drunk out of his mind and not even really registering that he was meant to be performing at the festival until the final day, when he flew into LA from the Virgin Islands, where he'd been for those three months. He also didn't have any coherent idea of the geography of California, despite having lived there for a couple of years, and vaguely thought that Monterey was "just down the coast from Santa Barbara" and was horrified to be told by his friend that it would be an eight-hour drive and they would have to leave *right then*. Depending on which version of the story you believe, he either arrived *right* before the group were due on stage or just before Hendrix's set -- either way, there was no time for even a cursory rehearsal before the group went on stage, with Joe Osborn, Larry Knechtel, touring guitarist Eric Horn, and their touring drummer "Fast" Eddie Hoh, and performed what was meant to be the great climax of the festival, but instead turned out to be the great anticlimax of it, and of the Mamas and the Papas' career. To quote from John Phillips' autobiography: "We ran out on stage and did our songs completely out of tune from start to finish. In parts, we weren't even close. We hadn't sung in months. We hadn't rehearsed at Monterey because Denny wasn't around. Cass had been partying all weekend. Mitch and I were too busy at the site to worry about harmonies and arrangements. I was fried on speed. I had been up for most of the past week." Everyone agrees that the performance was possibly the worst the group ever gave, and they were the worst act on the festival, though listening to the recordings it doesn't sound *that* much more incompetent than many of the other performers, though there are some excruciatingly poor harmonies at points: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "Monday Monday (live at Monterey)"] As for Scott McKenzie, as John Phillips put it "He was so off and out of it that he sang in a chord sequence that was the reverse of what the band were playing": [Excerpt: Scott McKenzie and the Mamas and the Papas, "San Francisco (live at Monterey)"] Though I have to say that to my ears, the problem sounds more with the twelve-string guitar player, one John Phillips, than with McKenzie's singing. Monterey was essentially the end of the careers of both McKenzie and the Mamas and the Papas. McKenzie's follow-up single, "Like an Old-Time Movie", written by John Phillips, only made number twenty-four: [Excerpt: Scott McKenzie, "Like an Old-Time Movie"] He recorded one more album, three years later, this time made up of songs he'd written himself, but never had another hit, and he retired from music for a time in 1970. Meanwhile the Mamas and the Papas struggled on for a while longer, and started work on a fourth album. But halfway through recording, they made a promotional trip to the UK, where Cass got arrested for reasons that are unclear, but seem to have been connected to some criminal associates of her then-partner. She was let go the next day, but had a traumatic time, including being strip-searched, and was telling someone about her horrific ordeal when John Phillips came up to her and started correcting her about her own experiences. That was the last straw. She was not putting up with John Phillips for one second more, and she quit the group. She did come back long enough to finish up the album, which included a version of "Dream a Little Dream of Me", a song suggested by Michelle, who had known one of the song's writers when she was a kid. It was released as a single, but credited to "Mama Cass with the Mamas and the Papas" in the US, and just to "Mama Cass" in the UK: [Excerpt: Mama Cass, "Dream a Little Dream of Me"] That made the top twenty, significantly outperforming the last few Mamas and Papas singles, and Elliot had a relatively successful solo career, with two more top thirty hits, both written by Mann and Weil, "It's Getting Better" and "Make Your Own Kind of Music": [Excerpt: Cass Elliot, "Make Your Own Kind of Music"] After a rough first attempt at a Las Vegas residency -- she lost a hundred pounds in weight, but as a result developed gastric and throat problems, and had to cancel almost straight away -- she became a beloved entertainer, appearing in several TV specials, and doing residencies in Las Vegas and the London Palladium. The other group members all released solo records too, but with no success. Probably the best of them is Denny Doherty's version of the Millennium's "To Claudia on Thursday": [Excerpt: Denny Doherty, "To Claudia on Thursday"] John and Michelle's marriage fell apart for good, and John's drug use became much, much, worse. Eventually, the new owners of the group's record label sued them for a million dollars, and to settle the lawsuit they recorded a contractual obligation album, People Like Us, three years after they'd split, but they didn't get together for the recordings, just overdubbing parts as and when necessary. In 1974, while staying in a flat owned by Harry Nilsson, Cass Elliot died of a heart attack, aged only thirty-two. She had just completed a residency at the London Palladium, for which she had once again lost a lot of weight after having put all the weight from her earlier attempt at weight loss back on. It's well known that repeated crash dieting, extreme weight loss, and yo-yoing weight can cause heart trouble. That was the end of the Mamas and the Papas as the original band, but not quite the end for the group altogether. While Michelle Phillips went on to a successful acting career, and still acts today, John sank into depression and spent time in prison on drugs charges -- he would remain an addict for the rest of his life. As an attempt to get himself together after his prison time, he formed "the New Mamas and Papas", initially with a lineup of himself, Scott McKenzie, Denny Doherty, his daughter Mackenzie Phillips, and replacing Cass Elliot Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane of Spanky And Our Gang, and they started playing the nostalgia circuit: [Excerpt: The New Mamas and Papas, "California Dreamin'"] At the same time, the Beach Boys were in a career slump, putting out odd one-off flop singles for film soundtracks, and often finding it difficult to get record contracts. One of the few recordings they made in the early eighties was for a cassette-only release, only sold through Radio Shack, put together by Terry Melcher and Daryl Dragon of the Captain & Tennille. The cassette contained new recordings by The Association, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and the Rip Chords, plus solo tracks by Mike Love and duets between Love and Dean Torrence, plus the Beach Boys' version of "California Dreamin", produced by Melcher, featuring a guest spot by Roger McGuinn on guitar. Unsurprisingly, the cassette didn't exactly set the music world alight, but a couple of years later the Beach Boys were putting out a new greatest hits album, and a slightly remixed version of "California Dreamin'" was stuck on that and put out as a single, and while it only made the lower reaches of the Hot One Hundred, it made the Adult Contemporary top ten, thanks in large part to a video which got a lot of play on MTV, featuring the Beach Boys, McGuinn, and cameos from Michelle and John, the latter as a saxophone-playing priest: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "California Dreamin'"] At this point, there were lots of connections between the Beach Boys, Melcher, and the Mamas and the Papas, including that John and Michelle's daughter Chynna was a school friend of Brian Wilson's daughters Carnie and Wendy, and would soon form her own vocal group with them, and at some point Terry Melcher got hold of a demo that John Phillips had recorded, of a song he and Scott McKenzie had written together: [Excerpt: John Phillips, "Kokomo"] Melcher and Mike Love rewrote the lyric extensively, dropped Phillips' original middle eight altogether, and added a new chorus, listing place-names in the same way the Beach Boys had for "California Girls" and "Surfin' USA". It was put out as one of those throwaway film soundtrack singles, for a forgettable Tom Cruise film, Cocktail, but rather remarkably, thanks to a video featuring shots from the film intercut with the Beach Boys performing on a beach, it became the Beach Boys' first number one in twenty-two years, and their only one without any participation from Brian Wilson: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Kokomo"] For the rest of the eighties and nineties, the New Mamas and Papas toured with a revolving lineup. There would be various female singers, and usually at least one, sometimes two, of John Phillips, Denny Doherty, Scott McKenzie, and Barry McGuire, depending on who had fallen out with who, and who was in rehab. The New Mamas and Papas ended with Phillips' death in 2000, and Denny Doherty died in 2007, while Scott McKenzie died in 2012. Barry McGuire is still alive, and is now a contemporary Christian performer. His most recent album seems to have come out in 2000 -- it's called Eve of Destruction: 20 Inspirational Classics -- and he also rerecorded "Eve of Destruction" as "Eve 2012": [Excerpt: Barry McGuire, "Eve 2012"] As for P.F. Sloan, he retired from the music business in 1972, for reasons he variously gave as being ill (he would suffer from chronic illnesses for decades before apparently being cured by a faith healer), being tired of making music, and having his life threatened by the owners of Dunhill Records. He infrequently gave interviews and made records over the next few decades, before recovering his strength enough to work on what he considered his magnum opus. He saw a performance of Beethoven's music and became fascinated at what he saw as the parallels between Beethoven and himself -- he very much saw Beethoven as the P.F. Sloan of his time. He immediately started work on a musical, Louis! Louis! (Louis is the French equivalent of Ludwig, Beethoven's first name), which eventually became his 2015 album, My Beethoven, a concept album that was equal parts autobiography and biography of Beethoven: [Excerpt: P.F. Sloan, "This Love"] But by this point, Sloan was more myth than man. And this was largely because of Jimmy Webb. Webb had, in 1970, decided that he wasn't going to just be a songwriter for other people, but that he was going to be an artist in his own right, and put out a solo album. And one of the people who inspired him to do that was Sloan, who he thought of as one of the first of the great commercial songwriters to pursue his own artistic path. And as such, he wrote a tribute to him, a song called "P.F. Sloan". The problem was, Sloan had already pretty much vanished from the scene -- as the song's lyrics said, starting "I have been seeking P.F. Sloan, but no-one knows where he has gone". Many people listening to the song assumed that Sloan was a character Webb had made up -- and Sloan would later claim that he and Webb had fallen out in the seventies and as a result Webb had gone around claiming just that, rather than acknowledging that Sloan was a real person, though I've not seen any interviews where Webb did that and have seen several where he very explicitly credits the real man as an inspiration. To make matters worse, in the eighties, Eugene Landy, the abusive psychotherapist who used his position with his patient Brian Wilson to get himself credited as a co-writer and producer on many of Wilson's songs, insisted in many interviews that *he* was P.F. Sloan, claiming Sloan was a pseudonym and he had written all those songs. With Sloan out of the industry, many people believed him, at least until the extent of his other lies became clear. So while Sloan did write his own autobiography, What's Exactly the Matter With Me? in 2014, by the time of his death, to most of those who knew his name at all, P.F. Sloan wasn't a man, a songwriter who had written for the Turtles and Jan and Dean and had a big folk-rock hit. He was an idea -- the idea of songwriting artistry, of inspiration, and of someone who would take his own path rather than submit to commercial pressures. The idea of musical innovation, of endless possibilities, and of being young in the mid-sixties, when it seemed the young people might still make a better world. The truth? Well, that didn't matter. What mattered, always, was the song: [Excerpt: Jimmy Webb, "P.F. Sloan" into theme music]
Aug 22, 2022
Season Four Announcement
Transcript This is the official announcement that episode one hundred and fifty-one will be up in precisely one week. I've just finished recording it, and am now in the process of recording episodes one hundred and fifty-two through one hundred and fifty-four while Tilt edits one hundred and fifty-one. For those of you who are Patreon backers, the Patreon-only Q&A is up now. This will be the start of season four, which is going to work slightly differently from previous seasons, because of the time off I gave myself. I now have a better idea of how much work I can do in parallel, and I've come to the conclusion that the most sustainable release pattern is going to be two weeks on, one week off, so you'll be getting four episodes every six weeks. I will still release Patreon bonuses on the weeks I don't release a mainline episode. The episodes are going to be written and recorded in batches of four, and the general plan is going to be that every batch of four will have a long episode -- a ninety-minute or two-hour one -- a short half-hour episode, and two other episodes which will probably be about an hour but can vary depending on time constraints. In this batch, episode 151 is going to be the long one, episode 154 the shortest, and the two in the middle will be middling length. So, join us back here in a week, for the ghost of James Dean, a prediction of the future, and the start of the summer of love.
Aug 14, 2022
July 2022 Q&A
While I'm still on hiatus, I invited questions from listeners. This is an hour-long podcast answering some of them. (Another hour-long Q&A for Patreon backers only will go up next week). 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/ There is a Mixcloud of the music excerpted here which can be found at https://www.mixcloud.com/AndrewHickey/500-songs-supplemental-qa-edition/ Click below for a transcript: Hello and welcome to the Q&A  episode I'm doing while I'm working on creating a backlog. I'm making good progress on that, and still hoping and expecting to have episode 151 up some time in early August, though I don't have an exact date yet. I was quite surprised by the response to my request for questions, both at the amount of it and at where it came from. I initially expected to get a fair few comments on the main podcast, and a handful on the Patreon, and then I could do a reasonable-length Q&A podcast from the former and a shorter one from the latter. Instead, I only got a couple of questions on the main episode, but so many on the Patreon that I had to stop people asking only a day or so after posting the request for questions. So instead of doing one reasonable length podcast and one shorter one, I'm actually doing two longer ones. What I'm going to do is do all the questions asked publicly, plus all the questions that have been asked multiple times, in this one, then next week I'm going to put up the more niche questions just for Patreon backers. However, I'm not going to answer *all* of the questions. I got so many questions so quickly that there's not space to answer them all, and several of them were along the lines of "is artist X going to get an episode?" which is a question I generally don't answer -- though I will answer a couple of those if there's something interesting to say about them. But also, there are some I've not answered for another reason. As you may have noticed, I have a somewhat odd worldview, and look at the world from a different angle from most people sometimes. Now there were several questions where someone asked something that seems like a perfectly reasonable question, but contains a whole lot of hidden assumptions that that person hadn't even considered -- about music history, or about the process of writing and researching, or something else. Now, to answer that kind of question at all often means unpacking those hidden assumptions, which can sometimes make for an interesting answer -- after all, a lot of the podcast so far has been me telling people that what they thought they knew about music history was wrong -- but when it's a question being asked by an individual and you answer that way, it can sometimes, frankly, make you look like a horribly unpleasant person, or even a bully. "Don't you even know the most basic things about historical research? I do! You fool! Hey everyone else listening, this person thinks you do research in *this* way, but everyone knows you do it *that* way!" Now, that is never how I would intend such answers to come across -- nobody can be blamed for not knowing what they don't know -- but there are some questions where no matter how I phrased the answer, it came across sounding like that. I'll try to hold those over for future Q&A episodes if I can think of ways of unpicking the answers in such a way that I'm not being unconscionably rude to people who were asking perfectly reasonable questions. Some of the answers that follow might still sound a bit like that to be honest, but if you asked a question and my answer sounds like that to you, please know that it wasn't meant to. There's a lot to get through, so let's begin: Steve from Canada asks: “Which influential artist or group has been the most challenging to get information on in the last 50 podcasts? We know there has been a lot written about the Beatles, Beach Boys, Motown as an entity, the Monkees and the Rolling Stones, but you mentioned in a tweet that there’s very little about some bands like the Turtles, who are an interesting story. I had never heard of Dino Valenti before this broadcast – but he appeared a lot in the last batch – so it got me curious. [Excerpt: The Move, “Useless Information”] In the last fifty episodes there's not been a single one that's made it to the podcast where it was at all difficult to get information. The problem with many of them is that there's *too much* information out there, rather than there not being enough. No matter how many books one reads on the Beatles, one can never read more than a fraction of them, and there's huge amounts of writing on the Rolling Stones, on Hendrix, on the Doors, on the Byrds... and when you're writing about those people, you *know* that you're going to miss out something or get something wrong, because there's one more book out there you haven't read which proves that one of the stories you're telling is false. This is one of the reasons the episodes have got so much longer, and taken so much more time. That wasn't the case in the first hundred episodes -- there were a lot of artists I covered there, like Gene and Eunice, or the Chords, or Jesse Belvin, or Vince Taylor who there's very little information about. And there are some coming up who there's far less information about than people in the last fifty episodes. But every episode since the Beatles has had a surfeit of information. There is one exception -- I wanted to do a full episode on "Rescue Me" by Fontella Bass, because it would be an interesting lens through which to look at how Chess coped with the change in Black musical styles in the sixties. But there was so little information available about her I ended up relegating it to a Patreon bonus episode, because she makes those earlier artists look well-documented. Which leads nicely into the next question. Nora Tillman asks "Forgive this question if you’ve answered it before: is there literally a list somewhere with 500 songs you’ve chosen? Has the list changed since you first composed it? Also, when did you first conceive of this list?" [Excerpt: John Reed and the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, "As Someday it May Happen"] Many people have asked this question, or variations upon it. The answer is yes and no. I made a list when I started that had roughly two hundred songs I knew needed to be on there, plus about the same number again of artists who needed to be covered but whose precise songs I hadn't decided on. To make the initial list I pulled a list out of my own head, and then I also checked a couple of other five-hundred-song lists -- the ones put out by Rolling Stone magazine and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- not because I wanted to use their lists; I have very little time for rock critical orthodoxy, as most of my listeners will likely have realised by now, but because I wanted to double-check that I hadn't missed anything obvious out, and that if I was missing something off their lists, I knew *why* I was missing it. To take a ludicrous example, I wouldn't want to get to the end of the 1960s and have someone say "Wait a minute, what about the Beatles?" and think "I *knew* I'd forgotten something!" Then, at the start of each fifty-episode season, I put together a more rigorous list of the fifty songs coming up, in order. Those lists *can* still change with the research -- for example, very early on in the research for the podcast, I discovered that even though I was completely unfamiliar with "Ko Ko Mo" by Gene and Eunice, it was a hugely important and influential record at the time, and so I swapped that in for another song. Or more recently, I initially intended to have the Doors only have one episode, but when I realised how much I was having to include in that episode I decided to give them a second one. And sometimes things happen the other way -- I planned to do full episodes on Jackie Shane and Fontella Bass, but for both of them I couldn't find enough information to get a decent episode done, so they ended up being moved to Patreon episodes. But generally speaking that fifty-song list for a year's episodes is going to remain largely unchanged. I know where I'm going, I know what most of the major beats of the story are, but I'm giving myself enough flexibility to deviate if I find something I need to include. Connected with this, Rob Johnson asks how I can be confident I'll get back to some stories in later episodes. Well, like I say, I have a pretty much absolute idea of what I'm going to do in the next year, and there are a lot of individual episodes where I know the structure of the episode long before we get to it. As an example here... I don't want to give too much away, and I'm generally not going to be answering questions about "will artist X be appearing?", but Rob also asked about one artist. I can tell you that that artist is one who will not be getting a full episode -- and I already said in the Patreon episode about that artist that they won't -- but as I also said in that episode they *will* get a significant amount of time in another episode, which I now know is going to be 180, which will also deal with another artist from the same state with the same forename, even though it's actually about two English bands. I've had the structure of that episode planned out since literally before I started writing episode one. On the other hand, episode 190 is a song that wasn't originally going to be included at all. I was going to do a 1967 song by the same artist, but then found out that a fact I'd been going to use was disputed, which meant that track didn't need to be covered, but the artist still did, to finish off a story I'd started in a previous episode. Patrick asks:"I am currently in the middle of reading 1971: Never a Dull Moment by David Hepworth and I’m aware that Apple TV have produced a documentary on how music changed that year as well and I was wondering what your opinion on that subject matter? I imagine you will be going into some detail on future podcasts, but until recently I never knew people considered 1971 as a year that brought about those changes." [Excerpt: Rod Stewart, "Angel"] I've not yet read Hepworth's book, but that it's named after an album which came out in 1972 (which is the album that track we just heard came from) says something about how the idea that any one year can in itself be a turning point for music is a little overstated -- and the Apple documentary is based on Hepworth's book, so it's not really multiple people making that argument. Now, as it happens, 1971 is one of the break points for the podcast -- episodes 200 and 201 are both records from July 1971, and both records that one could argue were in their own way signifiers of turning points in rock music history. And as with 1967 it's going to have more than its fair share of records, as it bridges the gap of two seasons. But I think one could make similar arguments for many, many years, and 1971 is  not one of the most compelling cases. I can't say more before I read Hepworth's book, which won't be for a few months yet. I'm instinctively dubious of these "this year was the big year that changed everything" narratives, but Hepworth's a knowledgeable enough writer that I wouldn't want to dismiss his thesis without even reading the book. Roger Pannell asks I’m a fairly recent joiner-in too so you may have answered this before. What is the theme tune to the podcast please. [Excerpt: The Boswell Sisters, “Rock and Roll”] The theme song to the podcast is "Rock and Roll" by the Boswell Sisters. The version I use is not actually the version that was released as a single, but a very similar performance that was used in the film Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round in 1931. I chose it in part because it may well be the first ever record to contain the phrase "rock and roll" (though as I've said many times there's no first anything, and there are certainly many records which talk about rocking and/or rolling -- just none I know of with that phrase) so it evokes rock and roll history, partly because the recording is out of copyright, and partly just because I like the Boswell Sisters. Several people asked questions along the lines of this one from Christopher Burnett "Just curious if there's any future episodes planned on any non-UK or non-North American songs? The bonus episodes on the Mops and Kyu Sakamoto were fascinating." [Excerpt: Kyu Sakamoto, "Sukiyaki"] Sadly, there won't be as many episodes on musicians from outside the UK and North America as I'd like. The focus of the podcast is going to be firmly on British, American, Irish, and Canadian musicians, with a handful from other Anglophone countries like Australia and Jamaica. There *are* going to be a small number of episodes on non-Anglophone musicians, but very few. Sadly, any work of history which engages with injustices still replicates some of those injustices, and one of the big injustices in rock history is that most rock musicians have been very insular, and there has been very little influence from outside the Anglophone world, which means that I can't talk much about influential records made by musicians from elsewhere.  Also, in a lot of cases most of the writing about them is in other languages, and I'm shamefully monolingual (I have enough schoolboy French not to embarrass myself, but not enough to read a biography without a dictionary to hand, and that's it). There *will* be quite a few bonus episodes on musicians from non-Anglophone countries though, because this *is* something that I'm very aware of as a flaw, and if I can find ways of bringing the wider story into the podcast I will definitely do so, even if it means changing my plans somewhat, but I'm afraid they'll largely be confined to Patreon bonuses rather than mainline episodes. Ed Cunard asks "Is there a particular set of songs you're not looking forward to because you don't care for them, but intend to dive into due to their importance?" [Excerpt: Jackie Shane, "Don't Play That Song"] There are several, and there already have been some, but I'm not going to say what they are as part of anything to do with the podcast (sometimes I might talk about how much I hate a particular record on my personal Twitter account or something, but I try not to on the podcast's account, and I'm certainly not going to in an episode of the podcast itself). One of the things I try to do with the podcast is to put the case forward as to why records were important, why people liked them at the time, what they got out of them. I can't do that if I make it about my own personal tastes. I know for a fact that there are people who have come away from episodes on records I utterly despise saying "Wow! I never liked that record before, but I do now!" and that to me shows that I have succeeded -- I've widened people's appreciation for music they couldn't appreciate before. Of course, it's impossible to keep my own tastes from showing through totally, but even there people tend to notice much more my like or dislike for certain people rather than for their music, and I don't feel anything like as bad for showing that. So I have a policy generally of just never saying which records in the list I actually like and which I hate. You'll often be able to tell from things I talk about elsewhere, but I don't want anyone to listen to an episode and be prejudiced not only against the artist but against the episode  by knowing going in that I dislike them, and I also don't want anyone to feel like their favourite band is being given short shrift. There are several records coming up that I dislike myself but where I know people are excited about hearing the episode, and the last thing I want to do is have those people who are currently excited go in disappointed before they even hear it. Matt Murch asks: "Do you anticipate tackling the shift in rock toward harder, more seriously conceptual moves in 1969 into 1970, with acts like Led Zeppelin, The Who (again), Bowie, etc. or lighter soul/pop artists such as Donna Summer, Carly Simon or the Carpenters? Also, without giving too much away, is there anything surprising you've found in your research that you're excited to cover? [Excerpt: Robert Plant, "If I Were a Carpenter"] OK, for the first question... I don't want to say exactly who will and won't be covered in future episodes, because when I say "yes, X will be covered" or "no, Y will not be covered", it invites a lot of follow-up discussion along the lines of "why is X in there and not Y?" and I end up having to explain my working, when the episodes themselves are basically me explaining my working. What I will say is this... the attitude I'm taking towards who gets included and who gets excluded is, at least in part, influenced by an idea in cognitive linguistics called prototype theory. According to this theory, categories aren't strictly bounded like in Aristotelian thought -- things don't have strict essences that mean they definitely are or aren't members of categories. But rather, categories have fuzzy boundaries, and there are things at the centre that are the most typical examples of the category, and things at the border that are less typical. For example, a robin is a very "birdy" bird -- it's very near the centre of the category of bird, it has a lot of birdness -- while an ostrich is still a bird, but much less birdy, it's sort of in the fuzzy boundary area. When you ask people to name a bird, they're more likely to name a robin than an ostrich, and if you ask them “is an ostrich a bird?” they take longer to answer than they do when asked about robins. In the same way, a sofa is nearer the centre of the category of "furniture" than a wardrobe is. Now, I am using an exceptionally wide definition of what counts as rock music, but at the same time, in order for it to be a history of rock music, I do have to spend more time in the centre of the concept than around the periphery. My definition would encompass all the artists you name, but I'm pretty sure that everyone would agree that the first three artists you name are much closer to the centre of the concept of "rock music" than the last three. That's not to say anyone on either list is definitely getting covered or is definitely *not* getting covered -- while I have to spend more time in the centre than the periphery, I do have to spend some time on the periphery, and my hope is to cover as many subgenres and styles as I can -- but that should give an idea of how I'm approaching this. As for the second question -- there's relatively little that's surprising that I've uncovered in my research so far, but that's to be expected. The period from about 1965 through about 1975 is the most over-covered period of rock music history, and so the basic facts for almost every act are very, very well known to people with even a casual interest. For the stuff I'm doing in the next year or so, like the songs I've covered for the last year, it's unlikely that anything exciting will come up until very late in the research process, the times when I'm pulling everything together and notice one little detail that's out of place and pull on that thread and find the whole story unravelling. Which may well mean, of course, that there *are* no such surprising things. That's always a possibility in periods where we're looking at things that have been dealt with a million times before, and this next year may largely be me telling stories that have already been told. Which is still of value, because I'm putting them into a larger context of the already-released episodes, but we'll see if anything truly surprising happens. I certainly hope it does. James Kosmicki asks "Google Podcasts doesn't seem to have any of the first 100 episodes - are they listed under a different name perhaps?" [Excerpt: REM, "Disappear"] I get a number of questions like this, about various podcast apps and sites, and I'm afraid my answer is always the same -- there's nothing I can do about this, and it's something you'd have to take up with the site in question. Google Podcasts picks up episodes from the RSS feed I provide, the same as every other site or app. It's using the right feed, that feed has every episode in it, and other sites and apps are working OK with it. In general, I suggest that rather than streaming sites like Google Podcasts or Stitcher or Spotify, where the site acts as a middleman and they serve the podcast to you from their servers, people should use a dedicated podcast app like RadioPublic or Pocketcasts or gPodder, where rather than going from a library of podcast episodes that some third party has stored, you're downloading the files direct from the original server, but I understand that sometimes those apps are more difficult to use, especially for less tech-savvy people. But generally, if an episode is in some way faulty or missing on the 500songs.com webpage, that's something I can do something about. If it's showing up wrong on Spotify or Google Podcasts or Stitcher or whatever, that's a problem at their end. Sorry. Darren Johnson asks "were there any songs that surprised you? Which one made the biggest change between what you thought you knew and what you learned researching it?" [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Goodbye Surprise"] Well, there have been a few, in different ways. The most surprising thing for me actually was in the most recent episode when I discovered the true story behind the "bigger than Jesus" controversy during my reading. That was a story I'd known one way for my entire life -- literally I think I first read about that story when I was six or seven -- and it turned out that not one thing I'd read on the subject had explained what had really happened. But then there are other things like the story of "Ko Ko Mo", which was a record I wasn't even planning on covering at first, but which turned out to be one of the most important records of the fifties. But I actually get surprised relatively little by big-picture things. I'll often discover fun details or new connections between things I hadn't noticed before, but the basic outlines of the story never change that much -- I've been reading about music history literally since I learned how to read, and while I do a deep dive for each episode, it's very rare that I discover anything that totally changes my perspective. There is always a process of reevaluation going on, and a change in the emphases in my thought, so for example when I started the project I knew Johnny Otis would come up a fair bit in the early years, and knew he was a major figure, but was still not giving him the full credit he deserved in my head. The same goes for Jesse Belvin, and as far as background figures go Lester Sill and Milt Gabler. But all of these were people I already knew were important, i just hadn't connected all the dots in my head. I've also come to appreciate some musicians more than I did previously. But there are very few really major surprises, which is probably to be expected -- I got into this already knowing a *LOT*, because otherwise I wouldn't have thought this was a project I could take on. Tracey Germa -- and I'm sorry, I don't know if that's pronounced with a hard or soft G, so my apologies if I mispronounced it -- asks: "Hi Andrew. We love everything about the podcast, but are especially impressed with the way you couch your trigger warnings and how you embed social commentary into your analysis of the music. You have such a kind approach to understanding human experiences and at the same time you don’t balk at saying the hard things some folks don’t want to hear about their music heroes. So, the question is - where does your social justice/equity/inclusion/suffer no fools side come from? Your family? Your own experiences? School/training?” [Excerpt: Elvis Costello and the Attractions, "Little Triggers"] Well, firstly, I have to say that people do say  this kind of thing to me quite a lot, and I'm grateful when they say it, but I never really feel comfortable with it, because frankly I think I do very close to the absolute minimum, and I get by because of the horribly low expectations our society has for allocishet white men, which means that making even the tiniest effort possible to be a decent human being looks far more impressive by comparison than it actually is. I genuinely think I don't do a very good job of this at all, although I do try, and that's not false modesty there. But to accept the premise of the question for a moment, there are a couple of answers. My parents are both fairly progressive both politically and culturally,  for the time and place where they raised me. They both had strong political convictions, and while they didn't have access to much culture other than what was on TV or in charting records or what have you -- there was no bookshop or record shop in our town, and obviously no Internet back then -- they liked the stuff out of that mix that was forward-thinking, and so was anti-racist, accepting of queerness, and so on. From a very early age, I was listening to things like "Glad to be Gay" by the Tom Robinson Band. So from before I really even understood what those concepts were, I knew that the people I admired thought that homophobia and racism were bad things. I was also bullied a lot at school, because I was autistic and fat and wore glasses and a bunch of other reasons. So I hated bullying and never wanted to be a bully. I get very, very, *very* angry at cruelty and at abuses of power -- as almost all autistic people do, actually. And then, in my twenties and thirties, for a variety of reasons I ended up having a social circle that was predominantly queer and/or disabled and/or people with mental health difficulties. And when you're around people like that, and you don't want to be a bully, you learn to at least try to take their feelings into consideration, though I slipped up a great deal for a long time, and still don't get everything right. So that's the "social justice" side of things. The other side, the "understanding human experiences" side... well, everyone has done awful things at times, and I would hope that none of us would be judged by our worst behaviours. "Use every man to his desert and who should 'scape whipping?" and all that. But that doesn't mean those worst behaviours aren't bad, and that they don't hurt people, and denying that only compounds the injustice. People are complicated, societies are complicated, and everyone is capable of great good and great evil. In general I tend to avoid a lot of the worst things the musicians I talk about did, because the podcast *is* about the music, but when their behaviour affects the music, or when I would otherwise be in danger of giving a truly inaccurate picture of someone, I have to talk about those things. You can't talk about Jerry Lee Lewis without talking about how his third marriage derailed his career, you can't talk about Sam Cooke without talking about his death, and to treat those subjects honestly you have to talk about the reprehensible sides of their character. Of course, in the case of someone like Lewis, there seems to be little *but* a reprehensible side, while someone like Cooke could be a horrible, horrible person, but even the people he hurt the most also loved him dearly because of his admirable qualities. You *have* to cover both aspects of someone like him if you want to be honest, and if you're not going to be honest why bother trying to do history at all? Lester Dragstedt says (and I apologise if I mispronounced that): "I absolutely love this podcast and the perspective you bring. My only niggle is that the sound samples are mixed so low. When listening to your commentary about a song at voice level my fingers are always at the volume knob to turn up when the song comes in." [Excerpt: Bjork, "It's Oh So Quiet"] This is something that gets raised a lot, but it's not something that's ever going to change. When I started the podcast, I had the music levels higher, and got complaints about that, so I started mixing them lower. I then got complaints about *that*, so I did a poll of my Patreon backers to see what they thought, and by about a sixty-forty margin they wanted the levels to be lower, as they are now, rather than higher as they were earlier. Basically, there seem to be two groups of listeners. One group mostly listens with headphones, and doesn't like it when the music gets louder, because it hurts their ears. The other group mostly listens in their cars, and the music gets lost in the engine noise. That's a gross oversimplification, and there are headphone listeners who want the music louder and car listeners who want the music quieter, but the listenership does seem to split roughly that way, and there are slightly more headphone listeners. Now, it's literally *impossible* for me to please everyone, so I've given up trying with this, and it's *not* going to change. Partly because the majority of my backers voted one way, partly because it's just easier to leave things the way they are rather than mess with them given that no matter what I do someone will be unhappy, and partly because both Tilt when he edits the podcast and I when I listen back and tweak his edit are using headphones, and *we* don't want to hurt our ears either. Eric Peterson asks "if we are basically in 1967 that is when we start seeing Country artists like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings - the Man who Survived the Day the Music Died - start to bring more rock songs into their recordings and start to set the ground work in many ways for Country Rock ... how do you envision bringing the role they play in the History of Rock and Roll into the podcast?" [Excerpt: The Del McCoury Band, "Nashville Cats"] I will of course be dealing with country rock as one of the subgenres I discuss -- though there's only one real country-rock track coming up in the next fifty, but there'll be more as I get into the seventies, and there are several artists coming up with at least some country influence. But I won't be looking at straight country musicians like Jennings or Cash except through the lens of rock musicians they inspired -- things like me talking about Johnny Cash briefly in the intro to the "Hey Joe" episode. I think Cocaine and Rhinestones is already doing a better job of covering country music than I ever could, and so those people will only touch the story tangentially. Nili Marcia says: "If one asks a person what's in that room it would not occur to one in 100 to mention the air that fills it. Something so ubiquitous as riff--I don't know what a riff actually is! Will you please define riff, preferably with examples." Now this is something I actually thought I'd explained way back in episode one, and I have a distinct memory of doing so, but I must have cut that part out -- maybe I recorded it so badly that part couldn't be salvaged, which happened sometimes in the early days -- because I just checked and there's no explanation there. I would have come back to this at some point if I hadn't been thinking all along that I'd covered it right at the start, because you're right, it is a term that needs definition. A riff is, simply, a repeated, prominent, instrumental figure. The term started out in jazz, and there it was a term for a phrase that would be passed back and forth between different instruments -- a trumpet might play a phrase, then a saxophone copy it, then back to the trumpet, then back to the saxophone. But quickly it became a term for a repeated figure that becomes the main accompaniment part of a song, over which an instrumentalist might solo or a singer might sing, but which you remember in its own right. A few examples of well-known riffs might include "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple: [Excerpt: Deep Purple, "Smoke on the Water"] "I Feel Fine" by the Beatles: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "I Feel Fine"] "Last Train to Clarksville" by the Monkees: [Excerpt: The Monkees, "Last Train to Clarksville"] The bass part in “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie: [Excerpt: Queen and David Bowie, “Under Pressure”] Or the Kingsmen's version of "Louie Louie": [Excerpt: The Kingsmen, "Louie Louie"] Basically, if you can think of a very short, prominent, instrumental idea that gets repeated over and over, that's a riff. Erik Pedersen says "I love the long episodes and I suspect you do too -- thoroughness. of this kind is something few get the opportunity to do -- but have you ever, after having written a long one, decided to cut them significantly? Are there audio outtakes you might string together one day?" [Excerpt: Bing Crosby and Les Paul, "It's Been a Long, Long Time"] I do like *having* done the long episodes, and sometimes I enjoy doing them, but other times I find it frustrating that an episode takes so long, because there are other stories I want to move on to. I'm trying for more of a balance over the next year, and we'll see how that works out. I want to tell the story in the depth it deserves, and the longer episodes allow me to do that, and to experiment with narrative styles and so on, but I also want to get the podcast finished before I die of old age. Almost every episode has stuff that gets cut, but it's usually in the writing or recording stage -- I'll realise a bit of the episode is boring and just skip it while I'm recording, or I'll cut out an anecdote or something because it looks like it's going to be a flabby episode and I want to tighten it up, or sometimes I'll realise that because of my mild speech impediments a sentence is literally unspeakable, and I'll rework it. It's very, very rare that I'll cut anything once it's been recorded, and if I do it's generally because when I listen back after it's been edited I'll realise I'm repeating myself or I made a mistake and need to cut a sentence because I said the wrong name, that sort of thing. I delete all the audio outtakes, but even if I didn't there would be nothing worth releasing. A few odd, out of context sentences, the occasional paragraph just repeating something I'd already said, a handful of actual incorrect facts, and a lot of me burping, or trying to say a difficult name three times in a row, or swearing when the phone rings in the middle of a long section. Lucy Hewitt says "Something that interests me, and that I’m sure you will cover is how listeners consume music and if that has an impact. In my lifetime we’ve moved from a record player which is fixed in one room to having a music collection with you wherever you go, and from hoping that the song you want to hear might be played on the radio to calling it up whenever you want. Add in the rise of music videos, and MTV, and the way in which people access music has changed a lot over the decades. But has that affected the music itself?" [Excerpt: Bow Wow Wow "C30 C60 C90 Go!"] It absolutely has affected the music itself in all sorts of ways, some of which I've touched on already and some of which I will deal with as we go through the story, though the story I'm telling will end around the time of Napster and so won't involve streaming services and so forth. But every technology change leads to a change in the sound of music in both obvious and non-obvious ways. When AM radio was the most dominant form of broadcasting, there was no point releasing singles in stereo, because at that time there were no stereo AM stations. The records also had to be very compressed, so the sound would cut through the noise and interference. Those records would often be very bass-heavy and have a very full, packed, sound. In the seventies, with the rise of eight-track players, you'd often end up with soft-rock and what would later get termed yacht rock having huge success. That music, which is very ethereal and full of high frequencies, is affected less negatively by some of the problems that came with eight-track players, like the tape stretching slightly. Then post-1974 and the OPEC oil crisis, vinyl became more expensive, which meant that records started being made much thinner, which meant you couldn't cut grooves as deeply, which meant you lost bass response, which again changed the sound of records – and also explains why when CDs came out, people started thinking they sounded better than records, because they *did* sound better than the stuff that was being pressed in the late seventies and early eighties, which was so thin it was almost transparent, even though they sounded nowhere near as good as the heavy vinyl pressings of the fifties and sixties. And then the amount of music one could pack into a CD encouraged longer tracks... A lot of eighties Hi-NRG and dance-pop music, like the records made by Stock, Aitken, and Waterman, has almost no bass but lots of skittering high-end percussion sounds -- tons of synthesised sleighbells and hi-hats and so on -- because a lot of disco equipment had frequency-activated lights, and the more high-end stuff was going on, the more the disco lights flashed... We'll look at a lot of these changes as we go along, but every single new format, every new way of playing an old format, every change in music technology, changes what music gets made quite dramatically. Lucas Hubert asks: “Black Sabbath being around the corner, how do you plan on dealing with Heavy Metal? I feel like for now, what is popular and what has had a big impact in Rock history coincide. But that kind of change with metal, no? (Plus, prog and metal are more based on albums than singles, I think.)” [Excerpt: Black Sabbath, “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”] I plan on dealing with metal the same way I've been dealing with every other subgenre. We are, yes, getting into a period where influence and commercial success don't correlate quite as firmly as they did in the early years -- though really we've already been there for quite some time. I've done two episodes so far on the Byrds, a group who only had three top-twenty singles in the US and two in the UK, but only did a bonus episode on Herman's Hermits, who had fourteen in the US and seventeen in the UK. I covered Little Richard but didn't cover Pat Boone, even though Boone had the bigger hits with Richard's songs. In every subgenre there are going to be massive influences who had no hits, and people who had lots of hits but didn't really make much of a wider impact on music, and I'll be dealing with the former more than the latter. But also, I'll be dealing most with people who were influential *and* had lots of hits -- if nothing else because while influence and chart success aren't a one-to-one correlation, they're still somewhat correlated. So it's unlikely you'll see me cover your favourite Scandinavian Black Metal band who only released one album of which every copy was burned in a mysterious fire two days after release, but you can expect most of the huge names in metal to be covered. Though even there, simply because of the number of subgenres I'm going to cover, I'm going to miss some big ones. Related to the question about albums, Svennie asks “This might be a bit of a long winded question so just stick with me here. As the music you cover becomes more elaborate, and the albums become bigger in scale, how do you choose a song which you build the story around while also telling the story of that album? I ask this specifically with the White Album in mind, where you’ve essentially got four albums in one. To that end, what song would you feel defines the White Album?” [Excerpt: The Beatles, “Revolution #9”] Well, you'll see how I cover the White Album in episode one hundred and seventy-two -- we're actually going to have quite a long stretch with no Beatles songs covered because I'm going to backfill a lot of 1967 and then we're getting to the Beatles again towards the end of 1968, but it'll be another big one when we get there. But in the general case... the majority of albums to come still had singles released off them, and a lot of what I'm going to be looking at in the next year or two is still hit singles, even if the singles are by people known as album bands. Other times, a song wasn't a single, but maybe it was covered by someone else -- if I know I'm going to cover a rock band and I also know that one of the soul artists who would do rock covers as album tracks did a version of one of their songs, and I'm going to cover that soul artist, say, then if I do the song that artist covered I can mention it in the episode on the soul singer and tie the two episodes together a bit. In other cases there's a story behind a particular track that's more interesting than other tracks, or the track is itself a cover version of someone else's record, which lets me cover both artists in a single episode, or it's the title track of the album. A lot of people have asked me this question about how I'd deal with albums as we get to the late sixties and early seventies, but looking at the list of the next fifty episodes, there's actually only two where I had to think seriously about which song I chose from an album -- in one case, I chose the title track, in the other case I just chose the first song on the album (though in that case I may end up choosing another song from the same album if I end up finding a way to make that a more interesting episode). The other forty-eight were all very, very obvious choices. Gary Lucy asks “Do you keep up with contemporary music at all? If so, what have you been enjoying in 2022 so far…and if not, what was the most recent “new” album you really got into?” [Excerpt: Stew and the Negro Problem, "On the Stage of a Blank White Page"] I'm afraid I don't. Since I started doing the podcast, pretty much all of my listening time has been spent on going back to much older music, and even before that, when I was listening to then-new music it was generally stuff that was very much inspired by older music, bands like the Lemon Twigs, who probably count as the last new band I really got into with their album Do Hollywood, which came out in 2016 but which I think I heard in 2018. I'm also now of that age where 2018 seems like basically yesterday, and when I keep thinking "what relatively recent albums have I liked?" I think of things like The Reluctant Graveyard by Jeremy Messersmith, which is from 2010, or Ys by Joanna Newsom, which came out in 2006. Not because I haven't bought records released since then, but because my sense of time is so skewed that summer 1994 and summer 1995 feel like epochs apart, hugely different times in every way, but every time from about 2005 to 2020 is just "er... a couple of years ago? Maybe?" So without going through every record I've bought in the last twenty years and looking at the release date I couldn't tell you what still counts as contemporary and what's old enough to vote. I have recently listened a couple of times to an album by a band called Wet Leg, who are fairly new, but other than that I can't say. But probably the most recent albums to become part of my regular listening rotation are two albums which came out simultaneously in 2018 by Stew and the Negro Problem, Notes of a Native Song, which is a song cycle about James Baldwin and race in America, and The Total Bent, which is actually the soundtrack to a stage musical, and which I think many listeners to the podcast might find interesting, and which is what that last song excerpt was taken from. It's basically a riff on the idea of The Jazz Singer, but set in the Civil Rights era, and about a young politically-radical Black Gospel songwriter who writes songs for his conservative preacher father to sing, but who gets persuaded to become a rock and roll performer by a white British record producer who fetishises Black music. It has a *lot* to say about religion, race, and politics in America -- a couple of the song titles, to give you some idea, are "Jesus Ain't Sitting in the Back of the Bus" and "That's Why He's Jesus and You're Not, Whitey". It's a remarkable album, and it deals with enough of the same subjects I've covered here that I think any listeners will find it interesting. Unfortunately, it was released through the CDBaby store, which closed down a few months later, and unlike most albums released through there it doesn't seem to have made its way onto any of the streaming platforms or digital stores other than Apple Music, which rather limits its availability. I hope it comes out again soon. Alec Dann says “I haven't made it to the Sixties yet so pardon if you have covered this: what was the relationship between Sun and Stax in their heyday? Did musicians work in both studios?” [Excerpt: Booker T. and the MGs, "Green Onions"] I've covered this briefly in a couple of the episodes on Stax, but the short version is that Sun was declining just as Stax was picking up. Jim Stewart, who founded Stax, was inspired in part by Sam Phillips, and there was a certain amount of cross-fertilisation, but not that much. Obviously Rufus Thomas recorded for both labels, and there were a few other connections -- Billy Lee Riley, for example, who I did an episode on for his Sun work, also recorded at the Stax studio before going on to be a studio musician in LA, and it was actually at a Billy Lee Riley session that went badly that Booker T and the MGs recorded "Green Onions". Also, Sun had a disc-cutting machine and Stax didn't, so when they wanted to get an acetate cut to play for DJs they'd take it to Sun -- it was actually Scotty Moore, who was working for Sun as a general engineer and producer as well as playing RCA Elvis sessions by 1962, who cut the first acetate copy of "Green Onions". But in general the musicians playing at Stax were largely the next generation of musicians -- people who'd grown up listening to the records Sam Phillips had put out in the very early fifties by Black musicians, and with very little overlap. Roger Stevenson asks "This project is going to take the best part of 7 years to complete. Do you have contingency plans in case of major problems? And please look after yourself - this project is gong to be your legacy." [Excerpt: Bonzo Dog Doodah Band, "Button Up Your Overcoat"] I'm afraid there's not much I can do if major problems come up -- by major problems I'm talking about things that prevent me from making the podcast altogether, like being unable to think or write or talk. By its nature, the podcast is my writing and my research and my voice, and if I can't do those things... well, I can't do them. I *am* trying to build in some slack again -- that's why this month off has happened -- so I can deal with delays and short-term illnesses and other disruptions, but if it becomes impossible to do it becomes impossible to do, and there's nothing more I can do about it. Mark Lipson asks "I’d like to know which episodes you’ve released have been the most & least popular? And going forward, which episodes do you expect to be the most popular? Just curious to know what music most of your listeners listen to and are interested in." [Excerpt: Sly and the Family Stone, "Somebody's Watching You"] I'm afraid I honestly don't know. Most podcasters have extensive statistical tools available to them, which tell them which episodes are most popular, what demographics are listening to the podcast, where they are in the world, and all that kind of thing. They use that information to sell advertising spots, which is how they make most of their money. You can say "my podcast is mostly listened to by seventy-five year-olds who google for back pain relief -- the perfect demographic for your orthopedic mattresses" or "seven thousand people who downloaded my latest episode also fell for at least one email claiming to be from the wallet inspector last year, so my podcast is listened to by the ideal demographic for cryptocurrency investment". Now, I'm lucky enough to be making enough money from my Patreon supporters' generosity that I don't have to sell advertising, and I hope I never do have to. I said at the very start of the process that I would if it became necessary, but that I hoped to keep it ad-free, and people have frankly been so astonishingly generous I should never have to do ads -- though I do still reserve the right to change my mind if the support drops off. Now, my old podcast host gave me access to that data as standard. But when I had to quickly change providers, I decided that I wasn't going to install any stats packages to keep track of people. I can see a small amount of information about who actually visits the website, because wordpress.com gives you that information – not your identities but just how many people come from which countries, and what sites linked them. But if you're downloading the podcast through a podcast app, or listening through Spotify or Stitcher or wherever, I've deliberately chosen not to access that data. I don't need to know who my audience is, or which episodes they like the most -- and if I did, I have a horrible feeling I'd start trying to tailor the podcast to be more like what the existing listeners like, and by doing so lose the very things that make it unique. Once or twice a month I'll look at the major podcast charts, I check the Patreon every so often to see if there's been a massive change in subscriber numbers, but other than that I decided I'm just not going to spy on my listeners (though pretty much every other link in the chain does, I'm afraid, because these days the entire Internet is based on spying on people). So the only information I have is the auto-generated "most popular episodes" thing that comes up on the front page, which everyone can see, and which shows the episodes people who actually visit the site are listening to most in the last few days, but which doesn't count anything from more than a few days ago, and which doesn't count listens from any other source, and which I put there basically so new listeners can see which ones are popular. At the moment that's showing that the most listened episodes recently are the two most recent full episodes -- "Respect" and "All You Need is Love" -- the most recent of the Pledge Week episodes, episodes one and two, so people are starting at the beginning, and right now there's also the episodes on "Ooby Dooby", "Needles and Pins", "God Only Knows", "She Loves You" and "Hey Joe". But in a couple of days' time those last five will be totally different. And again, that's just the information from people actually visiting the podcast website. I've deliberately chosen not to know what people listening in any other way are doing -- so if you've decided to just stream that bit of the Four Tops episode where I do a bad Bob Dylan impression five thousand times in a row, you can rest assured I have no idea you're doing it and your secret is totally safe. Anyway, that's all I have time for in this episode. In a week or so I'll post a similar-length episode for Patreon backers only, and then a week or two after that the regular podcast will resume, with a story involving folk singers, jazz harmony, angelic visitations and the ghost of James Dean. See you then.
Jul 30, 2022
PLEDGE WEEK: “You’re Gonna Miss Me” by The Thirteenth Floor Elevators
This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to patreon.com/andrewhickey and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript Just a note before I begin, this episode deals with mental illness and with the methods, close to torture, used to treat it in the middle of the last century, so anyone for whom that's a delicate subject may want to skip this one. There's a term that often gets used about some musicians, "outsider music", and it's a term that I'm somewhat uncomfortable with. It's a term that gets applied to anyone eccentric, whether someone like Jandek who releases his own albums through mail order and just does his own thing, or someone like Hasil Adkins who made wild rockabilly music, or an entertainer like Tiny Tim who had a bizarre but consistent view of showbusiness, or a band like the Shaggs who were just plain incompetent, or people like Wesley Willis or Wild Man Fischer who had serious mental health problems. The problem with the term is that it erases these differences, and that it assumes that the most interesting thing about the music is the person behind it. It also erases talent, especially in the case of mentally ill artists. There are several mutually incompatible assumptions about creative artists who have mental health problems. One is that their music should be treated like a freak show, and either appreciated for that reason (if you're someone who gets their entertainment from someone else's suffering) or disdained (if you don't want to do that). Other people think that the mental illness *makes* the music, that great art comes from mental health problems, while yet others will argue that someone's art has nothing at all to do with their mental health, and is not influenced by it in any way. All of these positions are, of course, wrong. Mental illness doesn't stop someone from making great art -- except when it takes away the ability to make art at all of course -- people like Brian Wilson or Vincent Van Gogh are testament to that, and their best work has nothing to do with a freak show. But nor does it grant the ability to make great art. Someone with no musical talent who develops schizophrenia just becomes a schizophrenic person with no musical talent. But to say that mental illness doesn't affect the work is also nonsense. Everything about someone's life affects their art, especially something as important as their mental health. And the real problem with these labels comes with those artists who don't manage to develop a substantial body of work before their illness sets in. Those with real musical talent, but who end up getting put in the outsider artist bucket because their work is so obviously affected by their illness. And one of those is Roky Erickson, of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators. Erickson started his career aged fifteen with a group based in Austin, Texas, called the Spades -- and I hope that this wasn't intended as a racial slur, as the word was sometimes used at this time. Their first single, "We Sell Soul", released in 1965, shows the clear influence of "Gloria" by Them: [Excerpt: The Spades, "We Sell Soul"] That was a regional hit, and so their second single, the first song that Erickson had ever written, was recorded in the same style: [Excerpt: The Spades, "You're Gonna Miss Me"] But by December 1965, Erickson had left the Spades, and joined Stacy Sutherland, Benny Thurman, and John Ike Walton, the members of another band called the Lingsmen. They were joined by a fifth man, Tommy Hall, who became the band's lyricist, liner-note writer, and general spokesman, and who played an electric jug, creating an effect somewhere between bubbling and a wobble board. Hall started calling the group's music "psychedelic rock" in late 1965 after being influenced by Timothy Leary, and I've seen some people say he was the first person ever to use the term. The group released a rerecorded version of "You're Gonna Miss Me" on a small local label: [Excerpt: The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, "You're Gonna Miss Me"] That was released in January 1966, and later picked up by a larger label, International Artists, which was the home of a lot of Texan psychedelic bands, like the Golden Dawn and the Red Crayola. It spent most of the year slowly climbing the charts, eventually reaching number fifty-five -- the highest chart position the group would ever have. It was included on their debut album, The Psychedelic Sounds of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, released towards the end of the year, by which time Thurman had been replaced by Ronnie Leatherman on bass. The album's liner notes were written by Hall and had a large amount of advocacy for the use of psychedelic drugs -- as did the music itself, though some of this was a little more subtle, like the song "Fire Engine", where the line "let me take you to the empty place" was meant to sound like "DMT place", DMT being a psychedelic drug: [Excerpt: The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, "Fire Engine"] Around this time, the band crossed paths with Janis Joplin, who was a big fan of the group and who they tried to get to join them, but Joplin decided to move to California instead. Tommy Hall was a huge advocate for both the potential of LSD to open people's minds, and of the general semantics of Alfred Korzybski, and his enthusiasm for both showed up on the group's second album. Unfortunately, not all of the group were of quite the same mind, and Leatherman and Walton left early in the sessions for that album, Easter Everywhere, which was considered not quite up to the standards of the previous album, though Erickson and Hall's eight-minute long "Slip Inside This House" is a favourite of most of the fans. [Excerpt: The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, "Slip Inside This House"] Unfortunately, the band started to disintegrate. The core of Erickson, Hall, and Sutherland remained together, but various bass players and drummers came and went -- though one of the band's rhythm sections, Duke Davis and Danny Thomas, was good enough that the band's label got them to back Lightnin' Hopkins on his album Free Form Patterns. According to reports I've read, Davis and Thomas were both on acid during the session, but they still play solidly throughout: [Excerpt: Lightnin' Hopkins, "Give Me Time to Think"] Another potential bass player at this point was a roommate of Erickson's, who Erickson tried to get into the band but who Hall turned down. Townes Van Zandt later went on to rather bigger things. Erickson also started to have some mental problems -- apparently taking LSD literally every day for years is not great for you. And when he was arrested for marijuana possession, he decided to use his mental health as a way to get out of a potential ten-year jail sentence, by getting three years in a psychiatric hospital instead. He later claimed that he was lying about his problems and acting mad to get this sentence, but he had been having problems before then. Hall and Sutherland and their current rhythm section finished up a few demos, and the record label put out one final album made up of outtakes, plus a faked live album with crowd noise overdubbed on some earlier studio recordings, but with their lead singer in hospital for three years the band split up. Hall became a Scientologist and quit the music industry altogether. If Erickson *was* faking his illness when he went into the hospital, he wasn't faking it by the time he came out. Psychiatric medicine was still in its infancy then. It's far from wonderful today, but at least in general you can be relatively sure that the treatment won't make you worse. That wasn't the case in the late sixties and early seventies, and Erickson was forced through multiple sessions of electro-shock therapy. (To be clear, electro-shock therapy can sometimes be effective for some conditions when done properly and with the patient's consent. This wasn't either.) When Erickson finally got out, he tried to put his life back together, and formed a new band called Bleib Alien, later renamed Roky Erickson and the Aliens, who made hard rock records with lyrics about science fiction and horror themes like zombies, fire demons, medical experimentation, and two-headed dogs: [Excerpt: Roky Erickson and the Aliens, "Two-Headed Dog"] Erickson became a cult artist, cited as an influence by everyone from Henry Rollins to ZZ Top, and intermittently released recordings for the next few decades, but he spent much of the time dealing with severe, untreated, schizophrenia. There are many stories about this time that get shared, and are easy to find online, but which I'm not going to repeat here because they tend to be shared in a freak-show manner. But by 2001 he was placed in the legal custody of his brother . This kind of situation is often abused, but in Erickson's case it seems to have done him good. His brother got him legal and medical help, and helped him start finally receiving royalties on some of his records. There was a one-off fiftieth anniversary reunion of most of the living original members of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, and in 2010 Erickson released his finest album, a collaboration with the band Okkervil River, True Love Cast Out All Evil: [Excerpt: Roky Erickson and Okkervil River, "Ain't Blues Too Bad"] By all accounts the last years of Erickson's life were happier and more comfortable than any he'd had. He got to tour the world, playing for appreciative crowds, he got his schizophrenia under control, and he was able to live a relatively independent life, and to know that new generations of musicians admired his work. He died in 2019, aged seventy-one.
Jul 16, 2022
Pledge Week: “Rescue Me” by Fontella Bass

This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to patreon.com/andrewhickey and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear.

Click below for the transcript


Today we're going to look at a record which I actually originally intended to do a full episode on, but by an artist about whom there simply isn't enough information out there to pull together a full episode -- though some of this information will show up in other contexts in future episodes. So we're going to have a Patreon bonus episode on one of the great soul-pop records of the mid 1960s -- "Rescue Me" by Fontella Bass:

[Excerpt: Fontella Bass, "Rescue Me"]

Fontella Bass was actually a second-generation singer. Her mother, Martha Bass, was a great gospel singer, who had been trained by Willie Mae Ford Smith, who was often considered the greatest female gospel singer of the twentieth century but who chose only to perform live and on the radio rather than make records. Martha Bass had sung for a short time with the Clara Ward Singers, one of the most important and influential of gospel groups:

[Excerpt: The Clara Ward Singers, "Wasn't It A Pity How They Punished My Lord?"]

Fontella had been trained by her mother, but she got her start in secular music rather than the gospel music her mother stuck to. She spent much of the early sixties working as a piano player and singer in the band of Little Milton, the blues singer. I don't know exactly which records of his she's on, but she was likely on his top twenty R&B hit "So Mean to Me":

[Excerpt: Little Milton, "So Mean to Me"]

One night, Little Milton didn't turn up for a show, and so Bass was asked to take the lead vocals until he arrived. Milton's bandleader Oliver Sain was impressed with her voice, and when he quit working with Milton the next year, he took Bass with him, starting up a new act, "The Oliver Sain Soul Revue featuring Fontella and Bobby McClure". She signed to Bobbin Records, where she cut "I Don't Hurt Any More", a cover of an old Hank Snow country song, in 1962:

[Excerpt: Fontella Bass, "I Don't Hurt Any More"]

After a couple of records with Bobbin, she signed up with Ike Turner, who by this point was running a couple of record labels. She released a single backed by the Ikettes, "My Good Loving":

[Excerpt: Fontella Bass, "My Good Loving"]

And a duet with Tina Turner, "Poor Little Fool":

[Excerpt: Fontella Bass and Tina Turner, "Poor Little Fool"]

At the same time she was still working with Sain and McClure, and Sain's soul revue got signed to Checker records, the Chess subsidiary, which was now starting to make soul records, usually produced by Roquel Davis, Berry Gordy's former collaborator, and written or co-written by Carl Smith. These people were also working with Jackie Wilson at Brunswick, and were part of the same scene as Carl Davis, the producer who had worked with Curtis Mayfield, Major Lance, Gene Chandler and the rest. So this was a thriving scene -- not as big as the scenes in Memphis or Detroit, but definitely a group of people who were capable of making big soul hits. 

Bass and McClure recorded a couple of duo singles with Checker, starting with "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing":

[Excerpt: Fontella Bass and Bobby McClure, "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing"]

That made the top forty on the pop charts, and number five on the R&B charts. But the follow-up only made the R&B top forty and didn't make the pop charts at all. But Bass would soon release a solo recording, though one with prominent backing vocals by Minnie Ripperton, that would become one of the all-time soul classics -- a Motown soundalike that was very obviously patterned after the songs that Holland, Dozier, and Holland were writing, and which captured their style perfectly:

[Excerpt: Fontella Bass, "Rescue Me"]

There's some dispute as to who actually wrote "Rescue Me". The credited songwriters are Carl Smith and Raynard Miner, but Bass has repeatedly claimed that she wrote most of the song herself, and that Roquel Davis had assured her that she would be fairly compensated, but she never was. According to Bass, when she finally got her first royalty cheque from Chess, she was so disgusted at the pitiful amount of money she was getting that she tore the cheque up and threw it back across the desk.

Her follow-up to "Rescue Me", "Recovery", didn't do so well, making the lower reaches of the pop top forty:

[Excerpt: Fontella Bass, "Recovery"]

Several more singles were released off Bass' only album on Chess, but she very quickly became disgusted with the whole mainstream music industry. By this point she'd married the avant-garde jazz trumpeter Lester Bowie, and she started performing with his group, the Art Ensemble of Chicago. The music she recorded with the group is excellent, but if anyone bought The Art Ensemble of Chicago With Fontella Bass, the first of the two albums she recorded with the group, expecting something like "Rescue Me", they were probably at the very least bemused by what they got -- two twenty-minute-long tracks that sound like this:

[Excerpt: The Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass: "How Strange/Ole Jed"]

In between the two albums she recorded with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Bass also recorded a second solo album, but after it had little success she largely retired from music to raise her four children, though she would make the odd guest appearance on her husband's records. In the 1990s she made a few gospel records with her mother and her younger brother, the R&B singer David Peaston, and toured a little both on the nostalgia circuit and performing gospel, but she never returned to being a full-time musician. Both she and her brother died in 2012, Peaston from complications of diabetes, Bass from a heart attack after a series of illnesses.

"Rescue Me" was her only big hit, and she retired at a point when she was still capable of making plenty of interesting music, but Fontella Bass still had a far more interesting, and fulfilling, career than many other artists who continue trying to chase the ghost of their one hit. She made music on her own terms, and nobody else's, right up until the end.

Jul 15, 2022
PLEDGE WEEK: “I’m Henry VIII I Am” by Herman’s Hermits
This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to patreon.com/andrewhickey and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript Today's backer-only episode is an extra-long one -- it runs about as long as some of the shorter main episodes -- but it also might end up containing material that gets repeated in the main podcast at some point, because a lot of British rock and pop music gets called, often very incorrectly, music-hall, and so the subject of the music halls is one that may well have to be explained in a future episode. But today we're going to look at one of the very few pop hits of the sixties that is incontrovertibly based in the music-hall tradition -- Herman's Hermits singing "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am": [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am"] The term "music hall" is one that has been widely misused over the years. People talk about it as being a genre of music, when it's anything but. Rather, the music hall -- which is the British equivalent of the American vaudeville -- was the most popular form of entertainment, first under that name and then under the name "variety", for more than a century, only losing its popularity when TV and rock-and-roll between them destroyed the market for it. Even then, TV variety shows rooted in the music hall continued, explicitly until the 1980s, with The Good Old Days, and implicitly until the mid-1990s. As you might imagine, for a form of entertainment that lasted over a hundred years, there's no such thing as "music-hall music" as a singular thing, any more than there exists a "radio music" or a "television music". Many music-hall acts were non-musical performers -- comedians, magicians, acrobats, and so forth -- but among those who did perform music, there were all sorts of different styles included, from folk song to light opera, to ragtime, and especially minstrel songs -- the songs of Stephen Foster were among the very first transatlantic hits. We obviously don't have any records from the first few decades of the music hall, but we do have sheet music, and we know that the first big British hit song was "Champagne Charlie", originally performed by George Leybourne, and here performed by Derek B Scott, a professor of critical musicology at the university of Leeds: [Excerpt: Derek B. Scott, "Champagne Charlie"] If you've ever heard the phrase "the Devil has all the best tunes", that song is why. William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, set new lyrics to it and made it into a hymn, and when asked why, he replied "Why should the Devil have all the good tunes?" The phrase had been used earlier, but it was Booth who popularised it. "Champagne Charlie" also has rather morbid associations, because it was sung by the crowd at the last public execution in Britain, so it often gets used in horror and mystery films set in Victorian London, so chances are if you recognised the song it's because you've heard it in a film about Jack the Ripper or Jekyll and Hyde. But the music hall, like all popular entertainment, demanded a whole stream of new material. The British Tin Pan Alley publishers and songwriters who wrote much of the early British rock and roll we've looked at started out in music hall, and almost every British popular song up until the rise of jazz, and most after that until the fifties, was performed in the music halls. We do have recordings from the later part of the music-hall era, of course, and they show what a wide variety of music was performed there, from pitch-black comedy songs like "Murders", by George Grossmith, the son of the co-writer of Diary of a Nobody: [Excerpt: George Grossmith, "Murders"] To sing-along numbers like "Waiting at the Church" by Vesta Victoria: [Excerpt: Vesta Victoria, "Waiting at the Church"] And one of the most-recorded music-hall performers, Harry Champion, a London performer who sang very wordy songs, at a fast tempo, usually with a hornpipe rhythm and often about food, like "A Little Bit of Cucumber" or his most famous song "Boiled Beef and Carrots": [Excerpt: Harry Champion, "Boiled Beef and Carrots"] But one that wasn't about food, and was taken a bit slower than his normal patter style, was "I'm Henry the VIII I Am": [Excerpt: Harry Champion, "I'm Henry VIII, I Am"] (Incidentally, the song as written on the sheet music has "Henery" rather than "Henry", and most people sing it "Enery", but the actual record by Champion uses "Henry" on the label, as does the Hermits' version, so that's what I'm going with). Fifty years after Champion, the song was recorded by Joe Brown. We've talked about Brown before in the main podcast, but for those of you who don't remember, he's one of the best British rock and roll musicians of the fifties, and still performing today, and he has a real love of pre-war pop songs, and he would perform them regularly with his band, the Bruvvers. Those of you who've heard the Beatles performing "Sheikh of Araby" on their Decca audition, they're copying Brown's version of that song -- George Harrison was a big fan of Brown. Brown's version of "I'm Henry the Eighth I Am" gave it a rock and roll beat, and dropped the verse, leaving only the refrain: [Excerpt: Joe Brown and the Bruvvers, "I'm Henry the Eighth I Am"] Enter Herman's Hermits, four years later. In 1964, Herman's Hermits, a beat group from Manchester led by singer Peter Noone, had signed with Mickie Most and had a UK number one with "I'm Into Something Good", a Goffin and King song originally written for Earl-Jean of the Cookies: [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "I'm Into Something Good"] That would be their only UK number one, though they'd have several more top ten hits over here. It only made number thirteen in the US, but their second US single (not released as a single over here), "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat", went to number two in the States. From that point on, the group's career would diverge enormously between the US and the UK -- half their US hits were never released as singles in the UK, and vice versa. Several records, like their cover version of Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World", were released in both countries, but in general they went in two very different directions. In the UK they tended to release fairly normal beat-group records like "No Milk Today", written by Graham Gouldman, who was also writing hits for the Yardbirds and the Hollies: [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "No Milk Today"] That only charted in the US when it was later released as a B-side. Meanwhile, in the US, they pursued a very different strategy. Since the "British Invasion" was a thing, and so many British bands were doing well in the States partly because of the sheer novelty of them being British, Herman's Hermits based their career on appealing to American Anglophiles. This next statement might be a little controversial, even offensive to some listeners, so I apologise, but it's the truth. There is a large contingent of people in America who genuinely believe that they love Britain and British things, but who have no actual idea what British culture is actually like. They like a version of Britain that has been constructed entirely from pop-culture aimed at an American market, and have a staggeringly skewed vision of what Britain is actually like, one that is at best misguided and at worst made up of extremely offensive stereotypes. People who think they know all about the UK because they've spent a week going round a handful of tourist traps in central London and they've watched every David Tennant episode of Doctor Who. (Please note that I am not, here, engaging in reflex anti-Americanism, as so many British people do on this topic, because I know very well that there is an equally wrong kind of British person who worships a fictional America which has nothing to do with the real country -- as any American who has come over to the UK and seen cans of hot dog sausages in brine with "American style" and an American flag on the label will shudderingly attest. Fetishising of a country not one's own exists in every culture, and about every culture, whether it's American weebs who think they know about Japan or British Communists who were insistent that the Soviet Union under Stalin was a utopia). For their US-only singles, most of which were massive hits, Herman's Hermits played directly to that audience. The group's first single in this style was "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter", written by the actor Trevor Peacock, now best known for playing Jim in The Vicar of Dibley, but at the time best known as a songwriter for groups like the Vernons Girls and  for writing linking material for Six-Five Special and Oh Boy! That song was written for a TV play and originally performed by the actor Tom Courtenay: [Excerpt: Tom Courtenay, "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter"] The Hermits copied Courtenay's record closely, down to Noone imitating Courtenay's vocals: [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter"] That became their first US number one, and the group went all-in on appealing to that particular market. Noone started singing, not in the pseudo-American style that, say, Mick Jagger sings in (and early-sixties Jagger is a perfect example of the British equivalent of those American Anglophiles, loving but not understanding Black America), and not in his own Manchester accent, but in a faked Cockney accent, doing what is essentially a bad impersonation of Anthony Newley. (Davy Jones, who like Noone was a Mancunian who had started his career in the Manchester-set soap opera Coronation Street, was also doing the same thing at the time, in his performances as the Artful Dodger in the Broadway version of Oliver! -- we'll talk more about Jones in future episodes of the main podcast, but he, like Noone, was someone who was taking aim at this market.) Noone's faked accent varied a lot, sometimes from syllable to syllable, and on records like "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter" and the Hermits' version of the old George Formby song "Leaning on a Lamp Post" he sounds far more Northern than on other songs -- fitting into a continuum of Lancashire novelty performers that stretched at least from Formby's father, George Formby senior, all the way to Frank Sidebottom. But on the Hermits' version of "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am", Noone is definitely trying to sound as London as he can, and he and the group copy Joe Brown's arrangement: [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "I'm Henry the Eighth I Am"] That also became an American number one, and Herman's Hermits had truly found their niche. They spent the next three years making an odd mixture of catchy pop songs by writers like Graham Gouldman or PF Sloan, which became UK hits, and the very different type of music typified by "I'm Henry the Eighth I Am". Eventually, though, musical styles changed, and the group stopped having hits in either country. Peter Noone left the group in 1971, and they made some unsuccessful records without him before going on to the nostalgia circuit. Noone's solo career started relatively successfully, with a version of David Bowie's "Oh! You Pretty Things", backed by Bowie and the Spiders From Mars: [Excerpt: Peter Noone, "Oh! You Pretty Things"] That made the top twenty in the UK, but Noone had no further solo success. These days, there are two touring versions of Herman's Hermits -- in the US, Noone has toured as "Herman's Hermits featuring Peter Noone", with no other original members, since the 1980s. Drummer Barry Whitwham and lead guitarist Derek Leckenby kept the group going in the rest of the world until Leckenby's death in 1994 -- since then Whitwham has toured as Herman's Hermits without any other original members. Herman's Hermits may not have the respect that some of their peers had, but they had incredible commercial success at their height, made some catchy pop records, and became the first English group to realise there was a specific audience of Anglophiles in the US that they could market to. Without that, much of the subsequent history of music might have been very different.
Jul 14, 2022
PLEDGE WEEK: “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James and the Shondells
This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to patreon.com/andrewhickey and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript In today's main episode we look at the career of Bobby Fuller, who many have speculated died because of in some way upsetting the Mafia. So in this bonus episode we're going to look at someone who had a much longer, more successful, career, and did so because he managed *not* to upset the Mafia. We're going to look at the involvement of Morris Levy in the birth of bubblegum, and at "Hanky Panky" by Tommy James and the Shondells: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "Hanky Panky"] The original lineup of the Shondells started out when Tommy James was only twelve years old, and still going by his birth name Tommy Jackson. They performed for three years under various names before, in 1962, recording their first single, "Long Pony Tail", under the name Tom and the Tornadoes: [Excerpt: Tom and the Tornadoes, "Long Pony Tail"] That was actually a cover version of a song originally recorded by the Fireballs, a group that Norman Petty had produced a couple of minor hits for at that point, and who would go on to have a number one with "Sugar Shack", but who are now best known for being the group that Petty got to overdub new instrumental backing on Buddy Holly's acoustic demos so he could keep releasing posthumous hits. "Long Pony Tail" was not a hit, and soon the group had changed their name to the Shondells, inspired by the local one-hit wonder Troy Shondell, who had had a hit with "This Time": [Excerpt: Troy Shondell, "This Time"] The group continued making records on tiny labels with no promotional budget for several years, until they recorded a song called "Hanky Panky". That song had been written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, and released as a B-side by Barry and Greenwich's studio group The Raindrops: [Excerpt: The Raindrops, "Hanky Panky"] That record had never been a hit, supposedly because the song to which it was a B-side, “That Boy John”, made people think of John F Kennedy, who was killed shortly after the record's release. But a copy had been picked up by a musician in Michigan, who had added the song to his group's live set, and it had become popular. Another local group, the Spinners -- not the vocal group from Detroit, or the British folk group, but another group of the same name -- saw the reaction that band had from the song, and added it to their own sets. They hadn't got a copy of the record themselves, so they didn't know all the words, so they just made new ones up, other than "My baby does the hanky-panky". When Tommy James saw the reaction the Spinners had, he felt he had to grasp an opportunity. Back in 1960, Joe Jones had recorded "California Sun", a song written by Henry Glover, on Roulette Records: [Excerpt: Joe Jones, "California Sun"] Another group on the same local scene as the Shondells, the Princeton Five, had been playing that song in their sets -- and then a third local group, the Playmates, renamed themselves the Rivieras, ripped off the Princeton Five's arrangement of the song before the Princeton Five could record it, and made the national top ten with it: [Excerpt: The Rivieras, "California Sun"] The lesson was clear -- if a local band starts doing well with a song, it's winner-takes-all and whoever gets into the studio first gets the hit. So the Shondells went into the studio and quickly cut their version, based on what they could remember of what the Spinners could remember of someone else's live versions of “Hanky Panky”, making up new words where they didn't know the real ones. It was released on a tiny local label called Snap: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "Hanky Panky"] The record was a very minor local hit, but didn't get any airplay in major markets, and the Shondells split up, and James joined a new group, the Koachmen. The Koachmen toured for a while, playing dead-end gigs and scraping a living for many months, with constant lineup changes, until eventually also calling it quits. It was then that James got the shocking news that "Hanky Panky" was now number one in Pittsburgh. Somehow a local dance promoter had found the record and started playing it at club nights. It had gone down shockingly well, so a Pittsburgh company just started pressing up more copies from the single, and it sold eighty thousand copies in ten days. The company pressing the record got in touch with the owner of Snap Records, who told Tommy that he needed to put together a new Shondells quickly. As it turned out, there was another band in the area who were called the Shandells (according to James' autobiography -- other sources say they were called the Raconteurs). James became their lead singer and changed the group's name to the Shondells, James went to New York to try to get the newly-successful record national distribution, and to get his new Shondells signed. There was the start of a bidding war, with Red Bird, Atlantic, RCA and others all interested... until Morris Levy of Roulette Records phoned the owners of all the other labels and told them "This is my record". James was quickly persuaded that it wasn't a good idea to refuse offers made by someone with Levy's mob connections, and Tommy James and the Shondells signed to Roulette Records. "Hanky Panky" was reissued and went to number one. The group had a series of hits from 1966 through 1967, including "I Think We're Alone Now", written for the group by their producer Ritchie Cordell: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "I Think We're Alone Now"] And "Mony Mony", a group effort written by several people including Cordell and James, inspired by a large flashing neon sign advertising Mutual of New York: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "Mony Mony"] These early hits helped define bubblegum music, and were massively successful. Levy took a fatherly interest in James, and while he refused ever to pay the royalty rates in James' contract -- James estimates he is owed thirty to forty million dollars in unpaid royalties -- he did make sure that James got what Levy thought was a fair amount, and the two had a good relationship, though James resented much of Levy's attitude towards his music, and had very real qualms about working for a mobster. James particularly disliked the pressure he was under to produce hit singles rather than grow as an artist. James was, though, allowed to change styles as the times changed, and moved into psychedelic rock, co-writing and recording the number one hit "Crimson and Clover" with the group's drummer: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "Crimson and Clover"] And "Crystal Blue Persuasion", inspired by the Book of Revelation, with two other band members, which went to number two: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "Crystal Blue Persuasion"] In 1970, James went solo, having another major hit with "Draggin' the Line": [Excerpt: Tommy James, "Draggin' the Line"] He also co-wrote and produced the big hit "Tighter Tighter" for Alive N Kickin': [Excerpt: Alive N Kickin', "Tighter Tighter"] But two changes in the early seventies saw James lose his commercial momentum. The first was that he started more explicitly writing about his Christian faith, including titling a solo album "Christian of the World". The other, more serious, problem was that a mob war started in New York, with one of the families opposed to Levy's targeting Levy's friends. Levy made James get out of New York and move to Nashville to keep safe, and James moved into country music while he was there, but was unsuccessful in his new genre. James eventually escaped from Levy, as Levy's control over his music industry holdings slipped with his loss of dominance in the mob, but James never returned to commercial success, though his old hits continued to have influence on the next generation of bubblegum pop -- in 1987, Tiffany's cover version of "I Think We're Alone Now" was knocked off number one by Billy Idol's version of "Mony Mony". He currently tours as a nostalgia act, and finally receives royalties from his hits. He's often somewhat dismissed as a minor act, but James, with and without the Shondells, had a hugely impressive run of hit singles, and his catalogue is probably due reevaluation.
Jul 13, 2022
PLEDGE WEEK: “The Name Game” by Shirley Ellis
This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to patreon.com/andrewhickey and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript Today we're going to take a look at someone who had two big hits, one of which has entered into American pop culture to a ludicrous extent -- long before I ever heard the song I was familiar with references to it in everything from the Simpsons to Stephen King books -- and the other of which is known all over the world, but about whom there's almost no available information, outside the liner notes to one CD. We're going to look at Shirley Ellis, and at "The Name Game": [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "The Name Game"] When I say there's almost no available information about Shirley Ellis, I mean it. Normally, with someone who had a couple of major hits in the mid-sixties, there's at least a couple of fan pages out there, but other than a more-perfunctory-than-usual page on Spectropop, there's basically nothing about Shirley Ellis, possibly because unlike most of her contemporaries, even though she lived until 2005 she never hit the nostalgia circuit. The information that is out there is contradictory as well. Some sources have her being born in 1941, while others place her birth much further back, in 1929. I suspect the latter date is more accurate, and that she trimmed a few years off her age when she became a star. Pretty much all the information I'm using here comes from the liner notes of the one CD currently in print from a legitimate source of Ellis' work, and that CD also has a problem which will affect this episode. Ellis released two albums, "In Action" and "The Name Game", which had nine tracks in common. On "In Action", they were overdubbed with crowd noises, more or less at random, to make them sound like they were live recordings, while "The Name Game" had the unadorned studio recordings. Unfortunately, the CD I'm using, for some unfathomable reason, chose to use the fake-live versions, and so that's what I've been forced to excerpt. Ellis grew up in the Bronx, in a family with roots in the West Indies, and started out as many young singers did, winning the talent contest at the Harlem Apollo. But her initial success came as a songwriter, when she wrote a couple of songs for the Sh-Booms -- the group who had formerly been known as the Chords before legal problems led them to rename themselves after their biggest hit: [Excerpt: The Sh-Booms -- "Pretty Wild"] She also wrote "One Two, I Love You" for the Heartbreakers, which pointed the way to the kind of novelty song based around counting and clapping rhymes with which she would have her biggest hits: [Excerpt: The Heartbreakers, "One Two, I Love You"] But while she'd had these minor successes as a songwriter, it wasn't until she teamed up with a more successful writer that she started to make the records for which she was remembered. Ellis was introduced by her husband's cousin to Lincoln Chase, who became her manager, record producer, and writing partner. Chase had already written a number of hits on his own, including "Such a Night" for Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters: [Excerpt: The Drifters, "Such a Night"] which had also been a hit for Johnnie Ray, and "Jim Dandy" for LaVern Baker: [Excerpt: LaVern Baker, "Jim Dandy"] As well as songs for Big Maybelle, Ruth Brown and others. Chase and Ellis spent a couple of years releasing unsuccessful singles under Ellis' full married name, Shirley Elliston, before releasing "The Real Nitty Gritty". Both song and artist soon had their names shortened, and "The Nitty Gritty" by Shirley Ellis went to number eight on the pop charts: [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "The Nitty Gritty"] A couple of follow-ups, starting with "That's What the Nitty-Gritty Is" were unsuccessful, and then Shirley got very unlucky. She recorded  a version of Chase's "Such a Night", which had been a hit twice before: [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "Such a Night"] That started rising up the charts -- and then RCA released Elvis' recording from four years earlier, which had just been an album track, as a single, and that went top twenty, and stopped Ellis' single getting any traction: [Excerpt: Elvis Presley, "Such a Night"] But Ellis came back with "The Name Game", which she co-wrote with Chase, based on a game she used to play as a child: [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "The Name Game"] That made number three on the charts, and became an ongoing reference point for a whole generation of Americans. The follow-up, credited to Chase alone, was based on another children's game, and made the US top ten, and also made the top ten in the UK: [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "The Clapping Song"] For a while in early 1965, Ellis was a big star, big enough that her songs were getting novelty cover versions by people like Soupy Sales: [Excerpt: Soupy Sales, "The Name Game"] But unfortunately, her next couple of singles flopped, and people seemed to only want one kind of record from Shirley Ellis. She and Chase came up with some unsuccessful experiments, like "You Better Be Good World", an attempt at getting on the protest song bandwagon by singing about nuclear war, while also recording a Christmas song -- the two didn't really mix: [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "You Better Be Good World"] After that, more attempts at songs along the lines of her hits followed, like "The Puzzle Song", and "Ever See a Diver Kiss His Wife While The Bubbles Bounce About Above the Water?", but there were no more hits, and Ellis retired in 1968. Chase went on to record a solo album under his own name, which has sadly never been reissued on CD, but I found a vinyl rip on a dodgy MP3 site a while back, and it's fascinating stuff, somewhere between Frank Zappa and George Clinton at points, and quite politically pointed: [Excerpt: Lincoln Chase, "Amos X, Andy Lumumba, and Aunt Jemima No More"] Chase would die in the early eighties, but he and Ellis would go on to get credit for a hit song written almost twenty years after his death. In 1981, the disco artist Stacy Lattislaw would record "Attack of the Name Game", which was inspired by Ellis' hit, and so Chase and Ellis got co-writing credit for it: [Excerpt: Stacy Lattislaw, "Attack of the Name Game"] That wasn't a hit, but in 1999 Mariah Carey and Jay-Z built the number one hit "Heartbreaker" around a sample of that record, meaning that Ellis and Chase got credit for that, too: [Excerpt: Mariah Carey, Heartbreaker] That's not the only influence Ellis had in more recent times -- several people have pointed out the similarity in style between some of Amy Winehouse's records, like "Rehab", and Ellis' big hits. Shirley Ellis, unlike many of her contemporaries, never came out of retirement, and she died in 2005, probably aged seventy-six.
Jul 12, 2022
PLEDGE WEEK: “Blues Run the Game” by Jackson C Frank
This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to patreon.com/andrewhickey and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript Before I start, a warning. Even though this episode is short it deals with many, many, upsetting subjects. If you're likely to be upset by a story dealing with the death and disfigurement of small children, disability, mental illness, gun violence and eye injuries, you're probably best off skipping this episode altogether, as it deals with these subjects right from after the first excerpt of music until the end. It's not a happy story. In this week's main episode we talk briefly about a record that Paul Simon produced while he was in Britain, before "The Sound of Silence" became a big hit. The performer whose record he produced only released that one album in his lifetime, but it's a record that had an outsized influence on the British folk-music scene. So today, we're going to have a look at the tragic life of Jackson C Frank, and at "Blues Run the Game": [Excerpt: Jackson C Frank, "Blues Run the Game"] Jackson C Frank's life started to go badly, irrevocably, wrong, when he was just eleven years old. His family lived in Buffalo, New York, where the winters are long and cold, and Jackson was a Baby Boomer. Because of the tremendous number of new children going through the school system, the brick schoolhouse at the school he attended had been augmented with an annexe, made out of wood, and he was in that annexe, in a music lesson, when the boiler exploded and set fire to it. Jackson was one of the lucky ones. That fire took the life of fifteen of his classmates, and spurred a national movement towards banning timber buildings for schools and the institution of fire drills, which up to that point had not been a thing. Jackson got thrown out of a window by a teacher, and the snow put out the flames on his back, meaning he "only" suffered burns over sixty percent of his body, scarring him for life. He had to spend a year in hospital, have a tracheotomy, and have a metal plate put in his head. He developed thyroid problems, got calcium deposits that built up over the years and frequently left him in agony, and always walked with a limp and only had limited movement in his arms. Many celebrities did things to comfort the children, who became nationally known. Kirk Douglas came to the hospital to visit them, and later in his childhood Jackson was able to go and meet Elvis, who became a big inspiration for the young man. He spent his teenage years going around the local music scene, including spending a long time with a friend who later became known as John Kay of Steppenwolf, but then when he turned twenty-one he got a massive insurance payout that had been held in trust for him. I've seen different numbers for this -- it was either fifty or a hundred thousand dollars, and in modern terms that would be about ten times that much. Being a young man, he didn't want to invest it, he wanted to buy expensive cars. He wanted an Aston Martin and a Bentley, and Britain was where they made Aston Martins and Bentleys, so he caught a boat to England, and on the trip over started writing songs, including the one that would become his best known: [Excerpt: Jackson C Frank, "Blues Run the Game"] Once he was in the UK, Frank moved into Judith Piepe's flat, where he started a relationship with an eighteen-year-old nurse, who was also trying to be a singer. Frank encouraged her to follow her dreams and become a professional, and Sandy Denny would later record some of his songs, and wrote the song "Next Time Around" about him: [Excerpt: Sandy Denny, "Next Time Around"] While he was in London, he became well known on the folk circuit, regularly playing Les Cousins, and as Ralph McTell put it, "EVERYONE" sang 'Blues Run the Game'". Over the years, the song has been performed by everyone from Bert Jansch: [Excerpt: Bert Jansch, "Blues Run the Game"] to Counting Crows: [Excerpt: Counting Crows, "Blues Run the Game"] Frank's own version of the song was recorded on his one and only album,  which was produced by Paul Simon, as we heard in the main episode. That album also included songs like "Carnival", which has now possibly become the song of Frank's that has been heard by most people, as it was featured both on the soundtrack and in the dialogue of the 2019 film Joker: [Excerpt: Jackson C Frank, "Carnival"] The album didn't sell, and Frank returned to the US, after marrying Elaine Sedgwick, the cousin of Edie Sedgwick. He was missed when he left, and Roy Harper, another folk musician who played the same circuit, wrote "My Friend" about his departure: [Excerpt: Roy Harper, "My Friend"] When he came back in 1968 to do a couple of shows, though, his depression, which had always been bad since the fire, had worsened. Al Stewart said "He proceeded to fall apart before our very eyes. His style that everyone loved was melancholy, very tuneful things. He started doing things that were completely impenetrable. They were basically about psychological angst, played at full volume with lots of thrashing. I don't remember a single word of them – it just did not work. There was one review that said he belonged on a psychologist's couch." He was withdrawn, and wouldn't speak to people, and he had writer's block. To make matters worse, his home life was also going awfully. His insurance money had all run out, but Paul Simon had given him a loan of three thousand dollars, with Simon taking Frank's publishing as surety, so he could start a business, but the business failed and Simon kept the publishing. In 1971, when Art Garfunkel was recording his first solo album, he asked Frank if he had a song that might be suitable. Frank had actually written a new song, "Juliette": [Excerpt: Jackson C Frank, "Juliette"] Unfortunately, when he turned up to see Garfunkel, he brought along a few hippy friends, who all made fun of Garfunkel for being a sell-out, and so Garfunkel didn't record the song, though he did give Frank a new guitar. By the early seventies, Frank was in a very bad way. He and his wife had had two children, but one had died of cystic fibrosis, and the marriage had ended. He spent periods of time in psychiatric hospitals, and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, though he always said himself that he wasn't schizophrenic, he was suffering from depression because of the loss of his son. He was living off handouts from friends, even as his songs were inspiring new artists like Nick Drake, who recorded four of his songs: [Excerpt: Nick Drake, "Here Comes the Blues"] In the early eighties he was living with his parents, but then in 1984 while his mother was in hospital he got an idea -- he could go to New York and find his old friend Paul, and ask him for his publishing back, or maybe just for some money. He didn't leave a note, and his parents had no idea where he'd gone. He did go to New York, but he couldn't find his friend, and he ended up homeless, living on the streets, and in and out of psychiatric institutions. In the early nineties, a fan tracked him down and helped sort out some accommodation for him in Woodstock, where he'd lived in his twenties. By this time he was in an awful physical and mental state, and the fan described him as looking like the Elephant man because of the bloating from his thyroid problems and his joint issues affecting his posture (though I have to say that from the couple of photos I've seen of him at this time, that's quite an exaggeration). But just to rub salt in the wound, after the accommodation had been arranged, but before he'd had a chance to move, he was sat on a park bench in Queens, and some kids, shooting randomly with a pellet gun, hit him in his left eye, permanently blinding him in that eye. His rediscovery got a bit of publicity, and led to his album being reissued on CD. He also started writing again, and recorded some demos on a cheap cassette recorder in 1997, many of which have since been released on various compilations: [Excerpt: Jackson C Frank, "(Tumble) in the Wind"] But 1997 was also the year that Frank moved into a care home, and he wouldn't record any more after that. In 1998, Paul Simon finally returned his publishing to him, presumably having given up on ever getting his three thousand dollars back. And on March the third, 1999, one day after his fifty-sixth birthday, Jackson C Frank died of pneumonia. His game had finally run to its end.
Jul 11, 2022
PLEDGE WEEK: “Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band
This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to patreon.com/andrewhickey and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript A few episodes back, we took a look at the Who's early records, and in passing we talked about the Ivy League, the studio group who sang backing vocals on their first single under that name. In this bonus episode, we're going to look at one of the biggest hits any of the members of the Ivy League were involved in -- a record that became a massive hit, won a Grammy, and changed the career direction of one of the most important comedy bands in Britain. We're going to look at "Winchester Cathedral" by the New Vaudeville Band: [Excerpt: The New Vaudeville Band, "Winchester Cathedral"] In his book Revolution in the Head, Ian MacDonald makes the point that the quintessential line in British psychedelia is from George Harrison's "It's All Too Much", where Harrison sings "Show me that I'm everywhere, and get me home for tea". Whereas American psychedelia is often angry and rebellious -- understandably, since it was often being made by people who were scared of being drafted to fight in a senseless war, and who were living through a time of great instability more generally -- British psychedelia was tinged with nostalgia, both for childhood and for a lost past of the Empire that had now ended. Now, we're going to get into that in much, much, greater detail when we look at the records the Beatles, the Kinks, the Who and others made in this period, but suffice to say that *one* of the several streams of thought that shaped the youth culture of Britain in the 1960s was a nationalistic one, partly in reaction to a perceived dominance by American culture and a belief that there were things about British culture that deserved celebrating too. And part and parcel of that was a celebration of the popular culture of the 1920s and thirties, the height of Britain's influence in the world. This nationalism, incidentally, was *not* necessarily an entirely regressive or reactionary thing, though it certainly had those elements -- there was a strong progressive element to it, and we'll be unpacking the tensions in it in future episodes. For the moment, just take it that we're not talking about the sort of flag-waving xenophobia that has tainted much of modern politics, but something more complicated. This complex relationship with the past had been evident as early as the very early 1960s, with acts like the Alberts and the Temperance Seven reviving 1920s novelty songs in what would now be considered a postmodern style: [Excerpt: The Temperance Seven, "You're Driving Me Crazy "] That had temporarily gone into abeyance with the rise of the Beatles and the bands that followed in their wake, making guitar music inspired by American Black musicians the new popular thing in British culture. But that stream of the culture was definitely there, and it was only a matter of time before music business professionals would notice it again and start to try to capitalise on it. And Geoff Stephens did just that. Stephens was an odd character, who had entered the music business at a relatively late age. Until the age of thirty he worked in a variety of jobs, including as a teacher and an air traffic controller, but he was also involved in amateur theatrics, putting on revues with friends for which he co-wrote songs and sketches. He then went on to write satirical sketches for radio comedy, writing for a programme hosted by Basil Boothroyd, the editor of Punch, and started submitting songs to Denmark Street publishers. Through his submissions, he got a job as a song plugger with a publishing company, and from there moved into writing songs professionally himself. His first hit, co-written as many of his songs were with Les Reed, was "Tell Me When", the debut single for the Applejacks, which made the top ten: [Excerpt: The Applejacks, "Tell Me When"] Many hits as a writer and producer soon followed, including writing "The Crying Game" for Dave Berry: [Excerpt: Dave Berry, "The Crying Game"] And signing Donovan and co-producing his first two albums and earliest hit singles: [Excerpt: Donovan, "Catch the Wind"] Stephens had been making hits for a couple of years when he conceived the novelty record "Winchester Cathedral", which he recorded with John Carter of the Ivy League on lead vocals, imitating the style of Rudy Vallee, one of the most popular singers of the 1920s, who sang through a megaphone -- he became popular before electronic amplification was a big thing. The record was made by session players, and released under the name "The New Vaudeville Band": [Excerpt: The New Vaudeville Band, "Winchester Cathedral"] The record immediately began to sell. It became a massive, massive, worldwide hit, selling three million copies and inspiring a cover version by Rudy Vallee himself: [Excerpt: Rudy Vallee, "Winchester Cathedral"] Oddly, this wasn't the last time in the sixties that a major hit would be inspired by the sound of Rudy Vallee... But Stephens had a problem. People wanted the New Vaudeville Band to tour, and he didn't actually have a touring act. So he turned to the next best thing. The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band were a band of dadaist comedy performers who had a wonderful stage act, which among other things involved their lead singer Vivian Stanshall wearing a gold lame Elvis suit, their drummer Sam Spoons playing spoons and washboard, and comedy moments like band members holding up speech bubbles, so for example when someone took a solo, one of the other members might hold up a cardboard speech bubble saying "Wow! I'm really expressing myself!" Their repertoire largely consisted of novelty tunes -- some from the fifties, but mostly songs they'd learned from old 78s from the 1920s, like their first single: [Excerpt: The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, "My Brother Makes the Noises for the Talkies"] As Bonzos guitarist Neil Innes always told the story, Geoff Stephens was friends with the band's trumpet player Bob Kerr, and called him up asking if the Bonzo Dog  Doo-Dah Band wanted to be the touring New Vaudeville Band. Kerr was excited -- his band would get to be proper pop stars! But when he went to talk to the rest of the group, they were dismissive. They were conceptual artists and creative people, and didn't want to be a manufactured pop band. Bob Kerr, on the other hand, thought that being paid vastly more money to do exactly the same stuff he was doing for next to nothing sounded like a great idea, and quit the band. The next thing the rest of his bandmates knew, they were watching him on Top of the Pops, performing with a band with a spoons player, a lead singer who wore a gold lame suit, and band members holding up cardboard speech bubbles. Kerr had taken the group's entire act, and they had to reinvent themselves, turning from 1920s pastiche to modern rock music -- and the chances are very good that we'll be following them up in the future. But of course, as well as an act, the new group needed a singer, and for that Stephens turned to Alan Klein. Now, this is not the Allen Klein who we've mentioned in the main podcast, and who will be coming up again in future episodes. This Alan Klein was someone who had been on the margins of the music industry as a writer and performer for some time. He'd made records with Joe Meek: [Excerpt: Alan Klein, "Striped Purple Shirt"] and he'd co-written the musical What A Crazy World, which had been made into a film which featured his songs being sung by Joe Brown, Marty Wilde, Freddie and the Dreamers, and...Harry H Corbett: [Excerpt: Harry H Corbett: "Things We Never Had"] He'd also made a single solo album, "Well, At Least it's British", which took a satirical look at British life in the 1960s that was hugely influential on Britpop in the 1990s, though the record sold almost nothing at the time: [Excerpt: Alan Klein, "Twentieth-Century Englishman"] With Klein as the new lead singer, the New Vaudeville Band were a real band. And indeed, they had three more top forty hits in the UK, though their most successful song after "Winchester Cathedral" was a song that Stephens and Les Reed wrote for them which wasn't a hit for them: [Excerpt: The New Vaudeville Band, "There's a Kind of Hush"] That *did*, though, become a big hit for Herman's Hermits: [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "There's a Kind of Hush"] The New Vaudeville Band were shortlived -- they only had a handful of hits, and Bob Kerr soon left the group after falling out with their manager, Peter Grant -- another figure who we'll definitely be hearing a lot more from in future episodes of the main podcast. Kerr formed Bob Kerr's Whoopee Band with Sam Spoons and Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell, two other former members of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and they had a quietly successful career doing the same act that the early Bonzos had -- all three men also joined in Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band reunion tours in 2006 and 2016. A revived version of the New Vaudeville Band, featuring only the drummer from the touring lineup, performed in the 70s and 80s to little success. But the group's biggest legacy remained their first hit, which actually won the Grammy for Best Contemporary (Rock & Roll) Recording in 1967, beating out a shortlist of "Eleanor Rigby", "Monday Monday", "Cherish", "Good Vibrations", and "Last Train to Clarksville". You can decide for yourselves if "Winchester Cathedral" was, in hindsight, a better record than those. But whether it was or not, it was a fun record that made a lot of people happy. Geoff Stephens, its creator, is unlikely to feature further in this podcast. He wrote many more hit records, but they were almost exclusively for artists like Dana, Tom Jones, Wayne Newton, Ken Dodd, and Mary Hopkin, whose careers lie largely outside the scope of a history of rock music, however broadly defined. He had a long and successful career, but died last Christmas Eve, aged eighty-six, from pneumonia, having been weakened by an earlier bout of covid. So as we enter a second Covid Christmas, I'd just like to say I hope you're all vaccinated, boosted, and otherwise safe. I'm hoping to get one more episode and bonus out before Xmas Eve, and I hope to see you all still here in the New Year. Vo-de-o-do [Excerpt: The New Vaudeville Band, “Winchester Cathedral”]
Jul 10, 2022
ADMIN: Pledge Week 2022
The Facebook community I talk about is at https://www.facebook.com/groups/293630102611672/ The post for asking Q&A questions is here The Patreon post for Q&A questions is here Transcript Hello and welcome to the start of 2022's Pledge Week. For those of you who don't know, this podcast is my full-time job, and I can only do it because of listener support, and the best way people can support me is to set up a regular donation through patreon.com, and to reward those supporters I do short bonus podcasts that only backers can access, as well as doing occasional other bonus things for them. Now, I have been very, very, lucky when it comes to people backing me. For the first couple of years of the podcast I had to take on additional work because this wasn't paying enough, but now I have enough very generous backers that I can pay my mortgage, buy all the books and CDs I need for the research, pay Tilt for his time editing the podcast, and generally do the work without worrying about my finances the way I had to at first. This has been especially useful in the last year, when as you may have gathered everything *else* went wrong in my life -- to have that basic financial security because of people's generous donations has literally saved my life. I'm making that clear now because I don't want anyone to give a single penny they can't afford. If my Patreon donations continue at the same level they have been, I can continue making the podcast indefinitely without worrying, so don't give me money you can't afford. But, of course, the only way I can keep the donations at the same level is to remind people occasionally that the Patreon exists -- otherwise, the levels will slowly go down, as people lose their jobs or retire and can'tafford that extra dollar a month, or the podcast gets past the era of music they're interested in, or I say something that causes offence, or they just decide the podcast isn't for them any more. So, every year or so, for a week I do a pledge week, where every day for a week I put up one of the old backer-only ten-minute or so podcasts, that Patreon backers have had access to for a year or so. There are well over a hundred of these now, and only a tiny selection of them get posted in these Pledge weeks, so if you want to hear the rest of them you have to subscribe for as little as one dollar a month -- or ten dollars for a year. Again, I want to emphasise -- as long as donation levels stay around where they are now, the main podcast will always remain free, and will have no ads or any of the other things people do to monetise their podcasts. Nobody is under any obligation to pay me a penny, and you should only give what you can afford after looking after yourself and your loved ones and any charitable donations or so on. There are many more important uses for your money than my podcast, especially in difficult times like this, and I don't begrudge anyone listening for free. I'm making enough, and while it's always nice to have more, there's no pressure on anyone. But if you have a little spare cash left over after all that, and you want to help out, for the next week you'll get a taste of what you can get. Also, two weeks from today I will be doing two question and answer podcasts. One will be for backers only, and will be answering questions on a Patreon post I'm going to make, which only backers will be able to access. The other will be for the general public, and will be answering questions posted in the comments for the admin post I made a couple of weeks back. I'll link both posts in the notes to this episode. Also, while I'm here I'd just like to mention that my friend Shawn has set up a Facebook discussion group for the podcast, which I'll also link. I'm not on Facebook myself, and while I'm not looking at it myself, Shawn will pass on anything she thinks I should know about the discussions there -- but you can also use it to talk about my podcast without worrying that I'm looking over your shoulder. Anyway, for the next seven days, enjoy these old Patreon backer bonus episodes.
Jul 10, 2022
Episode 150: “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles
This week’s episode looks at “All You Need is Love”, the Our World TV special, and the career of the Beatles from April 1966 through August 1967. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a thirteen-minute bonus episode available, on "Rain" 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/ NB for the first few hours this was up, there was a slight editing glitch. If you downloaded the old version and don't want to redownload the whole thing, just look in the transcript for "Other than fixing John’s two flubbed" for the text of the two missing paragraphs. Errata I say "Come Together" was a B-side, but the single was actually a double A-side. Also, I say the Lennon interview by Maureen Cleave appeared in Detroit magazine. That's what my source (Steve Turner's book) says, but someone on Twitter says that rather than Detroit magazine it was the Detroit Free Press. Also at one point I say "the videos for 'Paperback Writer' and 'Penny Lane'". I meant to say "Rain" rather than "Penny Lane" there. Resources No Mixcloud this week due to the number of songs by the Beatles. I have read literally dozens of books on the Beatles, and used bits of information from many of them. All my Beatles episodes refer to: The Complete Beatles Chronicle by Mark LewisohnAll The Songs: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Release by Jean-Michel GuesdonAnd The Band Begins To Play: The Definitive Guide To The Songs of The Beatles by Steve LambleyThe Beatles By Ear by Kevin MooreRevolution in the Head by Ian MacDonald, and The Beatles Anthology. For this episode, I also referred to Last Interview by David Sheff, a longform interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono from shortly before Lennon’s death; Many Years From Now by Barry Miles, an authorised biography of Paul McCartney; and Here, There, and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles by Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey. Particularly useful this time was Steve Turner's book Beatles '66. I also used Turner's The Beatles: The Stories Behind the Songs 1967-1970. Johnny Rogan's Starmakers and Svengalis had some information on Epstein I hadn't seen anywhere else. Some information about the "Bigger than Jesus" scandal comes from Ward, B. (2012). “The ‘C’ is for Christ”: Arthur Unger, Datebook Magazine and the Beatles. Popular Music and Society, 35(4), 541-560. https://doi.org/10.1080/03007766.2011.608978 Information on Robert Stigwood comes from Mr Showbiz by Stephen Dando-Collins. And the quote at the end from Simon Napier-Bell is from You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, which is more entertaining than it is accurate, but is very entertaining. Sadly the only way to get the single mix of "All You Need is Love" is on this ludicrously-expensive out-of-print box set, but the stereo mix is easily available on Magical Mystery Tour. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript A quick note before I start the episode -- this episode deals, in part, with the deaths of three gay men -- one by murder, one by suicide, and one by an accidental overdose, all linked at least in part to societal homophobia. I will try to deal with this as tactfully as I can, but anyone who's upset by those things might want to read the transcript instead of listening to the episode. This is also a very, very, *very* long episode -- this is likely to be the longest episode I *ever* do of this podcast, so settle in. We're going to be here a while. I obviously don't know how long it's going to be while I'm still recording, but based on the word count of my script, probably in the region of three hours. You have been warned. In 1967 the actor Patrick McGoohan was tired. He had been working on the hit series Danger Man for many years -- Danger Man had originally run from 1960 through 1962, then had taken a break, and had come back, retooled, with longer episodes in 1964. That longer series was a big hit, both in the UK and in the US, where it was retitled Secret Agent and had a new theme tune written by PF Sloan and Steve Barri and recorded by Johnny Rivers: [Excerpt: Johnny Rivers, "Secret Agent Man"] But McGoohan was tired of playing John Drake, the agent, and announced he was going to quit the series. Instead, with the help of George Markstein, Danger Man's script editor, he created a totally new series, in which McGoohan would star, and which McGoohan would also write and direct key episodes of. This new series, The Prisoner, featured a spy who is only ever given the name Number Six, and who many fans -- though not McGoohan himself -- took to be the same character as John Drake. Number Six resigns from his job as a secret agent, and is kidnapped and taken to a place known only as The Village -- the series was filmed in Portmeirion, an unusual-looking town in Gwynnedd, in North Wales -- which is full of other ex-agents. There he is interrogated to try to find out why he has quit his job. It's never made clear whether the interrogators are his old employers or their enemies, and there's a certain suggestion that maybe there is no real distinction between the two sides, that they're both running the Village together. He spends the entire series trying to escape, but refuses to explain himself -- and there's some debate among viewers as to whether it's implied or not that part of the reason he doesn't explain himself is that he knows his interrogators wouldn't understand why he quit: [Excerpt: The Prisoner intro, from episode Once Upon a Time, ] Certainly that explanation would fit in with McGoohan's own personality. According to McGoohan, the final episode of The Prisoner was, at the time, the most watched TV show ever broadcast in the UK, as people tuned in to find out the identity of Number One, the person behind the Village, and to see if Number Six would break free. I don't think that's actually the case, but it's what McGoohan always claimed, and it was certainly a very popular series. I won't spoil the ending for those of you who haven't watched it -- it's a remarkable series -- but ultimately the series seems to decide that such questions don't matter and that even asking them is missing the point. It's a work that's open to multiple interpretations, and is left deliberately ambiguous, but one of the messages many people have taken away from it is that not only are we trapped by a society that oppresses us, we're also trapped by our own identities. You can run from the trap that society has placed you in, from other people's interpretations of your life, your work, and your motives, but you ultimately can't run from yourself, and any time you try to break out of a prison, you'll find yourself trapped in another prison of your own making. The most horrifying implication of the episode is that possibly even death itself won't be a release, and you will spend all eternity trying to escape from an identity you're trapped in. Viewers became so outraged, according to McGoohan, that he had to go into hiding for an extended period, and while his later claims that he never worked in Britain again are an exaggeration, it is true that for the remainder of his life he concentrated on doing work in the US instead, where he hadn't created such anger. That final episode of The Prisoner was also the only one to use a piece of contemporary pop music, in two crucial scenes: [Excerpt: The Prisoner, "Fall Out", "All You Need is Love"] Back in October 2020, we started what I thought would be a year-long look at the period from late 1962 through early 1967, but which has turned out for reasons beyond my control to take more like twenty months, with a song which was one of the last of the big pre-Beatles pop hits, though we looked at it after their first single, "Telstar" by the Tornadoes: [Excerpt: The Tornadoes, "Telstar"] There were many reasons for choosing that as one of the bookends for this fifty-episode chunk of the podcast -- you'll see many connections between that episode and this one if you listen to them back-to-back -- but among them was that it's a song inspired by the launch of the first ever communications satellite, and a sign of how the world was going to become smaller as the sixties went on. Of course, to start with communications satellites didn't do much in that regard -- they were expensive to use, and had limited bandwidth, and were only available during limited time windows, but symbolically they meant that for the first time ever, people could see and hear events thousands of miles away as they were happening. It's not a coincidence that Britain and France signed the agreement to develop Concorde, the first supersonic airliner, a month after the first Beatles single and four months after the Telstar satellite was launched. The world was becoming ever more interconnected -- people were travelling faster and further, getting news from other countries quicker, and there was more cultural conversation – and misunderstanding – between countries thousands of miles apart. The Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan, the man who also coined the phrase “the medium is the message”, thought that this ever-faster connection would fundamentally change basic modes of thought in the Western world. McLuhan thought that technology made possible whole new modes of thought, and that just as the printing press had, in his view, caused Western liberalism and individualism, so these new electronic media would cause the rise of a new collective mode of thought. In 1962, the year of Concorde, Telstar, and “Love Me Do”, McLuhan wrote a book called The Gutenberg Galaxy, in which he said: “Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain, exactly as an infantile piece of science fiction. And as our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside. So, unless aware of this dynamic, we shall at once move into a phase of panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence.… Terror is the normal state of any oral society, for in it everything affects everything all the time.…” He coined the term “the Global Village” to describe this new collectivism. The story we've seen over the last fifty episodes is one of a sort of cultural ping-pong between the USA and the UK, with innovations in American music inspiring British musicians, who in turn inspired American ones, whether that being the Beatles covering the Isley Brothers or the Rolling Stones doing a Bobby Womack song, or Paul Simon and Bob Dylan coming over to the UK and learning folk songs and guitar techniques from Martin Carthy. And increasingly we're going to see those influences spread to other countries, and influences coming *from* other countries. We've already seen one Jamaican artist, and the influence of Indian music has become very apparent. While the focus of this series is going to remain principally in the British Isles and North America, rock music was and is a worldwide phenomenon, and that's going to become increasingly a part of the story. And so in this episode we're going to look at a live performance -- well, mostly live -- that was seen by hundreds of millions of people all over the world as it happened, thanks to the magic of satellites: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "All You Need is Love"] When we left the Beatles, they had just finished recording "Tomorrow Never Knows", the most experimental track they had recorded up to that date, and if not the most experimental thing they *ever* recorded certainly in the top handful. But "Tomorrow Never Knows" was only the first track they recorded in the sessions for what would become arguably their greatest album, and certainly the one that currently has the most respect from critics. It's interesting to note that that album could have been very, very, different. When we think of Revolver now, we think of the innovative production of George Martin, and of Geoff Emerick and Ken Townshend's inventive ideas for pushing the sound of the equipment in Abbey Road studios, but until very late in the day the album was going to be recorded in the Stax studios in Memphis, with Steve Cropper producing -- whether George Martin would have been involved or not is something we don't even know. In 1965, the Rolling Stones had, as we've seen, started making records in the US, recording in LA and at the Chess studios in Chicago, and the Yardbirds had also been doing the same thing. Mick Jagger had become a convert to the idea of using American studios and working with American musicians, and he had constantly been telling Paul McCartney that the Beatles should do the same. Indeed, they'd put some feelers out in 1965 about the possibility of the group making an album with Holland, Dozier, and Holland in Detroit. Quite how this would have worked is hard to figure out -- Holland, Dozier, and Holland's skills were as songwriters, and in their work with a particular set of musicians -- so it's unsurprising that came to nothing. But recording at Stax was a different matter.  While Steve Cropper was a great songwriter in his own right, he was also adept at getting great sounds on covers of other people's material -- like on Otis Blue, the album he produced for Otis Redding in late 1965, which doesn't include a single Cropper original: [Excerpt: Otis Redding, "Satisfaction"] And the Beatles were very influenced by the records Stax were putting out, often namechecking Wilson Pickett in particular, and during the Rubber Soul sessions they had recorded a "Green Onions" soundalike track, imaginatively titled "12-Bar Original": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "12-Bar Original"] The idea of the group recording at Stax got far enough that they were actually booked in for two weeks starting the ninth of April, and there was even an offer from Elvis to let them stay at Graceland while they recorded, but then a couple of weeks earlier, the news leaked to the press, and Brian Epstein cancelled the booking. According to Cropper, Epstein talked about recording at the Atlantic studios in New York with him instead, but nothing went any further. It's hard to imagine what a Stax-based Beatles album would have been like, but even though it might have been a great album, it certainly wouldn't have been the Revolver we've come to know. Revolver is an unusual album in many ways, and one of the ways it's most distinct from the earlier Beatles albums is the dominance of keyboards. Both Lennon and McCartney had often written at the piano as well as the guitar -- McCartney more so than Lennon, but both had done so regularly -- but up to this point it had been normal for them to arrange the songs for guitars rather than keyboards, no matter how they'd started out. There had been the odd track where one of them, usually Lennon, would play a simple keyboard part, songs like "I'm Down" or "We Can Work it Out", but even those had been guitar records first and foremost. But on Revolver, that changed dramatically. There seems to have been a complex web of cause and effect here. Paul was becoming increasingly interested in moving his basslines away from simple walking basslines and root notes and the other staples of rock and roll basslines up to this point. As the sixties progressed, rock basslines were becoming ever more complex, and Tyler Mahan Coe has made a good case that this is largely down to innovations in production pioneered by Owen Bradley, and McCartney was certainly aware of Bradley's work -- he was a fan of Brenda Lee, who Bradley produced, for example. But the two influences that McCartney has mentioned most often in this regard are the busy, jazz-influenced, basslines that James Jamerson was playing at Motown: [Excerpt: The Four Tops, "It's the Same Old Song"] And the basslines that Brian Wilson was writing for various Wrecking Crew bassists to play for the Beach Boys: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)"] Just to be clear, McCartney didn't hear that particular track until partway through the recording of Revolver, when Bruce Johnston visited the UK and brought with him an advance copy of Pet Sounds, but Pet Sounds influenced the later part of Revolver's recording, and Wilson had already started his experiments in that direction with the group's 1965 work. It's much easier to write a song with this kind of bassline, one that's integral to the composition, on the piano than it is to write it on a guitar, as you can work out the bassline with your left hand while working out the chords and melody with your right, so the habit that McCartney had already developed of writing on the piano made this easier. But also, starting with the recording of "Paperback Writer", McCartney switched his style of working in the studio. Where up to this point it had been normal for him to play bass as part of the recording of the basic track, playing with the other Beatles, he now started to take advantage of multitracking to overdub his bass later, so he could spend extra time getting the bassline exactly right. McCartney lived closer to Abbey Road than the other three Beatles, and so could more easily get there early or stay late and tweak his parts. But if McCartney wasn't playing bass while the guitars and drums were being recorded, that meant he could play something else, and so increasingly he would play piano during the recording of the basic track. And that in turn would mean that there wouldn't always *be* a need for guitars on the track, because the harmonic support they would provide would be provided by the piano instead. This, as much as anything else, is the reason that Revolver sounds so radically different to any other Beatles album. Up to this point, with *very* rare exceptions like "Yesterday", every Beatles record, more or less, featured all four of the Beatles playing instruments. Now John and George weren't playing on "Good Day Sunshine" or "For No One", John wasn't playing on "Here, There, and Everywhere", "Eleanor Rigby" features no guitars or drums at all, and George's "Love You To" only features himself, plus a little tambourine from Ringo (Paul recorded a part for that one, but it doesn't seem to appear on the finished track). Of the three songwriting Beatles, the only one who at this point was consistently requiring the instrumental contributions of all the other band members was John, and even he did without Paul on "She Said, She Said", which by all accounts features either John or George on bass, after Paul had a rare bout of unprofessionalism and left the studio. Revolver is still an album made by a group -- and most of those tracks that don't feature John or George instrumentally still feature them vocally -- it's still a collaborative work in all the best ways. But it's no longer an album made by four people playing together in the same room at the same time. After starting work on "Tomorrow Never Knows", the next track they started work on was Paul's "Got to Get You Into My Life", but as it would turn out they would work on that song throughout most of the sessions for the album -- in a sign of how the group would increasingly work from this point on, Paul's song was subject to multiple re-recordings and tweakings in the studio, as he tinkered to try to make it perfect. The first recording to be completed for the album, though, was almost as much of a departure in its own way as "Tomorrow Never Knows" had been. George's song "Love You To" shows just how inspired he was by the music of Ravi Shankar, and how devoted he was to Indian music. While a few months earlier he had just about managed to pick out a simple melody on the sitar for "Norwegian Wood", by this point he was comfortable enough with Indian classical music that I've seen many, many sources claim that an outside session player is playing sitar on the track, though Anil Bhagwat, the tabla player on the track, always insisted that it was entirely Harrison's playing: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Love You To"] There is a *lot* of debate as to whether it's George playing on the track, and I feel a little uncomfortable making a definitive statement in either direction. On the one hand I find it hard to believe that Harrison got that good that quickly on an unfamiliar instrument, when we know he wasn't a naturally facile musician. All the stories we have about his work in the studio suggest that he had to work very hard on his guitar solos, and that he would frequently fluff them. As a technical guitarist, Harrison was only mediocre -- his value lay in his inventiveness, not in technical ability -- and he had been playing guitar for over a decade, but sitar only a few months. There's also some session documentation suggesting that an unknown sitar player was hired. On the other hand there's the testimony of Anil Bhagwat that Harrison played the part himself, and he has been very firm on the subject, saying "If you go on the Internet there are a lot of questions asked about "Love You To". They say 'It's not George playing the sitar'. I can tell you here and now -- 100 percent it was George on sitar throughout. There were no other musicians involved. It was just me and him." And several people who are more knowledgeable than myself about the instrument have suggested that the sitar part on the track is played the way that a rock guitarist would play rather than the way someone with more knowledge of Indian classical music would play -- there's a blues feeling to some of the bends that apparently no genuine Indian classical musician would naturally do. I would suggest that the best explanation is that there's a professional sitar player trying to replicate a part that Harrison had previously demonstrated, while Harrison was in turn trying his best to replicate the sound of Ravi Shankar's work. Certainly the instrumental section sounds far more fluent, and far more stylistically correct, than one would expect: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Love You To"] Where previous attempts at what got called "raga-rock" had taken a couple of surface features of Indian music -- some form of a drone, perhaps a modal scale -- and had generally used a guitar made to sound a little bit like a sitar, or had a sitar playing normal rock riffs, Harrison's song seems to be a genuine attempt to hybridise Indian ragas and rock music, combining the instrumentation, modes, and rhythmic complexity of someone like Ravi Shankar with lyrics that are seemingly inspired by Bob Dylan and a fairly conventional pop song structure (and a tiny bit of fuzz guitar). It's a record that could only be made by someone who properly understood both the Indian music he's emulating and the conventions of the Western pop song, and understood how those conventions could work together. Indeed, one thing I've rarely seen pointed out is how cleverly the album is sequenced, so that "Love You To" is followed by possibly the most conventional song on Revolver, "Here, There, and Everywhere", which was recorded towards the end of the sessions. Both songs share a distinctive feature not shared by the rest of the album, so the two songs can sound more of a pair than they otherwise would, retrospectively making "Love You To" seem more conventional than it is and "Here, There, and Everywhere" more unconventional -- both have as an introduction a separate piece of music that states some of the melodic themes of the rest of the song but isn't repeated later. In the case of "Love You To" it's the free-tempo bit at the beginning, characteristic of a lot of Indian music: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Love You To"] While in the case of "Here, There, and Everywhere" it's the part that mimics an older style of songwriting, a separate intro of the type that would have been called a verse when written by the Gershwins or Cole Porter, but of course in the intervening decades "verse" had come to mean something else, so we now no longer have a specific term for this kind of intro -- but as you can hear, it's doing very much the same thing as that "Love You To" intro: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Here, There, and Everywhere"] In the same day as the group completed "Love You To", overdubbing George's vocal and Ringo's tambourine, they also started work on a song that would show off a lot of the new techniques they had been working on in very different ways. Paul's "Paperback Writer" could indeed be seen as part of a loose trilogy with "Love You To" and "Tomorrow Never Knows", one song by each of the group's three songwriters exploring the idea of a song that's almost all on one chord. Both "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Love You To" are based on a drone with occasional hints towards moving to one other chord. In the case of "Paperback Writer", the entire song stays on a single chord until the title -- it's on a G7 throughout until the first use of the word "writer", when it quickly goes to a C for two bars. I'm afraid I'm going to have to sing to show you how little the chords actually change, because the riff disguises this lack of movement somewhat, but the melody is also far more horizontal than most of McCartney's, so this shouldn't sound too painful, I hope: [demonstrates] This is essentially the exact same thing that both "Love You To" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" do, and all three have very similarly structured rising and falling modal melodies. There's also a bit of "Paperback Writer" that seems to tie directly into "Love You To", but also points to a possible very non-Indian inspiration for part of "Love You To". The Beach Boys' single "Sloop John B" was released in the UK a couple of days after the sessions for "Paperback Writer" and "Love You To", but it had been released in the US a month before, and the Beatles all got copies of every record in the American top thirty shipped to them. McCartney and Harrison have specifically pointed to it as an influence on "Paperback Writer". "Sloop John B" has a section where all the instruments drop out and we're left with just the group's vocal harmonies: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Sloop John B"] And that seems to have been the inspiration behind the similar moment at a similar point in "Paperback Writer", which is used in place of a middle eight and also used for the song's intro: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Paperback Writer"] Which is very close to what Harrison does at the end of each verse of "Love You To", where the instruments drop out for him to sing a long melismatic syllable before coming back in: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Love You To"] Essentially, other than "Got to Get You Into My Life", which is an outlier and should not be counted, the first three songs attempted during the Revolver sessions are variations on a common theme, and it's a sign that no matter how different the results might  sound, the Beatles really were very much a group at this point, and were sharing ideas among themselves and developing those ideas in similar ways. "Paperback Writer" disguises what it's doing somewhat by having such a strong riff. Lennon referred to "Paperback Writer" as "son of 'Day Tripper'", and in terms of the Beatles' singles it's actually their third iteration of this riff idea, which they originally got from Bobby Parker's "Watch Your Step": [Excerpt: Bobby Parker, "Watch Your Step"] Which became the inspiration for "I Feel Fine": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "I Feel Fine"] Which they varied for "Day Tripper": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Day Tripper"] And which then in turn got varied for "Paperback Writer": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Paperback Writer"] As well as compositional ideas, there are sonic ideas shared between "Paperback Writer", "Tomorrow Never Knows", and "Love You To", and which would be shared by the rest of the tracks the Beatles recorded in the first half of 1966. Since Geoff Emerick had become the group's principal engineer, they'd started paying more attention to how to get a fuller sound, and so Emerick had miced the tabla on "Love You To" much more closely than anyone would normally mic an instrument from classical music, creating a deep, thudding sound, and similarly he had changed the way they recorded the drums on "Tomorrow Never Knows", again giving a much fuller sound. But the group also wanted the kind of big bass sounds they'd loved on records coming out of America -- sounds that no British studio was getting, largely because it was believed that if you cut too loud a bass sound into a record it would make the needle jump out of the groove. The new engineering team of Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott, though, thought that it was likely you could keep the needle in the groove if you had a smoother frequency response. You could do that if you used a microphone with a larger diaphragm to record the bass, but how could you do that? Inspiration finally struck -- loudspeakers are actually the same thing as microphones wired the other way round, so if you wired up a loudspeaker as if it were a microphone you could get a *really big* speaker, place it in front of the bass amp, and get a much stronger bass sound. The experiment wasn't a total success -- the sound they got had to be processed quite extensively to get rid of room noise, and then compressed in order to further prevent the needle-jumping issue, and so it's a muddier, less defined, tone than they would have liked, but one thing that can't be denied is that "Paperback Writer"'s bass sound is much, much, louder than on any previous Beatles record: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Paperback Writer"] Almost every track the group recorded during the Revolver sessions involved all sorts of studio innovations, though rarely anything as truly revolutionary as the artificial double-tracking they'd used on "Tomorrow Never Knows", and which also appeared on "Paperback Writer" -- indeed, as "Paperback Writer" was released several months before Revolver, it became the first record released to use the technique. I could easily devote a good ten minutes to every track on Revolver, and to "Paperback Writer"s B-side, "Rain", but this is already shaping up to be an extraordinarily long episode and there's a lot of material to get through, so I'll break my usual pattern of devoting a Patreon bonus episode to something relatively obscure, and this week's bonus will be on "Rain" itself. "Paperback Writer", though, deserved the attention here even though it was not one of the group's more successful singles -- it did go to number one, but it didn't hit number one in the UK charts straight away, being kept off the top by "Strangers in the Night" by Frank Sinatra for the first week: [Excerpt: Frank Sinatra, "Strangers in the Night"] Coincidentally, "Strangers in the Night" was co-written by Bert Kaempfert, the German musician who had produced the group's very first recording sessions with Tony Sheridan back in 1961. On the group's German tour in 1966 they met up with Kaempfert again, and John greeted him by singing the first couple of lines of the Sinatra record. The single was the lowest-selling Beatles single in the UK since "Love Me Do". In the US it only made number one for two non-consecutive weeks, with "Strangers in the Night" knocking it off for a week in between. Now, by literally any other band's standards, that's still a massive hit, and it was the Beatles' tenth UK number one in a row (or ninth, depending on which chart you use for "Please Please Me"), but it's a sign that the group were moving out of the first phase of total unequivocal dominance of the charts. It was a turning point in a lot of other ways as well. Up to this point, while the group had been experimenting with different lyrical subjects on album tracks, every single had lyrics about romantic relationships -- with the possible exception of "Help!", which was about Lennon's emotional state but written in such a way that it could be heard as a plea to a lover. But in the case of "Paperback Writer", McCartney was inspired by his Aunt Mill asking him "Why do you write songs about love all the time? Can you ever write about a horse or the summit conference or something interesting?" His response was to think "All right, Aunt Mill, I'll show you", and to come up with a lyric that was very much in the style of the social satires that bands like the Kinks were releasing at the time. People often miss the humour in the lyric for "Paperback Writer", but there's a huge amount of comedy in lyrics about someone writing to a publisher saying they'd written a book based on someone else's book, and one can only imagine the feeling of weary recognition in slush-pile readers throughout the world as they heard the enthusiastic "It's a thousand pages, give or take a few, I'll be writing more in a week or two. I can make it longer..." From this point on, the group wouldn't release a single that was unambiguously about a romantic relationship until "The Ballad of John and Yoko",  the last single released while the band were still together. "Paperback Writer" also saw the Beatles for the first time making a promotional film -- what we would now call a rock video -- rather than make personal appearances on TV shows. The film was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who the group would work with again in 1969, and shows Paul with a chipped front tooth -- he'd been in an accident while riding mopeds with his friend Tara Browne a few months earlier, and hadn't yet got round to having the tooth capped. When he did, the change in his teeth was one of the many bits of evidence used by conspiracy theorists to prove that the real Paul McCartney was dead and replaced by a lookalike. It also marks a change in who the most prominent Beatle on the group's A-sides was. Up to this point, Paul had had one solo lead on an A-side -- "Can't Buy Me Love" -- and everything else had been either a song with multiple vocalists like "Day Tripper" or "Love Me Do", or a song with a clear John lead like "Ticket to Ride" or "I Feel Fine". In the rest of their career, counting "Paperback Writer", the group would release nine new singles that hadn't already been included on an album. Of those nine singles, one was a double A-side with one John song and one Paul song, two had John songs on the A-side, and the other six were Paul. Where up to this point John had been "lead Beatle", for the rest of the sixties, Paul would be the group's driving force. Oddly, Paul got rather defensive about the record when asked about it in interviews after it failed to go straight to the top, saying "It's not our best single by any means, but we're very satisfied with it". But especially in its original mono mix it actually packs a powerful punch: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Paperback Writer"] When the "Paperback Writer" single was released, an unusual image was used in the advertising -- a photo of the Beatles dressed in butchers' smocks, covered in blood, with chunks of meat and the dismembered body parts of baby dolls lying around on them. The image was meant as part of a triptych parodying religious art -- the photo on the left was to be an image showing the four Beatles connected to a woman by an umbilical cord made of sausages, the middle panel was meant to be this image, but with halos added over the Beatles' heads, and the panel on the right was George hammering a nail into John's head, symbolising both crucifixion and that the group were real, physical, people, not just images to be worshipped -- these weren't imaginary nails, and they weren't imaginary people. The photographer Robert Whittaker later said: “I did a photograph of the Beatles covered in raw meat, dolls and false teeth. Putting meat, dolls and false teeth with The Beatles is essentially part of the same thing, the breakdown of what is regarded as normal. The actual conception for what I still call “Somnambulant Adventure” was Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments. He comes across people worshipping a golden calf. All over the world I’d watched people worshiping like idols, like gods, four Beatles. To me they were just stock standard normal people. But this emotion that fans poured on them made me wonder where Christianity was heading.” The image wasn't that controversial in the UK, when it was used to advertise "Paperback Writer", but in the US it was initially used for the cover of an album, Yesterday... And Today, which was made up of a few tracks that had been left off the US versions of the Rubber Soul and Help! albums, plus both sides of the "We Can Work It Out"/"Day Tripper" single, and three rough mixes of songs that had been recorded for Revolver -- "Doctor Robert", "And Your Bird Can Sing", and "I'm Only Sleeping", which was the song that sounded most different from the mixes that were finally released: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "I'm Only Sleeping (Yesterday... and Today mix)"] Those three songs were all Lennon songs, which had the unfortunate effect that when the US version of Revolver was brought out later in the year, only two of the songs on the album were by Lennon, with six by McCartney and three by Harrison. Some have suggested that this was the motivation for the use of the butcher image on the cover of Yesterday... And Today -- saying it was the Beatles' protest against Capitol "butchering" their albums -- but in truth it was just that Capitol's art director chose the cover because he liked the image. Alan Livingston, the president of Capitol was not so sure, and called Brian Epstein to ask if the group would be OK with them using a different image. Epstein checked with John Lennon, but Lennon liked the image and so Epstein told Livingston the group insisted on them using that cover. Even though for the album cover the bloodstains on the butchers' smocks were airbrushed out, after Capitol had pressed up a million copies of the mono version of the album and two hundred thousand copies of the stereo version, and they'd sent out sixty thousand promo copies, they discovered that no record shops would stock the album with that cover. It cost Capitol more than two hundred thousand dollars to recall the album and replace the cover with a new one -- though while many of the covers were destroyed, others had the new cover, with a more acceptable photo of the group, pasted over them, and people have later carefully steamed off the sticker to reveal the original. This would not be the last time in 1966 that something that was intended as a statement on religion and the way people viewed the Beatles would cause the group trouble in America. In the middle of the recording sessions for Revolver, the group also made what turned out to be their last ever UK live performance in front of a paying audience. The group had played the NME Poll-Winners' Party every year since 1963, and they were always shows that featured all the biggest acts in the country at the time -- the 1966 show featured, as well as the Beatles and a bunch of smaller acts, the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Yardbirds, Roy Orbison, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, the Seekers, the Small Faces, the Walker Brothers, and Dusty Springfield. Unfortunately, while these events were always filmed for TV broadcast, the Beatles' performance on the first of May wasn't filmed. There are various stories about what happened, but the crux appears to be a disagreement between Andrew Oldham and Brian Epstein, sparked by John Lennon. When the Beatles got to the show, they were upset to discover that they had to wait around before going on stage -- normally, the awards would all be presented at the end, after all the performances, but the Rolling Stones had asked that the Beatles not follow them directly, so after the Stones finished their set, there would be a break for the awards to be given out, and then the Beatles would play their set, in front of an audience that had been bored by twenty-five minutes of awards ceremony, rather than one that had been excited by all the bands that came before them. John Lennon was annoyed, and insisted that the Beatles were going to go on straight after the Rolling Stones -- he seems to have taken this as some sort of power play by the Stones and to have got his hackles up about it. He told Epstein to deal with the people from the NME. But the NME people said that they had a contract with Andrew Oldham, and they weren't going to break it. Oldham refused to change the terms of the contract. Lennon said that he wasn't going to go on stage if they didn't directly follow the Stones. Maurice Kinn, the publisher of the NME, told Epstein that he wasn't going to break the contract with Oldham, and that if the Beatles didn't appear on stage, he would get Jimmy Savile, who was compering the show, to go out on stage and tell the ten thousand fans in the audience that the Beatles were backstage refusing to appear. He would then sue NEMS for breach of contract *and* NEMS would be liable for any damage caused by the rioting that was sure to happen. Lennon screamed a lot of abuse at Kinn, and told him the group would never play one of their events again, but the group did go on stage -- but because they hadn't yet signed the agreement to allow their performance to be filmed, they refused to allow it to be recorded. Apparently Andrew Oldham took all this as a sign that Epstein was starting to lose control of the group. Also during May 1966 there were visits from musicians from other countries, continuing the cultural exchange that was increasingly influencing the Beatles' art. Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys came over to promote the group's new LP, Pet Sounds, which had been largely the work of Brian Wilson, who had retired from touring to concentrate on working in the studio. Johnston played the record for John and Paul, who listened to it twice, all the way through, in silence, in Johnston's hotel room: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "God Only Knows"] According to Johnston, after they'd listened through the album twice, they went over to a piano and started whispering to each other, picking out chords. Certainly the influence of Pet Sounds is very noticeable on songs like "Here, There, and Everywhere", written and recorded a few weeks after this meeting: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Here, There, and Everywhere"] That track, and the last track recorded for the album, "She Said She Said" were unusual in one very important respect -- they were recorded while the Beatles were no longer under contract to EMI Records. Their contract expired on the fifth of June, 1966, and they finished Revolver without it having been renewed -- it would be several months before their new contract was signed, and it's rather lucky for music lovers that Brian Epstein was the kind of manager who considered personal relationships and basic honour and decency more important than the legal niceties, unlike any other managers of the era, otherwise we would not have Revolver in the form we know it today. After the meeting with Johnston, but before the recording of those last couple of Revolver tracks, the Beatles also met up again with Bob Dylan, who was on a UK tour with a new, loud, band he was working with called The Hawks. While the Beatles and Dylan all admired each other, there was by this point a lot of wariness on both sides, especially between Lennon and Dylan, both of them very similar personality types and neither wanting to let their guard down around the other or appear unhip. There's a famous half-hour-long film sequence of Lennon and Dylan sharing a taxi, which is a fascinating, excruciating, example of two insecure but arrogant men both trying desperately to impress the other but also equally desperate not to let the other know that they want to impress them: [Excerpt: Dylan and Lennon taxi ride] The day that was filmed, Lennon and Harrison also went to see Dylan play at the Royal Albert Hall. This tour had been controversial, because Dylan's band were loud and raucous, and Dylan's fans in the UK still thought of him as a folk musician. At one gig, earlier on the tour, an audience member had famously yelled out "Judas!" -- (just on the tiny chance that any of my listeners don't know that, Judas was the disciple who betrayed Jesus to the authorities, leading to his crucifixion) -- and that show was for many years bootlegged as the "Royal Albert Hall" show, though in fact it was recorded at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. One of the *actual* Royal Albert Hall shows was released a few years ago -- the one the night before Lennon and Harrison saw Dylan: [Excerpt: Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone", Royal Albert Hall 1966] The show Lennon and Harrison saw would be Dylan's last for many years. Shortly after returning to the US, Dylan was in a motorbike accident, the details of which are still mysterious, and which some fans claim was faked altogether. The accident caused him to cancel all the concert dates he had booked, and devote himself to working in the studio for several years just like Brian Wilson. And from even further afield than America, Ravi Shankar came over to Britain, to work with his friend the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, on a duet album, West Meets East, that was an example in the classical world of the same kind of international cross-fertilisation that was happening in the pop world: [Excerpt: Yehudi Menuhin and Ravi Shankar, "Prabhati (based on Raga Gunkali)"] While he was in the UK, Shankar also performed at the Royal Festival Hall, and George Harrison went to the show. He'd seen Shankar live the year before, but this time he met up with him afterwards, and later said "He was the first person that impressed me in a way that was beyond just being a famous celebrity. Ravi was my link to the Vedic world. Ravi plugged me into the whole of reality. Elvis impressed me when I was a kid, and impressed me when I met him, but you couldn't later on go round to him and say 'Elvis, what's happening with the universe?'" After completing recording and mixing the as-yet-unnamed album, which had been by far the longest recording process of their career, and which still nearly sixty years later regularly tops polls of the best album of all time, the Beatles took a well-earned break. For a whole two days, at which point they flew off to Germany to do a three-day tour, on their way to Japan, where they were booked to play five shows at the Budokan. Unfortunately for the group, while they had no idea of this when they were booked to do the shows, many in Japan saw the Budokan as sacred ground, and they were the first ever Western group to play there. This led to numerous death threats and loud protests from far-right activists offended at the Beatles defiling their religious and nationalistic sensibilities. As a result, the police were on high alert -- so high that there were three thousand police in the audience for the shows, in a venue which only held ten thousand audience members. That's according to Mark Lewisohn's Complete Beatles Chronicle, though I have to say that the rather blurry footage of the audience in the video of those shows doesn't seem to show anything like those numbers. But frankly I'll take Lewisohn's word over that footage, as he's not someone to put out incorrect information. The threats to the group also meant that they had to be kept in their hotel rooms at all times except when actually performing, though they did make attempts to get out. At the press conference for the Tokyo shows, the group were also asked publicly for the first time their views on the war in Vietnam, and John replied "Well, we think about it every day, and we don't agree with it and we think that it's wrong. That's how much interest we take. That's all we can do about it... and say that we don't like it". I say they were asked publicly for the first time, because George had been asked about it for a series of interviews Maureen Cleave had done with the group a couple of months earlier, as we'll see in a bit, but nobody was paying attention to those interviews. Brian Epstein was upset that the question had gone to John. He had hoped that the inevitable Vietnam question would go to Paul, who he thought might be a bit more tactful. The last thing he needed was John Lennon saying something that would upset the Americans before their tour there a few weeks later. Luckily, people in America seemed to have better things to do than pay attention to John Lennon's opinions. The support acts for the Japanese shows included  several of the biggest names in Japanese rock music -- or "group sounds" as the genre was called there, Japanese people having realised that trying to say the phrase "rock and roll" would open them up to ridicule given that it had both "r" and "l" sounds in the phrase. The man who had coined the term "group sounds", Jackey Yoshikawa, was there with his group the Blue Comets, as was Isao Bito, who did a rather good cover version of Cliff Richard's "Dynamite": [Excerpt: Isao Bito, "Dynamite"] Bito, the Blue Comets, and the other two support acts, Yuya Uchida and the Blue Jeans, all got together to perform a specially written song, "Welcome Beatles": [Excerpt: "Welcome Beatles" ] But while the Japanese audience were enthusiastic, they were much less vocal about their enthusiasm than the audiences the Beatles were used to playing for. The group were used, of course, to playing in front of hordes of screaming teenagers who could not hear a single note, but because of the fear that a far-right terrorist would assassinate one of the group members, the police had imposed very, very, strict rules on the audience. Nobody in the audience was allowed to get out of their seat for any reason, and the police would clamp down very firmly on anyone who was too demonstrative. Because of that, the group could actually hear themselves, and they sounded sloppy as hell, especially on the newer material. Not that there was much of that. The only song they did from the Revolver sessions was "Paperback Writer", the new single, and while they did do a couple of tracks from Rubber Soul, those were under-rehearsed. As John said at the start of this tour, "I can't play any of Rubber Soul, it's so unrehearsed. The only time I played any of the numbers on it was when I recorded it. I forget about songs. They're only valid for a certain time." That's certainly borne out by the sound of their performances of Rubber Soul material at the Budokan: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "If I Needed Someone (live at the Budokan)"] It was while they were in Japan as well that they finally came up with the title for their new album. They'd been thinking of all sorts of ideas, like Abracadabra and Magic Circle, and tossing names around with increasing desperation for several days -- at one point they seem to have just started riffing on other groups' albums, and seem to have apparently seriously thought about naming the record in parodic tribute to their favourite artists -- suggestions included The Beatles On Safari, after the Beach Boys' Surfin' Safari (and possibly with a nod to their recent Pet Sounds album cover with animals, too), The Freewheelin' Beatles, after Dylan's second album, and my favourite, Ringo's suggestion After Geography, for the Rolling Stones' Aftermath. But eventually Paul came up with Revolver -- like Rubber Soul, a pun, in this case because the record itself revolves when on a turntable. Then it was off to the Philippines, and if the group thought Japan had been stressful, they had no idea what was coming. The trouble started in the Philippines from the moment they stepped off the plane, when they were bundled into a car without Neil Aspinall or Brian Epstein, and without their luggage, which was sent to customs. This was a problem in itself -- the group had got used to essentially being treated like diplomats, and to having their baggage let through customs without being searched, and so they'd started freely carrying various illicit substances with them. This would obviously be a problem -- but as it turned out, this was just to get a "customs charge" paid by Brian Epstein. But during their initial press conference the group were worried, given the hostility they'd faced from officialdom, that they were going to be arrested during the conference itself. They were asked what they would tell the Rolling Stones, who were going to be visiting the Philippines shortly after, and Lennon just said "We'll warn them". They also asked "is there a war on in the Philippines? Why is everybody armed?" At this time, the Philippines had a new leader, Ferdinand Marcos -- who is not to be confused with his son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, also known as Bongbong Marcos, who just became President-Elect there last month. Marcos Sr was a dictatorial kleptocrat, one of the worst leaders of the latter half of the twentieth century, but that wasn't evident yet. He'd been elected only a few months earlier, and had presented himself as a Kennedy-like figure -- a young man who was also a war hero. He'd recently switched parties from the Liberal party to the right-wing Nacionalista Party, but wasn't yet being thought of as the monstrous dictator he later became. The person organising the Philippines shows had been ordered to get the Beatles to visit Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos at 11AM on the day of the show, but for some reason had instead put on their itinerary just the *suggestion* that the group should meet the Marcoses, and had put the time down as 3PM, and the Beatles chose to ignore that suggestion -- they'd refused to do that kind of government-official meet-and-greet ever since an incident in 1964 at the British Embassy in Washington where someone had cut off a bit of Ringo's hair. A military escort turned up at the group's hotel in the morning, to take them for their meeting. The group were all still in their rooms, and Brian Epstein was still eating breakfast and refused to disturb them, saying "Go back and tell the generals we're not coming." The group gave their performances as scheduled, but meanwhile there was outrage at the way the Beatles had refused to meet the Marcos family, who had brought hundreds of children -- friends of their own children, and relatives of top officials -- to a party to meet the group. Brian Epstein went on TV and tried to smooth things over, but the broadcast was interrupted by static and his message didn't get through to anyone. The next day, the group's security was taken away, as were the cars to take them to the airport. When they got to the airport, the escalators were turned off and the group were beaten up at the arrangement of the airport manager, who said in 1984 "I beat up the Beatles. I really thumped them. First I socked Epstein and he went down... then I socked Lennon and Ringo in the face. I was kicking them. They were pleading like frightened chickens. That's what happens when you insult the First Lady." Even on the plane there were further problems -- Brian Epstein and the group's road manager Mal Evans were both made to get off the plane to sort out supposed financial discrepancies, which led to them worrying that they were going to be arrested or worse -- Evans told the group to tell his wife he loved her as he left the plane. But eventually, they were able to leave, and after a brief layover in India -- which Ringo later said was the first time he felt he'd been somewhere truly foreign, as opposed to places like Germany or the USA which felt basically like home -- they got back to England: [Excerpt: "Ordinary passenger!"] When asked what they were going to do next, George replied “We’re going to have a couple of weeks to recuperate before we go and get beaten up by the Americans,” The story of the "we're bigger than Jesus" controversy is one of the most widely misreported events in the lives of the Beatles, which is saying a great deal. One book that I've encountered, and one book only, Steve Turner's Beatles '66, tells the story of what actually happened, and even that book seems to miss some emphases. I've pieced what follows together from Turner's book and from an academic journal article I found which has some more detail. As far as I can tell, every single other book on the Beatles released up to this point bases their account of the story on an inaccurate press statement put out by Brian Epstein, not on the truth. Here's the story as it's generally told. John Lennon gave an interview to his friend, Maureen Cleave of the Evening Standard, during which he made some comments about how it was depressing that Christianity was losing relevance in the eyes of the public, and that the Beatles are more popular than Jesus, speaking casually because he was talking to a friend. That story was run in the Evening Standard more-or-less unnoticed, but then an American teen magazine picked up on the line about the Beatles being bigger than Jesus, reprinted chunks of the interview out of context and without the Beatles' knowledge or permission, as a way to stir up controversy, and there was an outcry, with people burning Beatles records and death threats from the Ku Klux Klan. That's... not exactly what happened. The first thing that you need to understand to know what happened is that Datebook wasn't a typical teen magazine. It *looked* just like a typical teen magazine, certainly, and much of its content was the kind of thing that you would get in Tiger Beat or any of the other magazines aimed at teenage girls -- the September 1966 issue was full of articles like "Life with the Walker Brothers... by their Road Manager", and interviews with the Dave Clark Five -- but it also had a long history of publishing material that was intended to make its readers think about social issues of the time, particularly Civil Rights. Arthur Unger, the magazine's editor and publisher, was a gay man in an interracial relationship, and while the subject of homosexuality was too taboo in the late fifties and sixties for him to have his magazine cover that, he did regularly include articles decrying segregation and calling for the girls reading the magazine to do their part on a personal level to stamp out racism. Datebook had regularly contained articles like one from 1963 talking about how segregation wasn't just a problem in the South, saying "If we are so ‘integrated’ why must men in my own city of Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love, picket city hall because they are discriminated against when it comes to getting a job? And how come I am still unable to take my dark- complexioned friends to the same roller skating rink or swimming pool that I attend?” One of the writers for the magazine later said “We were much more than an entertainment magazine . . . . We tried to get kids involved in social issues . . . . It was a well-received magazine, recommended by libraries and schools, but during the Civil Rights period we did get pulled off a lot of stands in the South because of our views on integration” Art Unger, the editor and publisher, wasn't the only one pushing this liberal, integrationist, agenda. The managing editor at the time, Danny Fields, was another gay man who wanted to push the magazine even further than Unger, and who would later go on to manage the Stooges and the Ramones, being credited by some as being the single most important figure in punk rock's development, and being immortalised by the Ramones in their song "Danny Says": [Excerpt: The Ramones, "Danny Says"] So this was not a normal teen magazine, and that's certainly shown by the cover of the September 1966 issue, which as well as talking about the interviews with John Lennon and Paul McCartney inside, also advertised articles on Timothy Leary advising people to turn on, tune in, and drop out; an editorial about how interracial dating must be the next step after desegregation of schools, and a piece on "the ten adults you dig/hate the most" -- apparently the adult most teens dug in 1966 was Jackie Kennedy, the most hated was Barry Goldwater, and President Johnson, Billy Graham, and Martin Luther King appeared in the top ten on both lists. Now, in the early part of the year Maureen Cleave had done a whole series of articles on the Beatles -- double-page spreads on each band member, plus Brian Epstein, visiting them in their own homes (apart from Paul, who she met at a restaurant) and discussing their daily lives, their thoughts, and portraying them as rounded individuals. These articles are actually fascinating, because of something that everyone who met the Beatles in this period pointed out. When interviewed separately, all of them came across as thoughtful individuals, with their own opinions about all sorts of subjects, and their own tastes and senses of humour. But when two or more of them were together -- especially when John and Paul were interviewed together, but even in social situations, they would immediately revert to flip in-jokes and riffing on each other's statements, never revealing anything about themselves as individuals, but just going into Beatle mode -- simultaneously preserving the band's image, closing off outsiders, *and* making sure they didn't do or say anything that would get them mocked by the others. Cleave, as someone who actually took them all seriously, managed to get some very revealing information about all of them. In the article on Ringo, which is the most superficial -- one gets the impression that Cleave found him rather difficult to talk to when compared to the other, more verbally facile, band members -- she talked about how he had a lot of Wild West and military memorabilia, how he was a devoted family man and also devoted to his friends -- he had moved to the suburbs to be close to John and George, who already lived there. The most revealing quote about Ringo's personality was him saying "Of course that's the great thing about being married -- you have a house to sit in and company all the time. And you can still go to clubs, a bonus for being married. I love being a family man." While she looked at the other Beatles' tastes in literature in detail, she'd noted that the only books Ringo owned that weren't just for show were a few science fiction paperbacks, but that as he said "I'm not thick, it's just that I'm not educated. People can use words and I won't know what they mean. I say 'me' instead of 'my'." Ringo also didn't have a drum kit at home, saying he only played when he was on stage or in the studio, and that you couldn't practice on your own, you needed to play with other people. In the article on George, she talked about how he was learning the sitar,  and how he was thinking that it might be a good idea to go to India to study the sitar with Ravi Shankar for six months. She also talks about how during the interview, he played the guitar pretty much constantly, playing everything from songs from "Hello Dolly" to pieces by Bach to "the Trumpet Voluntary", by which she presumably means Clarke's "Prince of Denmark's March": [Excerpt: Jeremiah Clarke, "Prince of Denmark's March"] George was also the most outspoken on the subjects of politics, religion, and society, linking the ongoing war in Vietnam with the UK's reverence for the Second World War, saying "I think about it every day and it's wrong. Anything to do with war is wrong. They're all wrapped up in their Nelsons and their Churchills and their Montys -- always talking about war heroes. Look at All Our Yesterdays [a show on ITV that showed twenty-five-year-old newsreels] -- how we killed a few more Huns here and there. Makes me sick. They're the sort who are leaning on their walking sticks and telling us a few years in the army would do us good." He also had very strong words to say about religion, saying "I think religion falls flat on its face. All this 'love thy neighbour' but none of them are doing it. How can anybody get into the position of being Pope and accept all the glory and the money and the Mercedes-Benz and that? I could never be Pope until I'd sold my rich gates and my posh hat. I couldn't sit there with all that money on me and believe I was religious. Why can't we bring all this out in the open? Why is there all this stuff about blasphemy? If Christianity's as good as they say it is, it should stand up to a bit of discussion." Harrison also comes across as a very private person, saying "People keep saying, ‘We made you what you are,’ well, I made Mr. Hovis what he is and I don’t go round crawling over his gates and smashing up the wall round his house." (Hovis is a British company that makes bread and wholegrain flour). But more than anything else he comes across as an instinctive anti-authoritarian, being angry at bullying teachers, Popes, and Prime Ministers. McCartney's profile has him as the most self-consciously arty -- he talks about the plays of Alfred Jarry and the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luciano Berio: [Excerpt: Luciano Berio, "Momenti (for magnetic tape)"] Though he was very worried that he might be sounding a little too pretentious, saying “I don’t want to sound like Jonathan Miller going on" -- Miller was a doctor turned comedian turned public intellectual, who had started out as a neurologist, become famous as part of the comedy revue Beyond The Fringe, and had since become the presenter of the BBC's flagship arts programme, Monitor, as well as a director for the theatre and TV, and he was often satirised as a rather pompous figure who thought a little too much of his own intelligence and erudition. McCartney also indulged in the kind of reflex anti-Americanism that is very common among British people who want to think of themselves as intellectuals, saying that America needed something like the BBC to give them some culture, and saying “They have hardly any plays on television in America. Here we have lots of plays; you hear people say, ‘I like a good play.’ Well, in America, like in 1984, plays are out of the dictionary. They have willed themselves into this. It makes me sad for them." That anti-Americanism also stretched, rather more admirably, to attacking the endemic racism in America, saying "It’s a lousy country where anyone who is black is made to seem a dirty" -- and here McCartney used the n-word, which was printed in full in the interview, but which I won't repeat here --  "There is a statue of a good Negro doffing his hat and being polite in the gutter. I saw a picture of it." He then went back to his previous point about culture, talking about how in Britain "we have millions of little societies preserving things. We have little societies to preserve barrels of beer and little John Betjeman societies and little ban-the-bomb societies." And the interview with Lennon is quite a remarkable piece of writing, a portrait of a deeply, deeply, unhappy man who has got enough money to do anything he wants, burning through hobbies and special interests and discarding them almost instantly, buying things like a gorilla costume. To quote from the piece: "‘I thought I might need a gorilla suit,’ he said; he seemed sad about it. ‘I’ve only worn it twice. I thought I might pop it on in the summer and drive round in the Ferrari. We were all going to get them and drive round in them but I was the only one who did. I’ve been thinking about it and if I didn’t wear the head it would make an amazing fur coat – with legs, you see.'" That kind of thing is the bulk of the article, but Cleave's most insightful description of Lennon comes immediately before what would become the most controversial part:"Experience has sown few seeds of doubt in him: not that his mind is closed, but it’s closed round whatever he believes at the time. ‘Christianity will go,’ he said. ‘It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.’ He is reading extensively about religion." The book Lennon was reading, specifically, was later revealed to be The Passover Plot by Hugh J. Schonfield, which is one of those bestsellers that comes around about once a decade presenting a conspiracy theory about the life of Jesus, written by someone with just enough understanding of the classical world and Biblical Hebrew to be plausible to people who like to think they're privy to secret, hidden, truths that most people don't understand. In Schonfield's case, he takes the standard narrative of the historical Jesus that is largely accepted by secular Bible scholars -- that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet -- and presents the accepted scholarship fairly accurately. But he then mixes in the idea that the apostles were being kept in the dark about Jesus' real plans -- according to Schonfield, Jesus, Judas, Joseph of Arimathea and the Beloved Disciple conspired together both to have Jesus fulfil many Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, and then to fake Jesus' death by drugging him on the cross. But then a Roman soldier speared Jesus in the side, Jesus actually died, and the others were left having to fake the resurrection instead. As a result of this, according to Schonfield, Jesus' message was passed along by people from whom he had deliberately kept his true beliefs and intentions. There is, it need hardly be said, no evidence whatsoever for this story, but Schonfield mixed in enough genuinely erudite scholarship with the crankery that it was convincing to people who had never before encountered the historical-critical attitude to the Bible. So much so that it became a huge bestseller, and in the 1970s was turned into a film starring Donald Pleasance: [Excerpt: The Passover Plot trailer] And it certainly seems to have convinced Lennon, whose claim that "Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me" might as well be the Readers' Digest condensed books version of Schonfield's book. It's also apparent that Lennon empathised with the figure of Jesus as he was portrayed in The Passover Plot -- someone who was being seen as an idol by people who didn't understand his work at all. These interviews ran in the Evening Standard with minimal fuss -- the odd letter and satirical cartoon noted them, but no more so than anything else any of the Beatles said or did at the time. Indeed, the biggest complaint the Lennon interview got was a letter in the Evening Standard, which paid more attention to how disgraceful it was that Lennon didn't want anything to do with his deadbeat father than to the comments about Christianity. Lennon's comments also appeared in the US, in Newsweek, shortly after they were published in Britain, Lennon's interview appeared in Detroit magazine in May, and all the full interviews appeared in the New York Times Magazine section in July, to no American reaction at all. But Tony Barrow, the Beatles' publicist, had written to Art Unger in March, saying "I think you might be more than interested in a series of 'in-depth' pieces which Maureen Cleave is doing on each Beatle for the London Evening Standard. I'm enclosing a clipping showing her piece on John Lennon. I think the style and content is very much in line with the sort of thing DATEBOOK likes to use." Unger had bought the rights to the interviews with all four Beatles, checked with Barrow if they wanted to amend anything and was told it was fine, and had published the George and Ringo interviews in one issue of the magazine, and then held over the John and Paul ones for the issue that would be coming out while the group were on tour in the US. Now... here's the thing. That issue of the magazine was intended to be deliberately controversial -- it was the "speaking out" issue. And to make sure the issue would get talked about, Datebook sent copies to hundreds of DJs across the Southern States, in the Bible Belt. But the thing is... they seem to have been trying to get people angry about a different interview than the one that they got worked up about. They did have a quote from Lennon about Christianity on the cover, but crucially not the bit where he said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, the line "I don't know which will go first -- rock 'n' roll or Christianity". And Lennon's quote wasn't the one given most prominence. Remember, this was a magazine that had stuck its neck out often in support of integration. Paul McCartney, not John Lennon, was given the full-page cover photo, and his was the quote on top of the list of pull-quotes on the front page. And the quote used was him saying that America was "a lousy country where anyone Black is a dirty" -- and then the n-word. THAT, I am absolutely certain, is the conversation that Art Unger was wanting to start by sending copies of the magazine to Southern DJs. The whole front page, including another pull quote from another article, about how teenagers need to start dating across races, is designed to get white Southerners incensed. Here's one of the Beatles condemning segregation, calling America "a lousy country" because of it, and also using the n-word to emphasise this point. You can see *exactly* what Unger was trying to do -- it would whip up a fury from the right-wing DJs, but one that would position the Beatles on the side which most young people supported in America's ongoing culture war, which also happened to be the side Unger himself supported. His circulation would go up, some publicity would go to a cause he supported very strongly, and the Beatles would only get attacked by people who it would make them look good to be attacked by. Everyone would win. But that's not what happened. Instead, a DJ in Birmingham, Alabama, Tommy Charles, read Lennon's quote about how the Beatles were bigger than Jesus out on the air to his colleague Doug Layton, and they were disgusted -- not by the blasphemy, neither were particularly religious, but by the arrogance -- they interpreted Lennon's quote about the group being bigger than Jesus as being Lennon boasting about how great his group was. They decided they weren't going to play any Beatles records on their show any more, and rather to their surprise they found they were getting a huge number of phone calls supporting them -- so many that they said, more or less as a joke, that people should send in their unwanted Beatles records to burn on a bonfire the next time the Beatles came to town. The Beatles weren't going to play in Alabama on their next tour, and no bonfire was ever held, and nor did they seriously intend to have one, though they received many records from irate listeners. And that should have been the end of it. Two DJs on a relatively small local top-forty station filling up some time by feigning outrage over something they'd read in a newspaper or magazine that morning, as happens everywhere. But as it happened the Birmingham bureau chief for United Press International was in his car listening to that station that morning, and he filed a report to the press syndicate, titled "Birmingham Disk Jockeys to Hold Beatles Burning". That story was picked up nationally, and suddenly a lot of other places *were* seriously planning to burn Beatles records. Brian Epstein was on holiday in Portmeirion, in Gwynnedd, North Wales, when Art Unger got in touch with him to let him know that things had got very out of hand. Epstein had not been in a good way -- on the flight back from India after the Philippines debacle, the group had told him that they were thinking of stopping touring, which made his position with the group precarious, and he had broken out into a rash on the plane home from stress. On top of that, he'd come down with glandular fever -- what I believe Americans refer to as "mono" -- and so rather than travel to America in advance of the US tour, on the advice of his doctor he had decided to take a break in Portmeirion, a beautiful, picturesque, seaside town that was not yet the tourist destination it became after it was used in The Prisoner. He was trying not to let himself get too stressed, and so at first he looked on the bright side, saying "Arthur, if they burn Beatles records, they've got to buy them first." But after a few days of increasing press outrage, Epstein was forced to cut his holiday short, drive to Chester, charter a plane to London, and then get a transatlantic flight to the US to do a press conference, where he looked seriously distressed as he read out a prepared statement he had agreed with Lennon: [Excerpt: Brian Epstein statement ] Art Unger was rather upset at this, as he argued that Lennon's remarks hadn't been taken out of context at all, and he said so at the press conference -- as far as he was concerned, you couldn't get less out of context than reprinting the entire article in full (apart from cutting five sentences of introductory material at the beginning, which had just been there to establish for an adult audience that the Beatles were indeed worth paying attention to. According to Unger, he had something of a row with Epstein later and Epstein tried a carrot and stick approach, threatening to get Unger's press access to the tour revoked to avoid making it look like everything had been a publicity stunt, but Lennon apparently stuck up for Unger, who he regarded as a friend. We can't know for sure what actually happened, as all three participants are now sadly dead, but Unger did end up going on the tour. When the Beatles arrived six days later, things had not completely calmed down, and Epstein and Tony Barrow explained the situation to Lennon -- of course he had a right to say whatever he wanted, and they would stand by him, but people like the Ku Klux Klan had been threatening terrorist activity at the gigs, and there was the possibility that a sniper could get into a gig and kill one or more of the group. If he could try to be conciliatory, and walk back some of what he'd said, maybe he could save his friends' lives. Lennon apparently broke down in tears, though he tried to hide it from Epstein and Barrow, and in the press conference that followed he was clearly in great distress: [Excerpt: Lennon 1966 press conference] But the tour, in which they played nineteen shows in eighteen days, went off largely without a hitch. There were problems, of course -- in Memphis someone threw a firecracker onto the stage and for one horrifying moment all the group members thought one of the others must have been shot, but all things considered, it went remarkably reasonably. It was less successful than their previous US tour, but only by Beatles standards -- they didn't sell out Shea Stadium, for example, but that meant that they "only" played to forty-four thousand people rather than fifty-five thousand people like they had the year before. It was still a far bigger audience than any other band in the world could have got. In the same way, their latest single, a double A-side of "Eleanor Rigby" and "Yellow Submarine", once again didn't go straight into the UK charts at number one. It still went to number one, of course, it just took a little while to get there -- and given that both tracks were on Revolver, released on the same day, so some people who would otherwise have bought the single undoubtedly didn't bother, and that neither song sounded anything like any previous Beatles single, that was still a great achievement. They were still the most successful band in the world, but they obviously needed to move on, and not just continue playing the same shows to slowly diminishing screaming audiences. In LA, Paul and George met Brian and Carl Wilson for the first time, at Derek Taylor's house, where the four of them talked for hours, mostly listening to old Glenn Miller records, though at one point Brian played them an acetate of the instrumental track to "Good Vibrations", which he was still working on. Brian Epstein's time in LA was rather less pleasant. He met up with an ex while he was there, and was horrified later to discover that the ex had stolen an attache case containing a large amount of money, several illegal substances, and several photos which, at a time when gay sex was still illegal in both the UK and US, could have got Brian into serious legal trouble. Epstein's ex blackmailed him, and so Epstein ended up not being at the show at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, as he had to attend a drop-off, to pay for the return of some of his possessions. Knowing that it was likely to be the last show the group ever did, they asked Tony Barrow to record the show on a cassette, something they didn't normally do: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Long Tall Sally (live at Candlestick Park)"] That's where the tape ran out, thirty-five seconds into the last song. That's the end of the Beatles as a live band. At the end of the show, John said to the crowd "See you again next year", but on the plane George said "That's it. I'm not a Beatle any more". On the plane, John was apparently depressed, but did sign a copy of the Datebook issue that had caused so much trouble for Unger, signing it "To Art with love from John C. Lennon". The C, he explained, stood for Christ. The day after they arrived back in London, Maureen Cleave got married and quit her job as the pop music correspondent for the Evening Standard. From that day on, she never played another pop record, and never met any of the Beatles again. For the first time since 1962, the Beatles had no plans at all. Despite George saying "I'm not a Beatle any more" the group hadn't split up, but they had no tour dates scheduled, and they had no record contract in place, so for the first time they were not going to be releasing a new album for the Christmas market. Instead, EMI put together the first Beatles compilation album released in Britain -- A Collection of Beatles Oldies -- which had all their singles from "From Me to You" through "Eleanor Rigby" and "Yellow Submarine", plus one track that hadn't yet seen British release, the group's cover version of Larry Williams' "Bad Boy", which they'd knocked out as a bit of album filler for an American release the year before: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Bad Boy"] From the end of August 1966 through to the end of November, there were no Beatles activities. This was by far the longest time the four of them had spent apart in four years, even though it was only a break of a couple of months. Most of them kept very active, so for the next little while I'm going to tell you the separate stories of what happened to John, George, Brian Epstein, and Paul, in that order -- Ringo didn't do much in this time, other than go along to visit John -- but bear in mind that while I'm telling these stories, they happened in parallel, not sequentially. John was the first one to have an announced outside project. Richard Lester had cast him in the film How I Won The War, and Lennon flew out nine days after the end of the tour for filming in Germany and Spain. Now, I should say something for anyone who wants to watch that film solely out of interest in Lennon, which is that while he has second billing in the film after Michael Crawford, and while the Blu-Ray cover is just a giant close-up of Lennon's face, he actually only has a *very* small part -- it's an ensemble piece, and nobody but Crawford has what you might call a large part, but Roy Kinnear and Michael Hordern, for starters, both have a great deal more to do than Lennon, whose character Musketeer Gripweed is in the film throughout, but has very few lines. That's not the first time that Lennon has been used mildly dishonestly to make money in relation to this film. In 1967 a single titled "How I Won the War" was released as by "Musketeer Gripweed and the Third Troop", using Lennon's character's name in the hope that it might make some people think he had something to do with the record, which was actually some of the soundtrack music by Ken Thorne (who had previously done the instrumental music for Help! and would later go on to do the Monkees film Head) with bits of dialogue pasted over the top: [Excerpt: Musketeer Gripweed and the Third Troop, "How I Won the War"  ] But that's not to say that the film isn't worth watching at all. I think it's probably Lester's worst film, but Lester was always an interesting director, and it is at the very least an interesting failure, a Brechtian comedy about class and the futility of war, but fundamentally it's one of those films where you can watch the first five or ten minutes, think "Ah, yes, I see what they're doing, very clever", and then not need to watch the rest of the film. But the making of "How I Won the War" was also a symbolic ending of the old Beatles image. Lennon had to get his hair cut, getting rid of the moptop hairstyle that had defined the group, in order to play a soldier. He also lost a *lot* of weight during the making of the film. He had been worried and depressed about his weight for a year, since seeing himself described as "the fat Beatle" in an article, but at this point the combination of doing relatively strenuous work in a hot climate, rather than sitting around at home all day, and his massive intake of LSD which made eating seem unappealing, caused his appearance to change dramatically. In some shots he still has something of the roundness to his face that he had in the videos for "Paperback Writer" and "Penny Lane", but by the end of the filming he was gaunt, almost unhealthily thin, and looked like an entirely different person. And the change that would be most noticeable was the glasses. Lennon had been wearing contact lenses for many years, but his character, Musketeer Gripweed, had to wear glasses, and even though they were just clear glass, not prescription, Lennon ended up wearing them all day every day while filming -- he had a tendency to put things down and forget where he'd put them, and they only had a small number of these props, so it was just easier for him to leave them on all the time, and he grew to be comfortable wearing them. He'd already started wearing coloured sunglasses with similar round frames, possibly influenced by Roger McGuinn, and he'd also seen John Sebastian wearing glasses in this style, but from How I Won The War on these glasses would become synonymous with Lennon. It was while he was in Spain filming How I Won The War that Lennon started working on a song that was originally titled "Not Too Bad", which started out as Lennon writing a song about his own feelings of alienation and misunderstanding. He was feeling lonely -- though Ringo did come to Spain to visit him -- and he was thinking about how most people didn't understand him and he had no connection with them, and also about his own inarticulacy. The first version of the song he came up with, appropriately for a song about inability to connect, has very few lyrics, although the melody is there from the start: [Excerpt: John Lennon, "It's Not Too Bad"] But after recording several versions of this, which are fascinating to hear, with him feeling out the song a bit at a time, this started to connect with his thoughts about his childhood, and he came up with a central motif. Strawberry Field, which didn't have an "s" at the end, was a Salvation Army children's home near where John had grown up, and it was an imposing building -- when the Salvation Army bought it in 1935 they pointed out that from one side of the building on a clear day one could see the city of Chester, fifteen miles away, while from the other side of the building on the same clear day you could see the peak of Mount Snowdon, in Gwynnedd, North Wales, more than fifty miles away. The home had a huge garden, and Lennon and his friends used to climb over the wall and play in the garden as children. This image, of carefree children playing in an Edenic garden, was juxtaposed with his current desperation to provide a vision of what life could be like: [Excerpt: John Lennon, "Strawberry Fields"] By all accounts, Lennon had a miserable time making the film, though he worked hard at it, showing up on set even on days when he wasn't needed, and things only got worse at the end of October, when he discovered that his friend Alma Cogan had died. Lennon was *extremely* close to Cogan, and according to Lennon's wife Cynthia, he was in love with her, and she was the great love of his life -- they'd been carrying on an affair for years. Lennon was devastated, and Cynthia would later say that he pretty much immediately started looking around for someone else like Cogan to replace her, and really to replace his mother -- someone older, Bohemian, and able to take charge of him. According to Cynthia, then, Lennon was on the rebound when he was invited to an art show by John Dunbar. Dunbar was a friend of the group, but primarily a friend of Paul's -- he'd dated Jenny Waller, the sister of Gordon Waller, who was in the duo Peter and Gordon with Peter Asher, who was the brother of McCartney's girlfriend Jane Asher. Dunbar, Peter Asher, and the writer Barry Miles had started up the Indica Bookshop and Gallery, and we heard in the episode on "Tomorrow Never Knows" how that shop had been where Lennon had discovered The Psychedelic Experience. And on the seventh of November, Lennon went along to a preview of a show that was opening at the Indica the next day. The show was by a Japanese-American artist, Yoko Ono, who worked in a variety of media -- she was a painter, performance artist, and musician, and she had famously collaborated with John Cage, the avant-garde composer: [Excerpt: Yoko Ono, John Cage, Toshi Ichiyanigi, David Tudor and Kenji Kobayashi, “26’55.988”, ] According to Paul McCartney her association with Cage had actually already brought her into contact with the Beatles -- she had been putting together a collection of manuscripts by famous composers as a birthday present for Cage and had asked McCartney for one, and he had turned her down, but she later got the lyric sheet for "The Word" from Lennon -- though this seems to me likely to be a misremembering of the timeline involved, and likely something that happened the next year (McCartney often gets his memories of when things happened in this period slightly skewed, for example thinking that a moustache he grew in November 1966 happened right after the moped crash he was in in December 1965). Either way, Ono was part of a very different world than the Beatles, but Dunbar thought that Lennon might appreciate her work, and arranged for Lennon to have a private viewing of what was advertised as her "one-man show" a couple of days before it officially opened. Ono wasn't keen on this, but Dunbar explained that Lennon was a millionaire and might be a useful patron, and so she reluctantly agreed. Ono's exhibition was a set of conceptual pieces, for example a chess set where all the pieces and squares were white, and which you were encouraged to play until you forgot which of the players was you and which your opponent. Lennon was initially unimpressed -- he had a famously ambivalent attitude towards intellectualism in art, being simultaneously drawn to it but dismissive of anything he thought might be pretension or a con. John decided he liked the show when he saw a piece called Ladder Piece. In this piece, the viewer had to climb a ladder, at the top of which were a card and a magnifying glass. The viewer was meant to look at the card with the magnifying glass, and see that in tiny letters the card said "YES". Lennon said later that what he liked about this piece was that it was one of the few things he'd seen with an unambiguously positive message -- that if the card had said "rip-off" or something he would have walked out, but "YES" got his interest. He then looked at Hammer and Nail Piece -- a block of mahogany with gold-plated nails and a gold-plated hammer next to it -- the viewers were meant to hammer the nails in, and Lennon asked if he could, but Ono refused to let him, because she wanted the piece to be pristine for when the show actually opened. But Dunbar knew that it was a good idea to keep Lennon on side because he was so rich, and tried to persuade Ono to let the millionaire potential patron hammer a nail in if he wanted to. Eventually, Ono said he could, but only if Lennon paid her five shillings. When told this, Lennon offered to give her an imaginary five shillings to hammer in an imaginary nail, they both laughed, and they realised they were on the same wavelength. While Lennon was off filming How I Won the War, George Harrison had decided to devote himself more to his new love of Indian music, and to learn the sitar properly: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Love You To"] When Harrison had met Ravi Shankar earlier that year, Shankar had given him a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, a book which I would definitely go into in more detail were this not such a long episode already, and the two had talked about Harrison learning the sitar properly. Now there was some space in the Beatles' calendar, Harrison decided to do just that. He flew off to India, having first cut his hair short and obtained a false moustache until he could grow his own, in the hope of remaining more or less anonymous while he was over there. This didn't work, of course, and soon Harrison had to do a press conference and explain that he was there not in his capacity as a Beatle, but purely in his personal capacity. Shankar had initially been extremely unimpressed with Harrison's sitar technique, calling it “a sort of sound which to us sounded really ridiculous. It’s like if someone in Africa takes the violin and plays it and says, ‘How do you like this scratching sound?’ It takes a long time to produce the real sound and play the real music.” Harrison only had a month to give, initially, but he had an intensive crash course, not only in the sitar, but also in the philosophy and lifestyle which guided Shankar. While in the afternoon he would take several hours of sitar lessons, in the morning he had to do yoga lessons -- it was explained to him that he would need a basic familiarity with yoga to get into the lotus position in order to play the instrument properly -- and Shankar also taught him about Hinduism. While on the trip, George also met Allaudin Khan, the 104-year-old sarod player who had been Shankar's teacher, and who we heard about in the episode on the Byrds a while back. According to Harrison, it was Khan who taught him about the concept of karma -- rather oddly, since Khan was Muslim while karma is a Hindu concept, but as we discussed in that Byrds episode, there was more religious fluidity and openness among the musicians in India than in many other sections of society, and both Khan and Shankar seem to have had rather syncretic ideas about religion -- not far off from John Lennon's statements that he thought that Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha had all got it right and it was only their followers who had messed things up. That was also the gist of a quote that George took to heart, from Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda, one of the books that Shankar told him to study -- "Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest that divinity. Do this through work and yoga and prayer, one or all of these means, and be free. Churches, temples, rituals, and dogmas are but secondary details." Shortly after Harrison got back to Britain, and coincidentally on the same day that Alma Cogan died, Ravi Shankar came over to the UK and Harrison picked him up from the airport. Shankar was in Britain to record the soundtrack music for Jonathan Miller's new TV play version of John Lennon's favourite book, Alice in Wonderland: [Excerpt: Ravi Shankar, "Alice in Wonderland music"] Miller's play is definitely worth watching, incidentally, and features several people with connections to the Beatles -- as well as Shankar doing the music, it had their friend Peter Sellers, Wilfrid Bramble who had played Paul's grandfather in A Hard Day's Night, and Leo McKern, who had played Clang the High Priest in Help! (and who we heard right at the beginning of this episode as "the new Number 2" in The Prisoner). And, in a coincidence I felt I had to note, Miller's assistant on the play was Tony Palmer, later to be a director in his own right. Palmer would later go on to make the first serious TV documentary series on the history of popular music, and the book version of that series, which I read as a tiny child, was one of the indirect inspirations for this podcast -- and that series was called "All You Need Is Love". "Alice in Wonderland" also featured Miller's old colleague from "Beyond the Fringe", Peter Cook. John had appeared with Cook and Dudley Moore in their first episode of "Not Only... But Also" in 1965, and would appear in an episode later in 1966. But while Harrison was learning how to manifest the divinity of his soul in India, Brian Epstein was having a much, much worse time. He was convinced that with the Beatles no longer touring, his role with the group would be at best diminished, and at worst they might not want to sign with him again when their contract came up for renewal at the end of 1967. At the end of September, Epstein was taken to hospital. The official story was that it was for complications of the glandular fever he'd come down with a month before. In fact, though, it was to have his stomach pumped after an overdose -- he'd been discovered by his assistant, Peter Brown, who also found a note saying "This is all too much, I can't take it any more". After having his stomach pumped, he went to the Priory, a private hospital for the treatment of addictions, eating disorders, and mental illnesses. Now it's important to note, when we look at tragic events later in this episode, that Epstein's suicide attempts were of the "cry for help" variety -- he made a handful, and they were all done in such a way that someone would find him before anything permanent could happen. But it's definitely true that Epstein was feeling simultaneously overworked and distressed at the possibility he would be cut out from the Beatles' lives -- he wanted to remain with them, but he also wanted to stop working in the entertainment industry generally. And so shortly before his overdose, he had had a meeting with Robert Stigwood about the possibility of Stigwood taking over NEMS. [Excerpt: The Robert Stigwood Orchestra, “Massachusetts”] We've mentioned Robert Stigwood before, but only briefly, and that was back in episode one hundred and one, but it's worth filling in a bit more information about him here, because he would play a big role in Brian Epstein's life, if not so much those of the Beatles, from September 1966 through August 1967, and he will also come up again in the future. Stigwood was an Australian, born in 1934, and he had always had ambitions to be in the arts, but his father had forbidden him to go to university unless he was going to study electrical engineering, so he'd taken the closest thing he could find to a job in the media without any qualifications, working in the metal foundry that converted photos into printing plates for the Adelaide News -- the newspaper that would become the basis of Rupert Murdoch's media empire. He'd gone on from there to work in an advertising agency, but he had devoted most of his energies to producing amateur dramatics, before making his way to Europe. He'd become engaged to a girl who was going off to work in France, and they'd made arrangements to meet in Paris in summer 1955. Stigwood had no money, but he got a job working on a ship going as far as India, then hitch-hiked from India to Turkey, spent three months working on a Turkish farm, and then made his way to Paris for the rendezvous. Depending on which version of the story you go by, either the girl didn't turn up, or Stigwood decided at the last minute not to turn up himself, but either way it didn't much matter, as by that point he'd figured out he was gay, and headed off to the UK. After spending a while working as an unsuccessful manager of a repertory theatre in Norwich, Stigwood came upon another plan for success in the entertainment industry. He was going to be the manager of a pop singer, and he had the perfect new star -- a much younger friend of his named Stephen Komlosy, who was good looking enough that Stigwood was sure he would be a sensation. Stigwood and Komlosy moved to London and started a business called Robert Stigwood Associates Limited, using as startup capital a loan of five thousand pounds from Komlosy's parents -- equivalent to about a hundred and twenty thousand pounds today. They hit a snag, though, in that Komlosy was such a bad singer that even in the British pop music scene of the late fifties and early sixties, he was unable to get a record contract. So the company they'd formed quickly pivoted, first to running a modelling agency (with both men apparently making the most of the opportunities to date attractive models of their respective preferred genders) and then to an acting agency. Stigwood had experience of working with actors, and had noticed a gap in the market -- most of the major acting agencies thought that doing commercials was demeaning, and that even working on commercial TV at all was a bit low-class. This meant that the quality of actors on commercials was appalling, and the quality of actors on commercial TV more generally less than wonderful. Stigwood and Komlosy fixed that, targeting the producers of commercial TV, and Robert Stigwood Associates soon ended up representing forty percent of all actors on ITV. But Stigwood was playing a long game. What he really wanted was to create careers for stars in multiple fields -- he wanted actors who could sing, singers who could model, and so on. The first star in this mould that he found was John Leyton, who Stigwood originally got work playing Biggles' sidekick Ginger in a 1960 TV series. Stigwood and Komlosy had got to know Joe Meek, and they struck a deal with Meek where they would give him money for improved studio equipment if Meek would sign Leyton and make records with him. The first few records they made together were flops, but then Stigwood got "Johnny Remember Me" placed on a popular TV soap opera, with Leyton miming the song, and it became a massive hit: [Excerpt: John Leyton, "Johnny Remember Me"] Stigwood soon built up a small stable of pop stars, like sixteen-year-old Carol Hedges, who had been discovered by Joe Meek. Stigwood changed her name to Billie Davis, and she had a top ten hit with "Tell Him", a song written by Bert Berns for the Exciters. [Excerpt: Billie Davis, "Tell Him"] By August 1963 Stigwood acts had had eighteen top forty hits in two years. Stigwood became the UK representative for Motown, and also became close to Brian Epstein. Stigwood had got the contract to produce Beatles Monthly, a fan magazine, and socialised with Epstein every time the latter came down to London from Liverpool, looking at him as an example to emulate. But then, as would be a recurring pattern in Stigwood's career, he bit off more than he could chew. First, he decided to promote a new singer, Simon Scott, by sending out hundreds of plaster busts of him to journalists and DJs, at huge expense. The busts were ridiculed by everyone who got one, and it soon became a massive source of fun for anyone who had received one to throw them out of top-floor windows, or otherwise inventively destroy them. Scott's debut single barely scraped the top forty. Then in late 1964 RSA promoted a package tour whose headliner was the American singer P.J. Proby, who had several hits in 1964 and 65, including a 1965 version of Lennon and McCartney's "That Means a Lot": [Excerpt: P.J. Proby, "That Means a Lot"] But then Proby refused to do the tour, and was found unconscious in his hotel room from an overdose. Stigwood tried desperately to get someone to take his place -- he actually managed to book Chuck Berry, who was in the middle of a comeback at the time, but then Berry also had to cancel, because he couldn't get out of a prior commitment, and Stigwood's insurance company wouldn't pay out because the tour was cancelled at such short notice. On top of all this, there was a union dispute which meant that for a while no pre-recorded TV commercials could air. As a result of this, the company's normal bread-and-butter earnings also dried up, and the company ended up declaring bankruptcy -- though Stigwood himself wasn't bankrupt, and would turn up to creditors' meetings in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce. Indeed, he had soon set up a new company, the Robert Stigwood Organisation, and was being as profligate as ever -- Komlosy left the company after discovering that Stigwood had gambled away the payroll the day before payday. Not that there were no consequences for him -- RSA had owed the Rolling Stones sixteen thousand pounds when it went bankrupt, for a tour they'd done for the company, and when Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Andrew Oldham, and the journalist Keith Altham happened upon Stigwood coming out of a club they were going into, Richards got the other three to hold Stigwood while he kneed him in the guts and genitals sixteen times, "once for every grand he owes us" But Stigwood continued to produce records, including one by the Graham Bond Organization which is often claimed to be the first pop record to feature a mellotron: [Excerpt: The Graham Bond Organization, "Lease on Love"] Stigwood also started his own label, Reaction Records, which signed the Who, and he became the manager of a new group, Cream -- and we'll hear about both of those in upcoming episodes. So Stigwood was a major figure in British pop, and in September 1966, he had a meeting with Brian Epstein and Peter Brown. Stigwood initially wanted to become the European representative for NEMS, but Epstein had another idea. He was getting sick of managing rock bands, and wanted to move to Spain and make films about bullfighting. He was tired of the whole business. He suggested that Stigwood buy a 51% interest in NEMS. Epstein would remain as chairman, but in a purely nominal capacity, while Stigwood would run the day-to-day operations of the company. The problem was, while NEMS had been valued at twenty million dollars a couple of years earlier, by this point it was much less valuable. There were several pending lawsuits over merchandising licensing, most of the non-Beatles acts had become much less successful -- Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer and the Fourmost weren't having hits like they had been in 1964 -- and the Beatles' contract only had thirteen months left to run on it, and there was constant speculation in the press as to whether the group were splitting up. No bank would lend Stigwood the money to buy the company. So they agreed that RSO and NEMS would merge straight away, but that Stigwood would have an option to buy his fifty-one percent for half a million pounds -- a tiny proportion of what the company had been worth shortly before -- in May 1967 -- thus giving him time to build the company back up to the way it had been, with his new bands like Cream. The problem was, the Beatles didn't agree to this -- they owned ten percent of NEMS between them and they also didn't want to be managed by someone who wasn't in their inner circle. McCartney told Epstein that if it went ahead "We will record 'God Save the Queen' for every single record we make from now on, and we will sing it out of tune." Cilla Black had a similar reaction, and Epstein and Stigwood came to a new agreement -- Stigwood would still buy fifty-one percent of NEMS and still take charge of its day to day operations, but as well as being chairman, Epstein would continue to be the Beatles' and Black's personal manager. Their management fees would still go into NEMS, so Stigwood would still be making money from them, but he wouldn't have to manage them. Stigwood thought this was an even better deal, especially as he wasn't actually a fan of the Beatles' music. While the future of the Beatles' management was being decided, Paul McCartney was still getting involved with the music scene in London. He made some minor guest appearances on other people's records -- he can be heard playing tambourine on a version of Smokey Robinson's "From Head to Toe" by Merseybeat band The Escorts, and he was allegedly an uncredited coproducer on the track: [Excerpt: The Escorts, "From Head to Toe"] And he's also one of the crowd on Donovan's "Mellow Yellow", though despite what many reference books say it's not him whispering "quite rightly": [Excerpt: Donovan, "Mellow Yellow"] McCartney was also credited as the soundtrack composer for The Family Way, a British film starring Hywel Bennett and Hayley Mills. The plan had originally been for Lennon and McCartney to write the score together, but then it was decided that only McCartney would do so, in collaboration with George Martin. But as it happened, McCartney's contribution was minimal, and had to be more or less forced out of him. After much pestering, McCartney came up with a fragment of melody, which became the main theme for the soundtrack, and which Martin orchestrated without much consultation with McCartney, other than a vague suggestion from McCartney that they might use a brass band. Martin managed to come up with enough variations and rearrangements of that melodic fragment to stretch it out to twenty-four minutes: [Excerpt: Paul McCartney, "Theme from The Family Way"] However, even Martin couldn't make that work for everything, and he insisted that they needed at least a second melody, a love theme. McCartney kept putting him off, and Martin eventually had to stand behind McCartney at the piano and look over his shoulder until he came up with a second usable bit of melody, a waltz-time thing that could be a love theme. "Love in the Open Air" ended up winning McCartney an Ivor Novello award for "Best Instrumental Theme": [Excerpt: Paul McCartney, "Love in the Open Air"] On November the sixth, the day before John met Yoko, a mass of protestors turned up outside Brian Epstein's house, presenting a petition for the group to tour the UK again. That was also the day, according to later conspiracy theorists, that Paul McCartney died. Their evidence for this claim is that for the next two weeks, he was not seen again in the UK -- there are no photos of him in his usual nightclubs or with his friends for those two weeks, and at the end of it he looked different. That's certainly one explanation for it. Another explanation that fits that evidence, though, is that he went on holiday, and before leaving he changed his hairstyle and grew a moustache so he wouldn't be recognised while he was away. You decide which you believe. He travelled through Europe into Spain, where he met up with Mal Evans, and the two of them were going to go to see John Lennon, but it turned out that Lennon had already finished filming and they'd just missed him going back to the UK. They carried on into Africa, and while on holiday, Paul got thinking more and more about how much he relished the anonymity, how he liked not having to be "Beatle Paul", and how maybe it would be nice to do something not as the Beatles. On the plane back, Mal Evans was momentarily confused by getting little sachets with his meal with S and P written on them, and then realised what they were and said "salt and pepper". That sparked something in Paul's mind -- "Sergeant Pepper". He came up with the idea of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, an idea which, like several of his other ideas in this period, combined influences from the nascent counterculture on the US West Coast with British nostalgia. Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band sounded like they could be from the Edwardian era, from before Paul's mother was born in 1909, but it also sounded like the kind of name that was becoming popular in San Francisco, where bands were starting to be called things like Big Brother and the Holding Company, Country Joe and the Fish, and Dr Humbead's New Tranquility String Band and Medicine Show: [Excerpt: Dr Humbead's New Tranquility String Band and Medicine Show, "Dubuque"] Paul liked the idea of the Beatles becoming Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and escaping the identities that trapped them, but for the moment it was just an idle thought. On November the thirteenth, in the middle of Paul's holiday, the Sunday Telegraph ran a piece which started "Mr. Allen Klein, the American impresario, film producer, and business manager of the Rolling Stones, has been approached by two of the Beatles over their future management." These reports were soon debunked, but it was a sign of things to come. Most of the time, the Beatles have, understandably, said only positive things about Epstein in public, but occasionally there have been more brutal assessments. In 1982, for example, Paul McCartney said "Brian's reign was ending. To begin with we needed the man in the Ford Zodiac to get us recording contracts and to make sure we wore the right clothes. But by 1967 a lot of things were escaping his grasp." But one thing that wasn't escaping his grasp was the negotiation of the Beatles' new contract with EMI. It wouldn't be signed until January 1967, but Epstein was in the process of finalising negotiations for a new five-year record contract for the Beatles, with historically high royalty rates -- in the UK ten percent, rising to fifteen percent on singles after ten thousand copies, and on albums after thirty thousand. The royalty rate in the US was raised to a staggering seventeen point five percent. This rate was about ten times what the rate in the original contract they'd signed in 1962 was (it's hard to do a precise comparison, because this contract was worded in terms of percentages, while the previous one had been for a flat rate per record sold, but the old one had been roughly one and a half percent). It should be noted that a lot of people have criticised Epstein for not getting as much for the Beatles in those early contracts as they were worth, but this was a genuine coup. In 1962, he had been negotiating from a position of weakness, with the only company that was even slightly interested, and he could either take or leave their standard contract. Now, in a position of strength, he was going to get a very different deal. Epstein was also working on plans for the group's third feature film. There had been initial suggestions that they would make a film based on Richard Condon's bestselling novel "A Talent for Loving", but they'd gone off the idea quickly, and in October, the TV playwright Owen Holder submitted a script with the idea it would be filmed in January. The script was titled Shades of a Personality, and featured the four Beatles all playing different aspects of one personality, named Stanley Grimshaw. The group liked the idea, but didn't like the finished script, and Joe Orton was called in to do a rewrite. Orton was a popular playwright of the time, who had spent years living off the income of his older boyfriend and collaborator Kenneth Halliwell, while the two of them wrote a series of unsold novels, before becoming hugely successful with a series of strikingly witty but shocking black comedies about sex, death, and money. Orton's rewrite of Shades of a Personality was retitled Up Against It, and had a plot involving sexual slavery and the assassination of the Prime Minister, and ended with all four of the main characters in bed together with the same woman. Unsurprisingly, Epstein turned the script down, without comment, in April 1967. Thirty years later, it was finally performed, in a radio adaptation starring Damon Albarn of Blur, with narration by Leo McKern. [Excerpt: "Up Against It"] (Orton had later rewritten it, combining George and Ringo's characters into one). It was with this as the background that the group went into the studio on November the twenty-fourth, the first time they'd all been together for many months, to start work on their latest record. By this time, Lennon's fumbling song that he'd started in Almeria had become a completed song, one of the best he would ever write, though the structure still needed some refining: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Strawberry Fields Forever (demo)"] For their first attempt at recording the song, the group came up with a simple, sparse, arrangement, which I think is absolutely beautiful. For this take one, the group had John on vocals and guitar, with his vocals double-tracked in places and in one point doing Beach Boys style harmonies, Ringo on drums muted with a teatowel from the canteen, George playing bottleneck guitar, and Paul on bass and also playing a mellotron. We've mentioned mellotrons before, but not really said what they are. A mellotron is an electronic keyboard instrument, where each key triggers a different tape loop of a real instrument. The mellotron has a few different settings, so you could set it to, say, a cello, and hit a C key, and it would play a short loop of a cello playing C. The instrument had become a bit of a fad in the British music scene at the time, after Graham Bond started using it -- the Moody Blues had taken the instrument up in a big way, and Manfred Mann had used a mellotron on their recent hit "Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. James": [Excerpt: Manfred Mann, "Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. James"] George Martin was unconvinced by the Mellotron, saying later that it was "as if a Neanderthal piano had impregnated a primitive electronic keyboard", but the group used it on this first take of "Strawberry Fields Forever", mostly at the beginning and very end of the track: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Strawberry Fields Forever (take 1)"] That was where they left off for the day. The next day, John and Paul, at least, went to a lunchtime showcase gig by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, before the group went to the offices of Dick James, their music publisher, to record their latest fan club record: [Excerpt: The Beatles Fourth Christmas Record, "Please Don't Bring Your Banjo Back"] The day after that, John made a guest appearance on "Not Only... But Also," appearing in a sketch parodying American news reports about "Swinging London", playing the doorman of the Ad Lav Club, a nightclub like the hip Ad Lib Club but based in a public toilet: [Excerpt: Not Only But Also Ad Lav Club] That same sketch also featured a section set in a recording studio, where Cook and Moore play a rock band recording a new song, "The L.S. Bumble Bee", with Cook faking playing a sitar. The song was Moore's attempt at a Beach Boys parody, but in later years it appeared on several Beatles bootlegs, miscredited as a Beatles outtake or Lennon song: [Excerpt: Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, "The L.S. Bumble Bee"] Over the next couple of days, the group worked intensely on "Strawberry Fields Forever", starting from scratch with a new version which, by take four, had become much heavier-sounding. This new version was structured rather differently, starting with a Mellotron figure Paul had come up with, and then going into the chorus: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Strawberry Fields Forever (take four)"] They stuck with this arrangement, and take six, which was marked the best, was mixed down into a final mixdown take, take seven: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Strawberry Fields Forever (take seven)"] The track was, at least for the moment, thought complete, and so a few days later the group moved on to a song of Paul's -- actually one of the first songs he ever wrote, "When I'm Sixty-Four", which they knocked off in two takes, with George Martin later scoring some clarinet overdubs: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "When I'm Sixty-Four"] But then, having sat with the finished version of "Strawberry Fields Forever" for a while, John decided that he wanted to take another stab at recording it. They spent December the ninth working on a new, more uptempo, chaotic rhythm track for the song, which more or less descends into pandemonium at the end: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Strawberry Fields Forever (take 26)"] The relative sloppiness of that may be partially explained by the fact that at the beginning of the session, neither George Martin nor Geoff Emerick were available -- they were both attending the premiere of a new Cliff Richard film -- and so the only person in the control room was technician Dave Harries, and the group didn't have Martin's usual firm controlling hand. Martin did, however, supervise  a major overdubbing session on this take, working with the Beatles to add swarmandel -- a type of Indian harp -- backwards cymbals, and other unusual sounds. He then came up with an orchestral score at John's request, for four trumpets and four cellos. It's also in a higher key than the previous version -- this was apparently George Martin's suggestion, because the lowest note of the cello part, in the original key, would have been below the lowest note a cello could play. And possibly because the group had been recording without Martin's supervision and were just having fun, the track is distinctly faster than the previous version: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Strawberry Fields Forever (take 26)"] But then, after listening to that, which once again was meant to be the finished version, John Lennon came to a conclusion -- he didn't want either track as they were, he wanted the beginning of take seven, but the end of take twenty-six. George Martin would need to splice them together. Martin explained to him that this would be impossible -- the two tracks were in different keys, and at different tempos -- but Lennon said he was sure Martin would think of something. Increasingly, Martin, Emerick, and Scott were working miracles to the point that Lennon in particular, who had no technical mind whatsoever, was convinced they could just do anything he asked for. And it turned out they could. Martin figured out that by an incredible stroke of luck the difference in keys matched the difference in tempos almost precisely, so if he sped up the first fifty seconds of take seven, and slowed down the rest of take twenty-six, he could get them to match very well. The two takes had also been structured differently, so in order to create a smooth join, they actually had to do two edits -- there hadn't been a chorus after the first verse in take seven, so Martin flew in the line "let me take you down, 'cos I'm" from elsewhere in the song, before crossfading to "going to" from take twenty-six. The edit is audible, but it comes across as just the same kind of change in vocal effects as the group had previously used on "Tomorrow Never Knows": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Strawberry Fields Forever (mono single mix)" 0:45-1:20] The resulting track was longer than either of the other versions, at just over four minutes, but John was impressed -- though in later years he would talk about a desire to rerecord it and do it properly to get the sound he'd heard in his head. The group then moved on to Paul's song "Penny Lane". This song was something that Paul had had in the back of his mind for quite some time -- in December 1965 he had said "I like some of the things the Animals try to do, like the song Eric Burdon wrote about places in Newcastle on the flip of one of their hits." Here he was talking about "Club A-Go-Go", a song the Animals had recorded about the club that they'd played in when they were starting up: [Excerpt: The Animals, "Club A-Go-Go"] Paul had continued "I still want to write a song about the places in Liverpool where I was brought up. Places like the Docker's Umbrella which is a long tunnel through which the dockers go to work on Merseyside, and Penny Lane near my old home. The one thing I can't understand is the protest songs like 'Eve of Destruction'; that was absolute rubbish. Dylan's 'Masters of War' or 'God On Our Side' are OK because they say things in an original manner but P.F Sloan is too much." Or at least, the interview *says* it was Paul who said those things. That quote came from an interview with both Lennon and McCartney, and it's interesting to note that of the group John Lennon was the one closest to Eric Burdon, and that he was the one who had lived in the Penny Lane area, and that his original draft lyrics to "In My Life" read in part: "PENNY LANE is one I’m missing, Up CHURCH ROAD_ _to the CLOCK TOWER In the circle of the ABBEY I have seen some happy hours Past the TRAM SHEDS with no trams__ On the bus into town Past the DUTCH and ST. COLUMBUS__ To the DOCKER’S UMBRELLA, that they pulled down." So either at this point in time McCartney and Lennon were so in sync that McCartney was thinking along the same lines Lennon had already been thinking, right down to naming two of the same places, or Lennon was thinking about a song he'd already tried writing, and that inspired McCartney to use one of the same places in a song of his own. Musically, "Penny Lane" shows a very strong Beach Boys influence -- if you listen to the verse of "Wouldn't It Be Nice" by the Beach Boys: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Wouldn't It Be Nice"] And to the verse of "Penny Lane": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Penny Lane"] You can hear that they are both variants on the same basic chord sequence, though they go in different directions, they both have similar general melodic shapes, and they both have the same strong, bright, staccato rhythm. This is not to say that McCartney ripped off the Beach Boys song or anything like that, this is just a case of him hearing something and doing his own version of the same idea -- transatlantic inspiration, rather than plagiarism. The other major musical inspiration for the song came only after the basic track had been recorded. McCartney saw a performance of Bach's second Brandenburg Concerto on TV, and was fascinated with the sound of the piccolo trumpet -- a trumpet that plays an octave above a normal trumpet: [Excerpt: David Mason, Bach Brandenburg Concerto #2 ] McCartney asked Martin if they could have a similar sound on "Penny Lane", and Martin got in David Mason, the trumpeter McCartney had seen, to play a piccolo trumpet solo with a vaguely baroque feel: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Penny Lane"] "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" were released as a double A-side single, and in the US "Penny Lane" went to number one. In the UK, however, the single only went to number two, and unlike "Paperback Writer" and "Eleanor Rigby", this time it stayed there, kept off the top by "Release Me" by Englebert Humperdinck: [Excerpt: Englebert Humperdinck, "Release Me"] The Beatles have later said that they weren't too bothered by this, because after all Humperdinck's record -- a crooner covering an old country ballad from the fifties -- was selling to a completely different audience to their own, so they didn't feel in competition with him the way they did with bands in their own style. But it was still the first time in four years that the group had released a single that didn't go to number one, and the newspapers noticed. Another thing the newspapers noticed, while the group were still working on their single, was the death of a friend of theirs, Tara Browne, a wealthy young man who had been involved in Paul's moped crash the previous year. He was killed in a car crash on the eighteenth of December, and John read about it in the newspaper, and it gave him the germ of a song. Before they recorded that, though, they recorded one of the few bits of Beatles music that is still almost completely unheard and unbootlegged. "Carnival of Light" was an experimental composition written by McCartney and recorded by the group for "A Million Volt Light And Sound Rave", an early hippie event, which also featured music by Unit Delta Plus, a group put together by electronic music pioneers Delia Derbyshire, Brian Hodgson, and Peter Zinovieff. Most of the few people who've heard the piece, including people who generally have a lot of time for avant-garde experimentalism, have dismissed it as a load of rubbish. Barry Miles, who disliked it, said it was similar to "Return of the Son of Monster Magnet" by the Mothers of Invention, so I'll play a little of that to give some idea: [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Return of the Son of Monster Magnet"] Even the stoned scenesters at the event were completely underwhelmed by the piece, but it still gets talked about largely because it's never been heard since -- Paul McCartney has repeatedly tried to get it released on Beatles archive releases, to help show people that he was the most avant-garde Beatle at this point, but the other band members have vetoed it every time. "A Day in the Life", the song that John started inspired by reading about Tara Browne's death, is possibly the most impressive piece of music the Beatles ever made, and is created by marrying together two unfinished songs, one by Lennon and one by McCartney. Lennon's song was three verses, two of which were based on newspaper articles he'd read -- one about Browne's death, and one tiny sidebar item about a survey having found four thousand holes in the roads in Blackburn: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "A Day in the Life"] The other verse, about having seen a film in which the English army had just won the war, was presumably a reference to his experiences in making How I Won the War, which hadn't yet been released. This was married to a half-finished McCartney song about getting up and getting on the bus to work. McCartney's part of the song is actually one of the many connections on the Sgt Pepper album to the popular music of his parents' generation, as it seems to have been inspired by the old standard "On the Sunny Side of the Street". Compare the way the Sentimentalists sing the line "grab your coat, don't forget your hat" on Tommy Dorsey's hit version of that song: [Excerpt: Tommy Dorsey, "On the Sunny Side of the Street"] With the way McCartney phrases "found my coat, and grabbed my hat" on the guide vocal for "A Day in the Life" released on Anthology 2, where he sings a slightly different melody, closer to the older song: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "A Day in the Life (Anthology 2 version)"] These two half-songs were connected by a long instrumental passage. In the original recording, this was just a long stretch of piano keeping time, with Mal Evans counting bars and ringing an alarm clock at the end, to cue in Paul's line "woke up, got out of bed": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "A Day in the Life (Anthology 2 version)"] This was to be filled by what George Martin has later called "an orgasm of sound". The original idea seems to have been McCartney's -- he wanted this space filled with a conceptual piece on the lines of something the avant garde composers he'd been studying might come up with -- an orchestra playing from their lowest notes to their highest notes, every musician proceeding at their own pace without reference to the people around them. Martin knew that this might be difficult to achieve -- orchestral musicians are notoriously difficult to get to break loose from keeping strict time with those around them -- and so he came up with a sketchy score to show each musician roughly where they needed to be at what time. The musicians were also given false noses, gorilla hands, and so on, to loosen them up slightly, and several of the Beatles' friends attended the overdub session, including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Marianne Faithfull, Donovan, and Michael Nesmith of the Monkees. They only employed half an orchestra for the session, but they managed to get the sound of two full orchestras by recording them five times -- though they never told the musicians that was what they were doing. Musicians' Union rules would have meant they got paid for every overdub, which would have been prohibitively expensive -- as it was they paid £367 for the musicians, which is a little over seven thousand pounds in today's money -- so the musicians weren't told they were multitracking themselves, but just that they needed to do multiple takes to get it right. The results were outstanding, nothing like anything that had been done on a pop record to that point, though listening to the isolated overdub you can hear how, while the horn players were willing to go along with this idea of not sticking with the other players, most of the string players determinedly play together.: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "A Day in the Life (orchestral overdub)"] That was also tacked on to the ending of the song, as well as being used to transition from John's section to Paul's The last thing to do was the final chord of the song, which had to be massive and portentous. At first, the group tried humming the chord: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "A Day in the Life (hummed chord)"] Eventually, they got the truly massive sound they wanted by having John, Paul, Ringo, and Mal Evans play E major chords simultaneously on three different pianos, while George Martin played the same chord on a harmonium, and in the control room Geoff Emerick kept pushing the faders up and up and up as the chord died down, to make the fade-out last as long as is possible. By the end, the recording levels are so high that the sound of the air conditioning in the studio is louder than the pianos, and you can hear the squeak of one of the chairs the players were sat on: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "A Day in the Life"] While all this was going on, there were signs that the British music business that the Beatles had come up in in 1962 was ending and a new, multinational one was beginning. In January, the same month that the group started recording "A Day in the Life", and in which they signed their new EMI contract, Joe Meek, the man who had given Robert Stigwood his first entry into the music business, died in a tragic murder-suicide, one that had multiple causes but one of which was just that there was no space in the music business of 1967 for someone who had flourished in 1962. That was also the month that Robert Stigwood formally took control of NEMS, though he hadn't yet paid for his fifty-one percent share, and he'd already been working there for several months. His first major decision at the organisation caused some disagreement with Brian Epstein, but was made after consulting Paul McCartney. He'd received a record, addressed just to NEMS, from a band who'd had a few hits in Australia but had now come to the UK to try to build a career here. Stigwood played the record to McCartney, who agreed that he should sign them, and he did, not only signing them to NEMS but having NEMS buy their publishing company for a thousand pounds, something that infuriated Brian Epstein when he found out -- apparently Epstein shouted "well that's a thousand out the window" at Stigwood and slammed the phone down. That group's first British record, a reissue of one of the group's Australian hits, seemed to prove Epstein right, as it did absolutely nothing in the charts: [Excerpt: The Bee Gees, "Spicks and Specks"] But in retrospect, Robert Stigwood would be glad that he'd taken Paul McCartney's advice and signed the Bee Gees, who would in the long run make him back rather more than that thousand pounds. Between the recording of the basic track for "A Day in the Life" and the orchestral overdub, the group also recorded Paul's song "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", which became the title track of the album. This song took Paul's concept, of marrying modern America and Edwardian England, and did this by combining two very different musical sections. After opening with the sounds of the orchestra tuning up during the "A Day in the Life" session and some audience sounds, taken from George Martin's production of Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller's show "Beyond the Fringe", the song starts with a Jimi Hendrix style loud guitar riff and a belted vocal: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"] There's some debate as to whether it's Paul or George playing the lead guitar on the track -- it sounds much more like Paul's style to me, but people who were there have said both. What's not in doubt is that Lennon didn't play an instrument on the track -- indeed, with the group's increasing use of overdubbing, Lennon isn't heard instrumentally on five tracks on the album, including his own song "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds", though Lennon does appear on the reprise of “Sgt Pepper” towards the end of the album -- something suggested by Neil Aspinall, who said he knew they were going to use his idea when Lennon said, while passing him, "No-one likes a smart-arse". There's a separate section of "Sgt Pepper" which is sung over a brass band, much like the ones that Paul had suggested be used on the Family Way soundtrack -- Paul had a fondness for brass band music, and this is redolent both of the North of England and also of the past, rather than the up-to-the-nanosecond Hendrixisms of the verse: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"] And to link these two sections together, there's a bridge, which uses the massed vocals of the brass band section but the crunchy guitars of the verse: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"] The group would later deny that the album should be considered a "concept album", with them all saying that while the album is bookended by the title track, and is presented as a show by the titular band, none of the other tracks were created with that in mind. But what the title track does do is set out a musical mission statement -- this is going to be an album about blending nostalgia for a vanished England of the past with the most exciting modern sounds. There's the rooty-toot clarinets and "Vera, Chuck, and Dave" of "When I'm Sixty-Four" but there's also the hard-rock sound of "Good Morning, Good Morning". In later years, John Lennon would say that the duality on "Sgt Pepper" was between him and Paul, but while I'm not going to talk about every track on the album in detail, I think it's worth addressing Lennon's specific comment -- "Paul said 'come and see the show', I said 'I read the news today, oh boy'" Now, that says a lot about Lennon's self-image, but not a lot about the actual distinction between the two writers, because Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band has examples of both doing both. We've seen McCartney saying "come and see the show", but Lennon did literally that on "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite"] All of John's songs on Pepper were inspired by pieces of media he'd come across -- "A Day in the Life" was based on a newspaper he'd read, "Good Morning, Good Morning" was inspired by a cornflakes commercial (and also references a popular sitcom, "Meet the Wife"), and "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" was inspired by a painting by Lennon's son of a classmate, and by a section from his favourite book, Alice in Wonderland. In the case of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite", Lennon took inspiration from a poster he'd bought for a circus in Rochdale, which read: PABLO FANQUE'S CIRCUS ROYAL TOWN-MEADOWS, ROCHDALE Grandest Night of the Season! AND POSITIVELY THE LAST NIGHT BUT THREE! BEING FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR.KITE, (LATE OF WELLS'S CIRCUS) AND MR. J. HENDERSON, THE CELEBRATED SOMERSET THROWER! WIRE DANCER, VAULTER, RIDER, etc. On TUESDAY Evening, February 14, 1843. Mssrs. KITE and HENDERSON, in announcing the following Entertainments ensure the Public that this Night's Production will be one of the most splendid ever produced in this Town, having been some days in preparation. Mr. Kite will, for this night only, introduce the CELEBRATED HORSE, ZANTHUS! Well known to be one of the best Broke Horses IN THE WORLD!!! Mr. HENDERSON will undertake the arduous Task of THROWING TWENTY-ONE SOMERSETS, ON THE SOLID GROUND. Mr. KITE will appear, for the first time this season, On The Tight Rope, When Two Gentlemen Amateurs of this Town will perform with him. Mr. HENDERSON will, for the first time in Rochdale, introduce his extraordinary TRAMPOLINE LEAPS AND SOMERSETS! Over Men & Horses, through Hoops, over Garters and lastly through a Hogshead of REAL FIRE! In this branch of the profession Mr. H challenges THE WORLD! For particulars see Bills of the day. Lennon would later be rather dismissive of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite", saying “I hardly made up a word, just connecting the lists together. Word for word, really. I wasn’t very proud of that. There was no real work. I was just going through the motions because we needed a new song.” But of course he changed it in several ways, always for the better, and the song has a real wit to it. But the most interesting part of the song is the organ break, where George Martin and Geoff Emerick cut up dozens of recordings of fairground organs into tiny sections, threw them in the air, and taped them together in whatever order they got them: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite"] But even despite that, Lennon was never happy with the song, saying later “People think the Beatles know what’s going on. We don’t. We’re just doing it. People want to know what the inner meaning of ‘Mr Kite’ was. There wasn’t any. I just did it. I shoved a lot of words together and then shoved some noise on. I didn’t dig that song when I wrote it. I didn’t believe in it when we were recording it. But nobody will believe it. They don’t want to. They want it to be important.” Meanwhile, while John was saying to come and watch the show that Mr. Kite was putting on, Paul was telling us about a story he read in the newspaper: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "She's Leaving Home"] "She's Leaving Home" was inspired by the true story of a teenage runaway, who McCartney had read a short piece about in the newspaper. Melanie Coe, the subject of the story, would say that she had later heard it and been astonished at how close it was to her own life -- the only difference being that she hadn't been going to meet a man. In one of those stunning coincidences that happen a lot in the Beatles story, McCartney had actually met Melanie three years earlier, when he'd been on Ready! Steady! Go! and judged a contest with four girls miming to a Brenda Lee record: [Excerpt: Paul McCartney on Ready! Steady! Go!  ] McCartney wrote most of the song, but Lennon came up with the counter-vocals in the chorus, where he sings some of the things his aunt used to say to him when he was growing up, as the voice of the parents: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "She's Leaving Home"] "She's Leaving Home" is also one of the rare examples of a Beatles song with orchestration by someone other than George Martin -- McCartney had wanted an arrangement doing quickly, and Martin was busy working with another artist, so McCartney called in Mike Leander. Martin was upset, but conducted Leander's arrangement largely unchanged. The arrangement has had a lot of criticism over the years for being too lushly romantic, but honestly, other than the tinkling harp part I can't imagine that Martin would have done anything very different -- it's actually very much in the idiom Martin was using for his arrangements at the time, very influenced by Bernard Hermann: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "She's Leaving Home (take 6, instrumental)"] But this was a sign that the Beatles were themselves more and more able to do without the help of their parental figures like George Martin. Recording for the Sgt Pepper album finished on the first of April 1967, and on the third of April, Paul McCartney flew out to the USA to meet up with Jane Asher, who was on a theatrical tour there. While he was there, McCartney read about Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, a group of early hippies who would travel across America in a psychedelic painted bus, evangelising the virtues of LSD and trying to freak out the squares and blow their minds. As he was doing so often at this point, McCartney combined that idea with nostalgia for a British past, and in his head it mixed with the idea of a mystery tour -- popular day-trips or short holidays which still happen occasionally today but were much more popular during the Beatles' childhoods, where people would book a coach trip to an unspecified destination, a tourist attraction of some kind, often as a works' outing. He was also pleased with the multiple meanings of the word "trip", and decided he wanted to do this as a film project. Mal Evans was on the trip to the US with McCartney, and wrote in his diary “Getting quite excited about planning the television film. Idea going at the moment is to make it about some sort of Mystery Tour (Roll Up! Roll Up! Paul is getting lots of ideas and we’re jotting them down as we go.)” On the plane back to the UK McCartney came up with what he called a "scrupt" -- a hastily-sketched pie chart in place of a script, with some ideas of things that could be done by a cast who were improvising. The other group members were not initially that impressed with the idea, and when they went into the studio in the last week of April to record the title song for the proposed film, it was apparently a depressing experience. Paul only had the line “Roll up, roll up for the Magical Mystery Tour”, the three basic chords D, A, and E, and the idea of some kind of brass fanfare. They put the song together in the studio, but it didn't go well, with McCartney asking Mal Evans to go and find posters for a mystery tour to use for lyrical inspiration in the same way John had for "Mr. Kite", but Mal coming back empty handed. After recording the basic track, Paul asked everyone to shout out lyrical ideas, but they only got as far as “Reservation, Invitation, Trip of a lifetime, Satisfaction guaranteed” before giving up -- everyone had just spent months working on the Sgt. Pepper album and they were rather drained. They eventually got something good enough to use, though nobody was wonderfully happy with it, and the most interesting bit of it, the middle eight: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Magical Mystery Tour"] was just a reworking of Lennon's melody for "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds"] Everyone was getting increasingly stressed in that period between the end of recording for Sgt. Pepper and its release in June. In early May Brian Epstein's health got so bad he was admitted to the Priory, where he was put into a medically-induced coma for several days to wean him off his addictions. When Epstein woke up, he said he didn't feel any better. Stigwood visited Epstein in hospital, where Epstein told him that he was treating the NEMS employees too harshly -- though Stigwood said he was going to ignore him because he wasn't in his right mind. While Stigwood was there, Epstein received a bunch of flowers from Lennon and burst into tears. On the eleventh of May the group put aside the Magical Mystery Tour idea for a while to record a song for *another* film project. The makers of the Beatles cartoon series were planning on making an animated film, based on the Revolver track Yellow Submarine, and the group were meant to provide a few tracks for the film. The first one they recorded, "Baby You're a Rich Man" was, like "A Day in the Life" a splicing together of one song by John and one by Paul. John's song, "One of the Beautiful People", was about the hippie movement, and was possibly inspired by his visit a couple of weeks earlier to The 14 Hour Technicolor Dream, the first big counterculture event in the UK, which had featured performances by Pink Floyd, Ron Geesin, Graham Bond, the Move, Yoko Ono and others. The main interesting feature of John's part of the song was his playing of the clavioline, the proto-synthesiser that Joe Meek had used on "Telstar", on which he played Indian-flavoured melodies on its oboe setting: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Baby You're a Rich Man"] Meanwhile, Paul's chorus, on which John is still the most audible voice, was supposedly inspired by their manager, then still in hospital, though the urban myth that at one point John sings "Baby you're a rich" -- then a slur for gay people I'm not going to repeat -- "Jew" is false: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Baby You're a Rich Man"] That was the last time for a little while that George Martin would produce a Beatles session. The group were becoming increasingly undisciplined in the studio, coming in with unfinished songs, spending hours noodling and jamming, and just not focusing, so he decided he wasn't needed for a while and went on holiday, leaving Geoff Emerick in charge of the sessions while he was away, as de facto producer, though Emerick was still only given an engineering credit. While Martin was away, the group and Emerick recorded two sloppy, but fun, tracks -- Paul's "All Together Now", for Yellow Submarine, and the backing track for what would eventually become John's "You Know My Name, Look Up the Number". In between those two tracks, Paul McCartney went to see Georgie Fame play at a nightclub, and there he met a young photographer named Linda Eastman, who also came along a couple of days later to the press party for Sgt Pepper, which was held at Brian Epstein's house on the day he got out of the hospital. The group even started one track without any of their normal production team. Increasingly they were booking sessions outside Abbey Road, just to break the routine, and Geoff Emerick, as an EMI staffer, was not allowed to work anywhere else (by this time George Martin had gone freelance, but Martin was still on holiday), so the group did the initial production work themselves, with engineer Dave Siddle. George's "It's All Too Much" was again intended for the Yellow Submarine film, and it's a great, heavy, dense bit of psychedelia. While George's recent songs like "Love You To" and "Within You Without You" (his contribution to Sgt Pepper, which we didn't have time to discuss) had been a rock musician's earnest attempts at writing Indian classical music, this was him bringing those influences into what was definitely a rock idiom, with feedback and distorted guitars: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "It's All Too Much"] George Martin came back in time for the final session for that track, for which he arranged orchestration consisting of four trumpets and a bass clarinet. "It's All Too Much" was also interesting because its tag incorporated snatches of other pieces of music. George sang the first line of "Sorrow", a recent hit for the group's friends The Merseys: [Excerpt: The Merseys, "Sorrow"] And the orchestration also included a quote from the Prince of Denmark's March, the piece Harrison had played a snatch of the previous year to Maureen Cleave: [Excerpt: Jeremiah Clarke, "Prince of Denmark's March"] These elements made for a chaotic but fascinating singalong tag, rather like the one the group would use on their next single [Excerpt: The Beatles, “It's All Too Much”] Also at the end of May, Robert Stigwood met up with Brian Epstein and told him that not only did he not yet have the five hundred thousand pounds he would need to pay for his share of NEMS, he would also like to borrow ten thousand from Epstein, though he assured him that the money would definitely be there in a few more months. Epstein lent him the money, and gave Stigwood til the end of September to pay him back, and to pay for his fifty-one percent of NEMS -- the Beatles' contract with Epstein ran out in October, and whatever happened with them re-signing or not to him, everything about the business needed to be in order by then. Stigwood agreed. On the first of June, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band came out, the group's first album in ten months -- an eternity in 1960s popular music -- and their first release of any kind since the "Strawberry Fields"/"Penny Lane" single which hadn't managed to make number one. The group thought they'd done their best ever work, but with the press increasingly saying they were has-beens and yesterday's news, would the public agree? Paul McCartney has said he knew the album was a success when two days after it came out, he went to see Jimi Hendrix live, and this was his opening number: [Excerpt: Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"] It's a good thing the album was a success, because on the eighteenth of May it had been announced that the group would be performing live to the biggest audience in the history of humanity. The BBC, Britain's publicly-owned broadcaster, is part of the European Broadcasting Union, an organisation of public service broadcasters throughout Europe, and the year before the BBC had brought the EBU an intriguing proposition -- why not do an international satellite linkup, with broadcasters throughout the world showing the same thing live? Every country could have their own presenter, but each national broadcaster would put out a live section which would be shown by all the others, demonstrating the best things about their country. Everything would be live -- no pre-recorded footage -- and it would be a demonstration of the power of new technology to bring the world together. Of course, even technology can only do so much, and a few days before the broadcast the Communist bloc countries pulled out, but even so the national broadcasters of the UK, Denmark, Australia, the USA, Canada, Austria, France, Italy, Mexico, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, and West Germany agreed to do segments, while thirteen other countries didn't broadcast their own segment but did show the two-hour TV special. The Canadian broadcast of the show, of course, included an interview with Marshall McLuhan: [Excerpt: Our World Marshall McLuhan interview] The show was made up of a mixture of informational segments -- about trams in Melbourne, and the construction of the Tokyo subway system, and experiments to make cereal crops more productive, and Canadian cattle ranchers, that sort of thing -- and artists. There was footage of Zeffirelli rehearsing actors for his next film, Romeo and Juliet, and of Leonard Bernstein rehearsing a pianist for a performance of a Rachmaninoff piece. [Excerpt: Our World] And of course, in what some have seen as the British just showing off, there was a performance by the Beatles, recording their next single. Both John and Paul had been tasked with coming up with a song the group could perform for the telecast, with the only direction they were given being that it should be easily understandable to people all round the world, and that they could perform at least mostly live -- the two rules that the Our World TV broadcast had were that everything had to be live rather than prerecorded, to show off the live transmission capabilities of the satellites, and that no politicians could be shown on screen, to stop any country from turning the event into propaganda. We don't know what Paul's song was, though it's been suggested by people who have looked into it that it was almost certainly "Your Mother Should Know", which would be the next song they would record, but eventually it was decided that they would do John's "All You Need is Love", a song with a simple message and a sing-along melody -- chunks of it are basically "Three Blind Mice", a melody Lennon would often return to in his career when wanting to evoke childhood simplicity  -- though it is in 7/4 time for large chunks. While three of the Beatles would be performing live on the night -- John on vocals, George on guitar, and Paul on bass -- and the orchestra would also be performing live, there was no realistic way to have Ringo playing the drums live without leakage overpowering the other instruments, and the track also required backing vocals and other instruments to thicken the sound. So eleven days before the broadcast, they went into Olympic studios for an initial session with a rather odd instrumental lineup. John was on harpsichord, Paul on double bass rather than his usual electric -- as he played an electric bass on the live performance, it may well be that Brian Wilson had explained to him how he got the thick bass sound on Pet Sounds by having a bass guitar and a double bass play together, and Paul might have wanted to try that out -- Ringo of course on drums, and George scratching away at a violin, an instrument he had literally never played before. A helpful person on YouTube has isolated the various elements of the track, and so we can hear George's violin part on its own: [Excerpt: The Beatles "All You Need is Love" isolated elements ] It says quite a lot about the Beatles' attitude at this time that they thought that was a good idea -- that they were good enough that they could pick literally any instrument, even one they'd never played before, and just stick the result on the record and it would be fine. It also says quite a lot about George Martin's production skill that in fact it was fine. Then a few days later they thickened the sound with banjo from John, backing vocals, and a piano part from George Martin, and this was then bounced down to a single mono track to be played back during the performance, for the group to do live guitar, vocals, and bass to. As this basic track was bounced down to mono, it's all in one channel in the stereo mix of the song, so by splitting the stereo mix we can hear more or less what state the recording was in at this point -- the lead vocal and the orchestra here are from the later session, but the rest of the instrumental backing is as the track was eleven days before the performance: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "All You Need is Love" left channel, from approx 0:39] Two days before the performance, they also recorded an orchestral overdub, a first pass through of the score that George Martin had written, and there were more overdubs the next couple of days. As George Martin would need to be in the control room for the broadcast, it was decided to hire an outside conductor, and so Mike Vickers of Manfred Mann directed the thirteen orchestral musicians on these sessions and on the day of the broadcast. Martin's score was designed to emphasise the international nature of the broadcast, and so included quotations from several other pieces of music from outside the UK. The opening, famously, is a few bars of La Marseillaise, the national anthem of France: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "All You Need is Love"] And reusing the idea from "It's All Too Much", the tag has multiple quotations from both older pieces of music and from the Beatles' own songs. This section: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "All You Need is Love" 02:57 - 03:02] is from Bach's  Invention No. 8 in F major; [Excerpt: Bach, "Invention No. 8 in F major"] Then we have this section: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "All You Need is Love" 03:02 - 03:06] That's from "In the Mood", the song made famous by Glenn Miller in 1939: [Excerpt: The Glenn Miller Orchestra, "In the Mood"] Incidentally, given this episode's themes of technological advance, it's worth noting that "In the Mood" is one of the songs on the first ever recording of a computer playing music, from 1951: [Excerpt: Ferranti Mark 1, "In the Mood"] That was programmed by Christopher Strachey, who soon after also created the first ever computer game. He had been invited to work on the computer by his friend Alan Turing, the genius mathematician who worked on the team that put the computer together at Manchester University. Turing sadly died a couple of years later, either of suicide or accidental poisoning, after having his life destroyed by a prosecution for homosexuality. The excerpt of "In the Mood" used in "All You Need is Love" caused some legal trouble. The way George Martin always told the story was as follows: “Unfortunately, there was a sting in the tail for me. I was being paid the princely sum of fifteen pounds for arranging the music and writing the bits for the...ending, and I had chosen the tunes for the mixture in the belief that they were all out of copyright. More fool me. It turned out that although 'In The Mood' itself was out of copyright, the Glenn Miller arrangement of it was not. The little bit I had chosen was the arrangement, not the tune itself, and as a result EMI were asked by its owners for a royalty. The Beatles, quite rightly I suppose, said: 'We're not going to give up our copyright royalty.'  So Ken East, the man who had by then become managing director of EMI Records, came to me and said: “Look here, George, you did the arrangement on this. They're expecting money for it.' 'You must be out of your mind,' I said. 'I get fifteen pounds for doing that arrangement. Do you mean to say I've got to pay blasted copyright out of my fifteen quid?' His answer was short and unequivocal. 'Yes.' In the end, of course, EMI had to settle with the publishers.” Now, I'd hate to say that George Martin was being deliberately dishonest, but that's clearly not what happened. Firstly, the song itself was clearly in copyright -- while there's some dispute over the song's authorship, because the basic riff had been used by a few different people, "In the Mood" was registered to its credited composer, Joe Garland, in 1938. Secondly, as George Martin would have been very aware, the consensus at that time was that one could not copyright an arrangement -- otherwise he would have been able to claim royalties himself for his many arrangement contributions to Beatles records, and not just get paid fifteen pounds as in this case. And thirdly, the section he used is definitely not just from Glenn Miller's arrangement. A reminder, that section from "All You Need is Love": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "All You Need is Love" 03:02 - 03:06] Now the opening of the first recording of "In the Mood" by Edgar Hayes and his Orchestra, from 1938, a year before Miller: [Excerpt: Edgar Hayes and his Orchestra, "In the Mood"] So it seems like this was George Martin trying to save face a little -- either he had been genuinely mistaken about the copyright status of "In the Mood", perhaps being aware that the main riff had been used in several other songs before it and so assuming that the whole thing was in the public domain or, more likely, he'd not even thought to check if the song was in copyright or not, thinking that a couple of bars quoted in the background in a fade didn't matter. Luckily the other pieces in the fade caused no such trouble -- Lennon sang snatches of "Yesterday" and "She Loves You", but those were obviously Lennon and McCartney songs, and the final piece quoted is here: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "All You Need is Love", 03:16 - 03:24] That's part of the traditional ballad "Greensleeves", and was chosen to represent English music to go with the French, German, and American music already quoted. "Greensleeves" has been performed by many people -- my favourite is this version by John Coltrane, arranged by Eric Dolphy: [Excerpt: John Coltrane, "Greensleeves"] No-one knows who wrote "Greensleeves" -- there's a persistent myth that it was written by Henry the Eighth, but there's no actual evidence for that, so the earliest record we have of it is when it was registered at the Stationery Office in 1580, by one Richard Jones, under the title "A Newe Northen Dittye of ye Ladye Greene Sleves", so even if it had still been in copyright, it wouldn't have caused the Beatles any problems, as it was a Northern Song. And on the twenty-fifth of June, the big day arrived. Along with the Beatles themselves playing their parts, the orchestra came in once again, dressed formally for the big occasion. And dressed rather more informally were the group's friends -- much like the recording session for the orchestra on "A Day in the Life", this was turned into a party, with balloons and signs, and with a crowd sat around singing along including various wives and girlfriends of the group, Paul's brother Mike, himself a pop star with The Scaffold, Graham Nash, Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Marianne Faithfull. Their section of the broadcast started with a brief clip of them rehearsing, then moved into the control room at Abbey Road for the live feed: [Excerpt: Our World] George Martin and Geoff Emerick were doing the sound, not only for the record, but for the broadcast as well, and not only that, there was a communication problem with the BBC's mobile truck which meant that George Martin had to relay instructions from the director. To steady their nerves, Martin and Emerick had a shot of whisky before the cameras started rolling. The tape op, Richard Lush, also wanted to have a drink, but Martin thought that his role was too important, as he was the one actually pressing the buttons and getting the tape into position, and it would have been disastrous had he made the slightest mistake. Luckily for all concerned, the tape ran smoothly, and not only that, John Lennon got the words almost entirely correct -- he'd been worried because the cameras meant that he couldn't have a lyric sheet in front of him, as he normally would: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "All You Need is Love"] He did fluff a couple of lines, which had to be fixed for the single version with a quick overdub after the main broadcast. More embarrassingly, George Harrison massively messed up the very end of his short guitar solo, but that was left in on the finished record, just quickly ducked in the mix: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "All You Need is Love"] Other than fixing John's two flubbed lyric lines, and overdubbing a snare roll from Ringo at the start of the track, the record as released was the same performance that had been seen live by three hundred and fifty million people. The single was released on the seventh of July, 1967, ten years and one day after Paul McCartney first saw John Lennon perform live at the Woolton Village Fete. It went into the charts at number two, behind "A Whiter Shade of Pale" by Procol Harum, but the next week it was at number one, and below them at number two was "Randy Scouse Git" by the Monkees -- or "Alternate Title" as it was called over here in deference to British sensibilities -- which paid respect to the group in one of its lines: [Excerpt: The Monkees, "Randy Scouse Git"] The four kings of EMI were back at the very top, and all seemed right with the world. On the seventeenth of July, Harry Epstein, Brian's father, died. Epstein was devastated, but in the short term this seemed to give him an impetus to turn his life around. After sitting shiva, Epstein's mother came to stay with him in London for a month, and during that time Epstein stopped taking drugs, and started once again going into the office every day, working nine to five days, and seeming like his old self. He got Cilla Black her own TV show, and according to things his brother later said, he had finally managed to stop worrying that the Beatles were going to drop him as their manager when the contract ended -- he'd decided that he might as well continue working for them on a reduced cut, and without a formal contract. He also gave a series of interviews to Mike Hennessey of the Melody Maker, in which the most revealing moment was probably when he said "I hope I'll never be lonely. Although, actually, one inflicts loneliness on oneself to a certain extent." These interviews show him confident and upbeat, hopeful about the future. He admitted to using LSD -- Paul had admitted this earlier in the summer and had some heat from the press about it, and Epstein was standing by him -- and said that he thought it had helped him, that he had considered suicide "but I think I've got over that period now". He also hinted at his own sexuality in public for the first time, though not coming right out and saying it -- he said that he thought he would never marry, and also talked in the interview in support of the bill going through Parliament at the time to partially decriminalise sex between men over twenty-one in private, saying "Isn't it silly that we have had to wait all this time for the legislation to go through?" That legislation went through on the twenty-seventh of July, sadly too late for Joe Orton, the author of the script that had nearly become the Beatles' third film. Even after the Beatles had rejected it, there were plans for it to be made, starring Mick Jagger and Ian McKellen, and directed by the Beatles' associate Richard Lester. But on the ninth of August, when a car turned up to take Orton to a meeting with Lester, Orton was found dead. He'd been murdered by his partner, Kenneth Halliwell, who had then died by suicide, distraught at Orton's infidelities. "A Day in the Life" was played at Orton's funeral: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "A Day in the Life"] The final installment of Epstein's interview with Mike Hennessey went out on the twenty-first of August, the same day that Queenie Epstein returned home to Liverpool. On the twenty-third, Epstein visited the group in the studio. They hadn't recorded together since "All You Need is Love", nearly two months earlier -- they'd spent the intervening time trying and failing to buy themselves a Greek island to move to, and living fairly carefree lives. But now they were back together, and were spending two days working on Paul's song "Your Mother Should Know", for possible inclusion in Magical Mystery Tour: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Your Mother Should Know"] They were planning on a third session that week, on the twenty-fifth, and had booked a studio, but they cancelled at the last minute. On the twenty-fourth, they went to see Maharishi Mahesh Yogi give a lecture, and met him afterwards. They were impressed by him, and he invited them to a short retreat he was having at a college in Bangor, in Gwynnedd, North Wales, that weekend -- the weekend of the August Bank Holiday. They cancelled the session and they, and their usual gang of friends like Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull, made the trip to Bangor by train. They never saw Brian Epstein again. The death of Brian Epstein is one of those subjects that remain hotly debated, and which has at various times and by different people been classed as an accidental overdose, a deliberate overdose, or even murder. The last is obvious nonsense -- there's no actual evidence for it that I've ever encountered, just some claims that some business associates were unhappy over some bad deals and had him killed as a result. What we know for sure is that Epstein invited some friends around to his country house for the weekend, but almost nobody actually showed up on the Friday night, and the two who did were people that Epstein spent most of the work day with. He got irritated that a young man he'd invited didn't show up -- I haven't seen anyone who was there identify the man, but I'll talk about one possibility in a moment -- and decided to drive back to his London flat, a little drunk. Apparently several other people did show up soon after he left. On the Saturday afternoon, he spoke on the phone to Peter Brown, one of the people at the country house, sounding a little worse for wear and slurring his words, and apologising for worrying them. Nobody else is confirmed to have spoken with him, or seen him that day. The impression multiple people have stated is that he had spent the Friday night cruising the West End. On the Sunday, Epstein's butler and the butler's wife, who hadn't seen him all Saturday, got in touch with one of Epstein's assistants, Joanne Newfield, concerned for him. Newfield came round to the flat and knocked on Epstein's bedroom door, but there was no answer. She called another of Epstein's assistants, Alistair Taylor, and a doctor, and Taylor broke the bedroom door down, and found Epstein dead. Epstein had made suicide attempts in the past, but these had been of the "cry for help" type, where he'd made sure someone knew what he was attempting and could get there in time to stop him, and he had usually written a suicide note. This time, he was in bed and his pill-bottles were full -- he hadn't done anything that made it look like his death might have been intentional, like swallowing an entire bottle of pills. The coroner found that the death was most consistent with an accidental overdose, and in particular that it was consistent with him having taken the overdose over a period of time. It's most likely, given the reports of his mental state, that Epstein took some sleeping pills mixed with alcohol, woke up after a few hours in a confused state, took another pill or two, then when that didn't work, he was woozy enough from the effects of the pills and booze that he took one or two more, and that was sadly enough to kill him. It may well be, awfully, that his period off the pills had hastened his death -- he'd lost his tolerance and wasn't as used to their effects as he had been. And that seems to be by far the most plausible explanation. It's certainly the one I believe. But it's worth pointing out that Simon Napier-Bell, who was at the time the manager of the Yardbirds, claims to have heard Epstein's last words, on an answering machine tape that he later erased. Now, it's fair to say that Napier-Bell has a reputation for embroidering his stories and caring more about their entertainment value than their strict truth, but I have also not seen anyone seriously doubting that Napier-Bell did receive answering machine messages from Epstein. As Napier-Bell told the story, he and Epstein moved in similar circles but hadn't met in person until the summer of 1967, when Robert Stigwood had invited Napier-Bell round to his flat and Epstein had also been there. The two men had started chatting, and Epstein had got Napier-Bell's phone number, and invited him out to dinner, where he expressed concern that the Maharishi was taking the Beatles away from him, and he seemed to be especially concerned about "losing" John. Epstein made a pass at Napier-Bell, but Napier-Bell didn't find him attractive and declined. Epstein invited Napier-Bell to the country-house party he was going to be having that weekend, but Napier-Bell explained that he had a prior commitment to go to Ireland with the journalist Nik Cohn. Epstein sulked, and told Napier-Bell that he would regret it and might not get another chance. While in Ireland, Napier-Bell heard about Epstein's death, and decided in his own head that Epstein must have been playing a game with him, personally, trying to get his attention. He went back to London, and listened to his answering machine, and I'll finish this episode, and this season of the podcast, with a quote from Napier-Bell's book You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: "Brian Epstein may have focused his last outward emotions on me, but it’s possible that the dying words he spoke into my answerphone were really not meant for me at all. After dinner on the Friday he’d driven back from the country and phoned me. ‘I had a premonition you’d come back to see me. If you have, call me back at once. Please.’ Later he called again. ‘You shouldn’t have gone away.’ His voice was slurred. ‘I asked you not to. I thought I might have changed your mind. I want to talk to you again, like before.’ After that there was a succession of messages which must have been left on the Saturday. Some of them didn’t seem to be for me, in fact, I’d prefer to think that they weren’t. The last one was particularly muddled and seemed to touch on things that had no connection with our brief relationship. Perhaps it was just that I had an answerphone and the Maharishi’s holiday camp didn’t." [Excerpt: The Beatles, "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away", into theme music]
Jun 26, 2022
Admin: July and Onwards
Transcript This is just a note to let everyone know what's happening over the next few weeks. As I said a few months back, I'm taking a break after episode one hundred and fifty, which I'm uploading at the same time as I upload this, in order to get a backlog of episodes done. There won't be another new episode up for at least a month, possibly longer, as I'm going to get a backlog of four episodes written, recorded, and edited before I release the next one, so that I know I can keep to a regular schedule. When the podcast comes back, those four episodes will go up weekly, and I am *hoping* that that will be the case from then on -- but by taking this time to prepare a backlog, I will also know what regular schedule I *can* do. It might be -- it almost certainly will be -- an episode every week, but it might be three weeks on, one week off, it might be every other week, it might be four times a month with skip weeks, but you'll be able to predict exactly when it'll be. If it *is* three weeks on, one week off, or every other week, I'll still also make sure I do *something* for my Patreon backers in off weeks -- once the podcast restarts, backers *will* get a bonus podcast every week, whether or not the main podcast is up then. Whatever schedule it is, though, it will be a *regular* schedule, which the podcast hasn't had for eighteen months, because I'll no longer be running on a treadmill that's going faster than I can keep up, and I'll be able to upload episodes in advance and schedule them, and I'll be able to do work in blocks -- so if, as has happened in the past, I have to put off recording a couple of days because of roadworks outside, and then Tilt has to leave the editing a couple of days because of a health problem, that won't mean the episode goes up four days late, because we'll be working a month ahead. That kind of leeway is what I had for most of the first two years of the podcast, and it's what I lost when I was hit with a whole bunch of catastrophes in late 2020 and throughout 2021. Episodes from this point on are also going to be, in general, shorter than they have been for the last few months. 1966 and 67 is a period where I had to cover a *lot* of ground, adding in new backstory while also moving the story forward, and where nearly every episode had to introduce a whole new style of music *and* a piece of relevant social or political history *and* the biography of an artist *and* their connections to other parts of the story. For most of the next fifty episodes, that won't be the case. There will be other long episodes in the future -- I can think of half a dozen episodes in the next fifty that will require lengths of over ninety minutes as I tell multiple stories, and no doubt more will turn up. So the way I'm planning to do this is to work on four episodes at once. In each batch of four there will be one long episode -- say, twelve thousand words, the same length as the "Respect" or "Eight Miles High" episodes. There will be two six-thousand word episodes, the same length as, say, the "My Girl" or "Mr. Tambourine Man" episodes. And then there'll be a fourth which could be shorter -- three thousand words like the very earliest episodes -- or longer, depending on how much time I've had to spend on the others. So that should be an average of thirty thousand words of script a month -- the same length as the Beatles episode I'm uploading now. A pace that should be achievable, that should mean those who like longer *and* shorter episodes will be happy at least some of the time, and that will hopefully allow me to stick to a schedule. So you can expect at least a month with no new regular podcast episodes, but this feed won't be empty. Two weeks from today I'm going to start another of my Pledge Weeks, where for a week I'll put up one old Patreon bonus episode a day. These are things that my backers have already heard, a year or so ago, and it's to encourage new backers to take the plunge -- there's a lot more where that came from. Two weeks after that, I will be doing two Q&A podcasts. One will be for questions from the general public, which you can ask in the comments to this post at 500songs.com. The other will be for backers only, and I'll put up a post on Patreon for people to ask questions there. There'll then be a break of at least another two weeks, and episode one hundred and fifty-one should be going up some time in early August. While I'm taking this time off -- which is not really time off, I'll be working to build up the backlog -- I'll also be working on proofreading, editing, and typesetting the book version of episodes one hundred and one through one hundred and fifty, which should be out fairly soon and certainly won't be as delayed as the second book was. Thank you all for listening, and join me again in August, as we return to the summer of love. Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.
Jun 26, 2022
Episode 149: “Respect” by Aretha Franklin
Episode 149 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Respect", and the journey of Aretha Franklin from teenage gospel singer to the Queen of Soul. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a fifteen-minute bonus episode available, on "I'm Just a Mops" by the Mops. 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/ Also, people may be interested in a Facebook discussion group for the podcast, run by a friend of mine (I'm not on FB myself) which can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/293630102611672/ Errata I say "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby to a Dixie Melody" instead of "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody". Also I say Spooner Oldham co-wrote "Do Right Woman". I meant Chips Moman. Resources No Mixcloud this week, as there are too many songs by Aretha Franklin. My main biographical source for Aretha Franklin is Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin by David Ritz, and this is where most of the quotes from musicians come from. I also relied heavily on I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You by Matt Dobkin. Information on C.L. Franklin came from Singing in a Strange Land: C. L. Franklin, the Black Church, and the Transformation of America by Nick Salvatore. Rick Hall's The Man From Muscle Shoals: My Journey from Shame to Fame contains his side of the story. Country Soul by Charles L Hughes is a great overview of the soul music made in Muscle Shoals, Memphis, and Nashville in the sixties. Peter Guralnick's Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm And Blues And The Southern Dream Of Freedom is possibly less essential, but still definitely worth reading. And the I Never Loved a Man album is available in this five-album box set for a ludicrously cheap price. But it's actually worth getting this nineteen-CD set with her first sixteen Atlantic albums and a couple of bonus discs of demos and outtakes. There's barely a duff track in the whole nineteen discs. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Before I start this episode,  I have to say that there are some things people may want to be aware of before listening to this. This episode has to deal, at least in passing, with subjects including child sexual abuse, intimate partner abuse, racism, and misogyny. I will of course try to deal with those subjects as tactfully as possible, but those of you who may be upset by those topics may want to check the episode transcript before or instead of listening. Those of you who leave comments or send me messages saying "why can't you just talk about the music instead of all this woke virtue-signalling?" may also want to skip this episode. You can go ahead and skip all the future ones as well, I won't mind. And one more thing to say before I get into the meat of the episode -- this episode puts me in a more difficult position than most other episodes of the podcast have. When I've talked about awful things that have happened in the course of this podcast previously, I have either been talking about perpetrators -- people like Phil Spector or Jerry Lee Lewis who did truly reprehensible things -- or about victims who have talked very publicly about the abuse they've suffered, people like Ronnie Spector or Tina Turner, who said very clearly "this is what happened to me and I want it on the public record". In the case of Aretha Franklin, she has been portrayed as a victim *by others*, and there are things that have been said about her life and her relationships which suggest that she suffered in some very terrible ways. But she herself apparently never saw herself as a victim, and didn't want some aspects of her private life talking about. At the start of David Ritz's biography of her, which is one of my main sources here, he recounts a conversation he had with her: "When I mentioned the possibility of my writing an independent biography, she said, “As long as I can approve it before it’s published.” “Then it wouldn’t be independent,” I said. “Why should it be independent?” “So I can tell the story from my point of view.” “But it’s not your story, it’s mine.” “You’re an important historical figure, Aretha. Others will inevitably come along to tell your story. That’s the blessing and burden of being a public figure.” “More burden than blessing,” she said." Now, Aretha Franklin is sadly dead, but I think that she still deserves the basic respect of being allowed privacy. So I will talk here about public matters, things she acknowledged in her own autobiography, and things that she and the people around her did in public situations like recording studios and concert venues. But there are aspects to the story of Aretha Franklin as that story is commonly told, which may well be true, but are of mostly prurient interest, don't add much to the story of how the music came to be made, and which she herself didn't want people talking about. So there will be things people might expect me to talk about in this episode, incidents where people in her life, usually men, treated her badly, that I'm going to leave out. That information is out there if people want to look for it, but I don't see myself as under any obligation to share it. That's not me making excuses for people who did inexcusable things, that's me showing some respect to one of the towering artistic figures of the latter half of the twentieth century. Because, of course, respect is what this is all about: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Respect"] One name that's come up a few times in this podcast, but who we haven't really talked about that much, is Bobby "Blue" Bland. We mentioned him as the single biggest influence on the style of Van Morrison, but Bland was an important figure in the Memphis music scene of the early fifties, which we talked about in several early episodes. He was one of the Beale Streeters, the loose aggregation of musicians that also included B.B. King and Johnny Ace, he worked with Ike Turner, and was one of the key links between blues and soul in the fifties and early sixties, with records like "Turn on Your Love Light": [Excerpt: Bobby "Blue" Bland, "Turn on Your Love Light"] But while Bland was influenced by many musicians we've talked about, his biggest influence wasn't a singer at all. It was a preacher he saw give a sermon in the early 1940s. As he said decades later: "Wasn’t his words that got me—I couldn’t tell you what he talked on that day, couldn’t tell you what any of it meant, but it was the way he talked. He talked like he was singing. He talked music. The thing that really got me, though, was this squall-like sound he made to emphasize a certain word. He’d catch the word in his mouth, let it roll around and squeeze it with his tongue. When it popped on out, it exploded, and the ladies started waving and shouting. I liked all that. I started popping and shouting too. That next week I asked Mama when we were going back to Memphis to church. “‘Since when you so keen on church?’ Mama asked. “‘I like that preacher,’ I said. “‘Reverend Franklin?’ she asked. “‘Well, if he’s the one who sings when he preaches, that’s the one I like.’" Bland was impressed by C.L. Franklin, and so were other Memphis musicians. Long after Franklin had moved to Detroit, they remembered him, and Bland and B.B. King would go to Franklin's church to see him preach whenever they were in the city. And Bland studied Franklin's records. He said later "I liked whatever was on the radio, especially those first things Nat Cole did with his trio. Naturally I liked the blues singers like Roy Brown, the jump singers like Louis Jordan, and the ballad singers like Billy Eckstine, but, brother, the man who really shaped me was Reverend Franklin." Bland would study Franklin's records, and would take the style that Franklin used in recorded sermons like "The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest": [Excerpt: C.L. Franklin, "The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest"] And you can definitely hear that preaching style on records like Bland's "I Pity the Fool": [Excerpt: Bobby "Blue" Bland, "I Pity the Fool"] But of course, that wasn't the only influence the Reverend C.L. Franklin had on the course of soul music. C.L. Franklin had grown up poor, on a Mississippi farm, and had not even finished grade school because he was needed to work behind the mule, ploughing the farm for his stepfather. But he had a fierce intelligence and became an autodidact, travelling regularly to the nearest library, thirty miles away, on a horse-drawn wagon, and reading everything he could get his hands on. At the age of sixteen he received what he believed to be a message from God, and decided to become an itinerant preacher. He would travel between many small country churches and build up audiences there -- and he would also study everyone else preaching there, analysing their sermons, seeing if he could anticipate their line of argument and get ahead of them, figuring out the structure. But unlike many people in the conservative Black Baptist churches of the time, he never saw the spiritual and secular worlds as incompatible. He saw blues music and Black church sermons as both being part of the same thing -- a Black culture and folklore that was worthy of respect in both its spiritual and secular aspects. He soon built up a small circuit of local churches where he would preach occasionally, but wasn't the main pastor at any of them. He got married aged twenty, though that marriage didn't last, and he seems to have been ambitious for a greater respectability. When that marriage failed, in June 1936, he married Barbara Siggers, a very intelligent, cultured, young single mother who had attended Booker T Washington High School, the best Black school in Memphis, and he adopted her son Vaughn. While he was mostly still doing churches in Mississippi, he took on one in Memphis as well, in an extremely poor area, but it gave him a foot in the door to the biggest Black city in the US. Barbara would later be called "one of the really great gospel singers" by no less than Mahalia Jackson. We don't have any recordings of Barbara singing, but Mahalia Jackson certainly knew what she was talking about when it came to great gospel singers: [Excerpt: Mahalia Jackson, "Precious Lord, Take My Hand"] Rev. Franklin was hugely personally ambitious, and he also wanted to get out of rural Mississippi, where the Klan were very active at this time, especially after his daughter Erma was born in 1938. They moved to Memphis in 1939, where he got a full-time position at New Salem Baptist Church, where for the first time he was able to earn a steady living from just one church and not have to tour round multiple churches. He soon became so popular that if you wanted to get a seat for the service at noon, you had to turn up for the 8AM Sunday School or you'd be forced to stand. He also enrolled for college courses at LeMoyne College. He didn't get a degree, but spent three years as a part-time student studying theology, literature, and sociology, and soon developed a liberal theology that was very different from the conservative fundamentalism he'd grown up in, though still very much part of the Baptist church. Where he'd grown up with a literalism that said the Bible was literally true, he started to accept things like evolution, and to see much of the Bible as metaphor. Now, we talked in the last episode about how impossible it is to get an accurate picture of the lives of religious leaders, because their life stories are told by those who admire them, and that's very much the case for C.L. Franklin. Franklin was a man who had many, many, admirable qualities -- he was fiercely intelligent, well-read, a superb public speaker, a man who was by all accounts genuinely compassionate towards those in need, and he became one of the leaders of the civil rights movement and inspired tens of thousands, maybe even millions, of people, directly and indirectly, to change the world for the better. He also raised several children who loved and admired him and were protective of his memory. And as such, there is an inevitable bias in the sources on Franklin's life. And so there's a tendency to soften the very worst things he did, some of which were very, very bad. For example in Nick Salvatore's biography of him, he talks about Franklin, in 1940, fathering a daughter with someone who is described as "a teenager" and "quite young". No details of her age other than that are given, and a few paragraphs later the age of a girl who was then sixteen *is* given, talking about having known the girl in question, and so the impression is given that the girl he impregnated was also probably in her late teens. Which would still be bad, but a man in his early twenties fathering a child with a girl in her late teens is something that can perhaps be forgiven as being a different time. But while the girl in question may have been a teenager when she gave birth, she was *twelve years old* when she became pregnant, by C.L. Franklin, the pastor of her church, who was in a position of power over her in multiple ways. Twelve years old. And this is not the only awful thing that Franklin did -- he was also known to regularly beat up women he was having affairs with, in public. I mention this now because everything else I say about him in this episode is filtered through sources who saw these things as forgivable character flaws in an otherwise admirable human being, and I can't correct for those biases because I don't know the truth. So it's going to sound like he was a truly great man. But bear those facts in mind. Barbara stayed with Franklin for the present, after discovering what he had done, but their marriage was a difficult one, and they split up and reconciled a handful of times. They had three more children together -- Cecil, Aretha, and Carolyn -- and remained together as Franklin moved on first to a church in Buffalo, New York, and then to New Bethel Church, in Detroit, on Hastings Street, a street which was the centre of Black nightlife in the city, as immortalised in John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillun": [Excerpt: John Lee Hooker, "Boogie Chillen"] Before moving to Detroit, Franklin had already started to get more political, as his congregation in Buffalo had largely been union members, and being free from the worst excesses of segregation allowed him to talk more openly about civil rights, but that only accelerated when he moved to Detroit, which had been torn apart just a couple of years earlier by police violence against Black protestors. Franklin had started building a reputation when in Memphis using radio broadcasts, and by the time he moved to Detroit he was able to command a very high salary, and not only that, his family were given a mansion by the church, in a rich part of town far away from most of his congregation. Smokey Robinson, who was Cecil Franklin's best friend and a frequent visitor to the mansion through most of his childhood, described it later, saying "Once inside, I'm awestruck -- oil paintings, velvet tapestries, silk curtains, mahogany cabinets filled with ornate objects of silver and gold. Man, I've never seen nothing like that before!" He made a lot of money, but he also increased church attendance so much that he earned that money. He had already been broadcasting on the radio, but when he started his Sunday night broadcasts in Detroit, he came up with a trick of having his sermons run long, so the show would end before the climax. People listening decided that they would have to start turning up in person to hear the end of the sermons, and soon he became so popular that the church would be so full that crowds would have to form on the street outside to listen. Other churches rescheduled their services so they wouldn't clash with Franklin's, and most of the other Black Baptist ministers in the city would go along to watch him preach. In 1948 though, a couple of years after moving to Detroit, Barbara finally left her husband. She took Vaughn with her and moved back to Buffalo, leaving the four biological children she'd had with C.L. with their father.  But it's important to note that she didn't leave her children -- they would visit her on a regular basis, and stay with her over school holidays. Aretha later said "Despite the fact that it has been written innumerable times, it is an absolute lie that my mother abandoned us. In no way, shape, form, or fashion did our mother desert us." Barbara's place in the home was filled by many women -- C.L. Franklin's mother moved up from Mississippi to help him take care of the children, the ladies from the church would often help out, and even stars like Mahalia Jackson would turn up and cook meals for the children. There were also the women with whom Franklin carried on affairs, including Anna Gordy, Ruth Brown, and Dinah Washington, the most important female jazz and blues singer of the fifties, who had major R&B hits with records like her version of "Cold Cold Heart": [Excerpt: Dinah Washington, "Cold Cold Heart"] Although my own favourite record of hers is "Big Long Slidin' Thing", which she made with arranger Quincy Jones: [Excerpt: Dinah Washington, "Big Long Slidin' Thing"] It's about a trombone. Get your minds out of the gutter. Washington was one of the biggest vocal influences on young Aretha, but the single biggest influence was Clara Ward, another of C.L. Franklin's many girlfriends. Ward was the longest-lasting of these, and there seems to have been a lot of hope on both her part and Aretha's that she and Rev. Franklin would marry, though Franklin always made it very clear that monogamy wouldn't suit him. Ward was one of the three major female gospel singers of the middle part of the century, and possibly even more technically impressive as a vocalist than the other two, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mahalia Jackson. Where Jackson was an austere performer, who refused to perform in secular contexts at all for most of her life, and took herself and her music very seriously, and Tharpe was a raunchier, funnier, more down-to-earth performer who was happy to play for blues audiences and even to play secular music on occasion, Ward was a *glamorous* performer, who wore sequined dresses and piled her hair high on her head. Ward had become a singer in 1931 when her mother had what she later talked about as a religious epiphany, and decided she wasn't going to be a labourer any more, she was going to devote her life to gospel music. Ward's mother had formed a vocal group with her two daughters, and Clara quickly became the star and her mother's meal ticket -- and her mother was very possessive of that ticket, to the extent that Ward, who was a bisexual woman who mostly preferred men, had more relationships with women, because her mother wouldn't let her be alone with the men she was attracted to. But Ward did manage to keep a relationship going with C.L. Franklin, and Aretha Franklin talked about the moment she decided to become a singer, when she saw Ward singing "Peace in the Valley" at a funeral: [Excerpt: Clara Ward, "Peace in the Valley"] As well as looking towards Ward as a vocal influence, Aretha was also influenced by her as a person -- she became a mother figure to Aretha, who would talk later about watching Ward eat, and noting her taking little delicate bites, and getting an idea of what it meant to be ladylike from her. After Ward's death in 1973, a notebook was found in which she had written her opinions of other singers. For Aretha she wrote “My baby Aretha, she doesn’t know how good she is. Doubts self. Some day—to the moon. I love that girl.” Ward's influence became especially important to Aretha and her siblings after their mother died of a heart attack a few years after leaving her husband, when Aretha was ten, and Aretha, already a very introverted child, became even more so. Everyone who knew Aretha said that her later diva-ish reputation came out of a deep sense of insecurity and introversion -- that she was a desperately private, closed-off, person who would rarely express her emotions at all, and who would look away from you rather than make eye contact. The only time she let herself express emotions was when she performed music. And music was hugely important in the Franklin household. Most preachers in the Black church at that time were a bit dismissive of gospel music, because they thought the music took away from their prestige -- they saw it as a necessary evil, and resented it taking up space when their congregations could have been listening to them. But Rev. Franklin was himself a rather good singer, and even made a few gospel records himself in 1950, recording for Joe Von Battle, who owned a record shop on Hastings Street and also put out records by blues singers: [Excerpt: C.L. Franklin, "I Am Climbing Higher Mountains" ] The church's musical director was James Cleveland, one of the most important gospel artists of the fifties and sixties, who sang with groups like the Caravans: [Excerpt: The Caravans, "What Kind of Man is This?" ] Cleveland, who had started out in the choir run by Thomas Dorsey, the writer of “Take My Hand Precious Lord” and “Peace in the Valley”, moved in with the Franklin family for a while, and he gave the girls tips on playing the piano -- much later he would play piano on Aretha's album Amazing Grace, and she said of him “He showed me some real nice chords, and I liked his deep, deep sound”. Other than Clara Ward, he was probably the single biggest musical influence on Aretha. And all the touring gospel musicians would make appearances at New Bethel Church, not least of them Sam Cooke, who first appeared there with the Highway QCs and would continue to do so after joining the Soul Stirrers: [Excerpt: The Soul Stirrers, "Touch the Hem of his Garment"] Young Aretha and her older sister Erma both had massive crushes on Cooke, and there were rumours that he had an affair with one or both of them when they were in their teens, though both denied it. Aretha later said "When I first saw him, all I could do was sigh... Sam was love on first hearing, love at first sight." But it wasn't just gospel music that filled the house. One of the major ways that C.L. Franklin's liberalism showed was in his love of secular music, especially jazz and blues, which he regarded as just as important in Black cultural life as gospel music. We already talked about Dinah Washington being a regular visitor to the house, but every major Black entertainer would visit the Franklin residence when they were in Detroit. Both Aretha and Cecil Franklin vividly remembered visits from Art Tatum, who would sit at the piano and play for the family and their guests: [Excerpt: Art Tatum, "Tiger Rag"] Tatum was such a spectacular pianist that there's now a musicological term, the tatum, named after him, for the smallest possible discernible rhythmic interval between two notes. Young Aretha was thrilled by his technique, and by that of Oscar Peterson, who also regularly came to the Franklin home, sometimes along with Ella Fitzgerald. Nat "King" Cole was another regular visitor. The Franklin children all absorbed the music these people -- the most important musicians of the time -- were playing in their home, and young Aretha in particular became an astonishing singer and also an accomplished pianist. Smokey Robinson later said: “The other thing that knocked us out about Aretha was her piano playing. There was a grand piano in the Franklin living room, and we all liked to mess around. We’d pick out little melodies with one finger. But when Aretha sat down, even as a seven-year-old, she started playing chords—big chords. Later I’d recognize them as complex church chords, the kind used to accompany the preacher and the solo singer. At the time, though, all I could do was view Aretha as a wonder child. Mind you, this was Detroit, where musical talent ran strong and free. Everyone was singing and harmonizing; everyone was playing piano and guitar. Aretha came out of this world, but she also came out of another far-off magical world none of us really understood. She came from a distant musical planet where children are born with their gifts fully formed.” C.L. Franklin became more involved in the music business still when Joe Von Battle started releasing records of his sermons, which had become steadily more politically aware: [Excerpt: C.L. Franklin, "Dry Bones in the Valley"] Franklin was not a Marxist -- he was a liberal, but like many liberals was willing to stand with Marxists where they had shared interests, even when it was dangerous. For example in 1954, at the height of McCarthyism, he had James and Grace Lee Boggs, two Marxist revolutionaries, come to the pulpit and talk about their support for the anti-colonial revolution in Kenya, and they sold four hundred copies of their pamphlet after their talk, because he saw that the struggle of Black Africans to get out from white colonial rule was the same struggle as that of Black Americans. And Franklin's powerful sermons started getting broadcast on the radio in areas further out from Detroit, as Chess Records picked up the distribution for them and people started playing the records on other stations. People like future Congressman John Lewis and the Reverend Jesse Jackson would later talk about listening to C.L. Franklin's records on the radio and being inspired -- a whole generation of Black Civil Rights leaders took their cues from him, and as the 1950s and 60s went on he became closer and closer to Martin Luther King in particular. But C.L. Franklin was always as much an ambitious showman as an activist, and he started putting together gospel tours, consisting mostly of music but with himself giving a sermon as the headline act. And he became very, very wealthy from these tours. On one trip in the south, his car broke down, and he couldn't find a mechanic willing to work on it. A group of white men started mocking him with racist terms, trying to provoke him, as he was dressed well and driving a nice car (albeit one that had broken down). Rather than arguing with them, he walked to a car dealership, and bought a new car with the cash that he had on him. By 1956 he was getting around $4000 per appearance, roughly equivalent to $43,000 today, and he was making a *lot* of appearances. He also sold half a million records that year. Various gospel singers, including the Clara Ward Singers, would perform on the tours he organised, and one of those performers was Franklin's middle daughter Aretha. Aretha had become pregnant when she was twelve, and after giving birth to the child she dropped out of school, but her grandmother did most of the child-rearing for her, while she accompanied her father on tour. Aretha's first recordings, made when she was just fourteen, show what an astonishing talent she already was at that young age. She would grow as an artist, of course, as she aged and gained experience, but those early gospel records already show an astounding maturity and ability. It's jaw-dropping to listen to these records of a fourteen-year-old, and immediately recognise them as a fully-formed Aretha Franklin. [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "There is a Fountain Filled With Blood"] Smokey Robinson's assessment that she was born with her gifts fully formed doesn't seem like an exaggeration when you hear that. For the latter half of the fifties, Aretha toured with her father, performing on the gospel circuit and becoming known there. But the Franklin sisters were starting to get ideas about moving into secular music. This was largely because their family friend Sam Cooke had done just that, with "You Send Me": [Excerpt: Sam Cooke, "You Send Me"] Aretha and Erma still worshipped Cooke, and Aretha would later talk about getting dressed up just to watch Cooke appear on the TV. Their brother Cecil later said "I remember the night Sam came to sing at the Flame Show Bar in Detroit. Erma and Ree said they weren’t going because they were so heartbroken that Sam had recently married. I didn’t believe them. And I knew I was right when they started getting dressed about noon for the nine o’clock show. Because they were underage, they put on a ton of makeup to look older. It didn’t matter ’cause Berry Gordy’s sisters, Anna and Gwen, worked the photo concession down there, taking pictures of the party people. Anna was tight with Daddy and was sure to let my sisters in. She did, and they came home with stars in their eyes.” Moving from gospel to secular music still had a stigma against it in the gospel world, but Rev. Franklin had never seen secular music as sinful, and he encouraged his daughters in their ambitions. Erma was the first to go secular, forming a girl group, the Cleo-Patrettes, at the suggestion of the Four Tops, who were family friends, and recording a single for Joe Von Battle's J-V-B label, "No Other Love": [Excerpt: The Cleo-Patrettes, "No Other Love"] But the group didn't go any further, as Rev. Franklin insisted that his eldest daughter had to finish school and go to university before she could become a professional singer. Erma missed other opportunities for different reasons, though -- Berry Gordy, at this time still a jobbing songwriter, offered her a song he'd written with his sister and Roquel Davis, but Erma thought of herself as a jazz singer and didn't want to do R&B, and so "All I Could Do Was Cry" was given to Etta James instead, who had a top forty pop hit with it: [Excerpt: Etta James, "All I Could Do Was Cry"] While Erma's move into secular music was slowed by her father wanting her to have an education, there was no such pressure on Aretha, as she had already dropped out. But Aretha had a different problem -- she was very insecure, and said that church audiences "weren't critics, but worshippers", but she was worried that nightclub audiences in particular were just the kind of people who would just be looking for flaws, rather than wanting to support the performer as church audiences did. But eventually she got up the nerve to make the move. There was the possibility of her getting signed to Motown -- her brother was still best friends with Smokey Robinson, while the Gordy family were close to her father -- but Rev. Franklin had his eye on bigger things. He wanted her to be signed to Columbia, which in 1960 was the most prestigious of all the major labels. As Aretha's brother Cecil later said "He wanted Ree on Columbia, the label that recorded Mahalia Jackson, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Percy Faith, and Doris Day. Daddy said that Columbia was the biggest and best record company in the world. Leonard Bernstein recorded for Columbia." They went out to New York to see Phil Moore, a legendary vocal coach and arranger who had helped make Lena Horne and Dorothy Dandridge into stars, but Moore actually refused to take her on as a client, saying "She does not require my services. Her style has already been developed. Her style is in place. It is a unique style that, in my professional opinion, requires no alteration. It simply requires the right material. Her stage presentation is not of immediate concern. All that will come later. The immediate concern is the material that will suit her best. And the reason that concern will not be easily addressed is because I can’t imagine any material that will not suit her." That last would become a problem for the next few years, but the immediate issue was to get someone at Columbia to listen to her, and Moore could help with that -- he was friends with John Hammond. Hammond is a name that's come up several times in the podcast already -- we mentioned him in the very earliest episodes, and also in episode ninety-eight, where we looked at his signing of Bob Dylan. But Hammond was a legend in the music business. He had produced sessions for Bessie Smith, had discovered Count Basie and Billie Holiday, had convinced Benny Goodman to hire Charlie Christian and Lionel Hampton, had signed Pete Seeger and the Weavers to Columbia, had organised the Spirituals to Swing concerts which we talked about in the first few episodes of this podcast, and was about to put out the first album of Robert Johnson's recordings. Of all the executives at Columbia, he was the one who had the greatest eye for talent, and the greatest understanding of Black musical culture. Moore suggested that the Franklins get Major Holley to produce a demo recording that he could get Hammond to listen to. Major Holley was a family friend, and a jazz bassist who had played with Oscar Peterson and Coleman Hawkins among others, and he put together a set of songs for Aretha that would emphasise the jazz side of her abilities, pitching her as a Dinah Washington style bluesy jazz singer. The highlight of the demo was a version of "Today I Sing the Blues", a song that had originally been recorded by Helen Humes, the singer who we last heard of recording “Be Baba Leba” with Bill Doggett: [Excerpt: Helen Humes, "Today I Sing the Blues"] That original version had been produced by Hammond, but the song had also recently been covered by Aretha's idol, Sam Cooke: [Excerpt: Sam Cooke, "Today I Sing the Blues"] Hammond was hugely impressed by the demo, and signed Aretha straight away, and got to work producing her first album. But he and Rev. Franklin had different ideas about what Aretha should do. Hammond wanted to make a fairly raw-sounding bluesy jazz album, the kind of recording he had produced with Bessie Smith or Billie Holiday, but Rev. Franklin wanted his daughter to make music that would cross over to the white pop market -- he was aiming for the same kind of audience that Nat "King" Cole or Harry Belafonte had, and he wanted her recording standards like "Over the Rainbow". This showed a lack of understanding on Rev. Franklin's part of how such crossovers actually worked at this point. As Etta James later said, "If you wanna have Black hits, you gotta understand the Black streets, you gotta work those streets and work those DJs to get airplay on Black stations... Or looking at it another way, in those days you had to get the Black audience to love the hell outta you and then hope the love would cross over to the white side. Columbia didn’t know nothing ’bout crossing over.” But Hammond knew they had to make a record quickly, because Sam Cooke had been working on RCA Records, trying to get them to sign Aretha, and Rev. Franklin wanted an album out so they could start booking club dates for her, and was saying that if they didn't get one done quickly he'd take up that offer, and so they came up with a compromise set of songs which satisfied nobody, but did produce two R&B top ten hits, "Won't Be Long" and Aretha's version of "Today I Sing the Blues": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Today I Sing the Blues"] This is not to say that Aretha herself saw this as a compromise -- she later said "I have never compromised my material. Even then, I knew a good song from a bad one. And if Hammond, one of the legends of the business, didn’t know how to produce a record, who does? No, the fault was with promotion." And this is something important to bear in mind as we talk about her Columbia records. Many, *many* people have presented those records as Aretha being told what to do by producers who didn't understand her art and were making her record songs that didn't fit her style. That's not what's happening with the Columbia records. Everyone actually involved said that Aretha was very involved in the choices made -- and there are some genuinely great tracks on those albums. The problem is that they're *unfocused*. Aretha was only eighteen when she signed to the label, and she loved all sorts of music -- blues, jazz, soul, standards, gospel, middle-of-the-road pop music -- and wanted to sing all those kinds of music. And she *could* sing all those kinds of music, and sing them well. But it meant the records weren't coherent. You didn't know what you were getting, and there was no artistic personality that dominated them, it was just what Aretha felt like recording. Around this time, Aretha started to think that maybe her father didn't know what he was talking about when it came to popular music success, even though she idolised him in most areas, and she turned to another figure, who would soon become both her husband and manager. Ted White. Her sister Erma, who was at that time touring with Lloyd Price, had introduced them, but in fact Aretha had first seen White years earlier, in her own house -- he had been Dinah Washington's boyfriend in the fifties, and her first sight of him had been carrying a drunk Washington out of the house after a party. In interviews with David Ritz, who wrote biographies of many major soul stars including both Aretha Franklin and Etta James, James had a lot to say about White, saying “Ted White was famous even before he got with Aretha. My boyfriend at the time, Harvey Fuqua, used to talk about him. Ted was supposed to be the slickest pimp in Detroit. When I learned that Aretha married him, I wasn’t surprised. A lot of the big-time singers who we idolized as girls—like Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan—had pimps for boyfriends and managers. That was standard operating procedure. My own mother had made a living turning tricks. When we were getting started, that way of life was part of the music business. It was in our genes. Part of the lure of pimps was that they got us paid." She compared White to Ike Turner, saying "Ike made Tina, no doubt about it. He developed her talent. He showed her what it meant to be a performer. He got her famous. Of course, Ted White was not a performer, but he was savvy about the world. When Harvey Fuqua introduced me to him—this was the fifties, before he was with Aretha—I saw him as a super-hip extra-smooth cat. I liked him. He knew music. He knew songwriters who were writing hit songs. He had manners. Later, when I ran into him and Aretha—this was the sixties—I saw that she wasn’t as shy as she used to be." White was a pimp, but he was also someone with music business experience -- he owned an unsuccessful publishing company, and also ran a chain of jukeboxes. He was also thirty, while Aretha was only eighteen. But White didn't like the people in Aretha's life at the time -- he didn't get on well with her father, and he also clashed with John Hammond. And Aretha was also annoyed at Hammond, because her sister Erma had signed to Epic, a Columbia subsidiary, and was releasing her own singles: [Excerpt: Erma Franklin, "Hello Again"] Aretha was certain that Hammond had signed Erma, even though Hammond had nothing to do with Epic Records, and Erma had actually been recommended by Lloyd Price. And Aretha, while for much of her career she would support her sister, was also terrified that her sister might have a big hit before her and leave Aretha in her shadow. Hammond was still the credited producer on Aretha's second album, The Electrifying Aretha Franklin, but his lack of say in the sessions can be shown in the choice of lead-off single. "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody" was originally recorded by Al Jolson in 1918: [Excerpt: Al Jolson, "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody"] Rev. Franklin pushed for the song, as he was a fan of Jolson -- Jolson, oddly, had a large Black fanbase, despite his having been a blackface performer, because he had *also* been a strong advocate of Black musicians like Cab Calloway, and the level of racism in the media of the twenties through forties was so astonishingly high that even a blackface performer could seem comparatively OK. Aretha's performance was good, but it was hardly the kind of thing that audiences were clamouring for in 1961: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody"] That single came out the month after _Down Beat_ magazine gave Aretha the "new-star female vocalist award", and it oddly made the pop top forty, her first record to do so, and the B-side made the R&B top ten, but for the next few years both chart success and critical acclaim eluded her. None of her next nine singles would make higher than number eighty-six on the Hot One Hundred, and none would make the R&B charts at all. After that transitional second album, she was paired with producer Bob Mersey, who was precisely the kind of white pop producer that one would expect for someone who hoped for crossover success. Mersey was the producer for many of Columbia's biggest stars at the time -- people like Barbra Streisand, Andy Williams, Julie Andrews, Patti Page, and Mel Tormé -- and it was that kind of audience that Aretha wanted to go for at this point. To give an example of the kind of thing that Mersey was doing, just the month before he started work on his first collaboration with Aretha, _The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin_, his production of Andy Williams singing "Moon River" was released: [Excerpt: Andy Williams, "Moon River"] This was the kind of audience Aretha was going for when it came to record sales – the person she compared herself to most frequently at this point was Barbra Streisand – though in live performances she was playing with a small jazz group in jazz venues, and going for the same kind of jazz-soul crossover audience as Dinah Washington or Ray Charles. The strategy seems to have been to get something like the success of her idol Sam Cooke, who could play to soul audiences but also play the Copacabana, but the problem was that Cooke had built an audience before doing that -- she hadn't. But even though she hadn't built up an audience, musicians were starting to pay attention. Ted White, who was still in touch with Dinah Washington, later said “Women are very catty. They’ll see a girl who’s dressed very well and they’ll say, Yeah, but look at those shoes, or look at that hairdo. Aretha was the only singer I’ve ever known that Dinah had no negative comments about. She just stood with her mouth open when she heard Aretha sing.” The great jazz vocalist Carmen McRea went to see Aretha at the Village Vanguard in New York around this time, having heard the comparisons to Dinah Washington, and met her afterwards. She later said "Given how emotionally she sang, I expected her to have a supercharged emotional personality like Dinah. Instead, she was the shyest thing I’ve ever met. Would hardly look me in the eye. Didn’t say more than two words. I mean, this bitch gave bashful a new meaning. Anyway, I didn’t give her any advice because she didn’t ask for any, but I knew goddamn well that, no matter how good she was—and she was absolutely wonderful—she’d have to make up her mind whether she wanted to be Della Reese, Dinah Washington, or Sarah Vaughan. I also had a feeling she wouldn’t have minded being Leslie Uggams or Diahann Carroll. I remember thinking that if she didn’t figure out who she was—and quick—she was gonna get lost in the weeds of the music biz." So musicians were listening to Aretha, even if everyone else wasn't. The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin, for example, was full of old standards like "Try a Little Tenderness": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Try a Little Tenderness"] That performance inspired Otis Redding to cut his own version of that song a few years later: [Excerpt: Otis Redding, "Try a Little Tenderness"] And it might also have inspired Aretha's friend and idol Sam Cooke to include the song in his own lounge sets. The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin also included Aretha's first original composition, but in general it wasn't a very well-received album. In 1963, the first cracks started to develop in Aretha's relationship with Ted White. According to her siblings, part of the strain was because Aretha's increasing commitment to the civil rights movement was costing her professional opportunities. Her brother Cecil later said "Ted White had complete sway over her when it came to what engagements to accept and what songs to sing. But if Daddy called and said, ‘Ree, I want you to sing for Dr. King,’ she’d drop everything and do just that. I don’t think Ted had objections to her support of Dr. King’s cause, and he realized it would raise her visibility. But I do remember the time that there was a conflict between a big club gig and doing a benefit for Dr. King. Ted said, ‘Take the club gig. We need the money.’ But Ree said, ‘Dr. King needs me more.’ She defied her husband. Maybe that was the start of their marital trouble. Their thing was always troubled because it was based on each of them using the other. Whatever the case, my sister proved to be a strong soldier in the civil rights fight. That made me proud of her and it kept her relationship with Daddy from collapsing entirely." In part her increasing activism was because of her father's own increase in activity. The benefit that Cecil is talking about there is probably one in Chicago organised by Mahalia Jackson, where Aretha headlined on a bill that also included Jackson, Eartha Kitt, and the comedian Dick Gregory. That was less than a month before her father organised the Detroit Walk to Freedom, a trial run for the more famous March on Washington a few weeks later. The Detroit Walk to Freedom was run by the Detroit Council for Human Rights, which was formed by Rev. Franklin and Rev. Albert Cleage, a much more radical Black nationalist who often differed with Franklin's more moderate integrationist stance. They both worked together to organise the Walk to Freedom, but Franklin's stance predominated, as several white liberal politicians, like the Mayor of Detroit, Jerome Cavanagh, were included in the largely-Black March. It drew crowds of 125,000 people, and Dr. King called it "one of the most wonderful things that has happened in America", and it was the largest civil rights demonstration in American history up to that point. King's speech in Detroit was recorded and released on Motown Records: [Excerpt: Martin Luther King, "Original 'I Have a Dream' Speech”] He later returned to the same ideas in his more famous speech in Washington. During that civil rights spring and summer of 1963, Aretha also recorded what many think of as the best of her Columbia albums, a collection of jazz standards  called Laughing on the Outside, which included songs like "Solitude", "Ol' Man River" and "I Wanna Be Around": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "I Wanna Be Around"] The opening track, "Skylark", was Etta James' favourite ever Aretha Franklin performance, and is regarded by many as the definitive take on the song: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Skylark"] Etta James later talked about discussing the track with the great jazz singer Sarah Vaughan, one of Aretha's early influences, who had recorded her own version of the song: "Sarah said, ‘Have you heard of this Aretha Franklin girl?’ I said, ‘You heard her do “Skylark,” didn’t you?’ Sarah said, ‘Yes, I did, and I’m never singing that song again.” But while the album got noticed by other musicians, it didn't get much attention from the wider public. Mersey decided that a change in direction was needed, and they needed to get in someone with more of a jazz background to work with Aretha. He brought in pianist and arranger Bobby Scott, who had previously worked with people like Lester Young, and Scott said of their first meeting “My first memory of Aretha is that she wouldn’t look at me when I spoke. She withdrew from the encounter in a way that intrigued me. At first I thought she was just shy—and she was—but I also felt her reading me...For all her deference to my experience and her reluctance to speak up, when she did look me in the eye, she did so with a quiet intensity before saying, ‘I like all your ideas, Mr. Scott, but please remember I do want hits.’” They started recording together, but the sides they cut wouldn't be released for a few years. Instead, Aretha and Mersey went in yet another direction. Dinah Washington died suddenly in December 1963, and given that Aretha was already being compared to Washington by almost everyone, and that Washington had been a huge influence on her, as well as having been close to both her father and her husband/manager, it made sense to go into the studio and quickly cut a tribute album, with Aretha singing Washington's hits: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Cold Cold Heart"] Unfortunately, while Washington had been wildly popular, and one of the most important figures in jazz and R&B in the forties and fifties, her style was out of date. The tribute album, titled Unforgettable, came out in February 1964, the same month that Beatlemania hit the US. Dinah Washington was the past, and trying to position Aretha as "the new Dinah Washington" would doom her to obscurity. John Hammond later said "I remember thinking that if Aretha never does another album she will be remembered for this one. No, the problem was timing. Dinah had died, and, outside the black community, interest in her had waned dramatically. Popular music was in a radical and revolutionary moment, and that moment had nothing to do with Dinah Washington, great as she was and will always be.” At this point, Columbia brought in Clyde Otis, an independent producer and songwriter who had worked with artists like Washington and Sarah Vaughan, and indeed had written one of the songs on Unforgettable, but had also worked with people like Brook Benton, who had a much more R&B audience. For example, he'd written "Baby, You Got What It Takes" for Benton and Washington to do as a duet: [Excerpt: Brook Benton and Dinah Washington, "Baby, You Got What it Takes"] In 1962, when he was working at Mercury Records before going independent, Otis had produced thirty-three of the fifty-one singles the label put out that year that had charted. Columbia had decided that they were going to position Aretha firmly in the R&B market, and assigned Otis to do just that. At first, though, Otis had no more luck with getting Aretha to sing R&B than anyone else had. He later said "Aretha, though, couldn’t be deterred from her determination to beat Barbra Streisand at Barbra’s own game. I kept saying, ‘Ree, you can outsing Streisand any day of the week. That’s not the point. The point is to find a hit.’ But that summer she just wanted straight-up ballads. She insisted that she do ‘People,’ Streisand’s smash. Aretha sang the hell out of it, but no one’s gonna beat Barbra at her own game." But after several months of this, eventually Aretha and White came round to the idea of making an R&B record. Otis produced an album of contemporary R&B, with covers of music from the more sophisticated end of the soul market, songs like "My Guy", "Every Little Bit Hurts", and "Walk on By", along with a few new originals brought in by Otis. The title track, "Runnin' Out of Fools", became her biggest hit in three years, making number fifty-seven on the pop charts and number thirty on the R&B charts: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Runnin' Out of Fools"] After that album, they recorded another album with Otis producing, a live-in-the-studio jazz album, but again nobody involved could agree on a style for her. By this time it was obvious that she was unhappy with Columbia and would be leaving the label soon, and they wanted to get as much material in the can as they could, so they could continue releasing material after she left. But her working relationship with Otis was deteriorating -- Otis and Ted White did not get on, Aretha and White were having their own problems, and Aretha had started just not showing up for some sessions, with nobody knowing where she was. Columbia passed her on to yet another producer, this time Bob Johnston, who had just had a hit with Patti Page, "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte": [Excerpt: Patti Page, "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte"] Johnston was just about to hit an incredible hot streak as a producer. At the same time as his sessions with Aretha, he was also producing Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited, and just after the sessions finished he'd go on to produce Simon & Garfunkel's Sounds of Silence album. In the next few years he would produce a run of classic Dylan albums like Blonde on Blonde, John Wesley Harding, and New Morning, Simon & Garfunkel's follow up Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, Leonard Cohen's first three albums, and Johnny Cash's comeback with the Live at Folsom Prison album and its follow up At San Quentin. He also produced records for Marty Robbins, Flatt & Scruggs, the Byrds, and Burl Ives during that time period. But you may notice that while that's as great a run of records as any producer was putting out at the time, it has little to do with the kind of music that Aretha Franklin was making then, or would become famous with. Johnston produced a string-heavy session in which Aretha once again tried to sing old standards by people like Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern. She then just didn't turn up for some more sessions, until one final session in August, when she recorded songs like "Swanee" and "You Made Me Love You". For more than a year, she didn't go into a studio. She also missed many gigs and disappeared from her family's life for periods of time. Columbia kept putting out records of things she'd already recorded, but none of them had any success at all. Many of the records she'd made for Columbia had been genuinely great -- there's a popular perception that she was being held back by a record company that forced her to sing material she didn't like, but in fact she *loved* old standards, and jazz tunes, and contemporary pop at least as much as any other kind of music. Truly great musicians tend to have extremely eclectic tastes, and Aretha Franklin was a truly great musician if anyone was. Her Columbia albums are as good as any albums in those genres put out in that time period, and she remained proud of them for the rest of her life. But that very eclecticism had meant that she hadn't established a strong identity as a performer -- everyone who heard her records knew she was a great singer, but nobody knew what "an Aretha Franklin record" really meant -- and she hadn't had a single real hit, which was the thing she wanted more than anything. All that changed when in the early hours of the morning, Jerry Wexler was at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals recording a Wilson Pickett track -- from the timeline, it was probably the session for "Mustang Sally", which coincidentally was published by Ted White's publishing company, as Sir Mack Rice, the writer, was a neighbour of White and Franklin, and to which Aretha had made an uncredited songwriting contribution: [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "Mustang Sally"] Whatever the session, it wasn't going well. Percy Sledge, another Atlantic artist who recorded at Muscle Shoals, had turned up and had started winding Pickett up, telling him he sounded just like James Brown. Pickett *hated* Brown -- it seems like almost every male soul singer of the sixties hated James Brown -- and went to physically attack Sledge. Wexler got between the two men to protect his investments in them -- both were the kind of men who could easily cause some serious damage to anyone they hit -- and Pickett threw him to one side and charged at Sledge. At that moment the phone went, and Wexler yelled at the two of them to calm down so he could talk on the phone. The call was telling him that Aretha Franklin was interested in recording for Atlantic. Rev. Louise Bishop, later a Democratic politician in Pennsylvania, was at this time a broadcaster, presenting a radio gospel programme, and she knew Aretha. She'd been to see her perform, and had been astonished by Aretha's performance of a recent Otis Redding single, "Respect": [Excerpt: Otis Redding, "Respect"] Redding will, by the way, be getting his own episode in a few months' time, which is why I've not covered the making of that record here. Bishop thought that Aretha did the song even better than Redding -- something Bishop hadn't thought possible. When she got talking to Aretha after the show, she discovered that her contract with Columbia was up, and Aretha didn't really know what she was going to do -- maybe she'd start her own label or something. She hadn't been into the studio in more than a year, but she did have some songs she'd been working on. Bishop was good friends with Jerry Wexler, and she knew that he was a big fan of Aretha's, and had been saying for a while that when her contract was up he'd like to sign her. Bishop offered to make the connection, and then went back home and phoned Wexler's wife, waking her up -- it was one in the morning by this point, but Bishop was accustomed to phoning Wexler late at night when it was something important. Wexler's wife then phoned him in Muscle Shoals, and he phoned Bishop back and made the arrangements to meet up. Initially, Wexler wasn't thinking about producing Aretha himself -- this was still the period when he and the Ertegun brothers were thinking of selling Atlantic and getting out of the music business, and so while he signed her to the label he was originally going to hand her over to Jim Stewart at Stax to record, as he had with Sam and Dave. But in a baffling turn of events, Jim Stewart didn't actually want to record her, and so Wexler determined that he had better do it himself. And he didn't want to do it with slick New York musicians -- he wanted to bring out the gospel sound in her voice, and he thought the best way to do that was with musicians from what Charles Hughes refers to as "the country-soul triangle" of Nashville, Memphis, and Muscle Shoals. So he booked a week's worth of sessions at FAME studios, and got in FAME's regular rhythm section, plus a couple of musicians from American Recordings in Memphis -- Chips Moman and Spooner Oldham. Oldham's friend and songwriting partner Dan Penn came along as well -- he wasn't officially part of the session, but he was a fan of Aretha's and wasn't going to miss this. Penn had been the first person that Rick Hall, the owner of FAME, had called when Wexler had booked the studio, because Hall hadn't actually heard of Aretha Franklin up to that point, but didn't want to let Wexler know that. Penn had assured him that Aretha was one of the all-time great talents, and that she just needed the right production to become massive. As Hall put it in his autobiography, "Dan tended in those days to hate anything he didn’t write, so I figured if he felt that strongly about her, then she was probably going to be a big star." Charlie Chalmers, a horn player who regularly played with these musicians, was tasked with putting together a horn section. The first song they recorded that day was one that the musicians weren't that impressed with at first. "I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)" was written by a songwriter named Ronnie Shannon, who had driven from Georgia to Detroit hoping to sell his songs to Motown. He'd popped into a barber's shop where Ted White was having his hair cut to ask for directions to Motown, and White had signed him to his own publishing company and got him to write songs for Aretha. On hearing the demo, the musicians thought that the song was mediocre and a bit shapeless: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin "I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You) (demo)"] But everyone there was agreed that Aretha herself was spectacular. She didn't speak much to the musicians, just went to the piano and sat down and started playing, and Jerry Wexler later compared her playing to Thelonius Monk (who was indeed one of the jazz musicians who had influenced her). While Spooner Oldham had been booked to play piano, it was quickly decided to switch him to electric piano and organ, leaving the acoustic piano for Aretha to play, and she would play piano on all the sessions Wexler produced for her in future. Although while Wexler is the credited producer (and on this initial session Rick Hall at FAME is a credited co-producer), everyone involved, including Wexler, said that the musicians were taking their cues from Aretha rather than anyone else. She would outline the arrangements at the piano, and everyone else would fit in with what she was doing, coming up with head arrangements directed by her. But Wexler played a vital role in mediating between her and the musicians and engineering staff, all of whom he knew and she didn't. As Rick Hall said "After her brief introduction by Wexler, she said very little to me or anyone else in the studio other than Jerry or her husband for the rest of the day. I don’t think Aretha and I ever made eye contact after our introduction, simply because we were both so totally focused on our music and consumed by what we were doing." The musicians started working on "I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)", and at first found it difficult to get the groove, but then Oldham came up with an electric piano lick which everyone involved thought of as the key that unlocked the song for them: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)"] After that, they took a break. Most of them were pleased with the track, though Rick Hall wasn't especially happy. But then Rick Hall wasn't especially happy about anything at that point. He'd always used mono for his recordings until then, but had been basically forced to install at least a two-track system by Tom Dowd, Atlantic's chief engineer, and was resentful of this imposition. During the break, Dan Penn went off to finish a song he and Spooner Oldham had been writing, which he hoped Aretha would record at the session: [Excerpt: Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man"] They had the basic structure of the song down, but hadn't quite finished the middle eight, and both Jerry Wexler and Aretha Franklin chipped in uncredited lyrical contributions -- Aretha's line was "as long as we're together baby, you'd better show some respect to me". Penn, Oldham, Chips Moman, Roger Hawkins, and Tommy Cogbill started cutting a backing track for the song, with Penn singing lead initially with the idea that Aretha would overdub her vocal. But while they were doing this, things had been going wrong with the other participants. All the FAME and American rhythm section players were white, as were Wexler, Hall, and Dowd, and Wexler had been very aware of this, and of the fact that they were recording in Alabama, where Aretha and her husband might not feel totally safe, so he'd specifically requested that the horn section at least contain some Black musicians. But Charlie Chalmers hadn't been able to get any of the Black musicians he would normally call when putting together a horn section, and had ended up with an all-white horn section as well, including one player, a trumpet player called Ken Laxton, who had a reputation as a good player but had never worked with any of the other musicians there -- he was an outsider in a group of people who regularly worked together and had a pre-existing relationship. As the two outsiders, Laxton and Ted White had, at first, bonded, and indeed had started drinking vodka together, passing a bottle between themselves, in a way that Rick Hall would normally not allow in a session -- at the time, the county the studio was in was still a dry county. But as Wexler said, “A redneck patronizing a Black man is a dangerous camaraderie,” and White and Laxton soon had a major falling out. Everyone involved tells a different story about what it was that caused them to start rowing, though it seems to have been to do with Laxton not showing the proper respect for Aretha, or even actually sexually assaulting her -- Dan Penn later said “I always heard he patted her on the butt or somethin’, and what would have been wrong with that anyway?”, which says an awful lot about the attitudes of these white Southern men who thought of themselves as very progressive, and were -- for white Southern men in early 1967. Either way, White got very, very annoyed, and insisted that Laxton get fired from the session, which he was, but that still didn't satisfy White, and he stormed off to the motel, drunk and angry. The rest of them finished cutting a basic track for "Do Right Woman", but nobody was very happy with it. Oldham said later “She liked the song but hadn’t had time to practice it or settle into it I remember there was Roger playing the drums and Cogbill playing the bass. And I’m on these little simplistic chords on organ, just holding chords so the song would be understood. And that was sort of where it was left. Dan had to sing the vocal, because she didn’t know the song, in the wrong key for him. That’s what they left with—Dan singing the wrong-key vocal and this little simplistic organ and a bass and a drum. We had a whole week to do everything—we had plenty of time—so there was no hurry to do anything in particular.” Penn was less optimistic, saying "But as I remember, I went home that night and I was so dejected. I thought—you ain’t gonna make any money on that, kid. Because all it was, was Cogbill going bum-bum, and Spooner had his little organ holdin’ there, and me screaming at the top of my voice—it sounded pitiful.” Hall thought it was pitiful as well, and he was also not at all impressed with "I Never Loved a Man". He thought the session was a total loss, and he went back with Wexler to the motel room where Wexler was staying -- in the same motel as White and Franklin were -- and got very drunk. And then he had one of those great ideas drunk people get -- he decided he was going to go and talk to Ted White and straighten everything out. He was going to be the great diplomat and save the day. Wexler begged him not to, but Hall knew better. He went up and knocked on the door of the room where White and Franklin were staying, and White started complaining to him, saying he should have known better than to let his wife record with a bunch of rednecks. After a couple of minutes of White using terms like "redneck" and "whitey", Hall had had enough, and said that if White called him a redneck once more, he would call White the n word -- except that Hall used the actual word in question. The two started exchanging blows, and according to various of the more lurid accounts either tried to push each other off a fifth-floor balcony or even exchanged gunshots. Most accounts of these altercations tend to blame White, Laxton, and Hall about equally, and that's largely because White had a generally unpleasant reputation and was not easy to get along with. In this particular instance, though, given that he'd first seen his wife sexually assaulted and then been woken up by a drunk man who used racial slurs at him, I don't think he deserves much of the blame. Hall then had a screaming row with Jerry Wexler, still on the fifth-floor balcony, then went down to the hotel lobby and used a payphone to call White's room and scream more abuse at him, threatening him that he had better get out of town if he knew what was good for him. Meanwhile, Aretha and Ted also had a row, which ended with her leaving the motel in the middle of the night and phoning Wexler in tears from a diner saying they had split up -- though awkwardly for both of them, they met in the airport the next day as they both decided to get out of town. Aretha and Ted did eventually reconcile, though their marriage didn't last that much longer, but Wexler and Hall would never work together again. And Aretha did another of her disappearing acts for a couple of weeks, with nobody able to find her. Wexler had a single usable track from the session -- "I Never Loved a Man" -- and when he gave a couple of DJs acetate copies of that he found it became a turntable hit, but he couldn't find his singer to record a B-side. Eventually, Aretha turned up, and Wexler got her into the studio to finish "Do Right Woman". To the backing track cut at FAME, Aretha added lead vocals and piano, and backing vocals by her sisters Erma and Carolyn and their friend Cissy Houston -- the aunt of Dionne Warwick and mother of Whitney Houston. There was a slight problem which Moman would later point out, saying “The only thing I found wrong and I still find wrong: Obviously, Rick Hall’s machine and the machine in New York were traveling at a slightly different speed. The piano is out of tune on that record, and it bothered me immensely. The piano is sharp to the track. If you listen to the piano, you hear it—it’s almost a quarter-tone sharp to the track.” But that didn't stop the B-side becoming a top forty R&B hit and one of the all-time country-soul classics: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man"] The A-side, meanwhile, made the top ten on the pop charts and number one on the R&B charts. But Wexler had a problem. He wanted a full album to go with the single, and he wanted the same musicians playing on it -- with the exception, of course, of Ken Laxton. But many of those musicians were employed more-or-less full-time by Rick Hall. He knew that if Hall knew they were going to be working on an Aretha Franklin album without him, Hall would realise that he'd been cut off by Wexler and not let them go. So instead, he invited them all up to New York to record an album by the great R&B saxophone player King Curtis, King Curtis Plays Great Memphis Hits -- a quick set of instrumental cover versions of records several of them had played on at Stax or American for Atlantic, so it wouldn't arouse suspicion: [Excerpt: King Curtis, "Green Onions"] And then, once they were there in the studio, he casually suggested to them that, you know, while you're here, you might want to do some more tracks with Aretha as well. This time there would be a more relaxed atmosphere, and a more integrated group of people in the studio -- as well as the white musicians, Aretha's sisters and Cissy Houston were there, and King Curtis stayed around to add saxophone. Hall found out what was happening after about three days, and called the musicians back, but in that time they managed to cut most of what became a classic album -- and Wexler would a couple of years later help some of the FAME musicians start their own Muscle Shoals studio in competition with Hall's, giving them some of the start-up capital they needed. The highlight of the album, and second single, was "Respect", the song that had so impressed Bishop when she'd heard Aretha perform it live: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Respect"] Aretha had been working on the song for a year at this point, honing it live, and had come up with several changes to the arrangement. For a start, there were the backing vocals, where her sisters sang "re, re, re, re, respect" -- "Re" was her family's nickname for Aretha, and several people have pointed out that this effectively makes Aretha herself the embodiment of the concept of respect. But even in the studio they would still make changes. One was to introduce a key change for Curtis' saxophone solo, and create a bridge to do that in. According to Wexler, they took the bridge from "When Something is Wrong With My Baby" by Sam and Dave: [Excerpt: Sam and Dave, "When Something is Wrong With My Baby"] And turned that into the solo: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Respect"] Arif Mardin, who was assisting Wexler at the session, said later “We thought, How could we lift this song up? ‘Respect’ is in C. But that bridge, Curtis’s saxophone solo is in F sharp—a totally unrelated key, but we liked it! We liked those chords! So we put it in. And then, from the F sharp, ‘Respect’ starts with a G chord—the five of the G [I think he means the five of the C here]. So from the F sharp we went to the G—it sounded like a half-tone modulation, but it wasn’t. It was a very interesting solo construction and we did it right there. There was nothing haphazard on Aretha’s part. But the way we came up with that strange key change, which led back naturally—it was done there on the spot." Now, everyone involved with that session talks about that change as something "We" did, without specifying whose idea it was, but I have a strong suspicion it was Aretha's, and I think I know what inspired her. Because that quote of Mardin's reminded me of something Paul Simon said in an interview about the change to the bridge in his much later song "Still Crazy After All These Years": [Excerpt: Simon and Garfunkel "Still Crazy After All These Years (live in Central Park)"] In an interview from the eighties, Simon was asked about that key change, and replied: "Yeah, I used to do that. It was something I noticed in Antonio Jobim's music. In fact I once mentioned that to him and he said that he wasn't aware of it at all. It was kind of an exercise that I did, which was to try and get every note from a twelve-tone scale into the song. So what would happen is that I would cover most of the notes in the song and there would be maybe three notes that you couldn't get into the scale of the key of the song. And those three notes were really the key to the bridge. Usually it would be a tritone away from whatever key you were using. If you were in the key of C, the farthest away you can go is F sharp. That's the key that's the least related to C." Now, I would just think this was an interesting coincidence, except that a few days after reading that Mardin quote, while researching this episode, I found a quote by Luther Vandross talking about another song on the I Never Loved a Man album -- "When I produced Aretha in the eighties, the first thing I told her was how much I loved ‘Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream.’ It had this bossa nova–ish silky groove that was pure heaven. I asked her where the song came from. She said she’d been listening to Astrud Gilberto, the girl who sang with Stan Getz, and she wanted to write something with the feeling of Latin soul." Now, Gilberto became famous for recording the songs of Jobim -- the very same person that Paul Simon cited as doing this same kind of key change that we have in "Respect". So while she never spoke about it, I would put money on it having been Aretha who came up with that key change, and on it having been inspired by Jobim. Other changes were made to tie the song into Aretha's other songs. She'd already added the line about "respect" to "Do Right Woman", but on the tag she sang "You're running out of fools, and I ain't lyin'", referencing her last hit on Columbia of any size. And in "Dr. Feelgood", one of the songs she'd written herself for the album, she sang “taking care of business is really this man’s game”, and so in the most famous addition to the song, she sang "take care of T.C.B." -- T.C.B. being a slang abbreviation for "take care of business": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Respect"] Another bit of slang was that backing vocal phrase, "sock it to me", which Aretha's sister Carolyn had heard someone say and had decided would make a good background line. "Respect" popularised the phrase, and it soon became a national catchphrase, becoming a running gag on the comedy show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, to the extent that even Richard Nixon joined in with it in a desperate attempt to seem down with the kids prior to his election as President: [Excerpt: Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In] Several people have – rather fancifully, in my opinion – credited that appearance with Nixon winning the election two months later, and it wouldn't have happened without “Respect”. When he heard Aretha's version of "Respect", Otis Redding jokingly asked Jerry Wexler to burn the tape, before saying "It's her song now". But in becoming Aretha's song, it became *everyone's* song. It went to number one on the pop charts, and this song, which had originally been a rather macho piece, a man demanding respect from his wife, became an anthem of both Black civil rights and the burgeoning feminist movement. This song, recorded in the aftermath of racial violence and drunken machismo, became a rallying cry for Black people wanting civil rights, for women wanting to be treated as human beings, and for queer people wanting to be free from oppression -- and while I haven't talked much about queerness compared to those other aspects here, it is important to note for context that the two biggest musical influences on Aretha's life, Clara Ward and James Cleveland, were both queer (Cleveland was gay and Ward was bi) and that Carolyn Franklin, who helped Aretha arrange the song, was lesbian. Aretha's music was profoundly shaped by those queer influences, just as it was shaped by her being a Black woman. 1967 was the start of Aretha's reign as the "Queen of Soul", a title she took on at a ceremony towards the end of the year, but it was also the start of a dramatic turn in Black politics as it related to culture. The day before "Respect" hit the charts, Mohammed Ali had his heavyweight title taken from him after refusing to be drafted into the Vietnam War, saying "No Viet Cong ever called me" and then using that same slur that Rick Hall used to Ted White. Marginalised people of all kinds were starting to demand the respect they were owed, and which was long overdue, and to do so without the ambiguity and euphemisms they had previously used to make themselves acceptable in the eyes of respectable moderates. And we will see how that plays out in soul and R&B as we look at the rest of the sixties and early seventies.
May 22, 2022
Episode 148: “Light My Fire” by the Doors
Episode one hundred and forty-eight of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Light My Fire" by the Doors, the history of cool jazz, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. 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 "My Friend Jack" by the Smoke. 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, I’ve put together a Mixcloud mix containing all the music excerpted in this episode and the shorter spoken-word tracks. Information on Dick Bock, World Pacific, and Ravi Shankar came from Indian Sun: The Life and Music of Ravi Shankar by Oliver Craske. Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, and Robby Krieger have all released autobiographies. Densmore's is out of print, but I referred to Manzarek's and Krieger's here. Of the two Krieger's is vastly more reliable. I also used Mick Wall's book on the Doors and Stephen Davis' biography of Jim Morrison. Information about Elektra Records came from Follow the Music by Jac Holzman and Gavan Daws, which is available as a free PDF download on Elektra's website. Biographical information on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi comes from this book, written by one of his followers. The Doors' complete studio albums can be bought as MP3s for £14. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript There are two big problems that arise for anyone trying to get an accurate picture of history, and which have certainly arisen for me during the course of this podcast -- things which make sources unreliable enough that you feel you have to caveat everything you say on a subject. One of those is hagiography, and the converse desire to tear heroes down. No matter what one wants to say on, say, the subjects of Jesus or Mohammed or Joseph Smith, the only sources we have for their lives are written either by people who want to present them as unblemished paragons of virtue, or by people who want to destroy that portrayal -- we know that any source is written by someone with a bias, and it might be a bias we agree with, but it's still a bias. The other, related, problem, is deliberate disinformation. This comes up especially for people dealing with military history -- during conflicts, governments obviously don't want their opponents to know when their attacks have caused damage, or to know what their own plans are, and after a war has concluded the belligerent parties want to cover up their own mistakes and war crimes. We're sadly seeing that at the moment in the situation in Ukraine -- depending on one's media diet, one could get radically different ideas of what is actually going on in that terrible conflict. But it happens all the time, in all wars, and on all sides. Take the Vietnam War. While the US was involved on the side of the South Vietnamese government from the start of that conflict, it was in a very minor way, mostly just providing supplies and training. Most historians look at the real start of US involvement in that war as having been in August 1964. President Johnson had been wanting, since assuming the Presidency in November 1963 after the death of John F Kennedy, to get further into the war, but had needed an excuse to do so. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident provided him with that excuse. On August the second, a fleet of US warships entered into what the North Vietnamese considered their territorial waters -- they used a different distance from shore to mark their territorial waters than most other countries used, and one which wasn't generally accepted, but which they considered important. Because of this, some North Vietnamese ships started following the American ones. The American ships, who thought they weren't doing anything wrong, set off what they considered to be warning shots, and the North Vietnamese ships fired back, which to the American ships was considered them attacking. Some fire was exchanged, but not much happened. Two days later, the American ships believed they were getting attacked again, and spent several hours firing at what they believed were North Vietnamese submarines. It was later revealed that this was just the American sonar systems playing up, and that they were almost certainly firing at nothing at all, and some even suspected that at the time -- President Johnson apparently told other people in confidence that in his opinion they'd been firing at stray dolphins. But that second "attack", however flimsy the evidence, was enough that Johnson could tell Congress and the nation that an American fleet had been attacked by the North Vietnamese, and use that as justification to get Congress to authorise him sending huge numbers of troops to Vietnam, and getting America thoroughly embroiled in a war that would cost innumerable lives and billions of dollars for what turned out to be no benefit at all to anyone. The commander of the US fleet involved in the Gulf of Tonkin operation was then-Captain, later Rear Admiral, Steve Morrison: [Excerpt: The Doors, "The End"] We've talked a bit in this podcast previously about the development of jazz in the forties, fifties, and early sixties -- there was a lot of back and forth influence in those days between jazz, blues, R&B, country, and rock and roll, far more than one might imagine looking at the popular histories of these genres, and so we've looked at swing, bebop, and modal jazz before now. But one style of music we haven't touched on is the type that was arguably the most popular and influential style of jazz in the fifties, even though we've mentioned several of the people involved in it. We've never yet had a proper look at Cool Jazz. Cool Jazz, as its name suggests, is a style of music that was more laid back than the more frenetic bebop or hard-edged modal jazz. It was a style that sounded sophisticated, that sounded relaxed, that prized melody and melodic invention over super-fast technical wizardry, and that produced much of what we now think of when we think of "jazz" as a popular style of music. The records of Dave Brubeck, for example, arguably the most popular fifties jazz musician, are very much in the "cool jazz" mode: [Excerpt: The Dave Brubeck Quartet, "Take Five"] And we have mentioned on several occasions the Modern Jazz Quartet, who were cited as influences by everyone from Ray Charles to the Kinks to the Modern Folk Quartet: [Excerpt: The Modern Jazz Quartet, "Regret?"] We have also occasionally mentioned people like Mose Allison, who occasionally worked in the Cool Jazz mode. But we've never really looked at it as a unified thing. Cool Jazz, like several of the other developments in jazz we've looked at, owes its existence to the work of the trumpeter Miles Davis, who was one of the early greats of bop and who later pioneered modal jazz. In 1948, in between his bop and modal periods, Davis put together a short-lived nine-piece group, the Miles Davis Nonette, who performed together for a couple of weeks in late 1948, and who recorded three sessions in 1949 and 1950, but who otherwise didn't perform much. Each of those sessions had a slightly different lineup, but key people involved in the recordings were Davis himself, arranger Gil Evans, piano player John Lewis, who would later go on to become the leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet, and baritone sax player Gerry Mulligan. Mulligan and Evans, and the group's alto player Lee Konitz, had all been working for the big band Claude Thornhill and his Orchestra, a band which along with the conventional swing instruments also had a French horn player and a tuba player, and which had recorded soft, mellow, relaxing music: [Excerpt: Claude Thornhill and his Orchestra, "To Each His Own"] The Davis Nonette also included French horn and tuba, and was explicitly modelled on Thornhill's style, but in a stripped-down version. They used the style of playing that Thornhill preferred, with no vibrato, and with his emphasis on unison playing, with different instruments doubling each other playing the melody, rather than call-and response riffing: [Excerpt: The Miles Davis Nonette, "Venus De Milo"] Those recordings were released as singles in 1949 and 1950, and were later reissued in 1957 as an album titled "Birth of the Cool", by which point Cool Jazz had become an established style, though Davis himself had long since moved on in other musical directions. After the Birth of the Cool sessions, Gerry Mulligan had recorded an album as a bandleader himself, and then had moved to the West Coast, where he'd started writing arrangements for Stan Kenton, one of the more progressive big band leaders of the period: [Excerpt: Stan Kenton, "Young Blood"] While working for Kenton, Mulligan had started playing dates at a club called the Haig, where the headliner was the vibraphone player Red Norvo. While Norvo had started out as a big-band musician, playing with people like Benny Goodman, he had recently started working in a trio, with just a guitarist, initially Tal Farlowe, and bass player, initially Charles Mingus: [Excerpt: Red Norvo, "This Can't Be Love"] By 1952 Mingus had left Norvo's group, but they were still using the trio format, and that meant there was no piano at the venue, which meant that Mulligan had to form a band that didn't rely on the chordal structures that a piano would provide -- the idea of a group with a rhythm section that *didn't* have a piano was quite an innovation in jazz at this time, and freeing themselves from that standard instrument ended up opening up extra possibilities. His group consisted of himself on saxophone, Chet Baker on trumpet, Bob Whitlock on bass and Chico Hamilton on drums. They made music in much the same loose, casual, style as the recordings Mulligan had made with Davis, but in a much smaller group with the emphasis being on the interplay between Mulligan and Baker. And this group were the first group to record on a new label, Pacific Jazz, founded by Dick Bock. Bock had served in the Navy during World War II, and had come back from the South Pacific with two tastes -- a taste for hashish, and for music that was outside the conventional American pop mould. Bock *loved* the Mulligan Quartet, and in partnership with his friend Roy Harte, a notable jazz drummer, he raised three hundred and fifty dollars to record the first album by Mulligan's new group: [Excerpt: Gerry Mulligan Quartet, "Aren't You Glad You're You?"] Pacific Jazz, the label Bock and Harte founded, soon became *the* dominant label for Cool Jazz, which also became known as the West Coast Sound.  The early releases on the label were almost entirely by the Mulligan Quartet, released either under Mulligan's name, as by Chet Baker, or as "Lee Konitz and the Gerry Mulligan Quartet" when Mulligan's old bandmate Konitz joined them. These records became big hits, at least in the world of jazz. But both Mulligan and Baker were heroin addicts, and in 1953 Mulligan got arrested and spent six months in prison. And while he was there, Chet Baker made some recordings in his own right and became a bona fide star. Not only was Baker a great jazz trumpet player, he was also very good looking, and it turned out he could sing too. The Mulligan group had made the song "My Funny Valentine" one of the highlights of its live shows, with Baker taking a trumpet solo: [Excerpt: Gerry Mulligan Quartet, "My Funny Valentine"] But when Baker recorded a vocal version, for his album Chet Baker Sings, it made Baker famous: [Excerpt: Chet Baker, "My Funny Valentine"] When Mulligan got out of prison, he wanted to rehire Baker, but Baker was now topping the popularity polls in all the jazz magazines, and was the biggest breakout jazz star of the early fifties. But Mulligan formed a new group, and this just meant that Pacific Jazz had *two* of the biggest acts in jazz on its books now, rather than just one. But while Bock loved jazz, he was also fascinated by other kinds of music, and while he was in New York at the beginning of 1956 he was invited by his friend George Avakian, a producer who had worked with Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, and others, to come and see a performance by an Indian musician he was working with. Avakian was just about to produce Ravi Shankar's first American album, The Sounds of India, for Columbia Records. But Columbia didn't think that there was much of a market for Shankar's music -- they were putting it out as a speciality release rather than something that would appeal to the general public -- and so they were happy for Bock to sign Shankar to his own label. Bock renamed the company World Pacific, to signify that it was now going to be putting out music from all over the world, not just jazz, though he kept the Pacific Jazz label for its jazz releases, and he produced Shankar's next album,  India's Master Musician: [Excerpt: Ravi Shankar, "Raga Charu Keshi"] Most of Shankar's recordings for the next decade would be produced by Bock, and Bock would also try to find ways to combine Shankar's music with jazz, though Shankar tried to keep a distinction between the two. But for example on Shankar's next album for World Pacific, Improvisations and Theme from Pather Panchali, he was joined by a group of West Coast jazz musicians including Bud Shank (who we'll hear about again in a future episode) on flute: [Excerpt: Ravi Shankar, "Improvisation on the Theme From Pather Panchali"] But World Pacific weren't just putting out music. They also put out spoken-word records. Some of those were things that would appeal to their jazz audience, like the comedy of Lord Buckley: [Excerpt: Lord Buckley, "Willy the Shake"] But they also put out spoken-word albums that appealed to Bock's interest in spirituality and philosophy, like an album by Gerald Heard. Heard had previously written the liner notes for Chet Baker Sings!, but as well as being a jazz fan Heard was very connected in the world of the arts -- he was a very close friend with Aldous Huxley -- and was also interested in various forms of non-Western spirituality. He practiced yoga, and was also fascinated by Buddhism, Vedanta, and Taoism: [Excerpt: Gerald Heard, "Paraphrased from the Tao te Ching of Lao Tzu"] We've come across Heard before, in passing, in the episode on "Tomorrow Never Knows", when Ralph Mentzner said of his experiments with Timothy Leary and Ram Dass "At the suggestion of Aldous Huxley and Gerald Heard we began using the Bardo Thödol ( Tibetan Book of the Dead) as a guide to psychedelic sessions" -- Heard was friends with both Huxley and Humphrey Osmond, and in fact had been invited by them to take part in the mescaline trip that Huxley wrote about in his book The Doors of Perception, the book that popularised psychedelic drug use, though Heard was unable to attend at that time. Heard was a huge influence on the early psychedelic movement -- though he always advised Leary and his associates not to be so public with their advocacy, and just to keep it to a small enlightened circle rather than risk the wrath of the establishment -- and he's cited by almost everyone in Leary's circle as having been the person who, more than anything else, inspired them to investigate both psychedelic drugs and mysticism. He's the person who connected Bill W. of Alcoholics Anonymous with Osmond and got him advocating LSD use. It was Heard's books that made Huston Smith, the great scholar of comparative religions and associate of Leary, interested in mysticism and religions outside his own Christianity, and Heard was one of the people who gave Leary advice during his early experiments. So it's not surprising that Bock also became interested in Leary's ideas before they became mainstream. Indeed, in 1964 he got Shankar to do the music for a short film based on The Psychedelic Experience, which Shankar did as a favour for his friend even though Shankar didn't approve of drug use. The film won an award in 1965, but quickly disappeared from circulation as its ideas were too controversial: [Excerpt: The Psychedelic Experience (film)] And Heard introduced Bock to other ideas around philosophy and non-Western religions. In particular, Bock became an advocate for a little-known Hindu mystic who had visited the US in 1959 teaching a new style of meditation which he called Transcendental Meditation. A lot is unclear about the early life of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, even his birth name -- both "Maharishi" and "Yogi" are honorifics rather than names as such, though he later took on both as part of his official name, and in this and future episodes I'll refer to him as "the Maharishi". What we do know is that he was born in India, and had attained a degree in physics before going off to study with Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, a teacher of the Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism. Now, I am not a Hindu, and only have a passing knowledge of Hindu theology and traditions, and from what I can gather getting a proper understanding requires a level of cultural understanding I don't have, and in particular a knowledge of the Sanskrit language, so my deepest apologies for any mangling I do of these beliefs in trying to talk about them as they pertain to mid-sixties psychedelic rock. I hope my ignorance is forgivable, and seen as what it is rather than malice. But the teachings of this school as I understand them seem to centre around an idea of non-separation -- that God is in all things, and is all things, and that there is no separation between different things, and that you merely have to gain a deep realisation of this. The Maharishi later encapsulated this in the phrase "I am that, thou art that, all this is that", which much later the Beach Boys, several of whom were followers of the Maharishi, would turn into a song: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "All This is That"] The other phrase they're singing there, "Jai Guru Dev" is also a phrase from the Maharishi, and refers to his teacher Brahmananda Saraswati -- it means "all hail the divine teacher" or "glory to the heavenly one", and "guru dev" or "guru deva" was the name the Maharishi would use for Saraswati after his death, as the Maharishi believed that Saraswati was an actual incarnation of God. It's that phrase that John Lennon is singing in "Across the Universe" as well, another song later inspired by the Maharishi's teachings: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Across the Universe"] The Maharishi became, by his own account, Saraswati's closest disciple, advisor, and right-hand man, and was privy to his innermost thoughts. However, on Saraswati's death the leadership of the monastery he led became deeply contested, with two different rivals to the position, and the Maharishi was neither -- the rules of the monastery said that only people born into the Brahmin caste could reach the highest positions in the monastery's structure, and the Maharishi was not a Brahmin. So instead of remaining in the monastery, the Maharishi went out into the world to teach a new form of meditation which he claimed he had learned from Guru Dev, a technique which became known as transcendental meditation. The Maharishi would, for the rest of his life, always claim that the system he taught was Guru Dev's teaching for the world, not his own, though the other people who had been at the monastery with him said different things about what Saraswati had taught -- but of course it's perfectly possible for a spiritual leader to have had multiple ideas and given different people different tasks. The crucial thing about the Maharishi's teaching, the way it differed from everything else in the history of Hindu monasticism (as best I understand this) is that all previous teachers of meditation had taught that to get the benefit of the techniques one had to be a renunciate -- you should go off and become a monk and give up all worldly pleasures and devote your life to prayer and meditation. Traditionally, Hinduism has taught that there are four stages of life -- the student, the householder or married person with a family, the retired person, and the Sanyasi, or renunciate, but that you could skip straight from being a student to being a Sanyasi and spend your life as a monk. The Maharishi, though, said: "Obviously enough there are two ways of life: the way of the Sanyasi and the way of life of a householder. One is quite opposed to the other. A Sanyasi renounces everything of the world, whereas a householder needs and accumulates everything. The one realises, through renunciation and detachment, while the other goes through all attachments and accumulation of all that is needed for physical life." What the Maharishi taught was that there are some people who achieve the greatest state of happiness by giving up all the pleasures of the senses, eating the plainest possible food, having no sexual, familial, or romantic connections with anyone else, and having no possessions, while there are other people who achieve the greatest state of happiness by being really rich and having a lot of nice stuff and loads of friends and generally enjoying the pleasures of the flesh -- and that just as there are types of meditation that can help the first group reach enlightenment, there are also types of meditation that will fit into the latter kind of lifestyle, and will help those people reach oneness with God but without having to give up their cars and houses and money. And indeed, he taught that by following his teachings you could get *more* of those worldly pleasures. All you had to do, according to his teaching, was to sit still for fifteen to twenty minutes, twice a day, and concentrate on a single Sanskrit word or phrase, a mantra, which you would be given after going through a short course of teaching. There was nothing else to it, and you would eventually reach the same levels of enlightenment as the ascetics who spent seventy years living in a cave and eating only rice -- and you'd end up richer, too. The appeal of this particular school is, of course, immediately apparent, and Bock became a big advocate of the Maharishi, and put out three albums of his lectures: [Excerpt: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, "Deep Meditation"] Bock even met his second wife at one of the Maharishi's lectures, in 1961. In the early sixties, World Pacific got bought up by Liberty Records, the label for which Jan and Dean and others recorded, but Bock remained in charge of the label, and expanded it, adding another subsidiary, Aura Records, to put out rock and roll singles. Aura was much less successful than the other World Pacific labels. The first record the label put out was a girl-group record, "Shooby Dooby", by the Lewis Sisters, two jazz-singing white schoolteachers from Michigan who would later go on to have a brief career at Motown: [Excerpt: The Lewis Sisters, "Shooby Dooby"] The most successful act that Aura ever had was Sonny Knight, an R&B singer who had had a top twenty hit in 1956 with "Confidential", a song he'd recorded on Specialty Records with Bumps Blackwell, and which had been written by Dorinda Morgan: [Excerpt: Sonny Knight, "Confidential"] But Knight's biggest hit on Aura, "If You Want This Love", only made number seventy-one on the pop charts: [Excerpt: Sonny Knight, "If You Want This Love"] Knight would later go on to write a novel, The Day the Music Died, which Greil Marcus described as "the bitterest book ever written about how rock'n'roll came to be and what it turned into". Marcus said it was about "how a rich version of American black culture is transformed into a horrible, enormously profitable white parody of itself: as white labels sign black artists only to ensure their oblivion and keep those blacks they can't control penned up in the ghetto of the black charts; as white America, faced with something good, responds with a poison that will ultimately ruin even honest men". Given that Knight was the artist who did the *best* out of Aura Records, that says a great deal about the label. But one of the bands that Aura signed, who did absolutely nothing on the charts, was a group called Rick and the Ravens, led by a singer called Screamin' Ray Daniels. They were an LA club band who played a mixture of the surf music which the audiences wanted and covers of blues songs which Daniels preferred to sing. They put out two singles on Aura, "Henrietta": [Excerpt: Rick and the Ravens, "Henrietta"] and "Soul Train": [Excerpt: Rick and the Ravens, "Soul Train"] Ray Daniels was a stage name -- his birth name was Ray Manzarek, and he would later return to that name -- and the core of the band was Ray on vocals and his brothers Rick on guitar and Jim on harmonica. Manzarek thought of himself as a pretty decent singer, but they were just a bar band, and music wasn't really his ideal career.  Manzarek had been sent to college by his solidly lower-middle-class Chicago family in the hope that he would become a lawyer, but after getting a degree in economics and a brief stint in the army, which he'd signed up for to avoid getting drafted in the same way people like Dean Torrence did, he'd gone off to UCLA to study film, with the intention of becoming a filmmaker. His family had followed him to California, and he'd joined his brothers' band as a way of making a little extra money on the side, rather than as a way to become a serious musician. Manzarek liked the blues songs they performed, and wasn't particularly keen on the surf music, but thought it was OK. What he really liked, though, was jazz -- he was a particular fan of McCoy Tyner, the pianist on all the great John Coltrane records: [Excerpt: John Coltrane, "My Favorite Things"] Manzarek was a piano player himself, though he didn't play much with the Ravens, and he wanted more than anything to be able to play like Tyner, and so when Rick and the Ravens got signed to Aura Records, he of course became friendly with Dick Bock, who had produced so many great jazz records and worked with so many of the greats of the genre. But Manzarek was also having some problems in his life. He'd started taking LSD, which was still legal, and been fascinated by its effects, but worried that he couldn't control them -- he couldn't tell whether he was going to have a good trip or a bad one. He was wondering if there was a way he could have the same kind of revelatory mystical experience but in a more controlled manner. When he mentioned this to Bock, Bock told him that the best method he knew for doing that was transcendental meditation. Bock gave him a copy of one of the Maharishi's albums, and told him to go to a lecture on transcendental meditation, run by the head of the Maharishi's west-coast organisation, as by this point the Maharishi's organisation, known as Spiritual Regeneration, had an international infrastructure, though it was still nowhere near as big as it would soon become. At the lecture, Manzarek got talking to one of the other audience members, a younger man named John Densmore. Densmore had come to the lecture with his friend Robby Krieger, and both had come for the same reason that Manzarek had -- they'd been having bad trips and so had become a little disillusioned with acid. Krieger had been the one who'd heard about transcendental meditation, while he was studying the sitar and sarod at UCLA -- though Krieger would later always say that his real major had been in "not joining the Army". UCLA had one of the few courses in Indian music available in the US at the time, as thanks in part to Bock California had become the centre of American interest in music from India -- so much so that in 1967 Ravi Shankar would open up a branch of his own Kinnara Music School there. (And you can get an idea of how difficult it is to separate fact from fiction when researching this episode that one of the biographies I've used for the Doors says that Krieger heard about the Maharishi while studying at the Kinnara school. As the only branch of the Kinnara school that was open at this point was in Mumbai, it's safe to say that unless Krieger had a *really* long commute he wasn't studying there at this point.) Densmore and Manzarek got talking, and they found that they shared a lot of the same tastes in jazz -- just as Manzarek was a fan of McCoy Tyner, so Densmore was a fan of Elvin Jones, the drummer on those Coltrane records, and they both loved the interplay of the two musicians: [Excerpt: John Coltrane, "My Favorite Things"] Manzarek was starting to play a bit more keyboards with the Ravens, and he was also getting annoyed with the Ravens' drummer, who had started missing rehearsals -- he'd turn up only for the shows themselves. He thought it might be an idea to get Densmore to join the group, and Densmore agreed to come along for a rehearsal. That initial rehearsal Densmore attended had Manzarek and his brothers, and may have had a bass player named Patricia Hansen, who was playing with the group from time to time around this point, though she was mostly playing with a different bar band, Patty and the Esquires. But as well as the normal group members, there was someone else there, a friend of Manzarek's from film school named Jim Morrison. Morrison was someone who, by Manzarek's later accounts, had been very close to Manzarek at university, and who Manzarek had regarded as a genius, with a vast knowledge of beat poetry and European art film, but who had been regarded by most of the other students and the lecturers as being a disruptive influence. Morrison had been a fat, asthmatic, introverted kid -- he'd had health problems as a child, including a bout of rheumatic fever which might have weakened his heart, and he'd also been prone to playing the kind of "practical jokes" which can often be a cover for deeper problems. For example, as a child he was apparently fond of playing dead -- lying in the corridors at school and being completely unresponsive for long periods no matter what anyone did to move him, then suddenly getting up and laughing at anyone who had been concerned and telling them it was a joke. Given how frequently Morrison would actually pass out in later life, often after having taken some substance or other, at least one biographer has suggested that he might have had undiagnosed epilepsy (or epilepsy that was diagnosed but which he chose to keep a secret) and have been having absence seizures and covering for them with the jokes. Robby Krieger also says in his own autobiography that he used to have the same doctor as Morrison, and the doctor once made an offhand comment about Morrison having severe health problems, "as if it was common knowledge". His health difficulties, his weight, his introversion, and the experience of moving home constantly as a kid because of his father's career in the Navy, had combined to give him a different attitude to most of his fellow students, and in particular a feeling of rootlessness -- he never owned or even rented his own home in later years, just moving in with friends or girlfriends -- and a lack of sense of his own identity, which would often lead to him making up lies about his life and acting as if he believed them. In particular, he would usually claim to friends that his parents were dead, or that he had no contact with them, even though his family have always said he was in at least semi-regular contact. At university, Morrison had been a big fan of Rick and the Ravens, and had gone to see them perform regularly, but would always disrupt the shows -- he was, by all accounts, a lovely person when sober but an aggressive boor when drunk -- by shouting out for them to play "Louie Louie", a song they didn't include in their sets. Eventually one of Ray's brothers had called his bluff and said they'd play the song, but only if Morrison got up on stage and sang it. He had -- the first time he'd ever performed live -- and had surprised everyone by being quite a good singer. After graduation, Morrison and Manzarek had gone their separate ways, with Morrison saying he was moving to New York. But a few weeks later they'd encountered each other on the beach -- Morrison had decided to stay in LA, and had been staying with a friend, mostly sleeping on the friend's rooftop. He'd been taking so much LSD he'd forgotten to eat for weeks at a time, and had lost a great deal of weight, and Manzarek properly realised for the first time that his friend was actually good-looking. Morrison also told Manzarek that he'd been writing songs -- this was summer 1965, and the Byrds' version of "Mr. Tambourine Man", Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone", and the Stones' "Satisfaction" had all shown him that there was potential for pop songs to have more interesting lyrical content than "Louie Louie". Manzarek asked him to sing some of the songs he'd been writing, and as Manzarek later put it "he began to sing, not in the booze voice he used at the Turkey Joint, but in a Chet Baker voice". The first song Morrison sang for Ray Manzarek was one of the songs that Rick and the Ravens would rehearse that first time with John Densmore, "Moonlight Drive": [Excerpt: Rick and the Ravens, "Moonlight Drive"] Manzarek invited Morrison to move in with him and his girlfriend. Manzarek seems to have thought of himself as a mentor, a father figure, for Morrison, though whether that's how Morrison thought of him is impossible to say. Manzarek, who had a habit of choosing the myth over the truth, would later claim that he had immediately decided that he and Morrison were going to be a duo and find a whole new set of musicians, but all the evidence points to him just inviting Morrison to join the Ravens as the singer Certainly the first recordings this group made, a series of demos, were under Rick and the Ravens' name, and paid for by Aura Records. They're all of songs written by Morrison, and seem to be sung by Morrison and Manzarek in close harmony throughout. But the demos did not impress the head of Liberty Records, which now owned Aura, and who saw no commercial potential in them, even in one that later became a number one hit when rerecorded a couple of years later: [Excerpt: Rick and the Ravens, "Hello I Love You"] Although to be fair, that song is clearly the work of a beginning songwriter, as Morrison has just taken the riff to "All Day and All of the Night" by the Kinks, and stuck new words to it: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "All Day and All of the Night"] But it seems to have been the lack of success of these demos that convinced Manzarek's brothers and Patricia Hansen to quit the band. According to Manzarek, his brothers were not interested in what they saw as Morrison's pretensions towards poetry, and didn't think this person who seemed shy and introverted in rehearsals but who they otherwise knew as a loud annoying drunk in the audience would make a good frontman. So Rick and the Ravens were down to just Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, and John Densmore, but they continued shopping their demos around, and after being turned down by almost everyone they were signed by Columbia Records, specifically by Billy James, who they liked because he'd written the liner notes to a Byrds album, comparing them to Coltrane, and Manzarek liked the idea of working with an A&R man who knew Coltrane's work, though he wasn't impressed by the Byrds themselves, later writing "The Byrds were country, they didn’t have any black in them at all. They couldn’t play jazz. Hell, they probably didn’t even know anything about jazz. They were folk-rock, for cri-sake. Country music. For whites only." (Ray Manzarek was white). They didn't get an advance from Columbia, but they did get free equipment -- Columbia had just bought Vox, who made amplifiers and musical instruments, and Manzarek in particular was very pleased to have a Vox organ, the same kind that the Animals and the Dave Clark Five used. But they needed a guitarist and a bass player. Manzarek claimed in his autobiography that he was thinking along the lines of a four-piece group even before he met Densmore, and that his thoughts had been "Someone has to be Thumper and someone has to be Les Paul/Chuck Berry by way of Charlie Christian. The guitar player will be a rocker who knows jazz. And the drummer will be a jazzer who can rock. These were my prerequisites. This is what I had to have to make the music I heard in my head." But whatever Manzarek was thinking, there were only two people who auditioned for the role of the guitar player in this new version of the band, both of them friends of Densmore, and in fact two people who had been best friends since high school -- Bill Wolff and Robby Krieger. Wolff and Krieger had both gone to private boarding school -- they had both originally gone to normal state schools, but their parents had independently decided they were bad influences on each other and sent them away to boarding school to get away from each other, but accidentally sent them to the same school -- and had also learned guitar together. They had both loved a record of flamenco guitar called Dos Flamencos by Jaime Grifo and Nino Marvino: [Excerpt: Jaime Grifo and Nino Marvino, "Caracolés"] And they'd decided they were going to become the new Dos Flamencos. They'd also regularly sneaked out of school to go and see a jug band called Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, a band which featured Bob Weir, who was also at their school, along with Jerry Garcia and Pigpen McKernan. Krieger was also a big fan of folk and blues music, especially bluesy folk-revivalists like Spider John Koerner, and was a massive fan of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Krieger and Densmore had known each other before Krieger had been transferred to boarding school, and had met back up at university, where they would hang out together and go to see Charles Mingus, Wes Montgomery, and other jazz musicians. At this time Krieger had still been a folk and blues purist, but then he went to see Chuck Berry live, mostly because Skip James and Big Mama Thornton were also on the bill, and he had a Damascene conversion -- the next day he went to a music shop and traded in his acoustic for a red Gibson, as close to the one Chuck Berry played as he could find. Wolff, Densmore, Krieger, and piano player Grant Johnson had formed a band called the Psychedelic Rangers, and when the Ravens were looking for a new guitarist, it was natural that they tried the two guitarists from Densmore's other band. Krieger had the advantage over Wolff for two reasons -- one of which was actually partly Wolff's doing. To quote Krieger's autobiography: "A critic once said I had 'the worst hair in rock 'n' roll'. It stung pretty bad, but I can't say they were wrong. I always battled with my naturally frizzy, kinky, Jewfro, so one day my friend Bill Wolff and I experimented with Ultra Sheen, a hair relaxer marketed mainly to Black consumers. The results were remarkable. Wolff, as we all called him, said 'You're starting to look like that jerk Bryan MacLean'". According to Krieger, his new hairdo made him better looking than Wolff, at least until the straightener wore off, and this was one of the two things that made the group choose him over Wolff, who was a better technical player. The other was that Krieger played with a bottleneck, which astonished the other members. If you're unfamiliar with bottleneck playing, it's a common technique in the blues. You tune your guitar to an open chord, and then use a resonant tube -- these days usually a specially-made metal slide that goes on your finger, but for older blues musicians often an actual neck of a bottle, broken off and filed down -- to slide across the strings. Slide guitar is one of the most important styles in blues, especially electric blues, and you can hear it in the playing of greats like Elmore James: [Excerpt: Elmore James, "Dust My Broom"] But while the members of the group all claimed to be blues fans -- Manzarek talks in his autobiography about going to see Muddy Waters in a club in the South Side of Chicago where he and his friends were the only white faces in the audience -- none of them had any idea what bottleneck playing was, and Manzarek was worried when Krieger pulled it out that he was going to use it as a weapon, that being the only association he had with bottle necks. But once Krieger played with it, they were all convinced he had to be their guitarist, and Morrison said he wanted that sound on everything. Krieger joining seems to have changed the dynamic of the band enormously. Both Morrison and Densmore would independently refer to Krieger as their best friend in the band -- Manzarek said that having a best friend was a childish idea and he didn't have one. But where before this had been Manzarek's band with Morrison as the singer, it quickly became a band centred around the creative collaboration between Krieger and Morrison. Krieger seems to have been too likeable for Manzarek to dislike him, and indeed seems to have been the peacemaker in the band on many occasions, but Manzarek soon grew to resent Densmore, seemingly as the closeness he had felt to Morrison started to diminish, especially after Morrison moved out of Manzarek's house, apparently because Manzarek was starting to remind him of his father. The group soon changed their name from the Ravens to one inspired by Morrison's reading. Aldous Huxley's book on psychedelic drugs had been titled The Doors of Perception, and that title had in turn come from a quote from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by the great mystic poet and artist William Blake, who had written "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern" (Incidentally, in one of those weird coincidences that I like to note when they come up, Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell had also inspired the book The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, about the divorce of heaven and hell, and both Lewis and Huxley died on the same date, the twenty-second of November 1963, the same day John F. Kennedy died). Morrison decided that he wanted to rename the group The Doors, although none of the other group members were particularly keen on the idea -- Krieger said that he thought they should name the group Perception instead. Initially the group rehearsed only songs written by Morrison, along with a few cover versions. They worked up a version of Willie Dixon's "Back Door Man", originally recorded by Howlin' Wolf: [Excerpt: Howlin' Wolf, "Back Door Man"] And a version of "Alabama Song", a song written by Bertholt Brecht and Kurt Weill, from the opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, with English language lyrics by  Elisabeth Hauptmann. That song had originally been recorded by Lotte Lenya, and it was her version that the group based their version on, at the suggestion of Manzarek's girlfriend: [Excerpt: Lotte Lenya, "Alabama Song"] Though it's likely given their tastes in jazz that they were also aware of a recent recording of the song by Eric Dolphy and John Lewis: [Excerpt: Eric Dolphy and John Lewis, "Alabama Song"] But Morrison started to get a little dissatisfied with the fact that he was writing all the group's original material at this point, and he started to put pressure on the others to bring in songs. One of the first things they had agreed was that all band members would get equal credit and shares of the songwriting, so that nobody would have an incentive to push their own mediocre song at the expense of someone else's great one, but Morrison did want the others to start pulling their weight. As it would turn out, for the most part Manzarek and Densmore wouldn't bring in many song ideas, but Krieger would, and the first one he brought in would be the song that would make them into stars. The song Krieger brought in was one he called "Light My Fire", and at this point it only had one verse and a chorus. According to Manzarek, Densmore made fun of the song when it was initially brought in, saying "we're not a folk-rock band" and suggesting that Krieger might try selling it to the Mamas and the Papas, but the other band members liked it -- but it's important to remember here that Manzarek and Densmore had huge grudges against each other for most of their lives, and that Manzarek is not generally known as an entirely reliable narrator. Now, I'm going to talk a lot about the influences that have been acknowledged for this song, but before I do there's one that I haven't seen mentioned much but which seems to me to be very likely to have at least been a subconscious influence -- "She's Not There" by the Zombies: [Excerpt: The Zombies, "She's Not There"] Now, there are several similarities to note about the Zombies record. First, like the Doors, the Zombies were a keyboard-driven band. Second, there's the dynamics of the songs -- both have soft, slightly jazzy verses and then a more straight-ahead rock chorus. And finally there's the verse chord sequence. The verse for "She's Not There" goes from Am to D repeatedly: [demonstrates] While the verse for "Light My Fire" goes from Am to F sharp minor -- and for those who don't know, the notes in a D chord are D, F sharp, and A, while the notes in an F sharp minor chord are F sharp, A, and C sharp -- they're very similar chords. So "She's Not There" is: [demonstrates] While "Light My Fire" is: [demonstrates] At least, that's what Manzarek plays. According to Krieger, he played an Asus2 chord rather than an A minor chord, but Manzarek heard it as an A minor and played that instead. Now again, I've not seen anyone acknowledge "She's Not There" as an influence, but given the other influences that they do acknowledge, and the music that was generally in the air at the time, it would not surprise me even the smallest amount if it was. But either way, what Krieger brought in was a simple verse and chorus: [Excerpt: The Doors, "Light My Fire"] Incidentally, I've been talking about the song as having A minor chords, but you'll actually hear the song in two different keys during this episode, even though it's the same performance throughout, and sometimes it might not sound right to people familiar with a particular version of the record. The band played the song with the verse starting with A minor, and that's how the mono single mix was released, and I'll be using excerpts of that in general. But when the stereo version of the album was released, which had a longer instrumental break, the track was mastered about a semitone too slow, and that's what I'll be excerpting when talking about the solos -- and apparently that speed discrepancy has been fixed in more recent remasterings of the album than the one I'm using. So if you know the song and bits of what I play sound odd to you, that's why. Krieger didn't have a second verse, and so writing the second verse's lyrics was the next challenge. There was apparently some disagreement within the band about the lyrics that Morrison came up with, with their references to funeral pyres, but Morrison won the day, insisting that the song needed some darkness to go with the light of the first verse. Both verses would get repeated at the end of the song, in reverse order, rather than anyone writing a third or fourth verse. Morrison also changed the last line of the chorus -- in Krieger's original version, he'd sung "Come on baby, light my fire" three times, but Morrison changed the last line to "try to set the night on fire", which Krieger thought was a definite improvement. They then came up with an extended instrumental section for the band members to solo in. This was inspired by John Coltrane, though I have seen different people make different claims as to which particular Coltrane record it was inspired by. Many sources, including Krieger, say it was based on Coltrane's famous version of "My Favorite Things": [Excerpt: John Coltrane, "My Favorite Things"] But Manzarek in his autobiography says it was inspired by Ole, the track that Coltrane recorded with Eric Dolphy: [Excerpt: John Coltrane, "Ole"] Both are of course similar musical ideas, and either could have inspired the “Light My Fire” instrumental section, though none of the Doors are anything like as good or inventive on their instruments as Coltrane's group (and of course "Light My Fire" is in four-four rather than three-four): [Excerpt: The Doors, "Light My Fire"] So they had a basic verse-chorus song with a long instrumental jam session in the middle. Now comes the bit that there's some dispute over.  Both Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger agree that Manzarek came up with the melody used in the intro, but differ wildly over who came up with the chord sequence for it and when, and how it was put into the song. According to Manzarek, he came up with the whole thing as an intro for the song at that first rehearsal of it, and instructed the other band members what to do. According to Krieger, though, the story is rather different, and the evidence seems to be weighted in Krieger's favour. In early live performances of the song, they started the song with the Am-F sharp minor shifts that were used in the verse itself, and continued doing this even after the song was recorded: [Excerpt: The Doors, "Light My Fire (live at the Matrix)"] But they needed a way to get back out of the solo section and into the third verse. To do this, Krieger came up with a sequence that starts with a change from G to D, then from D to F, before going into a circle of fifths -- not the ascending circle of fifths in songs like "Hey Joe", but a descending one, the same sequence as in "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" or "I Will Survive", ending on an A flat: [demonstrates] To get from the A flat to the A minor or Asus2 chord on which the verse starts, he simply then shifted up a semitone from A flat to A major for two bars: [demonstrates] Over the top of that chord sequence that Krieger had come up with, Manzarek put a melody line which was inspired by one of Bach's two-part inventions. The one that's commonly cited is Invention No. 8 in F Major, BWV 779: [Excerpt: Glenn Gould, "Invention No. 8 in F Major, BWV 779"] Though I don't believe Manzarek has ever stated directly which piece he was inspired by other than that it was one of the two-part inventions, and to be honest none of them sound very much like what he plays to my ears, and I think more than anything he was just going for a generalised baroque style rather than anything more specific. And there are certainly stylistic things in there that are suggestive of the baroque -- the stepwise movement, the sort of skipping triplets, and so on: [Excerpt: The Doors, "Light My Fire"] But that was just to get out of the solo section and back into the verses. It was only when they finally took the song into the studio that Paul Rothchild, the producer who we will talk about more later, came up with the idea of giving the song more structure by both starting and ending with that sequence, and formalised it so that rather than just general noodling it was an integral part of the song. They now had at least one song that they thought had the potential to be a big hit. The problem was that they had not as yet played any gigs, and nor did they have a record deal, or a bass player. The lack of a record deal may sound surprising, but they were dropped by Columbia before ever recording for them. There are several different stories as to why. One biography I've read says that after they were signed, none of the label's staff producers wanted to work with them and so they were dropped -- though that goes against some of the other things I've read, which say that Terry Melcher was interested in producing them. Other sources say that Morrison went in for a meeting with some of the company executives while on acid, came out very pleased with himself at how well he'd talked to them because he'd been able to control their minds with his telepathic powers, and they were dropped shortly afterwards. And others say that they were dropped as part of a larger set of cutbacks the company was making, and that while Billy James fought to keep them at Columbia, he lost the fight. Either way, they were stuck without a deal, and without any proper gigs, though they started picking up the odd private party here and there -- Krieger's father was a wealthy aerospace engineer who did some work for Howard Hughes among others, and he got his son's group booked to play a set of jazz standards at a corporate event for Hughes, and they got a few more gigs of that nature, though the Hughes gig didn't exactly go well -- Manzarek was on acid, Krieger and Morrison were on speed, and the bass player they brought in for the gig managed to break two strings, something that would require an almost superhuman effort. That bass player didn't last long, and nor did the next -- they tried several, but found that the addition of a bass player made them sound less interesting, more like the Animals or the Rolling Stones than a group with their own character. But they needed something to hold down the low part, and it couldn't be Manzarek on the organ, as the Vox organ had a muddy sound when he tried to play too many notes at once. But that problem solved itself when they played one of their earliest gigs. There, Manzarek found that another band, who were regulars at the club, had left their Fender keyboard bass there, clipped to the top of the piano. Manzarek tried playing that, and found he could play basslines on that with his left hand and the main parts with his right hand. Krieger got his father to buy one for the group -- though Manzarek was upset that they bought the wrong colour -- and they were now able to perform without a bass player. Not only that, but it gave the group a distinctive sound quite unlike all the other bands. Manzarek couldn't play busy bass lines while also playing lead lines with his right hand, and so he ended up going for simple lines without a great deal of movement, which added to the hypnotic feel of the group's music – though on records they would often be supplemented by a session bass player to give them a fuller sound. While the group were still trying to get a record deal, they were also looking for regular gigs, and eventually they found one. The Sunset Strip was *the* place to be, and they wanted desperately to play one of the popular venues there like the Whisky A-Go-Go, but those venues only employed bands who already had record deals. They did, though, manage to get a residency at a tiny, unpopular, club on the strip called The London Fog, and they played there, often to only a handful of people, while slowly building in confidence as performers. At first, Morrison was so shy that Manzarek had to sing harmony with him throughout the sets, acting as joint frontman. Krieger later said "It's rarely talked about, but Ray was a natural born showman, and his knack for stirring drama would serve the Doors' legacy well in later years" But Morrison soon gained enough confidence to sing by himself. But they weren't bringing in any customers, and the London Fog told them that they were soon going to be dropped -- and the club itself shut not long after. But luckily for the group, just before the end of their booking, the booker for the Whisky A-Go-Go, Ronnie Haran walked in with a genuine pop star, Peter Asher, who as half of Peter & Gordon had had a hit with "A World Without Love", written by his sister's boyfriend, Paul McCartney: [Excerpt: Peter and Gordon, "A World Without Love"] Haran was impressed with the group, and they were impressed that she had brought in a real celebrity. She offered them a residency at the club, not as the headlining act -- that would always be a group that had records out -- but as the consistent support act for whichever big act they had booked. The group agreed -- after Morrison first tried to play it cool and told Haran they would have to consider it, to the consternation of his bandmates. They were thrilled, though, to discover that one of the first acts they supported at the Whisky would be Them, Van Morrison's group -- one of the cover versions they had been playing had been Them's "Gloria": [Excerpt: Them, "Gloria"] They supported Them for two weeks at the Whisky, and Jim Morrison watched Van Morrison intently. The two men had very similar personalities according to the other members of the Doors, and Morrison picked up a lot of his performing style from watching Van on stage every night. The last night Them played the venue, Morrison joined them on stage for an extended version of “Gloria” which everyone involved remembered as the highlight of their time there. Every major band on the LA scene played residencies at the Whisky, and over the summer of 1966 the Doors were the support act for the Mothers of Invention, the Byrds, the Turtles, the Buffalo Springfield, and Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. This was a time when the Sunset Strip was the centre of Californian musical life, before that centre moved to San Francisco, and the Doors were right at the heart of it. Though it wasn't all great -- this was also the period when there were a series of riots around Sunset Strip, as immortalised in the American International Pictures film Riot on Sunset Strip, and its theme song, by the Standells: [Excerpt: The Standells, "Riot on Sunset Strip"] We'll look at those riots in more detail in a future episode, so I'll leave discussing them for now, but I just wanted to make sure they got mentioned. That Standells song, incidentally, was co-written by John Fleck, who under his old name of John Fleckenstein we saw last episode as the original bass player for Love. And it was Love who ensured that the Doors finally got the record deal they needed. The deal came at a perfect time for the Doors -- just like when they'd been picked up by the Whisky A Go-Go just as they were about to lose their job at the London Fog, so they got signed to a record deal just as they were about to lose their job at the Whisky. They lost that job because of a new song that Krieger and Morrison had written. "The End" had started out as Krieger's attempt at writing a raga in the style of Ravi Shankar, and he had brought it in to one of his increasingly frequent writing sessions with Morrison, where the two of them would work out songs without the rest of the band, and Morrison had added lyrics to it. Lyrics that were partly inspired by his own fraught relationship with his parents, and partly by Oedipus Rex: [Excerpt: The Doors, "The End"] And in the live performance, Morrison had finished that phrase with the appropriate four-letter Oedipal payoff, much to the dismay of the owners of the Whisky A Go Go, who had told the group they would no longer be performing there. But three days before that, the group had signed a deal with Elektra Records. Elektra had for a long time been a folk specialist label, but they had recently branched out into other music, first with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, a favourite of Robby Krieger's, and then with their first real rock signing, Love. And Love were playing a residency at the Whisky A Go Go, and Arthur Lee had encouraged Jac Holzman, the label's owner, to come and check out their support band, who he thought were definitely worth signing. The first time Holzman saw them he was unimpressed -- they sounded to him just like a bunch of other white blues bands -- but he trusted Arthur Lee's judgement and came back a couple more times. The third time, they performed their version of "Alabama Song", and everything clicked into place for Holzman. He immediately signed the group to a three-album deal with an option to extend it to seven. The group were thrilled -- Elektra wasn't a major label like Columbia, but they were a label that nurtured artists and wouldn't just toss them aside. They were even happier when soon after they signed to Elektra, the label signed up a new head of West Coast A&R -- Billy James, the man who had signed them to Columbia, and who they knew would be in their corner. Jac Holzman also had the perfect producer for the group, though he needed a little persuading. Paul Rothchild had made his name as the producer for the first couple of albums by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band: [Excerpt: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, "Mary Mary"] They were Robby Krieger's favourite group, so it made sense to have Rothchild on that level. And while Rothchild had mostly worked in New York, he was in LA that summer, working on the debut album by another Elektra signing, Tim Buckley. The musicians on Buckley's album were almost all part of the same LA scene that the Doors were part of -- other than Buckley's normal guitarist Lee Underwood there was keyboard player Van Dyke Parks, bass player Jim Fielder, who had had a brief stint in the Mothers of Invention and was about to join Buffalo Springfield, and drummer Billy Mundi, who was about to join the Mothers of Invention. And Buckley himself sang in a crooning voice extremely similar to that of Morrison, though Buckley had a much larger range: [Excerpt: Tim Buckley, "Aren't You the Girl?"] There was one problem, though -- Rothchild didn't want to do it. He wasn't at all impressed with the band at first, and he wanted to sign a different band, managed by Albert Grossman, instead. But Holzman persuaded him because Rothchild owed him a favour -- Rothchild had just spent several months in prison after a drug bust, and while he was inside Holzman had given his wife a job so she would have an income, and Holzman also did all the paperwork with Rothchild's parole officer to allow him to leave the state. So with great reluctance Rothchild took the job, though he soon came to appreciate the group's music. He didn't appreciate their second session though. The first day, they'd tried recording a version of "The End", but it hadn't worked, so on the second night they tried recording it again, but this time Morrison was on acid and behaving rather oddly. The final version of "The End" had to be cut together from two takes, and the reason is that at the point we heard earlier: [Excerpt: The Doors, "The End"] Morrison was whirling around, thrashing about, and knocked over a TV that the engineer, Bruce Botnick, had brought into the studio so he could watch the baseball game -- which Manzarek later exaggerated to Morrison throwing the TV through the plate glass window between the studio and the control room. According to everyone else, Morrison just knocked it over and they picked it up after the take finished and it still worked fine. But Morrison had taken a *lot* of acid, and on the way home after the session he became convinced that he had a psychic knowledge that the studio was on fire. He got his girlfriend to turn the car back around, drove back to the studio, climbed over the fence, saw the glowing red lightbulbs in the studio, became convinced that they were fires, and sprayed the entire place with the fire extinguisher, before leaving convinced he had saved the band's equipment -- and leaving telltale evidence as his boot got stuck in the fence on the way out and he just left it there. But despite that little hiccup, the sessions generally went well, and the group and label were pleased with the results. The first single released from the album, "Break on Through", didn't make the Hot One Hundred: [Excerpt: The Doors, "Break on Through"] But when the album came out in January 1967, Elektra put all its resources behind the album, and it started to get a bit of airplay as a result. In particular, one DJ on the new FM radio started playing "Light My Fire" -- at this time, FM had only just started, and while AM radio stuck to three-minute singles for the most part, FM stations would play a wider variety of music. Some of the AM DJs started telling Elektra that they would play the record, too, if it was the length of a normal single, and so Rothchild and Botnick went into the studio and edited the track down to half its previous seven-and-a-half-minute length. When the group were called in to hear the edit, they were initially quite excited to hear what kind of clever editing microsurgery had been done to bring the song down to the required length, but they were horrified when Rothchild actually played it for them. As far as the group were concerned, the heart of the song was the extended instrumental improvisation that took up the middle section: [Excerpt: The Doors, "Light My Fire"] On the album version, that lasted over three minutes. Rothchild and Botnick cut that section down to just this: [Excerpt: The Doors, "Light My Fire (single edit)"] The group were mortified -- what had been done to their song? That wasn't the sound of people trying to be McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones, it was just... a pop song.  Rothchild explained that that was the point -- to get the song played on AM radio and get the group a hit. He pointed out how the Beatles records never had an instrumental section that lasted more than eight bars, and the group eventually talked themselves round. After all, wasn't this really more subversive? You get the kids hooked with the pop single, and then they buy the album and the track is a whole other thing! It would blow the kids' minds! So they eventually agreed to let the track go out like that, and it made number one on the charts: [Excerpt: The Doors, "Light My Fire"] The Doors were now a major success, and they even got a slot on the Ed Sullivan Show, though that went badly for them. They were asked to not use the line "We couldn't get much higher", because of the drug reference, and they agreed, but then Morrison either forgot in the excitement or deliberately ignored the request depending on who you ask. According to Manzarek this led to a massive confrontation with the producers after the show, though Krieger denies any confrontation happened and says "The way Ray told stories, I'm surprised his version didn't end with us strutting in slow motion down Broadway while the CBS studios exploded in the background". Whatever the truth, they weren't invited back on the Ed Sullivan Show again, but that didn't matter -- the Doors had had their first number one hit, they had a charismatic lead singer, and they were about to put out their second album. But as we'll see the next time we look at the Doors, what you find when you can't get much higher is that the only way to go is down.
Apr 30, 2022
Episode 147: “Hey Joe” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Episode one hundred and forty-seven of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Hey Joe" by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and is the longest episode to date, at over two hours. Patreon backers also have a twenty-two-minute bonus episode available, on "Making Time" by The Creation. 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, I've put together a Mixcloud mix containing all the music excerpted in this episode. For information on the Byrds, I relied mostly on Timeless Flight Revisited by Johnny Rogan, with some information from Chris Hillman’s autobiography. Information on Arthur Lee and Love came from Forever Changes: Arthur Lee and the Book of Love by John Einarson, and Arthur Lee: Alone Again Or by Barney Hoskyns. Information on Gary Usher's work with the Surfaris and the Sons of Adam came from The California Sound by Stephen McParland, which can be found at https://payhip.com/CMusicBooks Information on Jimi Hendrix came from Room Full of Mirrors by Charles R. Cross, Crosstown Traffic by Charles Shaar Murray, and Wild Thing by Philip Norman. Information on the history of "Hey Joe" itself came from all these sources plus Hey Joe: The Unauthorised Biography of a Rock Classic by Marc Shapiro, though note that most of that book is about post-1967 cover versions. Most of the pre-Experience session work by Jimi Hendrix I excerpt in this episode is on this box set of alternate takes and live recordings. And "Hey Joe" can be found on Are You Experienced? 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 we start – this episode deals with a song whose basic subject is a man murdering a woman, and that song also contains references to guns, and in some versions to cocaine use. Some versions excerpted also contain misogynistic slurs. If those things are likely to upset you, please skip this episode, as the whole episode focusses on that song. I would hope it goes without saying that I don't approve of misogyny, intimate partner violence, or murder, and my discussing a song does not mean I condone acts depicted in its lyrics, and the episode itself deals with the writing and recording of the song rather than its subject matter, but it would be impossible to talk about the record without excerpting the song. The normalisation of violence against women in rock music lyrics is a subject I will come back to, but did not have room for in what is already a very long episode. Anyway, on with the show. Let's talk about the folk process, shall we? We've talked before, like in the episodes on "Stagger Lee" and "Ida Red", about how there are some songs that aren't really individual songs in themselves, but are instead collections of related songs that might happen to share a name, or a title, or a story, or a melody, but which might be different in other ways. There are probably more songs that are like this than songs that aren't, and it doesn't just apply to folk songs, although that's where we see it most notably. You only have to look at the way a song like "Hound Dog" changed from the Willie Mae Thornton version to the version by Elvis, which only shared a handful of words with the original. Songs change, and recombine, and everyone who sings them brings something different to them, until they change in ways that nobody could have predicted, like a game of telephone. But there usually remains a core, an archetypal story or idea which remains constant no matter how much the song changes. Like Stagger Lee shooting Billy in a bar over a hat, or Frankie killing her man -- sometimes the man is Al, sometimes he's Johnny, but he always done her wrong. And one of those stories is about a man who shoots his cheating woman with a forty-four, and tries to escape -- sometimes to a town called Jericho, and sometimes to Juarez, Mexico. The first version of this song we have a recording of is by Clarence Ashley, in 1929, a recording of an older folk song that was called, in his version, "Little Sadie": [Excerpt: Clarence Ashley, "Little Sadie"] At some point, somebody seems to have noticed that that song has a slight melodic similarity to another family of songs, the family known as "Cocaine Blues" or "Take a Whiff on Me", which was popular around the same time: [Excerpt: The Memphis Jug Band, "Cocaine Habit Blues"] And so the two songs became combined, and the protagonist of "Little Sadie" now had a reason to kill his woman -- a reason other than her cheating, that is. He had taken a shot of cocaine before shooting her. The first recording of this version, under the name "Cocaine Blues" seems to have been a Western Swing version by W. A. Nichol's Western Aces: [Excerpt: W.A. Nichol's Western Aces, "Cocaine Blues"] Woody Guthrie recorded a version around the same time -- I've seen different dates and so don't know for sure if it was before or after Nichol's version -- and his version had himself credited as songwriter, and included this last verse which doesn't seem to appear on any earlier recordings of the song: [Excerpt: Woody Guthrie, "Cocaine Blues"] That doesn't appear on many later recordings either, but it did clearly influence yet another song -- Mose Allison's classic jazz number "Parchman Farm": [Excerpt: Mose Allison, "Parchman Farm"] The most famous recordings of the song, though, were by Johnny Cash, who recorded it as both "Cocaine Blues" and as "Transfusion Blues". In Cash's version of the song, the murderer gets sentenced to "ninety-nine years in the Folsom pen", so it made sense that Cash would perform that on his most famous album, the live album of his January 1968 concerts at Folsom Prison, which revitalised his career after several years of limited success: [Excerpt: Johnny Cash, "Cocaine Blues (live at Folsom Prison)"] While that was Cash's first live recording at a prison, though, it wasn't the first show he played at a prison -- ever since the success of his single "Folsom Prison Blues" he'd been something of a hero to prisoners, and he had been doing shows in prisons for eleven years by the time of that recording. And on one of those shows he had as his support act a man named Billy Roberts, who performed his own song which followed the same broad outlines as "Cocaine Blues" -- a man with a forty-four who goes out to shoot his woman and then escapes to Mexico. Roberts was an obscure folk singer, who never had much success, but who was good with people. He'd been part of the Greenwich Village folk scene in the 1950s, and at a gig at Gerde's Folk City he'd met a woman named Niela Miller, an aspiring songwriter, and had struck up a relationship with her. Miller only ever wrote one song that got recorded by anyone else, a song called "Mean World Blues" that was recorded by Dave Van Ronk: [Excerpt: Dave Van Ronk, "Mean World Blues"] Now, that's an original song, but it does bear a certain melodic resemblance to another old folk song, one known as "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" or "In the Pines", or sometimes "Black Girl": [Excerpt: Lead Belly, "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?"] Miller was clearly familiar with the tradition from which "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" comes -- it's a type of folk song where someone asks a question and then someone else answers it, and this repeats, building up a story. This is a very old folk song format, and you hear it for example in "Lord Randall", the song on which Bob Dylan based "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall": [Excerpt: Ewan MacColl, "Lord Randall"] I say she was clearly familiar with it, because the other song she wrote that anyone's heard was based very much around that idea. "Baby Please Don't Go To Town" is a question-and-answer song in precisely that form, but with an unusual chord progression for a folk song. You may remember back in the episode on "Eight Miles High" I talked about the circle of fifths -- a chord progression which either increases or decreases by a fifth for every chord, so it might go C-G-D-A-E [demonstrates] That's a common progression in pop and jazz, but not really so much in folk, but it's the one that Miller had used for "Baby, Please Don't Go to Town", and she'd taught Roberts that song, which she only recorded much later: [Excerpt: Niela Miller, "Baby, Please Don't Go To Town"] After Roberts and Miller broke up, Miller kept playing that melody, but he changed the lyrics. The lyrics he added had several influences. There was that question-and-answer folk-song format, there's the story of "Cocaine Blues" with its protagonist getting a forty-four to shoot his woman down before heading to Mexico, and there's also a country hit from 1953. "Hey, Joe!" was originally recorded by Carl Smith, one of the most popular country singers of the early fifties: [Excerpt: Carl Smith, "Hey Joe!"] That was written by Boudleaux Bryant, a few years before the songs he co-wrote for the Everly Brothers, and became a country number one, staying at the top for eight weeks. It didn't make the pop chart, but a pop cover version of it by Frankie Laine made the top ten in the US: [Excerpt: Frankie Laine, "Hey Joe"] Laine's record did even better in the UK, where it made number one, at a point where Laine was the biggest star in music in Britain -- at the time the UK charts only had a top twelve, and at one point four of the singles in the top twelve were by Laine, including that one. There was also an answer record by Kitty Wells which made the country top ten later that year: [Excerpt: Kitty Wells, "Hey Joe"] Oddly, despite it being a very big hit, that "Hey Joe" had almost no further cover versions for twenty years, though it did become part of the Searchers' setlist, and was included on their Live at the Star Club album in 1963, in an arrangement that owed a lot to "What'd I Say": [Excerpt: The Searchers, "Hey Joe"] But that song was clearly on Roberts' mind when, as so many American folk musicians did, he travelled to the UK in the late fifties and became briefly involved in the burgeoning UK folk movement. In particular, he spent some time with a twelve-string guitar player from Edinburgh called Len Partridge, who was also a mentor to Bert Jansch, and who was apparently an extraordinary musician, though I know of no recordings of his work. Partridge helped Roberts finish up the song, though Partridge is about the only person in this story who *didn't* claim a writing credit for it at one time or another, saying that he just helped Roberts out and that Roberts deserved all the credit. The first known recording of the completed song is from 1962, a few years after Roberts had returned to the US, though it didn't surface until decades later: [Excerpt: Billy Roberts, "Hey Joe"] Roberts was performing this song regularly on the folk circuit, and around the time of that recording he also finally got round to registering the copyright, several years after it was written. When Miller heard the song, she was furious, and she later said "Imagine my surprise when I heard Hey Joe by Billy Roberts. There was my tune, my chord progression, my question/answer format. He dropped the bridge that was in my song and changed it enough so that the copyright did not protect me from his plagiarism... I decided not to go through with all the complications of dealing with him. He never contacted me about it or gave me any credit. He knows he committed a morally reprehensible act. He never was man enough to make amends and apologize to me, or to give credit for the inspiration. Dealing with all that was also why I made the decision not to become a professional songwriter. It left a bad taste in my mouth.” Pete Seeger, a friend of Miller's, was outraged by the injustice and offered to testify on her behalf should she decide to take Roberts to court, but she never did. Some time around this point, Roberts also played on that prison bill with Johnny Cash, and what happened next is hard to pin down. I've read several different versions of the story, which change the date and which prison this was in, and none of the details in any story hang together properly -- everything introduces weird inconsistencies and things which just make no sense at all. Something like this basic outline of the story seems to have happened, but the outline itself is weird, and we'll probably never know the truth. Roberts played his set, and one of the songs he played was "Hey Joe", and at some point he got talking to one of the prisoners in the audience, Dino Valenti. We've met Valenti before, in the episode on "Mr. Tambourine Man" -- he was a singer/songwriter himself, and would later be the lead singer of Quicksilver Messenger Service, but he's probably best known for having written "Get Together": [Excerpt: Dino Valenti, "Get Together"] As we heard in the "Mr. Tambourine Man" episode, Valenti actually sold off his rights to that song to pay for his bail at one point, but he was in and out of prison several times because of drug busts. At this point, or so the story goes, he was eligible for parole, but he needed to prove he had a possible income when he got out, and one way he wanted to do that was to show that he had written a song that could be a hit he could make money off, but he didn't have such a song. He talked about his predicament with Roberts, who agreed to let him claim to have written "Hey Joe" so he could get out of prison. He did make that claim, and when he got out of prison he continued making the claim, and registered the copyright to "Hey Joe" in his own name -- even though Roberts had already registered it -- and signed a publishing deal for it with Third Story Music, a company owned by Herb Cohen, the future manager of the Mothers of Invention, and Cohen's brother Mutt. Valenti was a popular face on the folk scene, and he played "his" song to many people, but two in particular would influence the way the song would develop, both of them people we've seen relatively recently in episodes of the podcast. One of them, Vince Martin, we'll come back to later, but the other was David Crosby, and so let's talk about him and the Byrds a bit more. Crosby and Valenti had been friends long before the Byrds formed, and indeed we heard in the "Mr. Tambourine Man" episode how the group had named themselves after Valenti's song "Birdses": [Excerpt: Dino Valenti, "Birdses"] And Crosby *loved* "Hey Joe", which he believed was another of Valenti's songs. He'd perform it every chance he got, playing it solo on guitar in an arrangement that other people have compared to Mose Allison. He'd tried to get it on the first two Byrds albums, but had been turned down, mostly because of their manager and uncredited co-producer Jim Dickson, who had strong opinions about it, saying later "Some of the songs that David would bring in from the outside were perfectly valid songs for other people, but did not seem to be compatible with the Byrds' myth. And he may not have liked the Byrds' myth. He fought for 'Hey Joe' and he did it. As long as I could say 'No!' I did, and when I couldn't any more they did it. You had to give him something somewhere. I just wish it was something else... 'Hey Joe' I was bitterly opposed to. A song about a guy who murders his girlfriend in a jealous rage and is on the way to Mexico with a gun in his hand. It was not what I saw as a Byrds song." Indeed, Dickson was so opposed to the song that he would later say “One of the reasons David engineered my getting thrown out was because I would not let Hey Joe be on the Turn! Turn! Turn! album.” Dickson was, though, still working with the band when they got round to recording it. That came during the recording of their Fifth Dimension album, the album which included "Eight Miles High". That album was mostly recorded after the departure of Gene Clark, which was where we left the group at the end of the "Eight Miles High" episode, and the loss of their main songwriter meant that they were struggling for material -- doubly so since they also decided they were going to move away from Dylan covers. This meant that they had to rely on original material from the group's less commercial songwriters, and on a few folk songs, mostly learned from Pete Seeger The album ended up with only eleven songs on it, compared to the twelve that was normal for American albums at that time, and the singles on it after "Eight Miles High" weren't particularly promising as to the group's ability to come up with commercial material. The next single, "5D", a song by Roger McGuinn about the fifth dimension, was a waltz-time song that both Crosby and Chris Hillman were enthused by. It featured organ by Van Dyke Parks, and McGuinn said of the organ part "When he came into the studio I told him to think Bach. He was already thinking Bach before that anyway.": [Excerpt: The Byrds, "5D"] While the group liked it, though, that didn't make the top forty. The next single did, just about -- a song that McGuinn had written as an attempt at communicating with alien life. He hoped that it would be played on the radio, and that the radio waves would eventually reach aliens, who would hear it and respond: [Excerpt: The Byrds, "Mr. Spaceman"] The "Fifth Dimension" album did significantly worse, both critically and commercially, than their previous albums, and the group would soon drop Allen Stanton, the producer, in favour of Gary Usher, Brian Wilson's old songwriting partner. But the desperation for material meant that the group agreed to record the song which they still thought at that time had been written by Crosby's friend, though nobody other than Crosby was happy with it, and even Crosby later said "It was a mistake. I shouldn't have done it. Everybody makes mistakes." McGuinn said later "The reason Crosby did lead on 'Hey Joe' was because it was *his* song. He didn't write it but he was responsible for finding it. He'd wanted to do it for years but we would never let him.": [Excerpt: The Byrds, "Hey Joe"] Of course, that arrangement is very far from the Mose Allison style version Crosby had been doing previously. And the reason for that can be found in the full version of that McGuinn quote, because the full version continues "He'd wanted to do it for years but we would never let him. Then both Love and The Leaves had a minor hit with it and David got so angry that we had to let him do it. His version wasn't that hot because he wasn't a strong lead vocalist." The arrangement we just heard was the arrangement that by this point almost every group on the Sunset Strip scene was playing. And the reason for that was because of another friend of Crosby's, someone who had been a roadie for the Byrds -- Bryan MacLean. MacLean and Crosby had been very close because they were both from very similar backgrounds -- they were both Hollywood brats with huge egos. MacLean later said "Crosby and I got on perfectly. I didn't understand what everybody was complaining about, because he was just like me!" MacLean was, if anything, from an even more privileged background than Crosby. His father was an architect who'd designed houses for Elizabeth Taylor and Dean Martin, his neighbour when growing up was Frederick Loewe, the composer of My Fair Lady. He learned to swim in Elizabeth Taylor's private pool, and his first girlfriend was Liza Minelli. Another early girlfriend was Jackie DeShannon, the singer-songwriter who did the original version of "Needles and Pins", who he was introduced to by Sharon Sheeley, whose name you will remember from many previous episodes. MacLean had wanted to be an artist until his late teens, when he walked into a shop in Westwood which sometimes sold his paintings, the Sandal Shop, and heard some people singing folk songs there. He decided he wanted to be a folk singer, and soon started performing at the Balladeer, a club which would later be renamed the Troubadour, playing songs like Robert Johnson's "Cross Roads Blues", which had recently become a staple of the folk repertoire after John Hammond put out the King of the Delta Blues Singers album: [Excerpt: Robert Johnson, "Cross Roads Blues"] Reading interviews with people who knew MacLean at the time, the same phrase keeps coming up. John Kay, later the lead singer of Steppenwolf, said "There was a young kid, Bryan MacLean, kind of cocky but nonetheless a nice kid, who hung around Crosby and McGuinn" while Chris Hillman said "He was a pretty good kid but a wee bit cocky." He was a fan of the various musicians who later formed the Byrds, and was also an admirer of a young guitarist on the scene named Ryland Cooder, and of a blues singer on the scene named Taj Mahal. He apparently was briefly in a band with Taj Mahal, called Summer's Children, who as far as I can tell had no connection to the duo that Curt Boettcher later formed of the same name, before Taj Mahal and Cooder formed The Rising Sons, a multi-racial blues band who were for a while the main rivals to the Byrds on the scene. MacLean, though, firmly hitched himself to the Byrds, and particularly to Crosby. He became a roadie on their first tour, and Hillman said "He was a hard-working guy on our behalf. As I recall, he pretty much answered to Crosby and was David’s assistant, to put it diplomatically – more like his gofer, in fact." But MacLean wasn't cut out for the hard work that being a roadie required, and after being the Byrds' roadie for about thirty shows, he started making mistakes, and when they went off on their UK tour they decided not to keep employing him. He was heartbroken, but got back into trying his own musical career. He auditioned for the Monkees, unsuccessfully, but shortly after that -- some sources say even the same day as the audition, though that seems a little too neat -- he went to Ben Frank's -- the LA hangout that had actually been namechecked in the open call for Monkees auditions, which said they wanted "Ben Franks types", and there he met Arthur Lee and Johnny Echols. Echols would later remember "He was this gadfly kind of character who knew everybody and was flitting from table to table. He wore striped pants and a scarf, and he had this long, strawberry hair. All the girls loved him. For whatever reason, he came and sat at our table. Of course, Arthur and I were the only two black people there at the time." Lee and Echols were both Black musicians who had been born in Memphis. Lee's birth father, Chester Taylor, had been a cornet player with Jimmie Lunceford, whose Delta Rhythm Boys had had a hit with "The Honeydripper", as we heard way back in the episode on "Rocket '88": [Excerpt: Jimmie Lunceford and the Delta Rhythm Boys, "The Honeydripper"] However, Taylor soon split from Lee's mother, a schoolteacher, and she married Clinton Lee, a stonemason, who doted on his adopted son, and they moved to California. They lived in a relatively prosperous area of LA, a neighbourhood that was almost all white, with a few Asian families, though the boxer Sugar Ray Robinson lived nearby. A year or so after Arthur and his mother moved to LA, so did the Echols family, who had known them in Memphis, and they happened to move only a couple of streets away. Eight year old Arthur Lee reconnected with seven-year-old Johnny Echols, and the two became close friends from that point on. Arthur Lee first started out playing music when his parents were talked into buying him an accordion by a salesman who would go around with a donkey, give kids free donkey rides, and give the parents a sales pitch while they were riding the donkey, He soon gave up on the accordion and persuaded his parents to buy him an organ instead -- he was a spoiled child, by all accounts, with a TV in his bedroom, which was almost unheard of in the late fifties. Johnny Echols had a similar experience which led to his parents buying him a guitar, and the two were growing up in a musical environment generally. They attended Dorsey High School at the same time as both Billy Preston and Mike Love of the Beach Boys, and Ella Fitzgerald and her then-husband, the great jazz bass player Ray Brown, lived in the same apartment building as the Echols family for a while. Ornette Coleman, the free-jazz saxophone player, lived next door to Echols, and Adolphus Jacobs, the guitarist with the Coasters, gave him guitar lessons. Arthur Lee also knew Johnny Otis, who ran a pigeon-breeding club for local children which Arthur would attend. Echols was the one who first suggested that he and Arthur should form a band, and they put together a group to play at a school talent show, performing "Last Night", the instrumental that had been a hit for the Mar-Keys on Stax records: [Excerpt: The Mar-Keys, "Last Night"] They soon became a regular group, naming themselves Arthur Lee and the LAGs -- the LA Group, in imitation of Booker T and the MGs – the Memphis Group. At some point around this time, Lee decided to switch from playing organ to playing guitar. He would say later that this was inspired by seeing Johnny "Guitar" Watson get out of a gold Cadillac, wearing a gold suit, and with gold teeth in his mouth. The LAGs started playing as support acts and backing bands for any blues and soul acts that came through LA, performing with Big Mama Thornton, Johnny Otis, the O'Jays, and more. Arthur and Johnny were both still under-age, and they would pencil in fake moustaches to play the clubs so they'd appear older. In the fifties and early sixties, there were a number of great electric guitar players playing blues on the West Coast -- Johnny "Guitar" Watson, T-Bone Walker, Guitar Slim, and others -- and they would compete with each other not only to play well, but to put on a show, and so there was a whole bag of stage tricks that West Coast R&B guitarists picked up, and Echols learned all of them -- playing his guitar behind his back, playing his guitar with his teeth, playing with his guitar between his legs. As well as playing their own shows, the LAGs also played gigs under other names -- they had a corrupt agent who would book them under the name of whatever Black group had a hit at the time, in the belief that almost nobody knew what popular groups looked like anyway, so they would go out and perform as the Drifters or the Coasters or half a dozen other bands. But Arthur Lee in particular wanted to have success in his own right. He would later say "When I was a little boy I would listen to Nat 'King' Cole and I would look at that purple Capitol Records logo. I wanted to be on Capitol, that was my goal. Later on I used to walk from Dorsey High School all the way up to the Capitol building in Hollywood -- did that many times. I was determined to get a record deal with Capitol, and I did, without the help of a fancy manager or anyone else. I talked to Adam Ross and Jack Levy at Ardmore-Beechwood. I talked to Kim Fowley, and then I talked to Capitol". The record that the LAGs released, though, was not very good, a track called "Rumble-Still-Skins": [Excerpt: The LAGs, "Rumble-Still-Skins"] Lee later said "I was young and very inexperienced and I was testing the record company. I figured if I gave them my worst stuff and they ripped me off I wouldn't get hurt. But it didn't work, and after that I started giving my best, and I've been doing that ever since." The LAGs were dropped by Capitol after one single, and for the next little while Arthur and Johnny did work for smaller labels, usually labels owned by Bob Keane, with Arthur writing and producing and Johnny playing guitar -- though Echols has said more recently that a lot of the songs that were credited to Arthur as sole writer were actually joint compositions. Most of these records were attempts at copying the style of other people. There was "I Been Trying", a Phil Spector soundalike released by Little Ray: [Excerpt: Little Ray, "I Been Trying"] And there were a few attempts at sounding like Curtis Mayfield, like "Slow Jerk" by Ronnie and the Pomona Casuals: [Excerpt: Ronnie and the Pomona Casuals, "Slow Jerk"] and "My Diary" by Rosa Lee Brooks: [Excerpt: Rosa Lee Brooks, "My Diary"] Echols was also playing with a lot of other people, and one of the musicians he was playing with, his old school friend Billy Preston, told him about a recent European tour he'd been on with Little Richard, and the band from Liverpool he'd befriended while he was there who idolised Richard, so when the Beatles hit America, Arthur and Johnny had some small amount of context for them. They soon broke up the LAGs and formed another group, the American Four, with two white musicians, bass player John Fleckenstein and drummer Don Costa. Lee had them wear wigs so they seemed like they had longer hair, and started dressing more eccentrically -- he would soon become known for wearing glasses with one blue lens and one red one, and, as he put it "wearing forty pounds of beads, two coats, three shirts, and wearing two pairs of shoes on one foot". As well as the Beatles, the American Four were inspired by the other British Invasion bands -- Arthur was in the audience for the TAMI show, and quite impressed by Mick Jagger -- and also by the Valentinos, Bobby Womack's group. They tried to get signed to SAR Records, the label owned by Sam Cooke for which the Valentinos recorded, but SAR weren't interested, and they ended up recording for Bob Keane's Del-Fi records, where they cut "Luci Baines", a "Twist and Shout" knock-off with lyrics referencing the daughter of new US President Lyndon Johnson: [Excerpt: The American Four, "Luci Baines"] But that didn't take off any more than the earlier records had. Another American Four track, "Stay Away", was recorded but went unreleased until 2006: [Excerpt: Arthur Lee and the American Four, "Stay Away"] Soon the American Four were changing their sound and name again. This time it was because of two bands who were becoming successful on the Sunset Strip. One was the Byrds, who to Lee's mind were making music like the stuff he heard in his head, and the other was their rivals the Rising Sons, the blues band we mentioned earlier with Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder. Lee was very impressed by them as an multiracial band making aggressive, loud, guitar music, though he would always make the point when talking about them that they were a blues band, not a rock band, and *he* had the first multiracial rock band. Whatever they were like live though, in their recordings, produced by the Byrds' first producer Terry Melcher, the Rising Sons often had the same garage band folk-punk sound that Lee and Echols would soon make their own: [Excerpt: The Rising Sons, "Take a Giant Step"] But while the Rising Sons recorded a full album's worth of material, only one single was released before they split up, and so the way was clear for Lee and Echols' band, now renamed once again to The Grass Roots, to become the Byrds' new challengers. Lee later said "I named the group The Grass Roots behind a trip, or an album I heard that Malcolm X did, where he said 'the grass roots of the people are out in the street doing something about their problems instead of sitting around talking about it'". After seeing the Rolling Stones and the Byrds live, Lee wanted to get up front and move like Mick Jagger, and not be hindered by playing a guitar he wasn't especially good at -- both the Stones and the Byrds had two guitarists and a frontman who just sang and played hand percussion, and these were the models that Lee was following for the group. He also thought it would be a good idea commercially to get a good-looking white boy up front. So the group got in another guitarist, a white pretty boy who Lee soon fell out with and gave the nickname "Bummer Bob" because he was unpleasant to be around. Those of you who know exactly why Bobby Beausoleil later became famous will probably agree that this was a more than reasonable nickname to give him (and those of you who don't, I'll be dealing with him when we get to 1969). So when Bryan MacLean introduced himself to Lee and Echols, and they found out that not only was he also a good-looking white guitarist, but he was also friends with the entire circle of hipsters who'd been going to Byrds gigs, people like Vito and Franzoni, and he could get a massive crowd of them to come along to gigs for any band he was in and make them the talk of the Sunset Strip scene, he was soon in the Grass Roots, and Bummer Bob was out. The Grass Roots soon had to change their name again, though. In 1965, Jan and Dean recorded their "Folk and Roll" album, which featured "The Universal Coward"... Which I am not going to excerpt again. I only put that pause in to terrify Tilt, who edits these podcasts, and has very strong opinions about that song. But P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri, the songwriters who also performed as the Fantastic Baggies, had come up with a song for that album called "Where Where You When I Needed You?": [Excerpt: Jan and Dean, "Where Were You When I Needed You?"] Sloan and Barri decided to cut their own version of that song under a fake band name, and then put together a group of other musicians to tour as that band. They just needed a name, and Lou Adler, the head of Dunhill Records, suggested they call themselves The Grass Roots, and so that's what they did: [Excerpt: The Grass Roots, "Where Were You When I Needed You?"] Echols would later claim that this was deliberate malice on Adler's part -- that Adler had come in to a Grass Roots show drunk, and pretended to be interested in signing them to a contract, mostly to show off to a woman he'd brought with him. Echols and MacLean had spoken to him, not known who he was, and he'd felt disrespected, and Echols claims that he suggested the name to get back at them, and also to capitalise on their local success. The new Grass Roots soon started having hits, and so the old band had to find another name, which they got as a joking reference to a day job Lee had had at one point -- he'd apparently worked in a specialist bra shop, Luv Brassieres, which the rest of the band found hilarious. The Grass Roots became Love. While Arthur Lee was the group's lead singer, Bryan MacLean would often sing harmonies, and would get a song or two to sing live himself. And very early in the group's career, when they were playing a club called Bido Lito's, he started making his big lead spot a version of "Hey Joe", which he'd learned from his old friend David Crosby, and which soon became the highlight of the group's set. Their version was sped up, and included the riff which the Searchers had popularised in their cover version of  "Needles and Pins", the song originally recorded by MacLean's old girlfriend Jackie DeShannon: [Excerpt: The Searchers, "Needles and Pins"] That riff is a very simple one to play, and variants of it became very, very, common among the LA bands, most notably on the Byrds' "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better": [Excerpt: The Byrds, "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better"] The riff was so ubiquitous in the LA scene that in the late eighties Frank Zappa would still cite it as one of his main memories of the scene. I'm going to quote from his autobiography, where he's talking about the differences between the LA scene he was part of and the San Francisco scene he had no time for: "The Byrds were the be-all and end-all of Los Angeles rock then. They were 'It' -- and then a group called Love was 'It.' There were a few 'psychedelic' groups that never really got to be 'It,' but they could still find work and get record deals, including the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Sky Saxon and the Seeds, and the Leaves (noted for their cover version of "Hey, Joe"). When we first went to San Francisco, in the early days of the Family Dog, it seemed that everybody was wearing the same costume, a mixture of Barbary Coast and Old West -- guys with handlebar mustaches, girls in big bustle dresses with feathers in their hair, etc. By contrast, the L.A. costumery was more random and outlandish. Musically, the northern bands had a little more country style. In L.A., it was folk-rock to death. Everything had that" [and here Zappa uses the adjectival form of a four-letter word beginning with 'f' that the main podcast providers don't like you saying on non-adult-rated shows] "D chord down at the bottom of the neck where you wiggle your finger around -- like 'Needles and Pins.'" The reason Zappa describes it that way, and the reason it became so popular, is that if you play that riff in D, the chords are D, Dsus2, and Dsus4 which means you literally only wiggle one finger on your left hand: [demonstrates] And so you get that on just a ton of records from that period, though Love, the Byrds, and the Searchers all actually play the riff on A rather than D: [demonstrates] So that riff became the Big Thing in LA after the Byrds popularised the Searchers sound there, and Love added it to their arrangement of "Hey Joe". In January 1966, the group would record their arrangement of it for their first album, which would come out in March: [Excerpt: Love, "Hey Joe"] But that wouldn't be the first recording of the song, or of Love's arrangement of it – although other than the Byrds' version, it would be the only one to come out of LA with the original Billy Roberts lyrics. Love's performances of the song at Bido Lito's had become the talk of the Sunset Strip scene, and soon every band worth its salt was copying it, and it became one of those songs like "Louie Louie" before it that everyone would play. The first record ever made with the "Hey Joe" melody actually had totally different lyrics. Kim Fowley had the idea of writing a sequel to "Hey Joe", titled "Wanted Dead or Alive", about what happened after Joe shot his woman and went off. He produced the track for The Rogues, a group consisting of Michael Lloyd and Shaun Harris, who later went on to form the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, and Lloyd and Harris were the credited writers: [Excerpt: The Rogues, "Wanted Dead or Alive"] The next version of the song to come out was the first by anyone to be released as "Hey Joe", or at least as "Hey Joe, Where You Gonna Go?", which was how it was titled on its initial release. This was by a band called The Leaves, who were friends of Love, and had picked up on "Hey Joe", and was produced by Nik Venet. It was also the first to have the now-familiar opening line "Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand?": [Excerpt: The Leaves, "Hey Joe Where You Gonna Go?"] Roberts' original lyric, as sung by both Love and the Byrds, had been "where you going with that money in your hand?", and had Joe headed off to *buy* the gun. But as Echols later said “What happened was Bob Lee from The Leaves, who were friends of ours, asked me for the words to 'Hey Joe'. I told him I would have the words the next day. I decided to write totally different lyrics. The words you hear on their record are ones I wrote as a joke. The original words to Hey Joe are ‘Hey Joe, where you going with that money in your hand? Well I’m going downtown to buy me a blue steel .44. When I catch up with that woman, she won’t be running round no more.’ It never says ‘Hey Joe where you goin’ with that gun in your hand.’ Those were the words I wrote just because I knew they were going to try and cover the song before we released it. That was kind of a dirty trick that I played on The Leaves, which turned out to be the words that everybody uses.” That first release by the Leaves also contained an extra verse -- a nod to Love's previous name: [Excerpt: The Leaves, "Hey Joe Where You Gonna Go?"] That original recording credited the song as public domain -- apparently Bryan MacLean had refused to tell the Leaves who had written the song, and so they assumed it was traditional. It came out in November 1965, but only as a promo single. Even before the Leaves, though, another band had recorded "Hey Joe", but it didn't get released. The Sons of Adam had started out as a surf group called the Fender IV, who made records like "Malibu Run": [Excerpt: The Fender IV, "Malibu Run"] Kim Fowley had suggested they change their name to the Sons of Adam, and they were another group who were friends with Love -- their drummer, Michael Stuart-Ware, would later go on to join Love, and Arthur Lee wrote the song "Feathered Fish" for them: [Excerpt: Sons of Adam, "Feathered Fish"] But while they were the first to record "Hey Joe", their version has still to this day not been released. Their version was recorded for Decca, with producer Gary Usher, but before it was released, another Decca artist also recorded the song, and the label weren't sure which one to release. And then the label decided to press Usher to record a version with yet another act -- this time with the Surfaris, the surf group who had had a hit with "Wipe Out". Coincidentally, the Surfaris had just changed bass players -- their most recent bass player, Ken Forssi, had quit and joined Love, whose own bass player, John Fleckenstein, had gone off to join the Standells, who would also record a version of “Hey Joe” in 1966. Usher thought that the Sons of Adam were much better musicians than the Surfaris, who he was recording with more or less under protest, but their version, using Love's arrangement and the "gun in your hand" lyrics, became the first version to come out on a major label: [Excerpt: The Surfaris, "Hey Joe"] They believed the song was in the public domain, and so the songwriting credits on the record are split between Gary Usher, a W. Hale who nobody has been able to identify, and Tony Cost, a pseudonym for Nik Venet. Usher said later "I got writer's credit on it because I was told, or I assumed at the time, the song was Public Domain; meaning a non-copyrighted song. It had already been cut two or three times, and on each occasion the writing credit had been different. On a traditional song, whoever arranges it, takes the songwriting credit. I may have changed a few words and arranged and produced it, but I certainly did not co-write it." The public domain credit also appeared on the Leaves' second attempt to cut the song, which was actually given a general release, but flopped. But when the Leaves cut the song for a *third* time, still for the same tiny label, Mira, the track became a hit in May 1966, reaching number thirty-one: [Excerpt: The Leaves, "Hey Joe"] And *that* version had what they thought was the correct songwriting credit, to Dino Valenti. Which came as news to Billy Roberts, who had registered the copyright to the song back in 1962 and had no idea that it had become a staple of LA garage rock until he heard his song in the top forty with someone else's name on the credits. He angrily confronted Third Story Music, who agreed to a compromise -- they would stop giving Valenti songwriting royalties and start giving them to Roberts instead, so long as he didn't sue them and let them keep the publishing rights. Roberts was indignant about this -- he deserved all the money, not just half of it -- but he went along with it to avoid a lawsuit he might not win. So Roberts was now the credited songwriter on the versions coming out of the LA scene. But of course, Dino Valenti had been playing "his" song to other people, too. One of those other people was Vince Martin. Martin had been a member of a folk-pop group called the Tarriers, whose members also included the future film star Alan Arkin, and who had had a hit in the 1950s with "Cindy, Oh Cindy": [Excerpt: The Tarriers, "Cindy, Oh Cindy"] But as we heard in the episode on the Lovin' Spoonful, he had become a Greenwich Village folkie, in a duo with Fred Neil, and recorded an album with him, "Tear Down the Walls": [Excerpt: Fred Neil and Vince Martin, "Morning Dew"] That song we just heard, "Morning Dew", was another question-and-answer folk song. It was written by the Canadian folk-singer Bonnie Dobson, but after Martin and Neil recorded it, it was picked up on by Martin's friend Tim Rose who stuck his own name on the credits as well, without Dobson's permission, for a version which made the song into a rock standard for which he continued to collect royalties: [Excerpt: Tim Rose, "Morning Dew"] This was something that Rose seems to have made a habit of doing, though to be fair to him it went both ways. We heard about him in the Lovin' Spoonful episode too, when he was in a band named the Big Three with Cass Elliot and her coincidentally-named future husband Jim Hendricks, who recorded this song, with Rose putting new music to the lyrics of the old public domain song "Oh! Susanna": [Excerpt: The Big Three, "The Banjo Song"] The band Shocking Blue used that melody for their 1969 number-one hit "Venus", and didn't give Rose any credit: [Excerpt: Shocking Blue, "Venus"] But another song that Rose picked up from Vince Martin was "Hey Joe". Martin had picked the song up from Valenti, but didn't know who had written it, or who was claiming to have written it, and told Rose he thought it might be an old Appalchian murder ballad or something. Rose took the song and claimed writing credit in his own name -- he would always, for the rest of his life, claim it was an old folk tune he'd heard in Florida, and that he'd rewritten it substantially himself, but no evidence of the song has ever shown up from prior to Roberts' copyright registration, and Rose's version is basically identical to Roberts' in melody and lyrics. But Rose takes his version at a much slower pace, and his version would be the model for the most successful versions going forward, though those other versions would use the lyrics Johnny Echols had rewritten, rather than the ones Rose used: [Excerpt: Tim Rose, "Hey Joe"] Rose's version got heard across the Atlantic as well. And in particular it was heard by Chas Chandler, the bass player of the Animals. Some sources seem to suggest that Chandler first heard the song performed by a group called the Creation, but in a biography I've read of that group they clearly state that they didn't start playing the song until 1967. But however he came across it, when Chandler heard Rose's recording, he knew that the song could be a big hit for someone, but he didn't know who. And then he bumped into Linda Keith, Keith Richards' girlfriend,  who took him to see someone whose guitar we've already heard in this episode: [Excerpt: Rosa Lee Brooks, "My Diary"] The Curtis Mayfield impression on guitar there was, at least according to many sources the first recording session ever played on by a guitarist then calling himself Maurice (or possibly Mo-rees) James. We'll see later in the story that it possibly wasn't his first -- there are conflicting accounts, as there are about a lot of things, and it was recorded either in very early 1964, in which case it was his first, or (as seems more likely, and as I tell the story later) a year later, in which case he'd played on maybe half a dozen tracks in the studio by that point. But it was still a very early one. And by late 1966 that guitarist had reverted to the name by which he was brought up, and was calling himself Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix and Arthur Lee had become close, and Lee would later claim that Hendrix had copied much of Lee's dress style and attitude -- though many of Hendrix's other colleagues and employers, including Little Richard, would make similar claims -- and most of them had an element of truth, as Lee's did. Hendrix was a sponge. But Lee did influence him. Indeed, one of Hendrix's *last* sessions, in March 1970, was guesting on an album by Love: [Excerpt: Love with Jimi Hendrix, "Everlasting First"] Hendrix's name at birth was Johnny Allen Hendrix, which made his father, James Allen Hendrix, known as Al, who was away at war when his son was born, worry that he'd been named after another man who might possibly be the real father, so the family just referred to the child as "Buster" to avoid the issue. When Al Hendrix came back from the war the child was renamed James Marshall Hendrix -- James after Al's first name, Marshall after Al's dead brother -- though the family continued calling him "Buster". Little James Hendrix Junior didn't have anything like a stable home life. Both his parents were alcoholics, and Al Hendrix was frequently convinced that Jimi's mother Lucille was having affairs and became abusive about it. They had six children, four of whom were born disabled, and Jimi was the only one to remain with his parents -- the rest were either fostered or adopted at birth, fostered later on because the parents weren't providing a decent home life, or in one case made a ward of state because the Hendrixes couldn't afford to pay for a life-saving operation for him. The only one that Jimi had any kind of regular contact with was the second brother, Leon, his parents' favourite, who stayed with them for several years before being fostered by a family only a few blocks away. Al and Lucille Hendrix frequently split and reconciled, and while they were ostensibly raising Jimi (and for a  few years Leon), he was shuttled between them and various family members and friends, living sometimes in Seattle where his parents lived and sometimes in Vancouver with his paternal grandmother. He was frequently malnourished, and often survived because friends' families fed him. Al Hendrix was also often physically and emotionally abusive of the son he wasn't sure was his. Jimi grew up introverted, and stuttering, and only a couple of things seemed to bring him out of his shell. One was science fiction -- he always thought that his nickname, Buster, came from Buster Crabbe, the star of the Flash Gordon serials he loved to watch, though in fact he got the nickname even before that interest developed, and he was fascinated with ideas about aliens and UFOs -- and the other was music. Growing up in Seattle in the forties and fifties, most of the music he was exposed to as a child and in his early teens was music made by and for white people -- there wasn't a very large Black community in the area at the time compared to most major American cities, and so there were no prominent R&B stations. As a kid he loved the music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, and when he was thirteen Jimi's favourite record was Dean Martin's "Memories are Made of This": [Excerpt: Dean Martin, "Memories are Made of This"] He also, like every teenager, became a fan of rock and roll music. When Elvis played at a local stadium when Jimi was fifteen, he couldn't afford a ticket, but he went and sat on top of a nearby hill and watched the show from the distance. Jimi's first exposure to the blues also came around this time, when his father briefly took in lodgers, Cornell and Ernestine Benson, and Ernestine had a record collection that included records by Lightnin' Hopkins, Howlin' Wolf, and Muddy Waters, all of whom Jimi became a big fan of, especially Muddy Waters. The Bensons' most vivid memory of Jimi in later years was him picking up a broom and pretending to play guitar along with these records: [Excerpt: Muddy Waters, "Baby Please Don't Go"] Shortly after this, it would be Ernestine Benson who would get Jimi his very first guitar. By this time Jimi and Al had lost their home and moved into a boarding house, and the owner's son had an acoustic guitar with only one string that he was planning to throw out. When Jimi asked if he could have it instead of it being thrown out, the owner told him he could have it for five dollars. Al Hendrix refused to pay that much for it, but Ernestine Benson bought Jimi the guitar. She said later “He only had one string, but he could really make that string talk.” He started carrying the guitar on his back everywhere he went, in imitation of Sterling Hayden in the western Johnny Guitar, and eventually got some more strings for it and learned to play. He would play it left-handed -- until his father came in. His father had forced him to write with his right hand, and was convinced that left-handedness was the work of the devil, so Jimi would play left-handed while his father was somewhere else, but as soon as Al came in he would flip the guitar the other way up and continue playing the song he had been playing, now right-handed. Jimi's mother died when he was fifteen, after having been ill for a long time with drink-related problems, and Jimi and his brother didn't get to go to the funeral -- depending on who you believe, either Al gave Jimi the bus fare and told him to go by himself and Jimi was too embarrassed to go to the funeral alone on the bus, or Al actually forbade Jimi and Leon from going.  After this, he became even more introverted than he was before, and he also developed a fascination with the idea of angels, convinced his mother now was one. Jimi started to hang around with a friend called Pernell Alexander, who also had a guitar, and they would play along together with Elmore James records. The two also went to see Little Richard and Bill Doggett perform live, and while Jimi was hugely introverted, he did start to build more friendships in the small Seattle music scene, including with Ron Holden, the man we talked about in the episode on "Louie Louie" who introduced that song to Seattle, and who would go on to record with Bruce Johnston for Bob Keane: [Excerpt: Ron Holden, "Gee But I'm Lonesome"] Eventually Ernestine Benson persuaded Al Hendrix to buy Jimi a decent electric guitar on credit -- Al also bought himself a saxophone at the same time, thinking he might play music with his son, but sent it back once the next payment became due. As well as blues and R&B, Jimi was soaking up the guitar instrumentals and garage rock that would soon turn into surf music. The first song he learned to play was "Tall Cool One" by the Fabulous Wailers, the local group who popularised a version of "Louie Louie" based on Holden's one: [Excerpt: The Fabulous Wailers, "Tall Cool One"] As we talked about in the "Louie Louie" episode, the Fabulous Wailers used to play at a venue called the Spanish Castle, and Jimi was a regular in the audience, later writing his song "Spanish Castle Magic" about those shows: [Excerpt: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Spanish Castle Magic"] He was also a big fan of Duane Eddy, and soon learned Eddy's big hits "Forty Miles of Bad Road", "Because They're Young", and "Peter Gunn" -- a song he would return to much later in his life: [Excerpt: Jimi Hendrix, "Peter Gunn/Catastrophe"] His career as a guitarist didn't get off to a great start -- the first night he played with his first band, he was meant to play two sets, but he was fired after the first set, because he was playing in too flashy a manner and showing off too much on stage. His girlfriend suggested that he might want to tone it down a little, but he said "That's not my style".  This would be a common story for the next several years. After that false start, the first real band he was in was the Velvetones, with his friend Pernell Alexander. There were four guitarists, two piano players, horns and drums, and they dressed up with glitter stuck to their pants. They played Duane Eddy songs, old jazz numbers, and "Honky Tonk" by Bill Doggett, which became Hendrix's signature song with the band. [Excerpt: Bill Doggett, "Honky Tonk"] His father was unsupportive of his music career, and he left his guitar at Alexander's house because he was scared that his dad would smash it if he took it home. At the same time he was with the Velvetones, he was also playing with another band called the Rocking Kings, who got gigs around the Seattle area, including at the Spanish Castle. But as they left school, most of Hendrix's friends were joining the Army, in order to make a steady living, and so did he -- although not entirely by choice. He was arrested, twice, for riding in stolen cars, and he was given a choice -- either go to prison, or sign up for the Army for three years. He chose the latter. At first, the Army seemed to suit him. He was accepted into the 101st Airborne Division, the famous "Screaming Eagles", whose actions at D-Day made them legendary in the US, and he was proud to be a member of the Division. They were based out of Fort Campbell, the base near Clarksville we talked about a couple of episodes ago, and while he was there he met a bass player, Billy Cox, who he started playing with. As Cox and Hendrix were Black, and as Fort Campbell straddled the border between Kentucky and Tennessee, they had to deal with segregation and play to only Black audiences. And Hendrix quickly discovered that Black audiences in the Southern states weren't interested in "Louie Louie", Duane Eddy, and surf music, the stuff he'd been playing in Seattle. He had to instead switch to playing Albert King and Slim Harpo songs, but luckily he loved that music too. He also started singing at this point -- when Hendrix and Cox started playing together, in a trio called the Kasuals, they had no singer, and while Hendrix never liked his own voice, Cox was worse, and so Hendrix was stuck as the singer. The Kasuals started gigging around Clarksville, and occasionally further afield, places like Nashville, where Arthur Alexander would occasionally sit in with them. But Cox was about to leave the Army, and Hendrix had another two and a bit years to go, having enlisted for three years. They couldn't play any further away unless Hendrix got out of the Army, which he was increasingly unhappy in anyway, and so he did the only thing he could -- he pretended to be gay, and got discharged on medical grounds for homosexuality. In later years he would always pretend he'd broken his ankle parachuting from a plane. For the next few years, he would be a full-time guitarist, and spend the periods when he wasn't earning enough money from that leeching off women he lived with, moving from one to another as they got sick of him or ran out of money. The Kasuals expanded their lineup, adding a second guitarist, Alphonso Young, who would show off on stage by playing guitar with his teeth. Hendrix didn't like being upstaged by another guitarist, and quickly learned to do the same. One biography I've used as a source for this says that at this point, Billy Cox played on a session for King Records, for Frank Howard and the Commanders, and brought Hendrix along, but the producer thought that Hendrix's guitar was too frantic and turned his mic off. But other sources say the session Hendrix and Cox played on for the Commanders wasn't until three years later, and the record *sounds* like a 1965 record, not a 1962 one, and his guitar is very audible – and the record isn't on King. But we've not had any music to break up the narration for a little while, and it's a good track (which later became a Northern Soul favourite) so I'll play a section here, as either way it was certainly an early Hendrix session: [Excerpt: Frank Howard and the Commanders, "I'm So Glad"] This illustrates a general problem with Hendrix's life at this point -- he would flit between bands, playing with the same people at multiple points, nobody was taking detailed notes, and later, once he became famous, everyone wanted to exaggerate their own importance in his life, meaning that while the broad outlines of his life are fairly clear, any detail before late 1966 might be hopelessly wrong. But all the time, Hendrix was learning his craft. One story from around this time  sums up both Hendrix's attitude to his playing -- he saw himself almost as much as a scientist as a musician -- and his slightly formal manner of speech.  He challenged the best blues guitarist in Nashville to a guitar duel, and the audience actually laughed at Hendrix's playing, as he was totally outclassed. When asked what he was doing, he replied “I was simply trying to get that B.B. King tone down and my experiment failed.” Bookings for the King Kasuals dried up, and he went to Vancouver, where he spent a couple of months playing in a covers band, Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, whose lead guitarist was Tommy Chong, later to find fame as one half of Cheech and Chong. But he got depressed at how white Vancouver was, and travelled back down south to join a reconfigured King Kasuals, who now had a horn section. The new lineup of King Kasuals were playing the chitlin circuit and had to put on a proper show, and so Hendrix started using all the techniques he'd seen other guitarists on the circuit use -- playing with his teeth like Alphonso Young, the other guitarist in the band, playing with his guitar behind his back like T-Bone Walker, and playing with a fifty-foot cord that allowed him to walk into the crowd and out of the venue, still playing, like Guitar Slim used to. As well as playing with the King Kasuals, he started playing the circuit as a sideman. He got short stints with many of the second-tier acts on the circuit -- people who had had one or two hits, or were crowd-pleasers, but weren't massive stars, like Carla Thomas or Jerry Butler or Slim Harpo. The first really big name he played with was Solomon Burke, who when Hendrix joined his band had just released "Just Out of Reach (Of My Two Empty Arms)": [Excerpt: Solomon Burke, "Just Out of Reach (Of My Two Empty Arms)"] But he lacked discipline. “Five dates would go beautifully,” Burke later said, “and then at the next show, he’d go into this wild stuff that wasn’t part of the song. I just couldn’t handle it anymore.” Burke traded him to Otis Redding, who was on the same tour, for two horn players, but then Redding fired him a week later and they left him on the side of the road. He played in the backing band for the Marvelettes, on a tour with Curtis Mayfield, who would be another of Hendrix's biggest influences, but he accidentally blew up Mayfield's amp and got sacked. On another tour, Cecil Womack threw Hendrix's guitar off the bus while he slept. In February 1964 he joined the band of the Isley Brothers, and he would watch the Beatles on Ed Sullivan with them during his first days with the group. Assuming he hadn't already played the Rosa Lee Brooks session (and I think there's good reason to believe he hadn't), then the first record Hendrix played on was their single "Testify": [Excerpt: The Isley Brothers, "Testify"] While he was with them, he also moonlighted on Don Covay's big hit "Mercy, Mercy": [Excerpt: Don Covay and the Goodtimers, "Mercy Mercy"] After leaving the Isleys, Hendrix joined the minor soul singer Gorgeous George, and on a break from Gorgeous George's tour, in Memphis, he went to Stax studios in the hope of meeting Steve Cropper, one of his idols. When he was told that Cropper was busy in the studio, he waited around all day until Cropper finished, and introduced himself. Hendrix was amazed to discover that Cropper was white -- he'd assumed that he must be Black -- and Cropper was delighted to meet the guitarist who had played on "Mercy Mercy", one of his favourite records. The two spent hours showing each other guitar licks -- Hendrix playing Cropper's right-handed guitar, as he hadn't brought along his own. Shortly after this, he joined Little Richard's band, and once again came into conflict with the star of the show by trying to upstage him. For one show he wore a satin shirt, and after the show Richard screamed at him “I am the only Little Richard! I am the King of Rock and Roll, and I am the only one allowed to be pretty. Take that shirt off!” While he was with Richard, Hendrix played on his "I Don't Know What You've Got, But It's Got Me", which like "Mercy Mercy" was written by Don Covay, who had started out as Richard's chauffeur: [Excerpt: Little Richard, "I Don't Know What You've Got, But It's Got Me"] According to the most likely version of events I've read, it was while he was working for Richard that Hendrix met Rosa Lee Brooks, on New Year's Eve 1964. At this point he was using the name Maurice James, apparently in tribute to the blues guitarist Elmore James, and he used various names, including Jimmy James, for most of his pre-fame performances. Rosa Lee Brooks was an R&B singer who had been mentored by Johnny "Guitar" Watson, and when she met Hendrix she was singing in a girl group who were one of the support acts for Ike & Tina Turner, who Hendrix went to see on his night off. Hendrix met Brooks afterwards, and told her she looked like his mother -- a line he used on a lot of women, but which was true in her case if photos are anything to go by. The two got into a relationship, and were soon talking about becoming a duo like Ike and Tina or Mickey and Sylvia -- "Love is Strange" was one of Hendrix's favourite records. But the only recording they made together was the "My Diary" single. Brooks always claimed that she actually wrote that song, but the label credit is for Arthur Lee, and it sounds like his work to me, albeit him trying hard to write like Curtis Mayfield, just as Hendrix is trying to play like him: [Excerpt: Rosa Lee Brooks, "My Diary"] Brooks and Hendrix had a very intense relationship for a short period. Brooks would later recall Little Richard trying to persuade them to have sex while he watched, which they refused to do, and Hendrix soon quit playing for Little Richard and joined Ike and Tina Turner's band. But then Ike Turner fired him for being too flashy, and he rejoined Little Richard, quitting (or being fired) again when the tour hit New York. Hendrix soon ran out of money and sent Brooks a letter from New York saying he'd had to pawn his guitar -- a line he used on women he was asking for money all the time. She sent him forty dollars and a photo, but never heard from him again. Brooks would go on to have a minor career as a singer, but would never have any great success. You can get an idea of the kind of thing she did from one of the oddest records she made -- it was still normal at this time for hits to be covered for different markets, though it wasn't anything like as common as it had been even a few years earlier, and so in 1966, a few weeks after the original came out, Brooks recorded what was publicised as "The R&B version" of "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Ha", the song that had been a hit for Napoleon XIV: [Excerpt: Rose Brooks, "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Ha"] Sadly she died in December last year. In New York, Hendrix hit the lowest point of his professional career. After having played with some of the best performers on the circuit, he was reduced to playing with a local band, Curtis Knight and the Squires, whose lead singer was actually just a pimp who sang a bit on the side. The one advantage of the Squires was that they allowed Hendrix to show off a bit -- with no real star, and not even really any particularly good musicians in the band other than him, he was given the space to play what he wanted, at least on stage. Knight had a contract with a record producer, Ed Chalpin, who made knockoff cover versions for overseas markets and other exploitation records, and Chalpin signed Hendrix to a recording contract, mostly to work as a sideman. At this time, he played on such terrible records as Curtis Knight's "How Do You Feel?", a rip-off of "Like a Rolling Stone": [Excerpt: Curtis Knight, "How Would You Feel?"] He also played bass on "As the Clouds Drift By", by the fading film star Jayne Mansfield: [Excerpt; Jayne Mansfield, "As the Clouds Drift By"] In all, he recorded thirty-three sides with Chalpin, none of them of any worth, and which would be endlessly repackaged under Hendrix's name later. His career picked up slightly when he joined Joey Dee and the Starliters, the group who'd had a hit a couple of years earlier with "Peppermint Twist" and were still getting reasonably good bookings -- and this was his first experience of playing in a multiracial band since his early days playing around Seattle. He moved on from Joey Dee to King Curtis, the great saxophone player who'd played on so many hits on Atlantic Records, and played with Curtis on "Instant Groove": [Excerpt: King Curtis, "Instant Groove"] But soon he was back playing with Curtis Knight again. And it was when he was playing with Curtis Knight that he met the person who would change his life. Linda Keith was, at this time, Keith Richards' girlfriend. She was a model, she was twenty years old, and she shared Richards' massive love of the blues. She'd flown over to New York a month before the Stones were due to tour the US, so she could spend some time exploring the clubs. And when she walked in to the tiny club that Curtis Knight and the Squires were playing, she was astonished to see one of the greatest blues guitarists she'd ever heard, playing with a terrible band. She struck up a conversation with the guitarist, who was calling himself Jimmy James. and invited him back to a party with her friends. At the party someone offered him acid, and it says everything about the difference between the white and Black music scenes in New York at this point that his reply was, in all sincerity, "No, I don’t want any of that, but I’d love to try some of that LSD stuff". He had no idea that acid and LSD were the same thing, as among the musicians he was playing with, LSD was regarded as a "white drug", and some of Hendrix's friends would seriously try to talk him out of taking it in future by saying that it made you "think like a white man". While he was on acid, he saw himself in the mirror and was convinced he looked just like Marilyn Monroe. And then Linda Keith put on what he became convinced was the greatest album ever, Bob Dylan's new album Blonde on Blonde: [Excerpt: Bob Dylan, "Just Like a Woman"] Hendrix was already a big fan of Dylan. He'd even taken to styling his hair in imitation of what he called Dylan's "white Afro", putting it in curlers to get the same look. But he thought Blonde on Blonde was even better than anything else he'd heard from Dylan, and became obsessed with the record. Hendrix bonded with Linda Keith over their shared love of both Dylan and blues. Their relationship remained platonic -- a rarity among Hendrix's relationships with women -- but Keith became determined she would use her contacts to make this guitarist a star. Shortly after this meeting, after playing a gig with another bad R&B band, Hendrix was approached by a member of the audience -- a Black folk musician named Richie Havens who loved Hendrix's playing. They got talking, and they too bonded over a love for Dylan. Havens mentioned that he would often perform his own version of "Just Like a Woman" from Dylan's new album: [Excerpt: Richie Havens, "Just Like a Woman"] Hendrix said he'd like to listen to that, and so Havens told him about the Greenwich Village folk clubs where he played. Hendrix went down to see Havens, and then started hanging around the Village a lot, especially a place called the Cafe Wha?, where Tim Rose used to play, and it was there that he picked up on Rose's slow version of "Hey Joe". Hendrix decided that he was going to start playing the Greenwich Village scene, and he put together a band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, named after the band that backed Junior Parker, the blues musician who did the original version of "Mystery Train". The band had a revolving lineup that at various times included Randy California, later to become famous in the band Spirit, and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, who would go on to play with Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers. And Hendrix absolutely blew the Greenwich Village crowds away. You see, you'll notice that there are roughly three types of story that successful musicians have for the beginning of their career -- three broad shapes they fall into. The first is the one that, say, the Beach Boys or Elvis had -- someone who has literally never played a gig in their lives goes into a small record label and cuts a local hit, then gets picked up by a major label. In the case of the Beach Boys and Elvis, that obviously led to substantial careers with huge artistic and commercial success, but that's also the story behind a hell of a lot of one-hit wonders. Then there's the one that most of the Greenwich Village folk scene, the British trad and skiffle scenes, and the British blues bands, mostly fall into -- people with some live experience, but not that much, playing odd gigs for six months or a year or so, mostly as a kind of gentleman amateur, playing in front of your friends from art school or the local left-wing activist group, half of whom are also musicians playing those same venues, and who are willing to put up with a bit of sloppiness if you're enthusiastic enough and you know the catalogue number of the original issue of "Jim Jackson's Kansas City Blues" on the Vocalion label. Those scenes would often produce great songwriters, but usually rather mediocre musicians, and when they did produce a genuinely good musician, it was usually someone who played in a very scholarly fashion -- expertly reproducing someone else's sound in a rather clinical way, rather than innovating. But then there's the people who played the Chitlin Circuit and the equivalent white working class country venues. Places where you were playing multiple shows a day, every day, for audiences of poor people who insist on value for money if they're spending some of what little they have on a night out after a hard week of working, and who will throw fruit at best, and bottles at worst, at you if you weren't putting on a good show. To survive playing those venues, you had to be an exceptional musician, *and* an exceptional entertainer. You had to be able to put on a show while you were playing expertly, and if you couldn't play your guitar behind your head, perfectly in tune, while you were also doing the synchronised dance routine for the lead singer's latest single they only recorded the day before, well there were plenty of other musicians out there who wanted the gig. And the crowds at the Cafe Wha?, where Jimmy James and the Blue Flames were playing, were crowds whose experience of music was almost entirely from type two, and they were now watching a performer of type three. On the Chitlin Circuit, Hendrix had been one of the best players around, but not so far ahead of everyone else that he couldn't be replaced if he started thinking himself more important than the star. On the Greenwich Village folk scene, though, he was unlike anything anyone had seen. Richie Havens sent Mike Bloomfield, the guitarist with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band who'd played on several Dylan sessions, and was widely regarded as the best rock guitarist in New York, to see the Blue Flames, and he said "Hendrix knew who I was and that day, in front of my eyes, he burned me to death. H-bombs were going off, guided missiles were flying—I can’t tell you the sounds he was getting out of his instrument. He was getting every sound I was ever to hear him get, right there in that room with a Stratocaster. . . . How he did this, I wish I understood.” The Blue Flames' set was mostly covers of contemporary hits, but they also did "Hey Joe", at the same speed that Tim Rose played it, but with the lyrics as rewritten by Johnny Echols, though without the grass roots verse: [Excerpt: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Hey Joe"] As well as playing with the Blue Flames, Hendrix was also playing with other artists on the Greenwich Village scene, like John Hammond junior, who brought his father along to see Hendrix. Hammond senior was unimpressed, but one of the people who worked at the cafe where they played later said "He just blew everybody away. He played behind his back, all that stuff he had stolen from T-Bone Walker. We thought he invented it. No one there realised there was a Black tradition that went back to the 1920s.” Meanwhile Linda Keith was trying to get other people interested. She wasn't helped by the fact that when the Rolling Stones came over, Keith Richards became convinced that she was having an affair with Hendrix, and became very jealous of him, which put Andrew Oldham off from signing him to Immediate Records -- though Keith also says that Hendrix's music was fundamentally not to Oldham's taste, as Oldham was far more interested in Phil Spector and the Beach Boys than in blues-based guitar rock. But then she bumped into Chas Chandler, the bass player of the Animals. The Animals were going to split up at the end of the tour, and Chandler was planning on going into management and production in partnership with Mike Jeffrey, the Animals' manager, who seemed to have a variety of dodgy underworld connections. Chandler had even decided on what record he was going to produce -- he was convinced that Tim Rose's arrangement of "Hey Joe" could be a hit, if he could find someone good to play it. Keith told him to come and see Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, and when they opened their set with "Hey Joe", Chandler got so excited he spilled his milkshake all over himself. Chandler had to finish his tour, and in the meantime Linda Keith split up with Keith Richards, who took revenge on her by telling her father she was dating a "Black junkie" -- her father had her made a ward of the court as she was not yet twenty-one, flew over from England and dragged her back with him. But when the Animals tour finished, Chandler returned to New York, tracked Hendrix down, and persuaded him to come over to the UK. When he left New York, Jimi had forty dollars in his pocket, borrowed from John Hammond junior's drummer, and his only other possessions in the world were his guitar, a single change of clothes, his hair curlers, and a jar of cream for his acne. In the UK, Hendrix was an immediate sensation. At the time, the biggest guitar hero in the country was Eric Clapton, who had recently formed the group Cream: [Excerpt: Cream, "I Feel Free"] 75) We'll be dealing with Cream in a future episode, so I won't talk too much about them now, but the important thing here is that Clapton was considered so great that "Clapton is God" was a popular graffito in London at the time. Chandler prevailed upon his acquaintance with the band to get them to let Hendrix get up on stage with them and jam on Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor", and Hendrix started doing things on guitar that Clapton found unimaginable, his jaw dropping on stage. Jack Bruce, Cream's bassist, later said "It must have been difficult for Eric to handle, because he was ‘God,’ and this unknown person comes along, and *burns*.” Also in the audience was Jeff Beck, the *other* great guitar hero in Britain, and he was similarly impressed. Everyone knew that there was a new best guitarist in town. Now all he needed was a band and a record. The question of a band caused some conflict between Hendrix and Chandler. Hendrix wanted a big band of the kind he was used to playing with, with a horn section, but Chandler was insistent that what he needed was a small rock group without too many other instruments. Chandler at first tried to get Brian Auger and the Trinity to drop their guitarist and install Hendrix as guitarist and frontman, but Auger quite rightly refused to do so, and so Chandler decided to put together a band for Hendrix. Auger did, though, let Hendrix sit in with the group one night, which gave Hendrix his first experience of playing through a Marshall amp, which quickly became his favoured equipment. The first person they took on was Noel Redding, who Chandler discovered in the auditions for Eric Burdon's New Animals, which Chandler was attending. Redding was a guitarist, but Chandler persuaded him to change to bass, and Hendrix liked him because he had hair like Bob Dylan's, so he was in the group. Chandler's connections were paying off for Hendrix in ways that he couldn't have imagined even a few months earlier. Hendrix got a girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham, who was part of the London scene, and they happened to bump into Ringo Starr in a club. Etchingham complained that they were living in a rather cramped hotel room, and Starr had a spare two-bedroom flat in one of the most expensive parts of central London he wasn't using, so he let it to them for thirty pounds a month, and Hendrix and Etchingham moved into one bedroom while Chandler and his girlfriend took the other. Hendrix was for the most part just going to clubs, getting on stage with more famous musicians, and playing a couple of songs using all the tricks he learned on the chitlin circuit, blowing the other musicians off stage. At one of these events, Johnny Hallyday was in the audience. Hallyday was known as "the French Elvis", but he had recently started trying to update his music, making records with psychedelic and soul elements, with Brian Auger on keyboards and Mick Jones, later of Foreigner, on guitar, and covering recent hits from other countries in French: [Excerpt: Johnny Hallyday, "Je veux te graver dans ma vie"] Hallyday was impressed by Hendrix, and invited him to be his support act on a residency at the Paris Olympia and a couple of warm-up gigs before that, at the bottom of the bill with Brian Auger between Hendrix and the main attraction. The very first gigs for the Jimi Hendrix Experience -- a name chosen by Mike Jeffrey -- would be supporting France's biggest ever rock star. Of course, that meant that they needed a drummer, and the one they chose was actually the ex drummer of the Blue Flames -- but not Hendrix's old band the Blue Flames, nor Junior Parker's band of that name, but rather the band that backed the British R&B keyboardist and Mose Allison soundalike Georgie Fame: [Excerpt: Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, "See Saw"] Mitch Mitchell had been given drum lessons by Jim Marshall, and had played briefly with the Who when they were finding a drummer to replace Doug Sandom, and with the Pretty Things, but was best known as a child actor, having appeared in the film Bottoms Up with Jimmy Edwards, Melvyn Hayes, and Richard Briers: [Excerpt: Bottoms Up] He had also starred as the schoolboy Jennings in the TV series based on the series of school novels by Anthony Buckeridge. Mitchell was chosen as the result of a coin-toss, the other option being Aynsley Dunbar, but he turned out to be perfect for the group, and after fairly rough try-out shows, by the time the group hit the Olympia they were receiving an overwhelming reception -- so much so that in early 1967, Johnny Hallyday recorded this: [Excerpt: Johnny Hallyday, "Hey Joe"] A week after the Olympia show -- a month after Hendrix first arrived in the UK with no money and no possessions -- the group were in the studio to record their first single. For a B-side, Hendrix wanted to rerecord "Mercy Mercy", the Don Covay song he'd played on, but Chandler explained to him that the real money was in songwriting, so he should write a song, and Hendrix came up with "Stone Free": [Excerpt: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Stone Free"] The A-side, of course, was going to be "Hey Joe", and while they were going to use Hendrix's bluesy guitar part and the Echols version of the lyrics, Chandler also wanted to have the same kind of build that Tim Rose's version had. Rose had had block backing vocals, so Chandler brought in Britain's top session-singing girl group the Breakaways. The Breakaways had started out as part of the Vernons Girls, a sixteen-piece female choir formed from staff at Vernons football pools company in Liverpool, who had come to fame on Oh Boy! After Oh Boy! the Vernons Girls had split into several smaller groups, one keeping the name The Vernons Girls and going on to make some rather fun girl-group records, often written by future Vicar of Dibley star Trevor Peacock: [Excerpt: The Vernons Girls, "You Know What I Mean"] Another of the small groups formed from the large one had gone on to become the Fordettes, backing Emile Ford, the singer who was one of Britain's first Black pop stars and had the first UK number one of the sixties with a record produced by Joe Meek. Then one of them had become engaged to Joe Brown, so they'd broken away from Ford and become the Breakaways, backing Brown. They'd made some singles of their own, like "That's How it Goes": [Excerpt: The Breakaways, "That's How it Goes"] But they'd become best known as session singers, providing backing vocals for Cilla Black, Cliff Richard, Lulu, and Petula Clark -- that's them singing on "Downtown": [Excerpt: Petula Clark, "Downtown"] So Chandler brought them in to sing the backing vocals, which became a crucial part of the record, providing the block chordal support that might otherwise be provided by a keyboard or rhythm guitar, allowing the members of the Experience to improvise over their solid backing: [Excerpt: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Hey Joe"] But while they'd recorded their first single, they had no label yet -- Chandler and Jeffreys had sunk their own money into the sessions, just knowing that the single would be a hit. The first few labels they took it to turned them down, but while that was going on the press grew steadily more interested in Hendrix -- though there was a problem for his publicist when writing his first press biography, because Hendrix had played with so many great musicians they were actually worried he would look like he was lying if they named them all. Hendrix was now making some money, but was living off a £15 a week salary he was being paid by Chandler and Jeffreys as an advance against future royalties, and was short enough on cash that when Little Richard appeared in London, Hendrix went backstage to see if he could get fifty dollars that Richard owed him in unpaid salary from his time with the band. Richard countered that Hendrix had missed the band bus and so he'd been fined that fifty dollars, and Hendrix left empty handed Eventually, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was signed to Track Records, the new label being set up by Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, the Who's managers, partly on the recommendation of Pete Townshend, who after being unimpressed with Hendrix on first meeting him, was wowed by seeing him live and became one of his biggest admirers. The new label got the group an appearance on Ready Steady Go!, the biggest music TV show in Britain, for the same day that the record came out, and it quickly entered the top ten. Jimi Hendrix had started 1966 living penniless in New York, playing for a band that nobody liked, facing eviction, and going hungry. He ended the year a pop star, living in a luxury flat owned by another pop star, with every important guitarist in Britain worshipping him. For Jimi Hendrix, as for the music world generally, 1966 had been a revolutionary year that had changed everything. And as we head into 1967, we're going to see how the ripples from those changes spread out and change the whole of society.
Apr 16, 2022
Episode 146: “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys
Episode one hundred and forty-six of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, and the history of the theremin. 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 "You're Gonna Miss Me" by the Thirteenth Floor Elevators. 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 There is no Mixcloud this week, because there were too many Beach Boys songs in the episode. I used many resources for this episode, most of which will be used in future Beach Boys episodes too. It’s difficult to enumerate everything here, because I have been an active member of the Beach Boys fan community for twenty-four years, and have at times just used my accumulated knowledge for this. But the resources I list here are ones I’ve checked for specific things. Stephen McParland has published many, many books on the California surf and hot-rod music scenes, including several on both the Beach Boys and Gary Usher.  His books can be found at https://payhip.com/CMusicBooks Andrew Doe’s Bellagio 10452 site is an invaluable resource. Jon Stebbins’ The Beach Boys FAQ is a good balance between accuracy and readability. And Philip Lambert’s Inside the Music of Brian Wilson is an excellent, though sadly out of print, musicological analysis of Wilson’s music from 1962 through 67. I have also referred to Brian Wilson’s autobiography, I Am Brian Wilson, and to Mike Love’s, Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy. As a good starting point for the Beach Boys’ music in general, I would recommend this budget-priced three-CD set, which has a surprisingly good selection of their material on it, including the single version of "Good Vibrations". Oddly, the single version of "Good Vibrations" is not on the The Smile Sessions box set. But an entire CD of outtakes of the track is, and that was the source for the session excerpts here. Information on Lev Termen comes from Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage by Albert Glinsky Transcript In ancient Greece, the god Hermes was a god of many things, as all the Greek gods were. Among those things, he was the god of diplomacy, he was a trickster god, a god of thieves, and he was a messenger god, who conveyed messages between realms. He was also a god of secret knowledge. In short, he was the kind of god who would have made a perfect spy. But he was also an inventor. In particular he was credited in Greek myth as having invented the lyre, an instrument somewhat similar to a guitar, harp, or zither, and as having used it to create beautiful sounds. But while Hermes the trickster god invented the lyre, in Greek myth it was a mortal man, Orpheus, who raised the instrument to perfection. Orpheus was a legendary figure, the greatest poet and musician of pre-Homeric Greece, and all sorts of things were attributed to him, some of which might even have been things that a real man of that name once did. He is credited with the "Orphic tripod" -- the classification of the elements into earth, water, and fire -- and with a collection of poems called the Rhapsodiae. The word Rhapsodiae comes from the Greek words rhaptein, meaning to stitch or sew, and ōidē, meaning song -- the word from which we get our word "ode", and  originally a rhapsōdos was someone who "stitched songs together" -- a reciter of long epic poems composed of several shorter pieces that the rhapsōdos would weave into one continuous piece. It's from that that we get the English word "rhapsody", which in the sixteenth century, when it was introduced into the language, meant a literary work that was a disjointed collection of patchwork bits, stitched together without much thought as to structure, but which now means a piece of music in one movement, but which has several distinct sections. Those sections may seem unrelated, and the piece may have an improvisatory feel, but a closer look will usually reveal relationships between the sections, and the piece as a whole will have a sense of unity. When Orpheus' love, Eurydice, died, he went down into Hades, the underworld where the souls of the dead lived, and played music so beautiful, so profound and moving, that the gods agreed that Orpheus could bring the soul of his love back to the land of the living. But there was one condition -- all he had to do was keep looking forward until they were both back on Earth. If he turned around before both of them were back in the mortal realm, she would disappear forever, never to be recovered. But of course, as you all surely know, and would almost certainly have guessed even if you didn't know because you know how stories work, once Orpheus made it back to our world he turned around and looked, because he lost his nerve and didn't believe he had really achieved his goal. And Eurydice, just a few steps away from her freedom, vanished back into the underworld, this time forever. [Excerpt: Blake Jones and the Trike Shop: "Mr. Theremin's Miserlou"] Lev Sergeyevich Termen was born in St. Petersburg, in what was then the Russian Empire, on the fifteenth of August 1896, by the calendar in use in Russia at that time -- the Russian Empire was still using the Julian calendar, rather than the Gregorian calendar used in most of the rest of the world, and in the Western world the same day was the twenty-seventh of August. Young Lev was fascinated both by science and the arts. He was trained as a cellist from an early age, but while he loved music, he found the process of playing the music cumbersome -- or so he would say later. He was always irritated by the fact that the instrument is a barrier between the idea in the musician's head and the sound -- that it requires training to play. As he would say later "I realised there was a gap between music itself and its mechanical production, and I wanted to unite both of them." Music was one of his big loves, but he was also very interested in physics, and was inspired by a lecture he saw from the physicist Abram Ioffe, who for the first time showed him that physics was about real, practical, things, about the movements of atoms and fields that really existed, not just about abstractions and ideals. When Termen went to university, he studied physics -- but he specifically wanted to be an experimental physicist, not a theoretician. He wanted to do stuff involving the real world. Of course, as someone who had the misfortune to be born in the late 1890s, Termen was the right age to be drafted when World War I started, but luckily for him the Russian Army desperately needed people with experience in the new invention that was radio, which was vital for wartime communications, and he spent the war in the Army radio engineering department, erecting radio transmitters and teaching other people how to erect them, rather than on the front lines, and he managed not only to get his degree in physics but also a diploma in music. But he was also becoming more and more of a Marxist sympathiser, even though he came from a relatively affluent background, and after the Russian Revolution he stayed in what was now the Red Army, at least for a time. Once Termen's Army service was over, he started working under Ioffe, working with him on practical applications of the audion, the first amplifying vacuum tube. The first one he found was that the natural capacitance of a human body when standing near a circuit can change the capacity of the circuit. He used that to create an invisible burglar alarm -- there was an antenna sending out radio waves, and if someone came within the transmitting field of the antenna, that would cause a switch to flip and a noise to be sounded. He was then asked to create a device for measuring the density of gases, outputting a different frequency for different densities. Because gas density can have lots of minor fluctuations because of air currents and so forth, he built a circuit that would cut out all the many harmonics from the audions he was using and give just the main frequency as a single pure tone, which he could listen to with headphones. That way,  slight changes in density would show up as a slight change in the tone he heard. But he noticed that again when he moved near the circuit, that changed the capacitance of the circuit and changed the tone he was hearing. He started moving his hand around near the circuit and getting different tones. The closer his hand got to the capacitor, the higher the note sounded. And if he shook his hand a little, he could get a vibrato, just like when he shook his hand while playing the cello. He got Ioffe to come and listen to him, and Ioffe said "That's an electronic Orpheus' lament!" [Excerpt: Blake Jones and the Trike Shop, "Mr. Theremin's Miserlou"] Termen figured out how to play Massenet's "Elegy" and Saint-Saens' "The Swan" using this system. Soon the students were all fascinated, telling each other "Termen plays Gluck on a voltmeter!" He soon figured out various refinements -- by combining two circuits, using the heterodyne principle, he could allow for far finer control. He added a second antenna, for volume control, to be used by the left hand -- the right hand would choose the notes, while the left hand would change the volume, meaning the instrument could be played without touching it at all. He called the instrument the "etherphone",  but other people started calling it the termenvox -- "Termen's voice". Termen's instrument was an immediate sensation, as was his automatic burglar alarm, and he was invited to demonstrate both of them to Lenin. Lenin was very impressed by Termen -- he wrote to Trotsky later talking about Termen's inventions, and how the automatic burglar alarm might reduce the number of guards needed to guard a perimeter. But he was also impressed by Termen's musical invention. Termen held his hands to play through the first half of a melody, before leaving the Russian leader to play the second half by himself -- apparently he made quite a good job of it. Because of Lenin's advocacy for his work, Termen was sent around the Soviet Union on a propaganda tour -- what was known as an "agitprop tour", in the familiar Soviet way of creating portmanteau words. In 1923 the first piece of music written specially for the instrument was performed by Termen himself with the Leningrad Philharmonic, Andrey Paschenko's Symphonic Mystery for Termenvox and Orchestra. The score for that was later lost, but has been reconstructed, and the piece was given a "second premiere" in 2020 [Excerpt: Andrey Paschenko, "Symphonic Mystery for Termenvox and Orchestra" ] But the musical instrument wasn't the only scientific innovation that Termen was working on. He thought he could reverse death itself, and bring the dead back to life.  He was inspired in this by the way that dead organisms could be perfectly preserved in the Siberian permafrost. He thought that if he could only freeze a dead person in the permafrost, he could then revive them later -- basically the same idea as the later idea of cryogenics, although Termen seems to have thought from the accounts I've read that all it would take would be to freeze and then thaw them, and not to have considered the other things that would be necessary to bring them back to life. Termen made two attempts to actually do this, or at least made preliminary moves in that direction. The first came when his assistant, a twenty-year-old woman, died of pneumonia. Termen was heartbroken at the death of someone so young, who he'd liked a great deal, and was convinced that if he could just freeze her body for a while he could soon revive her. He talked with Ioffe about this -- Ioffe was friends with the girl's family -- and Ioffe told him that he thought that he was probably right and probably could revive her. But he also thought that it would be cruel to distress the girl's parents further by discussing it with them, and so Termen didn't get his chance to experiment. He was even keener on trying his technique shortly afterwards, when Lenin died. Termen was a fervent supporter of the Revolution, and thought Lenin was a great man whose leadership was still needed -- and he had contacts within the top echelons of the Kremlin. He got in touch with them as soon as he heard of Lenin's death, in an attempt to get the opportunity to cryopreserve his corpse and revive him. Sadly, by this time it was too late. Lenin's brain had been pickled, and so the opportunity to resurrect him as a zombie Lenin was denied forever. Termen was desperately interested in the idea of bringing people back from the dead, and he wanted to pursue it further with his lab, but he was also being pushed to give demonstrations of his music, as well as doing security work -- Ioffe, it turned out, was also working as a secret agent, making various research trips to Germany that were also intended to foment Communist revolution. For now, Termen was doing more normal security work -- his burglar alarms were being used to guard bank vaults and the like, but this was at the order of the security state. But while Termen was working on his burglar alarms and musical instruments and attempts to revive dead dictators, his main project was his doctoral work, which was on the TV. We've said before in this podcast that there's no first anything, and that goes just as much for inventions as it does for music. Most inventions build on work done by others, which builds on work done by others, and so there were a lot of people building prototype TVs at this point. In Britain we tend to say "the inventor of the TV" was John Logie Baird, but Baird was working at the same time as people like the American Charles Francis Jenkins and the Japanese inventor Kenjiro Takayanagi, all of them building on earlier work by people like Archibald Low. Termen's prototype TV, the first one in Russia, came slightly later than any of those people, but was created more or less independently, and was more advanced in several ways, with a bigger screen and better resolution. Shortly after Lenin's death, Termen was invited to demonstrate his invention to Stalin, who professed himself amazed at the "magic mirror". [Excerpt: Blake Jones and the Trike Shop, "Astronauts in Trouble"] Termen was sent off to tour Europe giving demonstrations of his inventions, particularly his musical instrument. It was on this trip that he started using the Romanisation "Leon Theremin", and this is how Western media invariably referred to him. Rather than transliterate the Cyrillic spelling of his birth name, he used the French spelling his Huguenot ancestors had used before they emigrated to Russia, and called himself Leo or Leon rather than Lev. He was known throughout his life by both names, but said to a journalist in 1928 "First of all, I am not Tair-uh-MEEN. I wrote my name with French letters for French pronunciation. I am Lev Sergeyevich Tair-MEN.". We will continue to call him Termen, partly because he expressed that mild preference (though again, he definitely went by both names through choice) but also to distinguish him from the instrument, because while his invention remained known in Russia as the termenvox, in the rest of the world it became known as the theremin. He performed at the Paris Opera, and the New York Times printed a review saying "Some musicians were extremely pessimistic about the possibilities of the device, because at times M. Theremin played lamentably out of tune. But the finest Stradivarius, in the hands of a tyro, can give forth frightful sounds. The fact that the inventor was able to perform certain pieces with absolute precision proves that there remains to be solved only questions of practice and technique." Termen also came to the UK, where he performed in front of an audience including George Bernard Shaw, Arnold Bennett, Henry Wood and others. Arnold Bennett was astonished, but Bernard Shaw, who had very strong opinions about music, as anyone who has read his criticism will be aware, compared the sound unfavourably to that of a comb and paper. After performing in Europe, Termen made his way to the US, to continue his work of performance, propagandising for the Soviet Revolution, and trying to license the patents for his inventions, to bring money both to him and to the Soviet state. He entered the US on a six-month visitor's visa, but stayed there for eleven years, renewing the visa every six months. His initial tour was a success, though at least one open-air concert had to be cancelled because, as the Communist newspaper the Daily Worker put it, "the weather on Saturday took such a counter-revolutionary turn". Nicolas Slonimsky, the musicologist we've encountered several times before, and who would become part of Termen's circle in the US, reviewed one of the performances, and described the peculiar audiences that Termen was getting -- "a considerable crop of ladies and gentlemen engaged in earnest exploration of the Great Beyond...the mental processes peculiar to believers in cosmic vibrations imparted a beatific look to some of the listeners. Boston is a seat of scientific religion; before he knows it Professor Theremin may be proclaimed Krishnamurti and sanctified as a new deity". Termen licensed his patents on the invention to RCA, who in 1929 started mass-producing the first ever theremins for general use. Termen also started working with the conductor Leopold Stokowski, including developing a new kind of theremin for Stokowski's orchestra to use, one with a fingerboard played like a cello. Stokowski said "I believe we shall have orchestras of these electric instruments. Thus will begin a new era in music history, just as modern materials and methods of construction have produced a new era of architecture." Possibly of more interest to the wider public, Lennington Sherwell, the son of an RCA salesman, took up the theremin professionally, and joined the band of Rudy Vallee, one of the most popular singers of the period. Vallee was someone who constantly experimented with new sounds, and has for example been named as the first band leader to use an electric banjo, and Vallee liked the sound of the theremin so much he ordered a custom-built left-handed one for himself. Sherwell stayed in Vallee's band for quite a while, and performed with him on the radio and in recording sessions, but it's very difficult to hear him in any of the recordings -- the recording equipment in use in 1930 was very primitive, and Vallee had a very big band with a lot of string and horn players, and his arrangements tended to have lots of instruments playing in unison rather than playing individual lines that are easy to differentiate. On top of that, the fashion at the time when playing the instrument was to try and have it sound as much like other instruments as possible -- to duplicate the sound of a cello or violin or clarinet, rather than to lean in to the instrument's own idiosyncracies. I *think* though that I can hear Sherwell's playing in the instrumental break of Vallee's big hit "You're Driving Me Crazy" -- certainly it was recorded at the time that Sherwell was in the band, and there's an instrument in there with a very pure tone, but quite a lot of vibrato, in the mid range, that seems only to be playing in the break and not the rest of the song. I'm not saying this is *definitely* a theremin solo on one of the biggest hits of 1930, but I'm not saying it's not, either: [Excerpt: Rudy Vallee, "You're Driving Me Crazy" ] Termen also invented a light show to go along with his instrument -- the illumovox, which had a light shining through a strip of gelatin of different colours, which would be rotated depending on the pitch of the theremin, so that lower notes would cause the light to shine a deep red, while the highest notes would make it shine a light blue, with different shades in between. By 1930, though, Termen's fortunes had started to turn slightly. Stokowski kept using theremins in the orchestra for a while, especially the fingerboard models to reinforce the bass, but they caused problems. As Slonimsky said "The infrasonic vibrations were so powerful...that they hit the stomach physically, causing near-nausea in the double-bass section of the orchestra". Fairly soon, the Theremin was overtaken by other instruments, like the ondes martenot, an instrument very similar to the theremin but with more precise control, and with a wider range of available timbres. And in 1931, RCA was sued by another company for patent infringement with regard to the Theremin -- the De Forest Radio Company had patents around the use of vacuum tubes in music, and they claimed damages of six thousand dollars, plus RCA had to stop making theremins. Since at the time, RCA had only made an initial batch of five hundred instruments total, and had sold 485 of them, many of them as promotional loss-leaders for future batches, they had actually made a loss of three hundred dollars even before the six thousand dollar damages, and decided not to renew their option on Termen's patents. But Termen was still working on his musical ideas. Slonimsky also introduced Termen to the avant-garde composer and theosophist Henry Cowell, who was interested in experimental sounds, and used to do things like play the strings inside the piano to get a different tone: [Excerpt: Henry Cowell, "Aeolian Harp and Sinister Resonance"] Cowell was part of a circle of composers and musicologists that included Edgard Varese, Charles Ives, and Charles Seeger and Ruth Crawford, who Cowell would introduce to each other. Crawford would later marry Seeger, and they would have several children together, including the folk singer Peggy Seeger, and Crawford would also adopt Seeger's son Pete. Cowell and Termen would together invent the rhythmicon, the first ever drum machine, though the rhythmicon could play notes as well as rhythms. Only two rhythmicons were made while Termen was in the US. The first was owned by Cowell. The second, improved, model was bought by Charles Ives, but bought as a gift for Cowell and Slonimsky to use in their compositions. Sadly, both rhythmicons eventually broke down, and no recording of either is known to exist. Termen started to get further and further into debt, especially as the Great Depression started to hit, and he also had a personal loss -- he'd been training a student and had fallen in love with her, although he was married. But when she married herself, he cut off all ties with her, though Clara Rockmore would become one of the few people to use the instrument seriously and become a real virtuoso on it. He moved into other fields, all loosely based around the same basic ideas of detecting someone's distance from an object. He built electronic gun detectors for Alcatraz and Sing-Sing prisons, and he came up with an altimeter for aeroplanes. There was also a "magic mirror" -- glass that appeared like a mirror until it was backlit, at which point it became transparent. This was put into shop windows along with a proximity detector -- every time someone stepped close to look at their reflection, the reflection would disappear and be replaced with the objects behind the mirror. He was also by this point having to spy for the USSR on a more regular basis. Every week he would meet up in a cafe with two diplomats from the Russian embassy, who would order him to drink several shots of vodka -- the idea was that they would loosen his inhibitions enough that he would not be able to hide things from them -- before he related various bits of industrial espionage he'd done for them. Having inventions of his own meant he was able to talk with engineers in the aerospace industry and get all sorts of bits of information that would otherwise not have been available, and he fed this back to Moscow. He eventually divorced his first wife, and remarried -- a Black American dancer many years his junior named Lavinia Williams, who would be the great love of his life. This caused some scandal in his social circle, more because of her race than the age gap. But by 1938 he had to leave the US. He'd been there on a six-month visa, which had been renewed every six months for more than a decade, and he'd also not been paying income tax and was massively in debt. He smuggled himself back to the USSR, but his wife was, at the last minute, not allowed on to the ship with him. He'd had to make the arrangements in secret, and hadn't even told her of the plans, so the first she knew was when he disappeared. He would later claim that the Soviets had told him she would be sent for two weeks later, but she had no knowledge of any of this. For decades, Lavinia would not even know if her husband was dead or alive. [Excerpt: Blake Jones and the Trike Shop, "Astronauts in Trouble"] When Termen got back to the USSR, he found it had changed beyond recognition. Stalin's reign of terror was now well underway, and not only could he not find a job, most of the people who he'd been in contact with at the top of the Kremlin had been purged. Termen was himself arrested and tortured into signing a false confession to counter-revolutionary activities and membership of fascist organisations. He was sentenced to eight years in a forced labour camp, which in reality was a death sentence -- it was expected that workers there would work themselves to death on starvation rations long before their sentences were up -- but relatively quickly he was transferred to a special prison where people with experience of aeronautical design were working. He was still a prisoner, but in conditions not too far removed from normal civilian life, and allowed to do scientific and technical work with some of the greatest experts in the field -- almost all of whom had also been arrested in one purge or another. One of the pieces of work Termen did was at the direct order of Laventy Beria, Stalin's right-hand man and the architect of most of the terrors of the Stalinist regime. In Spring 1945, while the USA and USSR were still supposed to be allies in World War II, Beria wanted to bug the residence of the US ambassador, and got Termen to design a bug that would get past all the normal screenings. The bug that Termen designed was entirely passive and unpowered -- it did nothing unless a microwave beam of a precise frequency was beamed at it, and only then did it start transmitting. It was placed in a wooden replica of the Great Seal of the United States, presented to the ambassador by a troupe of scouts as a gesture of friendship between the two countries. The wood in the eagle's beak was thin enough to let the sound through. It remained there for seven years, through the tenures of four ambassadors, only being unmasked when a British radio operator accidentally tuned to the frequency it was transmitting on and was horrified to hear secret diplomatic conversations. Upon its discovery, the US couldn't figure out how it worked, and eventually shared the information with MI5, who took eighteen months to reverse-engineer Termen's bug and come up with their own, which remained the standard bug in use for about a decade. The CIA's own attempts to reverse-engineer it failed altogether. It was also Termen who came up with that well-known bit of spycraft -- focussing an infra-red beam on a window pane, to use it to pick up the sound of conversations happening in the room behind it. Beria was so pleased with Termen's inventions that he got Termen to start bugging Stalin himself, so Beria would be able to keep track of Stalin's whims. Termen performed such great services for Beria that Beria actually allowed him to go free not long after his sentence was served. Not only that, but Beria nominated Termen for the Stalin Award, Class II, for his espionage work -- and Stalin, not realising that Termen had been bugging *him* as well as foreign powers, actually upgraded that to a Class I, the highest honour the Soviet state gave. While Termen was free, he found himself at a loose end, and ended up volunteering to work for the organisation he had been working for -- which went by many names but became known as the KGB from the 1950s onwards. He tried to persuade the government to let Lavinia, who he hadn't seen in eight years, come over and join him, but they wouldn't even allow him to contact her, and he eventually remarried. Meanwhile, after Stalin's death, Beria was arrested for his crimes, and charged under the same law that he had had Termen convicted under. Beria wasn't as lucky as Termen, though, and was executed. By 1964, Termen had had enough of the KGB, because they wanted him to investigate obvious pseudoscience -- they wanted him to look into aliens, UFOs, ESP... and telepathy. [Excerpt, The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations (early version)" "She's already working on my brain"] He quit and went back to civilian life.  He started working in the acoustics lab in Moscow Conservatory, although he had to start at the bottom because everything he'd been doing for more than a quarter of a century was classified. He also wrote a short book on electronic music. In the late sixties an article on him was published in the US -- the first sign any of his old friends had that he'd not  died nearly thirty years earlier. They started corresponding with him, and he became a minor celebrity again, but this was disapproved of by the Soviet government -- electronic music was still considered bourgeois decadence and not suitable for the Soviet Union, and all his instruments were smashed and he was sacked from the conservatory. He continued working in various technical jobs until the 1980s, and still continued inventing refinements of the theremin, although he never had any official support for his work. In the eighties, a writer tried to get him some sort of official recognition -- the Stalin Prize was secret -- and the university at which he was working sent a reply saying, in part, "L.S. Termen took part in research conducted by the department as an ordinary worker and he did not show enough creative activity, nor does he have any achievements on the basis of which he could be recommended for a Government decoration." By this time he was living in shared accommodation with a bunch of other people, one room to himself and using a shared bathroom, kitchen, and so on. After Glasnost he did some interviews and was asked about this, and said "I never wanted to make demands and don't want to now. I phoned the housing department about three months ago and inquired about my turn to have a new flat. The woman told me that my turn would come in five or six years. Not a very reassuring answer if one is ninety-two years old." In 1989 he was finally allowed out of the USSR again, for the first time in fifty-one years, to attend a UNESCO sponsored symposium on electronic music. Among other things, he was given, forty-eight years late, a letter that his old colleague Edgard Varese had sent about his composition Ecuatorial, which had originally been written for theremin. Varese had wanted to revise the work, and had wanted to get modified theremins that could do what he wanted, and had asked the inventor for help, but the letter had been suppressed by the Soviet government. When he got no reply, Varese had switched to using ondes martenot instead. [Excerpt: Edgard Varese, "Ecuatorial"] In the 1970s, after the death of his third wife, Termen had started an occasional correspondence with his second wife, Lavinia, the one who had not been able to come with him to the USSR and hadn't known if he was alive for so many decades. She was now a prominent activist in Haiti, having established dance schools in many Caribbean countries, and Termen still held out hope that they could be reunited, even writing her a letter in 1988 proposing remarriage. But sadly, less than a month after Termen's first trip outside the USSR, she died -- officially of a heart attack or food poisoning, but there's a strong suspicion that she was murdered by the military dictatorship for her closeness to Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the pro-democracy activist who later became President of Haiti. Termen was finally allowed to join the Communist Party in the spring of 1991, just before the USSR finally dissolved -- he'd been forbidden up to that point because of his conviction for counter-revolutionary crimes. He was asked by a Western friend why he'd done that when everyone else was trying to *leave* the Communist Party, and he explained that he'd made a promise to Lenin. In his final years he was researching immortality, going back to the work he had done in his youth, working with biologists, trying to find a way to restore elderly bodies to youthful vigour. But sadly he died in 1993, aged ninety-seven, before he achieved his goal. On one of his last trips outside the USSR, in 1991, he visited the US, and in California he finally got to hear the song that most people associate with his invention, even though it didn't actually feature a theremin: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations"] Back in the 1930s, when he was working with Slonimsky and Varese and Ives and the rest, Termen had set up the Theremin Studio, a sort of experimental arts lab, and in 1931 he had invited the musicologist, composer, and theoretician Joseph Schillinger to become a lecturer there. Schillinger had been one of the first composers to be really interested in the theremin, and had composed a very early piece written specifically for the instrument, the First Airphonic Suite: [Excerpt: Joseph Schillinger, "First Airphonic Suite"] But he was most influential as a theoretician. Schillinger believed that all of the arts were susceptible to rigorous mathematical analysis, and that you could use that analysis to generate new art according to mathematical principles, art that would be perfect. Schillinger planned to work with Termen to try to invent a machine that could compose, perform, and transmit music. The idea was that someone would be able to tune in a radio and listen to a piece of music in real time as it was being algorithmically composed and transmitted. The two men never achieved this, but Schillinger became very, very, respected as someone with a rigorous theory of musical structure -- though reading his magnum opus, the Schillinger System of Musical Composition, is frankly like wading through treacle. I'll read a short excerpt just to give an idea of his thinking: "On the receiving end, phasic stimuli produced by instruments encounter a metamorphic auditory integrator. This integrator represents the auditory apparatus as a whole and is a complex interdependent system. It consists of two receivers (ears), transmitters, auditory nerves, and a transformer, the auditory braincenter.  The response to a stimulus is integrated both quantitatively and selectively. The neuronic energy of response becomes the psychonic energy of auditory image. The response to stimuli and the process of integration are functional operations and, as such, can be described in mathematical terms , i.e., as  synchronization, addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc. But these integrative processes alone do not constitute the material of orchestration either.  The auditory image, whether resulting from phasic stimuli of an excitor or from selfstimulation of the auditory brain-center, can be described only in Psychological terms, of loudness, pitch, quality, etc. This leads us to the conclusion that the material of orchestration can be defined only as a group of conditions under which an integrated image results from a sonic stimulus subjected to an auditory response.  This constitutes an interdependent tripartite system, in which the existence of one component necessitates the existence of two others. The composer can imagine an integrated sonic form, yet he cannot transmit it to the auditor (unless telepathicaliy) without sonic stimulus and hearing apparatus." That's Schillinger's way of saying that if a composer wants someone to hear the music they've written, the composer needs a musical instrument and the listener needs ears and a brain. This kind of revolutionary insight made Schillinger immensely sought after in the early 1930s, and among his pupils were the swing bandleaders Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey, and the songwriter George Gershwin, who turned to Schillinger for advice when he was writing his opera Porgy and Bess: [Excerpt: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, "Here Come De Honey Man"] Another of his pupils was the trombonist and arranger Glenn Miller, who at that time was a session player working in pickup studio bands for people like Red Nichols. Miller spent some time studying with him in the early thirties, and applied those lessons when given the job of putting together arrangements for Ray Noble, his first prominent job. In 1938 Glenn Miller walked into a strip joint to see a nineteen-year-old he'd been told to take a look at. This was another trombonist, Paul Tanner, who was at the time working as a backing musician for the strippers. Miller had recently broken up his first big band, after a complete lack of success, and was looking to put together a new big band, to play arrangements in the style he had worked out while working for Noble. As Tanner later put it "he said, `Well, how soon can you come with me?' I said, `I can come right now.' I told him I was all packed, I had my toothbrush in my pocket and everything. And so I went with him that night, and I stayed with him until he broke the band up in September 1942." The new band spent a few months playing the kind of gigs that an unknown band can get, but they soon had a massive success with a song Miller had originally written as an arranging exercise set for him by Schillinger, a song that started out under the title "Miller's Tune", but soon became known worldwide as "Moonlight Serenade": [Excerpt: Glenn Miller, "Moonlight Serenade"] The Miller band had a lot of lineup changes in the four and a bit years it was together, but other than Miller himself there were only four members who were with that group throughout its career, from the early dates opening for  Freddie Fisher and His Schnickelfritzers right through to its end as the most popular band in America. They were piano player Chummy MacGregor, clarinet player Wilbur Schwartz, tenor sax player Tex Beneke, and Tanner. They played on all of Miller's big hits, like "In the Mood" and "Chattanooga Choo-Choo": [Excerpt: Glenn Miller, "Chattanooga Choo-Choo"] But in September 1942, the band broke up as the members entered the armed forces, and Tanner found himself in the Army while Miller was in the Air Force, so while both played in military bands, they weren't playing together, and Miller disappeared over the Channel, presumed dead, in 1944. Tanner became a session trombonist, based in LA, and in 1958 he found himself on a session for a film soundtrack with Dr. Samuel Hoffman. I haven't been able to discover for sure which film this was for, but the only film on which Hoffman has an IMDB credit for that year is that American International Pictures classic, Earth Vs The Spider: [Excerpt: Earth Vs The Spider trailer] Hoffman was a chiropodist, and that was how he made most of his living, but as a teenager in the 1930s he had been a professional violin player under the name Hal Hope. One of the bands he played in was led by a man named Jolly Coburn, who had seen Rudy Vallee's band with their theremin and decided to take it up himself. Hoffman had then also got a theremin, and started his own all-electronic trio, with a Hammond organ player, and with a cello-style fingerboard theremin played by William Schuman, the future Pulitzer Prize winning composer. By the 1940s, Hoffman was a full-time doctor, but he'd retained his Musicians' Union card just in case the odd gig came along, and then in 1945 he received a call from Miklos Rozsa, who was working on the soundtrack for Alfred Hitchcock's new film, Spellbound. Rozsa had tried to get Clara Rockmore, the one true virtuoso on the theremin playing at the time, to play on the soundtrack, but she'd refused -- she didn't do film soundtrack work, because in her experience they only wanted her to play on films about ghosts or aliens, and she thought it damaged the dignity of the instrument. Rozsa turned to the American Federation of Musicians, who as it turned out had precisely one theremin player who could read music and wasn't called Clara Rockmore on their books. So Dr. Samuel Hoffman, chiropodist, suddenly found himself playing on one of the most highly regarded soundtracks of one of the most successful films of the forties: [Excerpt: Miklos Rozsa, "Spellbound"] Rozsa soon asked Hoffman to play on another soundtrack, for the Billy Wilder film The Lost Weekend, another of the great classics of late forties cinema. Both films' soundtracks were nominated for the Oscar, and Spellbound's won, and Hoffman soon found himself in demand as a session player. Hoffman didn't have any of Rockmore's qualms about playing on science fiction and horror films, and anyone with any love of the genre will have heard his playing on genre classics like The Five Thousand Fingers of Dr T, The Thing From Another World, It Came From Outer Space, and of course Bernard Hermann's score for The Day The Earth Stood Still: [Excerpt: The Day The Earth Stood Still score] As well as on such less-than-classics as The Devil's Weed, Voodoo Island, The Mad Magician, and of course Billy The Kid Vs Dracula. Hoffman became something of a celebrity, and also recorded several albums of lounge music with a band led by Les Baxter, like the massive hit Music Out Of The Moon, featuring tracks like “Lunar Rhapsody”: [Excerpt: Samuel Hoffman, "Lunar Rhapsody”] [Excerpt: Neil Armstrong] That voice you heard there was Neil Armstrong, on Apollo 11 on its way back from the moon. He took a tape of Hoffman's album with him. But while Hoffman was something of a celebrity in the fifties, the work dried up almost overnight in 1958 when he worked at that session with Paul Tanner. The theremin is a very difficult instrument to play, and while Hoffman was a good player, he wasn't a great one -- he was getting the work because he was the best in a very small pool of players, not because he was objectively the best there could be. Tanner noticed that Hoffman was having quite some difficulty getting the pitching right in the session, and realised that the theremin must be a very difficult instrument to play because it had no markings at all. So he decided to build an instrument that had the same sound, but that was more sensibly controlled than just waving your hands near it. He built his own invention, the electrotheremin, in less than a week, despite never before having had any experience in electrical engineering. He built it using an oscillator, a length of piano wire and a contact switch that could be slid up and down the wire, changing the pitch. Two days after he finished building it, he was in the studio, cutting his own equivalent of Hoffman's forties albums, Music For Heavenly Bodies, including a new exotica version of "Moonlight Serenade", the song that Glenn Miller had written decades earlier as an exercise for Schillinger: [Excerpt: Paul Tanner, "Moonlight Serenade"] Not only could the electrotheremin let the player control the pitch more accurately, but it could also do staccato notes easily -- something that's almost impossible with an actual theremin. And, on top of that, Tanner was cheaper than Hoffman. An instrumentalist hired to play two instruments is paid extra, but not as much extra as paying for another musician to come to the session, and since Tanner was a first-call trombone player who was likely to be at the session *anyway*, you might as well hire him if you want a theremin sound, rather than paying for Hoffman. Tanner was an excellent musician -- he was a professor of music at UCLA as well as being a session player, and he authored one of the standard textbooks on jazz -- and soon he had cornered the market, leaving Hoffman with only the occasional gig. We will actually be seeing Hoffman again, playing on a session for an artist we're going to look at in a couple of months, but in LA in the early sixties, if you wanted a theremin sound, you didn't hire a theremin player, you hired Paul Tanner to play his electrotheremin -- though the instrument was so obscure that many people didn't realise he wasn't actually playing a theremin. Certainly Brian Wilson seems to have thought he was when he hired him for "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times"] We talked briefly about that track back in the episode on "God Only Knows",   but three days after recording that, Tanner was called back into the studio for another session on which Brian Wilson wanted a theremin sound. This was a song titled "Good, Good, Good Vibrations", and it was inspired by a conversation he'd had with his mother as a child. He'd asked her why dogs bark at some people and not at others, and she'd said that dogs could sense vibrations that people sent out, and some people had bad vibrations and some had good ones. It's possible that this came back to mind as he was planning the Pet Sounds album, which of course ends with the sound of his own dogs barking. It's also possible that he was thinking more generally about ideas like telepathy -- he had been starting to experiment with acid by this point, and was hanging around with a crowd of people who were proto-hippies, and reading up on a lot of the mystical ideas that were shared by those people. As we saw in the last episode, there was a huge crossover between people who were being influenced by drugs, people who were interested in Eastern religion, and people who were interested in what we now might think of as pseudo-science but at the time seemed to have a reasonable amount of validity, things like telepathy and remote viewing. Wilson had also had exposure from an early age to people claiming psychic powers. Jo Ann Marks, the Wilson family's neighbour and the mother of former Beach Boy David Marks, later had something of a minor career as a psychic to the stars (at least according to obituaries posted by her son) and she would often talk about being able to sense "vibrations". The record Wilson started out making in February 1966 with the Wrecking Crew was intended as an R&B single, and was also intended to sound *strange*: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations: Gold Star 1966-02-18"] At this stage, the song he was working on was a very straightforward verse-chorus structure, and it was going to be an altogether conventional pop song. The verses -- which actually ended up used in the final single, are dominated by organ and Ray Pohlman's bass: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations: Gold Star 1966-02-18"] These bear a strong resemblance to the verses of "Here Today", on the Pet Sounds album which the Beach Boys were still in the middle of making: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Here Today (instrumental)"] But the chorus had far more of an R&B feel than anything the Beach Boys had done before: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations: Gold Star 1966-02-18"] It did, though, have precedent. The origins of the chorus feel come from "Can I Get a Witness?", a Holland-Dozier-Holland song that had been a hit for Marvin Gaye in 1963: [Excerpt: Marvin Gaye, "Can I Get a Witness?"] The Beach Boys had picked up on that, and also on its similarity to the feel of Lonnie Mack's instrumental cover version of Chuck Berry's "Memphis, Tennessee", which, retitled "Memphis", had also been a hit in 1963, and in 1964 they recorded an instrumental which they called "Memphis Beach" while they were recording it but later retitled "Carl's Big Chance", which was credited to Brian and Carl Wilson, but was basically just playing the "Can I Get a Witness" riff over twelve-bar blues changes, with Carl doing some surf guitar over the top: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Carl's Big Chance"] The "Can I Get a Witness" feel had quickly become a standard piece of the musical toolkit – you might notice the resemblance between that riff and the “talking 'bout my generation” backing vocals on “My Generation” by the Who, for example. It was also used on "The Boy From New York City", a hit on Red Bird Records by the Ad-Libs: [Excerpt: The Ad-Libs, "The Boy From New York City"] The Beach Boys had definitely been aware of that record -- on their 1965 album Summer Days... And Summer Nights! they recorded an answer song to it, "The Girl From New York City": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "The Girl From New York City"] And you can see how influenced Brian was by the Ad-Libs record by laying the early instrumental takes of the "Good Vibrations" chorus from this February session under the vocal intro of "The Boy From New York City". It's not a perfect match, but you can definitely hear that there's an influence there: [Excerpt: "The Boy From New York City"/"Good Vibrations"] A few days later, Brian had Carl Wilson overdub some extra bass, got a musician in to do a jaw harp overdub, and they also did a guide vocal, which I've sometimes seen credited to Brian and sometimes Carl, and can hear as both of them depending on what I'm listening for. This guide vocal used a set of placeholder lyrics written by Brian's collaborator Tony Asher, which weren't intended to be a final lyric: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations (first version)"] Brian then put the track away for a month, while he continued work on the Pet Sounds album. At this point, as best we can gather, he was thinking of it as something of a failed experiment. In the first of the two autobiographies credited to Brian (one whose authenticity is dubious, as it was largely put together by a ghostwriter and Brian later said he'd never even read it) he talks about how he was actually planning to give the song to Wilson Pickett rather than keep it for the Beach Boys, and one can definitely imagine a Wilson Pickett version of the song as it was at this point. But Brian's friend Danny Hutton, at that time still a minor session singer who had not yet gone on to form the group that would become Three Dog Night, asked Brian if *he* could have the song if Brian wasn't going to use it. And this seems to have spurred Brian into rethinking the whole song. And in doing so he was inspired by his very first ever musical memory. Brian has talked a lot about how the first record he remembers hearing was when he was two years old, at his maternal grandmother's house, where he heard the Glenn Miller version of "Rhapsody in Blue", a three-minute cut-down version of Gershwin's masterpiece, on which Paul Tanner had of course coincidentally played: [Excerpt: The Glenn Miller Orchestra, "Rhapsody in Blue"] Hearing that music, which Brian's mother also played for him a lot as a child, was one of the most profoundly moving experiences of Brian's young life, and "Rhapsody in Blue" has become one of those touchstone pieces that he returns to again and again. He has recorded studio versions of it twice, in the mid-nineties with Van Dyke Parks: [Excerpt: Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, "Rhapsody in Blue"] and in 2010 with his solo band, as the intro and outro of an album of Gershwin covers: [Excerpt: Brian Wilson, "Rhapsody in Blue"] You'll also often see clips of him playing "Rhapsody in Blue" when sat at the piano -- it's one of his go-to songs. So he decided he was going to come up with a song that was structured like "Rhapsody in Blue" -- what publicist Derek Taylor would later describe as a "pocket symphony", but "pocket rhapsody" would possibly be a better term for it. It was going to be one continuous song, but in different sections that would have different instrumentation and different feelings to them -- he'd even record them in different studios to get different sounds for them, though he would still often have the musicians run through the whole song in each studio. He would mix and match the sections in the edit. His second attempt to record the whole track, at the start of April, gave a sign of what he was attempting, though he would not end up using any of the material from this session: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations: Gold Star 1966-04-09" around 02:34] Nearly a month later, on the fourth of May, he was back in the studio -- this time in Western Studios rather than Gold Star where the previous sessions had been held, with yet another selection of musicians from the Wrecking Crew, plus Tanner, to record another version. This time, part of the session was used for the bridge for the eventual single: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys: "Good Vibrations: Western 1966-05-04 Second Chorus and Fade"] On the twenty-fourth of May the Wrecking Crew, with Carl Wilson on Fender bass (while Lyle Ritz continued to play string bass, and Carol Kaye, who didn't end up on the finished record at all, but who was on many of the unused sessions, played Danelectro), had another attempt at the track, this time in Sunset Studios: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys: "Good Vibrations: Sunset Sound 1966-05-24 (Parts 2&3)"] Three days later, another group of musicians, with Carl now switched to rhythm guitar, were back in Western Studios recording this: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys: "Good Vibrations: Western 1966-05-27 Part C" from 2:52] The fade from that session was used in the final track. A few days later they were in the studio again, a smaller group of people with Carl on guitar and Brian on piano, along with Don Randi on electric harpsichord, Bill Pitman on electric bass, Lyle Ritz on string bass and Hal Blaine on drums. This time there seems to have been another inspiration, though I've never heard it mentioned as an influence. In March, a band called The Association, who were friends with the Beach Boys, had released their single "Along Comes Mary", and by June it had become a big hit: [Excerpt: The Association, "Along Comes Mary"] Now the fuzz bass part they were using on the session on the second of June sounds to my ears very, very, like that intro: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations (Inspiration) Western 1966-06-02" from 01:47] That session produced the basic track that was used for the choruses on the final single, onto which the electrotheremin was later overdubbed as Tanner wasn't at that session. Some time around this point, someone suggested to Brian that they should use a cello along with the electrotheremin in the choruses, playing triplets on the low notes. Brian has usually said that this was Carl's idea, while Brian's friend Van Dyke Parks has always said that he gave Brian the idea. Both seem quite certain of this, and neither has any reason to lie, so I suspect what might have happened is that Parks gave Brian the initial idea to have a cello on the track, while Carl in the studio suggested having it specifically play triplets. Either way, a cello part by Jesse Erlich was added to those choruses. There were more sessions in June, but everything from those sessions was scrapped. At some point around this time, Mike Love came up with a bass vocal lyric, which he sang along with the bass in the choruses in a group vocal session. On August the twenty-fourth, two months after what one would think at this point was the final instrumental session, a rough edit of the track was pulled together. By this point the chorus had altered quite a bit. It had originally just been eight bars of G-flat, four bars of B-flat, then four more bars of G-flat. But now Brian had decided to rework an idea he had used in "California Girls". In that song, each repetition of the line "I wish they all could be California" starts a tone lower than the one before. Here, after the bass hook line is repeated, everything moves up a step, repeats the line, and then moves up another step: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations: [Alternate Edit] 1966-08-24"] But Brian was dissatisfied with this version of the track. The lyrics obviously still needed rewriting, but more than that, there was a section he thought needed totally rerecording -- this bit: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations: [Alternate Edit] 1966-08-24"] So on the first of September, six and a half months after the first instrumental session for the song, the final one took place. This had Dennis Wilson on organ, Tommy Morgan on harmonicas, Lyle Ritz on string bass, and Hal Blaine and Carl Wilson on percussion, and replaced that with a new, gentler, version: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys: "Good Vibrations (Western 1966-09-01) [New Bridge]"] Well, that was almost the final instrumental session -- they called Paul Tanner in to a vocal overdub session to redo some of the electrotheremin parts, but that was basically it. Now all they had to do was do the final vocals. Oh, and they needed some proper lyrics. By this point Brian was no longer working with Tony Asher. He'd started working with Van Dyke Parks on some songs, but Parks wasn't interested in stepping into a track that had already been worked on so long, so Brian eventually turned to Mike Love, who'd already come up with the bass vocal hook, to write the lyrics. Love wrote them in the car, on the way to the studio, dictating them to his wife as he drove, and they're actually some of his best work. The first verse grounds everything in the sensory, in the earthy. He makes a song originally about *extra* -sensory perception into one about sensory perception -- the first verse covers sight, sound, and smell: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations"] Carl Wilson was chosen to sing the lead vocal, but you'll notice a slight change in timbre on the line "I hear the sound of a" -- that's Brian stepping into double him on the high notes. Listen again: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations"] For the second verse, Love's lyric moves from the sensory grounding of the first verse to the extrasensory perception that the song has always been about, with the protagonist knowing things about the woman who's the object of the song without directly perceiving them. The record is one of those where I wish I was able to play the whole thing for you, because it's a masterpiece of structure, and of editing, and of dynamics. It's also a record that even now is impossible to replicate properly on stage, though both its writers in their live performances come very close. But while someone in the audience for either the current touring Beach Boys led by Mike Love or for Brian Wilson's solo shows might come away thinking "that sounded just like the record", both have radically different interpretations of it even while sticking close to the original arrangement. The touring Beach Boys' version is all throbbing strangeness, almost garage-rock, emphasising the psychedelia of the track: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations (live 2014)"] While Brian Wilson's live version is more meditative, emphasising the gentle aspects: [Excerpt Brian Wilson, "Good Vibrations (live at the Roxy)"] But back in 1966, there was definitely no way to reproduce it live with a five-person band. According to Tanner, they actually asked him if he would tour with them, but he refused -- his touring days were over, and also he felt he would look ridiculous, a middle-aged man on stage with a bunch of young rock and roll stars, though apparently they offered to buy him a wig so he wouldn't look so out of place. When he wouldn't tour with them, they asked him where they could get a theremin, and he pointed them in the direction of Robert Moog. Moog -- whose name is spelled M-o-o-g and often mispronounced "moog", had been a teenager in 1949, when he'd seen a schematic for a theremin in an electronic hobbyist magazine, after Samuel Hoffman had brought the instrument back into the limelight. He'd built his own, and started building others to sell to other hobbyists, and had also started branching out into other electronic instruments by the mid-sixties. His small company was the only one still manufacturing actual theremins, but when the Beach Boys came to him and asked him for one, they found it very difficult to control, and asked him if he could do anything simpler. He came up with a ribbon-controlled oscillator, on the same principle as Tanner's electro-theremin, but even simpler to operate, and the Beach Boys bought it and gave it to Mike Love to play on stage. All he had to do was run his finger up and down a metallic ribbon, with the positions of the notes marked on it, and it would come up with a good approximation of the electro-theremin sound. Love played this "woo-woo machine" as he referred to it, on stage for several years: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations (live in Hawaii 8/26/67)"] Moog was at the time starting to build his first synthesisers, and having developed that ribbon-control mechanism he decided to include it in the early models as one of several different methods of controlling the Moog synthesiser, the instrument that became synonymous with the synthesiser in the late sixties and early seventies: [Excerpt: Gershon Kingsley and Leonid Hambro, "Rhapsody in Blue" from Switched-On Gershwin] "Good Vibrations" became the Beach Boys' biggest ever hit -- their third US number one, and their first to make number one in the UK. Brian Wilson had managed, with the help of his collaborators, to make something that combined avant-garde psychedelic music and catchy pop hooks, a truly experimental record that was also a genuine pop classic. To this day, it's often cited as the greatest single of all time. But Brian knew he could do better. He could be even more progressive. He could make an entire album using the same techniques as "Good Vibrations", one where themes could recur, where sections could be edited together and songs could be constructed in the edit. Instead of a pocket symphony, he could make a full-blown teenage symphony to God. All he had to do was to keep looking forward, believe he could achieve his goal, and whatever happened, not lose his nerve and turn back. [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Smile Promo" ]
Mar 25, 2022
Admin: Plan For The Future


 As many of you will have noticed, the podcast hasn't been exactly regular in the last year or so. For the first couple of years of the podcast I had a buffer of several scripts written in advance, which allowed me to keep getting episodes out on a weekly basis even if stuff got in the way.

But starting in late 2020, I had a series of massive life crises that essentially meant that I ate up all my buffer scripts, and from that point on any time anything caused even the slightest inconvenience, that would have a knock-on effect which would make the episode late. For the last fifteen months I have only averaged about an episode every ten days. It's no exaggeration to say that 2021 was the worst year of my life by quite some way. 

Most of those crises have either passed or become the new normal, but they meant I used up all my buffer and then some, and it's been challenging to build up another buffer while running to catch up. I managed for several weeks at the beginning of this year to get weekly episodes out again, but with no buffer any temporary problem knocks me back off schedule.

Luckily, everyone has been extraordinarily understanding about this, but I can only expect so much understanding before people start demanding results, so here's what I'm going to do.

Episodes 146 through 150 will take as long as they take. I'm aiming for once a week, but I do have a couple of commitments in the next month that might make that difficult. Realistically, you can expect those to continue at about the same rate as the last year or so, an episode every ten days, give or take.

I have previously taken two-week breaks when I got to an episode that was a multiple of fifty -- annual breaks that also mark the start and ends of new books in the series of books based on the podcast. When I get to episode 150, I will take a longer break. That break will last however long it takes for me to write four full main episode scripts. My best estimate of that is that it will take three weeks, but I'll keep people updated in the unlikely event it takes longer. Episode 151 will be up as soon as I have four scripts done. I will do another pledge week in the middle of the break, posting some old Patreon episodes to the main feed to show you what backers get, and so the feed won't be completely devoid of content.

I will then once again have a buffer -- a month's worth of scripts prepared -- that should mean that I'll be able to get back on a properly regular schedule again, and stay there.

Thank you all for your patience and support.

Mar 15, 2022
Episode 145: “Tomorrow Never Knows” by the Beatles
This week’s episode looks at “Tomorrow Never Knows”, the making of Revolver by the Beatles, and the influence of Timothy Leary on the burgeoning psychedelic movement. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a fifteen-minute bonus episode available, on "Keep on Running" by the Spencer Davis Group. 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/ Errata A few things -- I say "Fairfield" at one point when I mean "Fairchild". While Timothy Leary was imprisoned in 1970 he wasn't actually placed in the cell next to Charles Manson until 1973. Sources differ on when Geoff Emerick started at EMI, and he *may* not have worked on "Sun Arise", though I've seen enough reliable sources saying he did that I think it's likely. And I've been told that Maureen Cleave denied having an affair with Lennon -- though note that I said it was "strongly rumoured" rather than something definite. Resources As usual, a mix of all the songs excerpted in this episode is available at Mixcloud.com. I have read literally dozens of books on the Beatles, and used bits of information from many of them. All my Beatles episodes refer to: The Complete Beatles Chronicle by Mark LewisohnAll The Songs: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Release by Jean-Michel GuesdonAnd The Band Begins To Play: The Definitive Guide To The Songs of The Beatles by Steve LambleyThe Beatles By Ear by Kevin MooreRevolution in the Head by Ian MacDonald, and The Beatles Anthology. For this episode, I also referred to Last Interview by David Sheff, a longform interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono from shortly before Lennon's death; Many Years From Now by Barry Miles, an authorised biography of Paul McCartney; and Here, There, and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles by Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey. For information on Timothy Leary I used a variety of sources including The Most Dangerous Man in America by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis; Timothy Leary: Outside Looking In by Robert Forte; The Starseed Signals by Robert Anton Wilson; and especially The Harvard Psychedelic Club by Don Lattin. I also referred to both The Tibetan Book of the Dead and to The Psychedelic Experience. Leary's much-abridged audiobook version of The Psychedelic Experience can be purchased from Folkways Records. Sadly the first mono mix of "Tomorrow Never Knows" has been out of print since it was first issued. The only way to get the second mono mix is on this ludicrously-expensive out-of-print box set, but the stereo mix is easily available on Revolver. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Before I start this episode, I'd like to note that it deals with a number of subjects some listeners might find upsetting, most notably psychedelic drug use, mental illness, and suicide. I think I've dealt with those subjects fairly respectfully, but you still may want to check the transcript if you have worries about these subjects. Also, we're now entering a period of music history with the start of the psychedelic era where many of the songs we're looking at are influenced by non-mainstream religious traditions, mysticism, and also increasingly by political ideas which may seem strange with nearly sixty years' hindsight. I'd just like to emphasise that when I talk about these ideas, I'm trying as best I can to present the thinking of the people I'm talking about, in an accurate and unbiased way, rather than talking about my own beliefs. We're going to head into some strange places in some of these episodes, and my intention is neither to mock the people I'm talking about nor to endorse their ideas, but to present those ideas to you the listener so you can understand the music, the history, and the mindset of the people involved, Is that clear? Then lets' turn on, tune in, and drop out back to 1955... [Opening excerpt from The Psychedelic Experience] There is a phenomenon in many mystical traditions, which goes by many names, including the dark night of the soul and the abyss. It's an experience that happens to mystics of many types, in which they go through unimaginable pain near the beginning of their journey towards greater spiritual knowledge. That pain usually involves a mixture of internal and external events -- some terrible tragedy happens to them, giving them a new awareness of the world's pain, at the same time they're going through an intellectual crisis about their understanding of the world, and it can last several years. It's very similar to the more common experience of the mid-life crisis, except that rather than buying a sports car and leaving their spouse, mystics going through this are more likely to found a new religion. At least, those who survive the crushing despair intact. Those who come out of the experience the other end often find themselves on a totally new path, almost like they're a different person. In 1955, when Dr. Timothy Leary's dark night of the soul started, he was a respected academic psychologist, a serious scientist who had already made several substantial contributions to his field, and was considered a rising star. By 1970, he would be a confirmed mystic, sentenced to twenty years in prison, in a cell next to Charles Manson, and claiming to different people that he was the reincarnation of Gurdjieff, Aleister Crowley, and Jesus Christ. In the fifties, Leary and his wife had an open relationship, in which they were both allowed to sleep with other people, but weren't allowed to form emotional attachments to them. Unfortunately, Leary *had* formed an emotional attachment to another woman, and had started spending so much time with her that his wife was convinced he was going to leave her. On top of that, Leary was an alcoholic, and was prone to get into drunken rows with his wife. He woke up on the morning of his thirty-fifth birthday, hung over after one of those rows, to find that she had died by suicide while he slept, leaving a note saying that she knew he was going to leave her and that her life would be meaningless without him. This was only months after Leary had realised that the field he was working in, to which he had devoted his academic career, was seriously broken. Along with a colleague, Frank Barron, he published a paper on the results of clinical psychotherapy, "Changes in psychoneurotic patients with and without psychotherapy" which analysed the mental health of a group of people who had been through psychotherapy, and found that a third of them improved, a third stayed the same, and a third got worse. The problem was that there was a control group, of people with the same conditions who were put on a waiting list and told to wait the length of time that the therapy patients were being treated. A third of them improved, a third stayed the same, and a third got worse. In other words, psychotherapy as it was currently practised had no measurable effect at all on patients' health. This devastated Leary, as you might imagine. But more through inertia than anything else, he continued working in the field, and in 1957 he published what was regarded as a masterwork -- his book Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality: A Functional Theory and Methodology for Personality Evaluation. Leary's book was a challenge to the then-dominant idea in psychology, behaviourism, which claimed that it made no sense to talk about anyone's internal thoughts or feelings -- all that mattered was what could be measured, stimuli and responses, and that in a very real sense the unmeasurable thoughts people had didn't exist at all. Behaviourism looked at every human being as a mechanical black box, like a series of levers. Leary, by contrast, analysed human interactions as games, in which people took on usual roles, but were able, if they realised this, to change the role or even the game itself. It was very similar to the work that Eric Berne was doing at the same time, and which would later be popularised in Berne's book Games People Play. Berne's work was so popular that it led to the late-sixties hit record "Games People Play" by Joe South: [Excerpt: Joe South: "Games People Play"] But in 1957, between Leary and Berne, Leary was considered the more important thinker among his peers -- though some thought of him as more of a showman, enthralled by his own ideas about how he was going to change psychology, than a scientist, and some thought that he was unfairly taking credit for the work of lesser-known but better researchers. But by 1958, the effects of the traumas Leary had gone through a couple of years earlier were at their worst. He was starting to become seriously ill -- from the descriptions, probably from something stress-related and psychosomatic -- and he took his kids off to Europe, where he was going to write the great American novel. But he rapidly ran through his money, and hadn't got very far with the novel. He was broke, and ill, and depressed, and desperate, but then in 1959 his old colleague Frank Barron, who was on holiday in the area, showed up, and the two had a conversation that changed Leary's life forever in multiple ways. The first of the conversational topics would have the more profound effect, though that wouldn't be apparent at first. Barron talked to Leary about his previous holiday, when he'd visited Mexico and taken psilocybin mushrooms. These had been used by Mexicans for centuries, but the first publication about them in English had only been in 1955 -- the same year when Leary had had other things on his mind -- and they were hardly known at all outside Mexico. Barron talked about the experience as being the most profound, revelatory, experience of his life. Leary thought his friend sounded like a madman, but he humoured him for the moment. But Barron also mentioned that another colleague was on holiday in the same area. David McClelland, head of the Harvard Center for Personality Research, had mentioned to Barron that he had just read Diagnosis of Personality and thought it a work of genius. McClelland hired Leary to work for him at Harvard, and that was where Leary met Ram Dass. [Excerpt from "The Psychedelic Experience"] Ram Dass was not the name that Dass was going by at the time -- he was going by his birth name, and only changed his name a few years later, after the events we're talking about -- but as always, on this podcast we don't use people's deadnames, though his is particularly easy to find as it's still the name on the cover of his most famous book, which we'll be talking about shortly. Dass was another psychologist at the Centre for Personality Research, and he would be Leary's closest collaborator for the next several years. The two men would become so close that at several points Leary would go travelling and leave his children in Dass' care for extended periods of time. The two were determined to revolutionise academic psychology. The start of that revolution didn't come until summer 1960. While Leary was on holiday in Cuernavaca in Mexico, a linguist and anthropologist he knew, Lothar Knauth, mentioned that one of the old women in the area collected those magic mushrooms that Barron had been talking about. Leary decided that that might be a fun thing to do on his holiday, and took a few psilocybin mushrooms. The effect was extraordinary. Leary called this, which had been intended only as a bit of fun, "the deepest religious experience of my life". [Excerpt from "The Psychedelic Experience"] He returned to Harvard after his summer holiday and started what became the Harvard Psilocybin Project. Leary and various other experimenters took controlled doses of psilocybin and wrote down their experiences, and Leary believed this would end up revolutionising psychology, giving them insights unattainable by other methods. The experimenters included lecturers, grad students, and people like authors Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, and Alan Watts, who popularised Zen Buddhism in the West. Dass didn't join the project until early 1961 -- he'd actually been on the holiday with Leary, but had arrived a few days after the mushroom experiment, and nobody had been able to get hold of the old woman who knew where to find the mushrooms, so he'd just had to deal with Leary telling him about how great it was rather than try it himself. He then spent a semester as a visiting scholar at Berkeley, so he didn't get to try his first trip until February 1961. Dass, on his first trip, first had a revelation about the nature of his own true soul, then decided at three in the morning that he needed to go and see his parents, who lived nearby, and tell them the good news. But there was several feet of snow, and so he decided he must save his parents from the snow, and shovel the path to their house. At three in the morning. Then he saw them looking out the window at him, he waved, and then started dancing around the shovel. He later said “Until that moment I was always trying to be the good boy, looking at myself through other people’s eyes. What did the mothers, fathers, teachers, colleagues want me to be? That night, for the first time, I felt good inside. It was OK to be me.” The Harvard Psilocybin Project soon became the Harvard Psychedelic Project. The term "psychedelic", meaning "soul revealing", was coined by the British psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond, who had been experimenting with hallucinogens for years, and had guided Aldous Huxley on the mescaline trip described in The Doors of Perception. Osmond and Huxley had agreed that the term "psychotomimetic", in use at the time, which meant "mimicking psychosis", wasn't right -- it was too negative. They started writing letters to each other, suggesting alternative terms. Huxley came up with "phanerothyme", the Greek for "soul revealing", and wrote a little couplet to Osmond: To make this trivial world sublime Take half a gramme of phanerothyme. Osmond countered with the Latin equivalent: To fathom hell or soar angelic Just take a pinch of psychedelic Osmond also inspired Leary's most important experimental work of the early sixties. Osmond had got to know Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, and had introduced W. to LSD. W. had become sober after experiencing a profound spiritual awakening and a vision of white light while being treated for his alcoholism using the so-called "belladonna cure" -- a mixture of various hallucinogenic and toxic substances that was meant to cure alcoholism. When W. tried LSD, he found it replicated his previous spiritual experience and became very evangelistic about its use by alcoholics, thinking it could give them the same kind of awakening he'd had. Leary became convinced that if LSD could work on alcoholics, it could also be used to help reshape the personalities of habitual criminals and lead them away from reoffending. His idea for how to treat people was based, in part, on the ideas of transactional analysis. There is always a hierarchical relationship between a therapist and their patient, and that hierarchical relationship itself, in Leary's opinion, forced people into particular game roles and made it impossible for them to relate as equals, and thus impossible for the therapist to truly help the patient. So his idea was that there needed to be a shared bonding experience between patient and doctor. So in his prison experiments, he and the other people involved, including Ralph Metzner, one of his grad students, would take psilocybin *with* the patients. In short-term follow-ups the patients who went through this treatment process were less depressed, felt better, and were only half as likely to reoffend as normal prisoners. But critics pointed out that the prisoners had been getting a lot of individual attention and support, and there was no control group getting that support without the psychedelics. [Excerpt: The Psychedelic Experience] As the experiments progressed, though, things were becoming tense within Harvard. There was concern that some of the students who were being given psilocybin were psychologically vulnerable and were being put at real risk. There was also worry about the way that Leary and Dass were emphasising experience over analysis, which was felt to be against the whole of academia. Increasingly it looked like there was a clique forming as well, with those who had taken part in their experiments on the inside and looking down on those outside, and it looked to many people like this was turning into an actual cult. This was simply not what the Harvard psychology department was meant to be doing. And one Harvard student was out to shut them down for good, and his name was Andrew Weil. Weil is now best known as one of the leading lights in alternative health, and has made appearances on Oprah and Larry King Live, but for many years his research interest was in mind-altering chemicals -- his undergraduate thesis was on the use of nutmeg to induce different states of consciousness. At this point Weil was an undergraduate, and he and his friend Ronnie Winston had both tried to get involved in the Harvard Psilocybin Project, but had been turned down -- while they were enthusiastic about it, they were also undergraduates, and Leary and Dass had agreed with the university that they wouldn't be using undergraduates in their project, and that only graduate students, faculty, and outsiders would be involved. So Weil and Winston had started their own series of experiments, using mescaline after they'd been unable to get any psilocybin -- they'd contacted Aldous Huxley, the author of The Doors of Perception and an influence on Leary and Dass' experiments, and asked him where they could get mescaline, and he'd pointed them in the right direction. But then Winston and Dass had become friends, and Dass had given Winston some psilocybin -- not as part of his experiments, so Dass didn't think he was crossing a line, but just socially. Weil saw this as a betrayal by Winston, who stopped hanging round with him once he became close to Dass, and also as a rejection of him by Dass and Leary. If they'd give Winston psilocybin, why wouldn't they give it to him? Weil was a writer for the Harvard Crimson, Harvard's newspaper, and he wrote a series of exposes on Leary and Dass for the Crimson. He went to his former friend Winston's father and told him "Your son is getting drugs from a faculty member. If your son will admit to that charge, we’ll cut out your son’s name. We won’t use it in the article."  Winston did admit to the charge, under pressure from his father, and was brought to tell the Dean, saying to the Dean “Yes, sir, I did, and it was the most educational experience I’ve had at Harvard.” Weil wrote about this for the Crimson, and the story was picked up by the national media. Weil eventually wrote about Leary and Dass for Look magazine, where he wrote “There were stories of students and others using hallucinogens for seductions, both heterosexual and homosexual.” And this seems actually to have been a big part of Weil's motivation. While Dass and Winston always said that their relationship was purely platonic, Dass was bisexual, and Weil seems to have assumed his friend had been led astray by an evil seducer. This was at a time when homophobia and biphobia were even more prevalent in society than they are now, and part of the reason Leary and Dass fell out in the late sixties is that Leary started to see Dass' sexuality as evil and perverted and something they should be trying to use LSD to cure. The experiments became a national scandal, and one of the reasons that LSD was criminalised a few years later. Dass was sacked for giving drugs to undergraduates; Leary had gone off to Mexico to get away from the stress, leaving his kids with Dass. He would be sacked for going off without permission and leaving his classes untaught. As Leary and Dass were out of Harvard, they had to look for other sources of funding. Luckily, Dass turned William Mellon Hitchcock, the heir to the Mellon oil fortune, on to acid, and he and his brother Tommy and sister Peggy gave them the run of a sixty-four room mansion, named Millbrook. When they started there, they were still trying to be academics, but over the five years they were at Millbrook it became steadily less about research and more of a hippie commune, with regular visitors and long-term residents including Alan Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and the jazz musician Maynard Ferguson, who would later get a small amount of fame with jazz-rock records like his version of "MacArthur Park": [Excerpt: Maynard Ferguson, "MacArthur Park"] It was at Millbrook that Leary, Dass, and Metzner would write the book that became The Psychedelic Experience. This book was inspired by the Bardo Thödol, a book allegedly written by Padmasambhava, the man who introduced Buddhism to Tibet in the eighth century, though no copies of it are known to have existed before the fourteenth century, when it was supposedly discovered by Karma Lingpa. Its title translates as Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State, but it was translated into English under the name The Tibetan Book of the Dead, as Walter Evans-Wentz, who compiled and edited the first English translation was, like many Westerners who studied Buddhism in the early part of the twentieth century, doing so because he was an occultist and a member of the Theosophical Society, which believes the secret occult masters of the world live in Tibet, but which also considered the Egyptian Book of the Dead -- a book which bears little relationship to the Bardo Thödol, and which was written thousands of years earlier on a different continent -- to be a major religious document. So it was through that lens that Evans-Wentz was viewing the Bardo Thödol, and he renamed the book to emphasise what he perceived as its similarities. Part of the Bardo Thödol is a description of what happens to someone between death and rebirth -- the process by which the dead person becomes aware of true reality, and then either transcends it or is dragged back into it by their lesser impulses -- and a series of meditations that can be used to help with that transcendence. In the version published as The Tibetan Book of the Dead, this is accompanied by commentary from Evans-Wentz, who while he was interested in Buddhism didn't actually know that much about Tibetan Buddhism, and was looking at the text through a Theosophical lens, and mostly interpreting it using Hindu concepts. Later editions of Evans-Wentz's version added further commentary by Carl Jung, which looked at Evans-Wentz's version of the book through Jung's own lens, seeing it as a book about psychological states, not about anything more supernatural (although Jung's version of psychology was always a supernaturalist one, of course). His Westernised, psychologised, version of the book's message became part of the third edition. Metzner later said "At the suggestion of Aldous Huxley and Gerald Heard we began using the Bardo Thödol ( Tibetan Book of the Dead) as a guide to psychedelic sessions. The Tibetan Buddhists talked about the three phases of experience on the “intermediate planes” ( bardos) between death and rebirth. We translated this to refer to the death and the rebirth of the ego, or ordinary personality. Stripped of the elaborate Tibetan symbolism and transposed into Western concepts, the text provided a remarkable parallel to our findings." Leary, Dass, and Metzner rewrote the book into a form that could be used to guide a reader through a psychedelic trip, through the death of their ego and its rebirth. Later, Leary would record an abridged audiobook version, and it's this that we've been hearing excerpts of during this podcast so far: [Excerpt: The Psychedelic Experience "Turn off your mind, relax, float downstream" about 04:15] When we left the Beatles, they were at the absolute height of their fame, though in retrospect the cracks had already begun to show.  Their second film had been released, and the soundtrack had contained some of their best work, but the title track, "Help!", had been a worrying insight into John Lennon's current mental state. Immediately after making the film and album, of course, they went back out touring, first a European tour, then an American one, which probably counts as the first true stadium tour. There had been other stadium shows before the Beatles 1965 tour -- we talked way back in the first episodes of the series about how Sister Rosetta Tharpe had a *wedding* that was a stadium gig. But of course there are stadiums and stadiums, and the Beatles' 1965 tour had them playing the kind of venues that no other musician, and certainly no other rock band, had ever played. Most famously, of course, there was the opening concert of the tour at Shea Stadium, where they played to an audience of fifty-five thousand people -- the largest audience a rock band had ever played for, and one which would remain a record for many years. Most of those people, of course, couldn't actually hear much of anything -- the band weren't playing through a public address system designed for music, just playing through the loudspeakers that were designed for commentating on baseball games. But even if they had been playing through the kind of modern sound systems used today, it's unlikely that the audience would have heard much due to the overwhelming noise coming from the crowd. Similarly, there were no live video feeds of the show or any of the other things that nowadays make it at least possible for the audience to have some idea what is going on on stage. The difference between this and anything that anyone had experienced before was so great that the group became overwhelmed. There's video footage of the show -- a heavily-edited version, with quite a few overdubs and rerecordings of some tracks was broadcast on TV, and it's also been shown in cinemas more recently as part of promotion for an underwhelming documentary about the Beatles' tours -- and you can see Lennon in particular becoming actually hysterical during the performance of "I'm Down", where he's playing the organ with his elbows. Sadly the audio nature of this podcast doesn't allow me to show Lennon's facial expression, but you can hear something of the exuberance in the performance. This is from what is labelled as a copy of the raw audio of the show -- the version broadcast on TV had a fair bit of additional sweetening work done on it: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "I'm Down (Live at Shea Stadium)"] After their American tour they had almost six weeks off work to write new material before going back into the studio to record their second album of the year, and one which would be a major turning point for the group. The first day of the recording sessions for this new album, Rubber Soul, started with two songs of Lennon's. The first of these was "Run For Your Life", a song Lennon never later had much good to say about, and which is widely regarded as the worst song on the album. That song was written off a line from Elvis Presley's version of "Baby Let's Play House", and while Lennon never stated this, it's likely that it was brought to mind by the Beatles having met with Elvis during their US tour. But the second song was more interesting. Starting with "Help!", Lennon had been trying to write more interesting lyrics. This had been inspired by two conversations with British journalists -- Kenneth Allsop had told Lennon that while he liked Lennon's poetry, the lyrics to his songs were banal in comparison and he found them unlistenable as a result, while Maureen Cleave, a journalist who was a close friend with Lennon, had told him that she hadn't noticed a single word in any of his lyrics with more than two syllables, so he made more of an effort with "Help!", putting in words like "independence" and "insecure". As he said in one of his last interviews, "I was insecure then, and things like that happened more than once. I never considered it before. So after that I put a few words with three syllables in, but she didn’t think much of them when I played it for her, anyway.” Cleave may have been an inspiration for "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)". There are very strong rumours that Lennon had an affair with Cleave in the mid-sixties, and if that's true it would definitely fit into a pattern. Lennon had many, many, affairs during his first marriage, both brief one-night stands and deeper emotional attachments, and those emotional attachments were generally with women who were slightly older, intellectual, somewhat exotic looking by the standards of 1960s Britain, and in the arts. Lennon later claimed to have had an affair with Eleanor Bron, the Beatles' co-star in Help!, though she always denied this, and it's fairly widely established that he did have an affair with Alma Cogan, a singer who he'd mocked during her peak of popularity in the fifties, but who would later become one of his closest friends: [Excerpt: Alma Cogan, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?"] And "Norwegian Wood", the second song recorded for Rubber Soul, started out as a confession to one of these affairs, a way of Lennon admitting it to his wife without really admitting it. The figure in the song is a slightly aloof, distant woman, and the title refers to the taste among Bohemian British people at the time for minimalist decor made of Scandinavian pine -- something that would have been a very obvious class signifier at the time. [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"] Lennon and McCartney had different stories about who wrote what in the song, and Lennon's own story seems to have changed at various times. What seems to have happened is that Lennon wrote the first couple of verses while on holiday with George Martin, and finished it off later with McCartney's help. McCartney seems to have come up with the middle eight melody -- which is in Dorian mode rather than the Mixolydian mode of the verses -- and to have come up with the twist ending, where the woman refuses to sleep with the protagonist and laughs at him, he goes to sleep in the bath rather than her bed, wakes up alone, and sets fire to the house in revenge. This in some ways makes "Norwegian Wood" the thematic centrepiece of the album that was to result, combining several of the themes its two songwriters came back to throughout the album and the single recorded alongside it. Like Lennon's "Run For Your Life" it has a misogynistic edge to it, and deals with taking revenge against a woman, but like his song "Girl", it deals with a distant, unattainable, woman, who the singer sees as above him but who has a slightly cruel edge -- the kind of girl who puts you down when friends are there,  you feel a fool, is very similar to the woman who tells you to sit down but has no chairs in her minimalist flat. A big teaser who takes you half the way there is likely to laugh at you as you crawl off to sleep in the bath while she goes off to bed alone. Meanwhile, McCartney's two most popular contributions to the album, "Michelle" and "Drive My Car", also feature unattainable women, but are essentially comedy songs -- "Michelle" is a pastiche French song which McCartney used to play as a teenager while pretending to be foreign to impress girls, dug up and finished for the album, while "Drive My Car" is a comedy song with a twist in the punchline, just like "Norwegian Wood", though "Norwegian Wood"s twist is darker. But "Norwegian Wood" is even more famous for its music than for its lyric. The basis of the song is Lennon imitating Dylan's style -- something that Dylan saw, and countered with "Fourth Time Around", a song which people have interpreted multiple ways, but one of those interpretations has always been that it's a fairly vicious parody of "Norwegian Wood": [Excerpt: Bob Dylan, "Fourth Time Around"] Certainly Lennon thought that at first, saying a few years later "I was very paranoid about that. I remember he played it to me when he was in London. He said, what do you think? I said, I don’t like it. I didn’t like it. I was very paranoid. I just didn’t like what I felt I was feeling – I thought it was an out and out skit, you know, but it wasn’t. It was great. I mean he wasn’t playing any tricks on me. I was just going through the bit." But the aspect of "Norwegian Wood" that has had more comment over the years has been the sitar part, played by George Harrison: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Norwegian Wood"] This has often been called the first sitar to be used on a rock record, and that may be the case, but it's difficult to say for sure. Indian music was very much in the air among British groups in September 1965, when the Beatles recorded the track. That spring, two records had almost simultaneously introduced Indian-influenced music into the pop charts. The first had been the Yardbirds' "Heart Full of Soul", released in June and recorded in April. In fact, the Yardbirds had actually used a sitar on their first attempt at recording the song, which if it had been released would have been an earlier example than the Beatles: [Excerpt: The Yardbirds, "Heart Full of Soul (first version)"] But in the finished recording they had replaced that with Jeff Beck playing a guitar in a way that made it sound vaguely like a sitar, rather than using a real one: [Excerpt: The Yardbirds, "Heart Full of Soul (single)"] Meanwhile, after the Yardbirds had recorded that but before they'd released it, and apparently without any discussion between the two groups, the Kinks had done something similar on their "See My Friends", which came out a few weeks after the Yardbirds record: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "See My Friends"] (Incidentally, that track is sometimes titled "See My Friend" rather than "See My Friends", but that's apparently down to a misprint on initial pressings rather than that being the intended title). As part of this general flowering of interest in Indian music, George Harrison had become fascinated with the sound of the sitar while recording scenes in Help! which featured some Indian musicians. He'd then, as we discussed in the episode on "Eight Miles High" been introduced by David Crosby on the Beatles' summer US tour to the music of Ravi Shankar. "Norwegian Wood" likely reminded Harrison of Shankar's work for a couple of reasons. The first is that the melody is very modal -- as I said before, the verses are in Mixolydian mode, while the middle eights are in Dorian -- and as we saw in the "Eight Miles High" episode Indian music is very modal. The second is that for the most part, the verse is all on one chord -- a D chord as Lennon originally played it, though in the final take it's capoed on the second fret so it sounds in E. The only time the chord changes at all is on the words "once had" in the phrase “she once had me” where for one beat each Lennon plays a C9 and a G (sounding as a D9 and A). Both these chords, in the fingering Lennon is using, feel to a guitarist more like "playing a D chord and lifting some fingers up or putting some down" rather than playing new chords, and this is a fairly common way of thinking about stuff particularly when talking about folk and folk-rock music -- you'll tend to get people talking about the "Needles and Pins" riff as being "an A chord where you twiddle your finger about on the D string" rather than changing between A, Asus2, and Asus4. So while there are chord changes, they're minimal and of a kind that can be thought of as "not really" chord changes, and so that may well have reminded Harrison of the drone that's so fundamental to Indian classical music. Either way, he brought in his sitar, and they used it on the track, both the version they cut on the first day of recording and the remake a week later which became the album track: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"] At the same time as the group were recording Rubber Soul, they were also working on two tracks that would become their next single -- released as a double A-side because the group couldn't agree which of the two to promote. Both of these songs were actual Lennon/McCartney collaborations, something that was increasingly rare at this point. One, "We Can Work it Out" was initiated by McCartney, and like many of his songs of this period was inspired by tensions in his relationship with his girlfriend Jane Asher -- two of his other songs for Rubber Soul were "I'm Looking Through You" and "You Won't See Me".  The other, "Day Tripper",  was initiated by Lennon, and had other inspirations: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Day Tripper"] John Lennon and George Harrison's first acid trip had been in spring of 1965, around the time they were recording Help! The fullest version of how they came to try it I've read was in an interview George Harrison gave to Creem magazine in 1987, which I'll quote a bit of: "I had a dentist who invited me and John and our ex-wives to dinner, and he had this acid he’d got off the guy who ran Playboy in London. And the Playboy guy had gotten it off, you know, the people who had it in America. What’s his name, Tim Leary. And this guy had never had it himself, didn’t know anything about it, but he thought it was an aphrodisiac and he had this girlfriend with huge breasts. He invited us down there with our blonde wives and I think he thought he was gonna have a scene. And he put it in our coffee without telling us—he didn’t take any himself. We didn’t know we had it, and we’d made an arrangement earlier—after we had dinner we were gonna go to this nightclub to see some friends of ours who were playing in a band. And I was saying, "OK, let’s go, we’ve got to go," and this guy kept saying, "No, don’t go, finish your coffee. Then, 20 minutes later or something, I’m saying, "C’mon John, we’d better go now. We’re gonna miss the show." And he says we shouldn’t go ’cause we’ve had LSD." They did leave anyway, and they had an experience they later remembered as being both profound and terrifying -- nobody involved had any idea what the effects of LSD actually were, and they didn't realise it was any different from cannabis or amphetamines. Harrison later described feelings of universal love, but also utter terror -- believing himself to be in hell, and that world war III was starting. As he said later "We’d heard of it, but we never knew what it was about and it was put in our coffee maliciously. So it really wasn’t us turning each other or the world or anything—we were the victims of silly people." But both men decided it was an experience they needed to have again, and one they wanted to share with their friends. Their next acid trip was the one that we talked about in the episode on "Eight Miles High", with Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Peter Fonda. That time Neil Aspinall and Ringo took part as well, but at this point Paul was still unsure about taking it -- he would later say that he was being told by everyone that it changed your worldview so radically you'd never be the same again, and he was understandably cautious about this. Certainly it had a profound effect on Lennon and Harrison -- Starr has never really talked in detail about his own experiences. Harrison would later talk about how prior to taking acid he had been an atheist, but his experiences on the drug gave him an unshakeable conviction in the existence of God -- something he would spend the rest of his life exploring. Lennon didn't change his opinions that drastically, but he did become very evangelistic about the effects of LSD. And "Day Tripper" started out as a dig at what he later described as weekend hippies, who took acid but didn't change the rest of their lives -- which shows a certain level of ego in a man who had at that point only taken acid twice himself -- though in collaboration with McCartney it turned into another of the rather angry songs about unavailable women they were writing at this point. The line "she's a big teaser, she took me half the way there" apparently started as "she's a prick teaser": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Day Tripper"] In the middle of the recording of Rubber Soul, the group took a break to receive their MBEs from the Queen. Officially the group were awarded these because they had contributed so much to British exports. In actual fact, they received them because the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, had a government with a majority of only four MPs and was thinking about calling an election to boost his majority. He represented a Liverpool constituency, and wanted to associate his Government and the Labour Party with the most popular entertainers in the UK. "Day Tripper" and "We Can Work it Out" got their TV premiere on a show recorded for Granada TV,  The Music of Lennon and McCartney, and fans of British TV trivia will be pleased to note that the harmonium Lennon plays while the group mimed "We Can Work it Out" in that show is the same one that was played in Coronation Street by Ena Sharples -- the character we heard last episode being Davy Jones' grandmother. As well as the Beatles themselves, that show included other Brian Epstein artists like Cilla Black and Billy J Kramer singing songs that Lennon and McCartney had given to them, plus Peter Sellers, the Beatles' comedy idol, performing "A Hard Day's Night" in the style of Laurence Olivier as Richard III: [Excerpt: Peter Sellers, "A Hard Day's Night"] Another performance on the show was by Peter and Gordon, performing a hit that Paul had given to them, one of his earliest songs: [Excerpt: Peter and Gordon, "A World Without Love"] Peter Asher, of Peter and Gordon, was the brother of Paul McCartney's girlfriend, the actor Jane Asher. And while the other three Beatles were living married lives in mansions in suburbia, McCartney at this point was living with the Asher family in London, and being introduced by them to a far more Bohemian, artistic, hip crowd of people than he had ever before experienced. They were introducing him to types of art and culture of which he had previously been ignorant, and while McCartney was the only Beatle so far who hadn't taken LSD, this kind of mind expansion was far more appealing to him. He was being introduced to art film, to electronic composers like Stockhausen, and to ideas about philosophy and art that he had never considered. Peter Asher was a friend of John Dunbar, who at the time was Marianne Faithfull's husband, though Faithfull had left him and taken up with Mick Jagger, and of Barry Miles, a writer, and in September 1965 the three men had formed a company, Miles, Asher and Dunbar Limited, or MAD for short, which had opened up a bookshop and art gallery, the Indica Gallery, which was one of the first places in London to sell alternative or hippie books and paraphernalia, and which also hosted art events by people like members of the Fluxus art movement. McCartney was a frequent customer, as you might imagine, and he also encouraged the other Beatles to go along, and the Indica Gallery would play an immense role in the group's history, which we'll look at in a future episode. But the first impact it had on the group was when John and Paul went to the shop in late 1965, just after the recording and release of Rubber Soul and the "Day Tripper"/"We Can Work It Out" single, and John bought a copy of The Psychedelic Experience by Leary, Dass, and Metzner. He read the book on a plane journey while going on holiday -- reportedly while taking his third acid trip -- and was inspired. When he returned, he wrote a song which became the first track to be recorded for the group's next album, Revolver: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Tomorrow Never Knows"] The lyrics were inspired by the parts of The Psychedelic Experience which were in turn inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Now, it's important to put it this way because most people who talk about this record have apparently never read the book which inspired it. I've read many, many, books on the Beatles which claim that The Psychedelic Experience simply *is* the Tibetan Book of the Dead, slightly paraphrased. In fact, while the authors use the Tibetan Book of the Dead as a structure on which to base their book, much of the book is detailed descriptions of Leary, Dass, and Metzner's hypotheses about what is actually happening during a psychedelic trip, and their notes on the book -- in particular they provide commentaries to the commentaries, giving their view of what Carl Jung meant when he talked about it, and of Evans-Wentz's opinions, and especially of a commentary by Anagarika Govinda, a Westerner who had taken up Tibetan Buddhism seriously and become a monk and one of its most well-known exponents in the West. By the time it's been filtered through so many different viewpoints and perspectives, each rewriting and reinterpreting it to suit their own preconceived ideas, they could have started with a book on the habitat of the Canada goose and ended with much the same result. Much of this is the kind of mixture between religious syncretism and pseudoscience that will be very familiar to anyone who has encountered New Age culture in any way, statements like "The Vedic sages knew the secret; the Eleusinian Initiates knew it; the Tantrics knew it. In all their esoteric writings they whisper the message: It is possible to cut beyond ego-consciousness, to tune in on neurological processes which flash by at the speed of light, and to become aware of the enormous treasury of ancient racial knowledge welded into the nucleus of every cell in your body". This kind of viewpoint is one that has been around in one form or another since the nineteenth century religious revivals in America that led to Mormonism, Christian Science, and the New Thought. It's found today in books and documentaries like The Secret and the writings of people like Deepak Chopra, and the idea is always the same one -- people thousands of years ago had a lost wisdom that has only now been rediscovered through the miracle of modern science. This always involves a complete misrepresentation of both the lost wisdom and of the modern science. In particular, Leary, Dass, and Metzner's book freely mixes between phrases that sound vaguely scientific, like "There are no longer things and persons but only the direct flow of particles", things that are elements of Tibetan Buddhism, and references to ego games and "game-existence" which come from Leary's particular ideas of psychology as game interactions. All of this is intermingled, and so the claims that some have made that Lennon based the lyrics on the Tibetan Book of the Dead itself are very wrong. Rather the song, which he initially called "The Void", is very much based on Timothy Leary. The song itself was very influenced by Indian music. The melody line consists of only four notes -- E, G, C, and B flat, over a space of an octave: [Demonstrates] This sparse use of notes is very similar to the pentatonic scales in a lot of folk music, but that B-flat makes it the Mixolydian mode, rather than the E minor pentatonic scale our ears at first make it feel like. The B-flat also implies a harmony change -- Lennon originally sang the whole song over one chord, a C, which has the notes C, E, and G in it, but a B-flat note implies instead a chord of C7 -- this is another one of those occasions where you just put one finger down to change the chord while playing, and I suspect that's what Lennon did: [Demonstrates] Lennon's song was inspired by Indian music, but what he wanted was to replicate the psychedelic experience, and this is where McCartney came in. McCartney was, as I said earlier, listening to a lot of electronic composers as part of his general drive to broaden his mind, and in particular he had been listening to quite a bit of Karlheinz Stockhausen. Stockhausen was a composer who had studied with Olivier Messiaen in the 1940s, and had then become attached to the Groupe de Recherche de Musique Concrète along with Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, Edgard Varese and others, notably Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry. These composers were interested in a specific style of music called musique concrète, a style that had been pioneered by Schaeffer. Musique concrète is music that is created from, or at least using, prerecorded sounds that have been electronically altered, rather than with live instruments. Often this would involve found sound -- music made not by instruments at all, but by combining recorded sounds of objects, like with the first major work of musique concrète, Pierre Schaeffer's Cinq études de bruits: [Excerpt: Pierre Schaeffer, "Etude aux Chemins de faire" (from Cinq études de bruits)] Early on, musique concrète composers worked in much the same way that people use turntables to create dance music today -- they would have multiple record players, playing shellac discs, and a mixing desk, and they would drop the needle on the record players to various points, play the records backwards, and so forth. One technique that Schaeffer had come up with was to create records with a closed groove, so that when the record finished, the groove would go back to the start -- the record would just keep playing the same thing over and over and over. Later, when magnetic tape had come into use, Schaeffer had discovered you could get the same effect much more easily by making an actual loop of tape, and had started making loops of tape whose beginnings were stuck to their ending -- again creating something that could keep going over and over. Stockhausen had taken up the practice of using tape loops, most notably in a piece that McCartney was a big admirer of, Gesang der Jeunglinge: [Excerpt: Karlheinz Stockhausen, "Gesang der Jeunglinge"] McCartney suggested using tape loops on Lennon's new song, and everyone was in agreement. And this is the point where George Martin really starts coming into his own as a producer for the group. Martin had always been a good producer, but his being a good producer had up to this point mostly consisted of doing little bits of tidying up and being rather hands-off. He'd scored the strings on "Yesterday", played piano parts, and made suggestions like speeding up "Please Please Me" or putting the hook of "Can't Buy Me Love" at the beginning. Important contributions, contributions that turned good songs into great records, but nothing that Tony Hatch or Norrie Paramor or whoever couldn't have done. Indeed, his biggest contribution had largely been *not* being a Hatch or Paramor, and not imposing his own songs on the group, letting their own artistic voices flourish. But at this point Martin's unique skillset came into play. Martin had specialised in comedy records before his work with the Beatles, and he had worked with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan of the Goons, making records that required a far odder range of sounds than the normal pop record: [Excerpt: The Goons, "Unchained Melody"] The Goons' radio show had used a lot of sound effects created by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, a department of the BBC that specialised in creating musique concrète, and Martin had also had some interactions with the Radiophonic Workshop. In particular, he had worked with Maddalena Fagandini of the Workshop on an experimental single combining looped sounds and live instruments, under the pseudonym "Ray Cathode": [Excerpt: Ray Cathode, "Time Beat"] He had also worked on a record that is if anything even more relevant to "Tomorrow Never Knows". Unfortunately, that record is by someone who has been convicted of very serious sex offences. In this case, Rolf Harris, the man in question, was so well-known in Britain before his arrest, so beloved, and so much a part of many people's childhoods, that it may actually be traumatic for people to hear his voice knowing about his crimes. So while I know that showing the slightest consideration for my listeners' feelings will lead to a barrage of comments from angry old men calling me a "woke snowflake" for daring to not want to retraumatise vulnerable listeners, I'll give a little warning before I play the first of two segments of his recordings in a minute. When I do, if you skip forward approximately ninety seconds, you'll miss that section out. Harris was an Australian all-round entertainer, known in Britain for his novelty records, like the unfortunately racist "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport" -- which the Beatles later recorded with him in a non-racist version for a BBC session. But he had also, in 1960, recorded and released in Australia a song he'd written based on his understanding of Aboriginal Australian religious beliefs, and backed by Aboriginal musicians on didgeridoo. And we're going to hear that clip now: [Excerpt. Rolf Harris, "Sun Arise" original] EMI, his British label, had not wanted to release that as it was, so he'd got together with George Martin and they'd put together a new version, for British release. That had included a new middle-eight, giving the song a tiny bit of harmonic movement, and Martin had replaced the didgeridoos with eight cellos, playing a drone: [Excerpt: Rolf Harris, "Sun Arise", 1962 version ] OK, we'll just wait a few seconds for anyone who skipped that to catch up... Now, there are some interesting things about that track. That is a track based on a non-Western religious belief, based around a single drone -- the version that Martin produced had a chord change for the middle eight, but the verses were still on the drone -- using the recording studio to make the singer's voice sound different, with a deep, pulsating, drum sound, and using a melody with only a handful of notes, which doesn't start on the tonic but descends to it. Sound familiar? Oh, and a young assistant engineer had worked with George Martin on that session in 1962, in what several sources say was their first session together, and all sources say was one of their first. That young assistant engineer was Geoff Emerick, who had now been promoted to the main engineer role, and was working his first Beatles session in that role on “Tomorrow Never Knows”. Emerick was young and eager to experiment, and he would become a major part of the Beatles' team for the next few years, acting as engineer on all their recordings in 1966 and 67, and returning in 1969 for their last album. To start with, the group recorded a loop of guitar and drums, heavily treated: [Excerpt: "Tomorrow Never Knows", loop] That loop was slowed down to half its speed, and played throughout: [Excerpt: "Tomorrow Never Knows", loop] Onto that the group overdubbed a second set of live drums and Lennon's vocal. Lennon wanted his voice to sound like the Dalai Lama singing from a mountaintop, or like thousands of Tibetan monks. Obviously the group weren't going to fly to Tibet and persuade monks to sing for them, so they wanted some unusual vocal effect. This was quite normal for Lennon, actually. One of the odd things about Lennon is that while he's often regarded as one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time, he always hated his own voice and wanted to change it in the studio. After the Beatles' first album there's barely a dry Lennon solo vocal anywhere on any record he ever made. Either he would be harmonising with someone else, or he'd double-track his vocal, or he'd have it drenched in reverb, or some other effect -- anything to stop it sounding quite so much like him. And Geoff Emerick had the perfect idea. There's a type of speaker called a Leslie speaker, which was originally used to give Hammond organs their swirling sound, but which can be used with other instruments as well. It has two rotating speakers inside it, a bass one and a treble one, and it's the rotation that gives the swirling sound. Ken Townsend, the electrical engineer working on the record, hooked up the speaker from Abbey Road's Hammond organ to Lennon's mic, and Lennon was ecstatic with the sound: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Tomorrow Never Knows", take one] At least, he was ecstatic with the sound of his vocal, though he did wonder if it might be more interesting to get the same swirling effect by tying himself to a rope and being swung round the microphone The rest of the track wasn't quite working, though, and they decided to have a second attempt. But Lennon had been impressed enough by Emerick that he decided to have a chat with him about music -- his way of showing that Emerick had been accepted. He asked if Emerick had heard the new Tiny Tim record -- which shows how much attention Lennon was actually paying to music at this point. This was two years before Tim's breakthrough with "Tiptoe Through the Tulips", and his first single (unless you count a release from 1963 that was only released as a 78, in the sixties equivalent of a hipster cassette-only release), a version of "April Showers" backed with "Little Girl" -- the old folk song also known as "In the Pines" or "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?": [Excerpt: Tiny Tim, "Little Girl"] Unfortunately for Emerick, he hadn't heard the record, and rather than just say so he tried bluffing, saying "Yes, they're great". Lennon laughed at his attempt to sound like he knew what he was talking about, before explaining that Tiny Tim was a solo artist, though he did say "Nobody's really sure if it's actually a guy or some drag queen". For the second attempt, they decided to cut the whole backing track live rather than play to a loop. Lennon had had trouble staying in sync with the loop, but they had liked the thunderous sound that had been got from slowing the tape down. As Paul talked with Ringo about his drum part, suggesting a new pattern for him to play, Emerick went down into the studio from the control room and made some adjustments. He first deadened the sound of the bass drum by sticking a sweater in it -- it was actually a promotional sweater with eight arms, made when the film Help! had been provisionally titled Eight Arms to Hold You, which Mal Evans had been using as packing material. He then moved the mics much, much closer to the drums that EMI studio rules allowed -- mics can be damaged by loud noises, and EMI had very strict rules about distance, not allowing them within two feet of the drum kit. Emerick decided to risk his job by moving the mics mere inches from the drums, reasoning that he would probably have Lennon's support if he did this. He then put the drum signal through an overloaded Fairfield limiter, giving it a punchier sound than anything that had been recorded in a British studio up to that point: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Tomorrow Never Knows", isolated drums] That wasn't the only thing they did to make the record sound different though.  As well as Emerick's idea for the Leslie speaker, Ken Townsend had his own idea of how to make Lennon's voice sound different. Lennon had often complained about the difficulty of double-tracking his voice, and so Townsend had had an idea -- if you took a normal recording, fed it to another tape machine a few milliseconds out of sync with the first, and then fed it back into the first, you could create a double-tracked effect without having to actually double-track the vocal. Townsend suggested this, and it was used for the first time on the first half of "Tomorrow Never Knows", before the Leslie speaker takes over. The technique is now known as "artificial double-tracking" or ADT, but the session actually gave rise to another term, commonly used for a similar but slightly different tape-manipulation effect that had already been used by Les Paul among others. Lennon asked how they'd got the effect and George Martin started to explain, but then realised Lennon wasn't really interested in the technical details, and said "we take the original image and we split it through a double-bifurcated sploshing flange". From that point on, Lennon referred to ADT as "flanging", and the term spread, though being applied to the other technique. (Just as a quick aside, some people have claimed other origins for the term "flanging", and they may be right, but I think this is the correct story). Over the backing track they added tambourine and organ overdubs -- with the organ changing to a B flat chord when the vocal hits the B-flat note, even though the rest of the band stays on C -- and then a series of tape loops, mostly recorded by McCartney. There's a recording that circulates which has each of these loops isolated, played first forwards and then backwards at the speed they were recorded, and then going through at the speed they were used on the record, so let's go through these. There's what people call the "seagull" sound, which is apparently McCartney laughing, very distorted: [Excerpt: Tomorrow Never Knows loop] Then there's an orchestral chord: [Excerpt: Tomorrow Never Knows loop] A mellotron on its flute setting: [Excerpt: Tomorrow Never Knows loop] And on