A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs

By Andrew Hickey

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Glenda
 Apr 25, 2022
This is my favoutite podcast. I am learning a lot and loving the detail, the music, and the thoughtfulness with which it is presented.

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 Dec 27, 2021
This is exactly the podcast I needed. What a fantastic history. If you dig rock-n-roll, listen to this.

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Just wonderful. The musical and historical detail draws you in. I didn't know I cared at all about the history of rock, but the stories of the early musicians are told with empathy and enthusiasm, and I am now addicted to this podcast.w

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Description

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

Episode Date
Episode 149: “Respect” by Aretha Franklin
0:00
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/ Erratum I say "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby to a Dixie Melody" instead of "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody" 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
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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
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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
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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
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Transcript

 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
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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 its string setting: [Excerpt: Tomorrow Never Knows loop] And a much longer loop of sitar music supplied by George: [Excerpt: Tomorrow Never Knows loop] Each of these loops were played on a different tape machine in a different part of Abbey Road -- they commandeered the entire studio complex, and got engineers to sit with the tapes looped round pencils and wine-glasses, while the Beatles supervised Emerick and Martin in mixing the loops into a single track. They then added a loop of a tamboura drone played by George, and the result was one of the strangest records ever released by a major pop group: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Tomorrow Never Knows"] While Paul did add some backwards guitar -- some sources say that this is a cut-up version of his solo from George's song "Taxman", but it's actually a different recording, though very much in the same style -- they decided that they were going to have a tape-loop solo rather than a guitar solo: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Tomorrow Never Knows"] And finally, at the end, there's some tack piano playing from McCartney, inspired by the kind of joke piano parts that used to turn up on the Goon Show. This was just McCartney messing about in the studio, but it was caught on tape, and they asked for it to be included at the end of the track. It's only faintly audible on the standard mixes of the track, but there was actually an alternative mono mix which was only released on British pressings of the album pressed on the first day of its release, before George Martin changed his mind about which mix should have been used, and that has a much longer excerpt of the piano on it. I have to say that I personally like that mix more, and the extra piano at the end does a wonderful job of undercutting what could otherwise be an overly-serious track, in much the same way as the laughter at the end of "Within You, Without You", which they recorded the next year. The same goes for the title -- the track was originally called "The Void", and the tape boxes were labelled "Mark One", but Lennon decided to name the track after one of Starr's malapropisms, the same way they had with "A Hard Day's Night", to avoid the track being too pompous. [Excerpt: Beatles interview] A track like that, of course, had to end the album. Now all they needed to do was to record another thirteen tracks to go before it. But that -- and what they did afterwards, is a story for another time. [Excerpt, "Tomorrow Never Knows (alternate mono mix)" piano tag into theme music]
Mar 05, 2022
Episode 144: “Last Train to Clarksville” by the Monkees
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Episode 144 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Last Train to Clarksville" and the beginnings of the career of the Monkees, along with a short primer on the origins of the Vietnam War.  Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a seventeen-minute bonus episode available, on "These Boots Are Made For Walking" by Nancy Sinatra, which I mispronounce at the end of this episode as "These Boots Were Made For Walking", so no need to correct me here. 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, all the songs excerpted in the podcast can be heard in full at Mixcloud. The best versions of the Monkees albums are the triple-CD super-deluxe versions that used to be available from monkees.com , and I've used Andrew Sandoval's liner notes for them extensively in this episode. Sadly, though, the only one of those that is still in print is More of the Monkees. For those just getting into the group, my advice is to start with this five-CD set, which contains their first five albums along with bonus tracks. The single biggest source of information I used in this episode is the first edition of Andrew Sandoval's The Monkees; The Day-By-Day Story. Sadly that is now out of print and goes for hundreds of pounds. Sandoval released a second edition of the book last year, which I was unfortunately unable to obtain, but that too is now out of print. If you can find a copy of either, do get one. Other sources used were Monkee Business by Eric Lefcowitz, and the autobiographies of three of the band members and one of the songwriters -- Infinite Tuesday by Michael Nesmith, They Made a Monkee Out of Me by Davy Jones, I'm a Believer by Micky Dolenz, and Psychedelic Bubble-Gum by Bobby Hart. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript We've obviously talked in this podcast about several of the biggest hits of 1966 already, but we haven't mentioned the biggest hit of the year, one of the strangest records ever to make number one in the US -- "The Ballad of the Green Berets" by Sgt Barry Sadler: [Excerpt: Barry Sadler, "The Ballad of the Green Berets"] Barry Sadler was an altogether odd man, and just as a brief warning his story, which will last a minute or so, involves gun violence. At the time he wrote and recorded that song, he was on active duty in the military -- he was a combat medic who'd been fighting in the Vietnam War when he'd got a wound that had meant he had to be shipped back to the USA, and while at Fort Bragg he decided to write and record a song about his experiences, with the help of Robin Moore, a right-wing author of military books, both fiction and nonfiction, who wrote the books on which the films The Green Berets and The French Connection were based. Sadler's record became one of those massive fluke hits, selling over nine million copies and getting him appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, but other than one top thirty hit, he never had another hit single. Instead, he tried and failed to have a TV career, then became a writer of pulp fiction himself, writing a series of twenty-one novels about the centurion who thrust his spear into Jesus' side when Jesus was being crucified, and is thus cursed to be a soldier until the second coming. He moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he lived until he shot Lee Emerson, a country songwriter who had written songs for Marty Robbins, in the head, killing him, in an argument over a woman. He was sentenced to thirty days in jail for this misdemeanour, of which he served twenty-eight. Later he moved to Guatemala City, where he was himself shot in the head. The nearest Army base to Nashville, where Sadler lived after his discharge, is Fort Campbell, in Clarksville: [Excerpt: The Monkees, "Last Train to Clarksville"] The Vietnam War was a long and complicated war, one which affected nearly everything we're going to see in the next year or so of this podcast, and we're going to talk about it a lot, so it's worth giving a little bit of background here. In doing so, I'm going to use quite a flippant tone, but I want to make it clear that I'm not mocking the very real horrors that people suffered in the wars I'm talking about -- it's just that to sum up multiple decades of unimaginable horrors in a few sentences requires glossing over so much that you have to either laugh or cry. The origin of the Vietnam War, as in so many things in twentieth century history, can be found in European colonialism. France had invaded much of Southeast Asia in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, and created a territory known as French Indo-China, which became part of the French colonial Empire. But in 1940 France was taken over by Germany, and Japan was at war with China. Germany and Japan were allies, and the Japanese were worried that French Indo-China would be used to import fuel and arms to China -- plus, they quite fancied the idea of having a Japanese empire. So Vichy France let Japan take control of French Indo-China. But of course the *reason* that France had been taken over by Germany was that pretty much the whole world was at war in 1940, and obviously the countries that were fighting Germany and Japan -- the bloc led by Britain, soon to be joined by America and Russia -- weren't very keen on the idea of Japan getting more territory. But they were also busy with the whole "fighting a world war" thing, so they did what governments in this situation always do -- they funded local guerilla insurgent fighters on the basis that "my enemy's enemy is my friend", something that has luckily never had any negative consequences whatsoever, except for occasionally. Those local guerilla fighters were an anti-imperialist popular front, the Việt Minh, led by Hồ Chí Minh, a revolutionary Communist. They were dedicated to overthrowing foreign imperialist occupiers and gaining independence for Vietnam, and Hồ Chí Minh further wanted to establish a Soviet-style Communist government in the newly-independent country. The Allies funded the Việt Minh in their fight against the Japanese occupiers until the end of the Second World War, at which point France was liberated from German occupation, Vietnam was liberated from Japanese occupation, and the French basically said "Hooray! We get our Empire back!", to which Hồ Chí Minh's response was, more or less, "what part of anti-imperialist Marxist dedicated to overthrowing foreign occupation of Vietnam did you not understand, exactly?" Obviously, the French weren't best pleased with this, and so began what was the first of a series of wars in the region. The First Indochina War lasted for years and ended in a negotiated peace of a sort. Of course, this led to the favoured tactic of the time, partition -- splitting a formerly-occupied country into two, at an arbitrary dividing line, a tactic which was notably successful in securing peace everywhere it was tried. Apart from Ireland, India, Korea, and a few other places, but surely it wouldn't be a problem in Vietnam, right? North Vietnam was controlled by the Communists, led by Hồ Chí Minh, and recognised by China and the USSR but not by the Western states. South Vietnam was nominally independent but led by the former puppet emperor who owed his position to France, soon replaced by a right-wing dictatorship. And both the right-wing dictatorship and the left-wing dictatorship were soon busily oppressing their own citizens and funding military opposition groups in the other country. This soon escalated into full-blown war, with the North backed by China and Russia and the South backed by America. This was one of a whole series of wars in small countries which were really proxy wars between the two major powers, the USA and the USSR, both of which were vying for control, but which couldn't confront each other directly because either country had enough nuclear weapons to destroy the whole world multiple times over. But the Vietnam War quickly became more than a small proxy war. The US started sending its own troops over, and more and more of them. The US had never ended the draft after World War II, and by the mid sixties significant numbers of young men were being called up and sent over to fight in a war that had by that point lasted a decade (depending on exactly when you count the war as starting from) between two countries they didn't care about, over things few of them understood, and at an exorbitant cost in lives. As you might imagine, this started to become unpopular among those likely to be drafted, and as the people most affected (other, of course, than the Vietnamese people, whose opinions on being bombed and shot at by foreigners supporting one of other of the dictators vying to rule over them nobody else was much interested in) were also of the generation who were the main audience for popular music, slowly this started to seep into the lyrics of songs -- a seepage which had already been prompted by the appearance in the folk and soul worlds of many songs against other horrors, like segregation. This started to hit the pop charts with songs like "The Universal Soldier" by Buffy Saint-Marie, which made the UK top five in a version by Donovan: [Excerpt: Donovan, "The Universal Soldier"] That charted in the lower regions of the US charts, and a cover version by Glen Campbell did slightly better: [Excerpt: Glen Campbell, "The Universal Soldier"] That was even though Campbell himself was a supporter of the war in Vietnam, and rather pro-military. Meanwhile, as we've seen a couple of times, Jan Berry of Jan and Dean recorded a pro-war answer song to that, "The Universal Coward": [Excerpt: Jan Berry, "The Universal Coward"] This, of course, was even though Berry was himself avoiding the draft. And I've not been able to find the credits for that track, but Glen Campbell regularly played guitar on Berry's sessions, so it's entirely possible that he played guitar on that record made by a coward, attacking his own record, which he disagreed with, for its cowardice. This is, of course, what happens when popular culture tries to engage with social and political issues -- pop culture is motivated by money, not ideological consistency, and so if there's money to be made from anti-war songs or from pro-war songs, someone will take that money. And so on October the ninth 1965, Billboard magazine ran a report: "Colpix Enters Protest Field HOLLYWOOD -Colpix has secured its first protest lyric disk, "The Willing Conscript,"as General Manager Bud Katzel initiates relationships with independent producers. The single features Lauren St. Davis. Katzel says the song was written during the Civil War, rewritten during World War I and most recently updated by Bob Krasnow and Sam Ashe. Screen Gems Music, the company's publishing wing, is tracing the song's history, Katzel said. Katzel's second single is "(You Got the Gamma Goochee" by an artist with that unusual stage name. The record is a Screen Gems production and was in the house when Katzel arrived one month ago. The executive said he was expressly looking for material for two contract artists, David Jones and Hoyt Axton. The company is also working on getting Axton a role in a television series, "Camp Runamuck." " To unpack this a little, Colpix was a record label, owned by Columbia Pictures, and we talked about that a little bit in the episode on "The Loco-Motion" -- the film and TV companies were getting into music, and Columbia had recently bought up Don Kirshner's Aldon publishing and Dimension Records as part of their strategy of tying in music with their TV shows. This is a company trying desperately to jump on a bandwagon -- Colpix at this time was not exactly having huge amounts of success with its records. Hoyt Axton, meanwhile, was a successful country singer and songwriter. We met his mother many episodes back -- Mae Axton was the writer of "Heartbreak Hotel". Axton himself is now best known as the dad in the 80s film Gremlins. David Jones will be coming up shortly. Bob Krasnow and Sam Ashe were record executives then at Kama Sutra records, but soon to move on -- we'll be hearing about Krasnow more in future episodes. Neither of them were songwriters, and while I have no real reason to disbelieve the claim that "The Willing Conscript" dates back to the Civil War, the earliest version *I* have been able to track down was its publication in issue 28 of Broadside Magazine in June 1963 -- nearly a hundred years after the American Civil War -- with the credit "by Tom Paxton" -- Paxton was a popular singer-songwriter of the time, and it certainly sounds like his writing. The first recording of it I know of was by Pete Seeger: [Excerpt: Pete Seeger, "The Willing Conscript"] But the odd thing is that by the time this was printed, the single had already been released the previous month, and it was not released under the name Lauren St Davis, or under the title "The Willing Conscript" -- there are precisely two differences between the song copyrighted as by Krasnow and Ashe and the one copyrighted two years earlier as by Paxton. One is that verses three and four are swapped round, the other is that it's now titled "The New Recruit". And presumably because they realised that the pseudonym "Lauren St. Davis" was trying just a bit too hard to sound cool and drug culture, they reverted to another stage name the performer had been using, Michael Blessing: [Excerpt: Michael Blessing, "The New Recruit"] Blessing's name was actually Michael Nesmith, and before we go any further, yes his mother, Bette Nesmith Graham, did invent the product that later became marketed in the US as Liquid Paper. At this time, though, that company wasn't anywhere near as successful as it later became, and was still a tiny company. I only mention it to forestall the ten thousand comments and tweets I would otherwise get asking why I didn't mention it. In Nesmith's autobiography, while he talks a lot about his mother, he barely mentions her business and says he was uninterested in it -- he talks far more about the love of art she instilled in him, as well as her interest in the deep questions of philosophy and religion, to which in her case and his they found answers in Christian Science, but both were interested in conversations about ideas, in a way that few other people in Nesmith's early environment were. Nesmith's mother was also responsible for his music career. He had spent two years in the Air Force in his late teens, and the year he got out, his mother and stepfather bought him a guitar for Christmas, after he was inspired by seeing Hoyt Axton performing live and thinking he could do that himself: [Excerpt: Hoyt Axton, "Greenback Dollar"] As he put it in his autobiography, "What did it matter that I couldn't play the guitar, couldn't sing very well, and didn't know any folk songs? I would be going to college and hanging out at the student union with pretty girls and singing folk songs. They would like me. I might even figure out a way to get a cool car." This is, of course, the thought process that pretty much every young man to pick up a guitar goes through, but Nesmith was more dedicated than most. He gave his first performance as a folk singer ten days after he first got a guitar, after practising the few chords in most folk songs for twelve hours a day every day in that time. He soon started performing as a folk singer, performing around Dallas both on his own and with his friend John London, performing the standard folk repertoire of Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly songs, things like "Pick a Bale of Cotton": [Excerpt: Michael Nesmith, "Pick a Bale of Cotton"] He also started writing his own songs, and put out a vanity record of one of them in 1963: [Excerpt: Mike Nesmith, "Wanderin'"] London moved to California, and Nesmith soon followed, with his first wife Phyllis and their son Christian. There Nesmith and London had the good fortune to be neighbours with someone who was a business associate of Frankie Laine, and they were signed to Laine's management company as a folk duo. However, Nesmith's real love was rock and roll, especially the heavier R&B end of the genre -- he was particularly inspired by Bo Diddley, and would always credit seeing Diddley live as a teenager as being his biggest musical influence. Soon Nesmith and London had formed a folk-rock trio with their friend Bill Sleeper. As Mike & John & Bill, they put out a single, "How Can You Kiss Me?", written by Nesmith: [Excerpt: Mike & John & Bill, "How Can You Kiss Me?"] They also recorded more of Nesmith's songs, like "All the King's Horses": [Excerpt: Mike & John & Bill, "All the King's Horses"] But that was left unreleased, as Bill was drafted, and Nesmith and London soon found themselves in The Survivors, one of several big folk groups run by Randy Sparks, the founder of the New Christie Minstrels. Nesmith was also writing songs throughout 1964 and 1965, and a few of those songs would be recorded by other people in 1966, like "Different Drum", which was recorded by the bluegrass band The Greenbriar Boys: [Excerpt: The Greenbriar Boys, "Different Drum"] That would more successfully be recorded by the Stone Poneys later of course. And Nesmith's "Mary Mary" was also picked up by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band: [Excerpt: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, "Mary Mary"] But while Nesmith had written these songs by late 1965, he wasn't able to record them himself. He was signed by Bob Krasnow, who insisted he change his name to Michael Blessing, and recorded two singles for Colpix -- "The New Recruit", which we heard earlier, and a version of Buffy Saint-Marie's "Until It's Time For You To Go", sung in a high tenor range very far from Nesmith's normal singing voice: [Excerpt: Michael Blessing, "Until It's Time For You To Go"] But to my mind by far the best thing Nesmith recorded in this period is the unissued third Michael Blessing single, where Nesmith seems to have been given a chance to make the record he really wanted to make. The B-side, a version of Allen Toussaint's swamp-rocker "Get Out of My Life, Woman", is merely a quite good version of the song, but the A-side, a version of his idol Bo Diddley's classic "Who Do You Love?" is utterly extraordinary, and it's astonishing that it was never released at the time: [Excerpt: Michael Blessing, "Who Do You Love?"] But the Michael Blessing records did no better than anything else Colpix were putting out. Indeed, the only record they got onto the hot one hundred at all in a three and a half year period was a single by one David Jones, which reached the heady heights of number ninety-eight: [Excerpt: David Jones, "What Are We Going to Do?"] Jones had been brought up in extreme poverty in Openshaw in Manchester, but had been encouraged by his mother, who died when he was fourteen, to go into acting. He'd had a few parts on local radio, and had appeared as a child actor on TV shows made in Manchester, like appearing in the long-running soap opera Coronation Street (still on today) as Ena Sharples' grandson Colin: [Excerpt: Coronation St https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FDEvOs1imc , 13:30] He also had small roles in Z-Cars and Bill Naughton's TV play "June Evening", and a larger role in Keith Waterhouse's radio play "There is a Happy Land". But when he left school, he decided he was going to become a jockey rather than an actor -- he was always athletic, he loved horses, and he was short -- I've seen his height variously cited as five foot three and five foot four. But it turned out that the owner of the stables in which he was training had showbusiness connections, and got him the audition that changed his life, for the part of the Artful Dodger in Lionel Bart's West End musical Oliver! We've encountered Lionel Bart before a couple of times, but if you don't remember him, he was the songwriter who co-wrote Tommy Steele's hits, and who wrote "Living Doll" for Cliff Richard. He also discovered both Steele and Marty Wilde, and was one of the major figures in early British rock and roll. But after the Tommy Steele records, he'd turned his attention to stage musicals, writing book, music, and lyrics for a string of hits, and more-or-less singlehandedly inventing the modern British stage musical form -- something Andrew Lloyd Webber, for example, always credits him with. Oliver!, based on Oliver Twist, was his biggest success, and they were looking for a new Artful Dodger. This was *the* best role for a teenage boy in the UK at the time -- later performers to take the role on the London stage include Steve Marriott and Phil Collins, both of whom we'll no doubt encounter in future episodes -- and Jones got the job, although they were a bit worried at first about his Manchester vowels. He assured them though that he could learn to do a Cockney accent, and they took him on. Jones not having a natural Cockney accent ended up doing him the biggest favour of his career. While he could put on a relatively convincing one, he articulated quite carefully because it wasn't his natural accent. And so when the North American version found  in previews that their real Cockney Dodger wasn't being understood perfectly, the fake Cockney Jones was brought over to join the show on Broadway, and was there from opening night on. On February the ninth, 1964, Jones found himself, as part of the Broadway cast of Oliver!, on the Ed Sullivan Show: [Excerpt: Davy Jones and Georgia Brown, "I'd Do Anything"] That same night, there were some other British people, who got a little bit more attention than Jones did: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "I Want to Hold Your Hand (live on Ed Sullivan)"] Davy Jones wasn't a particular fan of pop music at that point, but he knew he liked what he saw, and he wanted some of the same reaction. Shortly after this, Jones was picked up for management by Ward Sylvester, of Columbia Pictures, who was going to groom Jones for stardom. Jones continued in Oliver! for a while, and also had a brief run in a touring version of Pickwick, another musical based on a Dickens novel, this time starring Harry Secombe, the British comedian and singer who had made his name with the Goon Show. Jones' first single, "Dream Girl", came out in early 1965: [Excerpt: Davy Jones, "Dream Girl"] It was unsuccessful, as was his one album, David Jones, which seemed to be aiming at the teen idol market, but failing miserably. The second single, "What Are  We Going to Do?" did make the very lowest regions of the Hot One Hundred, but the rest of the album was mostly attempts to sound a bit like Herman's Hermits -- a band whose lead singer, coincidentally, also came from Manchester, had appeared in Coronation Street, and was performing with a fake Cockney accent. Herman's Hermits had had a massive US hit with the old music hall song "I'm Henry VIII I Am": [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "I'm Henry VIII I Am"] So of course Davy had his own old music-hall song, "Any Old Iron": [Excerpt: Davy Jones, "Any Old Iron"] Also, the Turtles had recently had a hit with a folk-rock version of Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe", and Davy cut his own version of their arrangement, in the one concession to rock music on the album: [Excerpt: Davy Jones, "It Ain't Me Babe"] The album was, unsurprisingly, completely unsuccessful, but Ward Sylvester was not disheartened. He had the perfect job for a young British teen idol who could sing and act. The Monkees was the brainchild of two young TV producers, Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, who had come up with the idea of doing a TV show very loosely based on the Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night (though Rafelson would later claim that he'd had the idea many years before A Hard Day's Night and was inspired by his youth touring with folk bands -- Schneider always admitted the true inspiration though). This was not a particularly original idea -- there were a whole bunch of people trying to make TV shows based in some way around bands. Jan and Dean were working on a possible TV series, there was talk of a TV series starring The Who, there was a Beatles cartoon series, Hanna-Barbera were working on a cartoon series about a band called The Bats, and there was even another show proposed to Screen Gems, Columbia's TV department, titled Liverpool USA, which was meant to star Davy Jones, another British performer, and two American musicians, and to have songs provided by Don Kirshner's songwriters. That The Monkees, rather than these other series, was the one that made it to the TV (though obviously the Beatles cartoon series did too) is largely because Rafelson and Schneider's independent production company, Raybert, which they had started after leaving Screen Gems, was given two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars to develop the series by their former colleague, Screen Gems' vice president in charge of programme development, the former child star Jackie Cooper. Of course, as well as being their former colleague, Cooper may have had some more incentive to give Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider that money in that the head of Columbia Pictures, and thus Cooper's boss' boss, was one Abe Schneider. The original idea for the show was to use the Lovin' Spoonful, but as we heard last week they weren't too keen, and it was quickly decided instead that the production team would put together a group of performers. Davy Jones was immediately attached to the project, although Rafelson was uncomfortable with Jones, thinking he wasn't as rock and roll as Rafelson was hoping for -- he later conceded, though, that Jones was absolutely right for the group. As for everyone else, to start with Rafelson and Schneider placed an ad in a couple of the trade papers which read "Madness!! Auditions Folk and Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in new TV series. Running parts for 4 insane boys ages 17-21. Want spirited Ben Frank's types. Have courage to work. Must come down for interview" There were a couple of dogwhistles in there, to appeal to the hip crowd -- Ben Frank's was a twenty-four-hour restaurant on the Sunset Strip, where people including Frank Zappa and Jim Morrison used to hang out, and which was very much associated with the freak scene we've looked at in episodes on Zappa and the Byrds. Meanwhile "Must come down for interview" was meant to emphasise that you couldn't actually be high when you turned up -- but you were expected to be the kind of person who would at least at some points have been high. A lot of people answered that ad -- including Paul Williams, Harry Nilsson, Van Dyke Parks, and many more we'll be seeing along the way. But oddly, the only person actually signed up for the show because of that ad was Michael Nesmith -- who was already signed to Colpix Records anyway. According to Davy Jones, who was sitting in at the auditions, Schneider and Rafelson were deliberately trying to disorient the auditioners with provocative behaviour like just ignoring them, to see how they'd react. Nesmith was completely unfazed by this, and apparently walked in wearing a  green wool hat and carrying a bag of laundry, saying that he needed to get this over with quickly so he could go and do his washing. John London, who came along to the audition as well, talked later about seeing Nesmith fill in a questionnaire that everyone had to fill in -- in a space asking about previous experience Nesmith just wrote "Life" and drew a big diagonal line across the rest of the page. That attitude certainly comes across in Nesmith's screen test: [Excerpt: Michael Nesmith screen test] Meanwhile, Rafelson and Schneider were also scouring the clubs for performers who might be useful, and put together a shortlist of people including Jerry Yester and Chip Douglas of the Modern Folk Quartet, Bill Chadwick, who was in the Survivors with Nesmith and London, and one Micky Braddock, whose agent they got in touch with and who was soon signed up. Braddock was the stage name of Micky Dolenz, who soon reverted to his birth surname, and it's the name by which he went in his first bout of fame. Dolenz was the son of two moderately successful Hollywood actors, George Dolenz and Janelle Johnson, and their connections had led to Dolenz, as Braddock, getting the lead role in the 1958 TV series Circus Boy, about a child named Corky who works in a circus looking after an elephant after his parents, the Flying Falcons, were killed in a trapeze accident. [Excerpt: Circus Boy, "I can't play a drum"] Oddly, one of the other people who had been considered for that role was Paul Williams, who was also considered for the Monkees but ultimately turned down, and would later write one of the Monkees' last singles. Dolenz had had a few minor TV appearances after that series had ended, including a recurring role on Peyton Place, but he had also started to get interested in music. He'd performed a bit as a folk duo with his sister Coco, and had also been the lead singer of a band called Micky and the One-Nighters, who later changed their name to the Missing Links, who'd played mostly covers of Little Richard and Chuck Berry songs and later British Invasion hits. He'd also recorded two tracks with Wrecking Crew backing, although neither track got released until after his later fame -- "Don't Do It": [Excerpt: Micky Dolenz, "Don't Do It"] and "Huff Puff": [Excerpt: Micky Dolenz, "Huff Puff"] Dolenz had a great singing voice, an irrepressible personality, and plenty of TV experience. He was obviously in. Rafelson and Schneider took quite a while whittling down the shortlist to the final four, and they *were* still considering people who'd applied through the ads. One they actually offered the role to was Stephen Stills, but he decided not to take the role. When he turned the role down, they asked if he knew anyone else who had a similar appearance to him, and as it happened he did. Steve Stills and Peter Tork had known of each other before they actually met on the streets of Greenwich Village -- the way they both told the story, on their first meeting they'd each approached the other and said "You must be the guy everyone says looks like me!" The two had become fast friends, and had played around the Greenwich Village folk scene together for a while, before going their separate ways -- Stills moving to California while Tork joined another of those big folk ensembles of the New Christie Minstrels type, this one called the Phoenix Singers. Tork had later moved to California himself, and reconnected with his old friend, and they had performed together for a while in a trio called the Buffalo Fish, with Tork playing various instruments, singing, and doing comedy bits. Oddly, while Tork was the member of the Monkees with the most experience as a musician, he was the only one who hadn't made a record when the TV show was put together. But he was by far the most skilled instrumentalist of the group -- as distinct from best musician, a distinction Tork was always scrupulous about making -- and could play guitar, bass, and keyboards, all to a high standard -- and I've also seen him in more recent years play French horn live. His great love, though, was the banjo, and you can hear how he must have sounded on the Greenwich Village folk scene in his solo spots on Monkees shows, where he would show off his banjo skills: [Excerpt: Peter Tork, "Cripple Creek"] Tork wouldn't get to use his instrumental skills much at first though, as most of the backing tracks for the group's records were going to be performed by other people. More impressive for the TV series producers was his gift for comedy, especially physical comedy -- having seen Tork perform live a few times, the only comparison I can make to his physical presence is to Harpo Marx, which is about as high a compliment as one can give. Indeed, Micky Dolenz has often pointed out that while there were intentional parallels to the Beatles in the casting of the group, the Marx Brothers are a far better parallel, and it's certainly easy to see Tork as Harpo, Dolenz as Chico, Nesmith as Groucho, and Jones as Zeppo. (This sounds like an insult to Jones, unless you're aware of how much the Marx Brothers films actually depended on Zeppo as the connective tissue between the more outrageous brothers and the more normal environment they were operating in, and how much the later films suffered for the lack of Zeppo). The new cast worked well together, even though there were obvious disagreements between them right from the start. Dolenz, at least at this point, seems to have been the gel that held the four together -- he had the experience of being a child star in common with Jones, he was a habitue of the Sunset Strip clubs where Nesmith and Tork had been hanging out, and he had personality traits in common with all of them. Notably, in later years, Dolenz would do duo tours with each of his three bandmates without the participation of the others. The others, though, didn't get on so well with each other. Jones and Tork seem to have got on OK, but they were very different people -- Jones was a showbiz entertainer, whose primary concern was that none of the other stars of the show be better looking than him, while Tork was later self-diagnosed as neurodivergent, a folkie proto-hippie who wanted to drift from town to town playing his banjo. Tork and Nesmith had similar backgrounds and attitudes in some respects -- and were united in their desire to have more musical input into the show than was originally intended -- but they were such different personalities in every aspect of their lives from their religious views to their politics to their taste in music they came into conflict. Nesmith would later say of Tork "I never liked Peter, he never liked me. So we had an uneasy truce between the two of us. As clear as I could tell, among his peers he was very well liked. But we rarely had a civil word to say to each other". Nesmith also didn't get on well with Jones, both of them seeming to view themselves as the natural leader of the group, with all the clashes that entails. The four Monkees were assigned instruments for their characters based not on instrumental skill, but on what suited their roles better. Jones was the teen idol character, so he was made the maraca-playing frontman who could dance without having to play an instrument, though Dolenz took far more of the lead vocals. Nesmith was made the guitarist, while Tork was put on bass, though Tork was by far the better guitarist of the two. And Dolenz was put on drums, even though he didn't play the drums -- Tork would always say later that if the roles had been allocated by actual playing ability, Jones would have been the drummer. Dolenz did, though, become a good drummer, if a rather idiosyncratic one. Tork would later say "Micky played the drums but Mike kept time, on that one record we all made, Headquarters. Mike was the timekeeper. I don't know that Micky relied on him but Mike had a much stronger sense of time. And Davy too, Davy has a much stronger sense of time. Micky played the drums like they were a musical instrument, as a colour. He played the drum colour.... as a band, there was a drummer and there was a timekeeper and they were different people." But at first, while the group were practising their instruments so they could mime convincingly on the TV and make personal appearances, they didn't need to play on their records. Indeed, on the initial pilot, they didn't even sing -- the recordings had been made before the cast had been finalised: [Excerpt: Boyce & Hart, "Monkees Theme (pilot version)"] The music was instead performed by two songwriters, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who would become hugely important in the Monkees project. Boyce and Hart were not the first choice for the project. Don Kirshner, the head of Screen Gems Music, had initially suggested Roger Atkins, a Brill Building songwriter working for his company, as the main songwriter for The Monkees. Atkins is best known for writing "It's My Life", a hit for the Animals: [Excerpt: The Animals, "It's My Life"] But Atkins didn't work out, though he would collaborate later on one song with Nesmith, and reading between the lines, it seems that there was some corporate infighting going on, though I've not seen it stated in so many words. There seems to have been a turf war between Don Kirshner, the head of Screen Gems' music publishing, who was based in the Brill Building, and Lester Sill, the West Coast executive we've seen so many times before, the mentor to Leiber and Stoller, Duane Eddy, and Phil Spector, who was now the head of Screen Gems music on the West Coast. It also seems to be the case that none of the top Brill Building songwriters were all that keen on being involved at this point -- writing songs for an unsold TV pilot wasn't exactly a plum gig. Sill ended up working closely with the TV people, and it seems to have been him who put forward Boyce and Hart, a songwriting team he was mentoring. Boyce and Hart had been working in the music industry for years, both together and separately, and had had some success, though they weren't one of the top-tier songwriting teams like Goffin and King. They'd both started as performers -- Boyce's first single, "Betty Jean", had come out in 1958: [Excerpt: Tommy Boyce, "Betty Jean"] And Hart's, "Love Whatcha Doin' to Me", under his birth name Robert Harshman, a year later: [Excerpt: Robert Harshman, "Love Whatcha Doin' to Me"] Boyce had been the first one to have real songwriting success, writing Fats Domino's top ten hit "Be My Guest" in 1959: [Excerpt: Fats Domino, "Be My Guest"] and cowriting two songs with singer Curtis Lee, both of which became singles produced by Phil Spector -- "Under the Moon of Love" and the top ten hit "Pretty Little Angel Eyes": [Excerpt: Curtis Lee, "Pretty Little Angel Eyes"] Boyce and Hart together, along with Wes Farrell, who had co-written "Twist and Shout" with Bert Berns, wrote "Lazy Elsie Molly" for Chubby Checker, and the number three hit "Come a Little Bit Closer" for Jay and the Americans: [Excerpt: Jay and the Americans, "Come a Little Bit Closer"] At this point they were both working in the Brill Building, but then Boyce moved to the West Coast, where he was paired with Steve Venet, the brother of Nik Venet, and they co-wrote and produced "Peaches and Cream" for the Ikettes: [Excerpt: The Ikettes, "Peaches and Cream"] Hart, meanwhile, was playing in the band of Teddy Randazzo, the accordion-playing singer who had appeared in The Girl Can't Help It, and with Randazzo and Bobby Weinstein he wrote "Hurts So Bad", which became a big hit for Little Anthony and the Imperials: [Excerpt: Little Anthony and the Imperials, "Hurts So Bad"] But Hart soon moved over to the West Coast, where he joined his old partner Boyce, who had been busy writing TV themes with Venet for shows like "Where the Action Is". Hart soon replaced Venet in the team, and the two soon wrote what would become undoubtedly their most famous piece of music ever, a theme tune that generations of TV viewers would grow to remember: [Excerpt: "Theme from Days of Our Lives"] Well, what did you *think* I meant? Yes, just as Davy Jones had starred in an early episode of Britain's longest-running soap opera, one that's still running today, so Boyce and Hart wrote the theme music for *America's* longest-running soap opera, which has been running every weekday since 1965, and has so far aired well in excess of fourteen thousand episodes. Meanwhile, Hart had started performing in a band called the Candy Store Prophets, with Larry Taylor  -- who we last saw with the Gamblers, playing on "LSD-25" and "Moon Dawg" -- on bass, Gerry McGee on guitar, and Billy Lewis on drums. It was this band that Boyce and Hart used -- augmented by session guitarists Wayne Erwin and Louie Shelton and Wrecking Crew percussionist Gene Estes on tambourine, plus Boyce and session singer Ron Hicklin on backing vocals, to record first the demos and then the actual tracks that would become the Monkees hits. They had a couple of songs already that would be suitable for the pilot episode, but they needed something that would be usable as a theme song for the TV show. Boyce and Hart's usual working method was to write off another hit -- they'd try to replicate the hook or the feel or the basic sound of something that was already popular. In this case, they took inspiration from the song "Catch Us If You Can", the theme from the film that was the Dave Clark Five's attempt at their own A Hard Day's Night: [Excerpt: The Dave Clark Five, "Catch Us If You Can"] Boyce and Hart turned that idea into what would become the Monkees theme. We heard their performance of it earlier of course, but when the TV show finally came out, it was rerecorded with Dolenz singing: [Excerpt: The Monkees, "Monkees Theme"] For a while, Boyce and Hart hoped that they would get to perform all the music for the TV show, and there was even apparently some vague talk of them being cast in it, but it was quickly decided that they would just be songwriters. Originally, the intent was that they wouldn't even produce the records, that instead the production would be done by a name producer. Micky Most, the Animals' producer, was sounded out for the role but wasn't interested. Snuff Garrett was brought in, but quickly discovered he didn't get on with the group at all -- in particular, they were all annoyed at the idea that Davy would be the sole lead vocalist, and the tracks Garrett cut with Davy on lead and the Wrecking Crew backing were scrapped. Instead, it was decided that Boyce and Hart would produce most of the tracks, initially with the help of the more experienced Jack Keller, and that they would only work with one Monkee at a time to minimise disruption -- usually Micky and sometimes Davy. These records would be made the same way as the demos had been, by the same set of musicians, just with one of the Monkees taking the lead. Meanwhile, as Nesmith was seriously interested in writing and production, and Rafelson and Schneider wanted to encourage the cast members, he was also assigned to write and produce songs for the show. Unlike Boyce and Hart, Nesmith wanted to use his bandmates' talents -- partly as a way of winning them over, as it was already becoming clear that the show would involve several competing factions. Nesmith's songs were mostly country-rock tracks that weren't considered suitable as singles, but they would be used on the TV show and as album tracks, and on Nesmith's songs Dolenz and Tork would sing backing vocals, and Tork would join the Wrecking Crew as an extra guitarist -- though he was well aware that his part on records like "Sweet Young Thing" wasn't strictly necessary when Glen Campbell, James Burton, Al Casey and Mike Deasy were also playing guitar: [Excerpt: The Monkees, "Sweet Young Thing"] That track was written by Nesmith with Goffin and King, and there seems to have been some effort to pair Nesmith, early on, with more commercial songwriters, though this soon fell by the wayside and Nesmith was allowed to keep making his own idiosyncratic records off to the side while Boyce and Hart got on with making the more commercial records. This was not, incidentally, something that most of the stars of the show objected to or even thought was a problem at the time. Tork was rather upset that he wasn't getting to have much involvement with the direction of the music, as he'd thought he was being employed as a musician, but Dolenz and Jones were actors first and foremost, while Nesmith was happily making his own tracks. They'd all known going in that most of the music for the show would be created by other people -- there were going to be two songs every episode, and there was no way that four people could write and record that much material themselves while also performing in a half-hour comedy show every week. Assuming, of course, that the show even aired. Initial audience response to the pilot was tepid at best, and it looked for a while like the show wasn't going to be green-lit. But Rafelson and Schneider -- and director James Frawley who played a crucial role in developing the show -- recut the pilot, cutting out one character altogether -- a manager who acted as an adult supervisor -- and adding in excerpts of the audition tapes, showing the real characters of some of the actors. As three of the four were playing characters loosely based on themselves -- Peter's "dummy" character wasn't anything like he was in real life, but was like the comedy character he'd developed in his folk-club performances -- this helped draw the audience in. It also, though, contributed to some line-blurring that became a problem. The re-edited pilot was a success, and the series sold. Indeed, the new format for the series was a unique one that had never been done on TV before -- it was a sitcom about four young men living together, without any older adult supervision, getting into improbable adventures, and with one or two semi-improvised "romps", inspired by silent slapstick, over which played original songs. This became strangely influential in British sitcom when the series came out over here  -- two of the most important sitcoms of the next couple of decades, The Goodies and The Young Ones, are very clearly influenced by the Monkees. And before the broadcast of the first episode, they were going to release a single to promote it. The song chosen as the first single was one Boyce and Hart had written, inspired by the Beatles. Specifically inspired by this: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Paperback Writer"] Hart heard that tag on the radio, and thought that the Beatles were singing "take the last train". When he heard the song again the next day and realised that the song had nothing to do with trains, he and Boyce sat down and wrote their own song inspired by his mishearing. "Last Train to Clarksville" is structured very, very, similarly to "Paperback Writer" -- both of them stay on one chord, a G7, for an eight-bar verse before changing to C7 for a chorus line -- the word "writer" for the Beatles, the "no no no" (inspired by the Beatles "yeah yeah yeah") for the Monkees. To show how close the parallels are, I've sped up the vocals from the Beatles track slightly to match the tempo with a karaoke backing track version of "Last Train to Clarksville" I found, and put the two together: [Excerpt: "Paperback Clarksville"] Lyrically, there was one inspiration I will talk about in a minute, but I think I've identified another inspiration that nobody has ever mentioned. The classic country song "Night Train to Memphis", co-written by Owen Bradley, and made famous by Roy Acuff, has some slight melodic similarity to "Last Train to Clarksville", and parallels the lyrics fairly closely -- "take the night train to Memphis" against "take the last train to Clarksville", both towns in Tennessee, and "when you arrive at the station, I'll be right there to meet you I'll be right there to greet you, So don't turn down my invitation" is clearly close to "and I'll meet you at the station, you can be here by 4:30 'cos I've made your reservation": [Excerpt: Roy Acuff, "Night Train to Memphis"] Interestingly, in May 1966, the same month that "Paperback Writer" was released, and so presumably the time that Hart heard the song on the radio for the first time, Rick Nelson, the teen idol formerly known as Ricky Nelson, who had started his own career as a performer in a sitcom, had released an album called Bright Lights and Country Music. He'd had a bit of a career downslump and was changing musical direction, and recording country songs. The last track on that album was a version of "Night Train to Memphis": [Excerpt: Rick Nelson, "Night Train to Memphis"] Now, I've never seen either Boyce or Hart ever mention even hearing that song, it's pure speculation on my part that there's any connection there at all, but I thought the similarity worth mentioning. The idea of the lyric, though, was to make a very mild statement about the Vietnam War. Clarksville was, as mentioned earlier, the site of Fort Campbell, a military training base, and they crafted a story about a young soldier being shipped off to war, calling his girlfriend to come and see him for one last night. This is left more-or-less ambiguous -- this was a song being written for a TV show intended for children, after all -- but it's still very clear on the line "and I don't know if I'm ever coming home". Now, Boyce and Hart were songwriters first and foremost, and as producers they were quite hands-off and would let the musicians shape the arrangements. They knew they wanted a guitar riff in the style of the Beatles' recent singles, and Louie Shelton came up with one based around the G7 chord that forms the basis of the song, starting with an octave leap: Shelton's riff became the hook that drove the record, and engineer Dave Hassinger added the final touch, manually raising the volume on the hi-hat mic for a fraction of a second every bar, creating a drum sound like a hissing steam brake: [Excerpt: The Monkees, "Last Train to Clarksville"] Now all that was needed was to get the lead vocals down. But Micky Dolenz was tired, and hungry, and overworked -- both Dolenz and Jones in their separate autobiographies talk about how it was normal for them to only get three hours' sleep a night between working twelve hour days filming the series, three-hour recording sessions, and publicity commitments. He got the verses down fine, but he just couldn't sing the middle eight. Boyce and Hart had written a complicated, multisyllabic, patter bridge, and he just couldn't get his tongue around that many syllables when he was that tired. He eventually asked if he could just sing "do do do" instead of the words, and the producers agreed. Surprisingly, it worked: [Excerpt: The Monkees, "Last Train to Clarksville"] "Last Train to Clarksville" was released in advance of the TV series, on a new label, Colgems, set up especially for the Monkees to replace Colpix, with a better distribution deal, and it went to number one. The TV show started out with mediocre ratings, but soon that too became a hit. And so did the first album released from the TV series. And that album was where some of the problems really started. The album itself was fine -- ten tracks produced by Boyce and Hart with the Candy Store Prophets playing and either Micky or Davy singing, mostly songs Boyce and Hart wrote, with a couple of numbers by Goffin and King and other Kirshner staff songwriters, plus two songs produced by Nesmith with the Wrecking Crew, and with token participation from Tork and Dolenz. The problem was the back cover, which gave little potted descriptions of each of them, with their height, eye colour, and so on. And under three of them it said "plays guitar and sings", while under Dolenz it said "plays drums and sings". Now this was technically accurate -- they all did play those instruments. They just didn't play them on the record, which was clearly the impression the cover was intended to give. Nesmith in particular was incandescent. He believed that people watching the TV show understood that the group weren't really performing that music, any more than Adam West was really fighting crime or William Shatner travelling through space. But crediting them on the record was, he felt, crossing a line into something close to con artistry. To make matters worse, success was bringing more people trying to have a say. Where before, the Monkees had been an irrelevance, left to a couple of B-list producer-songwriters on the West Coast, now they were a guaranteed hit factory, and every songwriter working for Kirshner wanted to write and produce for them -- which made sense because of the sheer quantity of material they needed for the TV show, but it made for a bigger, less democratic, organisation -- one in which Kirshner was suddenly in far more control. Suddenly as well as Boyce and Hart with the Candy Store Prophets and Nesmith with the Wrecking Crew, both of whom had been operating without much oversight from Kirshner, there were a bunch of tracks being cut on the East Coast by songwriting and production teams like Goffin and King, and Neil Sedaka and Carole Bayer. On the second Monkees album, released only a few months after the first, there were nine producers credited -- as well as Boyce, Hart, Jack Keller, and Nesmith, there were now also Goffin, King, Sedaka, Bayer, and Jeff Barry, who as well as cutting tracks on the east coast was also flying over to the West Coast, cutting more tracks with the Wrecking Crew, and producing vocal sessions while there. As well as producing songs he'd written himself, Barry was also supervising songs written by other people. One of those was a new songwriter he'd recently discovered and been co-producing for Bang Records, Neil Diamond, who had just had a big hit of his own with "Cherry Cherry": [Excerpt: Neil Diamond, "Cherry Cherry"] Diamond was signed with Screen Gems, and had written a song which Barry thought would be perfect for the Monkees, an uptempo song called "I'm a Believer", which he'd demoed with the regular Bang musicians -- top East Coast session players like Al Gorgoni, the guitarist who'd played on "The Sound of Silence": [Excerpt: Neil Diamond, "I'm a Believer"] Barry had cut a backing track for the Monkees using those same musicians, including Diamond on acoustic guitar, and brought it over to LA. And that track would indirectly lead to the first big crisis for the group. Barry, unlike Boyce and Hart, was interested in working with the whole group, and played all of them the backing track. Nesmith's reaction was a blunt "I'm a producer too, and that ain't no hit". He liked the song -- he wanted to have a go at producing a track on it himself, as it happened -- but he didn't think the backing track worked. Barry, trying to lighten the mood, joked that it wasn't finished and you needed to imagine it with strings and horns. Unfortunately, Nesmith didn't get that he was joking, and started talking about how that might indeed make a difference -- at which point everyone laughed and Nesmith took it badly -- his relationship with Barry quickly soured. Nesmith was getting increasingly dissatisfied with the way his songs and his productions were being sidelined, and was generally getting unhappy, and Tork was wanting more musical input too. They'd been talking with Rafelson and Schneider, who'd agreed that the group were now good enough on their instruments that they could start recording some tracks by themselves, an idea which Kirshner loathed. But for now they were recording Neil Diamond's song to Jeff Barry's backing track. Given that Nesmith liked the song, and given that he had some slight vocal resemblance to Diamond, the group suggested that Nesmith be given the lead vocal, and Kirshner and Barry agreed, although Kirshner at least apparently always intended for Dolenz to sing lead, and was just trying to pacify Nesmith. In the studio, Kirshner kept criticising Nesmith's vocal, and telling him he was doing it wrong, until eventually he stormed out, and Kirshner got what he wanted -- another Monkees hit with Micky Dolenz on lead, though this time it did at least have Jones and Tork on backing vocals: [Excerpt: The Monkees, "I'm a Believer"] That was released on November 23rd, 1966, as their second single, and became their second number one. And in January 1967, the group's second album, More of the Monkees, was released. That too went to number one. There was only one problem. The group weren't even told about the album coming out beforehand -- they had to buy their own copies from a record shop to even see what tracks were on it. Nesmith had his two tracks, but even Boyce and Hart were only given two, with the rest of the album being made up of tracks from the Brill Building songwriters Kirshner preferred. Lots of great Nesmith and Boyce and Hart tracks were left off the album in favour of some astonishingly weak material, including the two worst tracks the group ever recorded, "The Day We Fall in Love" and "Laugh", and a novelty song they found embarrassing, "Your Auntie Grizelda", included to give Tork a vocal spot. Nesmith called it "probably the worst album in the history of the world", though in truth seven of the twelve tracks are really very strong, though some of the other material is pretty poor. The group were also annoyed by the packaging. The liner notes were by Don Kirshner, and read to the group at least like a celebration of Kirshner himself as the one person responsible for everything on the record. Even the photo was an embarrassment -- the group had taken a series of photos in clothes from the department store J. C. Penney as part of an advertising campaign, and the group thought the clothes were ridiculous, but one of those photos was the one chosen for the cover. Nesmith and Tork made a decision, which the other two agreed to with varying degrees of willingness. They'd been fine miming to other people's records when it was clearly just for a TV show. But if they were being promoted as a real band, and having to go on tour promoting albums credited to them, they were going to *be* a real band, and take some responsibility for the music that was being put out in their name.  With the support of Rafelson and Schneider, they started making preparations to do just that. But Don Kirshner had other ideas, and told them so in no uncertain terms. As far as he was concerned, they were a bunch of ungrateful, spoiled, kids who were very happy cashing the ridiculously large cheques they were getting, but now wanted to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. They were going to keep doing what they were told. Things came to a head in a business meeting in January 1967, when Nesmith gave an ultimatum. Either the group got to start playing on their own records, or he was quitting. Herb Moelis, Kirshner's lawyer, told Nesmith that he should read his contract more carefully, at which point Nesmith got up, punched a hole in the wall of the hotel suite they were in, and told Moelis "That could have been your face". So as 1967 began, the group were at a turning point. Would they be able to cut the puppet strings, or would they have to keep living a lie? We'll find out in a few weeks' time...
Feb 15, 2022
Episode 143: “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful
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Episode 143 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Summer in the City’”, and at the short but productive career of the Lovin' Spoonful.  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 "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Any More" by the Walker Brothers and the strange career of Scott Walker. 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, all the songs excerpted in the podcast can be heard in full at Mixcloud. This box set contains all four studio albums by the Lovin' Spoonful, plus the one album by "The Lovin' Spoonful featuring Joe Butler", while this CD contains their two film soundtracks (mostly inessential instrumental filler, apart from "Darling Be Home Soon") Information about harmonicas and harmonicists comes from Harmonicas, Harps, and Heavy Breathers by Kim Field. There are only three books about the Lovin' Spoonful, but all are worth reading. Do You Believe in Magic? by Simon Wordsworth is a good biography of the band, while his The Magic's in the Music is a scrapbook of press cuttings and reminiscences. Meanwhile Steve Boone's Hotter Than a Match Head: My Life on the Run with the Lovin' Spoonful has rather more discussion of the actual music than is normal in a musician's autobiography. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Let's talk about the harmonica for a while. The harmonica is an instrument that has not shown up a huge amount in the podcast, but which was used in a fair bit of the music we've covered. We've heard it for example on records by Bo Diddley: [Excerpt: Bo Diddley, "I'm a Man"] and by Bob Dylan: [Excerpt: Bob Dylan, "Blowin' in the Wind"] and the Rolling Stones: [Excerpt: The Rolling Stones, "Little Red Rooster"] In most folk and blues contexts, the harmonicas used are what is known as a diatonic harmonica, and these are what most people think of when they think of harmonicas at all. Diatonic harmonicas have the notes of a single key in them, and if you want to play a note in another key, you have to do interesting tricks with the shape of your mouth to bend the note. There's another type of harmonica, though, the chromatic harmonica. We've heard that a time or two as well, like on "Love Me Do" by the Beatles: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Love Me Do"] Chromatic harmonicas have sixteen holes, rather than the diatonic harmonica's ten, and they also have a slide which you can press to raise the note by a semitone, meaning you can play far more notes than on a diatonic harmonica -- but they're also physically harder to play, requiring a different kind of breathing to pull off playing one successfully. They're so different that John Lennon would distinguish between the two instruments -- he'd describe a chromatic harmonica as a harmonica, but a diatonic harmonica he would call a harp, like blues musicians often did: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Love These Goon Shows"] While the chromatic harmonica isn't a particularly popular instrument in rock music, it is one that has had some success in other fields. There have been some jazz and light-orchestral musicians who have become famous playing the instrument, like the jazz musician Max Geldray, who played in those Goon Shows the Beatles loved so much: [Excerpt: Max Geldray, "C-Jam Blues"] And in the middle of the twentieth century there were a few musicians who succeeded in making the harmonica into an instrument that was actually respected in serious classical music. By far the most famous of these was Larry Adler, who became almost synonymous with the instrument in the popular consciousness, and who reworked many famous pieces of music for the instrument: [Excerpt: Larry Adler, "Rhapsody in Blue"] But while Adler was the most famous classical harmonicist of his generation, he was not generally considered the best by other musicians. That was, rather, a man named John Sebastian. Sebastian, who chose to take his middle name as a surname partly to Anglicise his name but also, it seems, at least in part as tribute to Johann Sebastian Bach (which incidentally now makes it really, really difficult to search for copies of his masterwork "John Sebastian Plays Bach", as Internet searches uniformly think you're searching just for the composer...) started out like almost all harmonica players as an amateur playing popular music. But he quickly got very, very, good, and by his teens he was already teaching other children, including at a summer camp run by Albert Hoxie, a musician and entrepreneur who was basically single-handedly responsible for the boom in harmonica sales in the 1920s and 1930s, by starting up youth harmonica orchestras -- dozens or even hundreds of kids, all playing harmonica together, in a semi-militaristic youth organisation something like the scouts, but with harmonicas instead of woggles and knots. Hoxie's group and the various organisations copying it led to there being over a hundred and fifty harmonica orchestras in Chicago alone, and in LA in the twenties and thirties a total of more than a hundred thousand children passed through harmonica orchestras inspired by Hoxie. Hoxie's youth orchestras were largely responsible for the popularity of the harmonica as a cheap instrument for young people, and thus for its later popularity in the folk and blues worlds. That was only boosted in the Second World War by the American Federation of Musicians recording ban, which we talked about in the early episodes of the podcast -- harmonicas had never been thought of as a serious instrument, and so most professional harmonica players were not members of the AFM, but were considered variety performers and were part of the American Guild of Variety Artists, along with singers, ukulele players, and musical saw players. Of course, the war did also create a problem, because the best harmonicas were made in Germany by the Hohner company, but soon a lot of American companies started making cheap harmonicas to fill the gap in the market. There's a reason the cliche of the GI in a war film playing a harmonica in the trenches exists, and it's largely because of Hoxie. And Hoxie was based in Philadelphia, where John Sebastian lived as a kid, and he mentored the young player, who soon became a semi-professional performer. Sebastian's father was a rich banker, and discouraged him from becoming a full-time musician -- the plan was that after university, Sebastian would become a diplomat. But as part of his preparation for that role, he was sent to spend a couple of years studying at the universities of Rome and Florence, learning about Italian culture. On the boat back, though, he started talking to two other passengers, who turned out to be the legendary Broadway songwriting team Rodgers and Hart, the writers of such classic songs as "Blue Moon" and "My Funny Valentine": [Excerpt: Ella Fitzgerald, "My Funny Valentine"] Sebastian talked to his new friends, and told them that he was feeling torn between being a musician and being in the foreign service like his father wanted. They both told him that in their experience some people were just born to be artists, and that those people would never actually find happiness doing anything else. He took their advice, and decided he was going to become a full-time harmonica player. He started out playing in nightclubs, initially playing jazz and swing, but only while he built up a repertoire of classical music. He would rehearse with a pianist for three hours every day, and would spend the rest of his time finding classical works, especially baroque ones, and adapting them for the harmonica. As he later said “I discovered sonatas by Telemann, Veracini, Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Hasse, Marcello, Purcell, and many others, which were written to be played on violin, flute, oboe, musette, even bagpipes... The composer seemed to be challenging each instrument to create the embellishments and ornaments to suit its particular voice. . . . I set about choosing works from this treasure trove that would best speak through my instrument.” Soon his nightclub repertoire was made up entirely of these classical pieces, and he was making records like John Sebastian Plays Bach: [Excerpt: John Sebastian, "Flute Sonata in B Minor BWV1030 (J.S. Bach)"] And while Sebastian was largely a lover of baroque music above all other forms, he realised that he would have to persuade new composers to write new pieces for the instrument should he ever hope for it to have any kind of reputation as a concert instrument, so he persuaded contemporary composers to write pieces like George Kleinsinger's "Street Corner Concerto", which Sebastian premiered with the New York Philharmonic: [Excerpt: John Sebastian, "Street Corner Concerto"] He became the first harmonica player to play an entirely classical repertoire, and regarded as the greatest player of his instrument in the world. The oboe player Jay S Harrison once wrote of seeing him perform "to accomplish with success a program of Mr. Sebastian’s scope is nothing short of wizardry. . . . He has vast technical facility, a bulging range of colors, and his intentions are ever musical and sophisticated. In his hands the harmonica is no toy, no simple gadget for the dispensing of homespun tunes. Each single number of the evening was whittled, rounded, polished, and poised. . . . Mr. Sebastian’s playing is uncanny." Sebastian came from a rich background, and he managed to earn enough as a classical musician to live the lifestyle of a rich artistic Bohemian. During the forties and fifties he lived in Greenwich Village with his family -- apart from a four-year period living in Rome from 1951 to 55 -- and Eleanor Roosevelt was a neighbour, while Vivian Vance, who played Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy, was the godmother of his eldest son. But while Sebastian's playing was entirely classical, he was interested in a wider variety of music. When he would tour Europe, he would often return having learned European folk songs, and while he was living in Greenwich Village he would often be visited by people like Burl Ives, Woody Guthrie, and other folk singers living in the area. And that early influence rubbed off on Sebastian's son, John Benson Sebastian, although young John gave up trying to learn the harmonica the first time he tried, because he didn't want to be following too closely in his father's footsteps. Sebastian junior did, though, take up the guitar, inspired by the first wave rock and rollers he was listening to on Alan Freed's show, and he would later play the harmonica, though the diatonic harmonica rather than the chromatic. In case you haven't already figured it out, John Benson Sebastian, rather than his father, is a principal focus of this episode, and so to avoid confusion, from this point on, when I refer to "John Sebastian" or "Sebastian" without any qualifiers, I'm referring to the younger man. When I refer to "John Sebastian Sr" I'm talking about the father. But it was John Sebastian Sr's connections, in particular to the Bohemian folk and blues scenes, which gave his more famous son his first connection to that world of his own, when Sebastian Sr appeared in a TV show, in November 1960, put together by Robert Herridge, a TV writer and producer who was most famous for his drama series but who had also put together documentaries on both classical music and jazz, including the classic performance documentary The Sound of Jazz. Herridge's show featured both Sebastian Sr and the country-blues player Lightnin' Hopkins: [Excerpt: Lightnin' Hopkins, "Blues in the Bottle"] Hopkins was one of many country-blues players whose career was having a second wind after his discovery by the folk music scene. He'd been recording for fourteen years, putting out hundreds of records, but had barely performed outside Houston until 1959, when the folkies had picked up on his work, and in October 1960 he had been invited to play Carnegie Hall, performing with Pete Seeger and Joan Baez. Young John Sebastian had come along with his dad to see the TV show be recorded, and had an almost Damascene conversion -- he'd already heard Hopkins' recordings, but had never seen anything like his live performances. He was at that time attending a private boarding school, Blair Academy, and his roommate at the school also had his own apartment, where Sebastian would sometimes stay. Soon Lightnin' Hopkins was staying there as well, as somewhere he could live rent-free while he was in New York. Sebastian started following Hopkins around and learning everything he could, being allowed by the older man to carry his guitar and buy him gin, though the two never became close. But eventually, Hopkins would occasionally allow Sebastian to play with him when he played at people's houses, which he did on occasion. Sebastian became someone that Hopkins trusted enough that when he was performing on a bill with someone else whose accompanist wasn't able to make the gig and Sebastian put himself forward, Hopkins agreed that Sebastian would be a suitable accompanist for the evening. The singer he accompanied that evening was a performer named Valentine Pringle, who was a protege of Harry Belafonte, and who had a similar kind of sound to Paul Robeson. Sebastian soon became Pringle's regular accompanist, and played on his first album, I Hear America Singing, which was also the first record on which the great trumpet player Hugh Masakela played. Sadly, Paul Robeson style vocals were so out of fashion by that point that that album has never, as far as I can tell, been issued in a digital format, and hasn't even been uploaded to YouTube.  But this excerpt from a later recording by Pringle should give you some idea of the kind of thing he was doing: [Excerpt: Valentine Pringle, "Go 'Way From My Window"] After these experiences, Sebastian started regularly going to shows at Greenwich Village folk clubs, encouraged by his parents -- he had an advantage over his peers because he'd grown up in the area and had artistic parents, and so he was able to have a great deal of freedom that other people in their teens weren't. In particular, he would always look out for any performances by the great country blues performer Mississippi John Hurt. Hurt had made a few recordings for Okeh records in 1928, including an early version of "Stagger Lee", titled "Stack O'Lee": [Excerpt: Mississippi John Hurt, "Stack O'Lee Blues"] But those records had been unsuccessful, and he'd carried on working on a farm. and not performed other than in his tiny home town of Avalon, Mississippi, for decades. But then in 1952, a couple of his tracks had been included on the Harry Smith Anthology, and as a result he'd come to the attention of the folk and blues scholar community. They'd tried tracking him down, but been unable to until in the early sixties one of them had discovered a track on one of Hurt's records, "Avalon Blues", and in 1963, thirty-five years after he'd recorded six flop singles, Mississippi John Hurt became a minor star, playing the Newport Folk Festival and appearing on the Tonight Show. By this time, Sebastian was a fairly well-known figure in Greenwich Village, and he had become quite a virtuoso on the harmonica himself, and would walk around the city wearing a holster-belt containing harmonicas in a variety of different keys. Sebastian became a huge fan of Hurt, and would go and see him perform whenever Hurt was in New York. He soon found himself first jamming backstage with Hurt, and then performing with him on stage for the last two weeks of a residency. He was particularly impressed with what he called Hurt's positive attitude in his music -- something that Sebastian would emulate in his own songwriting. Sebastian was soon invited to join a jug band, called the Even Dozen Jug Band. Jug band music was a style of music that first became popular in the 1920s, and had many of the same musical elements as the music later known as skiffle. It was played on a mixture of standard musical instruments -- usually portable, "folky" ones like guitar and harmonica -- and improvised homemade instruments, like the spoons, the washboard, and comb and paper. The reason they're called jug bands is because they would involve someone blowing into a jug to make a noise that sounded a bit like a horn -- much like the coffee pot groups we talked about way back in episode six. The music was often hokum music, and incorporated elements of what we'd now call blues, vaudeville, and country music, though at the time those genres were nothing like as distinct as they're considered today: [Excerpt: Cincinnati Jug Band, "Newport Blues"] The Even Dozen Jug Band actually ended up having thirteen members, and it had a rather remarkable lineup. The leader was Stefan Grossman, later regarded as one of the greatest fingerpicking guitarists in America, and someone who will be coming up in other contexts in future episodes I'm sure, and they also featured David Grisman, a mandolin player who would later play with the Grateful Dead among many others;  Steve Katz, who would go on to be a founder member of Blood, Sweat and Tears and produce records for Lou Reed; Maria D'Amato, who under her married name Maria Muldaur would go on to have a huge hit with "Midnight at the Oasis"; and Joshua Rifkin, who would later go on to become one of the most important scholars of Bach's music of the latter half of the twentieth century, but who is best known for his recordings of Scott Joplin's piano rags, which more or less single-handedly revived Joplin's music from obscurity and created the ragtime revival of the 1970s: [Excerpt: Joshua Rifkin, "Maple Leaf Rag"] Unfortunately, despite the many talents involved, a band as big as that was uneconomical to keep together, and the Even Dozen Jug Band only played four shows together -- though those four shows were, as Muldaur later remembered, "Carnegie Hall twice, the Hootenanny television show and some church". The group did, though, make an album for Elektra records, produced by Paul Rothchild. Indeed, it was Rothchild who was the impetus for the group forming -- he wanted to produce a record of a jug band, and had told Grossman that if he got one together, he'd record it: [Excerpt: The Even Dozen Jug Band, "On the Road Again"] On that album, Sebastian wasn't actually credited as John Sebastian -- because he was playing harmonica on the album, and his father was such a famous harmonica player, he thought it better if he was credited by his middle name, so he was John Benson for this one album. The Even Dozen Jug Band split up after only a few months, with most of the band more interested in returning to university than becoming professional musicians, but Sebastian remained in touch with Rothchild, as they both shared an interest in the drug culture, and Rothchild started using him on sessions for other artists on Elektra, which was rapidly becoming one of the biggest labels for the nascent counterculture. The first record the two worked together on after the Even Dozen Jug Band was sparked by a casual conversation. Vince Martin and Fred Neil saw Sebastian walking down the street wearing his harmonica holster, and were intrigued and asked him if he played. Soon he and his friend Felix Pappalardi were accompanying Martin and Neil on stage, and the two of them were recording as the duo's accompanists: [Excerpt: Vince Martin and Fred Neil, "Tear Down the Walls"] We've mentioned Neil before, but if you don't remember him, he was one of the people around whom the whole Greenwich Village scene formed -- he was the MC and organiser of bills for many of the folk shows of the time, but he's now best known for writing the songs "Everybody's Talkin'", recorded famously by Harry Nilsson, and "The Dolphins", recorded by Tim Buckley. On the Martin and Neil album, Tear Down The Walls, as well as playing harmonica, Sebastian acted essentially as uncredited co-producer with Rothchild, but Martin and Neil soon stopped recording for Elektra. But in the meantime, Sebastian had met the most important musical collaborator he would ever have, and this is the start of something that will become a minor trend in the next few years, of important musical collaborations happening because of people being introduced by Cass Elliot. Cass Elliot had been a singer in a folk group called the Big 3 -- not the same group as the Merseybeat group -- with Tim Rose, and the man who would be her first husband, Jim Hendricks (not the more famous guitarist of a similar name): [Excerpt: Cass Elliot and the Big 3, "The Banjo Song"] The Big 3 had split up when Elliot and Hendricks had got married, and the two married members had been looking around for other musicians to perform with, when coincidentally another group they knew also split up. The Halifax Three were a Canadian group who had originally started out as The Colonials, with a lineup of Denny Doherty, Pat LaCroix and Richard Byrne. Byrne didn't turn up for a gig, and a homeless guitar player, Zal Yanovsky, who would hang around the club the group were playing at, stepped in. Doherty and LaCroix, much to Yanovsky's objections, insisted he bathe and have a haircut, but soon the newly-renamed Halifax Three were playing Carnegie Hall and recording for Epic Records: [Excerpt: The Halifax Three, "When I First Came to This Island"] But then a plane they were in crash-landed, and the group took that as a sign that they should split up. So they did, and Doherty and Yanovsky continued as a duo, until they hooked up with Hendricks and Elliot and formed a new group, the Mugwumps. A name which may be familiar if you recognise one of the hits of a group that Doherty and Elliot were in later: [Excerpt: The Mamas and the Papas, "Creeque Alley"] But we're skipping ahead a bit there. Cass Elliot was one of those few people in the music industry about whom it is impossible to find anyone with a bad word to say, and she was friendly with basically everyone, and particularly good at matching people up with each other. And on February the 7th 1964, she invited John Sebastian over to watch the Beatles' first performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Like everyone in America, he was captivated by the performance: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "I Want to Hold Your Hand (live on the Ed Sullivan Show)"] But Yanovsky was also there, and the two played guitar together for a bit, before retreating to opposite sides of the room. And then Elliot spent several hours as a go-between, going to each man and telling him how much the other loved and admired his playing and wanted to play more with him. Sebastian joined the Mugwumps for a while, becoming one of the two main instrumentalists with Yanovsky, as the group pivoted from performing folk music to performing Beatles-inspired rock. But the group's management team, Bob Cavallo and Roy Silver, who weren't particularly musical people, and whose main client was the comedian Bill Cosby, got annoyed at Sebastian, because he and Yanovsky were getting on *too* well musically -- they were trading blues licks on stage, rather than sticking to the rather pedestrian arrangements that the group was meant to be performing -- and so Silver fired Sebastian fired from the group. When the Mugwumps recorded their one album, Sebastian had to sit in the control room while his former bandmates recorded with session musicians, who he thought were nowhere near up to his standard: [Excerpt: The Mugwumps, "Searchin'"] By the time that album was released, the Mugwumps had already split up. Sebastian had continued working as a session musician for Elektra, including playing on the album The Blues Project, which featured white Greenwich Village folk musicians like Eric Von Schmidt, Dave Van Ronk, and Spider John Koerner playing their versions of old blues records, including this track by Geoff Muldaur, which features Sebastian on harmonica and "Bob Landy" on piano -- a fairly blatant pseudonym: [Excerpt: Geoff Muldaur, "Downtown Blues"] Sebastian also played rhythm guitar and harmonica on the demos that became a big part of Tim Hardin's first album -- and his fourth, when the record company released the remaining demos. Sebastian doesn't appear to be on the orchestrated ballads that made Hardin's name -- songs like "Reason to Believe" and "Misty Roses" -- but he is on much of the more blues-oriented material, which while it's not anything like as powerful as Hardin's greatest songs, made up a large part of his repertoire: [Excerpt: Tim Hardin, "Ain't Gonna Do Without"] Erik Jacobsen, the producer of Hardin's records, was impressed enough by Sebastian that he got Sebastian to record lead vocals, for a studio group consisting of Sebastian, Felix Pappalardi, Jerry Yester and Henry Diltz of the Modern Folk Quartet, and a bass singer whose name nobody could later remember. The group, under the name "Pooh and the Heffalumps", recorded two Beach Boys knockoffs, "Lady Godiva" and "Rooty Toot", the latter written by Sebastian, though he would later be embarrassed by it and claim it was by his cousin: [Excerpt: Pooh and the Heffalumps, "Rooty Toot"] After that, Jacobsen became convinced that Sebastian should form a group to exploit his potential as a lead singer and songwriter. By this point, the Mugwumps had split up, and their management team had also split, with Silver taking Bill Cosby and Cavallo taking the Mugwumps, and so Sebastian was able to work with Yanovsky, and the putative group could be managed by Cavallo. But Sebastian and Yanovsky needed a rhythm section. And Erik Jacobsen knew a band that might know some people. Jacobsen was a fan of a Beatles soundalike group called the Sellouts, who were playing Greenwich Village and who were co-managed by Herb Cohen, the manager of the Modern Folk Quartet (who, as we heard a couple of episodes ago, would soon go on to be the manager of the Mothers of Invention). The Sellouts were ultra-professional by the standards  of rock groups of the time -- they even had a tape echo machine that they used on stage to give them a unique sound -- and they had cut a couple of tracks with Jacobsen producing, though I've not been able to track down copies of them. Their leader Skip Boone, had started out playing guitar in a band called the Blue Suedes, and had played in 1958 on a record by their lead singer Arthur Osborne: [Excerpt: Arthur Osborne, "Hey Ruby"] Skip Boone's brother Steve in his autobiography says that that was produced by Chet Atkins for RCA, but it was actually released on Brunswick records. In the early sixties, Skip Boone joined a band called the Kingsmen -- not the same one as the band that recorded "Louie Louie" -- playing lead guitar with his brother Steve on rhythm, a singer called Sonny Bottari, a saxophone player named King Charles, bass player Clay Sonier, and drummer Joe Butler. Sometimes Butler would get up front and sing, and then another drummer, Jan Buchner, would sit in in his place. Soon Steve Boone would replace Bonier as the bass player, but the Kingsmen had no success, and split up. From the ashes of the Kingsmen had formed the Sellouts, Skip Boone, Jerry Angus, Marshall O'Connell, and Joe Butler, who had switched from playing "Peppermint Twist" to playing "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in February 1964. Meanwhile Steve Boone went on a trip to Europe before starting at university in New York, where he hooked up again with Butler, and it was Butler who introduced him to Sebastian and Yanovsky. Sebastian and Yanovsky had been going to see the Sellouts at the behest of Jacobsen, and they'd been asking if they knew anyone else who could play that kind of material. Skip Boone had mentioned his little brother, and as soon as they met him, even before they first played together, they knew from his appearance that he would be the right bass player for them. So now they had at least the basis for a band. They hadn't played together, but Erik Jacobsen was an experienced record producer and Cavallo an experienced manager. They just needed to do some rehearsals and get a drummer, and a record contract was more or less guaranteed. Boone suggested Jan Buchner, the backup drummer from the Kingsmen, and he joined them for rehearsals. It was during these early rehearsals that Boone got to play on his first real record, other than some unreleased demos the Kingsmen had made. John Sebastian got a call from that "Bob Landy" we mentioned earlier, asking if he'd play bass on a session. Boone tagged along, because he was a fan, and when Sebastian couldn't get the parts down for some songs, he suggested that Boone, as an actual bass player, take over: [Excerpt: Bob Dylan, "Maggie's Farm"] But the new group needed a name, of course. It was John Sebastian who came up with the name they eventually chose, The Lovin' Spoonful, though Boone was a bit hesitant about it at first, worrying that it might be a reference to heroin -- Boone was from a very conservative, military, background, and knew little of drug culture and didn't at that time make much of a distinction between cannabis and heroin, though he'd started using the former -- but Sebastian was insistent. The phrase actually referred to coffee -- the name came from "Coffee Blues" by Sebastian's old idol Mississippi John Hurt – or at least Hurt always *said* it was about coffee, though in live performance he apparently made it clear that it was about cunnilingus: [Excerpt: Mississippi John Hurt, "Coffee Blues"] Their first show, at the Night Owl Club, was recorded, and there was even an attempt to release it as a CD in the 1990s, but it was left unreleased and as far as I can tell wasn't even leaked. There have been several explanations for this, but perhaps the most accurate one is just the comment from the manager of the club, who came up to the group after their two sets and told them “Hey, I don’t know how to break this to you, but you guys suck.” There were apparently three different problems. They were underrehearsed -- which could be fixed with rehearsal -- they were playing too loud and hurting the patrons' ears -- which could be fixed by turning down the amps -- and their drummer didn't look right, was six years older than the rest of the group, and was playing in an out-of-date fifties style that wasn't suitable for the music they were playing. That was solved by sacking Buchner. By this point Joe Butler had left the Sellouts, and while Herb Cohen was interested in managing him as a singer, he was willing to join this new group at least for the moment. By now the group were all more-or-less permanent residents at the Albert Hotel, which was more or less a doss-house where underemployed musicians would stay, and which had its own rehearsal rooms. As well as the Spoonful, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty lived there, as did the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Joe Butler quickly fit into the group, and soon they were recording what became their first single, produced by Jacobsen, an original of Sebastian's called "Do You Believe in Magic?", with Sebastian on autoharp and vocals, Yanovsky on lead guitar and backing vocals, Boone on bass, Butler on drums, and Jerry Yester adding piano and backing vocals: [Excerpt: The Lovin' Spoonful, "Do You Believe in Magic?"] For a long time, the group couldn't get a deal -- the record companies all liked the song, but said that unless the group were English they couldn't sell them at the moment. Then Phil Spector walked into the Night Owl Cafe, where the new lineup of the group had become popular, and tried to sign them up. But they turned him down -- they wanted Erik Jacobsen to produce them; they were a team. Spector's interest caused other labels to be interested, and the group very nearly signed to Elektra. But again, signing to Elektra would have meant being produced by Rothchild, and also Elektra were an album label who didn't at that time have any hit single acts, and the group knew they had hit single potential. They did record a few tracks for Elektra to stick on a blues compilation, but they knew that Elektra wouldn't be their real home. Eventually the group signed with Charley Koppelman and Don Rubin, who had started out as songwriters themselves, working for Don Kirshner. When Kirshner's organisation had been sold to Columbia, Koppelman and Rubin had gone along and ended up working for Columbia as executives. They'd then worked for Morris Levy at Roulette Records, before forming their own publishing and record company. Rather than put out records themselves, they had a deal to license records to Kama Sutra Records, who in turn had a distribution deal with MGM Records. Koppelman and Rubin were willing to take the group and their manager and producer as a package deal, and they released the group's demo of "Do You Believe In Magic?" unchanged as their first single: [Excerpt: The Lovin' Spoonful, "Do You Believe in Magic?"] The single reached the top ten, and the group were soon in the studio cutting their first album, also titled Do You Believe In Magic? The album was a mix of songs that were part of the standard Greenwich Village folkie repertoire -- songs like Mississippi John Hurt's "Blues in the Bottle" and Fred Neil's "The Other Side of This Life" -- and a couple more originals. The group's second single was the first song that Steve Boone had co-written. It was inspired by a date he'd gone on with the photographer Nurit Wilde, who sadly for him didn't go on a second date, and who would later be the mother of Mike Nesmith's son Jason, but who he was very impressed by. He thought of her when he came up with the line "you didn't have to be so nice, I would have liked you anyway", and he and Sebastian finished up a song that became another top ten hit for the group: [Excerpt: (The Good Time Music of) The Lovin' Spoonful, "You Didn't Have to Be So Nice"] Shortly after that song was recorded, but before it was released, the group were called into Columbia TV with an intriguing proposition. Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson, two young TV producers, were looking at producing a TV show inspired by A Hard Day's Night, and were looking for a band to perform in it. Would the Lovin' Spoonful be up for it? They were interested at first, but Boone and Sebastian weren't sure they wanted to be actors, and also it would involve the group changing its name. They'd already made a name for themselves as the Lovin' Spoonful, did they really want to be the Monkees instead? They passed on the idea. Instead, they went on a tour of the deep South as the support act to the Supremes, a pairing that they didn't feel made much sense, but which did at least allow them to watch the Supremes and the Funk Brothers every night. Sebastian was inspired by the straight four-on-the-floor beat of the Holland-Dozier-Holland repertoire, and came up with his own variation on it, though as this was the Lovin' Spoonful the end result didn't sound very Motown at all: [Excerpt: The Lovin' Spoonful, "Daydream"] It was only after the track was recorded that Yanovsky pointed out to Sebastian that he'd unconsciously copied part of the melody of the old standard "Got a Date With an Angel": [Excerpt: Al Bowlly, "Got a Date With an Angel"] "Daydream" became the group's third top ten hit in a row, but it caused some problems for the group. The first was Kama Sutra's advertising campaign for the record, which had the words "Lovin' Spoonful Daydream", with the initials emphasised. While the group were drug users, they weren't particularly interested in being promoted for that rather than their music, and had strong words with the label. The other problem came with the Beach Boys. The group were supporting the Beach Boys on a tour in spring of 1966, when "Daydream" came out and became a hit, and they got on with all the band members except Mike Love, who they definitely did not get on with. Almost fifty years later, in his autobiography, Steve Boone would have nothing bad to say about the Wilson brothers, but calls Love "an obnoxious, boorish braggart", a "marginally talented hack" and worse, so it's safe to say that Love wasn't his favourite person in the world. Unfortunately, when "Daydream" hit the top ten, one of the promoters of the tour decided to bill the Lovin' Spoonful above the Beach Boys, and this upset Love, who understandably thought that his group, who were much better known and had much more hits, should be the headliners. If this had been any of the other Beach Boys, there would have been no problem, but because it was Love, who the Lovin' Spoonful despised, they decided that they were going to fight for top billing, and the managers had to get involved. Eventually it was agreed that the two groups would alternate the top spot on the bill for the rest of the tour. "Daydream" eventually reached number two on the charts (and number one on Cashbox) and also became the group's first hit in the UK, reaching number two here as well, and leading to the group playing a short UK tour. During that tour, they had a similar argument over billing with Mick Jagger as they'd had with Mike Love, this time over who was headlining on an appearance on Top of the Pops, and the group came to the same assessment of Jagger as they had of Love. The performance went OK, though, despite them being so stoned on hash given them by the wealthy socialite Tara Browne that Sebastian had to be woken up seconds before he started playing. They also played the Marquee Club -- Boone notes in his autobiography that he wasn't impressed by the club when he went to see it the day before their date there, because some nobody named David Bowie was playing there. But in the audience that day were George Harrison, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Spencer Davis, and Brian Jones, most of whom partied with the group afterwards. The Lovin' Spoonful made a big impression on Lennon in particular, who put "Daydream" and "Do You Believe in Magic" in his jukebox at home, and who soon took to wearing glasses in the same round, wiry, style as the ones that Sebastian wore. They also influenced Paul McCartney, who wasn't at that gig, but who soon wrote this, inspired by "Daydream": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Good Day Sunshine"] Unfortunately, this was more or less the high point of the group's career. Shortly after that brief UK tour, Zal Yanovsky and Steve Boone went to a party where they were given some cannabis -- and they were almost immediately stopped by the police, subjected to an illegal search of their vehicle, and arrested. They would probably have been able to get away with this -- after all, it was an illegal search, even though of course the police didn't admit to that -- were it not for the fact that Yanovsky was a Canadian citizen, and he could be deported and barred from ever re-entering the US just for being arrested. This was the first major drug bust of a rock and roll group, and there was no precedent for the group, their managers, their label or their lawyers to deal with this. And so they agreed to something they would regret for the rest of their lives. In return for being let off, Boone and Yanovsky agreed to take an undercover police officer to a party and introduce him to some of their friends as someone they knew in the record business, so he would be able to arrest one of the bigger dealers. This was, of course, something they knew was a despicable thing to do, throwing friends under the bus to save themselves, but they were young men and under a lot of pressure, and they hoped that it wouldn't actually lead to any arrests. And for almost a year, there were no serious consequences, although both Boone and Yanovsky were shaken up by the event, and Yanovsky's behaviour, which had always been erratic, became much, much worse. But for the moment, the group remained very successful. After "Daydream", an album track from their first album, "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?" had been released as a stopgap single, and that went to number two as well. And right before the arrest, the group had been working on what would be an even bigger hit. The initial idea for "Summer in the City" actually came from John Sebastian's fourteen-year-old brother Mark, who'd written a bossa nova song called "It's a Different World". The song was, by all accounts, the kind of thing that a fourteen-year-old boy writes, but part of it had potential, and John Sebastian took that part -- giving his brother full credit -- and turned it into the chorus of a new song: [Excerpt: The Lovin' Spoonful, "Summer in the City"] To this, Sebastian added a new verse, inspired by a riff the session player Artie Schroeck had been playing while the group recorded their songs for the Woody Allen film What's Up Tiger Lily, creating a tenser, darker, verse to go with his younger brother's chorus: [Excerpt: The Lovin' Spoonful, "Summer in the City"] In the studio, Steve Boone came up with the instrumental arrangement, which started with drums, organ, electric piano, and guitar, and then proceeded to bass, autoharp, guitar, and percussion overdubs. The drum sound on the record was particularly powerful thanks to the engineer Roy Halee, who worked on most of Simon & Garfunkel's records. Halee put a mic at the top of a stairwell, a giant loudspeaker at the bottom, and used the stairwell as an echo chamber for the drum part. He would later use a similar technique on Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer". The track still needed another section though, and Boone suggested an instrumental part, which led to him getting an equal songwriting credit with the Sebastian brothers. His instrumental piano break was inspired by Gershwin, and the group topped it off with overdubbed city noises: [Excerpt: The Lovin' Spoonful, "Summer in the City"] The track went to number one, becoming the group's only number one record, and it was the last track on what is by far their best album, Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful. That album produced two more top ten hits for the group, "Nashville Cats", a tribute to Nashville session players (though John Sebastian seems to have thought that Sun Records was a Nashville, rather than a Memphis, label), and the rather lovely "Rain on the Roof": [Excerpt: The Lovin' Spoonful, "Rain on the Roof"] But that song caused friction with the group, because it was written about Sebastian's relationship with his wife who the other members of the band despised. They also felt that the songs he was writing about their relationship were giving the group a wimpy image, and wanted to make more rockers like "Summer in the City" -- some of them had been receiving homophobic abuse for making such soft-sounding music. The group were also starting to resent Sebastian for other reasons. In a recent contract renegotiation, a "key member" clause had been put into the group's record contract, which stated that Sebastian, as far as the label was concerned, was the only important member of the group. While that didn't affect decision-making in the group, it did let the group know that if the other members did anything to upset Sebastian, he was able to take his ball away with him, and even just that potential affected the way the group thought about each other. All these factors came into play with a song called "Darling Be Home Soon", which was a soft ballad that Sebastian had written about his wife, and which was written for another film soundtrack -- this time for a film by a new director named Francis Ford Coppola. When the other band members came in to play on the soundtrack, including that track, they found that rather than being allowed to improvise and come up with their own parts as they had previously, they had to play pre-written parts to fit with the orchestration. Yanovsky in particular was annoyed by the simple part he had to play, and when the group appeared on the Ed Sullivan show to promote the record, he mugged, danced erratically, and mimed along mocking the lyrics as Sebastian sang. The song -- one of Sebastian's very best -- made a perfectly respectable number fifteen, but it was the group's first record not to make the top ten: [Excerpt: The Lovin' Spoonful, "Darling Be Home Soon"] And then to make matters worse, the news got out that someone had been arrested as a result of Boone and Yanovsky's efforts to get themselves out of trouble the year before. This was greeted with horror by the counterculture, and soon mimeographed newsletters and articles in the underground papers were calling the group part of the establishment, and calling for a general boycott of the group -- if you bought their records, attended their concerts, or had sex with any of the band members, you were a traitor. Yanovsky and Boone had both been in a bad way mentally since the bust, but Yanovsky was far worse, and was making trouble for the other members in all sorts of ways. The group decided to fire Yanovsky, and brought in Jerry Yester to replace him, giving him a severance package that ironically meant that he ended up seeing more money from the group's records than the rest of them, as their records were later bought up by a variety of shell companies that passed through the hands of Morris Levy among others, and so from the late sixties through the early nineties the group never got any royalties. For a while, this seemed to benefit everyone. Yanovsky had money, and his friendship with the group members was repaired. He released a solo single, arranged by Jack Nitzsche, which just missed the top one hundred: [Excerpt: Zal Yanovsky, "Just as Long as You're Here"] That song was written by the Bonner and Gordon songwriting team who were also writing hits for the Turtles at this time, and who were signed to Koppelman and Rubin's company. The extent to which Yanovsky's friendship with his ex-bandmates was repaired by his firing was shown by the fact that Jerry Yester, his replacement in the group, co-produced his one solo album, Alive and Well in Argentina, an odd mixture of comedy tracks, psychedelia, and tributes to the country music he loved. His instrumental version of Floyd Cramer's "Last Date" is fairly listenable -- Cramer's piano playing was a big influence on Yanovsky's guitar -- but his version of George Jones' "From Brown to Blue" makes it very clear that Zal Yanovsky was no George Jones: [Excerpt: Zal Yanovsky, "From Brown to Blue"] Yanovsky then quit music, and went into the restaurant business. The Lovin' Spoonful, meanwhile, made one further album, but the damage had been done. Everything Playing is actually a solid album, though not as good as the album before, and it produced three top forty hits, but the highest-charting was "Six O'Clock", which only made number eighteen, and the album itself made a pitiful one hundred and eighteen on the charts. The song on the album that in retrospect has had the most impact was the rather lovely "Younger Generation", which Sebastian later sang at Woodstock: [Excerpt: John Sebastian, "Younger Generation (Live at Woodstock)"] But at Woodstock he performed that alone, because by then he'd quit the group. Boone, Butler, and Yester decided to continue, with Butler singing lead, and recorded a single, "Never Going Back", produced by Yester's old bandmate from the Modern Folk Quartet Chip Douglas, who had since become a successful producer for the Monkees and the Turtles, and written by John Stewart of the Kingston Trio, who had written "Daydream Believer" for the Monkees, but the record only made number seventy-eight on the charts: [Excerpt: The Lovin' Spoonful featuring Joe Butler, "Never Going Back"] That was followed by an album by "The Lovin' Spoonful Featuring Joe Butler", Revelation: Revolution 69, a solo album by Butler in all but name -- Boone claims not to have played on it, and Butler is the only one featured on the cover, which shows a naked Butler being chased by a naked woman with a lion in front of them covering the naughty bits. The biggest hit other than "Never Going Back" from the album was "Me About You", a Bonner and Gordon song which only made number ninety-one: [Excerpt: The Lovin' Spoonful Featuring Joe Butler, "Me About You"] John Sebastian went on to have a moderately successful solo career -- as well as his appearance at Woodstock, he released several solo albums, guested on harmonica on records by the Doors, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young and others, and had a solo number one hit in 1976 with "Welcome Back", the theme song from the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter: [Excerpt: John Sebastian, "Welcome Back"] Sebastian continues to perform, though he's had throat problems for several decades that mean he can't sing many of the songs he's best known for. The original members of the Lovin' Spoonful reunited for two performances -- an appearance in Paul Simon's film One Trick Pony in 1980, and a rather disastrous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. Zal Yanovsky died of a heart attack in 2002. The remaining band members remained friendly, and Boone, Butler, and Yester reunited as the Lovin' Spoonful in 1991, initially with Yester's brother Jim, who had played in The Association, latterly with other members. One of those other members in the 1990s was Yester's daughter Lena, who became Boone's fourth wife (and is as far as I can discover still married to him). Yester, Boone, and Butler continued touring together as the Lovin' Spoonful until 2017, when Jerry Yester was arrested on thirty counts of child pornography possession, and was immediately sacked from the group. The other two carried on, and the three surviving original members reunited on stage for a performance at one of the Wild Honey Orchestra's benefit concerts in LA in 2020, though that was just a one-off performance, not a full-blown reunion. It was also the last Lovin' Spoonful performance to date, as that was in February 2020, but Steve Boone has performed with John Sebastian's most recent project, John Sebastian's Jug Band Village, a tribute to the Greenwich Village folk scene the group originally formed in, and the two played together most recently in December 2021. The three surviving original members of the group all seem to be content with their legacy, doing work they enjoy, and basically friendly, which is more than can be said for most of their contemporaries, and which is perhaps appropriate for a band whose main songwriter had been inspired, more than anything else, to make music with a positive attitude.
Feb 07, 2022
Episode 142: “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys
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Episode one hundred and forty-two of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys, and the creation of the Pet Sounds album. 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 "Sunny" by Bobby Hebb. 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. For material specific to Pet Sounds I have used Kingsley Abbot's The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds: The Greatest Album of the Twentieth Century and Charles L Granata's I Just Wasn't Made For These Times: Brian Wilson and the Making of Pet Sounds.  I also used the 126-page book The Making of Pet Sounds by David Leaf, which came as part of the The Pet Sounds Sessions box set, which also included the many alternate versions of songs from the album used here. Sadly both that box set and the 2016 updated reissue of it appear currently to be out of print, but either is well worth obtaining for anyone who is interested in how great records are made. Of the versions of Pet Sounds that are still in print, this double-CD version is the one I'd recommend. It has the original mono mix of the album, the more recent stereo remix, the instrumental backing tracks, and live versions of several songs. 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. The YouTube drum tutorial I excerpted a few seconds of to show a shuffle beat is here. Transcript We're still in the run of episodes that deal with the LA pop music scene -- though next week we're going to move away from LA, while still dealing with a lot of the people who would play a part in that scene. But today we're hitting something that requires a bit of explanation. Most artists covered in this podcast get one or at the most two episodes. Some get slightly more -- the major artists who are present for many revolutions in music, or who have particularly important careers, like Fats Domino or the Supremes. And then there are a few very major artists who get a lot more. The Beatles, for example, are going to get eight in total, plus there will be episodes on some of their solo careers. Elvis has had six, and will get one more wrap-up episode. This is the third Beach Boys episode, and there are going to be three more after this, because the Beach Boys were one of the most important acts of the decade. But normally, I limit major acts to one episode per calendar year of their career. This means that they will average at most one episode every ten episodes, so while for example the episodes on "Mystery Train" and "Heartbreak Hotel" came close together, there was then a reasonable gap before another Elvis episode. This is not possible for the Beach Boys, because this episode and the next two Beach Boys ones all take place over an incredibly compressed timeline. In May 1966, they released an album that has consistently been voted the best album ever in polls of critics, and which is certainly one of the most influential even if one does not believe there is such a thing as a "best album ever". In October 1966 they released one of the most important singles ever -- a record that is again often considered the single best pop single of all time, and which again was massively influential. And then in July 1967 they released the single that was intended to be the lead-off single from their album Smile, an album that didn't get released until decades later, and which became a legend of rock music that was arguably more influential by *not* being released than most records that are released manage to be. And these are all very different stories, stories that need to be told separately. This means that episode one hundred and forty-two, episode one hundred and forty-six, and episode one hundred and fifty-three are all going to be about the Beach Boys. There will be one final later episode about them, too, but the next few months are going to be very dominated by them, so I apologise in advance for that if that's not something you're interested in. Though it also means that with luck some of these episodes will be closer to the shorter length of podcast I prefer rather than the ninety-minute mammoths we've had recently. Though I'm afraid this is another long one. When we left the Beach Boys, we'd just heard that Glen Campbell had temporarily replaced Brian Wilson on the road, after Wilson's mental health had finally been unable to take the strain of touring while also being the group's record producer, principal songwriter, and leader. To thank Campbell, who at this point was not at all well known in his own right, though he was a respected session guitarist and had released a few singles, Brian had co-written and produced "Guess I'm Dumb" for him, a track which prefigured the musical style that Wilson was going to use for the next year or so: [Excerpt: Glen Campbell, "Guess I'm Dumb"] It's worth looking at "Guess I'm Dumb" in a little detail, as it points the way forward to a lot of Wilson's songwriting over the next year. Firstly, of course, there are the lyrical themes of insecurity and of what might even be descriptions of mental illness in the first verse -- "the way I act don't seem like me, I'm not on top like I used to be". The lyrics are by Russ Titelman, but it's reasonable to assume that as with many of his collaborations, Brian brought in the initial idea. There's also a noticeable change in the melodic style compared to Wilson's earlier melodies. Up to this point, Wilson has mostly been writing what get called "horizontal" melody lines -- ones with very little movement, and small movements, often centred on a single note or two. There are exceptions of course, and plenty of them, but a typical Brian Wilson melody up to this point is the kind of thing where even I can hit the notes more or less OK -- [sings] "Well, she got her daddy's car and she cruised through the hamburger stand now". It's not quite a monotone, but it's within a tight range, and you don't have to move far from one note to another. But "Guess I'm Dumb" is incorporating the influence of Roy Orbison, and more obviously of Burt Bacharach, and it's *ludicrously* vertical, with gigantic leaps all over the place, in places that are not obvious. It requires the kind of precision that only a singer like Campbell can attain, to make it sound at all natural: [Excerpt: Glen Campbell, "Guess I'm Dumb"] Bacharach's influence is also noticeable in the way that the chord changes are very different from those that Wilson was using before. Up to this point, when Wilson wrote unusual chord changes, it was mostly patterns like "The Warmth of the Sun", which is wildly inventive, but mostly uses very simple triads and sevenths. Now he was starting to do things like the line "I guess I'm dumb but I don't care", which is sort of a tumbling set of inversions of the same chord that goes from a triad with the fifth in the bass, to a major sixth, to a minor eleventh, to a minor seventh. Part of the reason that Brian could start using these more complex voicings was that he was also moving away from using just the standard guitar/bass/drums lineup, sometimes with keyboards and saxophone, which had been used on almost every Beach Boys track to this point. Instead, as well as the influence of Bacharach, Wilson was also being influenced by Jack Nitzsche's arrangements for Phil Spector's records, and in particular by the way Nitzsche would double instruments, and have, say, a harpsichord and a piano play the same line, to create a timbre that was different from either individual instrument. But where Nitzsche and Spector used the technique along with a lot of reverb and overdubbing to create a wall of sound which was oppressive and overwhelming, and which obliterated the sounds of the individual instruments, Wilson used the same instrumentalists, the Wrecking Crew, to create something far more delicate: [Excerpt: Glen Campbell, "Guess I'm Dumb (instrumental and backing vocals)"] Campbell does such a good job on "Guess I'm Dumb" that one has to wonder what would  have happened if he'd remained with the Beach Boys. But Campbell had of course not been able to join the group permanently -- he had his own career to attend to, and that would soon take off in a big way, though he would keep playing on the Beach Boys' records for a while yet as a member of the Wrecking Crew. But Brian Wilson was still not well enough to tour. In fact, as he explained to the rest of the group, he never intended to tour again -- and he wouldn't be a regular live performer for another twelve years. At first the group were terrified -- they thought he was talking about quitting the group, or the group splitting up altogether. But Brian had a different plan. From that point on, there were two subtly different lineups of the group. In the studio, Brian would sing his parts as always, but the group would get a permanent replacement for him on tour -- someone who could replace him on stage. While the group was on tour, Brian would use the time to write songs and to record backing tracks. He'd already started using the Wrecking Crew to add a bit of additional musical colour to some of the group's records, but from this point on, he'd use them to record the whole track, maybe getting Carl to add a bit of guitar as well if he happened to be around, but otherwise just using the group to provide vocals. It's important to note that this *was* a big change. A lot of general music history sources will say things like "the Beach Boys never played on their own records", and this is taken as fact by people who haven't investigated further. In fact, the basic tracks for all their early hits were performed by the group themselves -- "Surfin'", "Surfin' Safari", "409", "Surfer Girl", "Little Deuce Coupe", "Don't Worry Baby" and many more were entirely performed by the Beach Boys, while others like "I Get Around" featured the group with a couple of additional musicians augmenting them. The idea that the group never played on their records comes entirely from their recordings from 1965 and 66, and even there often Carl would overdub a guitar part. And at this point, the Beach Boys were still playing on the majority of their recordings, even on sophisticated-sounding records like "She Knows Me Too Well", which is entirely a group performance other than Brian's friend, Russ Titelman, the co-writer of "Guess I'm Dumb", adding some percussion by hitting a microphone stand with a screwdriver: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "She Knows Me Too Well"] So the plan to replace the group's instrumental performances in the studio was actually a bigger change than it might seem. But an even bigger change was the live performances, which of course required the group bringing in a permanent live replacement for Brian. They'd already tried this once before, when he'd quit the road for a while and they'd brought Al Jardine back in, but David Marks quitting had forced him back on stage. Now they needed someone to take his place for good. They phoned up their friend Bruce Johnston to see if he knew anyone, and after suggesting a couple of names that didn't work out, he volunteered his own services, and as of this recording he's spent more than fifty years in the band (he quit for a few years in the mid-seventies, but came back). We've seen Johnston turn up several times already, most notably in the episode on "LSD-25", where he was one of the musicians on the track we looked at, but for those of you who don't remember those episodes, he was pretty much *everywhere* in California music in the late fifties and early sixties. He had been in a band at school with Phil Spector and Sandy Nelson, and another band with Jan and Dean, and he'd played on Nelson's "Teen Beat", produced by Art Laboe: [Excerpt: Sandy Nelson, "Teen Beat"] He'd been in the house band at those shows Laboe put on at El Monte stadium we talked about a couple of episodes back, he'd been a witness to John Dolphin's murder, he'd been a record producer for Bob Keane, where he'd written and produced songs for Ron Holden, the man who had introduced "Louie Louie" to Seattle: [Excerpt: Ron Holden, "Gee But I'm Lonesome"] He'd written "The Tender Touch" for Richard Berry's backing group The Pharaos, with Berry singing backing vocals on this one: [Excerpt: The Pharaos, "The Tender Touch"] He'd helped Bob Keane compile Ritchie Valens' first posthumous album, he'd played on "LSD-25" and "Moon Dawg" by the Gamblers: [Excerpt: The Gamblers, "Moon Dawg"] He'd arranged and produced the top ten hit “Those Oldies but Goodies (Remind Me of You)” for Little Caesar and the Romans: [Excerpt Little Caesar and the Romans, "Those Oldies but Goodies (Remind Me of You)"] Basically, wherever you looked in the LA music scene in the early sixties, there was Bruce Johnston somewhere in the background. But in particular, he was suitable for the Beach Boys because he had a lot of experience in making music that sounded more than a little like theirs. He'd made cheap surf records as the Bruce Johnston Surfing Band: [Excerpt: Bruce Johnston, "The Hamptons"] And with his long-time friend and creative partner Terry Melcher he had, as well as working on several Paul Revere and the Raiders records, also recorded hit Beach Boys soundalikes both as their own duo, Bruce and Terry: [Excerpt: Bruce and Terry, "Summer Means Fun"] and under the name of a real group that Melcher had signed, but who don't seem to have sung much on their own big hit, the Rip Chords: [Excerpt: The Rip Chords, "Hey Little Cobra"] Johnston fit in well with the band, though he wasn't a bass player before joining, and had to be taught the parts by Carl and Al. But he's probably the technically strongest musician in the band, and while he would later switch to playing keyboards on stage, he was quickly able to get up to speed on the bass well enough to play the parts that were needed. He also wasn't quite as strong a falsetto singer as Brian Wilson, as can be heard by listening to this live recording of the group singing "I Get Around" in 1966: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "I Get Around (live 1966)"] Johnston is actually an excellent singer -- and can still hit the high notes today. He sings the extremely high falsetto part on "Fun Fun Fun" at the end of every Beach Boys show. But his falsetto was thinner than Wilson's, and he also has a distinctive voice which can be picked out from the blend in a way that none of the other Beach Boys' voices could -- the Wilson brothers and Mike Love all have a strong family resemblance, and Al Jardine always sounded spookily close to them. This meant that increasingly, the band would rearrange the vocal parts on stage, with Carl or Al taking the part that Brian had taken in the studio. Which meant that if, say, Al sang Brian's high part, Carl would have to move up to sing the part that Al had been singing, and then Bruce would slot in singing the part Carl had sung in the studio. This is a bigger difference than it sounds, and it meant that there was now a need for someone to work out live arrangements that were different from the arrangements on the records -- someone had to reassign the vocal parts, and also work out how to play songs that had been performed by maybe eighteen session musicians playing French horns and accordions and vibraphones with a standard rock-band lineup without it sounding too different from the record. Carl Wilson, still only eighteen when Brian retired from the road, stepped into that role, and would become the de facto musical director of the Beach Boys on stage for most of the next thirty years, to the point that many of the group's contracts for live performances at this point specified that the promoter was getting "Carl Wilson and four other musicians". This was a major change to the group's dynamics. Up to this point, they had been a group with a leader -- Brian -- and a frontman -- Mike, and three other members. Now they were a more democratic group on stage, and more of a dictatorship in the studio. This was, as you can imagine, not a stable situation, and was one that would not last long. But at first, this plan seemed to go very, very well. The first album to come out of this new hybrid way of working, The Beach Boys Today!, was started before Brian retired from touring, and some of the songs on it were still mostly or solely performed by the group, but as we heard with "She Knows Me Too Well" earlier, the music was still more sophisticated than on previous records, and this can be heard on songs like "When I Grow Up to Be a Man", where the only session musician is the harmonica player, with everything else played by the group: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "When I Grow Up to Be a Man"] But the newer sophistication really shows up on songs like "Kiss Me Baby", where most of the instrumentation is provided by the Wrecking Crew -- though Carl and Brian both play on the track -- and so there are saxophones, vibraphones, French horn, cor anglais, and multiple layers of twelve-string guitar: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Kiss Me Baby"] Today had several hit singles on it -- "Dance, Dance, Dance", "When I Grow Up to be a Man", and their cover version of Bobby Freeman's "Do You Wanna Dance?" all charted -- but the big hit song on the album actually didn't become a hit in that version. "Help Me Ronda" was a piece of album filler with a harmonica part played by Billy Lee Riley, and was one of Al Jardine's first lead vocals on a Beach Boys record -- he'd only previously sung lead on the song "Christmas Day" on their Christmas album: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Help Me Ronda"] While the song was only intended as album filler, other people saw the commercial potential in the song. Bruce Johnston was at this time still signed to Columbia records as an artist, and wasn't yet singing on Beach Boys records, and he recorded a version of the song with Terry Melcher as a potential single: [Excerpt: Bruce and Terry, "Help Me Rhonda"] But on seeing the reaction to the song, Brian decided to rerecord it as a single. Unfortunately, Murry Wilson turned up to the session. Murry had been fired as the group's manager by his sons the previous year, though he still owned the publishing company that published their songs. In the meantime, he'd decided to show his family who the real talent behind the group was by taking on another group of teenagers and managing and producing them. The Sunrays had a couple of minor hits, like "I Live for the Sun": [Excerpt: The Sunrays, "I Live for the Sun"] But nothing made the US top forty, and by this point it was clear, though not in the way that Murry hoped, who the real talent behind the group *actually* was. But he turned up to the recording session, with his wife in tow, and started trying to produce it: [Excerpt: Beach Boys and Murry Wilson "Help Me Rhonda" sessions] It ended up with Brian physically trying to move his drunk father away from the control panel in the studio, and having a heartbreaking conversation with him, where the twenty-two-year-old who is recovering from a nervous breakdown only a few months earlier sounds calmer, healthier, and more mature than his forty-seven-year-old father: [Excerpt: Beach Boys and Murry Wilson, "Help Me Rhonda" sessions] Knowing that this was the family dynamic helps make the comedy filler track on the next album, "I'm Bugged at My Old Man", seem rather less of a joke than it otherwise would: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "I'm Bugged at My Old Man"] But with Murry out of the way, the group did eventually complete recording "Help Me Rhonda" (and for those of you reading this as a blog post rather than listening to the podcast, yes they did spell it two different ways for the two different versions), and it became the group's second number one hit: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Help Me, Rhonda"] As well as Murry Wilson, though, another figure was in the control room then -- Loren Daro (who at the time went by his birth surname, but I'm going to refer to him throughout by the name he chose).  You can hear, on the recording, Brian Wilson asking Daro if he could "turn him on" -- slang that was at that point not widespread enough for Wilson's parents to understand the meaning. Daro was an agent working for the William Morris Agency, and he was part of a circle of young, hip, people who were taking drugs, investigating mysticism, and exploring new spiritual ideas. His circle included the Byrds -- Daro, like Roger McGuinn, later became a follower of Subud and changed his name as a result -- as well as people like the songwriter and keyboard player Van Dyke Parks, who will become a big part of this story in subsequent episodes, and Stephen Stills, who will also be turning up again. Daro had introduced Brian to cannabis, in 1964, and in early 1965 he gave Brian acid for the first time -- one hundred and twenty-five micrograms of pure Owsley LSD-25. Now, we're going to be looking at acid culture quite a lot in the next few months, as we get through 1966 and 1967, and I'll have a lot more to say about it, but what I will say is that even the biggest proponents of psychedelic drug use tend not to suggest that it is a good idea to give large doses of LSD in an uncontrolled setting to young men recovering from a nervous breakdown. Daro later described Wilson's experience as "ego death" -- a topic we will come to in a future episode, and not considered entirely negative -- and "a beautiful thing". But he has also talked about how Wilson was so terrified by his hallucinations that he ran into the bedroom, locked the door, and hid his head under a pillow for two hours, which doesn't sound so beautiful to me. Apparently after those two hours, he came out of the bedroom, said "Well, that's enough of that", and was back to normal. After that first trip, Wilson wrote a piece of music inspired by his psychedelic experience. A piece which starts like this, with an orchestral introduction very different from anything else the group had released as a single: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "California Girls"] Of course, when Mike Love added the lyrics to the song, it became about far more earthly and sensual concerns: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "California Girls"] But leaving the lyrics aside for a second, it's interesting to look at "California Girls" musically to see what Wilson's idea of psychedelic music -- by which I mean specifically music inspired by the use of psychedelic drugs, since at this point there was no codified genre known as psychedelic music or psychedelia -- actually was. So, first, Wilson has said repeatedly that the song was specifically inspired by "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" by Bach: [Excerpt: Bach, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring"] And it's odd, because I see no real structural or musical resemblance between the two pieces that I can put my finger on, but at the same time I can totally see what he means. Normally at this point I'd say "this change here in this song relates to this change there in that song", but there's not much of that kind of thing here -- but I still. as soon as I read Wilson saying that for the first time, more than twenty years ago, thought "OK, that makes sense". There are a few similarities, though. Bach's piece is based around triplets, and they made Wilson think of a shuffle beat. If you remember *way* back in the second episode of the podcast, I talked about how one of the standard shuffle beats is to play triplets in four-four time. I'm going to excerpt a bit of recording from a YouTube drum tutorial (which I'll link in the liner notes) showing that kind of shuffle: [Excerpt: "3 Sweet Triplet Fills For Halftime Shuffles & Swung Grooves- Drum Lesson" , from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CwlSaQZLkY ] Now, while Bach's piece is in waltz time, I hope you can hear how the DA-da-da DA-da-da in Bach's piece may have made Wilson think of that kind of shuffle rhythm. Bach's piece also has a lot of emphasis of the first, fifth, and sixth notes of the scale -- which is fairly common, and not something particularly distinctive about the piece -- and those are the notes that make up the bass riff that Wilson introduces early in the song: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "California Girls (track)"] That bass riff, of course, is a famous one. Those of you who were listening to the very earliest episodes of the podcast might remember it from the intros to many, many, Ink Spots records: [Excerpt: The Ink Spots, "We Three (My Echo, My Shadow, and Me)"] But the association of that bassline to most people's ears would be Western music, particularly the kind of music that was in Western films in the thirties and forties. You hear something similar in "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine", as performed by Laurel and Hardy in their 1937 film Way Out West: [Excerpt: Laurel and Hardy, "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine"] But it's most associated with the song "Tumbling Tumbleweeds", first recorded in 1934 by the Western group Sons of the Pioneers, but more famous in their 1946 rerecording, made after the Ink Spots' success, where the part becomes more prominent: [Excerpt: The Sons of the Pioneers, "Tumbling Tumbleweeds"] That song was a standard of the Western genre, and by 1965 had been covered by everyone from Gene Autry to the Supremes, Bob Wills to Johnnie Ray, and it would also end up covered by several musicians in the LA pop music scene over the next few years, including Michael Nesmith and Curt Boettcher, both people part of the same general scene as the Beach Boys. The other notable thing about "California Girls" is that it's one of the first times that Wilson was able to use multi-tracking to its full effect. The vocal parts were recorded on an eight-track machine, meaning that Wilson could triple-track both Mike Love's lead vocal and the group's backing vocals. With Johnston now in the group -- "California Girls" was his first recording session with them -- that meant that on the record there were eighteen voices singing, leading to some truly staggering harmonies: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "California Girls (Stack-O-Vocals)"] So, that's what the psychedelic experience meant to Brian Wilson, at least -- Bach, orchestral influences, using the recording studio to create thicker vocal harmony parts, and the old West. Keep that in the back of your mind for the present, but it'll be something to remember in eleven episodes' time. "California Girls" was, of course, another massive hit, reaching number three on the charts. And while some Beach Boys fans see the album it was included on, Summer Days... And Summer Nights!, as something of a step backward from the sophistication of Today!, this is a relative thing. It's very much of a part with the music on the earlier album, and has many wonderful moments, with songs like "Let Him Run Wild" among the group's very best. But it was their next studio album that would cement the group's artistic reputation, and which would regularly be acclaimed by polls of critics as the greatest album of all time -- a somewhat meaningless claim; even more than there is no "first" anything in music, there's no "best" anything. The impulse to make what became Pet Sounds came, as Wilson has always told the story, from hearing the Beatles album Rubber Soul. Now, we've not yet covered Rubber Soul -- we're going to look at that, and at the album that came after it, in three episodes' time -- but it is often regarded as a major artistic leap forward for the Beatles. The record Wilson heard, though, wasn't the same record that most people nowadays think of when they think of Rubber Soul. Since the mid-eighties, the CD versions of the Beatles albums have (with one exception, Magical Mystery Tour) followed the tracklistings of the original British albums, as the Beatles and George Martin intended. But in the sixties, Capitol Records were eager to make as much money out of the Beatles as they could. The Beatles' albums generally had fourteen songs on, and often didn't include their singles. Capitol thought that ten or twelve songs per album was plenty, and didn't have any aversion to putting singles on albums. They took the three British albums Help!, Rubber Soul, and Revolver, plus the non-album "Day Tripper"/"We Can Work It Out" single and Ken Thorne's orchestral score for the Help! film, and turned that into four American albums -- Help!, Rubber Soul, Yesterday and Today, and Revolver. In the case of Rubber Soul, that meant that they removed four tracks from the British album -- "Drive My Car", "Nowhere Man", "What Goes On" and "If I Needed Someone" -- and added two songs from the British version of Help!, "I've Just Seen a Face" and "It's Only Love". Now, I've seen some people claim that this made the American Rubber Soul more of a folk-rock album -- I may even have said that myself in the past -- but that's not really true. Indeed, "Nowhere Man" and "If I Needed Someone" are two of the Beatles' most overtly folk-rock tracks, and both clearly show the influence of the Byrds. But what it did do was remove several of the more electric songs from the album, and replace them with acoustic ones: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "I've Just Seen a Face"] This, completely inadvertently, gave the American Rubber Soul lineup a greater sense of cohesion than the British one. Wilson later said "I listened to Rubber Soul, and I said, 'How could they possibly make an album where the songs all sound like they come from the same place?'" At other times he's described his shock at hearing "a whole album of only good songs" and similar phrases. Because up to this point, Wilson had always included filler tracks on albums, as pretty much everyone did in the early sixties. In the American pop music market, up to the mid sixties, albums were compilations of singles plus whatever random tracks happened to be lying around. And so for example in late 1963 the Beach Boys had released two albums less than a month apart -- Surfer Girl and Little Deuce Coupe. Given that Brian Wilson wrote or co-wrote all the group's original material, it wasn't all that surprising that Little Deuce Coupe had to include four songs that had been released on previous albums, including two that were on Surfer Girl from the previous month. It was the only way the group could keep up with the demand for new product from a company that had no concept of popular music as art. Other Beach Boys albums had included padding such as generic surf instrumentals, comedy sketches like "Cassius" Love vs. "Sonny" Wilson, and in the case of The Beach Boys Today!, a track titled "Bull Session With the Big Daddy", consisting of two minutes of random chatter with the photographer Earl Leaf while they all ate burgers: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys and Earl Leaf, "Bull Session With the Big Daddy"] This is not to attack the Beach Boys. This was a simple response to the commercial pressures of the marketplace. Between October 1962 and November 1965, they released eleven albums. That's about an album every three months, as well as a few non-album singles. And on top of that Brian had also been writing songs during that time for Jan & Dean, the Honeys, the Survivors and others, and had collaborated with Gary Usher and Roger Christian on songs for Muscle Beach Party, one of American International Pictures' series of Beach Party films. It's unsurprising that not everything produced on this industrial scale was a masterpiece. Indeed, the album the Beach Boys released directly before Pet Sounds could be argued to be an entire filler album. Many biographies say that Beach Boys Party! was recorded to buy Brian time to make Pet Sounds, but the timelines don't really match up on closer investigation. Beach Boys Party! was released in November 1965, before Brian ever heard Rubber Soul, which came out later, and before he started writing the material that became Pet Sounds. Beach Boys Party! was a solution to a simple problem -- the group were meant to deliver three albums that year, and they didn't have three albums worth of material. Some shows had been recorded for a possible live album, but they'd released a live album in 1964 and hadn't really changed their setlist very much in the interim. So instead, they made a live-in-the-studio album, with the conceit that it was recorded at a party the group were holding. Rather than the lush Wrecking Crew instrumentation they'd been using in recent months, everything was played on acoustic guitars, plus some bongos provided by Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine and some harmonica from Billy Hinsche of the boy band Dino, Desi, and Billy, whose sister Carl Wilson was shortly to marry. The album included jokes and false starts, and was overlaid with crowd noise, to give the impression that you were listening to an actual party where a few people were sitting round with guitars and having fun. The album consisted of songs that the group liked and could play without rehearsal -- novelty hits from a few years earlier like "Alley Oop" and "Hully Gully", a few Beatles songs, and old favourites like the Everly Brothers hit "Devoted to You" -- in a rather lovely version with two-part harmony by Mike and Brian, which sounds much better in a remixed version released later without the party-noise overdubs: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Devoted to You (remix)"] But the song that defined the album, which became a massive hit, and which became an albatross around the band's neck about which some of them would complain for a long time to come, didn't even have one of the Beach Boys singing lead. As we discussed back in the episode on "Surf City", by this point Jan and Dean were recording their album "Folk 'n' Roll", their attempt at jumping on the folk-rock bandwagon, which included the truly awful "The Universal Coward", a right-wing answer song  to "The Universal Soldier" released as a Jan Berry solo single: [Excerpt: Jan Berry, "The Universal Coward"] Dean Torrence was by this point getting sick of working with Berry, and was also deeply unimpressed with the album they were making, so he popped out of the studio for a while to go and visit his friends in the Beach Boys, who were recording nearby. He came in during the Party sessions, and everyone was suggesting songs to perform, and asked Dean to suggest something. He remembered an old doo-wop song that Jan and Dean had recorded a cover version of, and suggested that. The group had Dean sing lead, and ran through a sloppy version of it, where none of them could remember the words properly: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Barbara Ann"] And rather incredibly, that became one of the biggest hits the group ever had, making number two on the Billboard chart (and number one on other industry charts like Cashbox), number three in the UK, and becoming a song that the group had to perform at almost every live show they ever did, together or separately, for at least the next fifty-seven years. But meanwhile, Brian had been working on other material. He had not yet had his idea for an album made up entirely of good songs, but he had been experimenting in the studio. He'd worked on a handful of tracks which had pointed in new directions. One was a single, "The Little Girl I Once Knew": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "The Little Girl I Once Knew"] John Lennon gave that record a very favourable review, saying "This is the greatest! Turn it up, turn it right up. It's GOT to be a hit. It's the greatest record I've heard for weeks. It's fantastic." But the record only made number twenty -- a perfectly respectable chart placing, but nowhere near as good as the group's recent run of hits -- in part because its stop-start nature meant that the record had "dead air" -- moments of silence -- which made DJs avoid playing it, because they believed that dead air, even only a second of it here and there, would make people tune to another station. Another track that Brian had been working on was an old folk song suggested by Alan Jardine. Jardine had always been something of a folkie, of the Kingston Trio variety, and he had suggested that the group might record the old song "The Wreck of the John B", which the Kingston Trio had recorded. The Trio's version in turn had been inspired by the Weavers' version of the song from 1950: [Excerpt: The Weavers, "The Wreck of the John B"] Brian had at first not been impressed, but Jardine had fiddled with the chord sequence slightly, adding in a minor chord to make the song slightly more interesting, and Brian had agreed to record the track, though he left the instrumental without vocals for several months: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Sloop John B (instrumental)"] The track was eventually finished and released as a single, and unlike "The Little Girl I Once Knew" it was a big enough hit that it was included on the next album, though several people have said it doesn't fit. Lyrically, it definitely doesn't, but musically, it's very much of a piece with the other songs on what became Pet Sounds: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Sloop John B"] But while Wilson was able to create music by himself, he wasn't confident about his ability as a lyricist. Now, he's not a bad lyricist by any means -- he's written several extremely good lyrics by himself -- but Brian Wilson is not a particularly articulate or verbal person, and he wanted someone who could write lyrics as crafted as his music, but which would express the ideas he was trying to convey. He didn't think he could do it himself, and for whatever reason he didn't want to work with Mike Love, who had co-written the majority of his recent songs, or with any of his other collaborators. He did write one song with Terry Sachen, the Beach Boys' road manager at the time, which dealt obliquely with those acid-induced concepts of "ego death": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Hang on to Your Ego"] But while the group recorded that song, Mike Love objected vociferously to the lyrics. While Love did try cannabis a few times in the late sixties and early seventies, he's always been generally opposed to the use of illegal drugs, and certainly didn't want the group to be making records that promoted their use -- though I would personally argue that "Hang on to Your Ego" is at best deeply ambiguous about the prospect of ego death.  Love rewrote some of the lyrics, changing the title to "I Know There's an Answer", though as with all such bowdlerisation efforts he inadvertently left in some of the drug references: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "I Know There's an Answer"] But Wilson wasn't going to rely on Sachen for all the lyrics. Instead he turned to Tony Asher. Asher was an advertising executive, who Wilson probably met through Loren Daro -- there is some confusion over the timeline of their meeting, with some sources saying they'd first met in 1963 and that Asher had introduced Wilson to Daro, but others saying that the introductions went the other way, and that Daro introduced Asher to Wilson in 1965. But Asher and Daro had been friends for a long time, and so Wilson and Asher were definitely orbiting in the same circles. The most common version of the story seems to be that Asher was working in Western Studios, where he was recording a jingle - the advertising agency had him writing jingles because he was an amateur songwriter, and as he later put it nobody else at the agency knew the difference between E flat and A flat. Wilson was also working in the studio complex, and Wilson dragged Asher in to listen to some of the demos he was recording -- at that time Wilson was in the habit of inviting anyone who was around to listen to his works in progress. Asher chatted with him for a while, and thought nothing of it, until he got a phone call at work a few weeks later from Brian Wilson, suggesting the two write together. Wilson was impressed with Asher, who he thought of as very verbal and very intelligent, but Asher was less impressed with Wilson. He has softened his statements in recent decades, but in the early seventies he would describe Wilson as "a genius musician but an amateur human being", and sharply criticise his taste in films and literature, and his relationship with his wife. This attitude seems at least in part to have been shared by a lot of the people that Wilson was meeting and becoming influenced by. One of the things that is very noticeable about Wilson is that he has no filters at all, and that makes his music some of the most honest music ever recorded. But that same honesty also meant that he could never be cool or hip. He was -- and remains -- enthusiastic about the things he likes, and he likes things that speak to the person he is, not things that fit some idea of what the in crowd like. And the person Brian Wilson is is a man born in 1942, brought up in a middle-class suburban white family in California, and his tastes are the tastes one would expect from that background. And those tastes were not the tastes of the hipsters and scenesters who were starting to become part of his circle at the time. And so there's a thinly-veiled contempt in the way a lot of those people talked about Wilson, particularly in the late sixties and early seventies. Wilson, meanwhile, was desperate for their approval, and trying hard to fit in, but not quite managing it. Again, Asher has softened his statements more recently, and I don't want to sound too harsh about Asher -- both men were in their twenties, and still  trying to find their place in the world, and I wouldn't want to hold anyone's opinions from their twenties against them decades later. But that was the dynamic that existed between them. Asher saw himself as something of a sophisticate, and Wilson as something of a hick in contrast, but a hick who unlike him had created a string of massive hit records. And Asher did, always, respect Wilson's musical abilities. And Wilson in turn looked up to Asher, even while remaining the dominant partner, because he respected Asher's verbal facility. Asher took a two-week sabbatical from his job at the advertising agency, and during those two weeks, he and Wilson collaborated on eight songs that would make up the backbone of the album that would become Pet Sounds. The first song the two worked on was a track that had originally been titled "In My Childhood". Wilson had already recorded the backing track for this, including the sounds of bicycle horns and bells to evoke the feel of being a child: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "You Still Believe in Me (instrumental track)"] The two men wrote a new lyric for the song, based around a theme that appears in many of Wilson's songs -- the inadequate man who is loved by a woman who is infinitely superior to him, who doesn't understand why he's loved, but is astonished by it. The song became "You Still Believe in Me": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "You Still Believe in Me"] That song also featured an instrumental contribution of sorts by Asher. Even though the main backing track had been recorded before the two started working together, Wilson came up with an idea for an intro for the song, which would require a particular piano sound. To get that sound, Wilson held down the keys on a piano, while Asher leaned into the piano and plucked the strings manually. The result, with Wilson singing over the top, sounds utterly lovely: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "You Still Believe in Me"] Note that I said that Wilson and Asher came up with new lyrics together. There has been some slight dispute about the way songwriting credits were apportioned to the songs. Generally the credits said that Wilson wrote all the music, while Asher and Wilson wrote the lyrics together, so Asher got twenty-five percent of the songwriting royalties and Wilson seventy-five percent. Asher, though, has said that there are some songs for which he wrote the whole lyric by himself, and that he also made some contributions to the music on some songs -- though he has always said that the majority of the musical contribution was Wilson's, and that most of the time the general theme of the lyric, at least, was suggested by Wilson. For the most part, Asher hasn't had a problem with that credit split, but he has often seemed aggrieved -- and to my mind justifiably -- about the song "Wouldn't it Be Nice". Asher wrote the whole lyric for the song, though inspired by conversations with Wilson, but accepted his customary fifty percent of the lyrical credit. The result became one of the big hits from the album: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Wouldn't It Be Nice?"] But -- at least according to Mike Love, in the studio he added a single line to the song: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Wouldn't it Be Nice?"] When Love sued Brian Wilson in 1994, over the credits to thirty-five songs, he included "Wouldn't it Be Nice" in the list because of that contribution. Love now gets a third of the songwriting royalties, taken proportionally from the other two writers. Which means that he gets a third of Wilson's share and a third of Asher's share. So Brian Wilson gets half the money, for writing all the music, Mike Love gets a third of the money, for writing "Good night baby, sleep tight baby", and Tony Asher gets a sixth of the money -- half as much as Love -- for writing all the rest of the lyric. Again, this is not any one individual doing anything wrong – most of the songs in the lawsuit were ones where Love wrote the entire lyric, or a substantial chunk of it, and because the lawsuit covered a lot of songs the same formula was applied to borderline cases like “Wouldn't it Be Nice” as it was to clearcut ones like “California Girls”, where nobody disputes Love's authorship of the whole lyric. It's just the result of a series of reasonable decisions, each one of which makes sense in isolation, but which has left Asher earning significantly less from one of the most successful songs he ever wrote in his career than he should have earned. The songs that Asher co-wrote with Wilson were all very much of a piece, both musically and lyrically. Pet Sounds really works as a whole album better than it does individual tracks, and while some of the claims made about it -- that it's a concept album, for example -- are clearly false, it does have a unity to it, with ideas coming back in different forms. For example, musically, almost every new song on the album contains a key change down a minor third at some point -- not the kind of thing where the listener consciously notices that an idea has been repeated, but definitely the kind of thing that makes a whole album hold together. It also differs from earlier Beach Boys albums in that the majority of the lead vocals are by Brian Wilson. Previously, Mike Love had been the dominant voice on Beach Boys records, with Brian as second lead and the other members taking few or none. Now Love only took two main lead vocals, and was the secondary lead on three more. Brian, on the other hand, took six primary lead vocals and two partial leads. The later claims by some people that this was a Brian Wilson solo album in all but name are exaggerations -- the group members did perform on almost all of the tracks -- but it is definitely much more of a personal, individual statement than the earlier albums had been. The epitome of this was "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times", which Asher wrote the lyrics for but which was definitely Brian's idea, rather than Asher's. [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times"] That track also featured the first use on a Beach Boys record of the electro-theremin, an electronic instrument invented by session musician Paul Tanner, a former trombone player with the Glenn Miller band, who had created it to approximate the sound of a Theremin while being easier to play: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times"] That sound would turn up on future Beach Boys records... But the song that became the most lasting result of the Wilson/Asher collaboration was actually one that is nowhere near as personal as many of the other songs on the record, that didn't contain a lot of the musical hallmarks that unify the album, and that didn't have Brian Wilson singing lead. Of all the songs on the album, "God Only Knows" is the one that has the most of Tony Asher's fingerprints on it. Asher has spoken in the past about how when he and Wilson were writing, Asher's touchstones were old standards like "Stella By Starlight" and "How Deep is the Ocean?", and "God Only Knows" easily fits into that category. It's a crafted song rather than a deep personal expression, but the kind of craft that one would find in writers like the Gershwins, every note and syllable perfectly chosen: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "God Only Knows"] One of the things that is often wrongly said about the song is that it's the first pop song to have the word "God" in the title. It isn't, and indeed it isn't even the first pop song to be called "God Only Knows", as there was a song of that name recorded by the doo-wop group the Capris in 1954: [Excerpt: The Capris, "God Only Knows"] But what's definitely true is that Wilson, even though he was interested in creating spiritual music, and was holding prayer sessions with his brother Carl before vocal takes, was reluctant to include the word in the song at first, fearing it would harm radio play. He was probably justified in his fears -- a couple of years earlier he'd produced a record called "Pray for Surf" by the Honeys, a girl-group featuring his wife: [Excerpt: The Honeys, "Pray For Surf"] That record hadn't been played on the radio, in part because it was considered to be trivialising religion. But Asher eventually persuaded Wilson that it would be OK, saying "What do you think we should do instead? Say 'heck only knows'?" Asher's lyric was far more ambiguous than it may seem -- while it's on one level a straightforward love song, Asher has always pointed out that the protagonist never says that he loves the object of the song, just that he'll make her *believe* that he loves her. Coupled with the second verse, which could easily be read as a threat of suicide if the object leaves the singer, it would be very, very, easy to make the song into something that sounds like it was from the point of view of a narcissistic, manipulative, abuser. That ambiguity is also there in the music, which never settles in a strong sense of key. The song starts out with an A chord, which you'd expect to lead to the song being in A, but when the horn comes in, you get a D# note, which isn't in that key, and then when the verse starts, it starts on an inversion of a D chord, before giving you enough clues that by the end of the verse you're fairly sure you're in the key of E, but it never really confirms that: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "God Only Knows (instrumental)"] So this is an unsettling, ambiguous, song in many ways. But that's not how it sounds, nor how Brian at least intended it to sound. So why doesn't it sound that way? In large part it's down to the choice of lead vocalist. If Mike Love had sung this song, it might have sounded almost aggressive. Brian *did* sing it in early attempts at the track, and he doesn't sound quite right either -- his vocal attitude is just... not right: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "God Only Knows (Brian Wilson vocal)"] But eventually Brian hit on getting his younger brother Carl to sing lead. At this point Carl had sung very few leads on record -- there has been some dispute about who sang what, exactly,  because of the family resemblance which meant all the core band members could sound a little like each other, but it's generally considered that he had sung full leads on two album tracks -- "Pom Pom Play Girl" and "Girl Don't Tell Me" -- and partial leads on two other tracks, covers of "Louie Louie" and "Summertime Blues". At this point he wasn't really thought of as anything other than a backing vocalist, but his soft, gentle, performance on "God Only Knows" is one of the great performances: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "God Only Knows (vocals)"] The track was actually one of those that required a great deal of work in the studio to create the form which now seems inevitable. Early attempts at the recording included a quite awful saxophone solo: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys "God Only Knows (early version)"] And there were a lot of problems with the middle until session keyboard player Don Randi suggested the staccato break that would eventually be used: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "God Only Knows"] And similarly, the tag of the record was originally intended as a mass of harmony including all the Beach Boys, the Honeys, and Terry Melcher: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "God Only Knows (alternate version with a capella tag)"] Before Brian decided to strip it right back, and to have only three voices on the tag -- himself on the top and the bottom, and Bruce Johnston singing in the middle: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "God Only Knows"] When Pet Sounds came out, it was less successful in the US than hoped -- it became the first of the group's albums not to go gold on its release, and it only made number ten on the album charts. By any objective standards, this is still a success, but it was less successful than the record label had hoped, and was taken as a worrying sign. In the UK, though, it was a different matter. Up to this point, the Beach Boys had not had much commercial success in the UK, but recently Andrew Loog Oldham had become a fan, and had become the UK publisher of their original songs, and was interested in giving them the same kind of promotion that he'd given Phil Spector's records. Keith Moon of the Who was also a massive fan, and the Beach Boys had recently taken on Derek Taylor, with his strong British connections, as their publicist. Not only that, but Bruce Johnston's old friend Kim Fowley was now based in London and making waves there. So in May, in advance of a planned UK tour set for November that year, Bruce Johnston and Derek Taylor flew over to the UK to press the flesh and schmooze. Of all the group members, Johnston was the perfect choice to do this -- he's by far the most polished of them in terms of social interaction, and he was also the one who, other than Brian, had the least ambiguous feelings about the group's new direction, being wholeheartedly in favour of it. Johnston and Taylor met up with Keith Moon, Lennon and McCartney, and other pop luminaries, and played them the record. McCartney in particular was so impressed by Pet Sounds and especially "God Only Knows", that he wrote this, inspired by the song, and recorded it even before Pet Sounds' UK release at the end of June: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Here, There, and Everywhere"] As a result of Johnston and Taylor's efforts, and the promotional work by Oldham and others, Pet Sounds reached number two on the UK album charts, and "God Only Knows" made number two on the singles charts. (In the US, it was the B-side to "Wouldn't it Be Nice", although it made the top forty on its own merits too). The Beach Boys displaced the Beatles in the readers' choice polls for best band in the NME in 1966, largely as a result of the album, and Melody Maker voted it joint best album of the year along with the Beatles' Revolver. The Beach Boys' commercial fortunes were slightly on the wane in the US, but they were becoming bigger than ever in the UK. But a big part of this was creating expectations around Brian Wilson in particular. Derek Taylor had picked up on a phrase that had been bandied around -- enough that Murry Wilson had used it to mock Brian in the awful "Help Me, Rhonda" sessions -- and was promoting it widely as a truism. Everyone was now agreed that Brian Wilson was a genius. And we'll see how that expectation plays out over the next few weeks.. [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Caroline, No"]
Jan 31, 2022
Episode 141: “River Deep, Mountain High” by Ike and Tina Turner
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Episode 141 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “River Deep Mountain High'”, and at the career of Ike and Tina Turner.  Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Also, this episode was recorded before the sad death of the great Ronnie Spector, whose records are featured a couple of times in this episode, which is partly about her abusive ex-husband. Her life paralleled Tina Turner's quite closely, and if you haven't heard the episode I did about her last year, you can find it at https://500songs.com/podcast/episode-110-be-my-baby-by-the-ronettes/. I wish I'd had the opportunity to fit a tribute into this episode too. Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on "Wild Thing" by the Troggs. 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, all the songs excerpted in the podcast can be heard in full at Mixcloud. Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era by Ken Emerson is a good overview of the Brill Building scene, and I referred to it for the material about Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. I’ve referred to two biographies of Phil Spector in this episode, Phil Spector: Out of His Head by Richard Williams and He’s a Rebel by Mark Ribkowsky. Tina Turner has written two autobiographies. I Tina is now out of print but is slightly more interesting, as it contains interview material with other people in her life. My Love Story is the more recent one and covers her whole life up to 2019. Ike Turner's autobiography Takin' Back My Name is a despicable, self-serving, work of self-justification, and I do not recommend anyone buy or read it. But I did use it for quotes in the episode so it goes on the list. Ike Turner: King of Rhythm by John Collis is more even-handed, and contains a useful discography. That Kat Sure Could Play! is a four-CD compilation of Ike Turner's work up to 1957. The TAMI and Big TNT shows are available on a Blu-Ray containing both performances. There are many compilations available with some of the hits Spector produced, but I recommend getting Back to Mono, a four-CD overview of his career containing all the major singles put out by Philles. There are sadly no good compilations of Ike and Tina Turner's career, as they recorded for multiple labels, and would regularly rerecord the hits in new versions for each new label, so any compilation you find will have the actual hit version of one or two tracks, plus a bunch of shoddy remakes. However, the hit version of "River Deep, Mountain High" is on the album of the same name, which is a worthwhile album to get,. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Today's episode is unfortunately another one of those which will require a content warning, because we're going to be talking about Ike and Tina Turner. For those of you who don't know, Ike Turner was possibly the most famously abusive spouse in the whole history of music, and it is literally impossible to talk about the duo's career without talking about that abuse. I am going to try not to go into too many of the details -- if nothing else, the details are very readily available for those who want to seek them out, not least in Tina's two autobiographies, so there's no sense in retraumatising people who've experienced domestic abuse by going over them needlessly -- but it would be dishonest to try to tell the story without talking about it at all. This is not going to be an episode *about* Ike Turner's brutal treatment of Tina Turner -- it's an episode about the record, and about music, and about their musical career -- but the environment in which "River Deep, Mountain High" was created was so full of toxic, abusive, destructive men that Ike Turner may only be the third-worst person credited on the record, and so that abuse will come up. If discussion of domestic abuse, gun violence, cocaine addiction, and suicide attempts are likely to cause you problems, you might want to read the transcript rather than listen to the podcast. That said, let's get on with the story. One of the problems I'm hitting at this point of the narrative is that starting with "I Fought the Law" we've hit a run of incredibly intertangled stories  The three most recent episodes, this one, and nine of the next twelve, all really make up one big narrative about what happened when folk-rock and psychedelia hit the Hollywood scene and the Sunset Strip nightclubs started providing the raw material for the entertainment industry to turn into pop culture. We're going to be focusing on a small number of individuals, and that causes problems when trying to tell a linear narrative, because people don't live their lives sequentially -- it's not the case that everything happened to Phil Spector, and *then* everything happened to Cass Elliot, and *then* everything happened to Brian Wilson. All these people were living their lives and interacting and influencing each other, and so sometimes we'll have to mention something that will be dealt with in a future episode. So I'll say here and now that we *will* be doing an episode on the Lovin' Spoonful in two weeks. So when I say now that in late 1965 the Lovin' Spoonful were one of the biggest bands around, and possibly the hottest band in the country, you'll have to take that on trust. But they were, and in late 1965 their hit "Do You Believe in Magic?" had made the top ten: [Excerpt: The Lovin' Spoonful, "Do You Believe in Magic?"] Phil Spector, as always, was trying to stay aware of the latest trends in music, and he was floundering somewhat. Since the Beatles had hit America in 1964, the hits had dried up -- he'd produced a few minor hit records in 1964, but the only hits he'd made in 1965 had been with the Righteous Brothers -- none of his other acts were charting. And then the Righteous Brothers left him, after only a year. In late 1965, he had no hit acts and no prospect of having any. There was only one thing to do -- he needed to start making his own folk-rock records. And the Lovin' Spoonful gave him an idea how to do that. Their records were identifiably coming from the same kind of place as people like the Byrds or the Mamas and the Papas, but they were pop songs, not protest songs -- the Lovin' Spoonful weren't doing Dylan covers or anything intellectual, but joyous pop confections of a kind that anyone could relate to. Spector knew how to make pop records like that. But to do that, he needed a band. Even though he had been annoyed at the way that people had paid more attention to the Righteous Brothers, as white men, than they had to the other vocalists he'd made hit records with (who, as Black women, had been regarded by a sexist and racist public as interchangeable puppets being controlled by a Svengali rather than as artists in their own right), he knew he was going to have to work with a group of white male vocalist-instrumentalists if he wanted to have his own Lovin' Spoonful. And the group he chose was a group from Greenwich Village called MFQ. MFQ had originally named themselves the Modern Folk Quartet, as a parallel to the much better-known Modern Jazz Quartet, and consisted of Cyrus Faryar, Henry Diltz, Jerry Yester, and Chip Douglas, all of whom were multi-instrumentalists who would switch between guitar, banjo, mandolin, and bass depending on the song. They had combined Kingston Trio style clean-cut folk with Four Freshmen style modern harmonies -- Yester, who was a veteran of the New Christy Minstrels, said of the group's vocals that "the only vocals that competed with us back then was Curt Boettcher's group", and  they had been taken under the wing of manager Herb Cohen, who had got them a record deal with Warner Brothers. They recorded two albums of folk songs, the first of which was produced by Jim Dickson, the Byrds' co-manager: [Excerpt: The Modern Folk Quartet, "Sassafras"] But after their second album, they had decided to go along with the trends and switch to folk-rock. They'd started playing with electric instruments, and after a few shows where John Sebastian, the lead singer of the Lovin' Spoonful, had sat in with them on drums, they'd got themselves a full-time drummer, "Fast" Eddie Hoh, and renamed themselves the Modern Folk Quintet, but they always shortened that to just MFQ. Spector was convinced that this group could be another Lovin' Spoonful if they had the right song, and MFQ in turn were eager to become something more than an unsuccessful folk group. Spector had the group rehearsing in his house for weeks at a stretch before taking them into the studio. The song that Spector chose to have the group record was written by a young songwriter he was working with named Harry Nilsson. Nilsson was as yet a complete unknown, who had not written a hit and was still working a day job, but he had a talent for melody, and he also had a unique songwriting sensibility combining humour and heartbreak. For example, he'd written a song that Spector had recorded with the Ronettes, "Here I Sit", which had been inspired by the famous graffito from public toilet walls -- "Here I sit, broken-hearted/Paid a dime and only farted": [Excerpt: The Ronettes, "Here I Sit"] That ability to take taboo bodily functions and turn them into innocent-sounding love lyrics is also at play in the song that Spector chose to have the MFQ record. "This Could be the Night" was written by Nilsson from the perspective of someone who is hoping to lose his virginity -- he feels like he's sitting on dynamite, and he's going to "give her some", but it still sounds innocent enough to get past the radio censors of the mid-sixties: [Excerpt: Harry Nilsson, "This Could Be the Night (demo)"] Spector took that song, and recorded a version of it which found the perfect balance between Spector's own wall of sound and the Lovin' Spoonful's "Good Time Music" sound: [Excerpt: MFQ, "This Could be the Night"] Brian Wilson was, according to many people, in the studio while that was being recorded, and for decades it would remain a favourite song of Wilson's -- he recorded a solo version of it in the 1990s, and when he started touring solo for the first time in 1998 he included the song in his earliest live performances. He also tried to record it with his wife's group, American Spring, in the early 1970s, but was unable to, because while he could remember almost all of the song, he couldn't get hold of the lyrics. And the reason he couldn't get hold of the lyrics is that the record itself went unreleased, because Phil Spector had found a new performer he was focusing on instead. It happened during the filming of the Big TNT Show, a sequel to the TAMI Show, released by American International Pictures, for which "This Could Be the Night" was eventually used as a theme song. The MFQ were actually performers at the Big TNT Show, which Spector was musical director and associate producer of, but their performances were cut out of the finished film, leaving just their record being played over the credits. The Big TNT Show generally gets less respect than the TAMI Show, but it's a rather remarkable document of the American music scene at the very end of 1965, and it's far more diverse than the TAMI show. It opens with, of all people, David McCallum -- the actor who played Ilya Kuryakin on The Man From UNCLE -- conducting a band of session musicians playing an instrumental version of "Satisfaction": [Excerpt: David McCallum, "Satisfaction"] And then, in front of an audience which included Ron and Russel Mael, later of Sparks, and Frank Zappa, who is very clearly visible in audience shots, came performances of every then-current form of popular music. Ray Charles, Petula Clark, Bo Diddley, the Byrds, the Lovin' Spoonful, Roger Miller, the Ronettes, and Donovan all did multiple songs, though the oddest contribution was from Joan Baez, who as well as doing some of her normal folk repertoire also performed "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" with Spector on piano: [Excerpt: Joan Baez and Phil Spector, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'"] But the headline act on the eventual finished film was the least-known act on the bill, a duo who had not had a top forty hit for four years at this point, and who were only on the bill as a last-minute fill-in for an act who dropped out, but who were a sensational live act. So sensational that when Phil Spector saw them, he knew he needed to sign them -- or at least he needed to sign one of them: [Excerpt: Ike and Tina Turner with the Ikettes, "Please, Please, Please"] Because Ike and Tina Turner's performance at the Big TNT Show was, if anything, even more impressive than James Brown's performance on the TAMI Show the previous year. The last we saw of Ike Turner was way back in episode eleven. If you don't remember that, from more than three years ago, at the time Turner was the leader of a small band called the Kings of Rhythm. They'd been told by their friend B.B. King that if you wanted to make a record, the person you go to was Sam Phillips at Memphis Recording Services, and they'd recorded "Rocket '88", often cited as the first ever rock and roll record, under the name of their sax player and vocalist Jackie Brenston: [Excerpt: Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats, "Rocket '88"] We looked at some of the repercussions from that recording throughout the first year and a half or so of the podcast, but we didn't look any more at the career of Ike Turner himself. While "Rocket '88" was a minor hit, the group hadn't followed it up, and Brenston had left to go solo. For a while Ike wasn't really very successful at all -- though he was still performing around Memphis, and a young man named Elvis Presley was taking notes at some of the shows. But things started to change for Ike when he once again turned up at Sam Phillips' studio -- this time because B.B. King was recording there. At the time, Sun Records had still not started as its own label, and Phillips' studio was being used for records made by all sorts of independent blues labels, including Modern Records, and Joe Bihari was producing a session for B.B. King, who had signed to Modern. The piano player on the session also had a connection to "Rocket '88" -- when Jackie Brenston had quit Ike's band to go solo, he'd put together a new band to tour as the Delta Cats, and Phineas Newborn Jr had ended up playing Turner's piano part on stage, before Brenston's career collapsed and Newborn became King's pianist. But Phineas Newborn was a very technical, dry, jazz pianist -- a wonderful player, but someone who was best suited to playing more cerebral material, as his own recordings as a bandleader from a few years later show: [Excerpt: Phineas Newborn Jr, "Barbados"] Bihari wasn't happy with what Newborn was playing, and the group took a break from recording to get something to eat and try to figure out the problem. While they were busy, Turner went over to the piano and started playing. Bihari said that that was exactly what they wanted, and Turner took over playing the part. In his autobiography, Turner variously remembers the song King was recording there as "You Know I Love You" and "Three O'Clock Blues", neither of which, as far as I can tell, were actually recorded at Phillips' studio, and both of which seem to have been recorded later -- it's difficult to say for sure because there were very few decent records kept of these things at the time. But we do know that Turner played on a lot of King's records in the early fifties, including on "Three O'Clock Blues", King's first big hit: [Excerpt: B.B. King, "Three O'Clock Blues"] For the next while, Turner was on salary at Modern Records, playing piano on sessions, acting as a talent scout, and also apparently writing many of the songs that Modern's artists would record, though those songs were all copyrighted under the name "Taub", a pseudonym for the Bihari brothers, as well as being a de facto arranger and producer for the company. He worked on many records made in and around Memphis, both for Modern Records and for other labels who drew from the same pool of artists and musicians. Records he played on and produced or arranged include several of Bobby "Blue" Bland's early records -- though Turner's claim in his autobiography that he played on Bland's version of "Stormy Monday" appears to be incorrect, as that wasn't recorded until a decade later. He did, though, play on Bland's “Drifting from Town to Town”, a rewrite of Charles Brown's “Driftin' Blues”, on which, as on many sessions run by Turner, the guitarist was Matt “Guitar” Murphy, who later found fame with the Blues Brothers: [Excerpt: Bobby "Blue" Bland with Ike Turner and his Orchestra, "Driftin' Blues"] Though I've also seen the piano part on that credited as being by Johnny Ace – there's often some confusion as to whether Turner or Ace played on a session, as they played with many of the same artists, but that one was later rereleased as by Bobby “Blue” Bland with Ike Turner and his Orchestra, so it's safe to say that Ike's on that one. He also played on several records by Howlin' Wolf, including "How Many More Years", recorded at Sam Phillips' studio: [Excerpt: Howlin' Wolf, "How Many More Years?"] Over the next few years he played with many artists we've covered already in the podcast, like Richard Berry and the Flairs, on whose recordings he played guitar rather than piano: [Excerpt: The Flairs, "Baby Wants"] He also played guitar on records by Elmore James: [Excerpt: Elmore James, "Please Find My Baby"] and played with Little Junior Parker, Little Milton, Johnny Ace, Roscoe Gordon, and many, many more. As well as making blues records, he also made R&B records in the style of Gene and Eunice with his then-wife Bonnie: [Excerpt: Bonnie and Ike Turner, "My Heart Belongs to You"] Bonnie was his fourth wife, all of them bigamous -- or at least, I *think* she was his fourth. I have seen two different lists Turner gave of his wives, both of them made up of entirely different people, though it doesn't help that many of them also went by nicknames. But Turner started getting married when he was fourteen, and as he would often put it "you gave a preacher two dollars, the papers cost three dollars, that was it. In those days Blacks didn't bother with divorces." (One thing you will see a lot with Turner, unfortunately, is his habit of taking his own personal misbehaviours and claiming they were either universal, or at least that they were universal among Black people, or among men. It's certainly true that some people in the Southeastern US had a more lackadaisical attitude towards remarrying without divorce at the time than we might expect, but it was in no way a Black thing specifically -- it was a people-like-Ike-Turner thing -- see for example the very similar behaviour of Jerry Lee Lewis. I'm trying, when I quote him, not to include too many of these generalisations, but I thought it important to include that one early on to show the kind of self-justification to which he was prone throughout his entire life.) It's largely because Bonnie played piano and was singing with his band that Turner switched to playing guitar, but there was another reason – while he disliked the attention he got on stage, he also didn't want a repeat of what had happened with Jackie Brenston, where Brenston as lead vocalist and frontman had claimed credit for what Ike thought of as his own record. Anyone who saw Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm was going to know that Ike Turner was the man who was making it all happen, and so he was going to play guitar up front rather than be on the piano in the background. So Turner took guitar lessons from Earl Hooker, one of the great blues guitarists of the period, who had played with Turner's piano inspiration Pinetop Perkins before recording solo tracks like "Sweet Angel": [Excerpt: Earl Hooker, "Sweet Angel"] Turner was always happier in the studio than performing live -- despite his astonishing ego, he was also a rather shy person who didn't like attention -- and he'd been happy working on salary for Modern and freelancing on occasion for other labels like Chess and Duke. But then the Biharis had brought him out to LA, where Modern Records was based, and as Joel Bihari put it "Ike did a great job for us, but he was a country boy. We brought him to L.A., and he just couldn't take city life. He only stayed a month, then left for East St. Louis to form his own band. He told me he was going back there to become a star." For once, Turner's memory of events lined up with what other people said about him. In his autobiography, he described what happened -- "Down in Mississippi, life is slow. Tomorrow, you are going to plough this field. The next day, you going to cut down these trees. You stop and you go on about your business. Next day, you start back on sawing trees or whatever you doing. Here I am in California, and this chick, this receptionist, is saying "Hold on, Mr Bihari, line 2... hold line 3... Hey Joe, Mr Something or other on the phone for you." I thought "What goddamn time does this stop?"" So Turner did head to East St. Louis -- which is a suburb of St. Louis proper, across the Mississippi river from it, and in Illinois rather than Missouri, and at the time a thriving industrial town in its own right, with over eighty thousand people living there. Hardly the laid-back country atmosphere that Turner was talking about, but still also far from LA both geographically and culturally. He put together a new lineup of the Kings of Rhythm, with a returning Jackie Brenston, who were soon recording for pretty much every label that was putting out blues and R&B tracks at that point, releasing records on RPM, Sue, Flair, Federal, and Modern as well as several smaller labels. usually with either Brenston or the group's drummer Billy Gayles singing lead: [Excerpt: Billy Gayles with Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm, "Just One More Time"] None of these records was a success, but the Kings of Rhythm were becoming the most successful band in East St. Louis. In the mid-fifties the only group that was as popular in the greater St. Louis metro area was the Johnny Johnson trio -- which soon became the Chuck Berry trio, and went on to greater things, while the Kings of Rhythm remained on the club circuit. But Turner was also becoming notorious for his temper -- he got the nickname "Pistol-Whippin' Ike Turner" for the way he would attack people with his gun, He also though was successful enough that he built his own home studio, and that was where he recorded "Boxtop". a calypso song whose middle eight seems to have been nicked from "Why Do Fools Fall In Love?" and whose general feel owes more than a little to "Love is Strange": [Excerpt: Ike Turner, Carlson Oliver, and Little Ann, "Boxtop"] The female vocals on that track were by Turner's new backing vocalist, who at the time went by the stage name "Little Ann". Anna Mae Bullock had started going to see the Kings of Rhythm regularly when she was seventeen, because her sister was dating one of the members of the band, and she had become a fan almost immediately. She later described her first experience seeing the group: "The first time I saw Ike on stage he was at his very best, sharply dressed in a dark suit and tie. Ike wasn’t conventionally handsome – actually, he wasn’t handsome at all – and he certainly wasn’t my type. Remember, I was a schoolgirl, all of seventeen, looking at a man. I was used to high school boys who were clean-cut, athletic, and dressed in denim, so Ike’s processed hair, diamond ring, and skinny body – he was all edges and sharp cheekbones – looked old to me, even though he was only twenty-five. I’d never seen anyone that thin! I couldn’t help thinking, God, he’s ugly." Turner didn't find Bullock attractive either -- one of the few things both have always agreed on in all their public statements about their later relationship was that neither was ever particularly attracted to the other sexually -- and at first this had caused problems for Anna Mae. There was a spot in the show where Turner would invite a girl from the audience up on stage to sing, a different one every night, usually someone he'd decided he wanted to sleep with. Anna Mae desperately wanted to be one of the girls that would get up on stage, but Turner never picked her. But then one day she got her chance. Her sister's boyfriend was teasing her sister, trying to get her to sing in this spot, and passed her the microphone. Her sister didn't want to sing, so Anna Mae grabbed the mic instead, and started singing -- the song she sang was B.B. King's "You Know I Love You", the same song that Turner always remembered as being recorded at Sun studios, and on which Turner had played piano: [Excerpt: B.B. King, "You Know I Love You"] Turner suddenly took notice of Anna Mae. As he would later say, everyone *says* they can sing, but it turned out that Anna Mae could. He took her on as an occasional backing singer, not at first as a full member of the band, but as a sort of apprentice, who he would teach how to use her talents more commercially. Turner always said that during this period, he would get Little Richard to help teach Anna Mae how to sing in a more uncontrolled, exuberant, style like he did, and Richard has backed this up, though Anna Mae never said anything about this. We do know though that Richard was a huge fan of Turner's -- the intro to "Good Golly Miss Molly": [Excerpt: Little Richard, "Good Golly Miss Molly"] was taken almost exactly from the intro to "Rocket '88": [Excerpt: Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats, "Rocket '88"] and Richard later wrote the introduction to Turner's autobiography. So it's possible -- but both men were inveterate exaggerators, and Anna Mae only joined Ike's band a few months before Richard's conversion and retirement from music, and during a point when he was a massive star, so it seems unlikely. Anna Mae started dating Raymond Hill, a saxophone player in the group, and became pregnant by him -- but then Hill broke his ankle, and used that as an excuse to move back to Clarksdale, Mississippi, to be with his family, abandoning his pregnant teenage girlfriend, and it seems to be around this point that Turner and Anna Mae became romantically and sexually involved. Certainly, one of Ike's girlfriends, Lorraine Taylor, seems to have believed they were involved while Anna Mae was pregnant, and indeed that Turner, rather than Hill, was the father. Taylor threatened Bullock with Turner's gun, before turning it on herself and attempting suicide, though luckily she survived. She gave birth to Turner's son, Ike Junior, a couple of months after Bullock gave birth to her own son, Craig. But even after they got involved, Anna Mae was still mostly just doing odd bits of backing vocals, like on "Boxtop", recorded in 1958, or on 1959's "That's All I Need", released on Sue Records: [Excerpt: Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm, "That's All I Need"] And it seemed that would be all that Anna Mae Bullock would do, until Ike Turner lent Art Lassiter eighty dollars he didn't want to pay back. Lassiter was a singer who was often backed by his own vocal trio, the Artettes, patterned after Ray Charles' Raelettes. He had performed with Turner's band on a semi-regular basis, since 1955 when he had recorded "As Long as I Have You" with his vocal group the Trojans, backed by "Ike Turner and his Orchestra": [Excerpt: The Trojans, Ike Turner and His Orchestra, "As Long as I Have You"] He'd recorded a few more tracks with Turner since then, both solo and under group names like The Rockers: [Excerpt: The Rockers, "Why Don't You Believe?"] In 1960, Lassiter needed new tyres for his car, and borrowed eighty dollars from Turner in order to get them -- a relatively substantial amount of money for a working musician back then. He told Turner that he would pay him back at a recording session they had booked, where Lassiter was going to record a song Turner had written, "A Fool in Love", with Turner's band and the Artettes. But Lassiter never showed up -- he didn't have the eighty dollars, and Turner found himself sat in a recording studio with a bunch of musicians he was paying for, paying twenty-five dollars an hour for the studio time, and with no singer there to record. At the time, he was still under the impression that Lassiter might eventually show up, if not at that session, then at least at a future one, but until he did, there was nothing he could do and he was getting angry. Bullock suggested that they cut the track without Lassiter. They were using a studio with a multi-track machine -- only two tracks, but that would be enough. They could cut the backing track on one track, and she could record a guide vocal on the other track, since she'd been around when Turner was teaching Lassiter the song. At least that way they wouldn't have wasted all the money. Turner saw the wisdom of the idea -- he said in his autobiography "This was the first time I got hip to two-track stereo" -- and after consulting with the engineer on the session, he decided to go ahead with Bullock's plan. The plan still caused problems, because they were recording the song in a key written for a man, so Bullock had to yell more than sing, causing problems for the engineer, who according to Turner kept saying things like "Goddammit, don't holler in my microphone". But it was only a demo vocal, after all, and they got it cut -- and as Lassiter didn't show up, Turner took Lassiter's backing vocal group as his own new group, renaming the Artettes to the Ikettes, and they became the first of a whole series of lineups of Ikettes who would record with Turner for the rest of his life. The intention was still to get Lassiter to sing lead on the record, but then Turner played an acetate of it at a club night where he was DJing as well as performing, and the kids apparently went wild: [Excerpt: Ike and Tina Turner, "A Fool in Love"] Turner took the demo to Juggy Murray at Sue Records, still with the intention of replacing Anna Mae's vocal with Lassiter's, but Murray insisted that that was the best thing about the record, and that it should be released exactly as it was, that it was a guaranteed hit. Although -- while that's the story that's told all the time about that record by everyone involved in the recording and release, and seems uncontested, there does seem to be one minor problem with the story, which is that the Ikettes sing "you know you love him, you can't understand/Why he treats you like he do when he's such a good man". I'm willing to be proved wrong, of course, but my suspicion is that Ike Turner wasn't such a progressive thinker that he was writing songs about male-male relationships in 1960. It's possible that the Ikettes were recorded on the same track as Tina's guide vocals, but if the intention was to overdub a new lead from Lassiter on an otherwise finished track, it would have made more sense for them to sing their finished backing vocal part. It seems more likely to me that they decided in the studio that the record was going to go out with Anna Mae singing lead, and the idea of Murray insisting is a later exaggeration. One thing that doesn't seem to be an exaggeration, though, is that initially Murray wanted the record to go out as by Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm featuring Little Ann, but Turner had other ideas. While Murray insisted "the girl is the star", Turner knew what happened when other people were the credited stars on his records. He didn't want another Jackie Brenston, having a hit and immediately leaving Turner right back where he started. If Little Ann was the credited singer, Little Ann would become a star and Ike Turner would have to find a new singer. So he came up with a pseudonym. Turner was a fan of jungle women in film serials and TV, and he thought a wild-woman persona would suit Anna Mae's yelled vocal, and so he named his new star after Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, a female Tarzan knock-off comic character created by Will Eisner and Jerry Iger in the thirties, but who Turner probably knew from a TV series that had been on in 1955 and 56. He gave her his surname, changed "Sheena" slightly to make the new name alliterative and always at least claimed to have registered a trademark on the name he came up with, so if Anna Mae ever left the band he could just get a new singer to use the name. Anna Mae Bullock was now Tina Turner, and the record went out as by "Ike and Tina Turner": [Excerpt: Ike and Tina Turner, "A Fool in Love"] That went to number two on the R&B charts, and hit the top thirty on the pop charts, too. But there were already problems. After Ike had had a second son with Lorraine, he then got Tina pregnant with another of his children, still seeing both women. He had already started behaving abusively towards Tina, and as well as being pregnant, she was suffering from jaundice -- she says in the first of her two autobiographies that she distinctly remembered lying in her hospital bed, hearing "A Fool in Love" on the radio, and thinking "What's love got to do with it?", though as with all such self-mythologising we should take this with a pinch of salt. Turner was in need of money to pay for lawyers -- he had been arrested for financial crimes involving forged cheques -- and Juggy Murray wouldn't give him an advance until he delivered a follow-up to "A Fool in Love", so he insisted that Tina sneak herself out of the hospital and go into the studio, jaundiced and pregnant, to record the follow-up. Then, as soon as the jaundice had cleared up, they went on a four-month tour, with Tina heavily pregnant, to make enough money to pay Ike's legal bills. Turner worked his band relentlessly -- he would accept literally any gig, even tiny clubs with only a hundred people in the audience, reasoning that it was better for the band's image to play  small venues that had to turn people away because they were packed to capacity, than to play large venues that were only half full. While "A Fool in Love" had a substantial white audience, the Ike and Tina Turner Revue was almost the epitome of the chitlin' circuit act, playing exciting, funky, tightly-choreographed shows for almost entirely Black audiences in much the same way as James Brown, and Ike Turner was in control of every aspect of the show. When Tina had to go into hospital to give birth, rather than give up the money from gigging, Ike hired a sex worker who bore a slight resemblance to Tina to be the new onstage "Tina Turner" until the real one was able to perform again. One of the Ikettes told the real Tina, who discharged herself from hospital, travelled to the venue, beat up the fake Tina, and took her place on stage two days after giving birth. The Ike and Tina Turner Revue, with the Kings of Rhythm backing Tina, the Ikettes, and male singer Jimmy Thomas, all of whom had solo spots, were an astonishing live act, but they were only intermittently successful on record. None of the three follow-ups to "A Fool in Love" did better than number eighty-two on the charts, and two of them didn't even make the R&B charts, though "I Idolize You" did make the R&B top five. Their next big hit came courtesy of Mickey and Sylvia. You may remember us talking about Mickey and Sylvia way back in episode forty-nine, from back in 2019, but if you don't, they were one of a series of R&B duet acts, like Gene and Eunice, who came up after the success of Shirley and Lee, and their big hit was "Love is Strange": [Excerpt: Mickey and Sylvia, "Love is Strange"] By 1961, their career had more or less ended, but they'd recorded a song co-written by the great R&B songwriter Rose Marie McCoy, which had gone unreleased: [Excerpt: Mickey and Sylvia, "It's Gonna Work Out Fine"] When that was shelved they remade it as an Ike and Tina Turner record, with Mickey and Sylvia being Ike -- Sylvia took on all the roles that Ike would normally do in the studio, arranging the track and playing lead guitar, as well as joining the Ikettes on backing vocals, while Mickey did the spoken answering vocals that most listeners assumed were Ike, and which Ike would replicate on stage. The result, unsurprisingly, sounded more like a Mickey and Sylvia record than anything Ike and Tina had ever released before, though it's very obviously Tina on lead vocals: [Excerpt: Ike and Tina Turner, "It's Gonna Work Out Fine"] That made the top twenty on the pop charts -- though it would be their last top forty hit for nearly a decade as Ike and Tina Turner. They did though have a couple of other hits as the Ikettes, with Ike Turner putting the girl group's name on the label so he could record for multiple labels. The first of these, "I'm Blue (The Gong Gong Song)" was a song Ike had written which would later go on to become something of an R&B standard. It featured Dolores Johnson on lead vocals, but Tina sang backing vocals and got a rare co-production credit: [Excerpt: The Ikettes, "I'm Blue (The Gong Gong Song)"] The other Ikettes top forty hit was in 1965, with a song written by Steve Venet and Tommy Boyce -- a songwriter we will be hearing more about in three weeks -- and produced by Venet: [Excerpt: The Ikettes, "Peaches 'n' Cream"] Ike wasn't keen on that record at first, but soon came round to it when it hit the charts. The success of that record caused that lineup of Ikettes to split from Ike and Tina -- the Ikettes had become a successful act in their own right, and Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars wanted to book them, but that would have meant they wouldn't be available for Ike and Tina shows. So Ike sent a different group of three girls out on the road with Clark's tour, keeping the original Ikettes back to record and tour with him, and didn't pay them any royalties on their records. They resented being unable to capitalise on their big hit, so they quit. At first they tried to keep the Ikettes name for themselves, and got Tina Turner's sister Alline to manage them, but eventually they changed their name to the Mirettes, and released a few semi-successful records. Ike got another trio of Ikettes to replace them, and carried on with Pat Arnold, Gloria Scott, and Maxine Smith as the new Ikettes,. One Ikette did remain pretty much throughout -- a woman called Ann Thomas, who Ike Turner was sleeping with, and who he would much later marry, but who he always claimed was never allowed to sing with the others, but was just there for her looks. By this point Ike and Tina had married, though Ike had not divorced any of his previous wives (though he paid some of them off when Ike and Tina became big). Ike and Tina's marriage in Tijuana was not remembered by either of them as a particularly happy experience -- Ike would always later insist that it wasn't a legal marriage at all, and in fact that it was the only one of his many, many, marriages that hadn't been, and was just a joke. He was regularly abusing her in the most horrific ways, but at this point the duo still seemed to the public to be perfectly matched. They actually only ended up on the Big TNT Show as a last-minute thing -- another act was sick, though none of my references mention who it was who got sick, just that someone was needed to fill in for them, and as Ike and Tina were now based in LA -- the country boy Ike had finally become a city boy after all -- and would take any job on no notice, they got the gig. Phil Spector was impressed, and he decided that he could revitalise his career by producing a hit for Tina Turner. There was only one thing wrong -- Tina Turner wasn't an act. *Ike* and Tina Turner was an act. And Ike Turner was a control freak, just like Spector was -- the two men had essentially the same personality, and Spector didn't want to work with someone else who would want to be in charge. After some negotiation, they came to an agreement -- Spector could produce a Tina Turner record, but it would be released as an Ike and Tina Turner record. Ike would be paid twenty thousand dollars for his services, and those services would consist of staying well away from the studio and not interfering. Spector was going to go back to the old formulas that had worked for him, and work with the people who had contributed to his past successes, rather than leaving anything to chance. Jack Nitzsche had had a bit of a falling out with him and not worked on some of the singles he'd produced recently, but he was back. And Spector was going to work with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich again. He'd fallen out with Barry and Greenwich when "Chapel of Love" had been a hit for the Dixie Cups rather than for one of Spector's own artists, and he'd been working with Mann and Weill and Goffin and King instead. But he knew that it was Barry and Greenwich who were the ones who had worked best with him, and who understood his musical needs best, so he actually travelled to see them in New York instead of getting them to come to him in LA, as a peace offering and a sign of how much he valued their input. The only problem was that Spector hadn't realised that Barry and Greenwich had actually split up.  They were still working together in the studio, and indeed had just produced a minor hit single for a new act on Bert Berns' label BANG, for which Greenwich had written the horn arrangement: [Excerpt: Neil Diamond, "Solitary Man"] We'll hear more about Neil Diamond, and about Jeff Barry's work with him, in three weeks. But Barry and Greenwich were going through a divorce and weren't writing together any more, and came back together for one last writing session with Spector, at which, apparently, Ellie Greenwich would cry every time they wrote a line about love. The session produced four songs, of which two became singles. Barry produced a version of "I Can Hear Music", written at these sessions, for the Ronettes, who Spector was no longer interested in producing himself: [Excerpt: The Ronettes, "I Can Hear Music"] That only made number ninety-nine on the charts, but the song was later a hit for the Beach Boys and has become recognised as a classic. The other song they wrote in those sessions, though, was the one that Spector wanted to give to Tina Turner. "River Deep, Mountain High" was a true three-way collaboration -- Greenwich came up with the music for the verses, Spector for the choruses, and Barry wrote the lyrics and tweaked the melody slightly. Spector, Barry, and Greenwich spent two weeks in their writing session, mostly spent on "River Deep, Mountain High". Spector later said of the writing "Every time we’d write a love line, Ellie would start to cry. I couldn’t figure out what was happening, and then I realised… it was a very uncomfortable situation. We wrote that, and we wrote ‘I Can Hear Music’…. We wrote three or four hit songs on that one writing session. “The whole thing about ‘River Deep’ was the way I could feel that strong bass line. That’s how it started. And then Jeff came up with the opening line. I wanted a tender song about a chick who loved somebody very much, but a different way of expressing it. So we came up with the rag doll and ‘I’m going to cuddle you like a little puppy’. And the idea was really built for Tina, just like ‘Lovin’ Feelin” was built for the Righteous Brothers.” Spector spent weeks recording, remixing, rerecording, and reremixing the backing track, arranged by Nitzsche, creating the most thunderous, overblown, example of the Wall of Sound he had ever created, before getting Tina into the studio. He also spent weeks rehearsing Tina on the song, and according to her most of what he did was "carefully stripping away all traces of Ike from my performance" -- she was belting the song and adding embellishments, the way Ike Turner had always taught her to, and Spector kept insisting that she just sing the melody -- something that she had never had the opportunity to do before, and which she thought was wonderful. It was so different from anything else that she'd recorded that after each session, when Ike would ask her about the song, she would go completely blank -- she couldn't hold this pop song in her head except when she was running through it with Spector. Eventually she did remember it, and when she did Ike was not impressed, though the record became one of the definitive pop records of all time: [Excerpt: Ike and Tina Turner, "River Deep, Mountain High"] Spector was putting everything on the line for this record, which was intended to be his great comeback and masterpiece. That one track cost more than twenty thousand dollars to record -- an absolute fortune at a time when a single would normally be recorded in one or two sessions at most. It also required a lot of work on Tina's part. She later estimated that she had sung the opening line of the song a thousand times before Spector allowed her to move on to the second line, and talked about how she got so hot and sweaty singing the song over and over that she had to take her blouse off in the studio and sing the song in her bra. She later said "I still don’t know what he wanted. I still don’t know if I pleased him. But I never stopped trying." Spector produced a total of six tracks with Tina, including the other two songs written at those Barry and Greenwich sessions, "I'll Never Need More Than This", which became the second single released off the "River Deep, Mountain High" album, and "Hold On Baby", plus cover versions of Arthur Alexander's "Every Day I Have to Cry Some", Pomus and Shuman's "Save the Last Dance", and "A Love Like Yours (Don't Come Knocking Everyday)" a Holland-Dozier-Holland song which had originally been released as a Martha and the Vandellas B-side. The planned album was to be padded out with six tracks produced by Ike Turner, mostly remakes of the duo's earlier hits, and was planned for release after the single became the hit everyone knew it would. The single hit the Hot One Hundred soon after it was released: [Excerpt: Ike and Tina Turner, "River Deep, Mountain High"] ...and got no higher up the charts than number eighty-eight. The failure of the record basically destroyed Spector, and while he had been an abusive husband before this, now he became much worse, as he essentially retired from music for four years, and became increasingly paranoid and aggressive towards the industry that he thought was not respectful enough of his genius. There have been several different hypotheses as to why "River Deep Mountain High" was not a success. Some have said that it was simply because DJs were fed up of Spector refusing to pay payola, and had been looking for a reason to take him down a peg. Ike Turner thought it was due to racism, saying later “See, what’s wrong with America, I think, is that rather than accept something for its value… what it’s doing, America mixes race in it. You can’t call that record R&B. But because it’s Tina… if you had not put Tina’s name on there and put ‘Joe Blow’, then the Top 40 stations would have accepted it for being a pop record. But Tina Turner… they want to brand her as being an R&B artist. I think the main reason that ‘River Deep’ didn’t make it here in America was that the R&B stations wouldn’t play it because they thought it was pop, and the pop stations wouldn’t play it because they thought it was R&B. And it didn’t get played at all. The only record I’ve heard that could come close to that record is a record by the Beach Boys called ‘Good Vibrations’. I think these are the two records that I’ve heard in my life that I really like, you know?” Meanwhile, Jeff Barry thought it was partly the DJs but also faults in the record caused by Phil Spector's egomania, saying "he has a self-destructive thing going for him, which is part of the reason that the mix on ‘River Deep’ is terrible, he buried the lead and he knows he buried the lead and he cannot stop himself from doing that… if you listen to his records in sequence, the lead goes further and further in and to me what he is saying is, ‘It is not the song I wrote with Jeff and Ellie, it is not the song – just listen to those strings. I want more musicians, it’s me, listen to that bass sound. …’ That, to me, is what hurts in the long run... Also, I do think that the song is not as clear on the record as it should be, mix-wise. I don’t want to use the word overproduced, because it isn’t, it’s just undermixed." There's possibly an element of all three of these factors in play. As we've discussed, 1965 seems to have been the year that the resegregation of American radio began, and the start of the long slow process of redefining genres so that rock and roll, still considered a predominantly Black music at the beginning of the sixties, was by the end of the decade considered an almost entirely white music. And it's also the case that "River Deep, Mountain High" was the most extreme production Spector ever committed to vinyl, and that Spector had made a lot of enemies in the music business. It's also, though, the case  that it was a genuinely great record: [Excerpt: Ike and Tina Turner, "River Deep, Mountain High"] However, in the UK, it was promoted by Decca executive Tony Hall, who was a figure who straddled both sides of the entertainment world -- as part of his work as a music publicist he had been a presenter on Oh Boy!, written a column in Record Mirror, and presented a Radio Luxembourg show. Hall put his not-inconsiderable weight behind promoting the record, and it ended up reaching number two in the UK -- being successful enough that the album was also released over here, though it wouldn't come out in the US for several years. The record also attracted the attention of the Rolling Stones, who invited Ike and Tina to be their support act on a UK tour, which also featured the Yardbirds, and this would be a major change for the duo in all sorts of ways. Firstly, it got them properly in contact with British musicians -- and the Stones would get Ike and Tina as support artists several times over the next few years -- and also made the UK and Europe part of their regular tour itinerary. It also gave the duo their first big white rock audience, and over the next several years they would pivot more and more to performing music aimed at that audience, rather than the chitlin' circuit they'd been playing for previously. Ike was very conscious of wanting to move away from the blues and R&B -- while that was where he'd made his living as a musician, it wasn't music he actually liked, and he would often talk later about how much he respected Keith Richards and Eric Clapton, and how his favourite music was country music. Tina had also never been a fan of blues or R&B, and wanted to perform songs by the white British performers they were meeting. The tour also, though, gave Tina her first real thoughts of escape. She loved the UK and Europe, and started thinking about what life could be like for her not just being Ike Turner's wife and working fifty-one weeks a year at whatever gigs came along. But it also made that escape a little more difficult, because on the tour Tina lost one of her few confidantes in the organisation. Tina had helped Pat Arnold get away from her own abusive partner, and the two had become very close, but Arnold was increasingly uncomfortable being around Ike's abuse of Tina, and couldn't help her friend the way she'd been helped. She decided she needed to get out of a toxic situation, and decided to stay in England, where she'd struck up an affair with Mick Jagger, and where she found that there were many opportunities for her as a Black woman that simply hadn't been there in the US. (This is not to say that Britain doesn't have problems with racism -- it very much does, but those problems are *different* problems than the ones that the US had at that point, and Arnold found Britain's attitude more congenial to her personally). There was also another aspect, which a lot of Black female singers of her generation have mentioned and which probably applies here. Many Black women have said that they were astonished on visiting Britain to be hailed as great singers, when they thought of themselves as merely average. Britain does not have the kind of Black churches which had taught generations of Black American women to sing gospel, and so singers who in the US thought of themselves as merely OK would be far, far, better than any singers in the UK -- the technical standards were just so much lower here. (This is something that was still true at least as late as the mid-eighties. Bob Geldof talks in his autobiography about attending the recording session for "We Are the World" after having previously recorded "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and being astonished at how much more technically skilled the American stars were and how much more seriously they took their craft.) And Arnold wasn't just an adequate singer -- she was and is a genuinely great talent -- and so she quickly found herself in demand in the UK. Jagger got her signed to Immediate Records, a new label that had been started up by the Stones manager Andrew Oldham, and where Jimmy Page was the staff producer. She was given a new name, P.P. Arnold, which was meant to remind people of another American import, P.J. Proby, but which she disliked because the initials spelled "peepee". Her first single on the label, produced by Jagger, did nothing, but her second single, written by a then-unknown songwriter named Cat Stevens, became a big hit: [Excerpt: P.P. Arnold, "The First Cut is the Deepest"] She toured with a backing band, The Nice, and made records as a backing singer with artists like the Small Faces. She also recorded a duet with the unknown singer Rod Stewart, though that wasn't a success: [Excerpt: Rod Stewart and P.P. Arnold, "Come Home Baby"] We'll be hearing more about P.P. Arnold in future episodes, but the upshot of her success was that Tina had even fewer people to support her. The next few years were increasingly difficult for Tina, as Ike turned to cocaine use in a big way, became increasingly violent, and his abuse of her became much more violent. The descriptions of his behaviour in Tina's two volumes of autobiography are utterly harrowing, and I won't go into them in detail, except to say that nobody should have to suffer what she did. Ike's autobiography, on the other hand, has him attempting to defend himself, even while admitting to several of the most heinous allegations, by saying he didn't beat his wife any more than most men did. Now the sad thing is that this may well be true, at least among his peer group. Turner's behaviour was no worse than behaviour from, say, James Brown or Brian Jones or Phil Spector or Jerry Lee Lewis, and it may well be that behaviour like this was common enough among people he knew that Turner's behaviour didn't stand out at all. His abuse has become much better-known, because the person he was attacking happened to become one of the biggest stars in the world, while the women they attacked didn't. But that of course doesn't make what Ike did to Tina any better -- it just makes it infinitely sadder that so many more people suffered that way. In 1968, Tina actually tried to take her own life -- and she was so fearful of Ike that when she overdosed, she timed it so that she thought she would be able to at least get on stage and start the first song before collapsing, knowing that their contract required her to do that for Ike to get paid. As it was, one of the Ikettes noticed the tablets she had taken had made her so out of it she'd drawn a line across her face with her eyebrow pencil. She was hospitalised, and according to both Ike and Tina's reports, she was comatose and her heart actually stopped beating, but then Ike started yelling at her, saying if she wanted to die why didn't she do it by jumping in front of a truck, rather than leaving him with hospital bills, and telling her to go ahead and die if this was how she was going to treat him -- and she was so scared of Ike her heart started up again. (This does not seem medically likely to me, but I wasn't there, and they both were). Of course, Ike frames this as compassion and tough love. I would have different words for it myself. Tina would make several more suicide attempts over the years, but even as Tina's life was falling apart, the duo's professional career was on the up. They started playing more shows in the UK, and they toured the US as support for the Rolling Stones. They also started having hits again, after switching to performing funked-up cover versions of contemporary hits. They had a minor hit with a double-sided single of the Beatles' "Come Together" and the Stones' "Honky-Tonk Women", then a bigger one with a version of Sly and the Family Stone's "I Want to Take You Higher", then had their biggest hit ever with "Proud Mary". It's likely we'll be looking at Creedence Clearwater Revival's original version of that song at some point, but while Ike Turner disliked the original, Tina liked it, and Ike also became convinced of the song's merits by hearing a version by The Checkmates Ltd: [Excerpt: The Checkmates Ltd, "Proud Mary"] That was produced by Phil Spector, who came briefly out of his self-imposed exile from the music business in 1969 to produce a couple of singles for the Checkmates and Ronnie Spector. That version inspired Ike and Tina's recording of the song, which went to number four on the charts and won them a Grammy award in 1971: [Excerpt: Ike and Tina Turner, "Proud Mary"] Ike was also investing the money they were making into their music. He built his own state-of-the-art studio, Bolic Sound, which Tina always claimed was a nod to her maiden name, Bullock, but which he later always said was a coincidence. Several other acts hired the studio, especially people in Frank Zappa's orbit -- Flo and Eddie recorded their first album as a duo there, and Zappa recorded big chunks of Over-Nite Sensation and Apostrophe('), two of his most successful albums, at the studio. Acts hiring Bolic Sound also got Tina and the Ikettes on backing vocals if they wanted them, and so for example Tina is one of the backing vocalists on Zappa's "Cosmik Debris": [Excerpt: Frank Zappa, "Cosmik Debris"] One of the most difficult things she ever had to sing in her life was this passage in Zappa's song "Montana", which took the Ikettes several days' rehearsal to get right. [Excerpt: Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, "Montana"] She was apparently so excited at having got that passage right that she called Ike out of his own session to come in and listen, but Ike was very much unimpressed, and insisted that Tina and the Ikettes not get credit on the records they made with Zappa. Zappa later said “I don’t know how she managed to stick with that guy for so long. He treated her terribly and she’s a really nice lady. We were recording down there on a Sunday. She wasn’t involved with the session, but she came in on Sunday with a whole pot of stew that she brought for everyone working in the studio. Like out of nowhere, here’s Tina Turner coming in with a rag on her head bringing a pot of stew. It was really nice.” By this point, Ike was unimpressed by anything other than cocaine and women, who he mostly got to sleep with him by having truly gargantuan amounts of cocaine around. As Ike was descending further into paranoia and abuse, though, Tina was coming into her own. She wrote "Nutbush City Limits" about the town where she grew up, and it reached number 22 on the charts -- higher than any song Ike ever wrote: [Excerpt: Ike and Tina Turner, "Nutbush City Limits"] Of course, Ike would later claim that he wrote the music and let Tina keep all the credit. Tina was also asked by the Who to appear in the film version of their rock opera Tommy, where her performance of "Acid Queen" was one of the highlights: [Excerpt: Tina Turner, "Acid Queen"] And while she was filming that in London, she was invited to guest on a TV show with Ann-Margret, who was a huge fan of Ike and Tina, and duetted with Tina -- but not Ike -- on a medley of her hits: [Excerpt: Tina Turner and Ann-Margret, "Nutbush City Limits/Honky Tonk Woman"] Just as with "River Deep, Mountain High", Tina was wanted for her own talents, independent of Ike. She was starting to see that as well as being an abusive husband, he was also not necessary for her to have a career. She was also starting to find parts of her life that she could have for herself, independent of her husband. She'd been introduced to Buddhist meditation by a friend, and took it up in a big way, much to Ike's disapproval. Things finally came to a head in July 1976, in Dallas, when Ike started beating her up and for the first time she fought back. She pretended to reconcile with him, waited for him to fall asleep, and ran across a busy interstate, almost getting hit by a ten-wheel truck, to get to another hotel she could see in the distance. Luckily, even though she had no money, and she was a Black woman in Dallas, not a city known for its enlightened attitudes in the 1970s, the manager of the Ramada Inn took pity on her and let her stay there for a while until she could get in touch with Buddhist friends. She spent the next few months living off the kindness of strangers, before making arrangements with Rhonda Graam, who had started working for Ike and Tina in 1964 as a fan, but had soon become indispensable to the organisation. Graam sided with Tina, and while still supposedly working for Ike she started putting together appearances for Tina on TV shows like Cher's. Cher was a fan of Tina's work, and was another woman trying to build a career after leaving an abusive husband who had been her musical partner: [Excerpt: Cher and Tina Turner, "Makin' Music is My Business"] Graam became Tina's full-time assistant, as well as her best friend, and remained part of her life until Graam's death a year ago. She also got Tina booked in to club gigs, but for a long time they found it hard to get bookings -- promoters would say she was "only half the act". Ike still wanted the duo to work together professionally, if not be a couple, but Tina absolutely refused, and Ike had gangster friends of his shoot up Graam's car, and Tina heard rumours that he was planning to hire a hit man to come after her. Tina filed for divorce, and gave Ike everything -- all the money the couple had earned together in sixteen years of work, all the property, all the intellectual property -- except for two cars, one of which Ike had given her and one which Sammy Davis Jr. had given her, and the one truly important thing -- the right to use the name "Tina Turner", which Ike had the trademark on. Ike had apparently been planning to hire someone else to perform as "Tina Turner" and carry on as if nothing had changed. Slowly, Tina built her career back up, though it was not without its missteps. She got a new manager, who also managed Olivia Newton-John, and the manager brought in a song he thought was perfect for Tina. She turned it down, and Newton-John recorded it instead: [Excerpt: Olivia Newton-John, "Physical"] But even while she was still playing small clubs, her old fans from the British rock scene were boosting her career. In 1981, after Rod Stewart saw her playing a club gig and singing his song "Hot Legs", he invited her to guest with him and perform the song on Saturday Night Live: [Excerpt: Rod Stewart and Tina Turner, "Hot Legs"] The Rolling Stones invited Tina to be their support act on a US tour, and to sing "Honky Tonk Women" on stage with them, and eventually when David Bowie, who was at the height of his fame at that point, told his record label he was going to see her on a night that EMI wanted to do an event for him, half the record industry showed up to the gig. She had already recorded a remake of the Temptations' "Ball of Confusion" with the British Electric Foundation -- a side project for two of the members of Heaven 17 -- in 1982, for one of their albums: [Excerpt: British Electric Foundation, "Ball of Confusion"] Now they were brought in to produce a new single for her, a remake of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together": [Excerpt: Tina Turner, "Let's Stay Together"] That made the top thirty in the US, and was a moderate hit in many places, making the top ten in the UK. She followed it up with another BEF production, a remake of "Help!" by the Beatles, which appears only to have been released in mainland Europe. But then came the big hit: [Excerpt: Tina Turner, "What's Love Got to Do With It?"] wenty-six years after she started performing with Ike, Tina Turner was suddenly a major star. She had a string of successes throughout the eighties and nineties, with more hit records, film appearances, a successful autobiography, a film based on the autobiography, and record-setting concert appearances including one which broke the record for the largest audience ever for a solo performer. She retired in 2009, apart from making appearances to promote her second autobiography and the successful stage musical based on her life. She is currently happily married to a partner she's been with for thirty-five years, and though she's had further problems in her life, including a number of health issues and the death of her oldest son, she seems fundamentally content with the latter half of her life, and fulfilled creatively, emotionally, and financially. Ike Turner, on the other hand, spent the thirty-one years after Tina left him lost in cocaine addiction and resentment. Occasionally he would come up with schemes to try to get her back working with him -- at one stage during her comeback he suggested a stage show in which Ike and Tina would appear with Sonny and Cher, to be called "The Broken Pieces Put Back Together With Crazy Glue", which he would of course write. Understandably, neither Tina nor Cher were interested in doing a stage show with their abusive exes. He continued making music, but with little success, though in the last decade of his life he did make a couple of moderately successful blues records, and even won a Best Traditional Blues Album Grammy for his last album. He would complain bitterly every chance he got about how hard-done-by he felt about Tina leaving him, including in his autobiography, Takin' Back My Name. He married three more times after Tina, and his final wife, who he divorced after two months, later wrote an autobiography, Love Has Everything to Do With It, detailing their relationship. He died in 2007, of a cocaine overdose, and Phil Spector, the man who had paid Ike to stay away from the studio because he was only interested in Tina, spoke bitterly at his funeral about how in his view Ike had been the real talent and Tina should have been grateful to him, and how much he had learned from Ike. Spector clearly by now saw Ike as a kindred spirit, and realised how alike they were. At the time he spoke at the funeral, Phil Spector was on bail awaiting trial for the murder of Lana Clarkson. He was later convicted, and died in prison in January 2021.
Jan 16, 2022
Episode 140: “Trouble Every Day” by the Mothers of Invention
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Episode one hundred and forty of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Trouble Every Day" by the Mothers of Invention, and the early career of Frank Zappa. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on "Christmas Time is Here Again" by the Beatles. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ Resources I'm away from home as I upload this and haven't been able to do a Mixcloud, but will hopefully edit a link in in a week or so if I remember. The main biography I consulted for this was Electric Don Quixote by Neil Slaven. Zappa's autobiography, The Real Frank Zappa Book, is essential reading if you're a fan of his work. Information about Jimmy Carl Black's early life came from Black's autobiography, For Mother's Sake. Zappa's letter to Varese is from this blog, which also contains a lot of other useful information on Zappa. For information on the Watts uprising, I recommend Johnny Otis' Listen to the Lambs. And the original mix of Freak Out is currently available not on the CD issue of Freak Out itself, which is an eighties remix, but on this "documentary" set. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Just a quick note before I begin -- there are a couple of passing references in this episode to rape and child abuse. I don't believe there's anything that should upset anyone, but if you're worried, you might want to read the transcript on the podcast website before or instead of listening. But also, this episode contains explicit, detailed, descriptions of racial violence carried out by the police against Black people, including against children. Some of it is so distressing that even reading the transcript might be a bit much for some people. Sometimes, in this podcast, we have to go back to another story we've already told. In most cases, that story is recent enough that I can just say, "remember last episode, when I said...", but to tell the story of the Mothers of Invention, I have to start with a story that I told sixty-nine episodes ago, in episode seventy-one, which came out nearly two years ago. In that episode, on "Willie and the Hand Jive", I briefly told the story of Little Julian Herrera at the start. I'm going to tell a slightly longer version of the story now. Some of the information at the start of this episode will be familiar from that and other episodes, but I'm not going to expect people to remember something from that long ago, given all that's happened since. The DJ Art Laboe is one of the few figures from the dawn of rock and roll who is still working. At ninety-six years old, he still promotes concerts, and hosts a syndicated radio show on which he plays "Oldies but Goodies", a phrase which could describe him as well as the music. It's a phrase he coined -- and trademarked -- back in the 1950s, when people in his audience would ask him to play records made a whole three or four years earlier, records they had listened to in their youth. Laboe pretty much single-handedly invented the rock and roll nostalgia market -- as well as being a DJ, he owned a record label, Original Sound, which put out a series of compilation albums, Oldies But Goodies, starting in 1959, which started to cement the first draft of the doo-wop canon. These were the first albums to compile together a set of older rock and roll hits and market them for nostalgia, and they were very much based on the tastes of his West Coast teenage listenership, featuring songs like "Earth Angel" by the Penguins: [Excerpt: The Penguins, "Earth Angel"] But also records that had a more limited geographic appeal, like "Heaven and Paradise" by Don Julian and the Meadowlarks: [Excerpt: Don Julian and the Meadowlarks, "Heaven and Paradise"] As well as being a DJ and record company owner, Laboe was the promoter and MC for regular teenage dances at El Monte Legion Stadium, at which Kip and the Flips, the band that featured Sandy Nelson and Bruce Johnston, would back local performers like the Penguins, Don and Dewey, or Ritchie Valens, as well as visiting headliners like Jerry Lee Lewis. El Monte stadium was originally chosen because it was outside the LA city limits -- at the time there were anti-rock-and-roll ordinances that meant that any teenage dance had to be approved by the LA Board of Education, but those didn't apply to that stadium -- but it also led to Laboe's audience becoming more racially diverse. The stadium was in East LA, which had a large Mexican-American population, and while Laboe's listenership had initially been very white, soon there were substantial numbers of Mexican-American and Black audience members. And it was at one of the El Monte shows that Johnny Otis discovered the person who everyone thought was going to become the first Chicano rock star, before even Ritchie Valens, in 1957, performing as one of the filler acts on Laboe's bill. He signed Little Julian Herrera, a performer who was considered a sensation in East LA at the time, though nobody really knew where he lived, or knew much about him other than that he was handsome, Chicano, and would often have a pint of whisky in his back pocket, even though he was under the legal drinking age. Otis signed Herrera to his label, Dig Records, and produced several records for him, including the record by which he's now best remembered, "Those Lonely Lonely Nights": [Excerpt: Little Julian Herrera, "Those Lonely, Lonely, Nights"] After those didn't take off the way they were expected to, Herrera and his vocal group the Tigers moved to another label, one owned by Laboe, where they recorded "I Remember Linda": [Excerpt: Little Julian Herrera and the Tigers, "I Remember Linda"]  And then one day Johnny Otis got a knock on his door from the police. They were looking for Ron Gregory. Otis had never heard of Ron Gregory, and told them so. The police then showed him a picture. It turned out that Julian Herrera wasn't Mexican-American, and wasn't from East LA, but was from Massachusetts. He had run away from home a few years back, hitch-hiked across the country, and been taken in by a Mexican-American family, whose name he had adopted. And now he was wanted for rape. Herrera went to prison, and when he got out, he tried to make a comeback, but ended up sleeping rough in the basement of the stadium where he had once been discovered. He had to skip town because of some other legal problems, and headed to Tijuana, where he was last seen playing R&B gigs in 1963. Nobody knows what happened to him after that -- some say he was murdered, others that he's still alive, working in a petrol station under yet another name, but nobody has had a confirmed sighting of him since then. When he went to prison, the Tigers tried to continue for a while, but without their lead singer, they soon broke up. Ray Collins, who we heard singing the falsetto part in "I Remember Linda", went on to join many other doo-wop and R&B groups over the next few years, with little success. Then in summer 1963, he walked into a bar in Ponoma, and saw a bar band who were playing the old Hank Ballard and the Midnighters song "Work With Me Annie". As Collins later put it, “I figured that any band that played ‘Work With Me Annie’ was all right,” and he asked if he could join them for a few songs. They agreed, and afterwards, Collins struck up a conversation with the guitarist, and told him about an idea he'd had for a song based on one of Steve Allen's catchphrases. The guitarist happened to be spending a lot of his time recording at an independent recording studio, and suggested that the two of them record the song together: [Excerpt: Baby Ray and the Ferns, "How's Your Bird?"] The guitarist in question was named Frank Zappa. Zappa was originally from Maryland, but had moved to California as a child with his conservative Italian-American family when his father, a defence contractor, had got a job in Monterey. The family had moved around California with his father's work, mostly living in various small towns in the Mojave desert seventy miles or so north of Los Angeles. Young Frank had an interest in science, especially chemistry, and especially things that exploded, but while he managed to figure out the ingredients for gunpowder, his family couldn't afford to buy him a chemistry set in his formative years -- they were so poor that his father regularly took part in medical experiments to get a bit of extra money to feed his kids -- and so the young man's interest was diverted away from science towards music. His first musical interest, and one that would show up in his music throughout his life, was the comedy music of Spike Jones, whose band combined virtuosic instrumental performances with sound effects: [Excerpt: Spike Jones and his City Slickers, "Cocktails for Two"] and parodies of popular classical music [Excerpt: Spike Jones and his City Slickers, "William Tell Overture"] Jones was a huge inspiration for almost every eccentric or bohemian of the 1940s and 50s -- Spike Milligan, for example, took the name Spike in tribute to him. And young Zappa wrote his first ever fan letter to Jones when he was five or six. As a child Zappa was also fascinated by the visual aesthetics of music -- he liked to draw musical notes on staves and see what they looked like. But his musical interests developed in two other ways once he entered his teens. The first was fairly typical for the musicians of his generation from LA we've looked at and will continue to look at, which is that he heard "Gee" by the Crows on the radio: [Excerpt: The Crows, "Gee"] He became an R&B obsessive at that moment, and would spend every moment he could listening to the Black radio stations, despite his parents' disapproval. He particularly enjoyed Huggy Boy's radio show broadcast from Dolphins of Hollywood, and also would religiously listen to Johnny Otis, and soon became a connoisseur of the kind of R&B and blues that Otis championed as a musician and DJ: [Excerpt: Zappa on the Late Show, “I hadn't been raised in an environment where there was a lot of music in the house. This couple that owned the chilli place, Opal and Chester, agreed to ask the man who serviced the jukebox to put in some of the song titles that I liked, because I promised that I would dutifully keep pumping quarters into this thing so that I could listen to them, and so I had the ability to eat good chilli and listen to 'Three Hours Past Midnight' by Johnny 'Guitar' Watson for most of my junior and senior year"] Johnny “Guitar” Watson, along with Guitar Slim, would become a formative influence on Zappa's guitar playing, and his playing on "Three Hours Past Midnight" is so similar to Zappa's later style that you could easily believe it *was* him: [Excerpt: Johnny "Guitar" Watson, "Three Hours Past Midnight"] But Zappa wasn't only listening to R&B. The way Zappa would always tell the story, he discovered the music that would set him apart from his contemporaries originally by reading an article in Look magazine. Now, because Zappa has obsessive fans who check every detail, people have done the research and found that there was no such article in that magazine, but he was telling the story close enough to the time period in which it happened that its broad strokes, at least, must be correct even if the details are wrong. What Zappa said was that the article was on Sam Goody, the record salesman, and talked about how Goody was so good at his job that he had even been able to sell a record of Ionisation by Edgard Varese, which just consisted of the worst and most horrible noises anyone had ever heard, just loud drumming noises and screeching sounds. He determined then that he needed to hear that album, but he had no idea how he would get hold of a copy. I'll now read an excerpt from Zappa's autobiography, because Zappa's phrasing makes the story much better: "Some time later, I was staying overnight with Dave Franken, a friend who lived in La Mesa, and we wound up going to the hi-fi place -- they were having a sale on R&B singles. After shuffling through the rack and finding a couple of Joe Huston records, I made my way toward the cash register and happened to glance at the LP bin. I noticed a strange-looking black-and-white album cover with a guy on it who had frizzy gray hair and looked like a mad scientist. I thought it was great that a mad scientist had finally made a record, so I picked it up -- and there it was, the record with "Ionisation" on it. The author of the Look article had gotten it slightly wrong -- the correct title was The Complete Works of Edgard Varèse, Volume I, including "Ionisation," among other pieces, on an obscure label called EMS (Elaine Music Store). The record number was 401.I returned the Joe Huston records and checked my pockets to see how much money I had -- I think it came to about $3.75. I'd never bought an album before, but I knew they must be expensive because mostly old people bought them. I asked the man at the cash register how much EMS 401 cost. "That gray one in the box?" he said. "$5.95." I'd been searching for that record for over a year and I wasn't about to give up. I told him I had $3.75. He thought about it for a minute, and said, "We've been using that record to demonstrate hi-fi's with -- but nobody ever buys one when we use it. I guess if you want it that bad you can have it for $3.75."" Zappa took the record home, and put it on on his mother's record player in the living room, the only one that could play LPs: [Excerpt: Edgard Varese, "Ionisation"] His mother told him he could never play that record in the living room again, so he took the record player into his bedroom, and it became his record player from that point on. Varese was a French composer who had, in his early career, been very influenced by Debussy. Debussy is now, of course, part of the classical canon, but in the early twentieth century he was regarded as radical, almost revolutionary, for his complete rewriting of the rules of conventional classical music tonality into a new conception based on chordal melodies, pedal points, and use of non-diatonic scales. Almost all of Varese's early work was destroyed in a fire, so we don't have evidence of the transition from Debussy's romantic-influenced impressionism to Varese's later style, but after he had moved to the US in 1915 he had become wildly more experimental. "Ionisation" is often claimed to be the first piece of Western classical music written only for percussion instruments. Varese was part of a wider movement of modernist composers -- for example he was the best man at Nicolas Slonimsky's wedding -- and had also set up the International Composers' Guild, whose manifesto influenced Zappa, though his libertarian politics led him to adapt it to a more individualistic rather than collective framing. The original manifesto read in part "Dying is the privilege of the weary. The present day composers refuse to die. They have realized the necessity of banding together and fighting for the right of each individual to secure a fair and free presentation of his work" In the twenties and thirties, Varese had written a large number of highly experimental pieces, including Ecuatorial, which was written for bass vocal, percussion, woodwind, and two Theremin cellos. These are not the same as the more familiar Theremin, created by the same inventor, and were, as their name suggests, Theremins that were played like a cello, with a fingerboard and bow. Only ten of these were ever made, specifically for performances of Varese's work, and he later rewrote the work to use ondes martenot instead of Theremin cellos, which is how the work is normally heard now: [Excerpt: Edgard Varese, "Ecuatorial"] But Varese had spent much of the thirties, forties, and early fifties working on two pieces that were never finished, based on science fiction ideas -- L'Astronome, which was meant to be about communication with people from the star Sirius, and Espace, which was originally intended to be performed simultaneously by choirs in Beijing, Moscow, Paris, and New York. Neither of these ideas came to fruition, and so Varese had not released any new work, other than one small piece, Étude pour espace, an excerpt from the  larger work, in Zappa's lifetime. Zappa followed up his interest in Varese's music with his music teacher, one of the few people in the young man's life who encouraged him in his unusual interests. That teacher, Mr Kavelman, introduced Zappa to the work of other composers, like Webern, but would also let him know why he liked particular R&B records. For example, Zappa played Mr. Kavelman "Angel in My Life" by the Jewels, and asked what it was that made him particularly like it: [Excerpt: The Jewels, "Angel in My Life"] The teacher's answer was that it was the parallel fourths that made the record particularly appealing. Young Frank was such a big fan of Varese that for his fifteenth birthday, he actually asked if he could make a long-distance phone call to speak to Varese. He didn't know where Varese lived, but figured that it must be in Greenwich Village because that was where composers lived, and he turned out to be right. He didn't get through on his birthday -- he got Varese's wife, who told him the composer was in Europe -- but he did eventually get to speak to him, and was incredibly excited when Varese told him that not only had he just written a new piece for the first time in years, but that it was called Deserts, and was about deserts -- just like the Mojave Desert where Zappa lived: [Excerpt: Edgard Varese, "Deserts"] As he later wrote, “When you’re 15 and living in the Mojave Desert, and you find out that the World’s Greatest Composer (who also looks like a mad scientist) is working in a secret Greenwich Village laboratory on a song about your hometown (so to speak), you can get pretty excited.” A year later, Zappa actually wrote to Varese, a long letter which included him telling the story about how he'd found his work in the first place, hoping to meet up with him when Zappa travelled to the East Coast to see family. I'll read out a few extracts, but the whole thing is fascinating for what it says about Zappa the precocious adolescent, and I'll link to a blog post with it in the show notes. "Dear Sir: Perhaps you might remember me from my stupid phone call last January, if not, my name again is Frank Zappa Jr. I am 16 years old… that might explain partly my disturbing you last winter. After I had struggled through Mr. Finklestein’s notes on the back cover (I really did struggle too, for at the time I had had no training in music other than practice at drum rudiments) I became more and more interested in you and your music. I began to go to the library and take out books on modern composers and modern music, to learn all I could about Edgard Varese. It got to be my best subject (your life) and I began writing my reports and term papers on you at school. At one time when my history teacher asked us to write on an American that has really done something for the U.S.A. I wrote on you and the Pan American Composers League and the New Symphony. I failed. The teacher had never heard of you and said I made the whole thing up. Silly but true. That was my Sophomore year in high school. Throughout my life all the talents and abilities that God has left me with have been self developed, and when the time came for Frank to learn how to read and write music, Frank taught himself that too. I picked it all up from the library. I have been composing for two years now, utilizing a strict twelve-tone technique, producing effects that are reminiscent of Anton Webern. During those two years I have written two short woodwind quartets and a short symphony for winds, brass and percussion. I plan to go on and be a composer after college and I could really use the counsel of a veteran such as you. If you would allow me to visit with you for even a few hours it would be greatly appreciated. It may sound strange but I think I have something to offer you in the way of new ideas. One is an elaboration on the principle of Ruth Seeger’s contrapuntal dynamics and the other is an extension of the twelve-tone technique which I call the inversion square. It enables one to compose harmonically constructed pantonal music in logical patterns and progressions while still abandoning tonality. Varese sent a brief reply, saying that he was going to be away for a few months, but would like to meet Zappa on his return. The two never met, but Zappa kept the letter from Varese framed on his wall for the rest of his life. Zappa soon bought a couple more albums, a version of "The Rite of Spring" by Stravinsky: [Excerpt: Igor Stravinsky, "The Rite of Spring"] And a record of pieces by Webern, including his Symphony opus 21: [Excerpt: Anton Webern, "Symphony op. 21"] (Incidentally, with the classical music here, I'm not seeking out the precise performances Zappa was listening to, just using whichever recordings I happen to have copies of). Zappa was also reading Slonimsky's works of musicology, like the Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns. As well as this "serious music" though, Zappa was also developing as an R&B musician.  He later said of the Webern album, "I loved that record, but it was about as different from Stravinsky and Varèse as you could get. I didn't know anything about twelve-tone music then, but I liked the way it sounded. Since I didn't have any kind of formal training, it didn't make any difference to me if I was listening to Lightnin' Slim, or a vocal group called the Jewels (who had a song out then called "Angel in My Life"), or Webern, or Varèse, or Stravinsky. To me it was all good music." He had started as a drummer with a group called the Blackouts, an integrated group with white, Latino, and Black members, who played R&B tracks like "Directly From My Heart to You", the song Johnny Otis had produced for Little Richard: [Excerpt: Little Richard, "Directly From My Heart to You"] But after eighteen months or so, he quit the group and stopped playing drums. Instead, he switched to guitar, with a style influenced by Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Guitar Slim. His first guitar had action so bad that he didn't learn to play chords, and moved straight on to playing lead lines with his younger brother Bobby playing rhythm. He also started hanging around with two other teenage bohemians -- Euclid Sherwood, who was nicknamed Motorhead, and Don Vliet, who called himself Don Van Vliet. Vliet was a truly strange character, even more so than Zappa, but they shared a love for the blues, and Vliet was becoming a fairly good blues singer, though he hadn't yet perfected the Howlin' Wolf imitation that would become his stock-in-trade in later years. But the surviving recording of Vliet singing with the Zappa brothers on guitar, singing a silly parody blues about being flushed down the toilet of the kind that many teenage boys would write, shows the promise that the two men had: [Excerpt: Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, "Lost in a Whirlpool"] Zappa was also getting the chance to hear his more serious music performed. He'd had the high school band play a couple of his pieces, but he also got the chance to write film music -- his English teacher, Don Cerveris, had decided to go off and seek his fortune as a film scriptwriter, and got Zappa hired to write the music for a cheap Western he'd written, Run Home Slow. The film was beset with problems -- it started filming in 1959 but didn't get finished and released until 1965 -- but the music Zappa wrote for it did eventually get recorded and used on the soundtrack: [Excerpt: Frank Zappa, "Run Home Slow Theme"] In 1962, he got to write the music for another film, The World's Greatest Sinner, and he also wrote a theme song for that, which got released as the B-side of "How's Your Bird?", the record he made with Ray Collins: [Excerpt: Baby Ray and the Ferns, "The World's Greatest Sinner"] Zappa was able to make these records because by the early sixties, as well as playing guitar in bar bands, he was working as an assistant for a man named Paul Buff. Paul Buff had worked as an engineer for a guided missile manufacturer, but had decided that he didn't want to do that any more, and instead had opened up the first independent multi-track recording studio on the West Coast, PAL Studios, using equipment he'd designed and built himself, including a five-track tape recorder. Buff engineered a huge number of surf instrumentals there, including "Wipe Out" by the Surfaris: [Excerpt: The Surfaris, "Wipe Out"] Zappa had first got to know Buff when he had come to Buff's studio with some session musicians in 1961, to record some jazz pieces he'd written, including this piece which at the time was in the style of Dave Brubeck but would later become a staple of Zappa's repertoire reorchestrated in a  rock style. [Excerpt: The PAL Studio Band, "Never on Sunday"] Buff really just wanted to make records entirely by himself, so he'd taught himself to play the rudiments of guitar, bass, drums, piano, and alto saxophone, so he could create records alone. He would listen to every big hit record, figure out what the hooks were on the record, and write his own knock-off of those. An example is "Tijuana Surf" by the Hollywood Persuaders, which is actually Buff on all instruments, and which according to Zappa went to number one in Mexico (though I've not found an independent source to confirm that chart placing, so perhaps take it with a pinch of salt): [Excerpt: The Hollywood Persuaders, "Tijuana Surf"] The B-side to that, "Grunion Run", was written by Zappa, who also plays guitar on that side: [Excerpt: The Hollywood Persuaders, "Grunion Run"] Zappa, Buff, Ray Collins, and a couple of associates would record all sorts of material at PAL -- comedy material like "Hey Nelda", under the name "Ned and Nelda" -- a parody of "Hey Paula" by Paul and Paula: [Excerpt: Ned and Nelda, "Hey Nelda"] Doo-wop parodies like "Masked Grandma": [Excerpt: The PAL Studio Band, "Masked Grandma"] R&B: [Excerpt: The PAL Studio Band, "Why Don't You Do Me Right?"] and more. Then Buff or Zappa would visit one of the local independent label owners and try to sell them the master -- Art Laboe at Original Sound released several of the singles, as did Bob Keane at Donna Records and Del-Fi. The "How's Your Bird" single also got Zappa his first national media exposure, as he went on the Steve Allen show, where he demonstrated to Allen how to make music using a bicycle and a prerecorded electronic tape, in an appearance that Zappa would parody five years later on the Monkees' TV show: [Excerpt: Steve Allen and Frank Zappa, "Cyclophony"] But possibly the record that made the most impact at the time was "Memories of El Monte", a song that Zappa and Collins wrote together about Art Laboe's dances at El Monte Stadium, incorporating excerpts of several of the songs that would be played there, and named after a compilation Laboe had put out, which had included “I Remember Linda” by Little Julian and the Tigers. They got Cleve Duncan of the Penguins to sing lead, and the record came out as by the Penguins, on Original Sound: [Excerpt: The Penguins, "Memories of El Monte"] By this point, though, Pal studios was losing money, and Buff took up the offer of a job working for Laboe full time, as an engineer at Original Sound. He would later become best known for inventing the kepex, an early noise gate which engineer Alan Parsons used on a bass drum to create the "heartbeat" that opens Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon: [Excerpt: Pink Floyd, "Speak to Me"] That invention would possibly be Buff's most lasting contribution to music, as by the early eighties, the drum sound on every single pop record was recorded using a noise gate. Buff sold the studio to Zappa, who renamed it Studio Z and moved in -- he was going through a divorce and had nowhere else to live. The studio had no shower, and Zappa had to just use a sink to wash, and he was surviving mostly off food scrounged by his resourceful friend Motorhead Sherwood. By this point, Zappa had also joined a band called the Soots, consisting of Don Van Vliet, Alex St. Clair and Vic Mortenson, and they recorded several tracks at Studio Z, which they tried to get released on Dot Records, including a cover version of Little Richard's “Slippin' and Slidin'”, and a song called “Tiger Roach” whose lyrics were mostly random phrases culled from a Green Lantern comic: [Excerpt: The Soots, "Tiger Roach"] Zappa also started writing what was intended as the first ever rock opera, "I Was a Teenage Maltshop", and attempts were made to record parts of it with Vliet, Mortenson, and Motorhead Sherwood: [Excerpt: Frank Zappa, "I Was a Teenage Maltshop"] Zappa was also planning to turn Studio Z into a film studio. He obtained some used film equipment, and started planning a science fiction film to feature Vliet, titled "Captain Beefheart Meets the Grunt People". The title was inspired by an uncle of Vliet's, who lived with Vliet and his girlfriend, and used to urinate with the door open so he could expose himself to Vliet's girlfriend, saying as he did so "Look at that! Looks just like a big beef heart!" Unfortunately, the film would not get very far. Zappa was approached by a used-car salesman who said that he and his friends were having a stag party. As Zappa owned a film studio, could he make them a pornographic film to show at the party? Zappa told him that a film wouldn't be possible, but as he needed the money, would an audio tape be acceptable? The used-car salesman said that it would, and gave him a list of sex acts he and his friends would like to hear. Zappa and a friend, Lorraine Belcher, went into the studio and made a few grunting noises and sound effects. The used-car salesman turned out actually to be an undercover policeman, who was better known in the area for his entrapment of gay men, but had decided to branch out. Zappa and Belcher were arrested -- Zappa's father bailed him out, and Zappa got an advance from Art Laboe to pay Belcher's bail. Luckily "Grunion Run" and "Memories of El Monte" were doing well enough that Laboe could give Zappa a $1500 advance. When the case finally came to trial, the judge laughed at the tape and wanted to throw the whole case out, but the prosecutor insisted on fighting, and Zappa got ten days in prison, and most of his tapes were impounded, never to be returned. He fell behind with his rent, and Studio Z was demolished. And then Ray Collins called him, asking if he wanted to join a bar band: [Excerpt: The Mothers, "Hitch-Hike"] The Soul Giants were formed by a bass player named Roy Estrada. Now, Estrada is unfortunately someone who will come up in the story a fair bit over the next year or so, as he played on several of the most important records to come out of LA in the sixties and early seventies. He is also someone about whom there's fairly little biographical information -- he's not been interviewed much, compared to pretty much everyone else, and it's easy to understand why when you realise that he's currently half-way through a twenty-five year sentence for child molestation -- his third such conviction. He won't get out of prison until he's ninety-three. He's one of the most despicable people who will turn up in this podcast, and frankly I'm quite glad I don't know more about him as a person. He was, though, a good bass player and falsetto singer, and he had released a single on King Records, an instrumental titled "Jungle Dreams": [Excerpt, Roy Estrada and the Rocketeers, "Jungle Dreams"] The other member of the rhythm section, Jimmy Carl Black, was an American Indian (that's the term he always used about himself until his death, and so that's the term I'll use about him too) from Texas. Black had grown up in El Paso as a fan of Western Swing music, especially Bob Wills, but had become an R&B fan after discovering Wolfman Jack's radio show and hearing the music of Howlin' Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson. Like every young man from El Paso, he would travel to Juarez as a teenager to get drunk, see sex shows, and raise hell. It was also there that he saw his first live blues music, watching Long John Hunter, the same man who inspired the Bobby Fuller Four, and he would always claim Hunter as the man whose shows taught him how to play the blues. Black had decided he wanted to become a musician when he'd seen Elvis perform live. In Black's memory, this was a gig where Elvis was an unknown support act for Faron Young and Wanda Jackson, but he was almost certainly slightly misremembering -- it's most likely that what he saw was Elvis' show in El Paso on the eleventh of April 1956, where Young and Jackson were also on the bill, but supporting Elvis who was headlining. Either way, Black had decided that he wanted to make girls react to him the same way they reacted to Elvis, and he started playing in various country and R&B bands. His first record was with a group called the Keys, and unfortunately I haven't been able to track down a copy (it was reissued on a CD in the nineties, but the CD itself is now out of print and sells for sixty pounds) but he did rerecord the song with a later group he led, the Mannish Boys: [Excerpt: Jimmy Carl Black and the Mannish Boys, "Stretch Pants"] He spent a couple of years in the Air Force, but continued playing music during that time, including in a band called The Exceptions which featured Peter Cetera later of the band Chicago, on bass. After a brief time working as lineman in Wichita, he moved his family to California, where he got a job teaching drums at a music shop in Anaheim, where the bass teacher was Jim Fielder, who would later play bass in Blood, Sweat, and Tears. One of Fielder's friends, Tim Buckley, used to hang around in the shop as well, and Black was at first irritated by him coming in and playing the guitars and not buying anything, but eventually became impressed by his music. Black would later introduce Buckley to Herb Cohen, who would become Buckley's manager, starting his professional career. When Roy Estrada came into the shop, he and Black struck up a friendship, and Estrada asked Black to join his band The Soul Giants, whose lineup became Estrada, Black, a sax player named Davey Coronado, a guitarist called Larry and a singer called Dave. The group got a residency at the Broadside club in Ponoma, playing "Woolly Bully" and "Louie Louie" and other garage-band staples. But then Larry and Dave got drafted, and the group got in two men called Ray -- Ray Collins on vocals, and Ray Hunt on guitar. This worked for a little while, but Ray Hunt was, by all accounts, not a great guitar player -- he would play wrong chords, and also he was fundamentally a surf player while the Soul Giants were an R&B group. Eventually, Collins and Hunt got into a fistfight, and Collins suggested that they get in his friend Frank instead. For a while, the Soul Giants continued playing "Midnight Hour" and "Louie Louie", but then Zappa suggested that they start playing some of his original material as well. Davy Coronado refused to play original material, because he thought, correctly, that it would lose the band gigs, but the rest of the band sided with the man who had quickly become their new leader. Coronado moved back to Texas, and on Mother's Day 1965 the Soul Giants changed their name to the Mothers. They got in Henry Vestine on second guitar, and started playing Zappa's originals, as well as changing the lyrics to some of the hits they were playing: [Excerpt: The Mothers, "Plastic People"] Zappa had started associating with the freak crowd in Hollywood centred around Vito and Franzoni, after being introduced by Don Cerveris, his old teacher turned screenwriter, to an artist called Mark Cheka, who Zappa invited to manage the group. Cheka in turn brought in his friend Herb Cohen, who managed several folk acts including the Modern Folk Quartet and Judy Henske, and who like Zappa had once been arrested on obscenity charges, in Cohen's case for promoting gigs by the comedian Lenny Bruce. Cohen first saw the Mothers when they were recording their appearance in an exploitation film called Mondo Hollywood. They were playing in a party scene, using equipment borrowed from Jim Guercio, a session musician who would briefly join the Mothers, but who is now best known for having been Chicago's manager and producing hit records for them and Blood, Sweat, and Tears. In the crowd were Vito and Franzoni, Bryan Maclean, Ram Dass, the Harvard psychologist who had collaborated with Timothy Leary in controversial LSD experiments that had led to both losing their jobs, and other stalwarts of the Sunset Strip scene. Cohen got the group bookings at the Whisky A-Go-Go and The Trip, two of the premier LA nightclubs, and Zappa would also sit in with other bands playing at those venues, like the Grass Roots, a band featuring Bryan Maclean and Arthur Lee which would soon change its name to Love. At this time Zappa and Henry Vestine lived together, next door to a singer named Victoria Winston, who at the time was in a duo called Summer's Children with Curt Boettcher: [Excerpt: Summer's Children, "Milk and Honey"] Winston, like Zappa, was a fan of Edgard Varese, and actually asked Zappa to write songs for Summer's Children, but one of the partners involved in their production company disliked Zappa's material and the collaboration went no further. Zappa at this point was trying to incorporate more ideas from modal jazz into his music. He was particularly impressed by Eric Dolphy's 1964 album "Out to Lunch": [Excerpt: Eric Dolphy, "Hat and Beard"] But he was also writing more about social issues, and in particular he had written a song called "The Watts Riots Song", which would later be renamed "Trouble Every Day": [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Trouble Every Day"] Now, the Watts Uprising was one of the most important events in Black American history, and it feels quite wrong that I'm covering it in an episode about a band made up of white, Latino, and American Indian people rather than a record made by Black people, but I couldn't find any way to fit it in anywhere else. As you will remember me saying in the episode on "I Fought the Law", the LA police under Chief William Parker were essentially a criminal gang by any other name -- they were incompetent, violent, and institutionally racist, and terrorised Black people. The Black people of LA were also feeling particularly aggrieved in the summer of 1965, as a law banning segregation in housing had been overturned by a ballot proposition in November 1964, sponsored by the real estate industry and passed by an overwhelming majority of white voters in what Martin Luther King called "one of the most shameful developments in our nation’s history", and which Edmund Brown, the Democratic governor said was like "another hate binge which began more than 30 years ago in a Munich beer hall". Then on Wednesday, August 11, 1965, the police pulled over a Black man, Marquette Frye, for drunk driving. He had been driving his mother's car, and she lived nearby, and she came out to shout at him about drinking and driving. The mother, Rena Price, was hit by one of the policemen; Frye then physically attacked one of the police for hitting his mother, one of the police pulled out a gun, a crowd gathered, the police became violent against the crowd, a rumour spread that they had kicked a pregnant woman, and the resulting protests were exacerbated by the police carrying out what Chief Parker described as a "paramiltary" response. The National Guard were called in, huge swathes of south central LA were cordoned off by the police with signs saying things like "turn left or get shot". Black residents started setting fire to and looting local white-owned businesses that had been exploiting Black workers and customers, though this looting was very much confined to individuals who were known to have made the situation worse. Eventually it took six days for the uprising to be put down, at a cost of thirty-four deaths, 1032 injuries, and 3438 arrests. Of the deaths, twenty-three were Black civilians murdered by the police, and zero were police murdered by Black civilians (two police were killed by other police, in accidental shootings). The civil rights activist Bayard Rustin said of the uprising, "The whole point of the outbreak in Watts was that it marked the first major rebellion of Negroes against their own masochism and was carried on with the express purpose of asserting that they would no longer quietly submit to the deprivation of slum life." Frank Zappa's musical hero Johnny Otis would later publish the book Listen to the Lambs about the Watts rebellion, and in it he devotes more than thirty pages to eyewitness accounts from Black people. It's an absolutely invaluable resource. One of the people Otis interviews is Lily Ford, who is described by my copy of the book as being the "lead singer of the famous Roulettes". This is presumably an error made by the publishers, rather than Otis, because Ford was actually a singer with the Raelettes, as in Ray Charles' vocal group. She also recorded with Otis under the name "Lily of the Valley": [Excerpt: Lily of the Valley, "I Had a Sweet Dream"] Now, Ford's account deserves a large excerpt, but be warned, this is very, very difficult to hear. I gave a content warning at the beginning, but I'm going to give another one here. "A lot of our people were in the street, seeing if they could get free food and clothes and furniture, and some of them taking liquor too. But the white man was out for blood. Then three boys came down the street, laughing and talking. They were teenagers, about fifteen or sixteen years old. As they got right at the store they seemed to debate whether they would go inside. One boy started a couple of times to go. Finally he did. Now a cop car finally stops to investigate. Police got out of the car. Meanwhile, the other two boys had seen them coming and they ran. My brother-in-law and I were screaming and yelling for the boy to get out. He didn't hear us, or was too scared to move. He never had a chance. This young cop walked up to the broken window and looked in as the other one went round the back and fired some shots and I just knew he'd killed the other two boys, but I guess he missed. He came around front again. By now other police cars had come. The cop at the window aimed his gun. He stopped and looked back at a policeman sitting in a car. He aimed again. No shot. I tried to scream, but I was so horrified that nothing would come out of my throat. The third time he aimed he yelled, "Halt", and fired before the word was out of his mouth. Then he turned around and made a bull's-eye sign with his fingers to his partner. Just as though he had shot a tin can off a fence, not a human being. The cops stood around for ten or fifteen minutes without going inside to see if the kid was alive or dead. When the ambulance came, then they went in. They dragged him out like he was a sack of potatoes. Cops were everywhere now. So many cops for just one murder." [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Trouble Every Day"] There's a lot more of this sort of account in Otis' book, and it's all worth reading -- indeed, I would argue that it is *necessary* reading. And Otis keeps making a point which I quoted back in the episode on "Willie and the Hand Jive" but which I will quote again here -- “A newborn Negro baby has less chance of survival than a white. A Negro baby will have its life ended seven years sooner. This is not some biological phenomenon linked to skin colour, like sickle-cell anaemia; this is a national crime, linked to a white-supremacist way of life and compounded by indifference”. (Just a reminder, the word “Negro” which Otis uses there was, in the mid-sixties, the term of choice used by Black people.) And it's this which inspired "The Watts Riot Song", which the Mothers were playing when Tom Wilson was brought into The Trip by Herb Cohen: [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Trouble Every Day"] Wilson had just moved from Columbia, where he'd been producing Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel, to Verve, a subsidiary of MGM which was known for jazz records but was moving into rock and roll. Wilson was looking for a white blues band, and thought he'd found one. He signed the group without hearing any other songs. Henry Vestine quit the group between the signing and the first recording, to go and join an *actual* white blues band, Canned Heat, and over the next year the group's lineup would fluctuate quite a bit around the core of Zappa, Collins, Estrada, and Black, with members like Steve Mann, Jim Guercio, Jim Fielder, and Van Dyke Parks coming and going, often without any recordings being made of their performances. The lineup on what became the group's first album, Freak Out! was Zappa, Collins, Estrada, Black, and Elliot Ingber, the former guitarist with the Gamblers, who had joined the group shortly before the session and would leave within a few months. The first track the group recorded, "Any Way the Wind Blows", was straightforward enough: [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Any Way the Wind Blows"] The second song, a "Satisfaction" knock-off called "Hungry Freaks Daddy", was also fine. But it was when the group performed their third song of the session, "Who Are The Brain Police?", that Tom Wilson realised that he didn't have a standard band on his hands: [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Who Are the Brain Police?"] Luckily for everyone concerned, Tom Wilson was probably the single best producer in America to have discovered the Mothers. While he was at the time primarily known for his folk-rock productions, he had built his early career on Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra records, some of the freakiest jazz of the fifties and early sixties. He knew what needed to be done -- he needed a bigger budget. Far from being annoyed that he didn't have the white blues band he wanted, Wilson actively encouraged the group to go much, much further. He brought in Wrecking Crew members to augment the band (though one of them. Mac Rebennack, found the music so irritating he pretended he needed to go to the toilet, walked out, and never came back). He got orchestral musicians to play Zappa's scores, and allowed the group to rent hundreds of dollars of percussion instruments for the side-long track "Return of the Son of Monster Magnet", which features many Hollywood scenesters of the time, including Van Dyke Parks, Kim Fowley, future Manson family member Bobby Beausoleil, record executive David Anderle, songwriter P.F. Sloan, and cartoonist Terry Gilliam, all recording percussion parts and vocal noises: [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Return of the Son of Monster Magnet"] Such was Wilson's belief in the group that Freak Out! became only the second rock double album ever released -- exactly a week after the first, Blonde on Blonde, by Wilson's former associate Bob Dylan. The inner sleeve included a huge list of people who had influenced the record in one way or another, including people Zappa knew like Don Cerveris, Don Vliet, Paul Buff, Bob Keane, Nik Venet, and Art Laboe,  musicians who had influenced the group like Don & Dewey, Johnny Otis, Otis' sax players Preston Love and Big Jay McNeely, Eric Dolphy, Edgard Varese, Richard Berry, Johnny Guitar Watson, and Ravi Shankar, eccentric performers like Tiny Tim, DJs like Hunter Hancock and Huggy Boy, science fiction writers like Cordwainer Smith and Robert Sheckley, and scenesters like David Crosby, Vito, and Franzoni. The list of 179 people would provide a sort of guide for many listeners, who would seek out those names and find their ways into the realms of non-mainstream music, writing, and art over the next few decades. Zappa would always remain grateful to Wilson for taking his side in the record's production, saying "Wilson was sticking his neck out. He laid his job on the line by producing the album. MGM felt that they had spent too much money on the album". The one thing Wilson couldn't do, though, was persuade the label that the group's name could stay as it was. "The Mothers" was a euphemism, for a word I can't say if I want this podcast to keep its clean rating, a word that is often replaced in TV clean edits of films with "melon farmers", and MGM were convinced that the radio would never play any music by a band with that name -- not realising that that wouldn't be the reason this music wouldn't get played on the radio. The group needed to change their name. And so, out of necessity, they became the Mothers of Invention.
Dec 25, 2021
Episode 139: “Eight Miles High” by the Byrds
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Episode one hundred and thirty-nine of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Eight Miles High” by the Byrds, and the influence of jazz and Indian music on psychedelic rock. This is a long one... 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 "Winchester Cathedral" by the New Vaudeville Band. 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 No Mixcloud this time, as there were multiple artists with too many songs. Information on John Coltrane came from Coltrane by Ben Ratliffe, while information on Ravi Shankar came from Indian Sun: The Life and Music of Ravi Shankar by Oliver Craske. For information on the Byrds, I relied mostly on Timeless Flight Revisited by Johnny Rogan, with some information from Chris Hillman’s autobiography. This dissertation looks at the influence of Slonimsky on Coltrane. All Coltrane's music is worth getting, but this 5-CD set containing Impressions is the most relevant cheap selection of his material for these purposes. This collection has the Shankar material released in the West up to 1962. And this three-CD set is a reasonable way of getting most of the Byrds’ important recordings. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript This episode is the second part of a loose trilogy of episodes set in LA in 1966. We're going to be spending a *lot* of time around LA and Hollywood for the next few months -- seven of the next thirteen episodes are based there, and there'll be more after that. But it's going to take a while to get there. This is going to be an absurdly long episode, because in order to get to LA in 1966 again, we're going to have to start off in the 1940s in New York, and take a brief detour to India. Because in order to explain this: [Excerpt: The Byrds, "Eight Miles High"] We're first going to have to explain this: [Excerpt: John Coltrane, "India (#3)"] Before we begin this, I just want to say something. This episode runs long, and covers a *lot* of musical ground, and as part of that it covers several of the most important musicians of the twentieth century -- but musicians in the fields of jazz, which is a music I know something about, but am not an expert in, and Hindustani classical music, which is very much not even close to my area of expertise. It also contains a chunk of music theory, which again, I know a little about -- but only really enough to know how much I don't know. I am going to try to get the information about these musicians right, but I want to emphasise that at times I will be straying *vastly* out of my lane, in ways that may well seem like they're minimising these musicians. I am trying to give just enough information about them to tell the story, and I would urge anyone who becomes interested in the music I talk about in the early parts of this episode to go out and find more expert sources to fill in the gap. And conversely, if you know more about these musics than I do, please forgive any inaccuracies. I am going to do my best to get all of this right, because accuracy is important, but I suspect that every single sentence in the first hour or so of this episode could be footnoted with something pointing out all the places where what I've said is only somewhat true. Also, I apologise if I mispronounce any names or words in this episode, though I've tried my best to get it right -- I've been unable to find recordings of some words and names being spoken, while with others I've heard multiple versions. To tell today's story, we're going to have to go right back to some things we looked at in the first episode, on "Flying Home". For those of you who don't remember -- which is fair enough, since that episode was more than three years ago -- in that episode we looked at a jazz record by the Benny Goodman Sextet, which was one of the earliest popular recordings to feature electric guitar: [Excerpt: The Benny Goodman Sextet, "Flying Home"] Now, we talked about quite a lot of things in that episode which have played out in later episodes, but one thing we only mentioned in passing, there or later, was a style of music called bebop. We did talk about how Charlie Christian, the guitarist on that record, was one of the innovators of that style, but we didn't really go into what it was properly. Indeed, I deliberately did not mention in that episode something that I was saving until now, because we actually heard *two* hugely influential bebop musicians in that episode,  and I was leaving the other one to talk about here. In that episode we saw how Lionel Hampton, the Benny Goodman band's vibraphone player, went on to form his own band, and how that band became one of the foundational influences for the genres that became known as jump blues and R&B. And we especially noted the saxophone solo on Hampton's remake of "Flying Home", played by Illinois Jacquet: [Excerpt: Lionel Hampton, "Flying Home"] We mentioned in that episode how Illinois Jacquet's saxophone solo there set the template for all tenor sax playing in R&B and rock and roll music for decades to come -- his honking style became quite simply how you play rock and roll or R&B saxophone, and without that solo you don't have any of the records by Fats Domino, Little Richard, the Coasters, or a dozen other acts that we discussed. But what we didn't look at in that episode is that that is a big band record, so of course there is more than just one saxophone player on it. And one of the other saxophone players on that recording is Dexter Gordon, a musician who was originally from LA. Those of you with long memories will remember that back in the first year or so of the podcast we talked a lot about the music programme at Jefferson High School in LA, and about Samuel Browne, the music teacher whose music programme gave the world the Coasters, the Penguins, the Platters, Etta James, Art Farmer, Richard Berry, Big Jay McNeely, Barry White, and more other important musicians than I can possibly name here. Gordon was yet another of Browne's students -- one who Browne regularly gave detention to, just to make him practice his scales. Gordon didn't get much chance to shine in the Lionel Hampton band, because he was only second tenor, with Jacquet taking many of the solos. But he was learning from playing in a band with Jacquet, and while Gordon didn't ever develop a honk like Jacquet's, he did adopt some of Jacquet's full tone in his own sound. There aren't many recordings of Gordon playing solos in his early years, because they coincided with the American Federation of Musicians' recording strike that we talked about in those early episodes, but he did record a few sessions in 1943 for a label small enough not to be covered by the ban, and you can hear something of Jacquet's tone in those recordings, along with the influence of Lester Young, who influenced all tenor sax players at this time: [Excerpt: Nat "King" Cole with Dexter Gordon, "I've Found a New Baby"] The piano player on that session, incidentally, is Nat "King" Cole, when he was still one of the most respected jazz pianists on the scene, before he switched primarily to vocals. And Gordon took this Jacquet-influenced tone, and used it to become the second great saxophone hero of bebop music, after Charlie Parker -- and the first great tenor sax hero of the music. I've mentioned bebop before on several occasions, but never really got into it in detail. It was a style that developed in New York in the mid to late forties, and a lot of the earliest examples of it went unrecorded thanks to that musicians' strike, but the style emphasised small groups improvising together, and expanding their sense of melody and harmony. The music prized virtuosity and musical intelligence over everything else, and was fast and jittery-sounding. The musicians would go on long, extended, improvisations, incorporating ideas both from the blues and from the modern classical music of people like Bartok and Stravinsky, which challenged conventional tonality. In particular, one aspect which became prominent in bebop music was a type of scale known as the bebop scale. In most of the music we've looked at in this podcast to this point, the scales used have been seven-note scales -- do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti- which make an octave with a second, higher, do tone. So in the scale of C major we have C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and then another C: [demonstrates] Bebop scales, on the other hand, would generally have an extra note in, making an eight-note scale, by adding in what is called a chromatic passing note. For example, a typical bebop C major scale might add in the note G#, so the scale would go C,D,E,F,G,G#, A, B, C: [demonstrates] You'd play this extra note for the most part, when moving between the two notes it's between, so in that scale you'd mostly use it when moving from G to A, or from A to G. Now I'm far from a bebop player, so this won't sound like bebop, but I can demonstrate the kind of thing if I first noodle a little scalar melody in the key of C major: [demonstrates] And then play the same thing, but adding in a G# every time I go between the G and the A in either direction: [demonstrates] That is not bebop music, but I hope you can see what a difference that chromatic passing tone makes to the melody. But again, that's not bebop, because I'm not a bebop player. Dexter Gordon, though, *was* a bebop player. He moved to New York while playing with Louis Armstrong's band, and soon became part of the bebop scene, which at the time centred around Charlie Christian, the trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie, and the alto sax player Charlie Parker, sometimes nicknamed "bird" or "Yardbird", who is often regarded as the greatest of them all. Gillespie, Parker, and Gordon also played in Billy Eckstine's big band, which gave many of the leading bebop musicians the opportunity to play in what was still the most popular idiom at the time -- you can hear Gordon have a saxophone battle with Gene Ammons on "Blowing the Blues Away" in a lineup of the band that also included Art Blakey on drums and Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet: [Excerpt: Billy Eckstine, "Blowing the Blues Away"] But Gordon was soon leading his own small band sessions, and making records for labels like Savoy, on which you can definitely hear the influence of Illinois Jacquet on his tone, even as he's playing music that's more melodically experimental by far than the jump band music of the Hampton band: [Excerpt: Dexter Gordon, "Dexter Digs In"] Basically, in the late 1940s, if you were wanting to play bebop on the saxophone, you had two models to follow -- Charlie Parker, the great alto saxophonist with his angular, atonal, melodic sense and fast, virtuosic, playing, or Dexter Gordon, the tenor saxophonist, whose style had more R&B grease and wit to it, who would quote popular melodies in his own improvisations. And John Coltrane followed both. Coltrane's first instrument was the alto sax, and when he was primarily an alto player he would copy Charlie Parker's style. When he switched to being primarily a tenor player -- though he would always continue playing both instruments, and later in his career would also play soprano sax -- he took up much of Gordon's mellower tone, though he was also influenced by other tenor players, like Lester Young, the great player with Count Basie's band, and Johnny Hodges, who played with Duke Ellington. Now, it is important to note here that John Coltrane is a very, very, big deal. Depending on your opinion of Ornette Coleman's playing, Coltrane is by most accounts either the last or penultimate truly great innovator in jazz saxophone, and arguably the single foremost figure in the music in the last half of the twentieth century. In this podcast I'm only able to tell you enough about him to give you the information you need to understand the material about the Byrds, but were I to do a similar history of jazz in five hundred songs, Coltrane would have a similar position to someone like the Beatles -- he's such a major figure that he is literally venerated as a saint by the African Orthodox Church, and a couple of other Episcopal churches have at least made the case for his sainthood. So anything I say here about him is not even beginning to scratch the surface of his towering importance to jazz music, but it will, I hope, give some idea of his importance to the development of the Byrds -- a group of whom he was almost certainly totally unaware. Coltrane started out playing as a teenager, and his earliest recordings were when he was nineteen and in the armed forces, just after the end of World War II. At that time, he was very much a beginner, although a talented one, and on his early amateur recordings you can hear him trying to imitate Parker without really knowing what it was that Parker was doing that made him so great. But as well as having some natural talent, he had one big attribute that made him stand out -- his utter devotion to his music. He was so uninterested in anything other than mastering his instrument that one day a friend was telling him about a baseball game he'd watched, and all Coltrane could do was ask in confusion "Who's Willie Mays?" Coltrane would regularly practice his saxophone until his reed was red with blood, but he would also study other musicians. And not just in jazz. He knew that Charlie Parker had intensely studied Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, and so Coltrane would study that too: [Excerpt: Stravinsky, "Firebird Suite"] Coltrane joined the band of Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, who was one of those figures like Johnny Otis, with whom Vinson would later perform for many years, who straddled the worlds of jazz and R&B. Vinson was a blues shouter in the style of Big Joe Turner, but he was also a bebop sax player, and what he wanted was a tenor sax player who could play tenor the way Charlie Parker played alto, but do it in an R&B setting. Coltrane switched from alto to tenor, and spent a year or so playing with Vinson's band. No recordings exist of Coltrane with Vinson that I'm aware of, but you can get an idea of what he sounded like from his next band. By this point, Dizzy Gillespie had graduated from small bebop groups to leading a big band, and he got Coltrane in as one of his alto players, though Coltrane would often also play tenor with Gillespie, as on this recording from 1951, which has Coltrane on tenor, Gillespie on trumpet, with Kenny Burrell and two of the future Modern Jazz Quartet, Milt Jackson and Percy Heath, showing that the roots of modern jazz were not very far at all from the roots of rock and roll: [Excerpt: Dizzy Gillespie, "We Love to Boogie"] After leaving Gillespie's band, Coltrane played with a lot of important musicians over the next four or five years, like Johnny Hodges, Earl Bostic, and Jimmy Smith, and occasionally sat in with Miles Davis, but at this point he was still not a major musician in the genre. He was a competent, working, sideman, but he was also struggling with alcohol and heroin, and hadn't really found his own voice. But then Miles Davis asked Coltrane to join his band full-time. Coltrane was actually Davis' second choice -- he really wanted Sonny Rollins, who was widely considered the best new tenor player around, but he was eventually persuaded to take Coltrane. During his first period with Davis, Coltrane grew rapidly as a musician, and also played on a *lot* of other people's sessions. In a three year period Coltrane went from Davis to Thelonius Monk's group then back to Davis' group, and also recorded as both a sideman and a band leader on a ton of sessions. You can get a box set of his recordings from May 1956 through December 1958 that comes to nineteen CDs -- and that's not counting the recordings with Miles Davis, which aren't included on that set. Unsurprisingly, just through playing this much, Coltrane had grown enormously as a player, and he was particularly fascinated by harmonics, playing with the notes of a chord, in arpeggios, and pushing music to its harmonic limits, as you can hear in his solo on Davis' "Straight, No Chaser", which pushes the limits of the jazz solo as far as they'd gone to that point: [Excerpt: Miles Davis, "Straight, No Chaser"] But on the same album as that, "Milestones", we also have the first appearance of a new style, modal jazz. Now, to explain this, we have to go back to the scales again. We looked at the normal Western scale, do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do, but you can start a scale on any of those notes, and which note you start on creates what is called a different mode. The modes are given Greek names, and each mode has a different feel to it. If you start on do, we call this the major scale or the Ionian mode. This is the normal scale we heard before -- C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C: [demonstrates] Most music – about seventy percent of the melodies you're likely to have heard, uses that mode. If you start on re, it would go re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do-re, or D,E,F,G,A,B,C,D, the Dorian mode: [demonstrates] Melodies with this mode tend to have a sort of wistful feel, like "Scarborough Fair": [Excerpt: Simon and Garfunkel, "Scarborough Fair"] or many of George Harrison's songs: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "I Me Mine"] Starting on mi, you have the Phrygian mode, mi-fa-so-la-ti-do-re-mi: [demonstrates] The Phrygian mode is not especially widely used, but does turn up in some popular works like Barber's Adagio for Strings: [Excerpt: Barber, "Adagio for Strings"] Then there's the Lydian mode, fa-so-la-ti-do-re-mi-fa: [demonstrates] This mode isn't used much at all in pop music -- the most prominent example I can think of is "Pretty Ballerina" by the Left Banke: [Excerpt: The Left Banke, "Pretty Ballerina"] Starting on so, we have so-la-ti-do-re-mi-fa-so -- the Mixolydian mode: [demonstrates] That mode has a sort of bluesy or folky tone to it, and you also find it in a lot of traditional tunes, like "She Moves Through the Fair": [Excerpt: Davey Graham, "She Moved Thru' The Bizarre/Blue Raga"] And in things like "Norwegian Wood" by the Beatles: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Norwegian Wood"] Though that goes into Dorian for the middle section. Starting on la, we have the Aeolian mode, which is also known as the natural minor scale, and is often just talked about as “the minor scale”: [demonstrates] That's obviously used in innumerable songs, for example "Losing My Religion" by REM: [Excerpt: REM, "Losing My Religion"] And finally you have the Locrian mode ti-do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti: [demonstrates] That basically doesn't get used, unless someone wants to show off that they know the Locrian mode. The only vaguely familiar example I can think of is "Army of Me" by Bjork: [Excerpt: Bjork, "Army of Me"] I hope that brief excursion through the seven most common modes in Western diatonic music gives you some idea of the difference that musical modes can make to a piece. Anyway, as I was saying, on the "Milestones" album, we get some of the first examples of a form that became known as modal jazz. Now, the ideas of modal jazz had been around for a few years at that point -- oddly, it seems to be one of the first types of popular music to have existed in theory before existing in practice. George Russell, an acquaintance of Davis who was a self-taught music theorist, had written a book in 1953 titled The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization. That book argues that rather than looking at the diatonic scale as the basis for music, one should instead look at a chord progression called the circle of fifths. The circle of fifths is exactly what it sounds like -- you change chords to one a fifth away from it, and then do that again and again, either going up, so you'd have chords with the roots C-G-D-A-E-B-F# and so on: [demonstrates] Or, more commonly, going down, though usually when going downwards you tend to cheat a bit and sharpen one of the notes so you can stay in one key, so you'd get chords with roots C-F-B-E-A-D-G, usually the chords C, F, B diminished, Em, Am, Dm, G: [demonstrates] That descending cycle of fifths is used in all sorts of music, everything from "You Never Give Me Your Money" by the Beatles: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "You Never Give Me Your Money"] to "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor: [Excerpt: Gloria Gaynor, "I Will Survive"] But what Russell pointed out is that if you do the upwards cycle of fifths, and you *don't* change any of the notes, the first seven root notes you get are the same seven notes you'd find in the Lydian mode, just reordered -- C-D-E-F#-G-A-B . Russell then argued that much of the way harmony and melody work in jazz could be thought of as people experimenting with the way the Lydian mode works, and the way the cycle of fifths leads you further and further away from the tonal centre. Now, you could probably do an entire podcast series as long as this one on the implications of this, and I am honestly just trying to summarise enough information here that you can get a vague gist, but Russell's book had a profound effect on how jazz musicians started to think about harmony and melody. Instead of improvising around the chord changes to songs, they were now basing improvisations and compositions around modes and the notes in them. Rather than having a lot of chord changes, you might just play a single root note that stays the same throughout, or only changes a couple of times in the whole piece, and just imply changes with the clash between the root note and whatever modal note the solo instrument is playing. The track "Milestones" on the Milestones album shows this kind of thinking in full effect -- the song consists of a section in G Dorian, followed by a section in A Aeolian (or E Phrygian depending on how you look at it). Each section has only one implied chord -- a Gm7 for the G Dorian section, and an Am7(b13) for the A Aeolian section -- over which Davis, Cannonball Adderley on alto sax, and Coltrane on tenor, all solo: [Excerpt: Miles Davis, "Milestones"] (For the pedants among you, that track was originally titled "Miles" on the first pressings of the album, but it was retitled "Milestones" on subsequent pressings). The modal form would be taken even further on Davis' next album to be recorded, Porgy and Bess, which featured much fuller orchestrations and didn't have Coltrane on it. Davis later said that when the arranger Gil Evans wrote the arrangements for that album, he didn't write any chords at all, just a scale, which Davis could improvise around. But it was on the album after that, Kind of Blue, which again featured Coltrane on saxophone, that modal jazz made its big breakthrough to becoming the dominant form of jazz music. As with what Evans had done on Porgy and Bess, Davis gave the other instrumentalists modes to play, rather than a chord sequence to improvise over or a melody line to play with. He explained his thinking behind this in an interview with Nat Hentoff, saying "When you're based on chords, you know at the end of 32 bars that the chords have run out and there's nothing to do but repeat what you've just done—with variations. I think a movement in jazz is beginning away from the conventional string of chords ... there will be fewer chords but infinite possibilities as to what to do with them." This style shows up in "So What", the opening track on the album, which is in some ways a very conventional song structure -- it's a thirty-two bar AABA structure. But instead of a chord sequence, it's based on modes in two keys -- the A section is in D Dorian, while the B section is in E-flat Dorian: [Excerpt: Miles Davis, "So What"] Kind of Blue would become one of the contenders for greatest jazz album of all time, and one of the most influential records ever made in any genre -- and it could be argued that that track we just heard, "So What", inspired a whole other genre we'll be looking at in a future episode -- but Coltrane still felt the need to explore more ideas, and to branch out on his own. In particular, while he was interested in modal music, he was also interested in exploring more kinds of scales than just modes, and to do this he had to, at least for the moment, reintroduce chord changes into what he was doing. He was inspired in particular by reading Nicolas Slonimsky's classic Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns. Coltrane had recently signed a new contract as a solo artist with Atlantic Records, and recorded what is generally considered his first true masterpiece album as a solo artist, Giant Steps, with several members of the Davis band, just two weeks after recording Kind of Blue. The title track to Giant Steps is the most prominent example of what are known in jazz as the Coltrane changes -- a cycle of thirds, similar to the cycle of fifths we talked about earlier. The track itself seems to have two sources. The first is the bridge of the old standard "Have You Met Miss Jones?", as famously played by Coleman Hawkins: [Excerpt: Coleman Hawkins, "Have You Met Miss Jones?" And the second is an exercise from Slonimsky's book: [Excerpt: Pattern #286 from Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns] Coltrane combined these ideas to come up with "Giant Steps", which is based entirely around these cycles of thirds, and Slonimsky's example: [Excerpt: John Coltrane, "Giant Steps"] Now, I realise that this is meant to be a history of rock music, not jazz musicology theory time, so I promise you I am just hitting the high points here. And only the points that affect Coltrane's development as far as it influenced the music we're looking at in this episode. And so we're actually going to skip over Coltrane's commercial high-point, My Favourite Things, and most of the rest of his work for Atlantic, even though that music is some of the most important jazz music ever recorded. Instead, I'm going to summarise a whole lot of very important music by simply saying that while Coltrane was very interested in this musical idea of the cycle of thirds, he did not like being tied to precise chord changes, and liked the freedom that modal jazz gave to him. By 1960, when his contract with Atlantic was ending and his contract with Impulse was beginning, and he recorded the two albums Olé and Africa/Brass pretty much back to back, he had hit on a new style with the help of Eric Dolphy, a flute, clarinet, and alto sax player who would become an important figure in Coltrane's life. Dolphy died far too young -- he went into a diabetic coma and doctors assumed that because he was a Black jazz musician he must have overdosed, even though he was actually a teetotal abstainer, so he didn't get the treatment he needed -- but he made such a profound influence on Coltrane's life that Coltrane would carry Dolphy's picture with him after his death. Dolphy was even more of a theorist than Coltrane, and another devotee of Slonimsky's book, and he was someone who had studied a great deal of twentieth-century classical music, particularly people like Bartok, Messiaen, Stravinsky, Charles Ives, and Edgard Varese. Dolphy even performed Varese's piece Density 21.5 in concert, an extremely demanding piece for solo flute. I don't know of a recording of Dolphy performing it, sadly, but this version should give some idea: [Excerpt: Edgard Varese, "Density 21.5"] Encouraged by Dolphy, Coltrane started making music based around no changes at all, with any changes being implied by the melody. The title song of Africa/Brass, "Africa", takes up an entire side of one album, and doesn't have a single actual chord change on it, with Dolphy and pianist McCoy Tyner coming up with a brass-heavy arrangement for Coltrane to improvise over a single chord: [Excerpt: The John Coltrane Quartet: "Africa"] This was a return to the idea of modal jazz, based on scales rather than chord changes, but by implying chord changes, often changes based on thirds, Coltrane was often using different scales than the modes that had been used in modal jazz. And while, as the title suggested, "Africa" was inspired by the music of Africa, the use of a single drone chord underneath solos based on a scale was inspired by the music of another continent altogether. Since at least the mid-1950s, both Coltrane and Dolphy had been interested in Indian music. They appear to have first become interested in a record released by Folkways, Music Of India, Morning And Evening Ragas by Ali Akbar Khan: [Excerpt: Ali Akbar Khan, "Rag Sindhi Bhairavi"] But the musician they ended up being most inspired by was a friend of Khan's, Ravi Shankar, who like Khan had been taught by the great sarod player Alauddin Khan, Ali Akbar Khan's father. The elder Khan, who was generally known as "Baba", meaning "father", was possibly *the* most influential Indian musician of the first half of the twentieth century, and was a big part of the revitalisation of Indian music that went hand in hand with the growth of Indian nationalism. He was an ascetic who lived for music and nothing else, and would write five to ten new compositions every day, telling Shankar "Do one thing well and you can achieve everything. Do everything and you achieve nothing". Alauddin Khan was a very religious Muslim, but one who saw music as the ultimate way to God and could find truths in other faiths. When Shankar first got to know him, they were both touring as musicians in a dance troupe run by Shankar's elder brother, which was promoting Indian arts in the West, and he talked about taking Khan to hear the organ playing at Notre Dame cathedral, and Khan bursting into tears and saying "here is God". Khan was not alone in this view. The classical music of Northern India, the music that Khan played and taught, had been very influenced by Sufism, which was for most of Muslim history the dominant intellectual and theological tradition in Islam. Now, I am going to sum up a thousand years of theology and practice, of a religion I don't belong to, in a couple of sentences here, so just assume that what I'm saying is wrong, and *please* don't take offence if you are Sufi yourself and believe I am misrepresenting you. But my understanding of Sufism is that Sufis are extremely devoted to attaining knowledge and understanding of God, and believe that strict adherence to Muslim law is the best way to attain that knowledge -- that it is the way that God himself has prescribed for humans to know him -- but that such knowledge can be reached by people of other faiths if they approach their own traditions with enough devotion. Sufi ideas infuse much of Northern Indian classical music, and so for example it has been considered acceptable for Muslims to sing Hindu religious music and Hindus to sing songs of praise to Allah. So while Ravi Shankar was Hindu and Alauddin Khan was Muslim, Khan was able to become Shankar's guru in what both men regarded as a religious observance, and even to marry Khan's daughter. Khan was a famously cruel disciplinarian -- once hospitalising a student after hitting him with a tuning hammer -- but he earned the devotion of his students by enforcing the same discipline on himself. He abstained from sex so he could put all his energies into music, and was known to tie his hair to the ceiling while he practiced, so he could not fall asleep no matter how long he kept playing. Both Khan and his son Ali Akhbar Khan played the sarod, while Shankar played the sitar, but they all played the same kind of music, which is based on the concept of the raga. Now, in some ways, a raga can be considered equivalent to a mode in Western music: [Excerpt: Ali Akbar Khan, "Rag Sindhi Bhairavi"] But a raga is not *just* a mode -- it sits somewhere between Western conceptions of a mode and a melody. It has a scale, like a mode, but it can have different scales going up or down, and rules about which notes can be moved to from which other notes. So for example (and using Western tones so as not to confuse things further), a raga might say that it's possible to move up from the note G to D, but not down from D to G. Ragas are essentially a very restrictive set of rules which allow the musician playing them to improvise freely within those rules. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the violinist Yehudi Mehuin, at the time the most well-known classical musician in the world, had become fascinated by Indian music as part of a wider programme of his to learn more music outside what he regarded as the overly-constricting scope of the Western classical tradition in which he had been trained. He had become a particular fan of Shankar, and had invited him over to the US to perform. Shankar had refused to come at that point, sending his brother-in-law Ali Akbar Khan over, as he was in the middle of a difficult divorce, and that had been when Khan had recorded that album which had fascinated Coltrane and Dolphy. But Shankar soon followed himself, and made his own records: [Excerpt: Ravi Shankar, "Raga Hamsadhwani"] The music that both Khan and Shankar played was a particular style of Hindustani classical music, which has three elements -- there's a melody instrument, in Shankar's case the sitar and in Khan's the sarod, both of them fretted stringed instruments which have additional strings that resonate along with the main melody string, giving their unique sound. These are the most distinctive Indian instruments, but the melody can be played on all sorts of other instruments, whether Indian instruments like the bansuri and shehnai, which are very similar to the flute and oboe respectively, or Western instruments like the violin. Historically, the melody has also often been sung rather than played, but Indian instrumental music has had much more influence on Western popular music than Indian vocal music has, so we're mostly looking at that here. Along with the melody instrument there's a percussion instrument, usually the tabla, which is a pair of hand drums. Rather than keep a steady, simple, beat like the drum kit in rock music, the percussion has its own patterns and cycles, called talas, which like ragas are heavily formalised but leave a great amount of room for improvisation. The percussion and the melody are in a sort of dialogue with each other, and play off each other in a variety of ways. And finally there's the drone instrument, usually a stringed instrument called a tamboura. The drone is what it sounds like -- a single note, sustained and repeated throughout the piece, providing a harmonic grounding for the improvisations of the melody instrument. Sometimes, rather than just a single root note, it will be a root and fifth, providing a single chord to improvise over, but as often it will be just one note. Often that note will be doubled at the octave, so you might have a drone on both low E and high E. The result provides a very strict, precise, formal, structure for an infinitely varied form of expression, and Shankar was a master of it: [Excerpt: Ravi Shankar, "Raga Hamsadhwani"] Dolphy and, especially, Coltrane became fascinated by Indian music, and Coltrane desperately wanted to record with Shankar -- he even later named his son Ravi in honour of the great musician. It wasn't just the music as music, but music as spiritual practice, that Coltrane was engaged with. He was a deeply religious man but one who was open to multiple faith traditions -- he had been brought up as a Methodist, and both his grandfathers were ministers in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, but his first wife, Naima, who inspired his personal favourite of his own compositions, was a Muslim, while his second wife, Swamini Turiyasangitananda (who he married after leaving Naima in 1963 and who continued to perform as Alice Coltrane even after she took that name, and was herself an extraordinarily accomplished jazz musician on both piano and harp), was a Hindu, and both of them profoundly influenced Coltrane's own spirituality. Some have even suggested that Coltrane's fascination with a cycle of thirds came from the idea that the third could represent both the Christian Trinity and the Hindu trimurti -- the three major forms of Brahman in Hinduism, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. So a music which was a religious discipline for more than one religion, and which worked well with the harmonic and melodic ideas that Coltrane had been exploring in jazz and learning about through his studies of modern classical music, was bound to appeal to Coltrane, and he started using the idea of having two basses provide an octave drone similar to that of the tamboura, leading to tracks like "Africa" and "Olé": [Excerpt: John Coltrane, "Olé"] Several sources have stated that that song was an influence on "Light My Fire" by the Doors, and I can sort of see that, though most of the interviews I've seen with Ray Manzarek have him talking about Coltrane's earlier version of "My Favourite Things" as the main influence there. Coltrane finally managed to meet with Shankar in December 1961, and spent a lot of time with him -- the two discussed recording an album together with McCoy Tyner, though nothing came of it. Shankar said of their several meetings that month: "The music was fantastic. I was much impressed, but one thing distressed me. There was turbulence in the music that gave me a negative feeling at times, but I could not quite put my finger on the trouble … Here was a creative person who had become a vegetarian, who was studying yoga, and reading the Bhagavad-Gita, yet in whose music I still heard much turmoil. I could not understand it." Coltrane said in turn "I like Ravi Shankar very much. When I hear his music, I want to copy it – not note for note of course, but in his spirit. What brings me closest to Ravi is the modal aspect of his art. Currently, at the particular stage I find myself in, I seem to be going through a modal phase … There’s a lot of modal music that is played every day throughout the world. It is particularly evident in Africa, but if you look at Spain or Scotland, India or China, you’ll discover this again in each case … It’s this universal aspect of music that interests me and attracts me; that’s what I’m aiming for." And the month before Coltrane met Shankar, Coltrane had had a now-legendary residency at the Village Vanguard in New York with his band, including Dolphy, which had resulted not only in the famous Live at the Village Vanguard album, but in two tracks on Coltrane's studio album Impressions. Those shows were among the most controversial in the history of jazz, though the Village Vanguard album is now often included in lists of the most important records in jazz. Downbeat magazine, the leading magazine for jazz fans at the time, described those shows as "musical nonsense" and "a horrifying demonstration of what appears to be a growing anti-jazz trend" -- though by the time Impressions came out in 1963, that opinion had been revised somewhat. Harvey Pekar, the comic writer and jazz critic, also writing in DownBeat, gave Impressions five stars, saying "Not all the music on this album is excellent (which is what a five-star rating signifies,) but some is more than excellent". And while among Coltrane fans the piece from these Village Vanguard shows that is of most interest is the extended blues masterpiece "Chasin' the Trane" which takes up a whole side of the Village Vanguard LP, for our purposes we're most interested in one of the two tracks that was held over for Impressions. This was another of Coltrane's experiments in using the drones he'd found in Indian musical forms, like "Africa" and "Olé". This time it was also inspired by a specific piece of music, though not an instrumental one. Rather it was a vocal performance -- a recording on a Folkways album of Pandita Ramji Shastri Dravida chanting one of the Vedas, the religious texts which are among the oldest texts sacred to any surviving religion: [Excerpt: Pandita Ramji Shastri Dravida, "Vedic Chanting"] Coltrane took that basic melodic idea, and combined it with his own modal approach to jazz, and the inspiration he was taking from Shankar's music, and came up with a piece called "India": [Excerpt: John Coltrane, "India"] Which is where we came in, isn't it? [Excerpt: The Byrds, "Eight Miles High"] So now, finally, we get to the Byrds. Even before "Mr. Tambourine Man" went to number one in the charts, the Byrds were facing problems with their sound being co-opted as the latest hip thing. Their location in LA, at the centre of the entertainment world, was obviously a huge advantage to them in many ways, but it also made them incredibly visible to people who wanted to hop onto a bandwagon. The group built up much of their fanbase playing at Ciro's -- the nightclub on the Sunset Strip that we mentioned in the previous episode which later reopened as It's Boss -- and among those in the crowd were Sonny and Cher. And Sonny brought along his tape recorder. The Byrds' follow-up single to "Mr. Tambourine Man", released while that song was still going up the charts, was another Dylan song, "All I Really Want to Do". But it had to contend with this: [Excerpt: Cher, "All I Really Want to Do"] Cher's single, produced by Sonny, was her first solo single since the duo had become successful, and came out before the Byrds' version, and the Byrds were convinced that elements of the arrangement, especially the guitar part, came from the version they'd been performing live – though of course Sonny was no stranger to jangly guitars himself, having co-written “Needles and Pins”, the song that pretty much invented the jangle. Cher made number fifteen on the charts, while the Byrds only made number forty. Their version did beat Cher's in the UK charts, though. The record company was so worried about the competition that for a while they started promoting the B-side as the A-side. That B-side was an original by Gene Clark, though one that very clearly showed the group's debt to the Searchers: [Excerpt: The Byrds, "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better"] While it was very obviously derived from the Searchers' version of "Needles and Pins", especially the riff, it was still a very strong, original, piece of work in its own right. It was the song that convinced the group's producer, Terry Melcher, that they were a serious proposition as artists in their own right, rather than just as performers of Dylan's material, and it was also a favourite of the group's co-manager, Jim Dickson, who picked out Clark's use of the word "probably" in the chorus as particularly telling -- the singer thinks he will feel better when the subject of the song is gone, but only probably. He's not certain. "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better", after being promoted as the A-side for a short time, reached number one hundred and two on the charts, but the label quickly decided to re-flip it and concentrate on promoting the Dylan song as the single. The group themselves weren't too bothered about their thunder having been stolen by Sonny and Cher, but their new publicist was incandescent. Derek Taylor had been a journalist for the Daily Express, which at that time was a respectable enough newspaper (though that is very much no longer the case). He'd become involved in the music industry after writing an early profile on the Beatles, at which point he had been taken on by the Beatles' organisation first to ghostwrite George Harrison's newspaper column and Brian Epstein's autobiography, and then as their full-time publicist and liner-note writer. He'd left the organisation at the end of 1964, and had moved to the US, where he had set up as an independent music publicist, working for the Byrds, the Beach Boys, and various other acts in their overlapping social circles, such as Paul Revere and the Raiders. Taylor was absolutely furious on the group's behalf, saying "I was not only disappointed, I was disgusted. Sonny and Cher went to Ciro's and ripped off the Byrds and, being obsessive, I could not get this out of my mind that Sonny and Cher had done this terrible thing. I didn't know that much about the record business and, in my experience with the Beatles, cover versions didn't make any difference. But by covering the Byrds, it seemed that you could knock them off the perch. And Sonny and Cher, in my opinion, stole that song at Ciro's and interfered with the Byrds' career and very nearly blew them out of the game." But while the single was a comparative flop, the Mr. Tambourine Man album, which came out shortly after, was much more successful. It contained the A and B sides of both the group's first two singles, although a different vocal take of "All I Really Want to Do" was used from the single release, along with two more Dylan covers, and a couple more originals -- five of the twelve songs on the album were original in total, three of them Gene Clark solo compositions and the other two co-written by Clark and Roger McGuinn. To round it out there was a version of the 1939 song "We'll Meet Again", made famous by Vera Lynn, which you may remember us discussing in episode ninety as an example of early synthesiser use, but which had recently become popular in a rerecorded version from the 1950s, thanks to its use at the end of Dr. Strangelove; there was a song written by Jackie DeShannon; and "The Bells of Rhymney", a song in which Pete Seeger set a poem about a mining disaster in Wales to music. So a fairly standard repertoire for early folk-rock, though slightly heavier on Dylan than most. While the group's Hollywood notoriety caused them problems like the Sonny and Cher one, it did also give them advantages. For example, they got to play at the fourth of July party hosted by Jane Fonda, to guests including her father Henry and brother Peter, Louis Jordan, Steve McQueen, Warren Beatty, and Sidney Poitier. Derek Taylor, who was used to the Beatles' formal dress and politeness at important events, imposed on them by Brian Epstein, was shocked when the Byrds turned up informally dressed, and even more shocked when Vito Paulekas and Carl Franzoni showed up. Vito (who was always known by his first name) and Franzoni are both important but marginal figures in the LA scene. Neither were musicians, though Vito did make one record, produced by Kim Fowley: [Excerpt: Vito and the Hands, "Vito and the Hands"] Rather Vito was a sculptor in his fifties, who had become part of the rock and roll scene and had gathered around him a dance troupe consisting largely of much younger women, and also of himself and Franzoni. Their circle, which also included Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean, who weren't part of their dance troupe but were definitely part of their crowd, will be talked about much more in future episodes, but for now we'll just say that they are often considered proto-hippies, though they would have disputed that characterisation themselves quite vigorously; that they were regular dancers at Ciro's and became regular parts of the act of both the Byrds and the Mothers of Invention; and we'll give this rather explicit description of their performances from Frank Zappa: "The high point of the performance was Carl Franzoni, our 'go-go boy.' He was wearing ballet tights, frugging violently. Carl has testicles which are bigger than a breadbox. Much bigger than a breadbox. The looks on the faces of the Baptist teens experiencing their grandeur is a treasured memory." Paints a vivid picture, doesn't it? So you can possibly imagine why Derek Taylor later said "When Carl Franzoni and Vito came, I got into a terrible panic". But Jim Dickson explained to him that it was Hollywood and people were used to that kind of thing, and even though Taylor described seeing Henry Fonda and his wife pinned against the wall by the writhing Franzoni and the other dancers, apparently everyone had a good time. And then the next month, the group went on their first UK tour. On which nobody had a good time: [Excerpt: The Byrds, "Eight Miles High"] Even before the tour, Derek Taylor had reservations. Obviously the Byrds should tour the UK -- London, in particular, was the centre of the cultural world at that time, and Taylor wanted the group to meet his old friends the Beatles and visit Carnaby Street. But at the same time, there seemed to be something a little... off... about the promoters they were dealing with, Joe Collins, the father of Joan and Jackie Collins, and a man named Mervyn Conn. As Taylor said later "All I did know was that the correspondence from Mervyn Conn didn't assure me. I kept expressing doubts about the contents of the letters. There was something about the grammar. You know, 'I'll give you a deal', and 'We'll get you some good gigs'. The whole thing was very much showbusiness. Almost pantomime showbusiness." But still, it seemed like it was worth making the trip, even when Musicians Union problems nearly derailed the whole thing. We've talked previously about how disagreements between the unions in the US and UK meant that musicians from one country couldn't tour the other for decades, and about how that slightly changed in the late fifties. But the new system required a one-in, one-out system where tours had to be set up as exchanges so nobody was taking anyone's job, and nobody had bothered to find a five-piece group of equivalent popularity to the Byrds to tour America in return. Luckily, the Dave Clark Five stepped into the breach, and were able to do a US tour on short notice, so that problem was solved. And then, as soon as they landed, the group were confronted with a lawsuit. From the Birds: [Excerpt: The Birds, "No Good Without You Baby"] These Birds, spelled with an "i", not a "y", were a Mod group from London, who had started out as the Thunderbirds, but had had to shorten their name when the London R&B singer Chris Farlowe and his band the Thunderbirds had started to have some success. They'd become the Birds, and released a couple of unsuccessful singles, but had slowly built up a reasonable following and had a couple of TV appearances. Then they'd started to receive complaints from their fans that when they went into the record shops to ask for the new record by the Birds, they were being sold some jangly folky stuff about tambourines, rather than Bo Diddley inspired R&B. So the first thing the American Byrds saw in England, after a long and difficult flight which had left them very tired and depressed, especially Gene Clark, who hated flying, was someone suing them for loss of earnings. The lawsuit never progressed any further, and the British group changed their name to Birds Birds, and quickly disappeared from music history -- apart from their guitarist, Ronnie Wood, who we'll be hearing from again. But the experience was not exactly the welcome the group had been hoping for, and is reflected in one of the lines that Gene Clark wrote in the song he later came up with about the trip -- "Nowhere is there love to be found among those afraid of losing their ground". And the rest of the tour was not much of an improvement. Chris Hillman came down with bronchitis on the first night, David Crosby kept turning his amp up too high, resulting in the other members copying him and the sound in the venues they were playing seeming distorted, and most of all they just seemed, to the British crowds, to be unprofessional. British audiences were used to groups running on, seeming excited, talking to the crowd between songs, and generally putting on a show. The Byrds, on the other hand, sauntered on stage, and didn't even look at the audience, much less talk to them. What seemed to the LA audience as studied cool seemed to the UK audience like the group were rude, unprofessional, and big-headed. At one show, towards the end of the set, one girl in the audience cried out "Aren't you even going to say anything?", to which Crosby responded "Goodbye" and the group walked off, without any of them having said another word. When they played the Flamingo Club, the biggest cheer of the night came when their short set ended and the manager said that the club was now going to play records for dancing until the support act, Geno Washington and the Ramjam Band, were ready to do another set. Michael Clarke and Roger McGuinn also came down with bronchitis, the group were miserable and sick, and they were getting absolutely panned in the reviews. The closest thing they got to a positive review was when Paul Jones of Manfred Mann was asked about them, and he praised some of their act -- perceptively pointing to their version of "We'll Meet Again" as being in the Pop Art tradition of recontextualising something familiar so it could be looked at freshly -- but even he ended up also criticising several aspects of the show and ended by saying "I think they're going to be a lot better in the future". And then, just to rub salt in the wound, Sonny and Cher turned up in the UK. The Byrds' version of "All I Really Want to Do" massively outsold theirs in the UK, but their big hit became omnipresent: [Excerpt: Sonny and Cher, "I Got You Babe"] And the press seemed to think that Sonny and Cher, rather than the Byrds, were the true representatives of the American youth culture. The Byrds were already yesterday's news. The tour wasn't all bad -- it did boost sales of the group's records, and they became friendly with the Beatles, Stones, and Donovan. So much so that when later in the month the Beatles returned to the US, the Byrds were invited to join them at a party they were holding in Benedict Canyon, and it was thanks to the Byrds attending that party that two things happened to influence the Beatles' songwriting. The first was that Crosby brought his Hollywood friend Peter Fonda along. Fonda kept insisting on telling people that he knew what it was like to actually be dead, in a misguided attempt to reassure George Harrison, who he wrongly believed was scared of dying, and insisted on showing them his self-inflicted bullet wounds. This did not go down well with John Lennon and George Harrison, both of whom were on acid at the time. As Lennon later said, "We didn't want to hear about that! We were on an acid trip and the sun was shining and the girls were dancing and the whole thing was beautiful and Sixties, and this guy – who I really didn't know; he hadn't made Easy Rider or anything – kept coming over, wearing shades, saying, "I know what it's like to be dead," and we kept leaving him because he was so boring! ... It was scary. You know ... when you're flying high and [whispers] "I know what it's like to be dead, man" Eventually they asked Fonda to get out, and the experience later inspired Lennon to write this: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "She Said, She Said"] Incidentally, like all the Beatles songs of that period, that was adapted for the cartoon TV series based on the group, in this case as a follow-the-bouncing-ball animation. There are few things which sum up the oddness of mid-sixties culture more vividly than the fact that there was a massively popular kids' cartoon with a cheery singalong version of a song about a bad acid trip and knowing what it's like to be dead. But there was another, more positive, influence on the Beatles to come out of them having invited the Byrds to the party. Once Fonda had been kicked out, Crosby and Harrison became chatty, and started talking about the sitar, an instrument that Harrison had recently become interested in. Crosby showed Harrison some ragas on the guitar, and suggested he start listening to Ravi Shankar, who Crosby had recently become a fan of. And we'll be tracking Shankar's influence on Harrison, and through him the Beatles, and through them the whole course of twentieth century culture, in future episodes. Crosby's admiration both of Ravi Shankar and of John Coltrane was soon to show in the Byrds' records, but first they needed a new single. They'd made attempts at a version of "The Times They Are A-Changin'", and had even tried to get both George Harrison and Paul McCartney to add harmonica to that track, but that didn't work out. Then just before the UK tour, Terry Melcher had got Jack Nitzsche to come up with an arrangement of Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue": [Excerpt: The Byrds, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (version 1)"] Nitzsche's arrangement was designed to sound as much like a Sonny and Cher record as possible, and at first the intention was just to overdub McGuinn's guitar and vocals onto a track by the Wrecking Crew. The group weren't happy at this, and even McGuinn, who was the friendliest of the group with Melcher and who the record was meant to spotlight, disliked it. The eventual track was cut by the group, with Jim Dickson producing, to show they could do a good job of the song by themselves, with the intention that Melcher would then polish it and finish it in the studio, but Melcher dropped the idea of doing the song at all. There was a growing factionalism in the group by this point, with McGuinn and to a lesser extent Michael Clarke being friendly with Melcher. Crosby disliked Melcher and was pushing for Jim Dickson to replace him as producer, largely because he thought that Melcher was vetoing Crosby's songs and giving Gene Clark and Roger McGuinn free run of the songwriting. Dickson on the other hand was friendliest with Crosby, but wasn't much keener on Crosby's songwriting than Melcher was, thinking Gene Clark was the real writing talent in the group. It didn't help that Crosby's songs tended to be things like harmonically complex pieces based on science fiction novels -- Crosby was a big fan of the writer Robert Heinlein, and in particular of the novel Stranger in a Strange Land, and brought in at least two songs inspired by that novel, which were left off albums -- his song "Stranger in a Strange Land" was eventually recorded by the San Francisco group Blackburn & Snow: [Excerpt: Blackburn & Snow, "Stranger in a Strange Land"] Oddly, Jim Dickson objected to what became the Byrds' next single for reasons that come from the same roots as the Heinlein novel. A short while earlier, McGuinn had worked as a guitarist and arranger on an album by the folk singer Judy Collins, and one of the songs she had recorded on that album was a song written by Pete Seeger, setting the first eight verses of chapter three of the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes to music: [Excerpt: Judy Collins, "Turn Turn Turn (To Everything There is a Season"] McGuinn wanted to do an electric version of that song as the Byrds' next single, and Melcher sided with him, but Dickson was against the idea, citing the philosopher Alfred Korzybski, who was a big influence both on the counterculture and on Heinlein. Korzybski, in his book Science and Sanity, argued that many of the problems with the world are caused by the practice in Aristotelean logic of excluding the middle and only talking about things and their opposites, saying that things could be either A or Not-A, which in his view excluded most of actual reality. Dickson's argument was that the lyrics to “Turn! Turn! Turn!” with their inflexible Aristotelianism, were hopelessly outmoded and would make the group a laughing stock among anyone who had paid attention to the intellectual revolutions of the previous few decades. "A time of love, a time of hate"? What about all the times that are neither for loving or hating, and all the emotions that are complex mixtures of love and hate? In his eyes, this was going to make the group look like lightweights. Terry Melcher disagreed, and forced the group through take after take, until they got what became the group's second number one hit: [Excerpt: The Byrds, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"] After the single was released and became a hit, the battle lines in the group hardened. It was McGuinn and Melcher on one side, Crosby and Dickson on the other, with Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke, and Gene Clark more or less neutral in the middle, but tending to side more and more with the two Ms largely because of Crosby's ability to rub everyone up the wrong way. At one point during the sessions for the next album, tempers flared so much that Michael Clarke actually got up, went over to Crosby, and punched Crosby so hard that he fell off his seat. Crosby, being Hollywood to the bone, yelled at Clarke "You'll never work in this town again!", but the others tended to agree that on that occasion Crosby had it coming. Clarke, when asked about it later, said "I slapped him because he was being an asshole. He wasn't productive. It was necessary." Things came to a head in the filming for a video for the next single, Gene Clark's "Set You Free This Time". Michael Clarke was taller than the other Byrds, and to get the shot right, so the angles would line up, he had to stand further from the camera than the rest of them. David Crosby -- the member with most knowledge of the film industry, whose father was an Academy Award-winning cinematographer, so who definitely understood the reasoning for this -- was sulking that once again a Gene Clark song had been chosen for promotion rather than one of his songs, and started manipulating Michael Clarke, telling him that he was being moved backwards because the others were jealous of his good looks, and that he needed to move forward to be with the rest of them. Multiple takes were ruined because Clarke listened to Crosby, and eventually Jim Dickson got furious at Clarke and went over and slapped him on the face. All hell broke loose. Michael Clarke wasn't particularly bothered by being slapped by Dickson, but Crosby took that as an excuse to leave, walking off before the first shot of the day had been completed. Dickson ran after Crosby, who turned round and punched Dickson in the mouth. Dickson grabbed hold of Crosby and held him in a chokehold. Gene Clark came up and pulled Dickson off Crosby, trying to break up the fight, and then Crosby yelled "Yeah, that's right, Gene! Hold him so I can hit him again!" At this point if Clark let Dickson go, Dickson would have attacked Crosby again. If he held Dickson, Crosby would have taken it as an invitation to hit him more. Clark's dilemma was eventually relieved by Barry Feinstein, the cameraman, who came in and broke everything up. It may seem odd that Crosby and Dickson, who were on the same side, were the ones who got into a fight, while Michael Clarke, who had previously hit Crosby, was listening to Crosby over Dickson, but that's indicative of how everyone felt about Crosby. As Dickson later put it, "People have stronger feelings about David Crosby. I love David more than the rest and I hate him more than the rest. I love McGuinn the least, and I hate him the least, because he doesn't give you emotional feedback. You don't get a chance. The hate is in equal proportion to how much you love them." McGuinn was finding all this deeply distressing -- Dickson and Crosby were violent men, and Michael Clarke and Hillman could be provoked to violence, but McGuinn was a pacifist both by conviction and temperament. Everything was conspiring to push the camps further apart. For example, Gene Clark made more money than the rest because of his songwriting royalties, and so got himself a good car. McGuinn had problems with his car, and knowing that the other members were jealous of Clark, Melcher offered to lend McGuinn one of his own Cadillacs, partly in an attempt to be friendly, and partly to make sure the jealousy over Clark's car didn't cause further problems in the group. But, of course, now Gene Clark had a Ferrarri and Roger McGuinn had a Cadillac, where was David Crosby's car? He stormed into Dickson's office and told him that if by the end of the tour the group were going on, Crosby didn't have a Bentley, he was quitting the group. There was only one thing for it. Terry Melcher had to go. The group had recorded their second album, and if they couldn't fix the problems within the band, they would have to deal with the problems from outside. While the group were on tour, Jim Dickson told Melcher they would no longer be working with him as their producer. On the tour bus, the group listened over and over to a tape McGuinn had made of Crosby's favourite music. On one side was a collection of recordings of Ravi Shankar, and on the other was two Coltrane albums -- Africa/Brass and Impressions: [Excerpt: John Coltrane, "India"] The group listened to this, and basically no other music, on the tour, and while they were touring Gene Clark was working on what he hoped would be the group's next single -- an impressionistic song about their trip to the UK, which started "Six miles high and when you touch down, you'll find that it's stranger than known". After he had it half complete, he showed it to Crosby, who helped him out with the lyrics, coming up with lines like "Rain, grey town, known for its sound" to describe London. The song talked about the crowds that followed them, about the music -- namechecking the Small Faces, who at the time had only released two singles and had one minor UK hit -- and about the feeling of being lost and a stranger in a strange land. The pair then brought the song to McGuinn, who made two further changes -- he suggested that while "six miles high" was an accurate description of how far up a transatlantic flight gets, eight was a better number than six, partly for numerological reasons, partly because it just sounded good, and partly because the Beatles had used it for "Eight Days a Week". The other major change that McGuinn made was to suggest that they incorporate some of the music they'd been listening to. While the song had chord changes, they decided to make it sound more droning, and also to have McGuinn play a guitar intro that was very closely based on Coltrane's "India". The group were all thrilled with the song, and recorded it in RCA Studios on December the twenty-second, 1965: [Excerpt: The Byrds, "Eight Miles High (version 1)"] They were convinced it was going to be a hit, but Columbia Records wouldn't put it out. Not because of the experimental music, nor because of the double meaning of the word "high", but because it had been recorded in RCA Studios, and Columbia would only release music recorded in their own studios. So they went back a month later and remade the track, with Columbia West Coast Vice President Allen Stanton as nominal producer. None of the group thought that that was as good a recording, but it was the one that finally got released: [Excerpt: The Byrds, "Eight Miles High"] The song got banned by many radio stations for promoting drug use -- though at the time the group insisted that it was really about flying rather than drugs, but later they did admit the obvious fact that it was also very much a drug-influenced song. The publicity for the song called it "raga rock", and described the B-side, a Shankar-influenced song by Crosby, the same way. But "Eight Miles High" is now widely regarded as one of the first examples, if not the first example, of psychedelic rock. Of course, as we've said many times on this podcast, there is no actual first example of anything, but "Eight Miles High" was, if nothing else, an early example of the style. It sounded like nothing else on the radio at the time. [Excerpt: The Byrds, “Eight Miles High”] But despite that, it made number fifteen on the charts, their third top twenty hit. The Byrds had proved they could have a hit without Terry Melcher. But as it turned out, Melcher wasn't the only one to part ways with the group. Gene Clark had become increasingly unhappy with all the infighting in the group, much of which seemed to be centred on him having more songs on the group's albums than McGuinn and Crosby, and he was also becoming slightly withdrawn and paranoid. He no longer wanted to be stuck in the middle of the clash between Crosby and McGuinn, and he left the group, citing his fear of flying. From this point on, McGuinn and Crosby would get as many songs as they wanted on the albums. And the group never had another top twenty hit single.
Dec 22, 2021
[Admin] An Explanation for Delays… And What I’m Going to Do About It
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 Hi,

This is not a proper episode of the podcast. Rather, this is an explanation, at least in part, of why there have been fewer episodes than normal this year, and what I plan to do about that.

One of the things I promised myself when I started this podcast was that I would not do the thing that many podcasters do of waffling on for fifteen minutes at the beginning about their lives, in an attempt to build up a parasocial relationship with the listeners. I pride myself on the work I do, and part of that is making the podcast about the work, rather than about me. I do enjoy the friendships I have made through this podcast, but I don't want the podcast to be about anything other than the history and the music.

But that does mean that you haven't all had an explanation why, after two years of me getting the podcast out weekly on the dot, the podcast has averaged an episode every ten days or so this year, including some gaps of two weeks.

A small part of that is that the episodes have been getting longer. It takes more time to write, record, and edit a ninety-minute episode than a half-hour one, and while I keep promising I'll try to get the episodes back to the shorter length I prefer, there's just a lot of material to cover in some of these. 

But a much larger part is that this last year has been the worst year of my life, without exception. There have been a whole series of stressful events, most of which I'm not at liberty to talk about because they involve other people, but the year started with one of those awful life-changing events that only happen once or twice in your life, and astonishingly managed to throw a couple of other curveballs almost that bad.

And that's on top of the stuff that everyone has been having to deal with, with the political situation in the world and with covid.

But there's also my health, and I can talk about that because it only affects me. I have multiple chronic illnesses and disabilities, which among other things meant that I had to spend the first five months of this year totally isolated, not seeing another human being, until I could get fully vaccinated. And it turns out that being totally isolated from the world for months, while multiple catastrophes happen in your life and the lives of those around you, is not great for chronic illnesses.

I have had a number of flare-ups this year, and to give you some idea, yesterday my blood pressure read as 196/120.

Getting all five hundred episodes of this podcast done is my highest priority, but in order to do that I have to live to see episode five hundred. And sadly, making sure I live to see episode five hundred means not working on days when any kind of extra stress could give me a stroke. Which has been the case on several days this year.

I am working out some new things with my doctor, which I hope and believe will make my chronic illnesses more like they were in 2018 through 2020 -- just annoyances rather than anything more worrying. I am fairly certain that 2022 will be much better.

So my plan is to get two more episodes out before Christmas -- episodes on the Byrds and Frank Zappa, both of which are mostly written and should be able to get out in fairly short order. Those two are again going to be very long ones.

I'm then going to take a few days off between Christmas Eve and New Year, and not do any new work for that week. I'm going to try to relax, get used to my new medication regime, and get my blood pressure down to normal.

And then, all being well, we'll start the new year as I mean to go on, with episodes coming out once a week on a regular schedule.

Thank you all for your patience and support during what has not been an easy year for anyone.

And I don't want to leave this without a quick acknowledgement of the sad death yesterday of Michael Nesmith. He was one of my personal musical heroes, and you can be sure that when the podcast gets to the Monkees, they'll be treated with the respect they deserve.

Dec 12, 2021
Second Book Announcement
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This is just to let everyone know that the second volume of the book based on the podcast should be available by the time you get this episode in your podcast app. It's been a long, long, time coming, because the last year and a bit has been far more difficult, for far more reasons, than I can go into here, but the book is now done. It's called "From the Million Dollar Quartet to the Fab Four", and contains versions of the scripts for episodes fifty-one through one hundred, revised for the book format rather than audio, along with a rewritten version of the Patreon episode on the Big Bopper, an introduction summarising the first book, and a bibliography.

The ebook should be available from every major ebook store, though it might take time to filter through to all of them. I'll be including a link in the blog post for this episode which, if you click it, will take you to your preferred ebook store if the book's available there.

The paperback is currently only available from Amazon. It should eventually also be available from other retailers, as it will enter all the standard distribution catalogues, but it's self-published through Amazon's service, so those of you who boycott Amazon, completely understandably, might not want to buy that version. The ebook link will also take you to the Amazon page for the paperback.

The hardback is available from lulu.com. That too will eventually also be available from other online bookstores, but I make more money, and you get it quicker, if you buy it from Lulu rather than a third party. Again, I'll link that in the notes here.

The physical books are relatively expensive -- twenty-five dollars for the paperback, and fifty dollars for the hardback -- but they're *big* books -- six hundred and fifty-three pages counting the indexes -- and paper is expensive right now because of supply chain issues, so I hope you'll consider them good value for money, as they're literally priced as low as I can make them. If money's tight, the ebook is only $5.

And speaking of good value for money, for one week only I've reduced the cost of the ebook of the first book to just one dollar. That's a limited-time offer to promote the series, so if you've not got that and want it, now's your chance.

Patreon backers at the five-dollar-a-month level and higher have already received copies of the ebook. Those at higher levels will be receiving their copies of the physical books shortly -- they'll be being sent out in waves over the next few weeks. It's because of those backers that I am able to do this podcast at all, and I can't thank them enough for their generosity.See you all in a couple of days, when we'll be looking at the Byrds, and "Eight Miles High".

 

Links to buy the book:

Ebooks (and paperback through Amazon)

Hardback

Link to buy the first book (only $1 in ebook this week)

The ebook for Patreon backers

Dec 07, 2021
Episode 138: “I Fought the Law” by the Bobby Fuller Four
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Episode one hundred and thirty-eight of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “I Fought the Law", and at the mysterious death of Bobby Fuller. 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 "Hanky Panky" by Tommy James and the Shondells. 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 No Mixcloud this week due to the large number of tracks by the Bobby Fuller Four Resources Information about the Crickets' post-Holly work comes from Buddy Holly: Learning the Game, by Spencer Leigh. There are two books available about Bobby Fuller -- the one I consulted most is Rock and Roll Mustangs by Stephen McParland, which can be bought as a PDF from https://payhip.com/cmusicbooks I also consulted I Fought the Law: The Life and Strange Death of Bobby Fuller by Miriam Linna and Randell Fuller. One minor note -- both these books spell Bob Keane's name Keene. Apparently he spelled it multiple ways, but I have chosen to use the spelling he used on his autobiography, which is also the spelling I have used for him previously. There are several compilations available of the Bobby Fuller Four's material, but the best collection of the hit singles is Magic Touch: The Complete Mustang Singles Collection.  And this is an expanded edition of the Crickets' In Style album. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript A warning, before I begin. This episode, more than most, deals with events you may find disturbing, including graphic descriptions of violent death. Please check the transcript on the podcast website at 500songs.com if you are worried that you might be upset by this. This episode will not be a pleasant listen. Now on with the episode... More than anything, Bobby Fuller wanted desperately to be Buddy Holly. His attitude is best summed up in a quote from Jim Reese, the guitarist with the Bobby Fuller Four, who said "Don't get me wrong, I thought the world of Bobby Fuller and I cared a lot for him, so I say this with the best intentions -- but he was into Buddy Holly so much that if Buddy Holly decided to wear one red sock and one blue sock and Bobby Fuller found out about it, Bobby Fuller would've had one red sock and one blue sock. He figured that the only way to accomplish whatever Buddy Holly had accomplished was to be as much like Buddy Holly as possible." And Reese was right -- Bobby Fuller really was as much like Buddy Holly as possible. Buddy Holly was from Texas, so was Bobby Fuller. Buddy Holly played a Fender Stratocaster, Bobby Fuller played a Fender Stratocaster. Buddy Holly performed with the Crickets, Bobby Fuller's biggest hit was with a Crickets song. Buddy Holly recorded with Norman Petty, Bobby Fuller recorded with Norman Petty. Of course, there was one big difference. Buddy Holly died in an accident when he was twenty-two. Bobby Fuller lived to be twenty-three. And his death was no accident... [Excerpt: The Bobby Fuller Four, "I Fought the Law"] After Buddy Holly quit the Crickets in 1958, they continued recording with Norman Petty, getting in guitarist Sonny Curtis, who had been an associate of the band members even before they were a band, and who had been a frequent collaborator with Buddy, and vocalist Earl Sinks. But while they kept recording, Petty didn't release any of the recordings, and the group became convinced that he wasn't really interested in doing so. Rather, they thought that he was just using them as leverage to try to get Buddy back. "Love's Made a Fool of You" was the record that made the Crickets lose their faith in Norman Petty. The song was one that Buddy Holly and Bob Montgomery had written way back in 1954, and Holly had revived it for a demo in 1958, recording it not as a potential song for himself but to give to the Everly Brothers, reworked in their style, though they never recorded it: [Excerpt: Buddy Holly, "Love's Made a Fool of You"] When Holly and the Crickets had parted ways, the Crickets had recorded their own version of the song with Petty producing, which remained unreleased like everything they'd recorded since Buddy left. But on the very day that Buddy Holly died, Petty shipped a copy of the tape to Decca, express mail, so that a single could be released as soon as possible: [Excerpt: The Crickets, "Love's Made a Fool of You"] The Crickets never worked with Norman Petty again after that, they were so disgusted at his determination to cash in on the death of their friend and colleague. Petty continued to exploit Holly's work, getting in a band called the Fireballs to add new instrumental backing to Holly's old demos so they could be released as new singles, but the split between Petty and Holly's living colleagues was permanent. But the Crickets didn't give up performing, and continued recording new material, mostly written either by Sonny Curtis or by the group's drummer Jerry Allison, who had co-written several of the group's earlier hits with Holly. "More Than I Can Say" was written by Curtis and Allison, and didn't make the top forty in the US, but did become a top thirty hit in the UK: [Excerpt: The Crickets, "More Than I Can Say"] That was later also covered in hit versions by Bobby Vee and Leo Sayer. The B-side, "Baby My Heart", wasn't a hit for the Crickets, but was covered by the Shadows on their first album, which made number one on the UK charts. That performance was one of the few Shadows records at this point to have vocals: [Excerpt: The Shadows, "Baby My Heart"] The group's first post-Holly album collected all their singles without Holly to that point, plus a few new filler tracks. The album, In Style With the Crickets, didn't chart in the US, but was a success in the UK. Around the time that album was released, Earl Sinks quit the group, and became a songwriter. He collaborated with Buddy Holly's old musical partner Bob Montgomery on a variety of hits for people like Brenda Lee, and in the seventies went back into performing for a while, having minor solo country hits as Earl Richards, and then bought a chain of abbatoirs. Allison and Curtis supplemented their income from the Crickets with session work -- Allison backed the Everly Brothers on "Til I Kissed You": [Excerpt: The Everly Brothers, "Til I Kissed You"] and both of them played on Eddie Cochran's last studio session, playing on "Three Steps to Heaven", with Curtis playing the electric lead while Cochran played the acoustic: [Excerpt: Eddie Cochran, "Three Steps to Heaven"] After that, the group went on tour in the UK as the backing band for the Everly Brothers, where they coincidentally bumped into Cochran, who told them "If I knew you guys were coming, I’d have asked you to bring me a bottle of American air.” They would never see Cochran again. Shortly after that tour, Sonny Curtis was drafted -- though while he was in the army, he wrote "Walk Right Back" for the Everly Brothers, as we discussed in the episode on "Cathy's Clown": [Excerpt: The Everly Brothers, "Walk Right Back"] Joe Mauldin gave up on music for a while, and so for a while The Crickets consisted of just Jerry Allison, new singer Jerry Naylor, and guitarist Tommy Allsup, who had played with Holly after Holly left the Crickets. That lineup recorded the "Bobby Vee Meets the Crickets" album, with Bobby Vee singing lead: [Excerpt: Bobby Vee and the Crickets, "Well... All Right"] Curtis would return once his time in the army was over, and eventually, in the 1970s, the group would stabilise on a lineup of Curtis, Mauldin, and Allison,  who would play together more or less consistently until 2015. But for a few years in the early sixties there was a lot of lineup shuffling, especially as Allison got drafted not long after Curtis got out of the Army -- there was one UK tour where there were no original members at all, thanks to Allison's absence. When Curtis was out of the group around the time of the Bobby Vee album, Snuff Garrett tried to get a friend of his to join as the group's new lead singer, and brought him to LA, but it didn't work out. Garrett later said "He and Jerry didn’t hit it off in the way I imagined. After a few months, it was over and the guy started playing clubs around LA. I did demos with him and took them to my boss, the president of Liberty, and he said, ‘You’ve got enough of your friends signed to the label. You’ve signed the Crickets and Buddy Knox and they’re not doing much business, and this guy can hardly speak English.’ I said, ‘Well, I think he’s going to be something.’ ‘Okay,’ he said, ‘Drop one of the acts you’ve got and you can sign him.’ I said, ‘Forget it.’ A year later, he was an international star and his name was Trini Lopez" Lopez's big hit, "If I Had a Hammer", was recorded in a live show at a club called PJs: [Excerpt: Trini Lopez, "If I Had a Hammer"] PJs was owned by a gangster named Eddie Nash, who is now best known as the prime suspect in a notorious case known as the Wonderland Murders, when in 1981 four people were horribly beaten to death, either with the assistance of or to send a message to the porn star John Holmes, depending on which version of the story you believe. If you're unfamiliar with the case, I advise you not to google it, as it's very far from pretty. I bring this up because PJs would soon play a big part in the career of the Bobby Fuller Four. Bobby Fuller was born in the Gulf Coast of Texas, but his family moved about a lot during his formative years, mostly in the Southwestern US, living in Lubbock, Texas, Hobbs, New Mexico, and Salt Lake City, Utah, among other places, before finally settling down in El Paso. El Paso is a border town, right up close to the border with Mexico, and that meant that it had a complicated relationship with Juarez, the nearest large town on the Mexican side of the border. Between 1919 and 1933, the selling and consumption of alcohol had been made illegal in the United States, a period known as Prohibition, but of course it had not been criminalised in Mexico, and so during those years any time anyone from El Paso wanted to get drunk they'd travel to Juarez. Even after Prohibition ended, Juarez had a reputation as a party town, and Randy Fuller, Bobby's brother, would later tell a teen magazine "You can grow up in El Paso and get really bad -- it's Juarez that makes it that way. Whatever personality you have, you have it 100%. You can go to Juarez and get drunk, or stay in El Paso and get religion" Of course, from the outside, that sounds a whole lot like "now look what YOU made ME do". It's not the fault of those white people from Texas that they travel to someone else's city in someone else's country and get falling-down drunk and locked up in their jails every weekend, but it's the fault of those tempting Mexicans. And when Bobby and Randy Fuller's older brother Jack disappeared in 1961, while Bobby was off at university, that was at first what everyone thought had happened -- he'd gone to Juarez, got drunk, and got locked up until he could sleep it off. But when he didn't reappear after several days, everyone became more concerned. It turned out that Jack had met a man named Roy Handy at a bus depot and started chatting with him. They'd become friendly, and had gone off to do some target shooting together in the desert. But Handy had seen what looked like a wad of thousand-dollar bills in Jack's sun visor, and had decided to turn the gun on Jack rather than the target, killing him. The thousand-dollar bills had been play money, a gift bought for a small child who lived nearby. Because of the murder, Bobby Fuller moved back to El Paso from Denton in North Texas, where he had been studying music at university. He did enroll in a local college, but gave up his studies very quickly. Bobby had been something of a musical prodigy -- his original plan before going to North Texas State University had actually been to go to Juilliard, where he was going to study jazz drumming. Instead, while Bobby continued his drumming, he started living a party lifestyle, concentrating on his car, on women -- he got multiple women pregnant in his late teens and early twenties -- and on frequent trips to Juarez, where he would spend a lot of time watching a local blues musician, Long John Hunter: [Excerpt: Long John Hunter, "El Paso Rock"] Meanwhile, a music scene had been growing in El Paso since the late 1950s. A group called the Counts were at the forefront of it, with instrumentals like "Thunder": [Excerpt: The Counts, "Thunder"] The Counts splintered into various groups, and one of them became The Embers, who Bobby Fuller joined on drums. Fuller was also one of a tiny number of people at this time who actually had a home studio. Fuller had started out with a simple bedroom studio, but thanks to his parents' indulgence he had repurposed a big chunk of their house as a studio, including building, with his brother Randy, an echo chamber (though it didn't work very well and he stuck with tape echo). It was in that home studio that the Embers recorded their first single, "Jim's Jive", with Fuller on drums and Jim Reese on lead guitar: [Excerpt: Jerry Bright and The Embers, "Jim's Jive"] That was released on a tiny local label, Yucca Records, which also released the Embers' second single -- and also released two Bobby Fuller solo singles, starting with "You're in Love": [Excerpt: Bobby Fuller, "You're in Love"] That was recorded at Fuller's home studio, with the Embers backing him, and became the number one single locally, but Yucca Records had no national distribution, and the record didn't get a wider release. Fuller's second single, though, was the first time his Buddy Holly fixation came to the forefront. Fuller was, by many accounts, *only* interested in sounding like Buddy Holly -- though his musical tastes were broad enough that he also wanted to sound like Eddie Cochran, Ritchie Valens, and the Crickets. But that was the extent of Fuller's musical world, and so obviously he wanted to work with the people who had worked with Holly. So his second single was recorded at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico, with Petty's wife Vi, who had played keyboards on some Buddy Holly records, on keyboards and backing vocals: [Excerpt: Bobby Fuller, "Gently My Love"] But as it turned out, Fuller was very underwhelmed by the experience of working with Petty, and decided that he was going to go back to recording in his home studio. Fuller left the Embers and started performing on his own, playing rhythm guitar rather than drums, with a band that initially consisted of his brother Randy on bass, Gaylord Grimes on drums, and Jim Reese on lead guitar, though there would be constant lineup changes. Two of the many musicians who drifted in and out of Fuller's revolving band lineup, Larry Thompson and Jerry Miller, were from the Pacific Northwest, and were familiar with the scene that I talked about in the episode on "Louie, Louie". Thompson was a fan of one of the Pacific Northwest bands, the Frantics, who had hits with tracks like "Werewolf": [Excerpt: The Frantics, "Werewolf"] Thompson believed that the Frantics had split up, and so Fuller's group took on that name for themselves. When they found out that the group *hadn't* split up, they changed their name to the Fanatics, though the name on their bass drum still read "The Frantics" for quite a while. Jerry Miller later moved back to Seattle, where he actually joined the original Frantics, before going on to become a founder member of Moby Grape. Fuller started his own record label, Eastwood Records, and put out another solo single, which covered the full breadth of his influences. The B-side was "Oh Boy!", the song Sonny Curtis had written for Buddy Holly, while the A-side was "Nervous Breakdown", which had originally been recorded by Eddie Cochran: [Excerpt: Bobby Fuller, "Nervous Breakdown"] Everything was very fluid at this point, with musicians coming and going from different lineups, and none of these musicians were only playing in one band. For example, as well as being lead guitarist in the Fanatics, Jim Reese also played on "Surfer's Paradise" by Bobby Taylor and the Counts: [Excerpt: Bobby Taylor and the Counts, "Surfer's Paradise"] And Bobby's record label, renamed from Eastwood to Exeter, was releasing records  by other artists as well as Bobby and the Fanatics, though none of these records had any success. In early 1963 Fuller and his latest lineup of Fanatics -- Randy, drummer Jimmy Wagnon, and guitarist Tex Reed -- travelled to LA to see if they could become successful outside El Paso. They got a residency at the Hermosa Biltmore, and also regularly played the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, where the Beach Boys and Dick Dale had both played not long before, and there they added some surf instrumentals to their repertoire. Bobby soon became almost as keen on surf music as he was on rockabilly. While in LA, they tried all the record companies, with no success. The most encouragement they got came from Bob Keane at Del-Fi, the label that had previously been Ritchie Valens' label, who told him that the tapes they brought him of their El Paso recordings sounded good but they needed better songs, and to come back to him when they had a hit song. Bobby determined to do just that. On their return to El Paso, Bobby Fuller and the Fanatics recorded "Stringer" for Todd Records, a small label owned by Paul Cohen, the former Decca executive who had signed Buddy Holly but not known what to do with him: [Excerpt: Bobby Fuller and the Fanatics, "Stringer"] Fuller also opened his own teen nightclub, the Teen Rendezvous, which he named after the Balboa ballroom. The Fanatics became the regular band there, and at this point they started to build up a serious reputation as live performers. The Teen Rendezvous only stayed open for a few months, though -- there were complaints about the noise, and also they booked Bobby Vee as a headliner one night. Vee charged a thousand dollars for his appearance, which the club couldn't really afford, and they didn't make it back on the doors. They'd hoped that having a prestigious act like Vee play there might get more people to come to the club regularly, but it turned out that Vee gave a sub-par performance, and the gamble didn't pay off. It was around this time that Fuller made his first recording of a song that would eventually define him, though it wasn't his idea. He was playing the Crickets In Style album to his brother Randy, and Randy picked up on one song, a Sonny Curtis composition which had never been released as a single: [Excerpt: The Crickets, "I Fought the Law"] Randy thought the Crickets' actual record sounded horrible, but he also thought the song had the potential to be a really big hit. He later explained "The James Dean movie Rebel Without a Cause had made a big impression on me, and I told Bobby, 'Man, let's do that one... it oughta sell a million copies'. Everyone was into the whole rebel thing, with switchblades and stuff like that. It just seemed like a natural thing for us to do." Fuller recorded his own version of the song, which once again became a local hit: [Excerpt: Bobby Fuller, "I Fought The Law (El Paso version)"] But even though the record did get some national distribution, from VeeJay Records, it didn't get any airplay outside the Southwest, and Fuller remained a local star with absolutely no national profile. Meanwhile, he was still trying to do what Bob Keane had asked and come up with a hit song, but he was stuck in a musical rut. As Jim Reese would later say, "Bobby was a great imitator. He could sing just like Holly, McCartney, Lennon, or Eddie Cochran. And he could imitate on the guitar, too. But Bobby never did Bobby". To make matters worse, the Beatles came on to the American musical scene, and caused an immediate shift in the public taste. And Bobby Fuller had a very complicated relationship with the Beatles. He had to play Beatles songs live because that's what the audiences wanted, but he felt that rock and roll was *American* music, and he resented British people trying to play it. He respected them as songwriters, but didn't actually like their original material. He could tell that they were huge Buddy Holly fans, like him, and he respected that, but he loathed Motown, and he could tell they were listening to that too. He ended up trying to compromise by playing Buddy Holly songs on stage but introducing them by talking about how much the Beatles loved Buddy Holly. Another person who was negatively affected by the British Invasion was Bob Keane, the man who had given Fuller some encouragement. Keane's Del-Fi Records had spent the previous few years making a steady income from churning out surf records like "Surf Rider" by the Lively Ones: [Excerpt: The Lively Ones, "Surf Rider"] And the Surfer's Pajama Party album by the Bruce Johnston Surfing Band: [Excerpt: Bruce Johnston, "The Surfer Stomp"] But as surf music had suddenly become yesterday's news, Del-Fi were in financial trouble, and Keane had had to take on a partner who gave the label some financial backing, Larry Nunes. Now, I am going to be very, very, careful about exactly what I say about Nunes here. I am aware that different people give very, very, different takes on Nunes' personality -- Barry White, for example, always said that knowing Nunes was the best thing that ever happened to him, credited Nunes with everything good in his career, and gave him credit on all his albums as his spiritual advisor. However, while White made Nunes out to be pretty much a saint, that is not the impression one gets from hearing Bob Keane or any of Bobby Fuller's circle talk about him. Nunes had started out in the music business as a "rack jobber", someone who ran a small distribution company, selling to small family-owned shops and to secondary markets like petrol stations and grocery stores. The business model for these organisations was to get a lot of stock of records that hadn't sold, and sell them at a discount, to be sold in discount bins. But they were also a perfect front for all sorts of criminal activity. Because these were bulk sales of remaindered records, dead stock, the artists weren't meant to get royalties on them, and no real accounting was done of the sales. So if a record label "accidentally" pressed up a few thousand extra copies of a hit record and sold it on to a rack jobber, the artists would never know. And if the Mafia made a deal with the record pressing plant to press up a few thousand extra copies, the *record label* would never know. And so very, very, quickly this part of the distribution system became dominated by organised crime. I have seen no proof, only rumours, that Nunes was directly involved in organised crime, but Bob Keane in particular later became absolutely convinced he was. Keane would later write in his autobiography: “I wondered if I had made a deal with the Devil. I had heard that Larry had a reputation for being associated with the Mob, and as it turned out three years later our relationship ended in deception, dishonesty, and murder. I consider myself very lucky to have come out of my relationship with Nunes in one piece, virtually unscathed." Again, this is Keane's interpretation of events. I am not saying that Larry Nunes was a mobster, I am saying that Bob Keane repeatedly made that accusation many times, and that other people in this story have said similar things. By late 1964, Bobby Fuller had come up with a song he was pretty sure *would* be a successful single, like Keane had wanted, a song called "Keep on Dancing" he'd written with Randy: [Excerpt: Bobby Fuller, “Keep On Dancing”] After some discussion he managed to persuade Randy, Jim Reese, and drummer DeWayne Quirico to move with him to LA -- Bobby and Randy's mother also moved with them, because after what had happened to her eldest son she was very protective of her other children. Jim Reese was less keen on the move than the others, as he thought that Fuller was only interested in himself, not in the rest of the Fanatics. As Reese would later say, "Bobby wanted us all to go to California, but I was leery because it always had been too one-sided with Bobby. He ran everything, hired and fired at the least whim, and didn't communicate well with other people. He was never able to understand that a musician, like other people, needs food, gasoline, clothes, a place to live, etc. I often felt that Bobby thought we should be following him anywhere just for the thrill of it." Eventually, Fuller got them to go by agreeing that when they got to LA, everything would be split equally -- one for all and all for one, though when they finally made a deal with Keane, Fuller was the only one who ended up receiving royalties. The rest of the group got union scale. Keane agreed that "Keep on Dancing" could be a hit, but that wasn't the first record the group put out through one of Keane's labels. The first was an instrumental titled "Thunder Reef": [Excerpt: The Shindigs, "Thunder Reef"] That wasn't released as by the Fanatics, but as by The Shindigs -- Keane had heard that Shindig! needed a house band and thought that naming the group after the show might be a way to get them the position. As it happened, the TV show went with another group, led by James Burton, who they called the Shindogs, and Keane's plan didn't work out. The Shindigs single was released on a new Del-Fi subsidiary, Mustang, on which most future records by the group would be released. Mustang was apparently set up specifically for the group, but the first record released on that label was actually by a studio group called The Surfettes: [Excerpt: The Surfettes, "Sammy the Sidewalk Surfer"] The Surfettes consisted of Carol Connors, the former lead singer of the Teddy Bears and writer of "Hey Little Cobra", and her sister Cheryl. Carol had written the single with Buzz Cason, of Brenda Lee's band, and the session musicians on that single included several other artists who were recording for Del-Fi at the time -- David Gates, Arthur Lee, and Johnny Echols, all of whom we'll be hearing more about in future episodes. Almost simultaneously with the Shindigs single, another single by the Fanatics was released, "Those Memories of You": [Excerpt: Bobby Fuller and the Fanatics, "Those Memories of You"] That single, backed by a surf instrumental called "Our Favourite Martian", was released on Donna Records, another Del-Fi subsidiary, as by Bobby Fuller and the Fanatics, which made the other group members furious -- what had happened to one for all and all for one? Randy Fuller, who was a very aggressive young man, was so annoyed that he stormed into Bob Keane's office and frisbeed one of the singles at his head. They didn't want to be Bobby's backing band, they wanted to be a proper group, so it was agreed the group's name would be changed. It was changed to The Bobby Fuller Four. Jim Reese claimed that Keane and Fuller formed The Bobby Fuller Four Inc, without the other three members having participation, and made them employees of the corporation. Reese said "this didn't fit in with my concept of the verbal agreement I had with Bobby, but at least it was better than nothing". The group became the house band at the Rendezvous, playing their own sets and backing people like Sonny and Cher. They then got a residency at the Ambassador Hotel in Hollywood, and then Jim Reese quit the band. Fuller phoned him and begged him to come back, and as Reese said later "I again repeated my conditions about equal treatment and he agreed, so I went back -- probably the biggest mistake I ever made." The group's first single as the Bobby Fuller Four, released on Mustang as all their future records were, was "Take My Word": [Excerpt: The Bobby Fuller Four, "Take My Word"] The record was unsuccessful -- Keane's various labels, while they were better distributed than Bobby's own labels back in El Paso, still only had spotty distribution, and Mustang being a new label it was even more difficult to get records in stores. But the group were getting a reputation as one of the best live acts in the LA area at the time. When the club Ciro's, on the Sunset Strip, closed and reopened under its new name It's Boss, the group were chosen to perform at its grand reopening, and they played multiple four- to six-week residencies at PJ's. The next record the group released, "Let Her Dance", was a slight rewrite of "Keep on Dancing", the song the Fuller brothers had written together, though Bobby was the only credited writer on the label: [Excerpt: The Bobby Fuller Four, "Let Her Dance"] That was the first single they recorded at a new state-of-the-art studio Keane had opened up. That studio had one of the first eight-track machines in LA, and a truly vast echo chamber, made up from a couple of unused vaults owned by a bank downstairs from the studio. But there were big arguments between Fuller and Keane, because Fuller wanted only to make music that could be reproduced live exactly as it was on the record, while Keane saw the record as the important thing. Keane put a percussion sound on the record, made by hitting a bottle, which Fuller detested as they couldn't do it live, and the two would only end up disagreeing more as they continued working together. There's a lot of argument among Fuller fans about this -- personally I can see both sides, but there are people who are very much Team Bobby and think that nothing he recorded for Mustang is as good as the El Paso recordings, because of Bob Keane diluting the raw power of his live sound. But in an era  where studio experimentation was soon to lead to records like "Strawberry Fields Forever" or "Good Vibrations", I think a bit of extra percussion is hardly an unforgivable dilution: [Excerpt: The Bobby Fuller Four, "Let Her Dance"] KRLA radio started playing "Let Her Dance" every hour, at the instigation of Larry Nunes -- and most of the people talking about this have implied that he bribed people in order to get this to happen, or that it was through his alleged Mob connections. Certainly, he knew exactly when they would start playing the record, and how frequently, before they did. As a result of this exposure, "Let Her Dance" became a massive local hit, but they still didn't have the distribution to make it a hit outside California. It did, though, do well enough that Liberty Records asked about putting the record out nationally. Keane came to a verbal agreement, which he thought was an agreement for Liberty to distribute the Mustang Records single, and Liberty thought was an agreement to put out the single on their own label and have an option on future Fuller recordings. Liberty put the record out on their own label, without Keane having signed anything, and Keane had to sue them. The result was that the record was out on two different labels, which were suing each other, and so it hardly had any chance at any kind of success. The legal action also affected the next single, "Never to Be Forgotten": [Excerpt: The Bobby Fuller Four, "Never to Be Forgotten"] That's often considered the best of the band's originals for Mustang, and was written by the Fuller brothers -- and both of them were credited this time -- but Liberty sued Keane, claiming that because they'd released "Let Her Dance", they also had an option on the next single. But even though the group still weren't selling records, they were getting other opportunities for exposure, like their appearance in a film which came out in April 1966. Though admittedly, this film was hardly A Hard Day's Night. Indeed, a lot of people have claimed that The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini was cursed. The film, which went through the working titles Pajama Party in a Haunted House, Slumber Party in a Haunted House, Bikini Party in a Haunted House, and Ghost in a Glass Bikini, was made by the cheapy exploitation company American International Pictures, and several people involved in it would die in the next four years, starting with Buster Keaton, who was meant to appear in the film, but had to back out due to his health problems and died before the film came out. Then on the first day of filming, a grip fell to his death. In the next four years, two of the film's young stars, Sue Hamilton and John Macchia, would die, as would Philip Bent, an actor with a minor role who died in July 1966 in a plane crash which also took the life of Peter Sachse, an extra on the film who was married to a cast member. Three more stars of the film, Francis X Bushman, Basil Rathbone, and Boris Karloff would also all be dead within a handful of years, but they were all elderly and unwell when filming started. I don't believe in curses myself, but it is a horrible run of bad luck for a single film. To make matters worse, the group weren't even playing their own music in the film, but lipsynching to tracks by other musicians. And they had to play Vox instruments in the film, because of a deal the filmmakers had made, when the group all hated Vox instruments, which Jim Reese thought of as only good for starting bonfires. For the next single, Keane had discussed with Fuller what songs the group had that were "different", but Fuller apparently didn't understand what he meant. So Keane went to the rest of the group and asked them what songs always went over well in live performances. All three band members said that "I Fought the Law" should be the next single. Bobby disagreed, and almost got into a fistfight with his brother over it -- they'd already released it as a single once, on his own label, and he didn't want to do it again. He also wanted to record his own material not cover versions. But the others prevailed, and "I Fought the Law" became the record that would define the group: [Excerpt: The Bobby Fuller Four, "I Fought the Law"] "I Fought the Law" became the group's breakthrough hit. It made the top ten, and turned the song, which had previously been one of the Crickets' most obscure songs, into a rock and country standard. In the seventies, the song would be recorded by Hank Williams Jr, the Clash, the Dead Kennedys and more, and all of them would be inspired by the Bobby Fuller Four's version of the song, not the Crickets' original. Around this time, the group also recorded a live album at PJs, in the hope of duplicating Trini Lopez's success with his earlier album. The album was shelved, though, because it didn't capture the powerhouse live act of the group's reputation, instead sounding rather dull and lifeless, with an unenthused audience: [Excerpt: The Bobby Fuller Four, "Oh Boy!"] While "I Fought the Law" was a huge success, it started a period of shifts within the band. Shortly after the PJs album was recorded, DeWayne Quirico quit the band and moved back to El Paso. He was temporarily replaced by Johnny Barbata, who would later become a member of the Turtles, before Fuller's preferred replacement Dalton Powell was able to get to LA to join the band. There seems to have been some shuffling about, as well, because as far as I can tell, Powell joined the band, then quit and was replaced by Barbata returning, and then rejoined again, all in about a six month period. Given the success of "I Fought the Law", it only made sense that at their first recording session with Powell, the group would record more tracks that had originally been on the Crickets' In Style album. One of these, their version of "Baby My Heart", went unreleased at the time, though to my taste it's the best thing the group ever did: [Excerpt: The Bobby Fuller Four, "Baby My Heart"] The other, "Love's Made a Fool of You", became the group's next single: [Excerpt: The Bobby Fuller Four, "Love's Made a Fool of You"] "Love's Made a Fool of You" was also a success, making number twenty-six in the charts, but the group's next session, which would produce their last single, was the cause of some conflict. Keane had noticed that soul music was getting bigger, and so he'd decided to open up a sister label to Mustang, Bronco, which would release soul and R&B music. As he didn't know much about that music himself, though of course he had worked with Sam Cooke, he decided to hire an A&R man to deal with that kind of music. The man he chose was a piano player named Barry White, still several years from making his own hit records. White had had some success as an arranger and producer already, having arranged "The Harlem Shuffle" for Bob and Earl, on which he also played piano: [Excerpt: Bob and Earl, "The Harlem Shuffle"] Despite White's remit, the records he produced for Bronco and Mustang weren't especially soulful. "Back Seat 38 Dodge" by Opus 1, for example, is a psychedelic updating of the kind of car songs that the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean had been doing a couple of years earlier: [Excerpt: Opus 1, "Back Seat 38 Dodge"] White was present at what became the final Bobby Fuller Four session, though accounts differ as to his involvement. Some have him arranging "The Magic Touch”, others have him playing drums on the session, some have him co-producing. Bob Keane always said that the record had no involvement from White whatsoever, that he was there but not participating, but various band members, while differing on other things, have insisted that White and Fuller got into huge rows, as Fuller thought that White was trying to turn his music into Motown, which he despised. The finished record does sound to me like it's got some of White's fingerprints on it: [Excerpt: The Bobby Fuller Four, "The Magic Touch"] But "The Magic Touch" flopped -- it departed too far from the updated Buddy Holly sound of the group's hit singles, and audiences weren't responding. “The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini” came out and was an embarrassment to the band – and on July the eleventh the next in that horrible series of deaths linked to the film happened, the plane crash that killed Philip Bent and Peter Sachse. On July the sixteenth, William Parker, the long-serving chief of the LAPD, had died. If, hypothetically, someone wanted to commit a crime in LA and not have it investigated too closely, the few days after Parker's death, when the entire department was in mourning and making preparations for a massive public funeral, would have been a good time to do so. Two days after Parker's death, July the eighteenth 1966, was going to be the crunch point for the Bobby Fuller Four. They had a recording session scheduled for 8:30AM, but they also were planning on having a band meeting after the session, at which it was likely the group were going to split up. Jim Reese had just got his draft notice, Bobby and Randy were getting on worse, and nobody was happy with the music they were making. They were going to finish the album they were working on, and then Bobby was going to go solo. Or at least that was what everyone assumed -- certainly Ahmet Ertegun had been sniffing round Bobby as a solo artist, though Bobby kept saying publicly he wanted to continue working with the band. There were also later rumours that Morris Levy had been after Bobby, and had even signed him to a deal, though no documentary evidence of such a deal has surfaced. It seemed that if there was to be a group at all, it would just be a name for any random musicians Bobby hired. Bobby also wanted to become a pure recording artist, and not tour any more -- he hated touring, thought people weren't listening to the band properly, and that being away from home meant he didn't have time to write songs, which in turn meant that he had to record what he thought of as substandard material by other people rather than his own original material. He wanted to stay in LA, play clubs, and make records. But even though making records was what he wanted to do, Bobby never turned up for the recording session, and nor did he turn up for the group meeting afterwards. The group's next single had been announced as "It's Love Come What May": [Excerpt: Randy Fuller, "It's Love Come What May"] When that was released, it was released as a Randy Fuller solo single, with Randy's voice overdubbed on top of Bobby's. Because there was no use putting out a record by a dead man. Here's what we actually know about Bobby Fuller's death, as far as I can tell. There are a lot of conflicting claims, a lot of counternarratives, and a lot of accusations that seek to tie in everyone from Charles Manson to Frank Sinatra, but this is as close as I can get to the truth. Bobby and Randy were living together, with their mother, though Randy was out a lot of the time, and the two brothers at that point could barely stand to be in the same room with each other, as often happens in bands where brothers work together. On the night of July the seventeenth, Bobby Fuller left the house for a couple of hours after getting a phone call -- some people who were around said he was going to see a girlfriend named Melody to buy some acid from her, but she says he didn't see her that night. Melody was a sex worker, who was also reputedly the girlfriend of a local nightclub owner who had Mob connections and was jealous of her attachments to other men -- though she denies this. Nobody has ever named which club owner, but it's generally considered to be Eddie Nash, the owner of PJs. Melody was also friends with Larry Nunes, and says she acted as a go-between for Nunes and Fuller. Fuller got back in around 2:30 AM and spent some time having beer with the building manager.  Then at some point he went out again -- Bobby was a night owl. When his mother, Lorraine, woke up, she noticed her car, which Bobby often used to borrow, wasn't there. She had a terrible bad feeling about her son's whereabouts -- though she often had such feelings, after the murder of her eldest son. She kept checking outside every half hour or so to see if he was coming home. At 5PM, two musicians from El Paso, Ty Grimes and Mike Ciccarelli, who'd come to LA to see Fuller, pulled into the parking lot near his apartment block. There were no other cars nearby. A car pulled in beside them, but they didn't pay any attention. They went up the stairs and rang the doorbell. While they were ringing the doorbell, Lorraine Fuller was out checking the mail, and noticed her car, which hadn't been there earlier. She opened the door. Ty Grimes later said "When we walked back to Mike's car, Bobby's car was now parked next to Mike's, and he was laying in the front seat already dead. We also saw his mom being helped toward the apartment." Fuller had been dead long enough for rigor mortis to have set in. While Lorraine Fuller later said that his hand had been on the ignition key, there was actually no key found in the car. He had apparently died from inhaling petrol. His body was covered in bruises, and the slippers he was wearing looked like they'd been dragged across the ground. His body was covered in petrol, and his right index finger was broken. Bob Keane has later said that Larry Nunes knew some details of the crime scene before he was told them. According to the other members of the band, there was an eight hundred thousand dollar life insurance policy on Bobby's life, held by the record company. Keane didn't get any money from any such policy, and stated that if such a policy existed it must have been taken out by Nunes, who soon stopped working with Keane, as Keane's labels collapsed without their one remaining star. The death was initially ruled a suicide, which would not pay out on an insurance claim, and later changed to accidental death, which would. Though remember, of course, we have only the word of Bobby's other band members that any insurance policy existed. No real police investigation was ever carried out, because it was such an open-and-shut case. At no point was it ever considered a murder by the famously corrupt LAPD. Bob Keane hired private investigators to investigate the case. One of them was shot at, and the others gave up on the investigation, scared to continue. The autopsy report that was issued months after the fact bore no resemblance to what any of the witnesses said they saw of the state of Fuller's body. More than thirty years later, Keane tried to get the information the LAPD held about the case, and was told that it could only be accessed by a family member. Keane contacted Randy Fuller, who was then told that the entire case file was missing. So all we can go on as far as the official records go is the death certificate. Which means that I lied to you at the start of the episode. Because officially, no matter what impression you might have got from everything I just said, Bobby Fuller's death *was* an accident.
Dec 01, 2021
Episode 137: “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” by James Brown
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Episode one hundred and thirty-seven of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Papa's Got a Brand New Bag” by James Brown, and at how Brown went from a minor doo-wop artist to the pioneer of funk. 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 "I'm a Fool" by Dino, Desi, and Billy. 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 an early version of this was uploaded, in which I said "episode 136" rather than 137 and "flattened ninth" at one point rather than "ninth". I've fixed that in a new upload, which is otherwise unchanged. Resources As usual, I’ve created a Mixcloud streaming playlist with full versions of all the songs in the episode. I relied mostly on fur books for this episode. James Brown: The Godfather of Soul, by James Brown with Bruce Tucker, is a celebrity autobiography with all that that entails, but a more interesting read than many. Kill ‘Em and Leave: Searching for the Real James Brown, by James McBride is a more discursive, gonzo journalism piece, and well worth a read. Black and Proud: The Life of James Brown by Geoff Brown is a more traditional objective biography. And Douglas Wolk's 33 1/3 book on Live at the Apollo is a fascinating, detailed, look at that album. This box set is the best collection of Brown's work there is, but is out of print. This two-CD set has all the essential hits. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript [Introduction, the opening of Live at the Apollo. "So now, ladies and gentlemen, it is star time. Are you ready for star time? [Audience cheers, and gives out another cheer with each musical sting sting] Thank you, and thank you very kindly. It is indeed a great pleasure to present to you in this particular time, national and international known as the hardest working man in showbusiness, Man that sing "I'll Go Crazy"! [sting] "Try Me" [sting] "You've Got the Power" [sting] "Think" [sting], "If You Want Me" [sting] "I Don't Mind" [sting] "Bewildered" [sting] million-dollar seller "Lost Someone" [sting], the very latest release, "Night Train" [sting] Let's everybody "Shout and Shimmy" [sting] Mr. Dynamite, the amazing Mr. Please Please himself, the star of the show, James Brown and the Famous Flames"] In 1951, the composer John Cage entered an anechoic chamber at Harvard University. An anechoic chamber is a room that's been completely soundproofed, so no sound can get in from the outside world, and in which the walls, floor, and ceiling are designed to absorb any sounds that are made. It's as close as a human being can get to experiencing total silence. When Cage entered it, he expected that to be what he heard -- just total silence. Instead, he heard two noises, a high-pitched one and a low one. Cage was confused by this -- why hadn't he heard the silence? The engineer in charge of the chamber explained to him that what he was hearing was himself -- the high-pitched noise was Cage's nervous system, and the low-pitched one was his circulatory system. Cage later said about this, "Until I die there will be sounds. And they will continue following my death. One need not fear about the future of music." The experience inspired him to write his most famous piece, 4'33, in which a performer attempts not to make any sound for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. The piece is usually described as being four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence, but it actually isn't -- the whole point is that there is no silence, and that the audience is meant to listen to the ambient noise and appreciate that noise as music. Here is where I would normally excerpt the piece, but of course for 4'33 to have its full effect, one has to listen to the whole thing. But I can excerpt another piece Cage wrote. Because on October the twenty-fourth 1962 he wrote a sequel to 4'33, a piece he titled 0'00, but which is sometimes credited as "4'33 no. 2". He later reworked the piece, but the original score, which is dedicated to two avant-garde Japanese composers, Toshi Ichiyanagi and his estranged wife Yoko Ono, reads as follows: "In a situation provided with maximum amplification (no feedback), perform a disciplined action." Now, as it happens, we have a recording of someone else performing Cage's piece, as written, on the day it was written, though neither performer nor composer were aware that that was what was happening. But I'm sure everyone can agree that this recording from October the 24th, 1962, is a disciplined action performed with maximum amplification and no feedback: [Excerpt: James Brown, "Night Train" (Live at the Apollo version)] When we left James Brown, almost a hundred episodes ago, he had just had his first R&B number one, with "Try Me", and had performed for the first time at the venue with which he would become most associated, the Harlem Apollo, and had reconnected with the mother he hadn't seen since he was a small child. But at that point, in 1958, he was still just the lead singer of a doo-wop group, one of many, and there was nothing in his shows or his records to indicate that he was going to become anything more than that, nothing to distinguish him from King Records labelmates like Hank Ballard, who made great records, put on a great live show, and are still remembered more than sixty years later, but mostly as a footnote. Today we're going to look at the process that led James Brown from being a peer of Ballard or Little Willie John to being arguably the single most influential musician of the second half of the twentieth century. Much of that influence is outside rock music, narrowly defined, but the records we're going to look at this time and in the next episode on Brown are records without which the entire sonic landscape of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries would be unimaginably different. And that process started in 1958, shortly after the release of "Try Me" in October that year, with two big changes to Brown's organisation. The first was that this was -- at least according to Brown -- when he first started working with Universal Attractions, a booking agency run by a man named Ben Bart, who before starting his own company had spent much of the 1940s working for Moe Gale, the owner of the Savoy Ballroom and manager of the Ink Spots, Louis Jordan, and many of the other acts we looked at in the very first episodes of this podcast. Bart had started his own agency in 1945, and had taken the Ink Spots with him, though they'd returned to Gale a few years later, and he'd been responsible for managing the career of the Ravens, one of the first bird groups: [Excerpt: The Ravens, "Rock Me All Night Long"] In the fifties, Bart had become closely associated with King Records, the label to which Brown and the Famous Flames were signed. A quick aside here -- Brown's early records were released on Federal Records, and later they switched to being released on King, but Federal was a subsidiary label for King, and in the same way that I don't distinguish between Checker and Chess, Tamla and Motown, or Phillips and Sun, I'll just refer to King throughout. Bart and Universal Attractions handled bookings for almost every big R&B act signed by King, including Tiny Bradshaw, Little Willie John, the "5" Royales, and Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. According to some sources, the Famous Flames signed with Universal Attractions at the same time they signed with King Records, and Bart's family even say it was Bart who discovered them and got them signed to King in the first place. Other sources say they didn't sign with Universal until after they'd proved themselves on the charts. But everyone seems agreed that 1958 was when Bart started making Brown a priority and taking an active interest in his career. Within a few years, Bart would have left Universal, handing the company over to his son and a business partner, to devote himself full-time to managing Brown, with whom he developed an almost father-son relationship. With Bart behind them, the Famous Flames started getting better gigs, and a much higher profile on the chitlin circuit. But around this time there was another change that would have an even more profound effect. Up to this point, the Famous Flames had been like almost every other vocal group playing the chitlin' circuit, in that they hadn't had their own backing musicians. There were exceptions, but in general vocal groups would perform with the same backing band as every other act on a bill -- either a single backing band playing for a whole package tour, or a house band at the venue they were playing at who would perform with every act that played that venue. There would often be a single instrumentalist with the group, usually a guitarist or piano player, who would act as musical director to make sure that the random assortment of musicians they were going to perform with knew the material. This was, for the most part, how the Famous Flames had always performed, though they had on occasion also performed their own backing in the early days. But now they got their own backing band, centred on J.C. Davis as sax player and bandleader, Bobby Roach on guitar, Nat Kendrick on drums, and Bernard Odum on bass. Musicians would come and go, but this was the core original lineup of what became the James Brown Band. Other musicians who played with them in the late fifties were horn players Alfred Corley and Roscoe Patrick, guitarist Les Buie, and bass player Hubert Perry, while keyboard duties would be taken on by Fats Gonder, although James Brown and Bobby Byrd would both sometimes play keyboards on stage. At this point, as well, the lineup of the Famous Flames became more or less stable. As we discussed in the previous episode on Brown, the original lineup of the Famous Flames had left en masse when it became clear that they were going to be promoted as James Brown and the Famous Flames, with Brown getting more money, rather than as a group. Brown had taken on another vocal group, who had previously been Little Richard's backing vocalists, but shortly after "Try Me" had come out, but before they'd seen any money from it, that group had got into an argument with Brown over money he owed them. He dropped them, and they went off to record unsuccessfully as the Fabulous Flames on a tiny label, though the records they made, like "Do You Remember", are quite good examples of their type: [Excerpt: The Fabulous Flames, "Do You Remember?"] Brown pulled together a new lineup of Famous Flames, featuring two of the originals. Johnny Terry had already returned to the group earlier, and stayed when Brown sacked the rest of the second lineup of Flames, and they added Lloyd Bennett and Bobby Stallworth. And making his second return to the group was Bobby Byrd, who had left with the other original members, joined again briefly, and then left again. Oddly, the first commercial success that Brown had after these lineup changes was not with the Famous Flames, or even under his own name. Rather, it was under the name of his drummer, Nat Kendrick. Brown had always seen himself, not primarily as a singer, but as a band leader and arranger. He was always a jazz fan first and foremost, and he'd grown up in the era of the big bands, and musicians he'd admired growing up like Lionel Hampton and Louis Jordan had always recorded instrumentals as well as vocal selections, and Brown saw himself very much in that tradition. Even though he couldn't read music, he could play several instruments, and he could communicate his arrangement ideas, and he wanted to show off the fact that he was one of the few R&B musicians with his own tight band. The story goes that Syd Nathan, the owner of King Records, didn't like the idea, because he thought that the R&B audience at this point only wanted vocal tracks, and also because Brown's band had previously released an instrumental which hadn't sold. Now, this is a definite pattern in the story of James Brown -- it seems that at every point in Brown's career for the first decade, Brown would come up with an idea that would have immense commercial value, Nathan would say it was the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard, Brown would do it anyway, and Nathan would later admit that he was wrong. This is such a pattern -- it apparently happened with "Please Please Please", Brown's first hit, *and* "Try Me", Brown's first R&B number one, and we'll see it happen again later in this episode -- that one tends to suspect that maybe these stories were sometimes made up after the fact, especially since Syd Nathan somehow managed to run a successful record label for over twenty years, putting out some of the best R&B and country records from everyone from Moon Mullican to Wynonie Harris, the Stanley Brothers to Little Willie John, while if these stories are to be believed he was consistently making the most boneheaded, egregious, uncommercial decisions imaginable. But in this case, it seems to be at least mostly true, as rather than being released on King Records as by James Brown, "(Do the) Mashed Potatoes" was released on Dade Records as by Nat Kendrick and the Swans, with the DJ Carlton Coleman shouting vocals over Brown's so it wouldn't be obvious Brown was breaking his contract: [Excerpt: Nat Kendrick and the Swans, "(Do the)" Mashed Potatoes"] That made the R&B top ten,  and I've seen reports that Brown and his band even toured briefly as Nat Kendrick and the Swans, before Syd Nathan realised his mistake, and started allowing instrumentals to be released under the name "James Brown presents HIS BAND", starting with a cover of Bill Doggett's "Hold It": [Excerpt: James Brown Presents HIS BAND, "Hold It"] After the Nat Kendrick record gave Brown's band an instrumental success, the Famous Flames also came back from another mini dry spell for hits, with the first top twenty R&B hit for the new lineup, "I'll Go Crazy", which was followed shortly afterwards by their first pop top forty hit, "Think!": [Excerpt: James Brown and the Famous Flames, "Think!"] The success of "Think!" is at least in part down to Bobby Byrd, who would from this point on be Brown's major collaborator and (often uncredited) co-writer and co-producer until the mid-seventies. After leaving the Flames, and before rejoining them, Byrd had toured for a while with his own group, but had then gone to work for King Records at the request of Brown. King Records' pressing plant had equipment that sometimes produced less-than-ideal pressings of records, and Brown had asked Byrd to take a job there performing quality control, making sure that Brown's records didn't skip. While working there, Byrd also worked as a song doctor. His job was to take songs that had been sent in as demos, and rework them in the style of some of the label's popular artists, to make them more suitable, changing a song so it might fit the style of the "5" Royales or Little Willie John or whoever, and Byrd had done this for "Think", which had originally been recorded by the "5" Royales, whose leader, Lowman Pauling, had written it: [Excerpt: The "5" Royales, "Think"] Byrd had reworked the song to fit Brown's style and persona. It's notable for example that the Royales sing "How much of all your happiness have I really claimed?/How many tears have you cried for which I was to blame?/Darlin’, I can’t remember which was my fault/I tried so hard to please you—at least that’s what I thought.” But in Brown's version this becomes “How much of your happiness can I really claim?/How many tears have you shed for which you was to blame?/Darlin’, I can’t remember just what is wrong/I tried so hard to please you—at least that’s what I thought.” [Excerpt: James Brown and the Famous Flames, "Think"] In Brown's version, nothing is his fault, he's trying to persuade an unreasonable woman who has some problem he doesn't even understand, but she needs to think about it and she'll see that he's right, while in the Royales' version they're acknowledging that they're at fault, that they've done wrong, but they didn't *only* do wrong and maybe she should think about that too. It's only a couple of words' difference, but it changes the whole tenor of the song. "Think" would become the Famous Flames' first top forty hit on the pop charts, reaching number thirty-three. It went top ten on the R&B charts, and between 1959 and 1963 Brown and the Flames would have fifteen top-thirty R&B hits, going from being a minor doo-wop group that had had a few big hits to being consistent hit-makers, who were not yet household names, but who had a consistent sound that could be guaranteed to make the R&B charts, and who put on what was regarded as the best live show of any R&B band in the world. This was partly down to the type of discipline that Brown imposed on his band. Many band-leaders in the R&B world would impose fines on their band members, and Johnny Terry suggested that Brown do the same thing. As Bobby Byrd put it, "Many band leaders do it but it was Johnny’s idea to start it with us and we were all for it ‘cos we didn’t want to miss nothing. We wanted to be immaculate, clothes-wise, routine-wise and everything. Originally, the fines was only between James and us, The Famous Flames, but then James carried it over into the whole troupe. It was still a good idea because anybody joining The James Brown Revue had to know that they couldn’t be messing up, and anyway, all the fines went into a pot for the parties we had." But Brown went much further with these fines than any other band leader, and would also impose them arbitrarily, and it became part of his reputation that he was the strictest disciplinarian in rhythm and blues music. One thing that became legendary among musicians was the way that he would impose fines while on stage. If a band member missed a note, or a dance step, or missed a cue, or had improperly polished shoes, Brown would, while looking at them, briefly make a flashing gesture with his hand, spreading his fingers out for a fraction of a second. To the audience, it looked like just part of Brown's dance routine, but the musician knew he had just been fined five dollars. Multiple flashes meant multiples of five dollars fined. Brown also developed a whole series of other signals to the band, which they had to learn, To quote Bobby Byrd again: "James didn’t want anybody else to know what we was doing, so he had numbers and certain screams and spins. There was a certain spin he’d do and if he didn’t do the complete spin you’d know it was time to go over here. Certain screams would instigate chord changes, but mostly it was numbers. James would call out football numbers, that’s where we got that from. Thirty-nine — Sixteen —Fourteen — Two — Five — Three — Ninety-eight, that kind of thing. Number thirty-nine was always the change into ‘Please, Please, Please’. Sixteen is into a scream and an immediate change, not bam-bam but straight into something else. If he spins around and calls thirty-six, that means we’re going back to the top again. And the forty-two, OK, we’re going to do this verse and then bow out, we’re leaving now. It was amazing." This, or something like this, is a fairly standard technique among more autocratic band leaders, a way of allowing the band as a whole to become a live compositional or improvisational tool for their leader, and Frank Zappa, for example, had a similar system. It requires the players to subordinate themselves utterly to the whim of the band leader, but also requires a band leader who knows the precise strengths and weaknesses of every band member and how they are likely to respond to a cue. When it works well, it can be devastatingly effective, and it was for Brown's live show. The Famous Flames shows soon became a full-on revue, with other artists joining the bill and performing with Brown's band. From the late 1950s on, Brown would always include a female singer. The first of these was Sugar Pie DeSanto, a blues singer who had been discovered (and given her stage name) by Johnny Otis, but DeSanto soon left Brown's band and went on to solo success on Chess records, with hits like "Soulful Dress": [Excerpt: Sugar Pie DeSanto, "Soulful Dress"] After DeSanto left, she was replaced by  Bea Ford, the former wife of the soul singer Joe Tex, with whom Brown had an aggressive rivalry and mutual loathing. Ford and Brown recorded together, cutting tracks like "You Got the Power": [Excerpt: James Brown and Bea Ford, "You Got the Power"] However, Brown and Ford soon fell out, and Brown actually wrote to Tex asking if he wanted his wife back. Tex's response was to record this: [Excerpt: Joe Tex, "You Keep Her"] Ford's replacement was Yvonne Fair, who had briefly replaced Jackie Landry in the Chantels for touring purposes when Landry had quit touring to have a baby. Fair would stay with Brown for a couple of years, and would release a number of singles written and produced for her by Brown, including one which Brown would later rerecord himself with some success: [Excerpt: Yvonne Fair, "I Found You"] Fair would eventually leave the band after getting pregnant with a child by Brown, who tended to sleep with the female singers in his band. The last shows she played with him were the shows that would catapult Brown into the next level of stardom. Brown had been convinced for a long time that his live shows had an energy that his records didn't, and that people would buy a record of one of them. Syd Nathan, as usual, disagreed. In his view the market for R&B albums was small, and only consisted of people who wanted collections of hit singles they could play in one place. Nobody would buy a James Brown live album. So Brown decided to take matters into his own hands. He decided to book a run of shows at the Apollo Theatre, and record them, paying for the recordings with his own money. This was a week-long engagement, with shows running all day every day -- Brown and his band would play five shows a day, and Brown would wear a different suit for every show. This was in October 1962, the month that we've already established as the month the sixties started -- the month the Beatles released their first single, the Beach Boys released their first record outside the US, and the first Bond film came out, all on the same day at the beginning of the month. By the end of October, when Brown appeared at the Apollo, the Cuban Missile Crisis was at its height, and there were several points during the run where it looked like the world itself might not last until November 62. Douglas Wolk has written an entire book on the live album that resulted, which claims to be a recording of the midnight performance from October the twenty-fourth, though it seems like it was actually compiled from multiple performances. The album only records the headline performance, but Wolk describes what a full show by the James Brown Revue at the Apollo was like in October 1962, and the following description is indebted to his book, which I'll link in the show notes. The show would start with the "James Brown Orchestra" -- the backing band. They would play a set of instrumentals, and a group of dancers called the Brownies would join them: [Excerpt: James Brown Presents His Band, "Night Flying"] At various points during the set, Brown himself would join the band for a song or two, playing keyboards or drums. After the band's instrumental set, the Valentinos would take the stage for a few songs. This was before they'd been taken on by Sam Cooke, who would take them under his wing very soon after these shows, but the Valentinos were already recording artists in their own right, and had recently released "Lookin' For a Love": [Excerpt: The Valentinos, "Lookin' For a Love"] Next up would be Yvonne Fair, now visibly pregnant with her boss' child, to sing her few numbers: [Excerpt: Yvonne Fair, "You Can Make it if You Try"] Freddie King was on next, another artist for the King family of labels who'd had a run of R&B hits the previous year, promoting his new single "I'm On My Way to Atlanta": [Excerpt: Freddie King, "I'm on My Way to Atlanta"] After King came Solomon Burke, who had been signed to Atlantic earlier that year and just started having hits, and was the new hot thing on the scene, but not yet the massive star he became: [Excerpt: Solomon Burke, "Cry to Me"] After Burke came a change of pace -- the vaudeville comedian Pigmeat Markham would take the stage and perform a couple of comedy sketches. We actually know exactly how these went, as Brown wasn't the only one recording a live album there that week, and Markham's album "The World's Greatest Clown" was a result of these shows and released on Chess Records: [Excerpt: Pigmeat Markham, "Go Ahead and Sing"] And after Markham would come the main event. Fats Gonder, the band's organist, would give the introduction we heard at the beginning of the episode -- and backstage, Danny Ray, who had been taken on as James Brown's valet that very week (according to Wolk -- I've seen other sources saying he'd joined Brown's organisation in 1960), was listening closely. He would soon go on to take over the role of MC, and would introduce Brown in much the same way as Gonder had at every show until Brown's death forty-four years later. The live album is an astonishing tour de force, showing Brown and his band generating a level of excitement that few bands then or now could hope to equal. It's even more astonishing when you realise two things. The first is that this was *before* any of the hits that most people now associate with the name James Brown -- before "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" or "Sex Machine", or "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" or "Say it Loud I'm Black and I'm Proud" or "Funky Drummer" or "Get Up Offa That Thing". It's still an *unformed* James Brown, only six years into a fifty-year career, and still without most of what made him famous. The other thing is, as Wolk notes, if you listen to any live bootleg recordings from this time, the microphone distorts all the time, because Brown is singing so loud. Here, the vocal tone is clean, because Brown knew he was being recorded. This is the sound of James Brown restraining himself: [Excerpt: James Brown and the Famous Flames, "Night Train" (Live at the Apollo version)] The album was released a few months later, and proved Syd Nathan's judgement utterly, utterly, wrong. It became the thirty-second biggest selling album of 1963 -- an amazing achievement given that it was released on a small independent label that dealt almost exclusively in singles, and which had no real presence in the pop market. The album spent sixty-six weeks on the album charts, making number two on the charts -- the pop album charts, not R&B charts. There wasn't an R&B albums chart until 1965, and Live at the Apollo basically forced Billboard to create one, and more or less single-handedly created the R&B albums market. It was such a popular album in 1963 that DJs took to playing the whole album -- breaking for commercials as they turned the side over, but otherwise not interrupting it. It turned Brown from merely a relatively big R&B star into a megastar. But oddly, given this astonishing level of success, Brown's singles in 1963 were slightly less successful than they had been in the previous few years -- possibly partly because he decided to record a few versions of old standards, changing direction as he had for much of his career. Johnny Terry quit the Famous Flames, to join the Drifters, becoming part of the lineup that recorded "Under the Boardwalk" and "Saturday Night at the Movies". Brown also recorded a second live album, Pure Dynamite!, which is generally considered a little lacklustre in comparison to the Apollo album. There were other changes to the lineup as well as Terry leaving. Brown wanted to hire a new drummer, Melvin Parker, who agreed to join the band, but only if Brown took on his sax-playing brother, Maceo, along with him. Maceo soon became one of the most prominent musicians in Brown's band, and his distinctive saxophone playing is all over many of Brown's biggest hits. The first big hit that the Parkers played on was released as by James Brown and his Orchestra, rather than James Brown and the Famous Flames, and was a landmark in Brown's evolution as a musician: [Excerpt: James Brown and his Orchestra, "Out of Sight"] The Famous Flames did sing on the B-side of that, a song called "Maybe the Last Time", which was ripped off from the same Pops Staples song that the Rolling Stones later ripped off for their own hit single. But that would be the last time Brown would use them in the studio -- from that point on, the Famous Flames were purely a live act, although Bobby Byrd, but not the other members, would continue to sing on the records. The reason it was credited to James Brown, rather than to James Brown and the Famous Flames, is that "Out of Sight" was released on Smash Records, to which Brown -- but not the Flames -- had signed a little while earlier. Brown had become sick of what he saw as King Records' incompetence, and had found what he and his advisors thought was a loophole in his contract. Brown had been signed to King Records under a personal services contract as a singer, not under a musician contract as a musician, and so they believed that he could sign to Smash, a subsidiary of Mercury, as a musician. He did, and he made what he thought of as a fresh start on his new label by recording "Caldonia", a cover of a song by his idol Louis Jordan: [Excerpt: James Brown and his Orchestra, "Caldonia"] Understandably, King Records sued on the reasonable grounds that Brown was signed to them as a singer, and they got an injunction to stop him recording for Smash -- but by the time the injunction came through, Brown had already released two albums and three singles for the label. The injunction prevented Brown from recording any new material for the rest of 1964, though both labels continued to release stockpiled material during that time. While he was unable to record new material, October 1964 saw Brown's biggest opportunity to cross over to a white audience -- the TAMI Show: [Excerpt: James Brown, "Out of Sight (TAMI show live)"] We've mentioned the TAMI show a couple of times in previous episodes, but didn't go into it in much detail. It was a filmed concert which featured Jan and Dean, the Barbarians, Lesley Gore, Chuck Berry, the Beach Boys, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, Marvin Gaye, the Miracles, the Supremes, and, as the two top acts, James Brown and the Rolling Stones. Rather oddly, the point of the TAMI Show wasn't the music as such. Rather it was intended as a demonstration of a technical process. Before videotape became cheap and a standard, it was difficult to record TV shows for later broadcast, for distribution to other countries, or for archive. The way they used to be recorded was a process known as telerecording in the UK and kinescoping in the US, and that was about as crude as it's possible to get -- you'd get a film camera, point it at a TV showing the programme you wanted to record, and film the TV screen. There was specialist equipment to do this, but that was all it actually did. Almost all surviving TV from the fifties and sixties -- and even some from the seventies -- was preserved by this method rather than by videotape. Even after videotape started being used to make the programmes, there were differing standards and tapes were expensive, so if you were making a programme in the UK and wanted a copy for US broadcast, or vice versa, you'd make a telerecording. But what if you wanted to make a TV show that you could also show on cinema screens? If you're filming a TV screen, and then you project that film onto a big screen, you get a blurry, low-resolution, mess -- or at least you did with the 525-line TV screens that were used in the US at the time. So a company named Electronovision came into the picture, for those rare times when you wanted to do something using video cameras that would be shown at the cinema. Rather than shoot in 525-line resolution, their cameras shot in 819-line resolution -- super high definition for the time, but capable of being recorded onto standard videotape with appropriate modifications for the equipment. But that meant that when you kinescoped the production, it was nearly twice the resolution that a standard US TV broadcast would be, and so it didn't look terrible when shown in a cinema. The owner of the Electronovision process had had a hit with a cinema release of a performance by Richard Burton as Hamlet, and he needed a follow-up, and decided that another filmed live performance would be the best way to make use of his process -- TV cameras were much more useful for capturing live performances than film cameras, for a variety of dull technical reasons, and so this was one of the few areas where Electronovision might actually be useful. And so Bill Roden, one of the heads of Electronovision, turned to a TV director named Steve Binder, who was working at the time on the Steve Allen show, one of the big variety shows, second only to Ed Sullivan, and who would soon go on to direct Hullaballoo. Roden asked Binder to make a concert film, shot on video, which would be released on the big screen by American International Pictures (the same organisation with which David Crosby's father worked so often). Binder had contacts with West Coast record labels, and particularly with Lou Adler's organisation, which managed Jan and Dean. He also had been in touch with a promoter who was putting on a package tour of British musicians. So they decided that their next demonstration of the capabilities of the equipment would be a show featuring performers from "all over the world", as the theme song put it -- by which they meant all over the continental United States plus two major British cities. For those acts who didn't have their own bands -- or whose bands needed augmenting -- there was an orchestra, centred around members of the Wrecking Crew, conducted by Jack Nitzsche, and the Blossoms were on hand to provide backing vocals where required. Jan and Dean would host the show and sing the theme song. James Brown had had less pop success than any of the other artists on the show except for the Barbarians, who are now best-known for their appearances on the Nuggets collection of relatively obscure garage rock singles, and whose biggest hit, "Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?" only went to number fifty-five on the charts: [Excerpt: The Barbarians, "Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?"] The Barbarians were being touted as the American equivalent of the Rolling Stones, but the general cultural moment of the time can be summed up by that line "You're either a girl or you come from Liverpool" -- which was where the Rolling Stones came from. Or at least, it was where Americans seemed to think they came from given both that song, and the theme song of the TAMI show, written by P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, which sang about “the Rolling Stones from Liverpool”, and also referred to Brown as "the king of the blues": [Excerpt: Jan and Dean, "Here They Come From All Over The World"] But other than the Barbarians, the TAMI show was one of the few places in which all the major pop music movements of the late fifties and early sixties could be found in one place -- there was the Merseybeat of Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Dakotas, already past their commercial peak but not yet realising it, the fifties rock of Chuck Berry, who actually ended up performing one song with Gerry and the Pacemakers: [Excerpt: Chuck Berry and Gerry and the Pacemakers: "Maybellene"] And there was the Brill Building pop of Lesley Gore, the British R&B of the Rolling Stones right at the point of their breakthrough, the vocal surf music of the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, and three of the most important Motown acts, with Brown the other representative of soul on the bill. But the billing was a sore point. James Brown's manager insisted that he should be the headliner of the show, and indeed by some accounts the Rolling Stones also thought that they should probably not try to follow him -- though other accounts say that the Stones were equally insistent that they *must* be the headliners. It was a difficult decision, because Brown was much less well known, but it was eventually decided that the Rolling Stones would go on last. Most people talking about the event, including most of those involved with the production, have since stated that this was a mistake, because nobody could follow James Brown, though in interviews Mick Jagger has always insisted that the Stones didn't have to follow Brown, as there was a recording break between acts and they weren't even playing to the same audience -- though others have disputed that quite vigorously. But what absolutely everyone has agreed is that Brown gave the performance of a lifetime, and that it was miraculously captured by the cameras. I say its capture was miraculous because every other act had done a full rehearsal for the TV cameras, and had had a full shot-by-shot plan worked out by Binder beforehand. But according to Steve Binder -- though all the accounts of the show are contradictory -- Brown refused to do a rehearsal -- so even though he had by far the most complex and choreographed performance of the event, Binder and his camera crew had to make decisions by pure instinct, rather than by having an actual plan they'd worked out in advance of what shots to use. This is one of the rare times when I wish this was a video series rather than a podcast, because the visuals are a huge part of this performance -- Brown is a whirlwind of activity, moving all over the stage in a similar way to Jackie Wilson, one of his big influences, and doing an astonishing gliding dance step in which he stands on one leg and moves sideways almost as if on wheels. The full performance is easily findable online, and is well worth seeking out. But still, just hearing the music and the audience's reaction can give some insight: [Excerpt: James Brown, "Out of Sight" (TAMI Show)] The Rolling Stones apparently watched the show in horror, unable to imagine following that -- though when they did, the audience response was fine: [Excerpt: The Rolling Stones, "Around and Around"] Incidentally, Chuck Berry must have been quite pleased with his payday from the TAMI Show, given that as well as his own performance the Stones did one of his songs, as did Gerry and the Pacemakers, as we heard earlier, and the Beach Boys did "Surfin' USA" for which he had won sole songwriting credit. After the TAMI Show, Mick Jagger would completely change his attitude to performing, and would spend the rest of his career trying to imitate Brown's performing style. He was unsuccessful in this, but still came close enough that he's still regarded as one of the great frontmen, nearly sixty years later. Brown kept performing, and his labels kept releasing material, but he was still not allowed to record, until in early 1965 a court reached a ruling -- yes, Brown wasn't signed as a musician to King Records, so he was perfectly within his rights to record with Smash Records. As an instrumentalist. But Brown *was* signed to King Records as a singer, so he was obliged to record vocal tracks for them, and only for them. So until his contract with Smash lapsed, he had to record twice as much material -- he had to keep recording instrumentals, playing piano or organ, for Smash, while recording vocal tracks for King Records. His first new record, released as by "James Brown" rather than the earlier billings of "James Brown and his Orchestra" or "James Brown and the Famous Flames", was for King, and was almost a remake of "Out of Sight", his hit for Smash Records. But even so, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" was a major step forward, and is often cited as the first true funk record. This is largely because of the presence of a new guitarist in Brown's band. Jimmy Nolen had started out as a violin player, but like many musicians in the 1950s he had been massively influenced by T-Bone Walker, and had switched to playing guitar. He was discovered as a guitarist by the bluesman Jimmy Wilson, who had had a minor hit with "Tin Pan Alley": [Excerpt: Jimmy Wilson, "Tin Pan Alley"] Wilson had brought Nolen to LA, where he'd soon parted from Wilson and started working with a whole variety of bandleaders. His first recording came with Monte Easter on Aladdin Records: [Excerpt: Monte Easter, "Blues in the Evening"] After working with Easter, he started recording with Chuck Higgins, and also started recording by himself. At this point, Nolen was just one of many West Coast blues guitarists with a similar style, influenced by T-Bone Walker -- he was competing with Pete "Guitar" Lewis, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, and Guitar Slim, and wasn't yet quite as good as any of them. But he was still making some influential records. His version of "After Hours", for example, released under his own name on Federal Records, was a big influence on Roy Buchanan, who would record several versions of the standard based on Nolen's arrangement: [Excerpt: Jimmy Nolen, "After Hours"] Nolen had released records on many labels, but his most important early association came from records he made but didn't release. In the mid-fifties, Johnny Otis produced a couple of tracks by Nolen, for Otis' Dig Records label, but they weren't released until decades later: [Excerpt: Jimmy Nolen, "Jimmy's Jive"] But when Otis had a falling out with his longtime guitar player Pete "Guitar" Lewis, who was one of the best players in LA but who was increasingly becoming unreliable due to his alcoholism, Otis hired Nolen to replace him. It's Nolen who's playing on most of the best-known recordings Otis made in the late fifties, like "Casting My Spell": [Excerpt: Johnny Otis, "Casting My Spell"] And of course Otis' biggest hit "Willie and the Hand Jive": [Excerpt: Johnny Otis, "Willie and the Hand Jive"] Nolen left Otis after a few years, and spent the early sixties mostly playing in scratch bands backing blues singers, and not recording. It was during this time that Nolen developed the style that would revolutionise music. The style he developed was unique in several different ways. The first was in Nolen's choice of chords. We talked last week about how Pete Townshend's guitar playing became based on simplifying chords and only playing power chords. Nolen went the other way -- while his voicings often only included two or three notes, he was also often using very complex chords with *more* notes than a standard chord. As we discussed last week, in most popular music, the chords are based around either major or minor triads -- the first, third, and fifth notes of a scale, so you have an E major chord, which is the notes E, G sharp, and B: [Excerpt: E major chord] It's also fairly common to have what are called seventh chords, which are actually a triad with an added flattened seventh, so an E7 chord would be the notes E, G sharp, B, and D: [Excerpt: E7 chord] But Nolen built his style around dominant ninth chords, often just called ninth chords. Dominant ninth chords are mostly thought of as jazz chords because they're mildly dissonant. They consist of the first, third, fifth, flattened seventh, *and* ninth of a scale, so an E9 would be the notes E, G sharp, B, D, and F sharp: [Excerpt: E9 chord] Another way of looking at that is that you're playing both a major chord *and* at the same time a minor chord that starts on the fifth note, so an E major and B minor chord at the same time: [Demonstrates Emajor, B minor, E9] It's not completely unknown for pop songs to use ninth chords, but it's very rare. Probably the most prominent example came from a couple of years after the period we're talking about, when in mid-1967 Bobby Gentry basically built the whole song "Ode to Billie Joe" around a D9 chord, barely ever moving off it: [Excerpt: Bobby Gentry, "Ode to Billie Joe"] That shows the kind of thing that ninth chords are useful for -- because they have so many notes in them, you can just keep hammering on the same chord for a long time, and the melody can go wherever it wants and will fit over it. The record we're looking at, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag", actually has three chords in it -- it's basically a twelve-bar blues, like "Out of Sight" was, just with these ninth chords sometimes used instead of more conventional chords -- but as Brown's style got more experimental in future years, he would often build songs with no chord changes at all, just with Nolen playing a single ninth chord throughout. There's a possibly-apocryphal story, told in a few different ways, but the gist of which is that when auditioning Nolen's replacement many years later, Brown asked "Can you play an E ninth chord?" "Yes, of course" came the reply. "But can you play an E ninth chord *all night*?" The reason Brown asked this, if he did, is that playing like Nolen is *extremely* physically demanding. Because the other thing about Nolen's style is that he was an extremely percussive player. In his years backing blues musicians, he'd had to play with many different drummers, and knew they weren't always reliable timekeepers. So he'd started playing like a drummer himself, developing a technique called chicken-scratching, based on the Bo Diddley style he'd played with Otis, where he'd often play rapid, consistent, semiquaver chords, keeping the time himself so the drummer didn't have to. Other times he'd just play single, jagged-sounding, chords to accentuate the beat. He used guitars with single-coil pickups and turned the treble up and got rid of all the midrange, so the sound would cut through no matter what. As well as playing full-voiced chords, he'd also sometimes mute all the strings while he strummed, giving a percussive scratching sound rather than letting the strings ring. In short, the sound he got was this: [Excerpt: James Brown, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag"] And that is the sound that became funk guitar. If you listen to Jimmy Nolen's playing on "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag", that guitar sound -- chicken scratched ninth chords -- is what every funk guitarist after him based their style on. It's not Nolen's guitar playing in its actual final form -- that wouldn't come until he started using wah wah pedals, which weren't mass produced until early 1967 -- but it's very clear when listening to the track that this is the birth of funk. The original studio recording of "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" actually sounds odd if you listen to it now -- it's slower than the single, and lasts almost seven minutes: [Excerpt: James Brown "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag (parts 1, 2, and 3)"] But for release as a single, it was sped up a semitone, a ton of reverb was added, and it was edited down to just a few seconds over two minutes. The result was an obvious hit single: [Excerpt: James Brown, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag"] Or at least, it was an obvious hit single to everyone except Syd Nathan, who as you'll have already predicted by now didn't like the song. Indeed according to Brown, he was so disgusted with the record that he threw his acetate copy of it onto the floor. But Brown got his way, and the single came out, and it became the biggest hit of Brown's career up to that point, not only giving him his first R&B number one since "Try Me" seven years earlier, but also crossing over to the pop charts in a way he hadn't before. He'd had the odd top thirty or even top twenty pop single in the past, but now he was in the top ten, and getting noticed by the music business establishment in a way he hadn't earlier. Brown's audience went from being medium-sized crowds of almost exclusively Black people with the occasional white face, to a much larger, more integrated, audience. Indeed, at the Grammys the next year, while the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Phil Spector and the whole Motown stable were overlooked in favour of the big winners for that year Roger Miller, Herb Alpert, and the Anita Kerr Singers, even an organisation with its finger so notoriously off the pulse of the music industry as the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which presents the Grammys, couldn't fail to find the pulse of "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag", and gave Brown the Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues record, beating out the other nominees "In the Midnight Hour", "My Girl", "Shotgun" by Junior Walker, and "Shake" by Sam Cooke. From this point on, Syd Nathan would no longer argue with James Brown as to which of his records would be released. After nine years of being the hardest working man in showbusiness, James Brown had now become the Godfather of Soul, and his real career had just begun.
Nov 15, 2021
Episode 136: “My Generation” by the Who
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Episode one hundred and thirty-six of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs is a special long episode, running almost ninety minutes, looking at "My Generation" by the Who. 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 "The Name Game" by Shirley Ellis. 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 I mispronounce the Herman's Hermits track "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat" as "Can You Hear My Heartbeat". I say "Rebel Without a Cause" when I mean "The Wild One". Brando was not in "Rebel Without a Cause". Resources As usual, I’ve created a Mixcloud playlist of the music excerpted here. This mix does not include the Dixon of Dock Green theme, as I was unable to find a full version of that theme anywhere (though a version with Jack Warner singing, titled "An Ordinary Copper" is often labelled as it) and what you hear in this episode is the only fragment I could get a clean copy of. The best compilation of the Who's music is Maximum A's & B's, a three-disc set containing the A and B sides of every single they released. The super-deluxe five-CD version of the My Generation album appears to be out of print as a CD, but can be purchased digitally. I referred to a lot of books for this episode, including: Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069 by William Strauss and Neil Howe, which I don't necessarily recommend reading, but which is certainly an influential book. Revolt Into Style: The Pop Arts by George Melly which I *do* recommend reading if you have any interest at all in British pop culture of the fifties and sixties. Jim Marshall: The Father of Loud by Rich Maloof gave me all the biographical details about Marshall. The Who Before the Who by Doug Sandom, a rather thin book of reminiscences by the group's first drummer. The Ox by Paul Rees, an authorised biography of John Entwistle based on notes for his never-completed autobiography. Who I Am, the autobiography of Pete Townshend, is one of the better rock autobiographies. A Band With Built-In Hate by Peter Stanfield is an examination of the group in the context of pop-art and Mod. And Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere by Andy Neill and Matt Kent is a day-by-day listing of the group's activities up to 1978. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript In 1991, William Strauss and Neil Howe wrote a book called Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069. That book was predicated on a simple idea -- that there are patterns in American history, and that those patterns can be predicted in their rough outline. Not in the fine details, but broadly -- those of you currently watching the TV series Foundation, or familiar with Isaac Asimov's original novels, will have the idea already, because Strauss and Howe claimed to have invented a formula which worked as well as Asimov's fictional Psychohistory. Their claim was that, broadly speaking, generations can be thought to have a dominant personality type, influenced by the events that took place while they were growing up, which in turn are influenced by the personality types of the older generations. Because of this, Strauss and Howe claimed, American society had settled into a semi-stable pattern, where events repeat on a roughly eighty-eight-year cycle, driven by the behaviours of different personality types at different stages of their lives. You have four types of generation, which cycle -- the Adaptive, Idealist, Reactive, and Civic types. At any given time, one of these will be the elder statespeople, one will be the middle-aged people in positions of power, one will be the young rising people doing most of the work, and one will be the kids still growing up. You can predict what will happen, in broad outline, by how each of those generation types will react to challenges, and what position they will be in when those challenges arise. The idea is that major events change your personality, and also how you react to future events, and that how, say, Pearl Harbor affected someone will have been different for a kid hearing about the attack on the radio, an adult at the age to be drafted, and an adult who was too old to fight. The thesis of this book has, rather oddly, entered mainstream thought so completely that its ideas are taken as basic assumptions now by much of the popular discourse, even though on reading it the authors are so vague that pretty much anything can be taken as confirmation of their hypotheses, in much the same way that newspaper horoscopes always seem like they could apply to almost everyone's life. And sometimes, of course, they're just way off. For example they make the prediction that in 2020 there would be a massive crisis that would last several years, which would lead to a massive sense of community, in which "America will be implacably resolved to do what needs doing and fix what needs fixing", and in which the main task of those aged forty to sixty at that point would be to restrain those in leadership positions in the sixty-to-eighty age group from making irrational, impetuous, decisions which might lead to apocalypse. The crisis would likely end in triumph, but there was also a chance it might end in "moral fatigue, vast human tragedy, and a weak and vengeful sense of victory". I'm sure that none of my listeners can think of any events in 2020 that match this particular pattern. Despite its lack of rigour, Strauss and Howe's basic idea is now part of most people's intellectual toolkit, even if we don't necessarily think of them as the source for it. Indeed, even though they only talk about America in their book, their generational concept gets applied willy-nilly to much of the Western world. And likewise, for the most part we tend to think of the generations, whether American or otherwise, using the names they used. For the generations who were alive at the time they were writing, they used five main names, three of which we still use. Those born between 1901 and 1924 they term the "GI Generation", though those are now usually termed the "Greatest Generation". Those born between 1924 and 1942 were the "Silent Generation", those born 1943 through 1960 were the Boomers, and those born between 1982 and 2003 they labelled Millennials. Those born between 1961 and 1981 they labelled "thirteeners", because they were the unlucky thirteenth generation to be born in America since the declaration of independence. But that name didn't catch on. Instead, the name that people use to describe that generation is "Generation X", named after a late-seventies punk band led by Billy Idol: [Excerpt: Generation X, "Your Generation"] That band were short-lived, but they were in constant dialogue with the pop culture of ten to fifteen years earlier, Idol's own childhood. As well as that song, "Your Generation", which is obviously referring to the song this week's episode is about, they also recorded versions of John Lennon's "Gimme Some Truth", of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates' "Shakin' All Over", and an original song called "Ready Steady Go", about being in love with Cathy McGowan, the presenter of that show. And even their name was a reference, because Generation X were named after a book published in 1964, about not the generation we call Generation X, but about the Baby Boomers, and specifically about a series of fights on beaches across the South Coast of England between what at that point amounted to two gangs. These were fights between the old guard, the Rockers -- people who represented the recent past who wouldn't go away, what Americans would call "greasers", people who modelled themselves on Marlon Brando in Rebel Without A Cause, and who thought music had peaked with Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran -- and a newer, younger, hipper, group of people, who represented the new, the modern -- the Mods: [Excerpt: The Who, "My Generation"] Jim Marshall, if he'd been American, would have been considered one of the Greatest Generation, but his upbringing was not typical of that, or of any, generation. When he was five, he was diagnosed as having skeletal tuberculosis, which had made his bones weak and easily broken. To protect them, he spent the next seven years of his life, from age five until twelve, in hospital in a full-body cast. The only opportunity he got to move during those years was for a few minutes every three months, when the cast would be cut off and reapplied to account for his growth during that time. Unsurprisingly, once he was finally out of the cast, he discovered he loved moving -- a lot. He dropped out of school aged thirteen -- most people at the time left school at aged fourteen anyway, and since he'd missed all his schooling to that point it didn't seem worth his while carrying on -- and took on multiple jobs, working sixty hours a week or more. But the job he made most money at was as an entertainer. He started out as a tap-dancer, taking advantage of his new mobility, but then his song-and-dance man routine became steadily more song and less dance, as people started to notice his vocal resemblance to Bing Crosby. He was working six nights a week as a singer, but when World War II broke out, the drummer in the seven-piece band he was working with was drafted -- Marshall wouldn't ever be drafted because of his history of illness. The other members of the band knew that as a dancer he had a good sense of rhythm, and so they made a suggestion -- if Jim took over the drums, they could split the money six ways rather than seven. Marshall agreed, but he discovered there was a problem. The drum kit was always positioned at the back of the stage, behind the PA, and he couldn't hear the other musicians clearly. This is actually OK for a drummer -- you're keeping time, and the rest of the band are following you, so as long as you can *sort of* hear them everyone can stay together. But a singer needs to be able to hear everything clearly, in order to stay on key. And this was in the days before monitor speakers, so the only option available was to just have a louder PA system. And since one wasn't available, Marshall just had to build one himself. And that's how Jim Marshall started building amplifiers. Marshall eventually gave up playing the drums, and retired to run a music shop. There's a story about Marshall's last gig as a drummer, which isn't in the biography of Marshall I read for this episode, but is told in other places by the son of the bandleader at that gig. Apparently Marshall had a very fraught relationship with his father, who was among other things a semi-professional boxer, and at that gig Marshall senior turned up and started heckling his son from the audience. Eventually the younger Marshall jumped off the stage and started hitting his dad, winning the fight, but he decided he wasn't going to perform in public any more. The band leader for that show was Clifford Townshend, a clarinet player and saxophonist whose main gig was as part of the Squadronaires, a band that had originally been formed during World War II by RAF servicemen to entertain other troops. Townshend, who had been a member of Oswald Moseley's fascist Blackshirts in the thirties but later had a change of heart, was a second-generation woodwind player -- his father had been a semi-professional flute player. As well as working with the Squadronaires, Townshend also put out one record under his own name in 1956, a version of "Unchained Melody" credited to "Cliff Townsend and his singing saxophone": [Excerpt: Cliff Townshend and his Singing Saxophone, "Unchained Melody"] Cliff's wife often performed with him -- she was a professional singer who had  actually lied about her age in order to join up with the Air Force and sing with the group -- but they had a tempestuous marriage, and split up multiple times. As a result of this, and the travelling lifestyle of musicians, there were periods where their son Peter was sent to live with his grandmother, who was seriously abusive, traumatising the young boy in ways that would affect him for the rest of his life. When Pete Townshend was growing up, he wasn't particularly influenced by music, in part because it was his dad's job rather than a hobby, and his parents had very few records in the house. He did, though, take up the harmonica and learn to play the theme tune to Dixon of Dock Green: [Excerpt: Tommy Reilly, "Dixon of Dock Green Theme"] His first exposure to rock and roll wasn't through Elvis or Little Richard, but rather through Ray Ellington. Ellington was a British jazz singer and drummer, heavily influenced by Louis Jordan, who provided regular musical performances on the Goon Show throughout the fifties, and on one episode had performed "That Rock 'n' Rollin' Man": [Excerpt: Ray Ellington, "That Rock 'N' Rollin' Man"] Young Pete's assessment of that, as he remembered it later, was "I thought it some kind of hybrid jazz: swing music with stupid lyrics. But it felt youthful and rebellious, like The Goon Show itself." But he got hooked on rock and roll when his father took him and a friend to see a film: [Excerpt: Bill Haley and the Comets, "Rock Around the Clock"] According to Townshend's autobiography, "I asked Dad what he thought of the music. He said he thought it had some swing, and anything that had swing was OK. For me it was more than just OK. After seeing Rock Around the Clock with Bill Haley, nothing would ever be quite the same." Young Pete would soon go and see Bill Haley live – his first rock and roll gig. But the older Townshend would soon revise his opinion of rock and roll, because it soon marked the end of the kind of music that had allowed him to earn his living -- though he still managed to get regular work, playing a clarinet was suddenly far less lucrative than it had been. Pete decided that he wanted to play the saxophone, like his dad, but soon he switched first to guitar and then to banjo. His first guitar was bought for him by his abusive grandmother, and three of the strings snapped almost immediately, so he carried on playing with just three strings for a while. He got very little encouragement from his parents, and didn't really improve for a couple of years. But then the trad jazz boom happened, and Townshend teamed up with a friend of his who played the trumpet and French horn. He had initially bonded with John Entwistle over their shared sense of humour -- both kids loved Mad magazine and would make tape recordings together of themselves doing comedy routines inspired by the Goon show and Hancock's Half Hour -- but Entwistle was also a very accomplished musician, who could play multiple instruments. Entwistle had formed a trad band called the Confederates, and Townshend joined them on banjo and guitar, but they didn't stay together for long. Both boys, though, would join a variety of other bands, both together and separately. As the trad boom faded and rock and roll regained its dominance among British youth, there was little place for Entwistle's trumpet in the music that was popular among teenagers, and at first Entwistle decided to try making his trumpet sound more like a saxophone, using a helmet as a mute to try to get it to sound like the sax on "Ramrod" by Duane Eddy: [Excerpt: Duane Eddy, "Ramrod"] Eddy soon became Entwistle's hero. We've talked about him before a couple of times, briefly, but not in depth, but Duane Eddy had a style that was totally different from most guitar heroes. Instead of playing mostly on the treble strings of the guitar, playing high twiddly parts, Eddy played low notes on the bass strings of his guitar, giving him the style that he summed up in album titles like "The Twang's the Thang" and "Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel". After a couple of years of having hits with this sound, produced by Lee Hazelwood and Lester Sill, Eddy also started playing another instrument, the instrument variously known as the six-string bass, the baritone guitar, or the Danelectro bass (after the company that manufactured the most popular model).  The baritone guitar has six strings, like a normal guitar, but it's tuned lower than a standard guitar -- usually a fourth lower, though different players have different preferences. The Danelectro became very popular in recording studios in the early sixties, because it helped solve a big problem in recording bass tones. You can hear more about this in the episodes of Cocaine and Rhinestones I recommended last week, but basically double basses were very, very difficult to record in the 1950s, and you'd often end up just getting a thudding, muddy, sound from them, which is one reason why when you listen to a lot of early rockabilly the bass is doing nothing very interesting, just playing root notes -- you couldn't easily get much clarity on the instrument at all. Conversely, with electric basses, with the primitive amps of the time, you didn't get anything like the full sound that you'd get from a double bass, but you *did* get a clear sound that would cut through on a cheap radio in a way that the sound of a double bass wouldn't. So the solution was obvious -- you have an electric instrument *and* a double bass play the same part. Use the double bass for the big dull throbbing sound, but use the electric one to give the sound some shape and cut-through. If you're doing that, you mostly want the trebly part of the electric instrument's tone, so you play it with a pick rather than fingers, and it makes sense to use a Danelectro rather than a standard bass guitar, as the Danelectro is more trebly than a normal bass. This combination, of Danelectro and double bass, appears to have been invented by Owen Bradley, and you can hear it for example on this record by Patsy Cline, with Bob Moore on double bass and Harold Bradley on baritone guitar: [Excerpt: Patsy Cline, "Crazy"] This sound, known as "tic-tac bass", was soon picked up by a lot of producers, and it became the standard way of getting a bass sound in both Nashville and LA. It's all over the Beach Boys' best records, and many of Jack Nitzsche's arrangements, and many of the other records the Wrecking Crew played on, and it's on most of the stuff the Nashville A-Team played on from the late fifties through mid-sixties, records by people like Elvis, Roy Orbison, Arthur Alexander, and the Everly Brothers. Lee Hazelwood was one of the first producers to pick up on this sound -- indeed, Duane Eddy has said several times that Hazelwood invented the sound before Owen Bradley did, though I think Bradley did it first -- and many of Eddy's records featured that bass sound, and eventually Eddy started playing a baritone guitar himself, as a lead instrument, playing it on records like "Because They're Young": [Excerpt: Duane Eddy, "Because They're Young"] Duane Eddy was John Entwistle's idol, and Entwistle learned Eddy's whole repertoire on trumpet, playing the saxophone parts. But then, realising that the guitar was always louder than the trumpet in the bands he was in, he realised that if he wanted to be heard, he should probably switch to guitar himself. And it made sense that a bass would be easier to play than a regular guitar -- if you only have four strings, there's more space between them, so playing is easier. So he started playing the bass, trying to sound as much like Eddy as he could. He had no problem picking up the instrument -- he was already a multi-instrumentalist -- but he did have a problem actually getting hold of one, as all the electric bass guitars available in the UK at the time were prohibitively expensive. Eventually he made one himself, with the help of someone in a local music shop, and that served for a time, though he would soon trade up to more professional instruments, eventually amassing the biggest collection of basses in the world. One day, Entwistle was approached on the street by an acquaintance, Roger Daltrey, who said to him "I hear you play bass" -- Entwistle was, at the time, carrying his bass. Daltrey was at this time a guitarist -- like Entwistle, he'd built his own instrument -- and he was the leader of a band called Del Angelo and his Detours. Daltrey wasn't Del Angelo, the lead singer -- that was a man called Colin Dawson who by all accounts sounded a little like Cliff Richard -- but he was the bandleader, hired and fired the members, and was in charge of their setlists. Daltrey lured Entwistle away from the band he was in with Townshend by telling him that the Detours were getting proper paid gigs, though they weren't getting many at the time. Unfortunately, one of the group's other guitarists, the member who owned the best amp, died in an accident not long after Entwistle joined the band. However, the amp was left in the group's possession, and Entwistle used it to lure Pete Townshend into the group by telling him he could use it -- and not telling him that he'd be sharing the amp with Daltrey. Townshend would later talk about his audition for the Detours -- as he was walking up the street towards Daltrey's house, he saw a stunningly beautiful woman walking away from the house crying. She saw his guitar case and said "Are you going to Roger's?" "Yes." "Well you can tell him, it's that bloody guitar or me". Townshend relayed the message, and Daltrey responded "Sod her. Come in." The audition was a formality, with the main questions being whether Townshend could play two parts of the regular repertoire for a working band at that time -- "Hava Nagila", and the Shadows' "Man of Mystery": [Excerpt: The Shadows, "Man of Mystery"] Townshend could play both of those, and so he was in. The group would mostly play chart hits by groups like the Shadows, but as trad jazz hadn't completely died out yet they would also do breakout sessions playing trad jazz, with Townshend on banjo, Entwistle on trumpet and Daltrey on trombone. From the start, there was a temperamental mismatch between the group's two guitarists. Daltrey was thoroughly working-class, culturally conservative,  had dropped out of school to go to work at a sheet metal factory, and saw himself as a no-nonsense plain-speaking man. Townshend was from a relatively well-off upper-middle-class family, was for a brief time a member of the Communist Party, and was by this point studying at art school, where he was hugely impressed by a lecture from Gustav Metzger titled “Auto-Destructive Art, Auto-Creative Art: The Struggle For The Machine Arts Of The Future”, about Metzger's creation of artworks which destroyed themselves. Townshend was at art school during a period when the whole idea of what an art school was for was in flux, something that's typified by a story Townshend tells about two of his early lectures. At the first, the lecturer came in and told the class to all draw a straight line. They all did, and then the lecturer told off anyone who had drawn anything that was anything other than six inches long, perfectly straight, without a ruler, going north-south, with a 3B pencil, saying that anything else at all was self-indulgence of the kind that needed to be drummed out of them if they wanted to get work as commercial artists. Then in another lecture, a different lecturer came in and asked them all to draw a straight line. They all drew perfectly straight, six-inch, north-south lines in 3B pencil, as the first lecturer had taught them. The new lecturer started yelling at them, then brought in someone else to yell at them as well, and then cut his hand open with a knife and dragged it across a piece of paper, smearing a rough line with his own blood, and screamed "THAT'S a line!" Townshend's sympathies lay very much with the second lecturer. Another big influence on Townshend at this point was a jazz double-bass player, Malcolm Cecil. Cecil would later go on to become a pioneer in electronic music as half of TONTO's Expanding Head Band, and we'll be looking at his work in more detail in a future episode, but at this point he was a fixture on the UK jazz scene. He'd been a member of Blues Incorporated, and had also played with modern jazz players like Dick Morrissey: [Excerpt: Dick Morrissey, "Jellyroll"] But Townshend was particularly impressed with a performance in which Cecil demonstrated unorthodox ways to play the double-bass, including playing so hard he broke the strings, and using a saw as a bow, sawing through the strings and damaging the body of the instrument. But these influences, for the moment, didn't affect the Detours, who were still doing the Cliff and the Shadows routine. Eventually Colin Dawson quit the group, and Daltrey took over the lead vocal role for the Detours, who settled into a lineup of Daltrey, Townshend, Entwistle, and drummer Doug Sandom, who was much older than the rest of the group -- he was born in 1930, while Daltrey and Entwistle were born in 1944 and Townshend in 1945. For a while, Daltrey continued playing guitar as well as singing, but his hands were often damaged by his work at the sheet-metal factory, making guitar painful for him. Then the group got a support slot with Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, who at this point were a four-piece band, with Kidd singing backed by bass, drums, and Mick Green playing one guitar on which he played both rhythm and lead parts: [Excerpt: Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, "Doctor Feel Good"] Green was at the time considered possibly the best guitarist in Britain, and the sound the Pirates were able to get with only one guitar convinced the Detours that they would be OK if Daltrey switched to just singing, so the group changed to what is now known as a "power trio" format. Townshend was a huge admirer of Steve Cropper, another guitarist who played both rhythm and lead, and started trying to adopt parts of Cropper's style, playing mostly chords, while Entwistle went for a much more fluid bass style than most, essentially turning the bass into another lead instrument, patterning his playing after Duane Eddy's work. By this time, Townshend was starting to push against Daltrey's leadership a little, especially when it came to repertoire. Townshend had a couple of American friends at art school who had been deported after being caught smoking dope, and had left their records with Townshend for safe-keeping. As a result, Townshend had become a devotee of blues and R&B music, especially the jazzier stuff like Ray Charles, Mose Allison, and Booker T and the MGs. He also admired guitar-based blues records like those by Howlin' Wolf or Jimmy Reed. Townshend kept pushing for this music to be incorporated into the group's sets, but Daltrey would push back, insisting as the leader that they should play the chart hits that everyone else played, rather than what he saw as Townshend's art-school nonsense. Townshend insisted, and eventually won -- within a short while the group had become a pure R&B group, and Daltrey was soon a convert, and became the biggest advocate of that style in the band. But there was a problem with only having one guitar, and that was volume. In particular, Townshend didn't want to be able to hear hecklers. There were gangsters in some of the audiences who would shout requests for particular songs, and you had to play them or else, even if they were completely unsuitable for the rest of the audience's tastes. But if you were playing so loud you couldn't hear the shouting, you had an excuse. Both Entwistle and Townshend had started buying amplifiers from Jim Marshall, who had opened up a music shop after quitting drums -- Townshend actually bought his first one from a shop assistant in Marshall's shop, John McLaughlin, who would later himself become a well-known guitarist. Entwistle, wanting to be heard over Townshend, had bought a cabinet with four twelve-inch speakers in it. Townshend, wanting to be heard over Entwistle, had bought *two* of these cabinets, and stacked them, one on top of the other, against Marshall's protestations -- Marshall said that they would vibrate so much that the top one might fall over and injure someone. Townshend didn't listen, and the Marshall stack was born. This ultra-amplification also led Townshend to change his guitar style further. He was increasingly reliant on distortion and feedback, rather than on traditional instrumental skills. Now, there are basically two kinds of chords that are used in most Western music. There are major chords, which consist of the first, third, and fifth note of the scale, and these are the basic chords that everyone starts with. So you can strum between G major and F major: [demonstrates G and F chords] There's also minor chords, where you flatten the third note, which sound a little sadder than major chords, so playing G minor and F minor: [demonstrates Gm and Fm chords] There are of course other kinds of chord -- basically any collection of notes counts as a chord, and can work musically in some context. But major and minor chords are the basic harmonic building blocks of most pop music. But when you're using a lot of distortion and feedback, you create a lot of extra harmonics -- extra notes that your instrument makes along with the ones you're playing. And for mathematical reasons I won't go into here because this is already a very long episode, the harmonics generated by playing the first and fifth notes sound fine together, but the harmonics from a third or minor third don't go along with them at all. The solution to this problem is to play what are known as "power chords", which are just the root and fifth notes, with no third at all, and which sound ambiguous as to whether they're major or minor. Townshend started to build his technique around these chords, playing for the most part on the bottom three strings of his guitar, which sounds like this: [demonstrates G5 and F5 chords] Townshend wasn't the first person to use power chords -- they're used on a lot of the Howlin' Wolf records he liked, and before Townshend would become famous the Kinks had used them on "You Really Got Me" -- but he was one of the first British guitarists to make them a major part of his personal style. Around this time, the Detours were starting to become seriously popular, and Townshend was starting to get exhausted by the constant demands on his time from being in the band and going to art school. He talked about this with one of his lecturers, who asked how much Townshend was earning from the band. When Townshend told him he was making thirty pounds a week, the lecturer was shocked, and said that was more than *he* was earning. Townshend should probably just quit art school, because it wasn't like he was going to make more money from anything he could learn there. Around this time, two things changed the group's image. The first was that they played a support slot for the Rolling Stones in December 1963. Townshend saw Keith Richards swinging his arm over his head and then bringing it down on the guitar, to loosen up his muscles, and he thought that looked fantastic, and started copying it -- from very early on, Townshend wanted to have a physical presence on stage that would be all about his body, to distract from his face, as he was embarrassed about the size of his nose. They played a second support slot for the Stones a few weeks later, and not wanting to look like he was copying Richards, Townshend didn't do that move, but then he noticed that Richards didn't do it either. He asked about it after the gig, and Richards didn't know what he was talking about -- "Swing me what?" -- so Townshend took that as a green light to make that move, which became known as the windmill, his own. The second thing was when in February 1964 a group appeared on Thank Your Lucky Stars: [Excerpt: Johnny Devlin and the Detours, "Sometimes"] Johnny Devlin and the Detours had had national media exposure, which meant that Daltrey, Townshend, Entwistle, and Sandom had to change the name of their group. They eventually settled on "The Who", It was around this time that the group got their first serious management, a man named Helmut Gorden, who owned a doorknob factory. Gorden had no management experience, but he did offer the group a regular salary, and pay for new equipment for them. However, when he tried to sign the group to a proper contract, as most of them were still under twenty-one he needed their parents to countersign for them. Townshend's parents, being experienced in the music industry, refused to sign, and so the group continued under Gorden's management without a contract. Gorden, not having management experience, didn't have any contacts in the music industry. But his barber did. Gorden enthused about his group to Jack Marks, the barber, and Marks in turn told some of his other clients about this group he'd been hearing about. Tony Hatch wasn't interested, as he already had a guitar group with the Searchers, but Chris Parmenter at Fontana Records was, and an audition was arranged. At the audition, among other numbers, they played Bo Diddley's "Here 'Tis": [Excerpt: Bo Diddley, "Here 'Tis"] Unfortunately for Doug, he didn't play well on that song, and Townshend started berating him. Doug also knew that Parmenter had reservations about him, because he was so much older than the rest of the band -- he was thirty-four at the time, while the rest of the group were only just turning twenty -- and he was also the least keen of the group on the R&B material they were playing. He'd been warned by Entwistle, his closest friend in the group, that Daltrey and Townshend were thinking of dropping him, and so he decided to jump before he was pushed, walking out of the audition. He agreed to come back for a handful more gigs that were already booked in, but that was the end of his time in the band, and of his time in the music industry -- though oddly not of his friendship with the group. Unlike other famous examples of an early member not fitting in and being forced out before a band becomes big, Sandom remained friends with the other members, and Townshend wrote the foreword to his autobiography, calling him a mentor figure, while Daltrey apparently insisted that Sandom phone him for a chat every Sunday, at the same time every week, until Sandom's death in 2019 at the age of eighty-nine. The group tried a few other drummers, including someone who Jim Marshall had been giving drum lessons to, Mitch Mitchell, before settling on the drummer for another group that played the same circuit, the Beachcombers, who played mostly Shadows material, plus the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean songs that their drummer, Keith Moon, loved. Moon and Entwistle soon became a formidable rhythm section, and despite having been turned down by Fontana, they were clearly going places. But they needed an image -- and one was provided for them by Pete Meaden. Meaden was another person who got his hair cut by Jack Marks, and he had had  little bit of music business experience, having worked for Andrew Oldham, the Rolling Stones' manager, for a while before going on to manage a group called the Moments, whose career highlight was recording a soundalike cover version of "You Really Got Me" for an American budget label: [Excerpt: The Moments, "You Really Got Me"] The Moments never had any big success, but Meaden's nose for talent was not wrong, as their teenage lead singer, Steve Marriott, later went on to much better things. Pete Meaden was taken on as Helmut Gorden's assistant, but from this point on the group decided to regard him as their de facto manager, and as more than just a manager. To Townshend in particular he was a guru figure, and he shaped the group to appeal to the Mods. Now, we've not talked much about the Mods previously, and what little has been said has been a bit contradictory. That's because the Mods were a tiny subculture at this point -- or to be more precise, they were three subcultures. The original mods had come along in the late 1950s, at a time when there was a division among jazz fans between fans of traditional New Orleans jazz -- "trad" -- and modern jazz. The mods were modernists, hence the name, but for the most part they weren't as interested in music as in clothes. They were a small group of young working-class men, almost all gay, who dressed flamboyantly and dandyishly, and who saw themselves, their clothing, and their bodies as works of art. In the late fifties, Britain was going through something of an economic boom, and this was the first time that working-class men *could* buy nice clothes. These working-class dandies would have to visit tailors to get specially modified clothes made, but they could just about afford to do so. The mod image was at first something that belonged to a very, very, small clique of people. But then John Stephens opened his first shop. This was the first era when short runs of factory-produced clothing became possible, and Stephens, a stylish young man, opened a shop on Carnaby Street, then a relatively cheap place to open a shop. He painted the outside yellow, played loud pop music, and attracted a young crowd. Stephens was selling factory-made clothes that still looked unique -- short runs of odd-coloured jeans, three-button jackets, and other men's fashion. Soon Carnaby Street became the hub for men's fashion in London, thanks largely to Stephens. At one point Stephens owned fifteen different shops, nine of them on Carnaby Street itself, and Stephens' shops appealed to the kind of people that the Kinks would satirise in their early 1966 hit single "Dedicated Follower of Fashion": [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Dedicated Follower of Fashion"] Many of those who visited Stephens' shops were the larger, second, generation of mods. I'm going to quote here from George Melly's Revolt Into Style, the first book to properly analyse British pop culture of the fifties and sixties, by someone who was there: "As the ‘mod’ thing spread it lost its purity. For the next generation of Mods, those who picked up the ‘mod’ thing around 1963, clothes, while still their central preoccupation, weren’t enough. They needed music (Rhythm and Blues), transport (scooters) and drugs (pep pills). What’s more they needed fashion ready-made. They hadn’t the time or the fanaticism to invent their own styles, and this is where Carnaby Street came in." Melly goes on to talk about how these new Mods were viewed with distaste by the older Mods, who left the scene. The choice of music for these new Mods was as much due to geographic proximity as anything else. Carnaby Street is just round the corner from Wardour Street, and Wardour Street is where the two clubs that between them were the twin poles of the London R&B scenes, the Marquee and the Flamingo, were both located. So it made sense that the young people frequenting John Stephens' boutiques on Carnaby Street were the same people who made up the audiences -- and the bands -- at those clubs. But by 1964, even these second-generation Mods were in a minority compared to a new, third generation, and here I'm going to quote Melly again: "But the Carnaby Street Mods were not the final stage in the history of this particular movement. The word was taken over finally by a new and more violent sector, the urban working class at the gang-forming age, and this became quite sinister. The gang stage rejected the wilder flights of Carnaby Street in favour of extreme sartorial neatness. Everything about them was neat, pretty and creepy: dark glasses, Nero hair-cuts, Chelsea boots, polo-necked sweaters worn under skinny V-necked pullovers, gleaming scooters and transistors. Even their offensive weapons were pretty—tiny hammers and screwdrivers. En masse they looked like a pack of weasels." I would urge anyone who's interested in British social history to read Melly's book in full -- it's well worth it. These third-stage Mods soon made up the bulk of the movement, and they were the ones who, in summer 1964, got into the gang fights that were breathlessly reported in all the tabloid newspapers. Pete Meaden was a Mod, and as far as I can tell he was a leading-edge second-stage Mod, though as with all these things who was in what generation of Mods is a bit blurry. Meaden had a whole idea of Mod-as-lifestyle and Mod-as-philosophy, which worked well with the group's R&B leanings, and with Townshend's art-school-inspired fascination with the aesthetics of Pop Art. Meaden got the group a residency at the Railway Hotel, a favourite Mod hangout, and he also changed their name -- The Who didn't sound Mod enough. In Mod circles at the time there was a hierarchy, with the coolest people, the Faces, at the top, below them a slightly larger group of people known as Numbers, and below them the mass of generic people known as Tickets. Meaden saw himself as the band's Svengali, so he was obviously the Face, so the group had to be Numbers -- so they became The High Numbers. Meaden got the group a one-off single deal, to record two songs he had allegedly written, both of which had lyrics geared specifically for the Mods. The A-side was "Zoot Suit": [Excerpt: The High Numbers, "Zoot Suit"] This had a melody that was stolen wholesale from "Misery" by the Dynamics: [Excerpt: The Dynamics, "Misery"] The B-side, meanwhile, was titled "I'm the Face": [Excerpt: The High Numbers, "I'm the Face"] Which anyone with any interest at all in blues music will recognise immediately as being "Got Love if You Want It" by Slim Harpo: [Excerpt: Slim Harpo, "Got Love if You Want it"] Unfortunately for the High Numbers, that single didn't have much success. Mod was a local phenomenon, which never took off outside London and its suburbs, and so the songs didn't have much appeal in the rest of the country -- while within London, Mod fashions were moving so quickly that by the time the record came out, all its up-to-the-minute references were desperately outdated. But while the record didn't have much success, the group were getting a big live following among the Mods, and their awareness of rapidly shifting trends in that subculture paid off for them in terms of stagecraft. To quote Townshend: "What the Mods taught us was how to lead by following. I mean, you'd look at the dance floor and see some bloke stop during the dance of the week and for some reason feel like doing some silly sort of step. And you'd notice some of the blokes around him looking out of the corners of their eyes and thinking 'is this the latest?' And on their own, without acknowledging the first fellow, a few of 'em would start dancing that way. And we'd be watching. By the time they looked up on the stage again, we'd be doing that dance and they'd think the original guy had been imitating us. And next week they'd come back and look to us for dances". And then Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp came into the Railway Hotel. Kit Lambert was the son of Constant Lambert, the founding music director of the Royal Ballet, who the economist John Maynard Keynes described as the most brilliant man he'd ever met. Constant Lambert was possibly Britain's foremost composer of the pre-war era, and one of the first people from the serious music establishment to recognise the potential of jazz and blues music. His most famous composition, "The Rio Grande", written in 1927 about a fictitious South American river, is often compared with Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue: [Excerpt: Constant Lambert, "The Rio Grande"] Kit Lambert was thus brought up in an atmosphere of great privilege, both financially and intellectually, with his godfather being the composer Sir William Walton while his godmother was the prima ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn, with whom his father was having an affair. As a result of the problems between his parents, Lambert spent much of his childhood living with his grandmother. After studying history at Oxford and doing his national service, Lambert had spent a few months studying film at the Institut des hautes études cinématographiques in Paris, where he went because Jean-Luc Godard and Alain Renais taught there -- or at least so he would later say, though there's no evidence I can find that Godard actually taught there, so either he went there under a mistaken impression or he lied about it later to make himself sound more interesting. However, he'd got bored with his studies after only a few months, and decided that he knew enough to just make a film himself, and he planned his first documentary. In early 1961, despite having little film experience, he joined two friends from university, Richard Mason and John Hemming, in an attempt to make a documentary film tracing the source of the Iriri, a river in South America that was at that point the longest unnavigated river in the world. Unfortunately, the expedition was as disastrous as it's possible for such an expedition to be. In May 1961 they landed in the Amazon basin and headed off on their expedition to find the source of the Iriri, with the help of five local porters and three people sent along by the Brazillian government to map the new areas they were to discover. Unfortunately, by September, not only had they not found the source of the Iriri, they'd actually not managed to find the Iriri itself, four and a half months apparently not being a long enough time to find an eight-hundred-and-ten-mile-long river. And then Mason made his way into history in the worst possible way, by becoming the last, to date, British person to be murdered by an uncontacted indigenous tribe, the Panará, who shot him with eight poison arrows and then bludgeoned his skull. A little over a decade later the Panará made contact with the wider world after nearly being wiped out by disease. They remembered killing Mason and said that they'd been scared by the swishing noise his jeans had made, as they'd never encountered anyone who wore clothes before. Before they made contact, the Panará were also known as the Kreen-Akrore, a name given them by the Kayapó people, meaning "round-cut head", a reference to the way they styled their hair, brushed forward and trimmed over the forehead in a way that was remarkably similar to some of the Mod styles. Before they made contact, Paul McCartney would in 1970 record an instrumental, "Kreen Akrore", after being inspired by a documentary called The Tribe That Hides From Man. McCartney's instrumental includes sound effects, including McCartney firing a bow and arrow, though apparently the bow-string snapped during the recording: [Excerpt: Paul McCartney, "Kreen Akrore"] For a while, Lambert was under suspicion for the murder, though the Daily Express, which had sponsored the expedition, persuaded Brazillian police to drop the charges. While he was in Rio waiting for the legal case to be sorted, Lambert developed what one book on the Who describes as "a serious anal infection". Astonishingly, this experience did not put Lambert off from the film industry, though he wouldn't try to make another film of his own for a couple of years. Instead, he went to work at Shepperton Studios, where he was an uncredited second AD on many films, including From Russia With Love and The L-Shaped Room. Another second AD working on many of the same films was Chris Stamp, the brother of the actor Terence Stamp, who was just starting out in his own career. Stamp and Lambert became close friends, despite -- or because of -- their differences. Lambert was bisexual, and preferred men to women, Stamp was straight. Lambert was the godson of a knight and a dame, Stamp was a working-class East End Cockney. Lambert was a film-school dropout full of ideas and grand ambitions, but unsure how best to put those ideas into practice, Stamp was a practical, hands-on, man. The two complemented each other perfectly, and became flatmates and collaborators. After seeing A Hard Day's Night, they decided that they were going to make their own pop film -- a documentary, inspired by the French nouvelle vague school of cinema, which would chart a pop band from playing lowly clubs to being massive pop stars. Now all they needed was to find a band that were playing lowly clubs but could become massive stars. And they found that band at the Railway Hotel, when they saw the High Numbers. Stamp and Lambert started making their film, and completed part of it, which can be found on YouTube: [Excerpt: The High Numbers, "Oo Poo Pa Doo"] The surviving part of the film is actually very, very, well done for people who'd never directed a film before, and I have no doubt that if they'd completed the film, to be titled High Numbers, it would be regarded as one of the classic depictions of early-sixties London club life, to be classed along with The Small World of Sammy Lee and Expresso Bongo. What's even more astonishing, though, is how *modern* the group look. Most footage of guitar bands of this period looks very dated, not just in the fashions, but in everything -- the attitude of the performers, their body language, the way they hold their instruments. The best performances are still thrilling, but you can tell when they were filmed. On the other hand, the High Numbers look ungainly and awkward, like the lads of no more than twenty that they are -- but in a way that was actually shocking to me when I first saw this footage. Because they look *exactly* like every guitar band I played on the same bill as during my own attempts at being in bands between 2000 and about 2005. If it weren't for the fact that they have such recognisable faces, if you'd told me this was footage of some band I played on the same bill with at the Star and Garter or Night and Day Cafe in 2003, I'd believe it unquestioningly. But while Lambert and Stamp started out making a film, they soon pivoted and decided that they could go into management. Of course, the High Numbers did already have management -- Pete Meaden and Helmut Gorden -- but after consulting with the Beatles' lawyer, David Jacobs, Lambert and Stamp found out that Gorden's contract with the band was invalid, and so when Gorden got back from a holiday, he found himself usurped. Meaden was a bit more difficult to get rid of, even though he had less claim on the group than Gorden -- he was officially their publicist, not their manager, and his only deal was with Gorden, even though the group considered him their manager. While Meaden didn't have a contractual claim though, he did have one argument in his favour, which is that he had a large friend named Phil the Greek, who had a big knife. When this claim was put to Lambert and Stamp, they agreed that this was a very good point indeed, one that they hadn't considered, and agreed to pay Meaden off with two hundred and fifty pounds. This would not be the last big expense that Stamp and Lambert would have as the managers of the Who, as the group were now renamed. Their agreement with the group had the two managers taking forty percent of the group's earnings, while the four band members would split the other sixty percent between themselves -- an arrangement which should theoretically have had the managers coming out ahead. But they also agreed to pay the group's expenses. And that was to prove very costly indeed. Shortly after they started managing the group, at a gig at the Railway Hotel, which had low ceilings, Townshend lifted his guitar up a bit higher than he'd intended, and broke the headstock. Townshend had a spare guitar with him, so this was OK, and he also remembered Gustav Metzger and his ideas of auto-destructive art, and Malcolm Cecil sawing through his bass strings and damaging his bass, and decided that it was better for him to look like he'd meant to do that than to look like an idiot who'd accidentally broken his guitar, so he repeated the motion, smashing his guitar to bits, before carrying on the show with his spare. The next week, the crowd were excited, expecting the same thing again, but Townshend hadn't brought a spare guitar with him. So as not to disappoint them, Keith Moon destroyed his drum kit instead. This destruction was annoying to Entwistle, who saw musical instruments as something close to sacred, and it also annoyed the group's managers at first, because musical instruments are expensive. But they soon saw the value this brought to the band's shows, and reluctantly agreed to keep buying them new instruments. So for the first couple of years, Lambert and Stamp lost money on the group. They funded this partly through Lambert's savings, partly through Stamp continuing to do film work, and partly from investors in their company, one of whom was Russ Conway, the easy-listening piano player who'd had hits like "Side Saddle": [Excerpt: Russ Conway, "Side Saddle"] Conway's connections actually got the group another audition for a record label, Decca (although Conway himself recorded for EMI), but the group were turned down. The managers were told that they would have been signed, but they didn't have any original material. So Pete Townshend was given the task of writing some original material. By this time Townshend's musical world was expanding far beyond the R&B that the group were performing on stage, and he talks in his autobiography about the music he was listening to while he was trying to write his early songs. There was "Green Onions", which he'd been listening to for years in his attempt to emulate Steve Cropper's guitar style, but there was also The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, and two tracks he names in particular, "Devil's Jump" by John Lee Hooker: [Excerpt: John Lee Hooker, "Devil's Jump"] And "Better Get Hit in Your Soul" by Charles Mingus: [Excerpt: Charles Mingus, "Better Get Hit In Your Soul"] He was also listening to what he described as "a record that changed my life as a composer", a recording of baroque music that included sections of Purcell's Gordian Knot Untied: [Excerpt: Purcell, Chaconne from Gordian Knot Untied] Townshend had a notebook in which he listed the records he wanted to obtain, and he reproduces that list in his autobiography -- "‘Marvin Gaye, 1-2-3, Mingus Revisited, Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Smith Organ Grinder’s Swing, In Crowd, Nina in Concert [Nina Simone], Charlie Christian, Billie Holiday, Ella, Ray Charles, Thelonious Monk Around Midnight and Brilliant Corners.’" He was also listening to a lot of Stockhausen and Charlie Parker, and to the Everly Brothers -- who by this point were almost the only artist that all four members of the Who agreed were any good, because Daltrey was now fully committed to the R&B music he'd originally dismissed, and disliked what he thought was the pretentiousness of the music Townshend was listening to, while Keith Moon was primarily a fan of the Beach Boys. But everyone could agree that the Everlys, with their sensitive interpretations, exquisite harmonies, and Bo Diddley-inflected guitars, were great, and so the group added several songs from the Everlys' 1965 albums Rock N Soul and Beat N Soul to their set, like "Man With Money": [Excerpt: The Everly Brothers, "Man With Money"] Despite Daltrey's objections to diluting the purity of the group's R&B sound, Townshend brought all these influences into his songwriting. The first song he wrote to see release was not actually recorded by the Who, but a song he co-wrote for a minor beat group called the Naturals, who released it as a B-side: [Excerpt: The Naturals, "It Was You"] But shortly after this, the group got their first big break, thanks to Lambert's personal assistant, Anya Butler. Butler was friends with Shel Talmy's wife, and got Talmy to listen to the group. Townshend in particular was eager to work with Talmy, as he was a big fan of the Kinks, who were just becoming big, and who Talmy produced. Talmy signed the group to a production deal, and then signed a deal to license their records to Decca in America -- which Lambert and Stamp didn't realise wasn't the same label as British Decca. Decca in turn sublicensed the group's recordings to their British subsidiary Brunswick, which meant that the group got a minuscule royalty for sales in Britain, as their recordings were being sold through three corporate layers all taking their cut. This didn't matter to them at first, though, and they went into the studio excited to cut their first record as The Who. As was typical at the time, Talmy brought in a few session players to help out. Clem Cattini turned out not to be needed, and left quickly, but Jimmy Page stuck around -- not to play on the A-side, which Townshend said was "so simple even I could play it", but the B-side, a version of the old blues standard "Bald-Headed Woman", which Talmy had copyrighted in his own name and had already had the Kinks record: [Excerpt: The Who, "Bald-Headed Woman"] Apparently the only reason that Page played on that is that Page wouldn't let Townshend use his fuzzbox. As well as Page and Cattini, Talmy also brought in some backing vocalists. These were the Ivy League, a writing and production collective consisting at this point of John Carter and Ken Lewis, both of whom had previously been in a band with Page, and Perry Ford. The Ivy League were huge hit-makers in the mid-sixties, though most people don't recognise their name. Carter and Lewis had just written "Can You Hear My Heartbeat" for Herman's Hermits: [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "Can You Hear My Heartbeat?"] And, along with a couple of other singers who joined the group, the Ivy League would go on to sing backing vocals on hits by Sandie Shaw, Tom Jones and others. Together and separately the members of the Ivy League were also responsible for writing, producing, and singing on "Let's Go to San Francisco" by the Flowerpot Men, "Winchester Cathedral" by the New Vaudeville Band, "Beach Baby" by First Class, and more, as well as their big hit under their own name, "Tossing and Turning": [Excerpt: The Ivy League, "Tossing and Turning"] Though my favourite of their tracks is their baroque pop masterpiece "My World Fell Down": [Excerpt: The Ivy League, "My World Fell Down"] As you can tell, the Ivy League were masters of the Beach Boys sound that Moon, and to a lesser extent Townshend, loved. That backing vocal sound was combined with a hard-driving riff inspired by the Kinks' early hits like "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night", and with lyrics that explored inarticulacy, a major theme of Townshend's lyrics: [Excerpt: The Who, "I Can't Explain"] "I Can't Explain" made the top ten, thanks in part to a publicity stunt that Lambert came up with. The group had been booked on to Ready, Steady, Go!, and the floor manager of the show mentioned to Lambert that they were having difficulty getting an audience for that week's show -- they were short about a hundred and fifty people, and they needed young, energetic, dancers. Lambert suggested that the best place to find young, energetic, dancers, was at the Marquee on a Tuesday night -- which just happened to be the night of the Who's regular residency at the club. Come the day of filming, the Ready, Steady, Go! audience was full of the Who's most hardcore fans, all of whom had been told by Lambert to throw scarves at the band when they started playing. It was one of the most memorable performances on the show. But even though the record was a big hit, Daltrey was unhappy. The man who'd started out as guitarist in a Shadows cover band and who'd strenuously objected to the group's inclusion of R&B material now had the zeal of a convert. He didn't want to be doing this "soft commercial pop", or Townshend's art-school nonsense. He wanted to be an R&B singer, playing hard music for working-class men like him. Two decisions were taken to mollify the lead singer. The first was that when they went into the studio to record their first album, it was all soul and R&B apart from one original. The album was going to consist of three James Brown covers, three Motown covers, Bo Diddley's "I'm a Man", and a cover of Paul Revere and the Raiders' "Louie Louie" sequel "Louie Come Home", retitled "Lubie". All of this was material that Daltrey was very comfortable with. Also, Daltrey was given some input into the second single, which would be the only song credited to Daltrey and Townshend, and Daltrey's only songwriting contribution to a Who A-side. Townshend had come up with the title "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" while listening to Charlie Parker, and had written the song based on that title, but Daltrey was allowed to rewrite the lyrics and make suggestions as to the arrangement. That record also made the top ten: [Excerpt: The Who, "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere"] But Daltrey would soon become even more disillusioned. The album they'd recorded was shelved, though some tracks were later used for what became the My Generation album, and Kit Lambert told the Melody Maker “The Who are having serious doubts about the state of R&B. Now the LP material will consist of hard pop. They’ve finished with ‘Smokestack Lightning’!” That wasn't the only thing they were finished with -- Townshend and Moon were tired of their band's leader, and also just didn't think he was a particularly good singer -- and weren't shy about saying so, even to the press. Entwistle, a natural peacemaker, didn't feel as strongly, but there was a definite split forming in the band. Things came to a head on a European tour. Daltrey was sick of this pop nonsense, he was sick of the arty ideas of Townshend, and he was also sick of the other members' drug use. Daltrey didn't indulge himself, but the other band members had been using drugs long before they became successful, and they were all using uppers, which offended Daltrey greatly. He flushed Keith Moon's pill stash down the toilet, and screamed at his band mates that they were a bunch of junkies, then physically attacked Moon. All three of the other band members agreed -- Daltrey was out of the band. They were going to continue as a trio. But after a couple of days, Daltrey was back in the group. This was mostly because Daltrey had come crawling back to them, apologising -- he was in a very bad place at the time, having left his wife and kid, and was actually living in the back of the group's tour van. But it was also because Lambert and Stamp persuaded the group they needed Daltrey, at least for the moment, because he'd sung lead on their latest single, and that single was starting to rise up the charts. "My Generation" had had a long and torturous journey from conception to realisation. Musically it originally had been inspired by Mose Allison's "Young Man's Blues": [Excerpt: Mose Allison, "Young Man's Blues"] Townshend had taken that musical mood and tied it to a lyric that was inspired by a trilogy of TV plays, The Generations, by the socialist playwright David Mercer, whose plays were mostly about family disagreements that involved politics and class, as in the case of the first of those plays, where two upwardly-mobile young brothers of very different political views go back to visit their working-class family when their mother is on her deathbed, and are confronted by the differences they have with each other, and with the uneducated father who sacrificed to give them a better life than he had: [Excerpt: Where the Difference Begins] Townshend's original demo for the song was very much in the style of Mose Allison, as the excerpt of it that's been made available on various deluxe reissues of the album shows: [Excerpt: Pete Townshend, "My Generation (demo)"] But Lambert had not been hugely impressed by that demo. Stamp had suggested that Townshend try a heavier guitar riff, which he did, and then Lambert had added the further suggestion that the music would be improved by a few key changes -- Townshend was at first unsure about this, because he already thought he was a bit too influenced by the Kinks, and he regarded Ray Davies as, in his words, "the master of modulation", but eventually he agreed, and decided that the key changes did improve the song. Stamp made one final suggestion after hearing the next demo version of the song. A while earlier, the Who had been one of the many British groups, like the Yardbirds and the Animals, who had backed Sonny Boy Williamson II on his UK tour. Williamson had occasionally done a little bit of a stutter in some of his performances, and Daltrey had picked up on that and started doing it. Townshend had in turn imitated Daltrey's mannerism a couple of times on the demo, and Stamp thought that was something that could be accentuated. Townshend agreed, and reworked the song, inspired by John Lee Hooker's "Stuttering Blues": [Excerpt: John Lee Hooker, "Stuttering Blues"] The stuttering made all the difference, and it worked on three levels. It reinforced the themes of inarticulacy that run throughout the Who's early work -- their first single, after all, had been called "I Can't Explain", and Townshend talks movingly in his autobiography about talking to teenage fans who felt that "I Can't Explain" had said for them the things they couldn't say themselves -- and how they even found it difficult to say *that* themselves.  Here is a character who is trying to be a spokesman for his generation, but he is literally unable to force the words out. It was also a shoutout to the Mod audience, more subtle than the obvious references on things like "I'm the Face". The Mod drug of choice was speed, and one common effect of amphetamine use is that users tend to stutter when on high doses -- amphetamines raise dopamine levels in the brain to such an extent that the basal ganglia-thalamocortical motor circuits of the brain are thrown off, leading to a similar inability to control the muscles used in speech as one gets in Parkinson's disease, for similar underlying reasons, even as the sped-up thought processes caused by amphetamines make it seem that much more urgent to get the words out. By having the protagonist of the song stutter, Townshend was telling the group's Mod listeners "this character is on the same drugs as you", without doing anything so crude as just flat-out saying that. And finally, the stutter also allowed Townshend to hint at things he wouldn't be allowed to say on the radio. Every teenage listener knew what "Why don't you all f-f-f-..." was leading up to, and could dig what he was saying, even if the eventual words that came out were more broadcastable: [Excerpt: The Who, "My Generation"] There were two other aspects of the record that were unlike anything else that was on the pop charts at the time. The first was the bass solo, which was not, as some have claimed, the first bass solo on record -- even leaving aside jazz and only looking at hit singles, Grady Martin had played a Danelectro fuzz solo a full five years earlier on Marty Robbins' top five US chart hit "Don't Worry": [Excerpt: Marty Robbins, "Don't Worry"] But it was one of the most prominent bass solos on a rock single, and one of the first times that the bass had really seemed like a lead instrument on a rock and roll record. Entwistle's solo was meant to be recorded on a Danelectro, but there was a problem. Danelectros had thinner strings than a normal bass, and Entwistle was a very heavy-handed player. Often one can use the same bass strings for years without breaking a string, but the combination of the thinner strings and Entwistle's playing meant that he broke strings when playing the solo. The problem was that because the Danelectro didn't use the same strings as other instruments, because it wasn't normal for people to break bass strings very often, and because it was an extremely rare instrument in the UK at the time, you couldn't buy those strings separately -- the only way you could get new strings for a Danelectro was to buy a whole new instrument. After the third time Entwistle broke a Danelectro string, and now owning three Danelectros he couldn't play because of broken strings, he decided to play it on a Fender Jazz bass instead, and that's what's used on the finished record: [Excerpt: The Who, "My Generation"] And after all these innovations, the band saved the most astonishing thing for last, ending the song in a cacophony of feedback and drums, which was the kind of thing that several acts had been doing live, but which had not made it to a pop single at this point: [Excerpt: The Who, "My Generation"] The record became the group's biggest hit to that point, reaching number two on the UK charts (kept off the top by "The Carnival is Over" by the Seekers), though it only made number seventy-five in the US. And as Daltrey was the lead singer on the record, it was decided that they'd better let him stay in the group. But the dynamic of the band had changed forever. The band that had been led by Roger Daltrey were now, for better or for worse, Pete Townshend's band.
Nov 03, 2021
Episode 135: “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel
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Episode one hundred and thirty-five of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “The Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel, and the many records they made, together and apart, before their success. 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 "Blues Run the Game" by Jackson C. Frank. 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 I talk about a tour of Lancashire towns, but some of the towns I mention were in Cheshire at the time, and some are in Greater Manchester or Merseyside now. They're all very close together though. I say Mose Rager was Black. I was misremembering, confusing Mose Rager, a white player in the Muhlenberg style, with Arnold Schultz, a Black player who invented it. I got this right in the episode on "Bye Bye Love". Also, I couldn't track down a copy of the Paul Kane single version of “He Was My Brother” in decent quality, so I used the version on The Paul Simon Songbook instead, as they're basically identical performances. Resources As usual, I've created a Mixcloud playlist of the music excerpted here. This compilation collects all Simon and Garfunkel's studio albums, with bonus tracks, plus a DVD of their reunion concert. There are many collections of the pre-S&G recordings by the two, as these are now largely in the public domain. This one contains a good selection. I've referred to several books for this episode: Simon and Garfunkel: Together Alone by Spencer Leigh is a breezy, well-researched, biography of the duo. Paul Simon: The Life by Robert Hilburn is the closest thing there is to an authorised biography of Simon. And What is it All But Luminous? is Art Garfunkel's memoir. It's not particularly detailed, being more a collection of thoughts and poetry than a structured narrative, but gives a good idea of Garfunkel's attitude to people and events in his life. Roots, Radicals, and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World by Billy Bragg has some great information on the British folk scene of the fifties and sixties. And Singing From the Floor is an oral history of British folk clubs, including a chapter on Dylan’s 1962 visit to London. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Today, we're going to take a look at a hit record that almost never happened -- a record by a duo who had already split up, twice, by the time it became a hit, and who didn't know it was going to come out. We're going to look at how a duo who started off as an Everly Brothers knockoff, before becoming unsuccessful Greenwich Village folkies, were turned into one of the biggest acts of the sixties by their producer. We're going to look at Simon and Garfunkel, and at "The Sound of Silence": [Excerpt: Simon and Garfunkel, "The Sound of Silence"] The story of Simon and Garfunkel starts with two children in a school play.  Neither Paul Simon or Art Garfunkel had many friends when they met in a school performance of Alice in Wonderland, where Simon was playing the White Rabbit and Garfunkel the Cheshire Cat. Simon was well-enough liked, by all accounts, but he'd been put on an accelerated programme for gifted students which meant he was progressing through school faster than his peers. He had a small social group, mostly based around playing baseball, but wasn't one of the popular kids. Art Garfunkel, another gifted student, had no friends at all until he got to know Simon, who he described later as his "one and only friend" in this time period. One passage in Garfunkel's autobiography seems to me to sum up everything about Garfunkel's personality as a child -- and indeed a large part of his personality as it comes across in interviews to this day. He talks about the pleasure he got from listening to the chart rundown on the radio -- "It was the numbers that got me. I kept meticulous lists—when a new singer like Tony Bennett came onto the charts with “Rags to Riches,” I watched the record jump from, say, #23 to #14 in a week. The mathematics of the jumps went to my sense of fun." Garfunkel is, to this day, a meticulous person -- on his website he has a list of every book he's read since June 1968, which is currently up to one thousand three hundred and ten books, and he has always had a habit of starting elaborate projects and ticking off every aspect of them as he goes. Both Simon and Garfunkel were outsiders at this point, other than their interests in sport, but Garfunkel was by far the more introverted of the two, and as a result he seems to have needed their friendship more than Simon did. But the two boys developed an intense, close, friendship, initially based around their shared sense of humour. Both of them were avid readers of Mad magazine, which had just started publishing when the two of them had met up, and both could make each other laugh easily. But they soon developed a new interest, when Martin Block on the middle-of-the-road radio show Make Believe Ballroom announced that he was going to play the worst record he'd ever heard. That record was "Gee" by the Crows: [Excerpt: The Crows, "Gee"] Paul Simon later said that that record was the first thing he'd ever heard on that programme that he liked, and soon he and Garfunkel had become regular listeners to Alan Freed's show on WINS, loving the new rock and roll music they were discovering. Art had already been singing in public from an early age -- his first public performance had been singing Nat "King" Cole's hit "Too Young" in a school talent contest when he was nine -- but the two started singing together. The first performance by Simon and Garfunkel was at a high school dance and, depending on which source you read, was a performance either of "Sh'Boom" or of Big Joe Turner's "Flip, Flop, and Fly": [Excerpt: Big Joe Turner, "Flip, Flop, and Fly"] The duo also wrote at least one song together as early as 1955 -- or at least Garfunkel says they wrote it together. Paul Simon describes it as one he wrote. They tried to get a record deal with the song, but it was never recorded at the time -- but Simon has later performed it: [Excerpt: Paul Simon, "The Girl For Me"] Even at this point, though, while Art Garfunkel was putting all his emotional energy into the partnership with Simon, Simon was interested in performing with other people. Al Kooper was another friend of Simon's at the time, and apparently Simon and Kooper would also perform together. Once Elvis came on to Paul's radar, he also bought a guitar, but it was when the two of them first heard the Everly Brothers that they realised what it was that they could do together. Simon fell in love with the Everly Brothers as soon as he heard "Bye Bye Love": [Excerpt: The Everly Brothers, "Bye Bye Love"] Up to this point, Paul hadn't bought many records -- he spent his money on baseball cards and comic books, and records just weren't good value. A pack of baseball cards was five cents, a comic book was ten cents, but a record was a dollar. Why buy records when you could hear music on the radio for free? But he needed that record, he couldn't just wait around to hear it on the radio. He made an hour-long two-bus journey to a record shop in Queens, bought the record, took it home, played it... and almost immediately scratched it. So he got back on the bus, travelled for another hour, bought another copy, took it home, and made sure he didn't scratch that one. Simon and Garfunkel started copying the Everlys' harmonies, and would spend hours together, singing close together watching each other's mouths and copying the way they formed words, eventually managing to achieve a vocal blend through sheer effort which would normally only come from familial closeness. Paul became so obsessed with music that he sold his baseball card collection and bought a tape recorder for two hundred dollars. They would record themselves singing, and then sing back along with it, multitracking themselves, but also critiquing the tape, refining their performances. Paul's father was a bass player -- "the family bassman", as he would later sing -- and encouraged his son in his music, even as he couldn't see the appeal in this new rock and roll music. He would critique Paul's songs, saying things like "you went from four-four to a bar of nine-eight, you can't do that" -- to which his son would say "I just did" -- but this wasn't hostile criticism, rather it was giving his son a basic grounding in song construction which would prove invaluable. But the duo's first notable original song -- and first hit -- came about more or less by accident. In early 1956, the doo-wop group the Clovers had released the hit single "Devil or Angel". Its B-side had a version of "Hey Doll Baby", a song written by the blues singer Titus Turner, and which sounds to me very inspired by Hank Williams' "Hey, Good Lookin'": [Excerpt: The Clovers, "Hey, Doll Baby"] That song was picked up by the Everly Brothers, who recorded it for their first album: [Excerpt: The Everly Brothers, "Hey Doll Baby"] Here is where the timeline gets a little confused for me, because that album wasn't released until early 1958, although the recording session for that track was in August 1957. Yet that track definitely influenced Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel to record a song that they released in November 1957. All I can imagine is that they heard the brothers perform it live, or maybe a radio station had an acetate copy. Because the way everyone has consistently told the story is that at the end of summer 1957, Simon and Garfunkel had both heard the Everly Brothers perform "Hey Doll Baby", but couldn't remember how it went. The two of them tried to remember it, and to work a version of it out together, and their hazy memories combined to reconstruct something that was completely different, and which owed at least as much to "Wake Up Little Suzie" as to "Hey Doll Baby". Their new song, "Hey Schoolgirl", was catchy enough that they thought if they recorded a demo of it, maybe the Everly Brothers themselves would record the song. At the demo studio they happened to encounter Sid Prosen, who owned a small record label named Big Records. He heard the duo perform and realised he might have his own Everly Brothers here. He signed the duo to a contract, and they went into a professional studio to rerecord "Hey Schoolgirl", this time with Paul's father on bass, and a couple of other musicians to fill out the sound: [Excerpt: Tom and Jerry, "Hey Schoolgirl"] Of course, the record couldn't be released under their real names -- there was no way anyone was going to buy a record by Simon and Garfunkel. So instead they became Tom and Jerry. Paul Simon was Jerry Landis -- a surname he chose because he had a crush on a girl named Sue Landis. Art became Tom Graff, because he liked drawing graphs. "Hey Schoolgirl" became a local hit. The two were thrilled to hear it played on Alan Freed's show (after Sid Prosen gave Freed two hundred dollars), and were even more thrilled when they got to perform on American Bandstand, on the same show as Jerry Lee Lewis. When Dick Clark asked them where they were from, Simon decided to claim he was from Macon, Georgia, where Little Richard came from, because all his favourite rock and roll singers were from the South. "Hey Schoolgirl" only made number forty-nine nationally, because the label didn't have good national distribution, but it sold over a hundred thousand copies, mostly in the New York area. And Sid Prosen seems to have been one of a very small number of independent label owners who wasn't a crook -- the two boys got about two thousand dollars each from their hit record. But while Tom and Jerry seemed like they might have a successful career, Simon and Garfunkel were soon to split up, and the reason for their split was named True Taylor. Paul had been playing some of his songs for Sid Prosen, to see what the duo's next single should be, and Prosen had noticed that while some of them were Everly Brothers soundalikes, others were Elvis soundalikes. Would Paul be interested in recording some of those, too? Obviously Art couldn't sing on those, so they'd use a different name, True Taylor. The single was released around the same time as the second Tom and Jerry record, and featured an Elvis-style ballad by Paul on one side, and a rockabilly song written by his father on the other: [Excerpt: True Taylor, "True or False"] But Paul hadn't discussed that record with Art before doing it, and the two had vastly different ideas about their relationship. Paul was Art's only friend, and Art thought they had an indissoluble bond and that they would always work together. Paul, on the other hand, thought of Art as one of his friends and someone he made music with, but he could play at being Elvis if he wanted, as well as playing at being an Everly brother. Garfunkel, in his memoir published in 2017, says "the friendship was shattered for life" -- he decided then and there that Paul Simon was a "base" person, a betrayer. But on the other hand, he still refers to Simon, over and over again, in that book as still being his friend, even as Simon has largely been disdainful of him since their last performance together in 2010. Friendships are complicated. Tom and Jerry struggled on for a couple more singles, which weren't as successful as "Hey Schoolgirl" had been, with material like "Two Teenagers", written by Rose Marie McCoy: [Excerpt: Tom and Jerry, "Two Teenagers"] But as they'd stopped being friends, and they weren't selling records, they drifted apart and didn't really speak for five years, though they would occasionally run into one another. They both went off to university, and Garfunkel basically gave up on the idea of having a career in music, though he did record a couple of singles, under the name "Artie Garr": [Excerpt: Artie Garr, "Beat Love"] But for the most part, Garfunkel concentrated on his studies, planning to become either an architect or maybe an academic. Paul Simon, on the other hand, while he was technically studying at university too, was only paying minimal attention to his studies. Instead, he was learning the music business. Every afternoon, after university had finished, he'd go around the Brill Building and its neighbouring buildings, offering his services both as a songwriter and as a demo performer. As Simon was competent on guitar, bass, and drums, could sing harmonies, and could play a bit of piano if it was in the key of C, he could use primitive multitracking to play and sing all the parts on a demo, and do it well: [Excerpt: Paul Simon, "Boys Were Made For Girls"] That's an excerpt from a demo Simon recorded for Burt Bacharach, who has said that he tried to get Simon to record as many of his demos as possible, though only a couple of them have surfaced publicly. Simon would also sometimes record demos with his friend Carole Klein, sometimes under the name The Cosines: [Excerpt: The Cosines, "Just to Be With You"] As we heard back in the episode on "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?", Carole Klein went on to change her name to Carole King, and become one of the most successful songwriters of the era -- something which spurred Paul Simon on, as he wanted to emulate her success. Simon tried to get signed up by Don Kirshner, who was publishing Goffin and King, but Kirshner turned Simon down -- an expensive mistake for Kirshner, but one that would end up benefiting Simon, who eventually figured out that he should own his own publishing. Simon was also getting occasional work as a session player, and played lead guitar on "The Shape I'm In" by Johnny Restivo, which made the lower reaches of the Hot One Hundred: [Excerpt: Johnny Restivo, "The Shape I'm In"] Between 1959 and 1963 Simon recorded a whole string of unsuccessful pop singles. including as a member of the Mystics: [Excerpt: The Mystics, "All Through the Night"] He even had a couple of very minor chart hits -- he got to number 99 as Tico and the Triumphs: [Excerpt: Tico and the Triumphs, "Motorcycle"] and number ninety-seven as Jerry Landis: [Excerpt: Jerry Landis, "The Lone Teen Ranger"] But he was jumping around, hopping onto every fad as it passed, and not getting anywhere. And then he started to believe that he could do something more interesting in music. He first became aware that the boundaries of what could be done in music extended further than "ooh-bop-a-loochy-ba" when he took a class on modern music at university, which included a trip to Carnegie Hall to hear a performance of music by the avant-garde composer Edgard Varese: [Excerpt: Edgard Varese, "Ionisation"] Simon got to meet Varese after the performance, and while he would take his own music in a very different, and much more commercial, direction than Varese's, he was nonetheless influenced by what Varese's music showed about the possibilities that existed in music. The other big influence on Simon at this time was when he heard The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan: [Excerpt: Bob Dylan, "Girl From the North Country"] Simon immediately decided to reinvent himself as a folkie, despite at this point knowing very little about folk music other than the Everly Brothers' Songs Our Daddy Taught Us album. He tried playing around Greenwich Village, but found it an uncongenial atmosphere, and inspired by the liner notes to the Dylan album, which talked about Dylan's time in England, he made what would be the first of several trips to the UK, where he was given a rapturous reception simply on the grounds of being an American and owning a better acoustic guitar -- a Martin -- than most British people owned. He had the showmanship that he'd learned from watching his father on stage and sometimes playing with him, and from his time in Tom and Jerry and working round the studios, and so he was able to impress the British folk-club audiences, who were used to rather earnest, scholarly, people, not to someone like Simon who was clearly ambitious and very showbiz. His repertoire at this point consisted mostly of songs from the first two Dylan albums, a Joan Baez record, Little Willie John's "Fever", and one song he'd written himself, an attempt at a protest song called "He Was My Brother", which he would release on his return to the US under yet another stage name, Paul Kane: [Excerpt: Paul Kane, "He Was My Brother"] Simon has always stated that that song was written about a friend of his who was murdered when he went down to Mississippi with the Freedom Riders -- but while Simon's friend was indeed murdered, it wasn't until about a year after he wrote the song, and Simon has confused the timelines in his subsequent recollections. At the time he recorded that, when he had returned to New York at the end of the summer, Simon had a job as a song plugger for a publishing company, and he gave the publishing company the rights to that song and its B-side, which led to that B-side getting promoted by the publisher, and ending up covered on one of the biggest British albums of 1964, which went to number two in the UK charts: [Excerpt: Val Doonican, "Carlos Dominguez"] Oddly, that may not end up being the only time we feature a Val Doonican track on this podcast. Simon continued his attempts to be a folkie, even teaming up again with Art Garfunkel, with whom he'd re-established contact, to perform in Greenwich Village as Kane and Garr, but they went down no better as a duo than Simon had as a solo artist. Simon went back to the UK again over Christmas 1963, and while he was there he continued work on a song that would become such a touchstone for him that of the first six albums he would be involved in, four would feature the song while a fifth would include a snippet of it. "The Sound of Silence" was apparently started in November 1963, but not finished until February 1964, by which time he was once again back in the USA, and back working as a song plugger. It was while working as a song plugger that Simon first met Tom Wilson, Bob Dylan's producer at Columbia. Simon met up with Wilson trying to persuade him to use some of the songs that the publishing company were putting out. When Wilson wasn't interested, Simon played him a couple of his own songs. Wilson took one of them, "He Was My Brother", for the Pilgrims, a group he was producing who were supposed to be the Black answer to Peter, Paul, and Mary: [Excerpt: The Pilgrims, "He Was My Brother"] Wilson was also interested in "The Sound of Silence", but Simon was more interested in getting signed as a performer than in having other acts perform his songs. Wilson was cautious, though -- he was already producing one folkie singer-songwriter, and he didn't really need a second one. But he *could* probably do with a vocal group... Simon mentioned that he had actually made a couple of records before, as part of a duo. Would Wilson be at all interested in a vocal *duo*? Wilson would be interested. Simon and Garfunkel auditioned for him, and a few days later were in the Columbia Records studio on Seventh Avenue recording their first album as a duo, which was also the first time either of them would record under their own name. Wednesday Morning, 3AM, the duo's first album, was a simple acoustic album, and the only instrumentation was Simon and Barry Kornfeld, a Greenwich Village folkie, on guitars, and Bill Lee, the double bass player who'd played with Dylan and others, on bass. Tom Wilson guided the duo in their song selection, and the eventual album contained six cover versions and six originals written by Simon. The cover versions were a mixture of hootenanny staples like "Go Tell it on the Mountain", plus Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'", included to cross-promote Dylan's new album and to try to link the duo with the more famous writer, and one unusual one, "The Sun is Burning", written by Ian Campbell, a Scottish folk singer who Simon had got to know on his trips to the UK: [Excerpt: Simon and Garfunkel, "The Sun is Burning"] But the song that everyone was keenest on was "The Sound of Silence", the first song that Simon had written that he thought would stand up in comparison with the sort of song that Dylan was writing: [Excerpt: Simon and Garfunkel, "The Sound of Silence (Wednesday Morning 3AM version)"] In between sessions for the album, Simon and Garfunkel also played a high-profile gig at Gerde's Folk City in the Village, and a couple of shows at the Gaslight Cafe. The audiences there, though, regarded them as a complete joke -- Dave Van Ronk would later relate that for weeks afterwards, all anyone had to do was sing "Hello darkness, my old friend", for everyone around to break into laughter. Bob Dylan was one of those who laughed at the performance -- though Robert Shelton later said that Dylan hadn't been laughing at them, specifically, he'd just had a fit of the giggles -- and this had led to a certain amount of anger from Simon towards Dylan. The album was recorded in March 1964, and was scheduled for release  in October. In the meantime, they both made plans to continue with their studies and their travels. Garfunkel was starting to do postgraduate work towards his doctorate in mathematics, while Simon was now enrolled in Brooklyn Law School, but was still spending most of his time travelling, and would drop out after one semester. He would spend much of the next eighteen months in the UK. While he was occasionally in the US between June 1964 and November 1965, Simon now considered himself based in England, where he made several acquaintances that would affect his life deeply. Among them were a young woman called Kathy Chitty, with whom he would fall in love and who would inspire many of his songs, and an older woman called Judith Piepe (and I apologise if I'm mispronouncing her name, which I've only ever seen written down, never heard) who many people believed had an unrequited crush on Simon. Piepe ran her London flat as something of a commune for folk musicians, and Simon lived there for months at a time while in the UK. Among the other musicians who stayed there for a time were Sandy Denny, Cat Stevens, and Al Stewart, whose bedroom was next door to Simon's. Piepe became Simon's de facto unpaid manager and publicist, and started promoting him around the British folk scene. Simon also at this point became particularly interested in improving his guitar playing. He was spending a lot of time at Les Cousins, the London club that had become the centre of British acoustic guitar. There are, roughly, three styles of acoustic folk guitar -- to be clear, I'm talking about very broad-brush categorisations here, and there are people who would disagree and say there are more, but these are the main ones. Two of these are American styles -- there's the simple style known as Carter scratching, popularised by Mother Maybelle Carter of the Carter family, and for this all you do is alternate bass notes with your thumb while scratching the chord on the treble strings with one finger, like this: [Excerpt: Carter picking] That's the style played by a lot of country and folk players who were primarily singers accompanying themselves. In the late forties and fifties, though, another style had become popularised -- Travis picking. This is named after Merle Travis, the most well-known player in the style, but he always called it Muhlenberg picking, after Muhlenberg County, where he'd learned the style from Ike Everly -- the Everly Brothers' father -- and Mose Rager, a Black guitarist. In Travis picking, the thumb alternates between two bass notes, but rather than strumming a chord, the index and middle fingers play simple patterns on the treble strings, like this: [Excerpt: Travis picking] That's, again, a style primarily used for accompaniment, but it can also be used to play instrumentals by oneself. As well as Travis and Ike Everly, it's also the style played by Donovan, Chet Atkins, James Taylor, and more. But there's a third style, British baroque folk guitar, which was largely the invention of Davey Graham. Graham, you might remember, was a folk guitarist who had lived in the same squat as Lionel Bart when Bart started working with Tommy Steele, and who had formed a blues duo with Alexis Korner. Graham is now best known for one of his simpler pieces, “Anji”, which became the song that every British guitarist tried to learn: [Excerpt: Davey Graham, "Anji"] Dozens of people, including Paul Simon, would record versions of that. Graham invented an entirely new style of guitar playing, influenced by ragtime players like Blind Blake, but also by Bach, by Moroccan oud music, and by Celtic bagpipe music. While it was fairly common for players to retune their guitar to an open major chord, allowing them to play slide guitar, Graham retuned his to a suspended fourth chord -- D-A-D-G-A-D -- which allowed him to keep a drone going on some strings while playing complex modal counterpoints on others. While I demonstrated the previous two styles myself, I'm nowhere near a good enough guitarist to demonstrate British folk baroque, so here's an excerpt of Davey Graham playing his own arrangement of the traditional ballad "She Moved Through the Fair", recast as a raga and retitled "She Moved Thru' the Bizarre": [Excerpt: Davey Graham, "She Moved Thru' the Bizarre"] Graham's style was hugely influential on an entire generation of British guitarists, people who incorporated world music and jazz influences into folk and blues styles, and that generation of guitarists was coming up at the time and playing at Les Cousins. People who started playing in this style included Jimmy Page, Bert Jansch, Roy Harper, John Renbourn, Richard Thompson, Nick Drake, and John Martyn, and it also had a substantial influence on North American players like Joni Mitchell, Tim Buckley, and of course Paul Simon. Simon was especially influenced at this time by Martin Carthy, the young British guitarist whose style was very influenced by Graham -- but while Graham applied his style to music ranging from Dave Brubeck to Lutheran hymns to Big Bill Broonzy songs, Carthy mostly concentrated on traditional English folk songs. Carthy had a habit of taking American folk singers under his wing, and he taught Simon several songs, including Carthy's own arrangement of the traditional "Scarborough Fair": [Excerpt: Martin Carthy, "Scarborough Fair"] Simon would later record that arrangement, without crediting Carthy, and this would lead to several decades of bad blood between them, though Carthy forgave him in the 1990s, and the two performed the song together at least once after that. Indeed, Simon seems to have made a distinctly negative impression on quite a few of the musicians he knew in Britain at this time, who seem to, at least in retrospect, regard him as having rather used and discarded them as soon as his career became successful. Roy Harper has talked in liner notes to CD reissues of his work from this period about how Simon used to regularly be a guest in his home, and how he has memories of Simon playing with Harper's baby son Nick (now himself one of the greats of British guitar) but how as soon as he became successful he never spoke to Harper again. Similarly, in 1965 Simon started a writing partnership with Bruce Woodley of the Seekers, an Australian folk-pop band based in the UK, best known for "Georgy Girl". The two wrote "Red Rubber Ball", which became a hit for the Cyrkle: [Excerpt: The Cyrke, "Red Rubber Ball"] and also "Cloudy", which the Seekers recorded as an album track: [Excerpt: The Seekers, "Cloudy"] When that was recorded by Simon and Garfunkel, Woodley's name was removed from the writing credits, though Woodley still apparently received royalties for it. But at this point there *was* no Simon and Garfunkel. Paul Simon was a solo artist working the folk clubs in Britain, and Simon and Garfunkel's one album had sold a minuscule number of copies. They did, when Simon briefly returned to the US in March, record two tracks for a prospective single, this time with an electric backing band. One was a rewrite of the title track of their first album, now titled "Somewhere They Can't Find Me" and with a new chorus and some guitar parts nicked from Davey Graham's "Anji"; the other a Twist-beat song that could almost be Manfred Mann or Georgie Fame -- "We Got a Groovy Thing Goin'". That was also influenced by “Anji”, though by Bert Jansch's version rather than Graham's original. Jansch rearranged the song and stuck in this phrase: [Excerpt: Bert Jansch, “Anji”] Which became the chorus to “We Got a Groovy Thing Goin'”: [Excerpt: Simon and Garfunkel, "We Got a Groovy Thing Goin'"] But that single was never released, and as far as Columbia were concerned, Simon and Garfunkel were a defunct act, especially as Tom Wilson, who had signed them, was looking to move away from Columbia. Art Garfunkel did come to visit Simon in the UK a couple of times, and they'd even sing together occasionally, but it was on the basis of Paul Simon the successful club act occasionally inviting his friend on stage during the encore, rather than as a duo, and Garfunkel was still seeing music only as a sideline while Simon was now utterly committed to it. He was encouraged in this commitment by Judith Piepe, who considered him to be the greatest songwriter of his generation, and who started a letter-writing campaign to that effect, telling the BBC they needed to put him on the radio. Eventually, after a lot of pressure, they agreed -- though they weren't exactly sure what to do with him, as he didn't fit into any of the pop formats they had. He was given his own radio show -- a five-minute show in a religious programming slot. Simon would perform a song, and there would be an introduction tying the song into some religious theme or other. Two series of four episodes of this were broadcast, in a plum slot right after Housewives' Choice, which got twenty million listeners, and the BBC were amazed to find that a lot of people phoned in asking where they could get hold of the records by this Paul Simon fellow. Obviously he didn't have any out yet, and even the Simon and Garfunkel album, which had been released in the US, hadn't come out in Britain. After a little bit of negotiation, CBS, the British arm of Columbia Records, had Simon come in and record an album of his songs, titled The Paul Simon Songbook. The album, unlike the Simon and Garfunkel album, was made up entirely of Paul Simon originals. Two of them were songs that had previously been recorded for Wednesday Morning 3AM -- "He Was My Brother" and a new version of "The Sound of Silence": [Excerpt: Paul Simon, "The Sound of Silence"] The other ten songs were newly-written pieces like "April Come She Will", "Kathy's Song", a parody of Bob Dylan entitled "A Simple Desultory Philippic", and the song that was chosen as the single, "I am a Rock": [Excerpt: Paul Simon, "I am a Rock"] That song was also the one that was chosen for Simon's first TV appearance since Tom and Jerry had appeared on Bandstand eight years earlier. The appearance on Ready, Steady, Go, though, was not one that anyone was happy with. Simon had been booked to appear on  a small folk music series, Heartsong, but that series was cancelled before he could appear. Rediffusion, the company that made the series, also made Ready, Steady, Go, and since they'd already paid Simon they decided they might as well stick him on that show and get something for their money. Unfortunately, the episode in question was already running long, and it wasn't really suited for introspective singer-songwriter performances -- the show was geared to guitar bands and American soul singers. Michael Lindsay-Hogg, the director, insisted that if Simon was going to do his song, he had to cut at least one verse, while Simon was insistent that he needed to perform the whole thing because "it's a story". Lindsay-Hogg got his way, but nobody was happy with the performance. Simon's album was surprisingly unsuccessful, given the number of people who'd called the BBC asking about it -- the joke went round that the calls had all been Judith Piepe doing different voices -- and Simon continued his round of folk clubs, pubs, and birthday parties, sometimes performing with Garfunkel, when he visited for the summer, but mostly performing on his own. One time he did perform with a full band, singing “Johnny B Goode” at a birthday party, backed by a band called Joker's Wild who a couple of weeks later went into the studio to record their only privately-pressed five-song record, of them performing recent hits: [Excerpt: Joker's Wild, "Walk Like a Man"] The guitarist from Joker's Wild would later join the other band who'd played at that party, but the story of David Gilmour joining Pink Floyd is for another episode. During this time, Simon also produced his first record for someone else, when he was responsible for producing the only album by his friend Jackson C Frank, though there wasn't much production involved as like Simon's own album it was just one man and his guitar. Al Stewart and Art Garfunkel were also in the control room for the recording, but the notoriously shy Frank insisted on hiding behind a screen so they couldn't see him while he recorded: [Excerpt: Jackson C Frank, "Blues Run the Game"] It seemed like Paul Simon was on his way to becoming a respected mid-level figure on the British folk scene, releasing occasional albums and maybe having one or two minor hits, but making a steady living. Someone who would be spoken of in the same breath as Ralph McTell perhaps. Meanwhile, Art Garfunkel would be going on to be a lecturer in mathematics whose students might be surprised to know he'd had a minor rock and roll hit as a kid. But then something happened that changed everything. Wednesday Morning 3AM hadn't sold at all, and Columbia hadn't promoted it in the slightest. It was too collegiate and polite for the Greenwich Village folkies, and too intellectual for the pop audience that had been buying Peter, Paul, and Mary, and it had come out just at the point that the folk boom had imploded. But one DJ in Boston, Dick Summer, had started playing one song from it, "The Sound of Silence", and it had caught on with the college students, who loved the song. And then came spring break 1965. All those students went on holiday, and suddenly DJs in places like Cocoa Beach, Florida, were getting phone calls requesting "The Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel. Some of them with contacts at Columbia got in touch with the label, and Tom Wilson had an idea. On the first day of what turned out to be his last session with Dylan, the session for "Like a Rolling Stone", Wilson asked the musicians to stay behind and work on something. He'd already experimented with overdubbing new instruments on an acoustic recording with his new version of Dylan's "House of the Rising Sun", now he was going to try it with "The Sound of Silence". He didn't bother asking the duo what they thought -- record labels messed with people's records all the time. So "The Sound of Silence" was released as an electric folk-rock single: [Excerpt: Simon and Garfunkel, "The Sound of Silence"] This is always presented as Wilson massively changing the sound of the duo without their permission or knowledge, but the fact is that they had *already* gone folk-rock, back in March, so they were already thinking that way. The track was released as a single with “We Got a Groovy Thing Going” on the B-side, and was promoted first in the Boston market, and it did very well. Roy Harper later talked about Simon's attitude at this time, saying "I can remember going into the gents in The Three Horseshoes in Hempstead during a gig, and we’re having a pee together. He was very excited, and he turns round to me and and says, “Guess what, man? We’re number sixteen in Boston with The Sound of Silence'”. A few days later I was doing another gig with him and he made a beeline for me. “Guess what?” I said “You’re No. 15 in Boston”. He said, “No man, we’re No. 1 in Boston”. I thought, “Wow. No. 1 in Boston, eh?” It was almost a joke, because I really had no idea what that sort of stuff meant at all." Simon was even more excited when the record started creeping up the national charts, though he was less enthused when his copy of the single arrived from America. He listened to it, and thought the arrangement was a Byrds rip-off, and cringed at the way the rhythm section had to slow down and speed up in order to stay in time with the acoustic recording: [Excerpt: Simon and Garfunkel, "The Sound of Silence"] I have to say that, while the tempo fluctuations are noticeable once you know to look for them, it's a remarkably tight performance given the circumstances. As the record went up the charts, Simon was called back to America, to record an album to go along with it. The Paul Simon Songbook hadn't been released in the US,  and they needed an album *now*, and Simon was a slow songwriter, so the duo took six songs from that album and rerecorded them in folk-rock versions with their new producer Bob Johnston, who was also working with Dylan now, since Tom Wilson had moved on to Verve records. They filled out the album with "The Sound of Silence", the two electric tracks from March, one new song, "Blessed", and a version of "Anji", which came straight after "Somewhere They Can't Find Me", presumably to acknowledge Simon lifting bits of it. That version of “Anji” also followed Jansch's arrangement, and so included the bit that Simon had taken for “We Got a Groovy Thing Going” as well. They also recorded their next single, which was released on the British version of the album but not the American one, a song that Simon had written during a thoroughly depressing tour of Lancashire towns (he wrote it in Widnes, but a friend of Simon's who lived in Widnes later said that while it was written in Widnes it was written *about* Birkenhead. Simon has also sometimes said it was about Warrington or Wigan, both of which are so close to Widnes and so similar in both name and atmosphere that it would be the easiest thing in the world to mix them up.) [Excerpt: Simon and Garfunkel, "Homeward Bound"] These tracks were all recorded in December 1965, and they featured the Wrecking Crew -- Bob Johnston wanted the best, and didn't rate the New York players that Wilson had used, and so they were recorded in LA with Glen Campbell, Joe South, Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel, and Joe Osborne. I've also seen in some sources that there were sessions in Nashville with A-team players Fred Carter and Charlie McCoy. By January, "The Sound of Silence" had reached number one, knocking "We Can Work it Out" by the Beatles off the top spot for two weeks, before the Beatles record went back to the top. They'd achieved what they'd been trying for for nearly a decade, and I'll give the last word here to Paul Simon, who said of the achievement: "I had come back to New York, and I was staying in my old room at my parents' house. Artie was living at his parents' house, too. I remember Artie and I were sitting there in my car one night, parked on a street in Queens, and the announcer said, "Number one, Simon & Garfunkel." And Artie said to me, "That Simon & Garfunkel, they must be having a great time.""
Oct 21, 2021
Episode 134: “In the Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett
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Episode 134 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “In the Midnight Hour", the links between Stax, Atlantic, and Detroit, and the career of Wilson Pickett. 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 "Mercy Mercy" by Don Covay. 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 I say “After Arthur Alexander had moved on to Monument Records” – I meant to say “Dot Records” here, the label that Alexander moved to *before* Monument. I also misspeak at one point and say "keyboard player Chips Moman", when I mean to say "keyboard player Spooner Oldham". This is correct in the transcript/script, I just misread it. Resources No Mixcloud this week, as there are too many songs by Pickett. The main resource I used for the biographical details of Wilson Pickett was In the Midnight Hour: The Life and Soul of Wilson Pickett. Information about Stax comes primarily from two books: Soulsville USA: The Story of Stax by Rob Bowman, and Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion by Robert Gordon. Country Soul by Charles L Hughes is a great overview of the soul music made in Muscle Shoals, Memphis, and Nashville in the sixties. The episodes of Cocaine and Rhinestones I reference are the ones on Owen Bradley and the Nashville A-Team. And information on the Falcons comes from Marv Goldberg. Pickett's complete Atlantic albums can be found in this excellent ten-CD set. For those who just want the hits, this single-CD compilation is significantly cheaper. 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, just to say that this episode contains some discussion of domestic abuse, drug use, and abuse of employees by their employer, and one mention of an eating disorder. Also, this episode is much longer than normal, because we've got a lot to fit in. Today we're going to move away from Motown, and have a look at a record recorded in the studios of their great rival Stax records, though not released on that label. But the record we're going to look at is from an artist who was a bridge between the Detroit soul of Motown and the southern soul of Stax, an artist who had a foot in both camps, and whose music helped to define soul while also being closer than that of any other soul man to the music made by the white rock musicians of the period. We're going to look at Stax, and Muscle Shoals, and Atlantic Records, and at Wilson Pickett and "In the Midnight Hour" [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett: "In the Midnight Hour"] Wilson Pickett never really had a chance. His father, Wilson senior, was known in Alabama for making moonshine whisky, and spent time in prison for doing just that -- and his young son was the only person he told the location of his still. Eventually, Wilson senior moved to Detroit to start earning more money, leaving his family at home at first. Wilson junior and his mother moved up to Detroit to be with his father, but they had to leave his older siblings in Alabama, and his mother would shuttle between Michigan and Alabama, trying vainly to look after all her children. Eventually, Wilson's mother got pregnant while she was down in Alabama, which broke up his parents' marriage, and Wilson moved back down to Alabama permanently, to live on a farm with his mother. But he never got on with his mother, who was physically abusive to him -- as he himself would later be to his children, and to his partners, and to his bandmates. The one thing that Wilson did enjoy about his life in Alabama was the gospel music, and he became particularly enamoured of two gospel singers, Archie Brownlee of the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi: [Excerpt: The Mississippi Blind Boys, "Will My Jesus Be Waiting?"] And Julius Cheeks of the Sensational Nightingales: [Excerpt: The Sensational Nightingales, "God's World Will Never Pass Away"] Wilson determined to become a gospel singer himself, but he couldn't stand living with his mother in rural Alabama, and decided to move up to be with his father and his father's new girlfriend in Detroit.  Once he moved to Detroit, he started attending Northwestern High School, which at the time was also being attended by Norman Whitfield, Florence Ballard, and Melvin Franklin. Pickett also became friendly with Aretha Franklin, though she didn't attend the same school -- she went to school at Northern, with Smokey Robinson -- and he started attending services at New Bethel Church, the church where her father preached. This was partly because Rev. Franklin was one of the most dynamic preachers around, but also because New Bethel Church would regularly feature performances by the most important gospel performers of the time -- Pickett saw the Soul Stirrers perform there, with Sam Cooke singing lead, and of course also saw Aretha singing there. He joined a few gospel groups, first joining one called the Sons of Zion, but he was soon poached by a more successful group, the Violinaires. It was with the Violinaires that he made what is almost certainly his first recording -- a track that was released as a promo single, but never got a wide release at the time: [Excerpt: The Violinaires, "Sign of the Judgement"] The Violinaires were only moderately successful on the gospel circuit, but Pickett was already sure he was destined for bigger things. He had a rivalry with David Ruffin, in particular, constantly mocking Ruffin and saying that he would never amount to anything, while Wilson Pickett was the greatest. But after a while, he realised that gospel wasn't where he was going to make his mark. Partly his change in direction was motivated by financial concern -- he'd physically attacked his father and been kicked out of his home, and he was also married while still a teenager, and had a kid who needed feeding. But also, he was aware of a certain level of hypocrisy among his more religious acquaintances. Aretha Franklin had two kids, aged only sixteen, and her father, the Reverend Franklin, had fathered a child with a twelve-year-old, was having an affair with the gospel singer Clara Ward, and was hanging around blues clubs all the time. Most importantly, he realised that the audiences he was singing to in church on Sunday morning were mostly still drunk from Saturday night. As he later put it "I might as well be singing rock ’n’ roll as singing to a drunken audience. I might as well make me some money." And this is where the Falcons came in. The Falcons were a doo-wop group that had been formed by a Black singer, Eddie Floyd, and a white singer, Bob Manardo. They'd both recruited friends, including bass singer Willie Schofield, and after performing locally they'd decided to travel to Chicago to audition for Mercury Records. When they got there, they found that you couldn't audition for Mercury in Chicago, you had to go to New York, but they somehow persuaded the label to sign them anyway -- in part because an integrated group was an unusual thing. They recorded one single for Mercury, produced by Willie Dixon who was moonlighting from Chess: [Excerpt: The Falcons, "Baby That's It"] But then Manardo was drafted, and the group's other white member, Tom Shetler, decided to join up along with him. The group went through some other lineup changes, and ended up as Eddie Floyd, Willie Schofield, Mack Rice, guitarist Lance Finnie, and lead singer Joe Stubbs, brother of Levi. The group released several singles on small labels owned by their manager, before having a big hit with "You're So Fine", the record we heard about them recording last episode: [Excerpt: The Falcons, "You're So Fine"] That made number two on the R&B charts and number seventeen on the pop charts. They recorded several follow-ups, including "Just For Your Love", which made number 26 on the R&B charts: [Excerpt: The Falcons, "Just For Your Love"] To give you some idea of just how interrelated all the different small R&B labels were at this point, that was originally recorded and released on Chess records. But as Roquel Davis was at that point working for Chess, he managed to get the rights to reissue it on Anna Records, the label he co-owned with the Gordy sisters -- and the re-released record was distributed by Gone Records, one of George Goldner's labels. The group also started to tour supporting Marv Johnson. But Willie Schofield was becoming dissatisfied. He'd written "You're So Fine", but he'd only made $500 from what he was told was a million-selling record. He realised that in the music business, the real money was on the business side, not the music side, so while staying in the Falcons he decided he was going to go into management too. He found the artist he was going to manage while he was walking to his car, and heard somebody in one of the buildings he passed singing Elmore James' then-current blues hit "The Sky is Crying": [Excerpt: Elmore James, "The Sky is Crying"] The person he heard singing that song, and accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, was of course Wilson Pickett, and Schofield signed him up to a management contract -- and Pickett was eager to sign, knowing that Schofield was a successful performer himself. The intention was at first that Schofield would manage Pickett as a solo performer, but then Joe Stubbs got ideas above his station, and started insisting that the group be called "Joe Stubbs and the Falcons", which put the others' backs up, and soon Stubbs was out of the group. This experience may have been something that his brother later had in mind -- in the late sixties, when Motown started trying to promote groups as Lead Singer and The Group, Levi Stubbs always refused to allow his name to go in front of the Four Tops. So the Falcons were without a lead singer. They tried a few other singers in their circle, including Marvin Gaye, but were turned down. So in desperation, they turned to Pickett. This wasn't a great fit -- the group, other than Schofield, thought that Pickett was "too Black", both in that he had too much gospel in his voice, and literally in that he was darker-skinned than the rest of the group (something that Schofield, as someone who was darker than the rest of the group but less dark than Pickett, took offence at). Pickett, in turn, thought that the Falcons were too poppy, and not really the kind of thing he was at all interested in doing. But they were stuck with each other, and had to make the most of it, even though Pickett's early performances were by all accounts fairly dreadful. He apparently came in in the wrong key on at least one occasion, and another time froze up altogether and couldn't sing. Even when he did sing, and in tune, he had no stage presence, and he later said “I would trip up, fall on the stage and the group would rehearse me in the dressing room after every show. I would get mad, ‘cos I wanted to go out and look at the girls as well! They said, ‘No, you got to rehearse, Oscar.’ They called me Oscar. I don’t know why they called me Oscar, I didn’t like that very much.” Soon, Joe Stubbs was back in the group, and there was talk of the group getting rid of Pickett altogether. But then they went into the studio to record a song that Sam Cooke had written for the group, "Pow! You're in Love". The song had been written for Stubbs to sing, but at the last minute they decided to give Pickett the lead instead: [Excerpt: The Falcons, "Pow! You're in Love"] Pickett was now secure as the group's lead singer, but the group weren't having any success with records. They were, though, becoming a phenomenal live act -- so much so that on one tour, where James Brown was the headliner, Brown tried to have the group kicked off the bill, because he felt that Pickett was stealing his thunder. Eventually, the group's manager set up his own record label, Lu Pine Records, which would become best known as the label that released the first record by the Primettes, who later became the Supremes.  Lu Pine released the Falcons' single "I Found a Love",   after the group's management had first shopped it round to other labels to try to get them to put it out: [Excerpt: The Falcons, "I Found a Love"] That song, based on the old Pentecostal hymn "Yes Lord", was written by Pickett and Schofield, but the group's manager, Robert West, also managed to get his name on the credits. The backing group, the Ohio Untouchables, would later go on to become better known as The Ohio Players. One of the labels that had turned that record down was Atlantic Records, because Jerry Wexler hadn't heard any hit potential in the song. But then the record started to become successful locally, and Wexler realised his mistake. He got Lu Pine to do a distribution deal with Atlantic, giving Atlantic full rights to the record, and it became a top ten R&B hit. But by this point, Pickett was sick of working with the Falcons, and he'd decided to start trying for a solo career. His first solo single was on the small label Correc-Tone, and was co-produced by Robert Bateman, and featured the Funk Brothers as instrumental backing, and the Primettes on vocals. I've seen some claims that the Andantes are on there too, but I can't make them out -- but I can certainly make out the future Supremes: [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "Let Me Be Your Boy"] That didn't do anything, and Pickett kept recording with the Falcons for a while, as well as putting out his solo records. But then Willie Schofield got drafted, and the group split up. Their manager hired another group, The Fabulous Playboys, to be a new Falcons group, but in 1964 he got shot in a dispute over the management of Mary Wells, and had to give up working in the music industry. Pickett's next single, which he co-wrote with Robert Bateman and Sonny Schofield, was to be the record that changed his career forever. "If You Need Me" once again featured the Funk Brothers and the Andantes, and was recorded for Correc-Tone: [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "If You Need Me"] Jerry Wexler was again given the opportunity to put the record out on Atlantic, and once again decided against it. Instead, he offered to buy the song's publishing, and he got Solomon Burke to record it, in a version produced by Bert Berns: [Excerpt: Solomon Burke, "If You Need Me"] Burke wasn't fully aware, when he cut that version, that Wilson Pickett, who was his friend, had recorded his own version. He became aware, though, when Double-L Records, a label co-owned by Lloyd Price, bought the Correc-Tone master and released Pickett's version nationally, at the same time as Burke's version came out. The two men were annoyed that they'd been put into unwitting competition, and so started an unofficial nonaggression pact -- every time Burke was brought into a radio station to promote his record, he'd tell the listeners that he was there to promote Wilson Pickett's new single. Meanwhile, when Pickett went to radio stations, he'd take the opportunity to promote the new record he'd written for his good friend Solomon Burke, which the listeners should definitely check out. The result was that both records became hits -- Pickett's scraped the lower reaches of the R&B top thirty, while Burke, as he was the bigger star, made number two on the R&B chart and got into the pop top forty. Pickett followed it up with a soundalike, "It's Too Late", which managed to make the R&B top ten as there was no competition from Burke. At this point, Jerry Wexler realised that he'd twice had the opportunity to release a record with Wilson Pickett singing, twice he'd turned the chance down, and twice the record had become a hit. He realised that it was probably a good idea to sign Pickett directly to Atlantic and avoid missing out. He did check with Pickett if Pickett was annoyed about the Solomon Burke record -- Pickett's response was "I need the bread", and Wilson Pickett was now an Atlantic artist. This was at the point when Atlantic was in something of a commercial slump -- other than the records Bert Berns was producing for the Drifters and Solomon Burke, they were having no hits, and they were regarded as somewhat old-fashioned, rooted in a version of R&B that still showed its roots in jazz, rather than the new sounds that were taking over the industry in the early sixties. But they were still a bigger label than anything else Pickett had recorded for, and he seized the opportunity to move into the big time. To start with, Atlantic teamed Pickett up with someone who seemed like the perfect collaborator -- Don Covay, a soul singer and songwriter who had his roots in hard R&B and gospel music but had written hits for people like Chubby Checker.  The two got together and recorded a song they wrote together, "I'm Gonna Cry (Cry Baby)": [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "I'm Gonna Cry (Cry Baby)"] That did nothing commercially -- and gallingly for Pickett, on the same day, Atlantic released a single Covay had written for himself, "Mercy Mercy", and that ended up going to number one on the R&B chart and making the pop top forty. As "I'm Gonna Cry" didn't work out, Atlantic decided to try to change tack, and paired Pickett with their established hitmaker Bert Berns, and a duet partner, Tami Lyn, for what Pickett would later describe as "one of the weirdest sessions on me I ever heard in my life", a duet on a Mann and Weil song, "Come Home Baby": [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett and Tami Lyn, "Come Home Baby"] Pickett later said of that track, "it didn't sell two records", but while it wasn't a hit, it was very popular among musicians -- a few months later Mick Jagger would produce a cover version of it on Immediate Records, with Ronnie Wood, Keith Richards, and the Georgie Fame brass section backing a couple of unknown singers: [Excerpt: Rod Stewart and P.P. Arnold, "Come Home Baby"] Sadly for Rod Stewart and P.P. Arnold, that didn't get past being issued as a promotional record, and never made it to the shops. Meanwhile, Pickett went out on tour again, substituting on a package tour for Clyde McPhatter, who had to drop out when his sister died. Also on the tour was Pickett's old bandmate from the Falcons, Mack Rice, now performing as Sir Mack Rice, who was promoting a single he'd just released on a small label, which had been produced by Andre Williams. The song had originally been called "Mustang Mama", but Aretha Franklin had suggested he call it "Mustang Sally" instead: [Excerpt: Sir Mack Rice, "Mustang Sally"] Pickett took note of the song, though he didn't record it just yet -- and in the meantime, the song was picked up by the white rock group The Young Rascals, who released their version as the B-side of their number one hit, "Good Lovin'": [Excerpt: The Young Rascals, "Mustang Sally"] Atlantic's problems with having hits weren't only problems with records they made themselves -- they were also having trouble getting any big hits with Stax records. As we discussed in the episode on "Green Onions", Stax were being distributed by Atlantic, and in 1963 they'd had a minor hit with "These Arms of Mine" by Otis Redding: [Excerpt: Otis Redding, "These Arms of Mine"] But throughout 1964, while the label had some R&B success with its established stars, it had no real major breakout hits, and it seemed to be floundering a bit -- it wasn't doing as badly as Atlantic itself, but it wasn't doing wonderfully. It wasn't until the end of the year when the label hit on what would become its defining sound, when for the first time Redding collaborated with Stax studio guitarist and producer Steve Cropper on a song: [Excerpt: Otis Redding, "Mr. Pitiful"] That record would point the way towards Redding's great artistic triumphs of the next couple of years, which we'll look at in a future episode. But it also pointed the way towards a possible future sound for Atlantic. Atlantic had signed a soul duo, Sam & Dave, who were wonderful live performers but who had so far not managed to translate those live performances to record. Jerry Wexler thought that perhaps Steve Cropper could help them do that, and made a suggestion to Jim Stewart at Stax -- Atlantic would loan out Sam & Dave to the label. They'd remain signed to Atlantic, but make their records at Stax studios, and they'd be released as Stax records. Their first single for Stax, "A Place Nobody Can Find", was produced by Cropper, and was written by Stax songwriter Dave Porter: [Excerpt: Sam and Dave, "A Place Nobody Can Find"] That wasn't a hit, but soon Porter would start collaborating with another songwriter, Isaac Hayes, and would write a string of hits for the duo. But in order to formalise the loan-out of Sam and Dave, Atlantic also wanted to formalise their arrangement with Stax. Previously they'd operated on a handshake basis -- Wexler and Stewart had a mutual respect, and they simply agreed that Stax would give Atlantic the option to distribute their stuff. But now they entered into a formal, long-term contract, and for a nominal sum of one dollar, Jim Stewart gave Atlantic the distribution rights to all past Stax records and to all future records they released for the next few years. Or at least, Stewart *thought* that the agreement he was making was formalising the distribution agreement. What the contract actually said -- and Stewart never bothered to have this checked over by an entertainment lawyer, because he trusted Wexler -- was that Stax would, for the sum of one dollar, give Atlantic *permanent ownership* of all their records, in return. The precise wording was "You hereby sell, assign and transfer to us, our successors or assigns, absolutely and forever and without any limitations or restrictions whatever, not specifically set forth herein, the entire right, title and interest in and to each of such masters and to each of the performances embodied thereon." Jerry Wexler would later insist that he had no idea that particular clause was in the contract, and that it had been slipped in there by the lawyers. Jim Stewart still thought of himself as the owner of an independent record label, but without realising it he'd effectively become an employee of Atlantic. Atlantic started to take advantage of this new arrangement by sending other artists down to Memphis to record with the Stax musicians. Unlike Sam and Dave, these would still be released as Atlantic records rather than Stax ones, and Jerry Wexler and Atlantic's engineer Tom Dowd would be involved  in the production, but the records would be made by the Stax team. The first artist to benefit from this new arrangement was Wilson Pickett, who had been wanting to work at Stax for a while, being a big fan of Otis Redding in particular. Pickett was teamed up with Steve Cropper, and together they wrote the song that would define Pickett's career. The seeds of "In the Midnight Hour" come from two earlier recordings. One is a line from his record with the Falcons, "I Found a Love": [Excerpt: The Falcons, "I Found a Love"] The other is a line from a record that Clyde McPhatter had made with Billy Ward and the Dominoes back in 1951: [Excerpt: Billy Ward and the Dominoes, "Do Something For Me"] Those lines about a "midnight hour" and "love come tumbling down" were turned into the song that would make Pickett's name, but exactly who did what has been the cause of some disagreement. The official story is that Steve Cropper took those lines and worked with Pickett to write the song, as a straight collaboration. Most of the time, though, Pickett would claim that he'd written the song entirely by himself, and that Cropper had stolen the credit for that and their other credited collaborations. But other times he would admit "He worked with me quite a bit on that one". Floyd Newman, a regular horn player at Stax, would back up Pickett, saying "Every artist that came in here, they’d have their songs all together, but when they leave they had to give up a piece of it, to a certain person. But this person, you couldn’t be mad at him, because he didn’t own Stax, Jim Stewart owned Stax. And this guy was doing what Jim Stewart told him to do, so you can’t be mad at him." But on the other hand, Willie Schofield, who collaborated with Pickett on "I Found a Love", said of writing that "Pickett didn’t have any chord pattern. He had a couple of lyrics. I’m working with him, giving him the chord change, the feel of it. Then we’re going in the studio and I’ve gotta show the band how to play it because we didn’t have arrangers. That’s part of the songwriting. But he didn’t understand. He felt he wrote the lyrics so that’s it." Given that Cropper didn't take the writing credit on several other records he participated in, that he did have a consistent pattern of making classic hit records, that "In the Midnight Hour" is stylistically utterly different from Pickett's earlier work but very similar to songs like "Mr. Pitiful" cowritten by Cropper, and Pickett's longstanding habit of being dismissive of anyone else's contributions to his success, I think the most likely version of events is that Cropper did have a lot to do with how the song came together, and probably deserves his credit, but we'll never know for sure exactly what went on in their collaboration. Whoever wrote it, "In the Midnight Hour" became one of the all-time classics of soul: [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "In the Midnight Hour"] But another factor in making the record a success -- and in helping reinvent the Stax sound -- was actually Jerry Wexler. Wexler had started attending sessions at the Stax studios, and was astonished by how different the recording process was in the South. And Wexler had his own input into the session that produced "In the Midnight Hour". His main suggestion was that rather than play the complicated part that Cropper had come up with, the guitarist should simplify, and just play chords along with Al Jackson's snare drum. Wexler was enthusing about a new dance craze called the Jerk, which had recently been the subject of a hit record by a group called the Larks: [Excerpt: The Larks, "The Jerk"] The Jerk, as Wexler demonstrated it to the bemused musicians, involved accenting the second and fourth beats of the bar, and delaying them very slightly. And this happened to fit very well with the Stax studio sound. The Stax studio was a large room, with quite a lot of reverb, and the musicians played together without using headphones, listening to the room sound. Because of this, to stay in time, Steve Cropper had started taking his cue not just from the sound, but from watching Al Jackson's left hand going to the snare drum. This had led to him playing when he saw Jackson's hand go down on the two and four, rather than when the sound of the snare drum reached his ears -- a tiny, fraction-of-a-second, anticipation of the beat, before everyone would get back in sync on the one of the next bar, as Jackson hit the kick drum. This had in turn evolved into the whole group playing the backbeat with a fractional delay, hitting it a tiny bit late -- as if you're listening to the echo of those beats rather than to the beat itself. If anyone other than utterly exceptional musicians had tried this, it would have ended up as a car crash, but Jackson was one of the best timekeepers in the business, and many musicians would say that at this point in time Steve Cropper was *the* best rhythm guitarist in the world, so instead it gave the performances just enough sense of looseness to make them exciting. This slight delayed backbeat was something the musicians had naturally fallen into doing, but it fit so well with Wexler's conception of the Jerk that they started deliberately exaggerating it -- still only delaying the backbeat minutely, but enough to give the record a very different sound from anything that was out there: [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "In the Midnight Hour"] That delayed backbeat sound would become the signature sound of Stax for the next several years, and you will hear it on the run of classic singles they would put out for the next few years by Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, Booker T. and the MGs, Eddie Floyd and others. The sound of that beat is given extra emphasis by the utter simplicity of Al Jackson's playing. Jackson had a minimalist drum kit, but played it even more minimally -- other than the occasional fill, he never hit his tom at all, just using the kick drum, snare, and hi-hat -- and the hi-hat was not even miced, with any hi-hat on the actual records just being the result of leakage from the other mics. But that simplicity gave the Stax records a power that almost no other records from the period had: [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "In the Midnight Hour"] "In the Midnight Hour" made number one on the R&B charts, and made number twenty-one on the pop charts, instantly turning Pickett from an also-ran into one of the major stars of soul music. The follow-up, a soundalike called "Don't Fight It", also made the top five on the R&B charts. At his next session, Pickett was reunited with his old bandmate Eddie Floyd. Floyd would soon go on to have his own hits at Stax, most notably with "Knock on Wood", but at this point he was working as a staff songwriter at Stax, coming up with songs like "Comfort Me" for Carla Thomas: [Excerpt: Carla Thomas, "Comfort Me"] Floyd had teamed up with Steve Cropper, and they'd been... shall we say, "inspired"... by a hit for the Marvelettes, "Beechwood 45789", written by Marvin Gaye, Gwen Gordy and Mickey Stevenson: [Excerpt: The Marvelettes, "Beechwood 45789"] Cropper and Floyd had come up with their own song, "634-5789", which Pickett recorded, and which became an even bigger hit than "In the Midnight Hour", making number thirteen on the pop charts as well as being Pickett's second R&B number one: [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "634-5789"] At the same session, they cut another single. This one was inspired by an old gospel song, "Ninety-Nine and One Half Won't Do", recorded by Sister Rosetta Tharpe among others: [Excerpt: Sister Rosetta Tharpe, "Ninety-Nine and One Half Won't Do"] The song was rewritten by Floyd, Cropper, and Pickett, and was also a moderate R&B hit, though nowhere as big as "634-5789": [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "Ninety-Nine and One Half Won't Do"] That would be the last single that Pickett recorded at Stax, though -- though the reasoning has never been quite clear. Pickett was, to put it as mildly as possible, a difficult man to work with, and he seems to have had some kind of falling out with Jim Stewart -- though Stewart always said that the problem was actually that Pickett didn't get on with the musicians. But the musicians disagree, saying they had a good working relationship -- Pickett was often an awful person, but only when drunk, and he was always sober in the studio. It seems likely, actually, that Pickett's move away from the Stax studios was more to do with someone else -- Pickett's friend Don Covay was another Atlantic artist recording at Stax, and Pickett had travelled down with him when Covay had recorded "See Saw" there: [Excerpt: Don Covay, "See Saw"] Everyone involved agreed that Covay was an eccentric personality, and that he rubbed Jim Stewart up the wrong way. There is also a feeling among some that Stewart started to resent the way Stax's sound was being used for Atlantic artists, like he was "giving away" hits, even though Stax's company got the publishing on the songs Cropper was co-writing, and he was being paid for the studio time. Either way, after that session, Atlantic didn't send any of its artists down to Stax, other than Sam & Dave, who Stax regarded as their own artists. Pickett would never again record at Stax, and possibly coincidentally once he stopped writing songs with Steve Cropper he would also never again have a major hit record with a self-penned song. But Jerry Wexler still wanted to keep working in Southern studios, and with Southern musicians, and so he took Pickett to FAME studios, in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. We looked, back in the episode on Arthur Alexander, at the start of FAME studios, but after Arthur Alexander had moved on to Monument Records, Rick Hall had turned FAME into a home for R&B singers looking for crossover success. While Stax employed both Black and white musicians, FAME studios had an all-white rhythm section, with a background in country music, but that had turned out to be absolutely perfect for performers like the soul singer Joe Tex, who had himself started out in country before switching to soul, and who recorded classics like "Hold What You Got" at the studio: [Excerpt: Joe Tex, "Hold What You Got"] That had been released on FAME's record label, and Jerry Wexler had been impressed and had told Rick Hall to call him the next time he thought he had a hit. When Hall did call Wexler, Wexler was annoyed -- Hall phoned him in the middle of a party. But Hall was insistent. "You said to call you next time I've got a hit, and this is a number one". Wexler relented and listened to the record down the phone. This is what he heard: [Excerpt: Percy Sledge, "When a Man Loves a Woman"] Atlantic snapped up "When a Man Loves a Woman" by Percy Sledge, and it went to number one on the pop charts -- the first record from any of the Southern soul studios to do so. In Wexler's eyes, FAME was now the new Stax. Wexler had a bit of culture shock when working at FAME, as it was totally unlike anything he'd experienced before. The records he'd been involved with in New York had been mostly recorded by slumming jazz musicians, very technical players who would read the music from charts, and Stax had had Steve Cropper as de facto musical director, leading the musicians and working out their parts with them. By contrast, the process used at FAME, and at most of the other studios in what Charles Hughes describes as the "country-soul triangle" of Memphis, Muscle Shoals, and Nashville, was the process that had been developed by Owen Bradley and the Nashville A-Team in Nashville (and for a fuller description of this, see the excellent episodes on Bradley and the A-Team in the great country music podcast Cocaine and Rhinestones). The musicians would hear a play through of the song by its writer, or a demo, would note down the chord sequences using the Nashville number system rather than a more detailed score, do a single run-through to get the balance right, and then record. Very few songs required a second take. For Pickett's first session at FAME, and most subsequent ones, the FAME rhythm section of keyboard player Spooner Oldham, guitarist Jimmy Johnson, bass player Junior Lowe and drummer Roger Hawkins was augmented with a few other players -- Memphis guitarists Chips Moman and Tommy Cogbill, and the horn section who'd played on Pickett's Stax records, moonlighting. And for the first track they recorded there, Wexler wanted them to do something that would become a signature trick for Pickett over the next couple of years -- record a soul cover version of a rock cover version of a soul record. Wexler's thinking was that the best way for Pickett to cross over to a white audience was to do songs that were familiar to them from white pop cover versions, but songs that had originated in Pickett's soul style. At the time, as well, the hard backbeat sound on Pickett's hits was one that was more associated with white rock music than with soul, as was the emphasis on rhythm guitar. To modern ears, Pickett's records are almost the definition of soul music, but at the time they were absolutely considered crossover records. And so in the coming months Pickett would record cover versions of Don Covay's "Mercy Mercy", Solomon Burke's "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love", and Irma Thomas' "Time is on My Side", all of which had been previously covered by the Rolling Stones -- and two of which had their publishing owned by Atlantic's publishing subsidiary. For this single, though, he was recording a song which had started out as a gospel-inspired dance song by the R&B singer Chris Kenner: [Excerpt: Chris Kenner, "Land of a Thousand Dances"] That had been a minor hit towards the bottom end of the Hot One Hundred, but it had been taken up by a lot of other musicians, and become one of those songs everyone did as album filler -- Rufus Thomas had done a version at Stax, for example. But then a Chicano garage band called Cannibal and the Headhunters started performing it live, and their singer forgot the lyrics and just started singing "na na na na", giving the song a chorus it hadn't had in its original version. Their version, a fake-live studio recording, made the top thirty: [Excerpt: Cannibal and the Headhunters, "Land of a Thousand Dances"] Pickett's version was drastically rearranged, and included a guitar riff that Chips Moman had come up with, some new lyrics that Pickett introduced, and a bass intro that Jerry Wexler came up with, a run of semiquavers that Junior Lowe found very difficult to play. The musicians spent so long working on that intro that Pickett got annoyed and decided to take charge. He yelled "Come on! One-two-three!" and the horn players, with the kind of intuition that comes from working together for years, hit a chord in unison. He yelled "One-two-three!" again, and they hit another chord, and Lowe went into the bass part. They'd found their intro. They ran through that opening one more time, then recorded a take: [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "Land of a Thousand Dances"] At this time, FAME was still recording live onto a single-track tape, and so all the mistakes were caught on tape with no opportunity to fix anything, like when all but one of the horn players forget to come in on the first line of one verse: [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "Land of a Thousand Dances"] But that kind of mistake only added to the feel of the track, which became Pickett's biggest hit yet -- his third number one on the R&B chart, and his first pop top ten. As the formula of recording a soul cover version of a rock cover version of a soul song had clearly worked, the next single Pickett recorded was "Mustang Sally", which as we saw had originally been an R&B record by Pickett's friend Mack Rice, before being covered by the Young Rascals. Pickett's version, though, became the definitive version: [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "Mustang Sally"] But it very nearly wasn't. That was recorded in a single take, and the musicians went into the control room to listen to it -- and the metal capstan on the tape machine flew off while it was rewinding. The tape was cut into dozens of tiny fragments, which the machine threw all over the room in all directions. Everyone was horrified, and Pickett, who was already known for his horrific temper, looked as if he might actually kill someone. Tom Dowd, Atlantic's genius engineer who had been a physicist on the Manhattan Project while still a teenager, wasn't going to let something as minor as that stop him. He told everyone to take a break for half an hour, gathered up all the randomly-thrown bits of tape, and spliced them back together. The completed recording apparently has forty splices in it, which would mean an average of a splice every four seconds. Have a listen to this thirty-second segment and see if you can hear any at all: [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "Mustang Sally"] That segment has the one part where I *think* I can hear one splice in the whole track, a place where the rhythm hiccups very slightly -- and that might well just be the drummer trying a fill that didn't quite come off. "Mustang Sally" was another pop top thirty hit, and Wexler's crossover strategy seemed to have been proved right -- so much so that Pickett was now playing pretty much all-white bills. He played, for example, at Murray the K's last ever revue at the Brooklyn Paramount, where the other artists on the bill were Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, the Young Rascals, Al Kooper's Blues Project, Cream, and the Who. Pickett found the Who extremely unprofessional, with their use of smoke bombs and smashing their instruments, but they eventually became friendly. Pickett's next single was his version of "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love", the Solomon Burke song that the Rolling Stones had also covered, and that was a minor hit, but his next few records after that didn't do particularly well. He did though have a big hit with his cover version of a song by a group called Dyke and the Blazers. Pickett's version of "Funky Broadway" took him to the pop top ten: [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "Funky Broadway"] It did something else, as well. You may have noticed that two of the bands on that Paramount bill were groups that get called "blue-eyed soul". "Soul" had originally been a term used for music made by Black people, but increasingly the term was being used by white people for their music, just as rock and roll and rhythm and blues before it had been picked up on by white musicians. And so as in those cases, Black musicians were moving away from the term -- though it would never be abandoned completely -- and towards a new slang term, "funk". And Pickett was the first person to get a song with "funk" in the title onto the pop charts. But that would be the last recording Pickett would do at FAME for a couple of years. As with Stax, Pickett was moved away by Atlantic because of problems with another artist, this time to do with a session with Aretha Franklin that went horribly wrong, which we'll look at in a future episode. From this point on, Pickett would record at American Sound Studios in Memphis, a studio owned and run by Chips Moman, who had played on many of Pickett's records. Again, Pickett was playing with an all-white house band, but brought in a couple of Black musicians -- the saxophone player King Curtis, and Pickett's new touring guitarist, Bobby Womack, who had had a rough few years, being largely ostracised from the music community because of his relationship with Sam Cooke's widow. Womack wrote what might be Pickett's finest song, a song called "I'm in Love" which is a masterpiece of metrical simplicity disguised as complexity -- you could write it all down as being in straight four-four, but the pulse shifts and implies alternating bars of five and three at points: [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "I'm In Love"] Womack's playing on those sessions had two effects, one on music history and one on Pickett. The effect on music history was that he developed a strong working relationship with Reggie Young, the guitarist in the American Sound studio band, and Young and Womack learned each other's styles. Young would later go on to be one of the top country session guitarists, playing on records by Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Waylon Jennings and more, and he was using Womack's style of playing -- he said later "I didn’t change a thing. I was playing that Womack style on country records, instead of the hillbilly stuff—it changed the whole bed of country music." The other effect, though, was a much more damaging one. Womack introduced Pickett to cocaine, and Pickett -- who was already an aggressive, violent, abusive, man, became much more so. "I'm in Love" went to number four on the R&B charts, but didn't make the pop top forty. The follow-up, a remake of "Stagger Lee", did decently on the pop charts but less well on the R&B charts. Pickett's audiences were diverging, and he was finding it more difficult to make the two come together. But he would still manage it, sporadically, throughout the sixties. One time when he did was in 1968, when he returned to Muscle Shoals and to FAME studios. In a session there, the guitarist was very insistent that Pickett should cut a version of the Beatles' most recent hit. Now obviously, this is a record that's ahead in our timeline, and which will be covered in a future episode, but I imagine that most of you won't find it too much of a spoiler when I tell you that "Hey Jude" by the Beatles was quite a big hit: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Hey Jude"] What that guitarist had realised was that the tag of the song gave the perfect opportunity for ad-libbing. You all know the tag: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Hey Jude"] And so on. That would be perfect for a guitar solo, and for Pickett to do some good soul shouting over. Neither Pickett nor Rick Hall were at all keen -- the Beatles record had only just dropped off number one, and it seemed like a ridiculous idea to both of them. But the guitarist kept pressing to do it, and by the time the other musicians returned from their lunch break, he'd convinced Pickett and Hall. The record starts out fairly straightforward: [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "Hey Jude"] But it's on the tag when it comes to life. Pickett later described recording that part -- “He stood right in front of me, as though he was playing every note I was singing. And he was watching me as I sang, and as I screamed, he was screaming with his guitar.”: [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "Hey Jude"] That was not Pickett's biggest hit, but it was one of the most influential. It made the career of the guitarist, Duane Allman, who Jerry Wexler insisted on signing to his own contract after that, and as Jimmy Johnson, the rhythm guitarist on the session said, "We realised then that Duane had created southern rock, in that vamp." It was big enough that Wexler pushed Pickett to record a whole series of cover versions of rock songs -- he put out versions of "Hey Joe", "Born to be Wild" and "You Keep Me Hangin' On" -- the latter going back to his old technique of covering a white cover version of a Black record, as his version copied the Vanilla Fudge's arrangement rather than the Supremes' original. But these only had very minor successes -- the most successful of them was his version of "Sugar Sugar" by the Archies. As the sixties turned into the seventies, Pickett continued having some success, but it was more erratic and less consistent. The worlds of Black and white music were drifting apart, and Pickett, who more than most had straddled both worlds, now found himself having success in neither. It didn't help that his cocaine dependency had made him into an egomaniac. At one point in the early seventies, Pickett got a residency in Las Vegas, and was making what by most standards was a great income from it. But he would complain bitterly that he was only playing the small room, not the big one in the same hotel, and that the artist playing the big room was getting better billing than him on the posters. Of course, the artist playing the big room was Elvis Presley, but that didn't matter to Pickett -- he thought he deserved to be at least that big. He was also having regular fights with his record label. Ahmet Ertegun used to tell a story -- and I'm going to repeat it here with one expletive cut out in order to get past Apple's ratings system. In Ertegun's words “Jerry Wexler never liked Crosby, Stills & Nash because they wanted so much freaking artistic autonomy. While we were arguing about this, Wilson Pickett walks in the room and comes up to Jerry and says, ‘Jerry,’ and he goes, ‘Wham!’ And he puts a pistol on the table. He says, ‘If that [Expletive] Tom Dowd walks into where I’m recording, I’m going to shoot him. And if you walk in, I’m going to shoot you. ‘Oh,’ Jerry said. ‘That’s okay, Wilson.’ Then he walked out. So I said, ‘You want to argue about artistic autonomy?’ ” As you can imagine, Atlantic were quite glad to get rid of Pickett when he decided he wanted to move to RCA records, who were finally trying to break into the R&B market. Unfortunately for Pickett, the executive who'd made the decision to sign him soon left the company, and as so often happens when an executive leaves, his pet project becomes the one that everyone's desperate to get rid of.  RCA didn't know how to market records to Black audiences, and didn't really try, and Pickett's voice was becoming damaged from all the cocaine use. He spent the seventies, and eighties going from label to label, trying things like going disco, with no success. He also went from woman to woman, beating them up, and went through band members more and more quickly as he attacked them, too. The guitarist Marc Ribot was in Pickett's band for a short time and said, (and here again I'm cutting out an expletive) " You can write about all the extenuating circumstances, and maybe it needs to be put in historical context, but … You know why guys beat women? Because they can. And it’s abuse. That’s why employers beat employees, when they can. I’ve worked with black bandleaders and white bandleaders who are respectful, courteous and generous human beings—and then I’ve worked with Wilson Pickett." He was becoming more and more paranoid. He didn't turn up for his induction in the rock and roll hall of fame, where he was scheduled to perform -- instead he hid in his house, scared to leave. Pickett was repeatedly arrested throughout this time, and into the nineties, spending some time in prison, and then eventually going into rehab in 1997 after being arrested for beating up his latest partner. She dropped the charges, but the police found the cocaine in his possession and charged him with that. After getting out, he apparently mellowed out somewhat and became much easier to get along with -- still often unpleasant, especially after he'd had a drink, which he never gave up, but far less violent and more easy-going than he had been. He also had something of a comeback, sparked by an appearance in the flop film Blues Brothers 2000. He recorded a blues album, It's Harder Now, and also guested on Adlib, the comeback duets album by his old friend Don Covay, singing with him and cowriting on several songs, including "Nine Times a Man": [Excerpt: Don Covay and Wilson Pickett, "Nine Times a Man"] It's Harder Now was a solid blues-based album, in the vein of similar albums from around that time by people like Solomon Burke, and could have led to Pickett having the same kind of late-career resurgence as Johnny Cash. It was nominated for a Grammy, but lost in the category for which it was nominated to Barry White. Pickett was depressed by the loss and just decided to give up making new music, and just played the oldies circuit until 2004, at which point he became too ill to continue. The duet with Covay would be the last time he went into the studio. The story of Pickett's last year or so is a painful one, with squabbles between his partner and his children over his power of attorney while he spent long periods in hospital, suffering from kidney problems caused by his alcoholism, and also at this point from bulimia, diabetes, and more. He was ill enough that he tried to make amends with his children and his ex-wife, and succeeded as well as anyone can in that situation. On the eighteenth of January 2006, t