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Fifty Year Friday: March 2020

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Miles Davis: Bitches Brew

It was sometime around 1971 (and maybe as early as 1970) that I first saw some promotional marketing material for a mail-based membership club called the Seven Arts Society. It wasn’t offering the usual record club membership (where one could buy 10 albums for $1 and then have to buy more albums later),  it was a one time $7 fee to a club that sold mostly books on the seven arts (painting, sculpture, architecture, drama, literature, music and photography) as well as small book-shelf friendly reproductions of sculptures.   I put it aside and didn’t think about it again, until a received another version of their promotional mailing that included a picture of the stunning cover of Miles Davis’s Bitches’ Brew.   At this point, even though I had never knowingly heard a note of Miles Davis, I took the ad very seriously and noticed that for $7 one could get membership into the Seven Arts Society that included a couple of items I wasn’t particularly interested in and two items that did capture my interest: the Miles Davis album and a 10 LP set of classical piano masterpieces.  The first thing I did was to get my father’s take on the overall legitimacy of the membership and his personal verification that there were really no strings attached, and though he advised against my signing up, he did so with limited conviction.  This step completed, I then had to decide  which was the better choice: the Miles Davis two record set or the Piano Masterpiece. I knew nothing about Miles Davis at that time, and wasn’t sure what kind of music I would be getting.  On the other hand I was developing a growing love for classical music, and this 10 LP set had one entire LP of Mozart, two LPs of Beethoven, and half a side of Tchaikovsky — composers of which I had recently been buying recordings of their symphonies.  I also knew a little bit about the other composers included as I had started casually listening to the local commercial classical AM and FM radio station., KFAC-FM. Ultimately I decided that 10 LPs were much better than 2 and figured I could buy the Miles Davis 2 LP album later.

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It turned out the 10 LP set was a smart purchase.  The set was in a quality box with the highest quality LPs I had ever seen. Deutsche Grammaphon produced thick, heavy, noiseless LPs.  The sound was clearly superior, even on our modest sound system, which had been very recently upgraded from a mono cabinet to a radio shack stereo turntable, amplifier and a pair (a pair!) of speakers. And even to my rather limited sensibilities, it seemed to me the orchestras and pianists were of the highest possible quality.  I started by listening to the Mozart and Beethoven, working through the 10 LPs in order, and playing the Beethoven LPs several times before getting to what I considered to be the second tier composers of the fourth LP, Schubert and Schumann,  composers I had heard little about and less of their music.   I was pleasantly surprised with Schubert’s Marche Militaire and Opus 103 Fantasy and by the delicateness and clarity of the solo piano sound.  The music sparkled  and sounded so perfect and so, well, pianistic.  Next, I was really impacted by the Schumann piece that started on that same side and continued on the second side.  A piece with both an English name, “Scenes From Childhood”  — and a German name that I couldn’t pronounce,  Kinderszenen, but now knew what it meant.  That first “scene”, “Of Foreign Lands and Peoples” had one of the most haunting, evocative melodies I have ever heard up to that time — the second theme, even further heightened by its harmonic, rhythmic and thematic relationships to the first, simpler, more innocent theme.  That first side of that fourth LP would get played many more times,  more than the Beethoven LPs .  However, it wouldn’t get played the most of those ten LPs.  Soon I came across the famous Chopin A-flat Polonaise (slightly familiar to me from hearing it once on the radio [hadn’t yet realized it was used in the Wizard of Oz] and promising myself that I would one day have a recording of it) on the second side of side six and Prokofiev’s Opus 11 Toccata on the tenth LP both played by Martha Argerich who along with Christoph Eschenbach who was the pianist on the Kinderszenen and Sviatoslav Richter who was the pianist on the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto became immediate favorites of mine.  By the time I had finished that tenth LP, this was my favorite LP set in my modest collection, at least until I spent $20 to buy a 21 LP set of Alfred Brendel performing Beethoven’s piano works.

Now, please note, that I had expected I would purchase the Bitches Brew LPs when I received the catalog from Seven Arts.  However, much to my surprise, it was priced at twelve dollars, more expensive than what it would be if I had purchased it at one of the newly-being-built discount mega-record stores.  So I told myself that I would purchase it later.  But time went on, and it wasn’t until the end of the 1980’s that I purchased my first Miles Davis album, Amandla and it wasn’t a few days ago that I first heard the entire Bitches Brew album from start to end.

And though it is nowhere close to Kinderszenen, Chopin’s famous A-flat Polonaise, the Prokofiev Toccata or even the Ravel Piano Concerto performed also by Martha Argerich (in that 10 LP Great Piano Masterpieces set I am still in love with), Bitches Brew is a very consequential album that makes use of sound and space much like the Miles album before it, In a Silent Way, but has a greater focus on energy, drama and drive than the more ethereal and beautiful In a Silent Way.  It combines elements of psychedelic rock with jazz and modern classical improvisation.   Along with In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew has had considerable influence on many styles of music in the next few years including rock, funk, jazz and prog-rock.

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Tyrannosaurus Rex: A Beard of Stars

At around the same time I purchased the 10 LP Great Piano Masterpieces, my dad had taken my sister and I to one of the newly opened Wherehouse record stores, the first one opened in Orange County, a car drive of about 20 to 25 minutes.  Not having much money, I bought a bargain-priced ($4.99) three-LP box of Mozart late symphonies, and some “cut out” records — records reduced in price with a corner cut out, or a small notch cut or small whole punched in the in the outer area of the cover.  The records I got were three or four LPs from the Czech Supraphon label of exotic named composers like Jiří Antonín Benda, Vojtěch Matyáš Jírovec, Václav Pichl and Václav Voříšek each priced at $1.99 — and a single cut-out LP priced priced at exactly 99 cents,  an album that did well in the UK and so was released in the US on Blue Thumb, but failed to sell and so ended up in the cut-out bin.  I had never heard of this two-person band (their name was not one to invoke confidence) and the dreary photo of a single, unknown musician on the front cover and another on the back, was not particularly appealing, but there was something appealing about the title of the album, Beard of Stars, and the track names on the jacket, the first of which was title “Prelude” with the ones following seemingly having a connection to folklore or fantasy with titles like “Pavilions of Sun, “Wind Cheetah” and “Dragon’s Ear.” What sealed the deal was a sticker on the LP indicating that there was also included inside (as a bonus!) their hit single, “Ride a White Swan”, which, like the name of the group, I had never heard of before, and, all things considered,  I figured there was no harm in taking a chance at 99 cents — money I could quickly recover working at the school cafeteria before school started and during half of my lunch period each day.

I can’t say how much I was amazed and delighted at all six of the symphonies in the Mozart box set.  Also, my sister had bought a two-record set of Puccini’s La Boheme.  I had never heard an entire opera before, and how very exciting it was to follow the English translation of the Italian as the plot of the opera unfolded accompanied by a continuous stream of drama-steeped melodies and melodic-like fragments.  The Supraphon Czech composer LPs were not as novel as the opera experience, but were quite good in terms of performance and musical content.  Then there was the Tyrannosaurus Rex Beard of Stars album, which I had pretty low expectations and much to my surprise was both intriguing and musically satisfying from the opening prelude.  There is a level of intimacy throughout each track, and I thought of these two musicians performing in a small venue or someone’s den, crosslegged on the floor.  But there is also an intensity, liveliness and forward motion to the album that propels itself through the slower tunes like the simple “Organ Blues” or the dissonant “Wind Cheetah” that ends side one.  Side two opens up with more upbeat energy with the title track, of “A Beard of Stars” which effectively serves as an instrumental prelude for side two.   It is not until the very end,  in the final moments of side two, that the tone and consistency of the album is disrupted with the closing three minutes of the last track inexplicably veering off into an rather unstructured and wild — and seemingly unrelated — electric guitar excursion by Marc Bolan.  And though a better and more cohesive ending would be welcome, all in all this is an excellent fantasy-folk rock album filled with a variety of well-crafted and laudably idiosyncratic tunes that make this my favorite T. Rex album.

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As mentioned this cut-out version also included a single hurriedly shoved into the interior of the jacket — a single, “Ride A White Swan” that held little interest for me upon first listening and held none of the charm or uniqueness of the album it came with.  “Ride A White Swan” produced by Tony Visconti (earlier Tyrannosaurus Rex including Beard of Stars, later T. Rex, David Bowie and the first Gentle Giant album ) was well received in the UK, where it peaked at the number two spot. Though a simple blues-based tune, “Ride A White Swan” is often credited as the first glam-rock song and with its success was the second step towards fame and fortune for Marc Bolan and his new percussionist, Mickey Finn — the first step towards fame being this Beard of Stars album, recorded in 1969 and released March 13, 1970, which, though it didn’t catch on in the U.S. as mentioned earlier, did pretty well in the UK.

Egg: Egg

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If Bitches Brew or Beard of Stars aren’t usually classified as progressive rock, even though they should be, Egg’s first album, Egg, released the same day as Beard of Stars, on March 13, 1970, clearly has left the late-sixties genre of psychedelic rock behind, incorporating classical and jazz elements into a rock foundation, but very differently, and less organically, than Bitches Brew.  Egg embraces one of the signature elements (excuse the pun since I am indeed referring to odd and sometimes alternating time signatures) of prog-rock to such a degree that the single that preceded the album, their first and only single, starts off with a 4/4 verse with a brief 5/4 part and then with a chorus in 7/8 with the returning verse going from 4/4 to 11/8  — all with matching lyrics that clearly call out what is happening.  The first album is equally adventurous with a progressive rock treatment (percussion and bass added à la Keith Emerson’s Nice) of Bach’s famous D minor organ Fugue as well a complete part original, part classical-based symphony taking up the entire second side.  Well, almost a complete symphony, as the third movement was dropped by the record execs due to it using material so close to the still-under-copyright “dances of the adolescent girls” section of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and replaced by an alternate, stand alone composition, fitted in at the spot where the third movement was.  Fortunately, a test pressing was made and saved that included that third movement which is now available on more recent digital versions of the album.  All in all a strong debut by Egg, showcasing Dave Steward on keyboards.

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Cosby, Stills, Nash and Young: Déjà Vu

Released on March 11, 1970 Déjà Vu adds Neil Young to the Crosby, Stills and Nash lineup, providing three radio-airplay hits (Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” and Graham Nash’s “Teach Your Children Well” and “Our House”) as well as Stephen Stills “Carry On” and Neil Young’s “Helpless” and “Country Girl.”  If you are looking for a post-Beatles example of what is meant by “Classic Rock”, this album fits the bill as well as any with its strong songwriting, tightly executed harmonies, and brilliant arrangements.

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Joni Mitchell: Ladies of the Canyon

This brilliant album, filled with the 20th Century folk-pop equivalent of 19th century art songs, was released on March 2nd 1970.   The lyrics range from personal, philosophic, poignant and playful, with the music always of the highest caliber.  “Free” is one of many examples from this album of how lyrics and music come together perfectly and includes evocative cello and a brief, illustrative clarinet solo by Paul Horn.  By the time I was in college (1973), this was an album that every girlfriend of my close guy friends had in their collection and in the collection of the first young lady I moved in with as well as my close gay friend who always got the best scores on our music theory ear training tests and, then years later, two consecutive English singer-songwriter roommates (one female, one male) when I lived in England.  There is just something special about both Joni Mitchell and this album that everyone who has a more sensitive side to them should find intellectually, emotionally and musically appealing.

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Frank Sinatra: Watertown

One doesn’t usually think of concept albums and Frank Sinatra, but here we have a true concept album of the early 1970s — not a grand prog sci-fi theme, but an real-life concept with appropriate, corresponding songs about a guy whose wife leaves both him and his children.  This one tears at your heartstrings and the songs are well written and sung simply and without any bravado.  One annoying drawback is that Sinatra is dubbing his voice over the recorded orchestrations — very different than his usual method of operation of recording in real time with the musicians. And although this overdub approach detracts from the album, the album is still worth multiple listenings.

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Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsies

Whether live or in the studio, it seems that every moment of Jimi Hendrix on tape is priceless!  Released on March 25, 1970, this album is still as fresh as when it was recorded on January 1st, 1970. Yes, it’s far from the best Hendrix album or even the best live Hendrix, and Buddy Miles singing (and even some of his drumming) does get in the way at times.  But we get some amazing — no, some transcendental — guitar work from Hendrix on the longest track, “Machine Gun”, and side two also has its strengths with renditions of “Power of Soul” and “Message to Love.”

Also worthy of mention is Alice Cooper’s weirdly offbeat, partly Zappa-and-Captain-Beefheart influenced album, Easy Action, Rod Stewart and the Faces’ album First Step, The Temptations Psychedelic Shack, the live Delaney and Bonnie with Friends album, On Tour with  Eric Clapton, and Leon Russell’s debut self-titled album, with that classic Leon Russell gem, “A Song For You.’  There is also the live Ginger Baker’s Air Force album that I listened to once when in college and remember little of, but I heartily welcome any comments or reflections about it or any other album from March of 1970.

Which of these many and diverse, distinctive albums of March 1970 do you remember or still listen to (even if only now and then) in the 21st century?

Fifty Year Friday: Donovan, John’s Children and David Bowie

DONOVAN

Though it was not a short drive, on a few occasions in the mid seventies, a group of us, consisting of a consistent core of four, along with two or three additional participants, rode in one van and, sometimes, an extra car, from Southern California to Las Vegas to see a concert. For one particular trip we went to see Yes, and the opening act for them was the Scottish singer/songwriter Donovan Leitch, simply known as Donovan.

We were comfortably seated in the mid-size Aladdin Theater for the Performing Arts , when Donovan walked on the stage, by himself, carrying an acoustic guitar. Having purchased a few of his albums when I had been much younger and having grown up hearing his music as part of the sixties listening experience, I was intrigued to see him perform.  Not so apparently with many in the audience that were here to see Yes.  At one point,  one of my fellow passengers, a generally great guy and skilled guitarist, shouted to the stage (we were quite close and had good tickets) for Donovan to finish quickly and leave.  There was not much crowd noise and I suspected that Donovan could hear him as well as some of the other  voices in the area expressing the impatience.

“That’s not right”, I told my friend. “He’s did a lot in the sixties”

“Well, it’s time for him to move on” was the reply.

And, if on cue, Donovan sang just one more song and then left. It was very sad.  I had made the mistake of buying his 1973 Cosmic Wheels album when it had been released, hoping for the best and getting something closer to the opposite,  and I was under no illusion that his best days were over, but I respected some of what he had done earlier, and appreciated his contributions to the musical world I had grown up with.

The sixties, particularly 1966 and 1967, a time of great cultural and musical change, culminating not in the summer of love, but really, in the society of which we live today — a society far from all the hopes and dreams of the youth of the sixties, but, still, a society more tolerant of cultural and musical diversity than any time in history. Yes, many in today’s music industry as well as numerous “mainstream” fans don’t have a broad tolerance for musical diversity, but in terms of what is available to purchase and the range of musical styles one finds in music groups the world over, the musical freedom allowed and accepted today is greater than ever and owes much of this to what occurred in the sixties.

Classical music (also known as concert music or concert hall music) had seen an increasing velocity of change from Baroque to Classical era to Romanticism to Nationalism to various phases and flavors of Modernism until the accepted norm in the fifties was atonal and/or serial music: unmelodic, unpredictable and often classified as “experimental.”   The level of sophistication expected from the listener for this newer music created such a divide that most music presented to concert audiences were “favorites” or “war horses” from decades or one or two centuries earlier; the more modern music was relegated to college campuses, relatively small music venues, or, when part of traditional concerts, as small samplings or token works inserted into the regular season’s program schedule as almost a symbolic gesture of musical tolerance.

Jazz had undergone even more rapid changes in its short time span, borrowing from blues, marching music, written ragtime, foxtrots, and other sources to give us improvised music, first in small groups, then larger bands, and then with the advent of bebop, more emphasis on small groups again, with further changes in the 1950s incorporating influences from around the globe and classical music — expanding the various forms of jazz.  Hard Bop, Free Jazz, Third Stream and other styles pushed the level of sophistication required from the listener so much so that contemporary jazz audiences grew smaller and smaller.

Early twentieth century blues had evolved into a louder, grittier, more public style, spawning jazz music based on blues progressions, boogie-woogie, jump blues, Texas and West Coast big band blues, Chicago blues, classic rhythm and blues, Rock and Roll, and British rhythm and blues.

Most of the bands that came to the forefront by the mid 1960s (Animals, Yardbirds, Rolling Stones, Pretty Things, Spencer Davis Group, Manfred Mann, and to a large degree even the Beatles and Kinks) either started as blues-based bands or were formed by former members of such bands. The most successful of these British Bands developed their own personalities and style, abandoning blues progressions and incorporating multiple musical influences into their music.  American bands were then influenced by the British as well as incorporating folk and country music influences.  By 1967 we were seeing many of the best groups having their own sound, producing music that was not quite like any other music or other groups, and, more notably, not static but changing significantly from album to album.

Popular music in 1967 is often eclectic, groups learning from each other, borrowing elements from American Folk, Indian Classical, Jazz, Ragtime, Free Jazz,  Western Classical, American Country, Gaelic, English Music Hall and the Caribbean.

Early Donovan was influenced by Bob Dylan, both musical and lyrically. As Donovan forged his own identity, he also borrowed from contemporaries, incorporating Indian and Near East influences into his music and, as with many bands and performers, created a final product in partnership with the producer.  Donovan’s best albums, “Sunshine Superman”, “Mellow Yellow”, and “Hurdy Gurdy Man”, (and unfortunately one of his worst, “Cosmic Wheels”) were produced by Micky Most, a very singles-oriented, short song producer.

In 1967, Donovan had his own sound, was an influence on others, and was relatively popular. Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow” album was released in March 1967 and included the hit song “Mellow Yellow” which reached the number two spot on the Billboard 100 in late 1966. The era of sex, drugs and rock and roll was underway, and the lyrics of Mellow Yellow” align with such a culture: “mellow yellow”, “electrical banana”, and “wanna high forever to fly” which one can  interpret as drug references (those of us from the era remember the myth of smoking banana peels), or more accurately interpret as sex references (as later explained by Donovan — mellow yellow being a model of a vibrator), making this a love song from a vibrator to a young lady named Saffron. What may be more interesting, at least musically, is how Donovan accents the word “electrical” to fit the melody’s rhythm, something we see as a particular Donovan trait from this era — whether that is intentional or just his forcing words to fit the music.  “Epistle to Dippy”, which got to #19 on the Billboard chart around February 1967, also takes liberties with accents not only with “crystal spectacles”, “paperback” and “suspicious” but between modifiers and nouns as in “over dusty years, I ask you” sounding like “over dusty, years I ask you.” One may miss this if not listening to with the lyrics.  I can’t currently find a youtube video that display the lyrics with the music, but below are the lyrics and its worthwhile to follow them along with the song:

“Epistle To Dippy”

“Look on yonder misty mountain:
See the young monk meditating rhododendron forest.
Over dusty years, I ask you
What’s it’s been like being you?Through all levels you’ve been changing,
Getting a little bit better, no doubt.
The doctor bit was so far out.
Looking through crystal spectacles,
I can see I had your fun.Doing us paperback reader,
Made the teacher suspicious about insanity;
Fingers always touching girl.Through all levels you’ve been changing,
Getting a little bit better, no doubt.
The doctor bit was so far out.
Looking through all kinds of windows,
I can see I had your fun.
Looking through all kinds of windows.
I can see I had your fun.Looking through crystal spectacles,
I can see I had your fun.
Looking through crystal spectacles,
I can see I had your fun.
Rebel against society.
Such a tiny speculating whether to be a hip or
Skip along quite merrily.Through all levels you’ve been changing:
Elevator in the brain hotel.
Broken down, but just as well.
Looking through crystal spectacles,
I can see I had your fun.”

This song is not on the original “Mellow Yellow” album but on the current CD as a bonus track.

In October of 1967, Donovan recorded material for one of the first box sets in rock, “A Gift From a Flower to a Garden” with Donovan evidently being the flower and his audience a garden. The first record starts off with the enchanting “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” which eventually appears in cosmetic commercials including an “Eau De Love commercial with Ali MacGraw of “Goodbye, Columbus” and “Love Story” fame.

The first LP is a bit silly, but nicely melodic.  The second LP, a little more serious in my mind, is an acoustic LP dedicated to children (“For Little Ones”) and perhaps it is more serious just because the children of that era were marginally more serious and responsible than many of the teenagers and young adults.

Though “Wear Your Love Like Heaven”, “Epistle to Dippy” and “Mellow, Yellow” far outshine any of other of Donovan’s songs on “Mellow Yellow” or “A Gift from a Flower” both albums are enjoyable, interesting, and worth listening to for both historical perspective and musical enjoyment.  As a bonus one gets Paul McCartney on bass on some of the Mellow Yellow tracks, and one is exposed to a style of music that could simply be categorized as “Flower Power”, perhaps the musical equivalent of the contemporaneous philosophy of peace triumphing over the corrupt and violent aspects of social organizations and governments.

JOHN’S CHILDREN

Relatively unsuccessful, and called “positively the worst group I’d ever seen” by their own manager,  Simon Napier-Bell, John’s Children qualifies as one of the more interesting groups of 1967 for many reasons.

First, they probably played as loudly, if not louder, as anyone at that time  In fact, so loud and rowdy were they (including staged fights with fake blood capsules) that the Who dropped them as an opening act since they very effectively made the Who’s own onstage drama anti-climatic.

Second, in March 1967, the band replaces their previous guitarist with a relatively unknown, Marc Bolan, a London native with the dream of making it a singer-songwriter, like Donovan.  Bolan, becomes the new guitarist at the request of Napier-Bell, the manager of Bolan and John’s Children as Napier-Bell believes this is a win-win situation for everyone.  Marc arrives at the bands’s own club and rehearsal hall, John’s Children Club (in Leatherhead, Surrey southwest of London), with his acoustic guitar and a set of his own songs.  Switching him to a borrowed Gibson SG the current members of the band rehearse through some of their current material, listen to Bolan’s music,  leaving him to continue to play away at high volume on the Gibson.

Third, and I welcome any challenges to this contention, I believe the roots of Glam Rock can be traced to this band.  I can make a somewhat shaky case for musical elements of glam in the Kinks, The Pretty Things, and Small Faces (traces of glam in the Rolling Stones come after John’s Children’s 1967 singles), but the glam elements one find in John’s Children are more remarkable. Yes, they were loud, violent at times, so much so they got kicked out of Germany, they were technically and musically unimpressive on their instruments (except for Marc Bolan) and the lacked any notable musical identity.  But they had a outcast-type of independence, disdain for propriety, and unabashed attitude towards sex resulting in the Bolan-authored single “Desdemona” getting banned by the BBC for the phrases “Lift up your skirt and fly” and “Just because the touch of your hand can turn me on just like a stick”, naming a single “Not the Sort of Girl You’d Like to Take to Bed” (shelved by their label), and most notably, naming their first and only album “Orgasm” (which was stopped from being released with pressure from the Daughters of the American Revolution — at least until September 1970 when it was released with it’s title removed from the front cover and the LP label (but, perhaps accidentally, still visible on the thin outside spine of the cover.)

And so where was the glam?  They didn’t wear eyeliner, they mostly adhered to mod cultural norms (which were transitioning to the psychedelic era),  and they didn’t wear platform shoes or embrace sexual ambiguity.

Well, elements of glam are evident in several tracks of the pre-Bolan, “Orgasm” album, starting with the Napier-Bell/Hewlett “Smashed Blocked” track with its Queen-like ensemble vocals,  the affected, seductive vocal that follows, the 1950’s ballad chord changes á la Bowie’s “Drive-In Saturday”, the alternation between chorus and solo á la the Tubes, the flirtatious tempo, and the overall general attitude. This is the first track on the 1982 Cherry Red LP, which, I believe, presents a more accurate version of the intended order of songs than the 1970-released White Whale LP.   An interesting gimmick in play here is that the “Orgasm” album includes overlaid crowd-noise (dominated by screaming female fans) to make this sound like a live album, probably a wise choice given the general musicianship of the band.

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The second track, “Just What You Want — Just What You’ll Get” continues to seem more glam than possible for 1967, with its tango and cabaret undertones and sexually unapologetic lyrics sounding like a cross between Alice Cooper and a song from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”; the arrangement includes chorus backup that sounds like its coming from a cadre of male strippers. Some of this may be inferred with the advantage of a retrospective viewpoint, but there is no denying the sexual boldness and directness of the lyrics:

“Your hands and lips
Always know what I like to feel,
But don’t think I can’t see that
You’re trying hard to make me say I love you.
So what’s in it for me?

(backup singers singing “hey, hey”)
“You think that I should be crazy about you,
But I know what life would be with
Someone like you always hanging around me
So what’s in it for me?

(Chorus — lead vocal stage whisper with “hey, hey” and “buh, buh, buh” backup)
“Don’t think I don’t know just what you want – everything…
Don’t think I don’t know just what you’ll get – nothing!
What’s in it for me?
Don’t think I don’t know just what you want (just what you want)
Don’t think I don’t know just what you’ll get (just what you want, just what you’ll get)

“Leave me alone until you don’t wan’t to 
Or come back, we’ll make your love worthwhile
What’s in it for me?
Don’t come around until you’ve thought of something that
find or use your luke warm smile*
What’s in it for me?”

(*lyrics unclear at start of line)

The sixth song, “Jagged Time Lapse” provides more of this nascent glam style with a liberal amount of breathy”aaahs.”  There a several other tracks on the album, some like “Not the Sort of Girl You’d Like to Take to Bed” that are also of interest, though none of these other tracks provide any significant additional evidence to support my contention of this being the first glam album.

Note, again, that this album is before the band replaces Geoff McClelland with Marc Bolan.

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The band gets an upgrade at guitar with the addition of Bolan as well as some interesting songwriting contributions.  At this point, Marc is mainly sticking to formula chord patterns but it’s fun to hear his vibrato-heavy vocals.  One can get a more complete picture of this Bolan-era of John’s Children (brief as that is) in the 2013 2 CD set, “A Strange Affair”, which includes all tracks from “Orgasm” and several post-“Orgasm” tracks.  The two CD set includes compositions by Bolan including “Hippy Gumbo” which foreshadows his upcoming Tyrannosaurus Rex work.

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DAVID BOWIE

In 1967, very much under anyone’s radar, and already thirty-years old (a few months younger than Donovan and a few months older than Marc Bolan), David Bowie (replacing his real last name of Jones to avoid confusion with one the band member’s of the Monkees)  releases his first album. Nothing here indicates even a slight trace of Donovan’s Flower Power, John’s Children early glam, the Beatles sophistication, the more advanced psychedelic tendencies of Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, or the Doors, the rock and roll or rhythm and blues of the early sixties British Bands, the soul of Aretha Franklin, the progressive aspirations of fellow Deram-label Moody Blues, or much of anything currently pushing the musical envelope of the time. However, there are strong influences, musically and lyrically, from Anthony Newley and English Music Hall style.  Bowie adds an offbeat twist to several songs, even more than we find from Newley or most English satire of this time.  The level of lyrical craftsmanship is solid even if the melodies are unoriginal and forgettable.  For a Bowie fan, music historian, or someone wanting to more completely understand Bowie’s range of skills, its worth exploring the David Bowie of 1967.

Previous Fifty Year Friday Posts:

The Beatles

Arthur Rubinstein/Pink Floyd

Jimi Hendrix

John Coltrane/Jefferson Airplane

Thelonious Monk/McCoy Tyner

The Doors

The Velvet Underground

Aretha Franklin/Simon Dupree and the Big Sound

Mahler recordings

Rolling Stones

Zappa/Beefheart

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