Monday, February 29, 2016

Psychedelic Daze Part Eleven: "The Bands (Part 2)"

Psychedelic Daze Part Eleven:
"The Bands (Part 2)" 

by Don Robertson
This is Part 11 of my 12-part series on the San Francisco countercultural movement of 1965-1969 that created a revolution in music and culture. I was a part of that movement, recording my album Dawn for Mercury Records in San Francisco in 1969.

Living With The Animals, by Mother Earth
     Mother Earth was an eclectic American blues rock band formed in 1967 in California, fronted by Tracy Nelson, who sang the blues/gospel number "Down So Low" on their 1968 Album Living With The Animals. Nelson, who hailed from Madison, Wisconsin, began her career as a solo artist, but formed the Mother Earth ensemble after moving to San Francisco. The group performed at the Fillmore West in the late 1960s alongside Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Burdon and was included on the soundtrack to the 1968 film Revolution.

Creedence Clearwater Revival, by Creedence Clearwater Revival
     Creedence Clearwater Revival is the debut studio album by the American rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival, released in 1968. The reissue liner notes state that while "Susie Q" proved to be a hit, the band had played for years as "The Golliwogs" in the early 1960s, releasing numerous singles before achieving success in the pop world. While the band did gain success with their chart debut, critics initially denied the band respect. 

Creedence Clearwater Revival "Bad Moon Rising" (1969)
The Ace of Cups
     The Ace of Cups was an American rock band formed in San Francisco in 1967. It has been described as one of the first all-female rock bands.

Photo by Kenneth Loh
     This is their 1968 single entitled "Simplicity" from West Pole, a vintage television special that aired in 1968 on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) predecessor, National Educational Television (NET):
"Simplicity," by the Ace of Cups

Frumious Bandersnatch Performing Hearts To Cry
     The San Francisco band Frumious Bandersnatch was a San Francisco psychedelic band. This is "Hearts to Cry" from their 1968 EP recording.
"Hearts to Cry," by Furious Bandersnatch

Children of the Future, by Steve Miller Band
     Steve Miller Band's Children of the Future was a San Francisco Anthem of the first order that was released in 1968 by Capitol Records. The album was produced by notable British record producer/engineer, Glyn Johns, who recorded it in London.
Children of the Future, by the Steve Miller Band

Quicksilver Messenger Service
     This self-titled album was Quicksilver Messenger Service's first, although they had already produced two songs for the soundtrack of the 1968 movie Revolution. The album displays the group's jam sound amidst lighter pop-oriented songs. Unlike contemporaries like the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver's jams were highly planned, as can be heard by comparing the studio versions of songs with those from bootleg live performances.
Quicksilver Messenger Service

     This is a film of the Quicksilver Messenger Service band playing at Sonoma State College just North of San Franciscos in 1969:
  It's a Beautiful Day
     For me, the song "Whitebird" by the group It's a Beautiful Day sums up the spiritual "vibe" of what was really happening in San Francisco... the undercurrent.
For some background about this group, Wikipedia says: 
It's a Beautiful Day is an American band formed in San Francisco, California in 1967 that featured vocalist Pattie Santos along with violinist David LaFlamme and his wife, Linda LaFlamme, on keyboards.David LaFlamme, a former soloist with the Utah Symphony Orchestra, had previously been in the band Orkustra, and unusually, played a five-string violin. The other members of It's a Beautiful Day in its early years were Hal Wagenet (guitar), Mitchell Holman (bass) and Val Fuentes (drums). Although they were one of the earliest and most important San Francisco bands to emerge from 1967's social phenomenon called by the media the "Summer of Love," the band never quite achieved the success of contemporaries such as Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Santana, with whom they had connections. The band created a unique blend of rock, jazz, folk, classical and world beat styles during the initial seven years it was officially together.
The 1969 It's a Beautiful Day Album

"White Bird," by It's a Beautiful Day

The full It's a Beautiful Day Concert from July 7, 1970 at Tanglewood

"The Evolution of The Hip" from the book Kosmon, by Don Robertson (1970)

Thank you Wikipedia and Youtube. How many people really realize what a revolution we have here with these two services?  

NEXT on Psychedelic Daze is "Harbinger and the Dawn Album"

Friday, February 26, 2016

Psychedelic Daze Part Ten: "The Bands (Part 1)"

Psychedelic Daze Part Ten:
"The Bands (Part 1)" 

by Don Robertson
This is Part 10 of my 12-part series on the San Francisco countercultural movement of 1965-1969 that created a revolution in music and culture. I was a part of that movement, recording my album Dawn for Mercury Records in San Francisco in 1969.

The Call Goes Out

     The Psychedelic Revolution was underway in 1967 ("The Summer of Love") and it was top-forty US radio that brought the youth to San Francisco. Bob Dylan had already started things rolling in 1965 and 1966 with songs like "Like a Rolling Stone" ("How does it feel to be on your own, like a complete unknown, with no direction home, like a Rolling Stone"), "The Ballad of a Thin Man" ("Because something is happening here and you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones") and Rainy Day Woman No. 12 and 35 ("But I would not feel so all alone, everybody must get stoned").
     In May, 1967 a British group called Procol Harum released a song called "A Whiter Shade of Pale." With its Bach-like organ opening, this song produced a powerful feeling among those of us who were seeking spirituality. It was a call to the West Coast, to the psychedelic movement, like the Moody Blues' "Legend of a Mind" that I presented in Part 3 of this series. Procol Harum's song operated on a higher level, the same subtle spiritual level as "(K)nights in White Satin" released in November, 1967 by the Moody Blues, whom I consider the greatest rock band of all (OK along with the Beatles). They made spiritual rock music, never viering from the path of light to venture over, and sample from, the dark side, as so many other bands would do. 

      The words of this song operate on a higher level and few "straight" people understood their meaning, but they were a call of the seekers to San Francisco. Perhaps I am the first to explane them:

First there is the LSD trip:

We skipped the light fandango
Turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
But the crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
As the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
The waiter brought a tray
Then the Light:

And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale

"Figuring it out" won't get it:

She said, 'There is no reason
And the truth is plain to see.'

     The tarot cards represent an ancient tradition that present the steps to spiritual enlightenment. Like so many important things, the powers of the planet twist their meaning and they became degraded into being cast as some kind of dark magic, mere fortune-telling cards. This is why the truth can often only be told with subtlety.

But I wandered through my playing cards
And would not let her be
One of sixteen vestal virgins
Who were leaving for the coast
(Vestal virgins - purity, leaving for the West Coast of the USA)

And although my eyes were open
They might have just as well've been closed
And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale

       I am going to mention two other songs. One is "San Francisco" by Scott MacKenzie. It was written by John Phillips of the important sixties group living in the LA area, The Mamas and The Papas. This song, unlike "A Whiter Shade of Pale," also released in May 1967, was not a call to those seeking spiritual enlightenment, but a call to pleasure and sunshine ("Wear some flowers in your hair"). This song brought on the onslaught of kids to the so-called "Summer of Love."

This video has over 6 Million YouTube hits, as I write this article

     Yes, this is how it was in San Francisco for a short period of time. It was beautiful. This is where we threw off the chains of repression that we had grown up with. However, it did not last long. The darkness came to the scene very quickly. We had to enjoy it while we could. 
     Last but not least, there is this 1968 song "California Girls (Return of the Native)," by the Texas group "Fever Tree." It just had that "vibe" ("Out there it's sunshine...")

The 13th Floor Elevators

     I consider this band to be the most important of the psychedelic groups, as well as one of the first. They are the 13th Floor Elevators, and they were from Texas. I'll go to Wikipedia for some info.
       The International Artists record label in Houston signed the Elevators to a record contract and released the album The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators in November 1966, which became popular among the burgeoning counterculture. Tommy Hall's sleeve-notes for the album, which advocated chemical agents such as LSD as a gateway to a higher, 'non-Aristotelian' state of consciousness, has also contributed to the album's legendary status.
      During their California tour, the band shared bills with Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Great Society with Grace Slick, and Moby Grape. Upon returning to Texas in early 1967, they released a single called "Levitation" and continued to play live in Austin, Houston and other Texan cities.
      November 1967 saw the release of the band's second album, the psychedelic masterwork Easter Everywhere. Highlighted by the opening track, the transcendental epic "Slip Inside This House," the album is rated by most critics and fans as their finest work. It also featured a cover of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," a version Dylan is rumored to have called his favorite. 

      Despite the lengthy studio work and resources utilized, and the album's later legendary status, Easter Everywhere was not the success the band and International Artists had hoped for. Lacking a hit 45 and released too late in the year, it sold out its original run but was never reprinted, suggesting somewhat disappointing sales. Record label paperwork indicate that the debut LP sold upwards 40,000 copies during its original run, while Easter Everywhere may have sold around 10,000 copies.
A Psychedelic Reprise of the Days of the 13th Floor Elevators - A Documentary

The 13th Floor Elevators in Austin

The First Album:
The Psychedelic Sounds 13th Floor Elevators 
     The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators was the Elevator's 1966 album. The album's sound, featuring elements of folk, garage rock, blues and psychedelia, is notable for its use of the electric jug, as featured on the band's only hit, "You're Gonna Miss Me" that reached No. 55 on the Billboard charts. The band's jug player, poet/songwriter/philosopher Tommy Hall, is often credited with inventing the term "psychedelic music," but several other groups had apparently used the term earlier.

The 13th Floor Elevators Live Performance
     We are fortunate to have a live performance of "You're Gonna Miss Me" from of the Elevators' 1966 album The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. There is very scant video evidence remaining of the Elevators' performances, and they performed in San Francisco before I arrived. I spoke with someone who had gone to experience them at the Avalon Ballroom. He told me "Some really great mescaline was passed out at the door and everyone got really high. When the Elevators played, everyone in the place was tuned into the same place, a really, really high space. It was a group experience that was beyond amazing... maybe a miracle, and I will never forget it."

     The 13th Floor Elevators appeared along with The Sopwith Camel, The Great Society, and Country Joe and the Fish for two shows on August 26th and 27th, 1966 at the Fillmore Auditorium, produced by Bill Graham. This was the Elevators' first, and the Society's second, appearance there. The Great Society's Grace Slick's face adorned this poster, with its obvious misspelling of the 13th Floor Elevators' name. Grace sang "Someone to Love" and "White Rabbit" at the show, two songs that she would make famous later when she was with the Jefferson Airplane. 

"Reverberation", by Steve Renick

     The 13th Floor Elevators gave two concerts on November 12th and 13th, 1966 at Chet Helms' Avalon Ballroom. Reportedly, LSD was passed out to attendees and the Elevator's powerful music elevated "everyone in the place to a higher dimension."
     Viewed by me as the greatest American psychedelic album ever, the 13th Floor Elevators' Easter Everywhere album is a masterpiece. Opening with "Slip Inside this House," poet-philosopher and jug player Tommy Hall expounds in poetic form the mystery teachings of the secret orders (displaying the secret sign of the rose-croix on the back cover - next to a Hindu chakra drawing). Roky Erickson's rendition of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" was reportedly Bob's favorite version of his song.

The Easter Everywhere Album, by the 13th Floor Elevators

Slip Inside This House
Bedoin tribes ascending
From the egg into the flower,
Alpha information sending
State within the heaven shower
From disciples the unending
Subtleties of river power
They slip inside this house as they pass by

If your limbs begin dissolving
In the water that you tread
All surroundings are evolving
In the stream that clears your head
Find yourself a caravan
Like Noah must have led
And slip inside this house as you pass by.
Slip inside this house as you pass by.

True conception, knowing why
Brings even more than meets the eye
Slip inside this house as you pass by.

In this dark we call creation
We can be and feel and know
From an effort, comfort station
That's surviving on the go
There's infinite survival in
The high baptismal glow.
Slip inside this house as you pass by.

There is no season when you are grown
You are always risen from the seeds you've sown
There is no reason to rise alone
Other stories given have sages of their own.

Live where your heart can be given
And your life starts to unfold
In the forms you envision
In this dream that's ages old
On the river layer is the only sayer
You receive all you can hold
Like you've been told.

Every day's another dawning
Give the morning winds a chance
Always catch your thunder yawning
Lift your mind into the dance
Sweep the shadows from your awning
Shrink the fourfold circumstance
That lies outside this house don't pass it by.

Higher worlds that you uncover
Light the path you want to roam
You compare there and discover
You won't need a shell of foam
Twice born gypsies care and keep
The nowhere of their former home
They slip inside this house as they pass by.
Slip inside this house as you pass by.

You think you can't, you wish you could
I know you can, I wish you would
Slip inside this house as you pass by.

Four and twenty birds of Maya
Baked into an atom you
Polarized into existence
Magnet heart from red to blue
To such extent the realm of dark
Within the picture it seems true
But slip inside this house and then decide.

All your lightning waits inside you
Travel it along your spine
Seven stars receive your visit
Seven seals remain divine
Seven churches filled with spirit,
Treasure from the angels' mine
Slip inside this house as you pass by.

Slip inside this house as you pass by.
The space you make has your own laws
No longer human gods are cause
The center of this house will never die.

There is no season when you are grown
You are always risen from the seeds you've sown
There is no reason to rise alone
Other stories given have sages of their own.

Draw from the well of unchanging
Its union nourishes on
In the right re-arranging
Till the last confusion is gone
Water-brothers trust in the ultimust
Of the always singing song they pass along.

One-eyed men aren't really reigning
They just march in place until
Two-eyed men with mystery training
Finally feel the power fill
Three-eyed men are not complaining.
They can yo-yo where they will
They slip inside this house as they pass by.

Don't pass it by.

Tommy Hall

Moby Grape
     "Moby Grape" is the rock band Moby Grape's self-titled 1967 debut album. Coming from the San Francisco scene, their reputation quickly grew to immense proportions, leading to a bidding war and a contract with Columbia Records. The album peaked at #24 on the Billboard 200 albums chart in September 1967.

Moby Grape Live Performance
     Rare footage of the San Francisco psychedelic group performing "Hey Grandma" from of their 1967 self-titled debut album release.
Grape Jam by Moby Grape (1968) (plus two bonus tracks)
Cauldron, by Fifty Foot Hose
     "Fifty Foot Hose" is an American psychedelic rock band that formed in San Francisco in the late 1960s. They were one of the first bands to fuse rock and experimental music. "Cauldron" was their first album. It is remarkable for featuring a variety of homemade synths, formed by the hands of bassist Louis "Cork" Marcheschi.
Cauldron, by Fifty Foot Hose (1968) - Tracks 1-6

Cauldron, by Fifty Foot Hose (1968) - Tracks 7-9
The Inner Mystique, by The Chocolate Watch Band
     The Inner Mystique is the second album by the American garage rock band "The Chocolate Watchband," and was released in 1968. This album is the most well-known released material from the band. However, the original first side was not played by the actual group members.

The Chocolate Watch Band in Riot on Sunset Strip
     The Chocolate Watch Band from San Jose, California singing "Don't Need Your Lovin'," from the film "Riot on Sunset Strip" released in 1967. 

Sopwith Camel
     Sopwith Camel released their first album (and only album recorded during the 1960s), the self-titled Sopwith Camel, in 1967 on the Kama Sutra Records label.
     The band's only hit single, "Hello, Hello," became the first hit title to emerge from the San Francisco rock scene, reaching No. 26 on the U.S. pop music charts in January 1967, and No. 9 on the Canadian RPM Magazine charts in February.
Live Television Recording of "Hello, Hello," by Sopwith Camel

Next in the Psychedelic Daze Series: "The Bands Part 2"

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Psychedelic Daze Part Nine: "The Art"

Psychedelic Daze Part Nine:
"The Art" 

by Don Robertson

This is Part 9 of my 12-part series on the San Francisco countercultural movement of 1965-1969 that created a revolution in music and culture. I was a part of that movement, recording my album Dawn for Mercury Records in San Francisco in 1969.

The Posters

What is psychedelic art? This is what Wikipedia has to say...
      Psychedelic art is any art or visual displays inspired by psychedelic experiences and hallucinations known to follow the ingestion of psychoactive drugs such as LSD and psilocybin. In common parlance "psychedelic art" refers above all to the art movement of the late 1960s counterculture. Psychedelic visual arts were a counterpart to psychedelic rock music. Concert posters, album covers, lightshows, murals, comic books, underground newspapers and more reflected not only the kaleidoscopically swirling color patterns of LSD hallucinations, but also revolutionary political, social and spiritual sentiments inspired by insights derived from these psychedelic states of consciousness.
     The posters that were created to advertise events were works of psychedelic art. Here are some examples:

The Chicken on the Unicycle, by Victor Moscoso

     Poster for a concert at the Avalon Ballroom October 28 and 29, 1966, produced by Chet Helms and the Family Dog. This poster, known as “The Chicken on the Unicycle,” was designed by Victor Moscoso. The central image is a drawing of a rooster riding a unicycle. In the four corners are similar drawings of other birds riding a bicycle, a skateboard, a tricycle, and a scooter. The acts were the Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Sons of Champlin, and Blackburn and Snow.

Tribal Stomp, by Chet Helms and Wes Wilson

     This great poster printed for the Fillmore Auditorium concert of February 19, 1966 represents the first Family Dog concert promoted by Chet Helms. Chet suggested the use of the image and Wes Wilson is credited with the design. Wilson was involved in the design of many of the early Family Dog and Bill Graham posters and is widely known for his use of lettering to form the psychedelic images that make up the central design. Bands were Big Brother and the Holding Company and Jefferson Airplane.

Grateful Dead Poster, by Wes Wilson

     Bill Graham, concert promoter for the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, commissioned the following concert poster from Wes for a concert to be held on November 18, 1966. Having recently married his second wife, Eva, this was an especially busy time for Wes. He completed 56 posters for Bill Graham in only 14 months, averaging one poster per week for the Fillmore.

The Famous "Let's Liberate Posters" Poster, by David Hodges

     March 9, 1967 San Francisco the police busted shops that were selling a poster titled "Let's Liberate Posters," a crudely executed orange and blue circle of men and women in Kama Sutra sexual positions, drawn by an artist who had also painted psychedelic murals at the Print Mint and Quasar's Ice Cream. These posters were immediately banned from store shelves because of the drawings.

Quicksilver Poster, by Victor Moscoso

     This is "Quicksilver at the Avalon Ballroom in 1967" by Victor Moscoso. Moscoso was the first of the rock poster artists of the 1960s era to have formal academic training and experience. After studying art at Cooper Union in New York City and at Yale University, he moved to San Francisco in 1959. There, he attended the San Francisco Art Institute, where he eventually became an instructor. (Wikipedia)
Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead Poster, by James Gardner and Herb Greene

     In the summer of 1967, Bill Graham took The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane to Toronto. This is among the rarest of posters. There are hard-to-verify stories that the original cache of posters was confiscated at the Canadian border by the Canadian border patrol, but whether the posters were seized or simply put away by contented Canadians, this summer concert made a big impression.
Zap Comix, by R. Crumb
     And now we turn to R. Crumb. He came to San Fransisco, joined the counterculture movement, and in 1968 published this comic book that he both wrote and drew:

     This was the first of a series of comic books that we, in the San Francisco counterculture, ardently read. The books featured stories with characters such as Fritz the Cat, Mr. Natural, the spiritual guru, and the images of R. Crumb's "Keep on Truckin" motif. 

     R. Crumb had no problem portraying sexual fantasies, as the counterculture was open to exploring all hidden desires. One comic strip depicted a family all having sex together. These comics are an artistic cultural representation of a period in history.
     I hadn't followed R. Crumb's movements after I had left the San Francisco scene at the end of 1969. However, in 2007 I was in Paris for several weeks and was delighted to see that he was famous there. Big beautiful posters announcing of exhibitions of his work were in many of the metro walkways. The following year, I found out from a friend of mine, a friend of R. Crumb, that the artist has an apartment in Paris, but I believe his main residence is in the French countryside outside of Paris.
Zap Comix No. 1, by R. Crumb
     R. Crumb's Zap comix portrayed life in the Haight-Ashbury District and gave substance to the subconscious mind of the counterculture movement. 

Meatball by R. Crumb
     "Meatball" perhaps explained the phenomena of LSD's effect of spiritually awakening certain individuals.
Comic Book Page, by R. Crumb
     R. Crumb poured out his inner world, in addition to illustrating the life around him in the Haight-Ashbury counterculture. This illustration is from Zap Comix No. 1:

Winterland Concert Poster, by Victor Moscoso and Rick Griffin
     This poster was created for a concert at Winterland in San Francisco on November 12, 1968. I was considering using Rick to do the album cover for my Dawn album and met with him to discuss the project. He showed me his most recent work. It was dark and distrurbing. I had already begun realizing that many people in the counter-culture were turning to the dark side, and Rick, whom I noticed had developed a major facial tick, was perhaps on this path, and so I abandoned the idea of working with him.   

     There was a very dark side and a very light side to what was happening in San Francisco. Here was a cultural movement that was introducing our future - what was waiting for society ahead. It was a creation of the beginning of the end times: the end of a cycle where dark and light would both become extended deep into culture, and where each person on Earth would be faced with the choice of which to become aligned with. We were the actors in this cosmic play being enacted. I was there to create the record album that demonstrated both sides - an album that would actually belong to the 21st century, as it was so far ahead of its time. I had to create it then and there in San Francisco, because I was portraying the two sides that were unfolding before my eyes: the dark and the light.  
    After recording my Dawn album for Mercury Records, I went to Mexico with my (then) wife, where I lived for over six months, cleansing myself and aligning myself with the light. When I returned to San Francisco in the fall of 1969, I saw this dark side entering the counterculture everywhere around me. I had chosen the light, but by the end of 1969, the dark was taking over the counterculture. It was time to leave, and so I headed back to my home state of Colorado. The following year, I began my mission of creating a world of light in music, to help people at the crossroads in the transformation that would be taking place. I will tell my story of the Sixties in my book "Pot, Paisley and Rock 'n Roll" that I am writing at this time (2016). It is a novel: an account of my experiences, fictionalized to protect the innocent.
Next in the Psychedelic Daze Series is Ten: "The Bands - Part 1