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"