Today’s Long Song post is a real stunner from American folk singer John Craigie. This song fits right in with the current series of ongoing California Sound posts because, in my opinion, John is a legitimate descendant of the California Sound. I hope you love this song as much as I do.
If you like what you hear you can find many of John’s shows as free downloads online. Even better, visit his website and find out where to buy one of his albums:
The group that became Buffalo Springfield formed in Los Angeles in 1966; however, the real origin of the group can be traced back to 1965 in Canada. Stephen Stills and Neil Young first met at a club in Ontario. They established an immediate bond and the way that this bond was finally cemented is one the most legendary stories of rock music.
Stephen moved to LA to do session work after meeting Neil. He eventually invited Richie Furay, a former bandmate, to join him with the hope of forming a new group. Neil Young and Bruce Palmer (a Canadian bass player) also headed to LA in early 1966 when the group that they were in disbanded due to the legal issues of their singer (this in itself is an interesting story, you might want to research it on Internet). Neil’s goal in coming to LA was to find Stephen and form a new group. In 1966 this was a daunting, if not impossible, task since Neil and Bruce did not have any way of finding Stephen other than driving around (for those of you who don’t remember life before cell phones, this is probably hard to understand). Unfortunately, LA is big place so the odds were against them. The day before Neil and Bruce were scheduled to head back north they were driving down Sunset and drove past Stephen and Richie who were headed in the opposite direction. Stephen immediately recognized the car they were driving (did I mention that Neil had a black Pontiac Hearse?) and he and Richie turned around and chased Neil and Bruce down. The four of them would form the nucleus of a new and yet to be named group. With the addition of drummer Dewey Martin, the group was complete and all they needed was a name. Fate once again intervened. One morning Stephen and Richie found a Buffalo Springfield brand steamroller parked in front of their house and they had their name.
Whereas the Byrds took a while until they were ready to fly on their own (i.e. write most of the music on their albums), Buffalo Springfield sprang to life fully formed and ready roll over anything that got in their way like…well like a real Buffalo Springfield. Unfortunately, the musical Buffalo Springfield was anything but reliable and broke down after two years but I am getting ahead of myself.
By the end of 1966 the Buffalo Springfield released their first album titled Buffalo Springfield. Stephen and Neil wrote all of the songs on the album (Stephen contributed 7 and Neil contributed 5). Two versions of the album were released. The original release included a Stills song titled Baby Don’t Scold Me. A subsequent release dropped Baby Don’t Scold Me in favor of another Stills song titled For What It’s Worth when it became a surprise top ten hit. The tragedy of this album, in my opinion, is that Neil was not allowed to sing most of his own compositions because the producers for the album did not like his voice. Here is one of Neil’s contributions; Flying On The Ground is Wrong, as sung by Richie Furay on the album.
By early 1967 the band was already starting to come apart at the seams. Bruce Palmer was arrested on a drug possession charge and deported to Canada. A rotating cast of substitute bassists replaced Bruce until his return later in the year. In some cases, the substitutes were not even really bassist. Check out the video of Buffalo Springfield’s appearance on the Hollywood Palace TV show below and notice that the bassist is shown with his back to the camera the whole time. That is because he was the road manager for Buffalo Springfield and did not know how to play the bass (ahh….the beauty of lip syncing to a prerecorded track).
In addition to the problems with Bruce, Stephen and Neil had started their infamous series of spats. They were both accomplished musicians, accomplished songwriters, and had their own ideas about the band so this conflict was probably inevitable. The end result was that Neil left the band (for the first time) during a portion of 1967. (Note: the spats between Stephen and Neil have continued throughout the years…checkout an earlier post titled Long May You Run Away for another of their famous spats). Neil ended up missing the Buffalo Springfield appearance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and was replaced by David Crosby of the Byrds. We touched on this event in an earlier post titled Falling Apart To Come Together.
Even with this turmoil, the band managed to complete its second album, Buffalo Springfield Again, in 1967. This album is viewed as the high water mark for Buffalo Springfield although, not surprisingly given the circumstances, it really didn’t reflect a true group effort. Maybe the best song on the album, and certainly one of my favorites, was Stephen’s song Bluebird. Let’s give it a listen.
Another notable aspect of the album was Richie Furay’s contribution of three songs. Sad Memory, was one of Richie’s contributions to the album…see what you think.
This song and Richie’s other contributions were not at a level such that they competed head to head with Stephen and Neil but they were an indication of Richie’s future potential. More about that is coming in a later post.
Mr. Soul, as featured in the band’s Hollywood Palace appearance, was one of Neil’s three contributions to the album. His other contributions, Expecting to Fly and Broken Arrow, provided indications that his songwriting skills were growing faster than either Stephen or Richie. These two songs reflected no involvement by other members of the group other than some vocal overdubs by Richie.
At the end of 1967 the group had a new album and all of its original members back on board. On the surface, things could have been viewed as looking up but this would have been misguided. 1968 starting with a second drug bust for Bruce, ending his tenure as the group’s bassist. Jim Messina, who had served as a recording engineer on the Buffalo Springfield Again album, was quickly selected to replace Bruce on bass. In hindsight, this move ended up being somewhat akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We will return to Buffalo Springfield to see how the remainder of 1968 played out in future posts. In the meantime, I leave you with an updated picture of the group with onboard as bassist. Look for the next post in the Southern California Sound series later this week.
After trying out a variety of different names during 1964, Jim McGuinn (now known as Roger McGuinn), Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke, became the Byrds late in the year. Jim, Gene, and David all had a folk background while Chris had country background. This mixture would lead the group in a number of ground breaking musical directions.
The group went into the studio in early 1965 to record their first single for Columbia Records, an updated version of Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man. This song: introduced the key elements of their sound (McGuinn’s jangling twelve string guitar and beautiful vocal harmonies); was a huge hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard charts; and single handedly created a new musical genre labeled as folk rock. The album of the same name followed and was also a hit producing an additional single with another Bob Dylan cover (All I Really Want to Do). Gene Clark did the majority of the writing by the group for the album, scoring the B-sides of the two singles. One of those B-sides was I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better which gave a glimpse of the writing talent lurking in the group. Lets have a listen.
The group’s next single was a Pete Seeger cover (Turn!Turn!Turn!) which became their second #1 hit and the title song of their second album. The writing credits for the album and for the album singles started to slightly tilt in the direction of the direction of the group with this album. Although Gene Clark continuing to have the majority of the groups writing credits, Jim McQuinn’s contributions were more significant than on the first album, including one song on which he shared writing credit with David Crosby.
Fifth Dimension, the Byrds third album, represented a change in direction for the group and introduced the world to another new musical genre, psychedelic rock with its first single Eight Miles High that was written by Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn, and David Crosby. You have probably heard this one before but it is worth another listen even if you have.
By this time the group was doing most of the writing and David Crosby in particular was starting to step to the forefront. One of his songs on the album is a favorite of mine and in many ways sets the tone of most of the songs that he would write for the remainder of his career. See what you think.
David’s growth as a songwriter was fortunate because Gene Clark quit the band around this time. As noted above, Gene had carried a significant portion of the writing load so his departure required the other band members to step up their games.
Chris Hillman rose to the songwriting challenge with the band’s next album called Younger Than Yesterday. He wrote four of the album songs himself including Have You Seen Her Face.
Chris also co-wrote the Album’s biggest selling single, So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star, with Jim McGuinn. Jim and David each contributed four songs. (Note: One of David’s contribution was Everybody’s Been Burned which we featured a week ago in the Blog post titled I Got You Covered #3.)
On the surface, all was well with the group but we will see in an upcoming post that this was somewhat of an illusion. The next post in the The California Sound series will be coming your way this weekend.
Today’s lucky number 7 edition of Long Song Tuesday was selected based on popular demand. The Genesis Suppers Ready post from a couple of weeks ago was extremely popular and provided an indication that there were a lot of Prog Rock fans reading this Blog. In addition, I received an email from a very nice lady named Sara asking me to post more Prog Rock. Sara, this post is for you and all of the other Prog Rock fans. Thanks for the feedback!
Our long song today is the title track from the first Prog Rock album that I ever purchased…Tarkus from the amazing Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. It was released in 1971, had an amazing cover (the CD version does not do it justice), and an amazing title track that took up the whole first side of the record (twenty minutes of greatness). Based on an interview with Keith Emerson in Issue 17 of Classic Rock Presents Prog, Keith composed the entire piece of music with some collaboration from Carl Palmer on the percussion elements. As was normal for the group, Greg Lake added the lyrics. At the time the anti-war lyrics meant a lot to me as an 18-year-old with the Vietnam War still in progress.
Clear the battlefield and let me see, all the profits from our victory You talk of freedom, starving children fall, are you deaf when you hear the seasons call
Come to think of it they still have a lot of meaning for me.
I hope you enjoy this amazing piece of music. As always let me know what you think.
I can’t end this post without paying a tribute to “The Voice”, also known as Greg Lake. He was, and still is, one of my favorite singers. This video from the California Jam in 1974 highlights his talent and proves once and for all that it is possible to chew gum, play the guitar, and sing like an angel all at the same time. Enjoy!
I was recently reading a paper titled “The Problem of Excess Genius”. In this paper David Banks, a Statistician, notes “Geniuses are not scattered uniformly through time and space.” Instead, there are clumps or groupings of genius that occur at specific locations and times. Specific examples of clusters that he cited were: Athens (440 BC to 380 BC}; Florence (1440 to 1490); and London (1570 to 1640). The “Problem” referred to in the title of the paper relates to the fact that no one knows why does this occurs or what the triggering conditions for such a cluster are?
The paper was an interesting read but…(Spoiler Alert) it does not really provide a definitive answer to the problem that it poses. Fortunately for me by the time I got to the end of the paper I was not thinking about the answer to his problem. Instead, I was thinking about its applicability to rock music and whether I could identify (and post about) a clump of rock music genius. While a number of possible examples came to mind, the one that I zeroed in on was Los Angeles (1960-1975).
Incredibly talented and diverse groups such as The Beach Boys, The Doors, and the Mamas and Papas formed and flourished in LA during this period and changed the face of modern music. Unfortunately, the great diversity of the LA groups that evolved during this period would be difficult to write about so I began to search for a more cohesive musical genre that evolved during this period.
I settled on the music that became known as the Southern California sound. This sound was based on a combination of folk and rock music and over time it gradually incorporated elements of country music. (Note: In my opinion, most country music today owes more to the Southern California sound that it does to classic country music.)
As I began to research the Southern California sound I determined that the cluster phenomenon discussed in the paper cited above was indeed at work. In a series of 16 posts (starting on Wednesday, March 21) I will build a case for that cluster and show how the musicians in two key foundational groups were the geniuses that created, refined, and influenced the Southern California sound over the time span of a decade. The following figure will play a key role in this series of posts, providing a visual representation of how the Southern California sound evolved over time.
We will fill in the blank boxes in this figure over the series of posts, eventually providing a “complete” picture of the evolution of the Southern California sound. (Disclaimer: Complete is in quotes because what I present is truly only a representative slice of the evolution of the Southern California sound) I hope you stick with me during the next three to four weeks. I think it will be an interesting journey and hopefully you will hear some music that you have not heard before. As always, let me know what you think.
One of the key missions of this blog is to introduce readers to great music that they have never heard. In keeping with that mission I have a real treat for you today. Take a listen and then we will chat…
it was 1977 and the Steve Gibbons Band was cool…the music, Steve’s voice, the Band’s look, and the songs all way cool. Their coolness helped me make it through graduate school and I loved the music from their first two albums (Any Road Up and Rollin On). Unfortunately, that coolness never translated into sales, especially in the US. They had a minor hit with Chuck Berry’s Tulane from the Rollin On album and that was pretty much it with regards to commercial success.
To put things in perspective, it’s not like they didn’t get a fair shake, they did. They were managed by the Who management team, Pete Entwistle produced their first album, and they toured with the Who but for some reason they never broke through commercially. As with Elliott Murphy (discussed in an earlier post) the lack of commercial success does nothing to diminish the value of the music of the Steve Gibbons Band. The first two albums for Polydor were excellent and represented their artistic peak. The band soldiered on for a number of years and Steve continues as an active performer to this day but, in my opinion, the magic of those first two albums was never equaled.
I have the two albums on vinyl but luckily for you the two albums are available on Amazon in a two CD re-release by RGF Records. I strongly suggest you pick it up. I think you will enjoy the music as I have over the past 30 years. If you are lucky, some of their coolness might rub off on you.
So today we have something a little different for you. Last weekend we previewed a few of the groups scheduled to perform at South by Southwest. Today we are going to check in on one of the most week’s most anticipated events at the festival…..no not a concert but the keynote address by Bruce Springsteen. Watch the video and I guarantee you will be entertained and, if you aren’t careful, you might actually learn something about rock history. Enjoy!
My favorite part of Bruce’s address was his comments about the Animals. In his words the Animals produced the first records with class consciousness that he had heard. After playing a little bit of We Got To Get Out of This Place during the Keynote Bruce states that it is every song he has ever written. Considering the source, this is the highest musical praise anyone could ever receive. To let you see exactly what Bruce was talking about, here is a 1965 live performance of that song by the Animals.
Since yesterday’s post was focused on the Stills Young Band, today I decided to focus on the other two members of CSNY.
The original version of today’s song is from the Bryds and is one of David Crosby’s best songs with them. The cover is by his partner in crime Graham Nash. I don’t really know the story behind Graham’s cover, although I understand it is from a CSN studio archive tape. I think you will enjoy both takes but I admit that I am partial to the Byrds original with David on lead vocal. Let me know which version you like the best.
I should have subtitled this post Great Exit Lines:
As you probably know this was the title song from the 1976 album by the Stills Young band (a natural sub-group of CSNY given Stephen and Neil’s history as the dueling lead guitar players for Buffalo Springfield). What you may not know is that Neil Young left the band, totally unannounced, after only 9 of the planned dates of the tour supporting the album. Much to Stephen’s credit he soldiered on to complete the scheduled tour dates as a solo act. My favorite part of this story is the telegram that Neil sent Stephen to let him know that he was gone. The telegram said, and I quote,:
Dear Stephen, funny how some things that start spontaneously end that way. Eat a peach. Neil
I love Neil but this was over the top and way cold. Much more coming your way soon about Buffalo Springfield in the huge, multi-part, post that I am working on.
One final comment….for years I assumed that Neil wrote this song for Stephen but as you heard on the video, he wrote if for a car. So much for sentiment.
Leslie West, guitarist extraordinaire formerly of Mountain and the incredible power trio of West, Bruce, and Laing. From what I have read, Pete Townshend wanted to do the session without overdubs and Leslie was invited to play the second guitar part. I don’t know if this is true but I do know that this performance was amazing.
If this has whetted your appetite to hear more from Leslie, take a listen to this track from the first West, Bruce, and Laing album called Why Dontcha. The song starts kind of slow but don’t give up on it. After a short bluesy vocal by Jack Bruce, Leslie blows the roof off with some unbelievable power chording and a guitar solo to die for. Let me know what you think.