Thursday, December 29, 2016

The 5 Tracks that Launched the Jeff Beck Legend

by Alan Di Perna, Music Aficionado:!/article/5_essential_60s_tracks_that_launched_the_jeff_beck_legend_by_alandiperna

English: Jeff Beck Group, Fillmore East, Octob...
Jeff Beck (Wikipedia)
The years between 1965 and 1968 were incredibly fertile ones for rock music - and for Jeff Beck. He emerged from the clatter and jangle of the British Invasion to become one of the most influential guitarists of all time - the absolute number-one greatest for many.

In the space of just four years, Beck changed the course of rock history several times. His wild and boundless imagination embraced blues, rockabilly, Indian classical and sounds hitherto undreamt of. And he had the technique to usher all this into being.

In the days before Hendrix, Cream or Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck was the ultimate guitar hero. In many ways, he still is today. And here are the key tracks that started it all.

Heart Full of Soul (The Yardbirds, 1965)

The Yardbirds

Jeff Beck's first single release with the Yardbirds would become a massive mid-'60s hit and set the pace for the branch of psychedelia known as raga rock - electric guitar emulations of Indian classical sitar music.

The Beatles had yet to release their first sitar recording, "Norwegian Wood," when the Yardbirds assembled in London's Advision Studios on April 20th, 1965. But Swingin' London cognoscenti, including Jimmy Page, had already begun discovering the music of sitar masters such as Ravi Shankar. Yardbirds' manager/producer Giorgio Gomelsky had even hired a sitar player and tabla accompanist for the "Heart Full of Soul" session.

But before East could meet West in cosmic accord, a few technical glitches needed to be ironed out. This would result in the first of many iconic Jeff Beck guitar riffs.

"It was a Graham Gouldman composition," Beck said of the track. "After he wrote For Your Love [The Yardbirds' first hit, with Eric Clapton on guitar] he came out with that. And they got this little Indian man [to play sitar], but he couldn't play 4/4 time. It was totally magical what he was doing, but it just didn't have any groove to it. And I showed him on guitar what I thought would be a good idea, which was that octave with the D string and the octave above, making this riff type thing. And they said, 'That sounds great. Let's just leave that.' And we sent the little Indian man on his way."

Given Beck's early background in rockabilly finger-picking, it was an easy matter for him to play a drone on the open D string of his 1954 Fender Esquire, while sounding the riff on the B string. The harmonically rich and sustained tonality required to emulate a sitar came from a prototype fuzz unit designed by Roger Mayer that Beck had borrowed from his friend since age 12 or so, Jimmy Page. It was plugged into a Vox AC30 combo, which would be Beck's amp for most of his work with the Yardbirds.

Train Kept A-Rollin' (The Yardbirds, 1965)

The Yardbirds

In September of 1965, during the Yardbirds' first American tour, Giorgio Gomelsky brought the band into two legendary American recording studios to lay down some tracks. It would result in some of the band's greatest recordings. Their first stop was Sun Records in Memphis, where producer Sam Phillips had cut the game-changing early sides by Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison that ignited the rock and roll revolution in the 1950s.

Ten years down the road, the Yardbirds were ready to take rock music to its next stratospheric plateau."We actually banged on Sam Phillips' door on a Sunday morning and said, 'We're coming in. Is that OK with you?'" Beck recalled. "He didn't want to do it. But Giorgio was totally persistent and we got in there."

Beck and the Yardbirds cut two songs at Sun, the protest number You're a Better Man Than I, and the band's own riff-intensive take on the Tiny Bradshaw/Johnny Burnette rockabilly classic, "Train Kept A Rollin'." The Yardbirds arrangement would become one of the all-time ultimate guitar jam songs, covered by everyone from Aerosmith to Metallica. But as a rockabilly purist, Beck had his doubts about the signature chordal riff he and the band had grafted onto the original.

"It wasn't what I wanted," he said. "I suppose I'm guilty as the next guy for bastardizing prerecorded tunes. But we just used to love playing that stuff. And something new sprung from it - a new kind of angle coming out of it, however small, was worth it."

Beck's playing on the track is anything but small, although he may have been more inspired by the location than the material. "I was on air that day," he said. "(A.) meeting Sam Philips and (B.) standing exactly where Elvis and Scotty Moore must have stood. Fantastic. [Philips] loved what we were doing. Went completely crazy. But one terribly embarrassing thing was when [Yardbirds vocalist] Keith [Relf] was standing next to me and [Philips] said, 'You gotta get rid of that singer. Boy he's bad.' And he realized he was standing just out of Keith's line of vision. And I hated him for that. 'Cause I never thought Keith was a bad singer at all. But after Elvis, I guess he did sound pretty bad."

Shapes of Things (The Yardbirds, 1966)

The Yardbirds

After the Sun dates, the Yardbirds next descended upon the Chess recording studios in Chicago, the site of seminal electric blues and primordial rock and roll recordings by Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Willie Dixon, Little Walter and others. Once again, they came in awe of the studio's history, but would leave the building having made some history of their own.

"That was a very fruitful session - the greatest," Beck said. "Because there was no godfather of rockabilly there to tell us how bad we were. The engineer there couldn't understand why we wanted to go there. It was just a lowly kind of ill-equipped studio. But that was the reason why we went - to get the crude, open sound that we wanted. We heard the playbacks and we were just over the moon. That big, powerful bass drum!"

The Chess sessions would yield the band's raved-up take on Bo Diddley's I'm a Man and their proto-psychedelic masterpiece "Shapes of Things." Performed on his '54 Fender Esquire, Beck's guitar solo for the latter song was another milestone for Indian-flavored raga rock. "Heart Full of Soul" had been a great riff, but this was a full-blown modal guitar solo that stands as an integral composition within the overall structure of the song.

"There was mass hysteria in the studio when I did that solo," Beck said. "They weren't expecting it and it was just some weird mist coming from the East out of amp. Giorgio was freaking out and dancing about like some tribal witch doctor."

Beck's Bolero (Jeff Beck, 1966)

Jeff Beck

Although Beck was still a member of the Yardbirds when he cut this tour-de-force guitar instrumental, it was really his first step into a solo career that would stretch from the late '60s to the present day and establish him as one of the greatest electric guitarists of all time. "Beck's Bolero" also boasts one of the most amazing all-star lineups in all of rock history.

On the session at IBC Studios in London was Beck's fellow guitar hero Jimmy Page, future Led Zeppelin member John Paul Jones on bass, the immortal Nicky Hopkins (Beatles, Rolling Stones, Who, Kinks, Led Zeppelin) on piano and the Who's Keith Moon on drums.

"We couldn't mention him on the album because of contractual reasons," Beck says of Moon, who became a good friend during this period. "I just couldn't get enough of him," Beck admitted. "A day would go by in a half-hour - just complete lunacy. And genuine organic humor. I'm talking about stuff that was so nuts. I was totally in awe of that guy. You just wanted to have a rest. Your jaw would be aching from laughter. How [the Who] put up with him that long a time I'll never know."

Early pressings of "Beck's Bolero," list Beck as the sole composer of the piece. But it was actually co-written by Beck and Page, as later credits accurately reflect. Page was playing a Fender Electric XII 12-string and at this point Beck had moved from his Esquire to a Gibson Les Paul, which he put through a Vox AC-30 amp.

"It was my melody over [Page's] rhythm," Beck explained. "He came out with the bolero rhythm on the 12-string. But it's my riff in the middle. I'd decided that the Yardbirds' trademark was to stop, break all the rules, break up the rhythm and come into another complete thing. So we used that as the signature - to continue that kind of raw break."

Shapes of Things (The Jeff Beck Group, 1968)

Jeff Beck

Sam Phillips might have applauded Beck's decision to re-record the Yardbirds hit "Shapes of Things" with a new vocalist. And not just any vocalist. Rod Stewart was an emerging new talent at the time, and his brief tenure with the Jeff Beck Group would help launch him into the upper realms of rock super-stardom.

Re-recording one of his hits from just two years earlier was a ballsy move on Beck's part. So when Rod Stewart proposed the idea, Beck knew he would have to transform the song dramatically in order for it to work. In the process, he would inadvertently lay one of the cornerstones for heavy metal.

"Rod loved that song," Beck said." He thought it would be a great idea to do another angle on it, and I just wrote that complete other riff for it. And it became the precursor to a lot of power rock and roll - that plodding sort of rhythm that we nailed. That's what I wanted to do. And I suppose whenever I get named as a heavy metal innovator, that's probably one of the best examples of heavy metal in embryo."

Thursday, December 22, 2016

To be Teenaged and Stoned and Smack in the Middle of 1969

by Gordon Skene Past Daily Pop Chronicles:
Lucy In The Sky — Assignment: 69 — KNX-AM — 1969 — Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

In 1969, if you were growing up, a teenager, a young adult or anyone moderately aware of the world going on around you, you no doubt had familiarity with, personal knowledge of, bought or sold, drugs.

You couldn’t help it - in a short period of time drugs; their use and misuse, became an integral part of our culture. It was the 60s version of the 20s Jazz Age and that generation’s fascination/love-affair with all things booze. Only this time it was herbal and pharmaceutical.

But in the 20s, as in the 60’s, those things we loved were illegal - maybe because they were illegal we became fixated on them. Human nature has alway dictated an obsession springing up around the unattainable - and the jails all across American were (and still are) fairly overflowing with those caught in the act of illegally enjoying themselves. The big difference was, by the 1930s, alcohol became legal again and drugs have remained illegal, for the most part.

And if the legal ramifications weren’t bad enough, mainstream media was laying the message on with a sledgehammer - drugs were the scourge of the earth and we were all destined for lives of pure hell if we dabbled in anything as much as a 2nd-hand sniff of Marijuana.

And of course, the stereotypes were alive and running roughshod over our mainstream culture - according to “all the surveys” drug addicts were young, male, uneducated and not necessarily white. Anyone smoking marijuana was destined to head straight to LSD and Heroin - and we were all invariably doomed to a life of crime, insanity and/or death.

There was no letup on the message - it permeated just about every avenue and aspect of our culture at the time - from TV shows to newscasts to newspapers and magazines - everywhere populated with eyes and ears was forum for a message that drugs were going to kill you or drive you insane.

Did any of us pay any attention? Not many. That said, it did create a certain “World War 3” atmosphere between us and our parents and relatives. No getting around it - we were the enemy. And when news broke in the Summer of 1969 that a drug-crazed hippy commune, led by one equally drug-crazed Charles Manson, massacred a group of Hollywood notables having a quiet party in a hillside estate, the pundits and Cassandras loudly barked in unison; “I told you!”.

And so the airwaves were flooded with reports and cautionary tales - of which this documentary, produced by KNX Radio in Los Angeles, as part of their Assignment: ’69 series, was one of them. Titled “Lucy In The Sky” it laid just about all the blame on Pop Culture at the time, saying in effect that The Beatles were the culprits in driving the youth of America into the clutches of Demon Dope. KNX, which had only a year earlier switched to an all-news format, was one of the more popular and one of the first 24 hour news outlets in L.A., so this documentary was heard over a wide swath of Southern California.

Not as alarmist as some of the programs at the time, it nonetheless lays out a bleak and condemning picture of Youth Culture run amok in the late 1960s. Something that only the passage time would calm down - until Crack and Molly dragged it all up again. Seems every few years the desire to escape just gets out of hand - some, it gets out of hand worse than others.

But somehow, most of us survived.

As a reminder that the 60s weren’t all accepting and carefree, and that fear and distrust have always been around, here is “Lucy In The Sky” as it was aired over KNX during the Spring of 1969. 

Originally published at on July 30, 2016.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Rare and Unseen Color Photographs of America’s Hippie Communes from the 1970s

Hippie bug!
Hippie bug! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by The Mind Circle:

We all know about the hippie communities that popped up around the world during the 1970s in a protest against, amongst other things, war and death to mankind. There aren’t many photos of inside those communities, though, instead focusing on more text related posts.

With these rare photos, we are able to see past the stereotypes of this time in history and understand what it is these people were actually doing, that their way of life was not totally crazy or strange, but had total logic that just needed to be understood in a way that was entirely different than our own society and rules.

This is a society with different cultures within it, all of which have different customs and rules. For example, some allowed the use of marijuana, whereas others totally banned its use within their walls. Some allowed for promiscuous sex, whereas others were very clean about their sex lives and followed the general American standards.

America’s Hippie Communes
America’s Hippie Communes
America’s Hippie Communes
America’s Hippie Communes
America’s Hippie Communes
America’s Hippie Communes
America’s Hippie Communes

The main difference between their societies and ours, is that most of their culture chose to raise their children collectively, so each child was taught by all the adults of the village, and that included both parents and older siblings. Therefore, children wouldn’t have just one or two parents, but  ten or twenty depending on the generational gap. This would help provide better teaching techniques and certainly put in place a close community as a whole.

What they photos show, is that hippies were not walking around buck naked going on about peace and love. Instead, they put together their own societies with laws and an established system that chooses to teach certain things to their young. It’s refreshing, instead of barbaric. These are not stinky people living in the woods, but rather land lovers who are getting back to the earth and sharing it with their children in a unique, peaceful way.

America’s Hippie Communes
America’s Hippie Communes
America’s Hippie Communes
America’s Hippie Communes
America’s Hippie Communes
America’s Hippie Communes
America’s Hippie Communes

Friday, September 2, 2016

John Lennon Isolated Vocal Track: Gimme Some Truth

by Tom Caswell:

Released in 1971 on John Lennon’s second solo album, Imagine, Gimme Some Truth is a song that Lennon wrote while he was still in The Beatles and there are a number of demo recordings of the song from the Get Back sessions in 1969. Lennon returned to the song a few years later, and what we have in this article is the isolated vocal track from the song.

Take a listen:

Hearing isolated tracks from this period of Lennon’s career is particular enjoyable, especially stripped of Phil Spector’s over the top production which (in my opinion) didn’t do the Imagine album any favours.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Accidental Origin of the Hit Song ‘American Woman’: Randy Bachman Tells the Story

In one of our favorite old posts, guitarist Randy Bachman did us a favor when he mercifully demystified the opening chord of The Beatles' 'A Hard Day’s Night'. Mystery finally solved.

Today, he returns and brings us inside the making of another classic song - "American Woman", which Bachman co-wrote as a member of The Guess Who in 1970. In the clip above, the musician reflects on his “antiwar protest song” and its memorable riff. You know it. It goes dum dum dadada dada dada dada dum dum dadada dada da dum. The riff came about by accident, the happy byproduct of a broken guitar string and some spur of the moment improvisation. I’ll let Randy tell you the rest of the story.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The 27 Club – Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson

tumblr_mig2vihtwq1rx4o78o2_500by The Music Court:

When actor Anton Yelchin died in June in a freak accident many immediately linked the death to the portentous 27 club striking again, as the actor was also a musician - a guitarist for a band called The Hammerheads.

This is the typical inquiry when a musician dies young; was he/she 27 years old, and, if he/she was, it is the 27 club’s reaper coming with scythe in hand to steal another young musician from this world.

Today, I enter the Stygian realm of 27. Thankfully, I am neither a musician nor talented, and thus I should be spared by the 27 club; so, my 27th birthday can be met with more joy, despite the fact that I am getting closer to 30, which I would always consider so “adult” and “old” when I was younger.

Yes, older readers are probably scoffing at my naive, doltish complaints. In all seriousness, though, it’s good to be 27 - I get to espouse on deep thoughts of the world, and, if I say anything dumb or trite, I can always use the, “well, I’m still learning” excuse.

27, though, is synonymous with the 27 club if you are a fan of music, and, thus, I felt the need to do a post on this star-crossed club. However, instead of completed a wide scope of the entire 27 club, I want to focus in on a particular musician whose death pre-dated the Mt. Rushmore of the 27 club (Jimi, Janis, Jim, and Kurt).

In fact, Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson died only two weeks before Jimi Hendrix in September of 1970, a year that fell in the middle of a stretch of time where the 27 club took so many wonderful musicians (1968-1972).

Before we get into the fascinating story of Alan Wilson, let me qualify this entire post by writing that there is no special link with 27 and death for musicians. Yes, coincidentally, many talented musicians died within a short time of each other at the age of 27, but, when you do a wide scientific study, it is pretty obvious that more musicians die closer to the national average for humans than do when 27.

Many musicians unfortunately die young, though, because of the lifestyle they lead - drugs, alcohol, lack of sleep, constant touring, violence, accidents, and, in some cases (like that of Mr. Wilson), debilitating depression. For example, Tupac died at 25, Otis Redding at 26, Hank Williams at 29, Sam Cooke at 33, and Buddy Holly at 22.


Canned Heat may be the most underrated band of the 1960s. The band, which was put together by Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson and Bob “The Bear” Hite, appeared at both seminal 60’s music festivals - The Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock - and played a style of psychedelic blues music that was adroit and foundational.

It is not a lie that Canned Heat provided tremendous inspiration for several blues acts during one of the most formative eras of rock n’ roll. The band housed a slew of blues-related acts in the late 60s (Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead included), and became a key starting point for tremendously talented blues musicians like Harvey Mandel and Walter Trout. Founding guitarist Henry Vestine is ranked 77th in the top 100 guitarists of all time list from Rolling Stone Magazine.

Unfortunately, Canned Heat suffered two huge losses with the death of Alan Wilson in 1970 and then Bob Hite in 1981 (at the age of 38). The band still performs today with originals Larry Taylor and Adolfo de la Parra. Harvey Mandel performs with them as well, and he is pretty much an original, joining the band in 1969 and playing with them (his third performance oddly enough) at Woodstock.

Let’s talk about Alan Wilson. Wilson, who got the nickname “Blind Owl” because he had terrible sight and was erudite, majored in music at Boston University and focused his attention on blues music. He particularly enjoyed the music of pioneer Skip James, and he emulated his high vocals in his own singing.

With Hite, Canned Head was founded, and the band released a string of excellent album starting in 1966 - Vintage Heat (1966), Canned Heat (1967), Boogie with Canned Heat (1968), Hallelujah (1969), and Future Blues (1970). The albums featured such special guests like John Mayall, Dr. John, and Sunnyland Slim.

The band’s hit “Going Up The Country,” which sampled the quills of Henry Thomas’ “Bull-Doze Blues,” became the anthem of Woodstock; it is featured in the Woodstock movie.

In September of 1970, Wilson was found dead on a hill behind Bob Hite’s home. His autopsy revealed that he died of an accidental drug overdose. Wilson was hospitalized and treated for significant depression earlier that year after a suicide attempt, and some think the drug overdose was indeed a suicide.

It is worthless playing the game of what could have been, but if Bob Hite and Alan Wilson both stayed alive for longer, I believe Canned Heat would have released several more albums with the two leads at the helm, and perhaps would have gone done as one of the best blues bands ever.

Enjoy “Going Up The Country!”

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Hunter S. Thompson Interviews Keith Richards, and Very Little Makes Sense

by , Open Culture:

Let’s rewind the videotape to 1993. Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson finally gets to interview Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. The conversation is utterly and predictably incomprehensible. But it’s amusing nonetheless.

Decipherable conversation topics include: if J. Edgar Hoover returned to this world, what form might he take? (A worm? a fart? a weasel?) What was Keith doing on Christmas Eve in 1962, 1966, and 1969? And what exactly went down at the infamous Altamont concert in December 1969?