Saturday, July 12, 2014

Some Just Shapeless Forms

Let's bring this summer's psychedelic party across the water to my home turf.  Easily one of the earliest and most musically adventurous journeys into the realm of otherworldliness.  Written mostly by Gene Clark, with one great line of lyrics provided by David Crosby and IMHO the most amazing guitar work ever committed to vinyl thanks to Roger McGuinn - of course I am referring to Eight Miles High.  Sadly this was to be the Byrds last venture into the US top twenty.

Gene Clark would be gone before the song was released but his stamp is all over the place in the vocal melody and lyrics.   Banned by some radio stations due to its supposed drug influences, a close listen to the lyrics tell me that it is about so much more.  I see it as a poetic reflection on the loneliness of travel through the prism of an outsider.   The novel musical arrangement shows that The Byrds were ahead of the game.  Released in March of 1966, this single beat the Beatles to the psychedelic punch of Revolver by six months.

From Chris Hillman's opening leaping bass line and Crosby's chugging rhythm guitar rise that unmistakable McGuinn twelve string frenzy - all free form jazz and sounding like nothing before (or after).  Every time I hear those gorgeous three part vocal harmonies they put a lump in my throat.

Rain gray town
Known for its sound
In places, small faces abound

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I’m Just a Stranger Here

Here is the scenario:
  • a rock band from St. Louis MO is offered a deal with Capitol Records in 1968.
  • the band turns down the offer but is given the name of an A/R man with EMI in London
  • the band flies to London, plays a demo for the EMI man, and gets a record deal
  • hailed as the next Beatles, the band is given a £35,000 budget to record an LP
  • during the recording in 1969 one band member quits
  • the album is completed, the band heads back to Missouri only to lose another member due to a family issue
  • EMI backs out of releasing the LP because there is no longer a band to tour and promote it
  • 34 years later, in 2003, the album is release on CD
The band is the Aerovons, and apparently the only record released while they were still active was an EMI single in the UK.   I stumbled upon the CD recently and was both amazed and amused.  The LP is chock full of McCartney-esque piano pop, sometimes sung with a John Lennon tone.   The songs are quite tuneful though many have elements that were clearly lifted directly from The Beatles.  Over at Peter's Power Pop Peter has cataloged many of the "borrowed" pieces.  However the one big number - World Of You - is a bit of a lost psychedelic masterpiece.  It contains one of the finest string arrangements these ears have heard, at least in a pop song.  With its lovely sad melody, it feels like a wistful winter day.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Don't You Think That Your Love Is a Waste?

I have previously hucked Tages here at la Casa Sunday - a Swedish band that tried to break into the UK market and recorded and Abbey Road around the time of Sgt . Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.  In keeping with my recent theme of UK psychedelia, here is To Be Free, the b-side to the song in my previous posting.   It includes a guitar lick that appears a few times throughout this song that just slays me.  It is only seven notes, but the tone and timbre is so at odds with the rest of the song I cannot help but fall in love with it.  The song itself has a very odd construction and includes a tinny old upright piano that lends just the right mood.  It says what it has to say in less than two minutes, then fades away into a barely audible section of music concréte.

And amazingly enough, someone has put up a promo film for To Be Free on Youtube!