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60’s Band of the Week #5: The Ace of Cups

7 Jul

            Ace of Cups

             Welcome to San Francisco in the late 1960’s. Hundreds of bands crowded the acid-filled Haight Ashbury scene. Some made it big like The Grateful Dead. Some did not want the fame and preferred just playing the music and remaining entrenched into the scene. A good example of one of these forgotten about bands is San Francisco’s original all-woman band The Ace of Cups.

            The story of The Ace of Cups is quite interesting and the list of the bands they played with is remarkable. Hendrix to Slick to the Dead to the Band. I know I was surprised to. If you are into 60’s music this is a must check out. An incredibly rare find in the seemingly endless list.

Band: The Ace of Cups

 Origin: San Francisco, California

 Genre: All-Girl’s Garage Rock

 Founded: 1967-1972

 Original Lineup:

 –          Denise Kaufman: Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals

–          Mary Ellen Simpson: Lead Guitar, Vocals

–          Marla Hanson: Organ, Piano, Vocals

–          Mary Gannon: Bass, Vocals

–          Diane Vitalich: Drums, Vocals

 Name: The Ace of Cups name comes from the Tarot card which portrays five streams flowing from a cup and representing the five senses. This symbolizes possibility and also the five women who started The Ace of Cups.

 History: As I said the history of this band is small but quite interesting. Their concert history is even more interesting and in the fun facts below you will see who they performed with. Yet, let us get to some history.

            The Ace of Cups was formed during the crazy psychedelic rock scene in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco. Most of the band sang and wrote but the real lead member was Denise Kaufman who did the majority of both writing and singing. Denise had been a member of Denise & Company in 1966 and released an obscure garage rock single.

            Despite receiving recognition as a great band they never were signed to a record deal. Apparently they had opportunities to sign with three separate labels including Warner Bros. but either the management or the band themselves thought they were not ready. Families were started by band members and slowly the opportunities faded. In 2003 a combination of music was released as a compilation, “It’s Bad for You But Buy It.”

Ace of Cups

 Album: Check out the compilation disc that can be acquired through mail. You can find info about it, as well as samples on the bands official website.

 Fun Facts:

 Did you know

 –          Jimi Hendrix gave the band a brief plug in a December 1967 issue of Melody Maker. He had performed with them shortly after the Monterey Pop Festival in the Golden Gate Park panhandle.

–          They commonly played with Quicksilver Messenger Service

–          On April 17 and 18, 1969 they played with The Band on the first date The Band was known as The Band rather then The Hawks.  

60’s Band of the Week #4: The Fifth Dimension

1 Jul

Due to an increasingly busy schedule I have not been able to get to the 60’s band of the week for a while. Yet, I got some time now and I thought I would focus today on a band that most people today may know because of the prevalence of their music in commercials and television shows. They combined pop and soul with jazz and R&B and over an established career have had over 25 members. They were too good for our third dimension and got tired of the fourth dimension. They are, of course, the original five of The Fifth Dimension

Now in 5D!!!

Now in 5D!!!

Band: The Fifth Dimension

Origin: Los Angeles, California

Genre: Soul and R&B mixed with Pop elements

Founded: 1966 – present (original members up to 1975)

Original Line-up:

–         Billy Davis Jr

–         Florence LaRue

–         Marilyn McCoo

–         Lamonte McLemore

–         Ron Townson

Name: The Fifth Dimension was an update on the name and image of a group named The Versatiles which included the members of The Fifth Dimension. I assume it played on the fact that there are five members in the band but that is only an intelligent guess

History: The history of The Fifth Dimension is quite similar to most histories of vocal groups. A bunch of singers start singing and other singers join. Now we can leave it at that and the history of this group will be a few sentences but I believe it is necessary to make things a little more complex. The beginnings of The Fifth Dimension occurred in the early 60’s when Marilyn McCoo and her friend Lamonte McLemore teamed up with two friends to form The Hi-Fi’s. They worked tirelessly with a vocal coach to improve their voices and this work paid off when Ray Charles took an interest in them and had The Hi-Fi’s tour with them in 1963. Yet, internal problems caused the two friends Floyd Butler and Harry Elston to go their separate ways. Humorously they went and founded The Friends of Distinction who recorded the famous soul, “Going in Circles.” Okay that was off topic let us continue

Both McCoo and McLemore (sounds like an awkward Irish law firm) sought a new group to replace their past members. Florence Larue, a friend of theirs and a talented musician in her own right, was approached to join the group. McLemore recruited Ron Townson who was an accomplished gospel singer and McLemore’s Cousin Billy Davis Jr, also a gospel singer, joined immediately after his cousin asked him too.

So, there you have it, the band was born as The Versatiles. Johnny Rivers, the rock and roll singer, had recently started a label named Soul City Records and signed The Versatiles who changed their name to The Fifth Dimension.

5D

Best Album:

The Fifth Dimension hit their biggest success with the release of their album The Age of Aquarius. The album included the hit from the musical hair entitled “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine in. A two-part song which included two catchy hooks. The album also included “Wedding Bell Blues” and “Workin’ On A Groovy Thing” which were both popular hits in their own right. The album topped at #2 on the US top albums list.

Check out the best song in the song of the day section.

Fun Facts:

Did you Know

–         The Fifth Dimension appeared as special guests in a third season episode of “It Takes a Thief,” where a special chord they played in their song “One Less Bell To Answer,” could trigger a bomb. Is this good for their music or bad?

–         “Wedding Bell Blues” was the title of the 100th episode of The Gilmore Girls.

60’s Band of the Week #3: The 23rd Turnoff (The Kirkbys)

16 Jun

                   The 23rd Turnoff                       It is Tuesday and you all know what that means. Another exciting addition to the growing 60’s band of the week section. One of the main reasons this section continues to be updated is to introduce younger listeners to music of the past that they may find interesting. Music of the past that has inspired musicians today. Because, this is what music is; a long string of inspirations and influences that lead to a culminating track. Yet, another reason why I am doing this section is to possibly introduce or renew interest in certain unknown or long forgotten about bands from the 60’s, to those who were lucky enough to live through the era. We have already focused on one of the first psychedelic rock bands and a band who revolutionized bubblegum pop. Combine the two and spit out the bubblegum and you have today’s genre of music. Psychedelic Pop.

               I would like to quickly explain psychedelic pop. It was obviously inspired by the original, harder and louder psychedelic rock (which we already covered with 13th Floor Elevators). The pop aspect of psychedelic music just took the sitars, tape loops and fuzz sounds of the rock and added them to their already pop dressing. This simply gave the music a psychedelic feel while maintaining the catchiness of their pop. Bands who took the rising psychedelia on this pop route varied from the watered down Strawberry Alarm Clock and their hit, “Incense and Peppermints” to the innovative Beatles. Somewhere lost in the middle of this wide genre was today’s band in discussion. The 23rd Turnoff and there long forgotten about front man Jimmy Campbell.

 Band: 23rd Turnoff (The Kirkbys)

 Origin: Liverpool, England

 Genre: Merseybeat to Psychedelic Pop

 Founded: Late 1950’s-1967

 Original Line-Up:

 –          Guitar/Vocals: Jimmy Campbell

–          Cannot find the rest (please assist me)

 Name: The 23rd Turnoff is referring to the exit off the M6 that led to Liverpool which is where the band came from.

 History: The history of The 23rd Turnoff is practically the history of lost songwriter and vocalist Jimmy Campbell. Campbell is the embodiment of Rodney Dangerfield’s catchphrase, “I can’t get no respect.” Whether it was the lack of an exorbitant amount of work or the fact that he flew under the radar writing songs for many other artists besides himself, Jimmy Campbell has simply not been remembered and today’s profile will hopefully get some of his work listened to posthumously.

            The story of The 23rd Turnoff and their merseybeat foundation The Kirkby’s is somewhat similar to the greatest band of all time, The Beatles. The Beatles also started off with merseybeat foundations (pop music mixed with R&B, doo-wop, and soul), yet, as the tides turned and psychedelic music became popular their music took a switch and albums like The Beatles 1967 release Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band were recorded. The 23rd turnoff were once The Kirkbys, a merseybeat band from Liverpool, England who, like The Beatles, performed at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. After releasing a number of songs that highlighted the merseybeat sound they The Cavern Club switched their focus on Dylan inspired folk/rock and then, as the merseybeat era reached an end, they recorded “It’s a Crime,” which, playing perfectly with the times, echoed The Rolling Stones’ sound of fuzz guitar and rhythm and harmony. After experimenting with the merseybeat sound The Kirkbys changed with the psychedelic times and became The 23rd Turnoff.

            The 23rd Turnoff allowed Jimmy Campbell to record more interesting songs with his band. The turn to psychedelic pop led to two masterpieces which conveniently were the a and b side of the 1967 single “Michael Angelo”/”Leave me Here,” and eventually found their way onto the compilation album The Dreams of Michaelangelo.

            While these songs were quite fantastic they unfortunately were not met with great success and the psychedelic sounds of Jimmy Campbell and The 23rd Turnoff were unfortunately forgotten about.

 Best Song/Album: If you are interested in checking out this relatively unknown band and I assure you, you will enjoy their sounds; your best bet would be in buying their compilation album The Dreams of Michaelangelo which includes their psychedelic hits and their earlier merseybeat songs. Most definitely their best song is their Sistine chapel “Michael Angelo.” I could not avoid the art reference however obvious it is.

            The song is classic psychedelic pop. Perfect melodic harmonies on top of a picked acoustic guitar. This foundation adds a well-placed horn which gives it the psychedelic taste and a wonderful lyric. It is a melancholic hit and it deserves a listen.

 Fun Facts:

 Did you Know

 –          Bob Stanley of The Times described Jimmy Campbell as, “The era’s lost songwriter”

–          The Guardian, a British Newspaper, called the compilation album  The Dreams of Michaelangelo one of the 1000 albums to hear before you die.

 

 

1910 Fruitgum Company: 60’s Band of the Week #2

9 Jun

Cymbalism (ha ha ha ha)

Cymbalism (ha ha ha ha)

Band: 1910 Fruitgum Company

 Origin: Linden, New Jersey

 Genre: Bubblegum Pop

 Founded: 1965- (off and on with different members since 1965)

 Original Line-Up:

–          Rhythm Guitar/Vocals: Frank Jeckell

–          Organ/Vocals: Mark Gutkowski

–          Bass Guitar/Vocals: Steve Mortkowitz

–          Drums/Vocals: Floyd Marcus

–          Lead Guitar/Vocals: Pat Karwan

 Name: The band’s name apparently came from a candy wrapper that Frank Jeckell, Rhythm Guitarist and Vocalist, came across in his attic.

 

1910 Fruitgum Company

Like This

 Bubblegum Pop Explanation and Disclaimer: In the late 1960’s to the early 1970’s a genre of music best known as Bubblegum Pop grew in popularity as its complete foil Psychedelic Rock also made its way to the ears of the youth. Last week we covered 13th Floor Elevators who provided a start to Psychedelic rock and a pleasing musical genre to older teens. The acid that went along with the music sure did not hurt its success. An odd and terrible analogy can be made to best describe Bubblegum Pop and Psychedelic Rock. Just as they say Marijuana is the “gateway drug” to harder drugs like acid, Bubblegum Pop, targeting pre-teen, bubble gum chewing, listeners was the initial catchy rock sound that led to harder, more complicated sounds like Psychedelic Rock.

            This bubble gum chewing reason is what sparked the title of the genre in the first place. Pioneer producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz who formed Super K Productions, the main assembly line for Bubblegum pop music, coined the term while chewing gum and mulling over the target audience for their brand of contrived and marketable music. They structured the analogy (not like mine above) that the music is like bubble gum music. Neil Bogart, at Buddah Records, soaked up this profitable idea and Bubblegum Pop was born.

            Now, just because the music is fake and manufactured does not mean that is not worth a listen. The music, at its best, is quite catchy and upbeat with sing-a-long choruses, danceable beats, riffs and hooks, and hidden sexual themes (had to put that in there. It is class Disney, Mickey Mouse, technique. See South Park). This is where 1910 Fruitgum Company comes in. One must understand even while bands may be not playing the greatest, most noteworthy, type of music, they can still at the top of what they do. The 1910 Fruitgum Company, along with other bands like The Ohio Express and The Lemon Pipers, were at the top of the Bubblegum heap.

 

Then

Then

 History: Now on to some rich, bubble-blowing history. The band was formed by Frank Jeckell in New Jersey and was originally known as Jeckell and The Hydes. Quite a convenient name. They were found by Buddah Records and under the instruction of the producers of Super K started playing this new Bubblegum Pop sound. Interestingly enough, they found immediate and noteworthy success.

Their first hit was “Simon Says,” written by Elliot Chiprut, and while it was originally hated by the entire band, Frank Jeckell persuaded the band to record it and while in recording the entire band worked together in tweaking the song and eventually coming to model the song after “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. You may know “Wooly Bully” from such movies as “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Full Metal Jacket.” That is an interesting list of movies. The song hit #4 and was a huge success.

After the success of “Simon Says,” the band went on tour opening for such acts like The Beach Boys. They hit amazing success again with “1-2-3 Red Light,” which is painfully catchy.

Eventually the group was replaced by Super K producers and different musicians appear for the bands final two albums. This, of course, just comes to show you that money is a driving force. Producers Kasenetz and Katz wanted more profit and abandoned the bubblegum sound for more blues psychedelia which was popular in 1969.

 

Best Song: Let us just skip the five album discography and focus simply on the singles that did best for the group. Their best song is “Simon Says,” which played perfectly to the Bubblegum Pop sound. The song’s hook is a string of “ba ba ba ba’s.” The riff is a simple chord progression played both on guitar and organ and it inevitably will put a smile on any face. It encompasses all that a Bubblegum Pop song needs to have. Simplicity mixed with innocent, pop-filled sounds.

 

Fun Facts:

 Did you know:

 –          The Ramones have cited 1910 Fruitgum Company as a major influence.

 –          “1-2-3 Red Light,” was often covered by a band named The Artistics at the Rhode Island School of Design. The Artistics later became known as the new-wave band The Talking Heads.

 –          They are still touring with some originals. Check them out if you are in the area. Their Site: http://www.1910fruitgumcompany.com/index.html

Now

Now

 Special Shout out to Jonathan Gatarz Unofficial 1910 Fruitgum Company Blog, and always helpful Wikipedia Information.

13th Floor Elevators – 60’s Band of the Week #1

2 Jun

13th Floor Elevators Band: 13th Floor Elevators

 Origin: Austin, Texas

 Genre: Psychedelic Rock

 Founded: 1965 – Disbanded: 1969

thirteenth floor elevators Most Famous Line-Up:

 –          Singer/Guitarist/Songwriter (primary): Roky Erickson  

–          Electric Jug Player/Songwriter (primary): Tommy Hall

–          Guitarist: Stacy Sutherland

–          Drummer: John Ike Walton

–          Bass Player: Ronnie Leatherman

 

Name: The band’s name is based on the superstition of large buildings not having a 13th floor because of bad luck. Also the 13th letter in the alphabet is M (obviously for marijuana).

 History: What a perfect way to begin our 60’s band of the week section. 13th Floor Elevators emerged from the psychedelic scene in Austin, Texas. While in California, especially San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other surrounding areas like Monterey, psychedelic rock was supposedly most prevalent, it was in Texas that arguably the first Psychedelic Rock band sprouted.

            13th Floor Elevators were a few years ahead of their time. They were practically the inventors of this new type of rock that would find its way to somewhat infamous fame among all of the United States in a few years. They were certainly among the first to play this rock. Yet, they also were one of the first bands to face the law and succumb to consequences due to drug abuse.

            13th Floor Elevators rose from two bands known as The Spades (which included Roky Erickson and Tommy Hall) and The Lingsmen. The original five person line-up toured Texas in the spring of 1966 and found a record deal with International Artists in Houston; the same record label that also signed bands like Red Krayola and Bubble Puppy. Bubble Puppy who had a huge hit with their single “Hot Smoke & Sassafras,” in 1969 and has definitely gone down as having one of the more interesting acid-induced band names in the entire 60’s counterculture. This counterculture found 13th Floor Elevator’s album debut, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, particularly enticing. While it remains one of the most interesting trips into psychedelic music it did not help their cause that in the album’s sleeve notes they practically thanked LSD for helping them write the album. Yes, I would like to thank my parents, Jesus, and dropping acid.

    After the release of this album, 13th Floor Elevators continued to tour and they spread their wings to San Francisco where they performed with such groups like The Byrds. In 1967, they released a concept album entitled Easter Everywhere which while achieving some success also led to the walking of the bassist Ronnie Leatherman and the drummer John Ike Walton who left due to managerial disagreements with the label. This was the beginning of the end. Drug problems continued and after marijuana possession charges were lifted on Erickson he chose to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital due to his supposed schizophrenia instead of taking a prison sentence. This all but symbolized the true end in 1969. Mental problems, managerial issues, drugs. Sound familiar. 13th Floor Elevators fell in four years to the same problems that would take down many other bands that were enticed by LSD and Mary Jane.

Aren't old concert posters amazing. Yes, this is Grace Slick with her old band The Great Society before she hit fame with Jefferson Airplane.

Aren't old concert posters amazing. Yes, this is Grace Slick with her old band The Great Society before she hit fame with Jefferson Airplane.

Discography:

            The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators (1966)

            Easter Everywhere (1967)

            Live (1968)

            Bull of the Woods (1968)

 Best Album:

           Easily, 13th Floor Elevators best release was their very first in 1966. The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, not only was one of the very first psychedelic albums ever to be released, but, it also takes listeners on a fascinating exploration of acid ballads in their larvae state. The album is an extraordinary mix of odd sound effects, an electric jug (which was the band’s trademark sound), and screaming, guttural vocals from Erickson who on this album may have mastered one of rock’s first real screams.

            While checking out the album you must listen to “Reverberation,” which plays with an eccentric harmony and a wave of haunting sound effects which wash your ears with swirling sound. “Splash,” sounds like The Animals mixed with ghostly echoes. The end of “Kingdom of Heaven,” which is psychedelic blues at its best, features Erickson’s rock scream.

            The album is completely underrated like the band. While they may have been the first they most certainly were not the most famous. This could be due to their problems with drugs and their relatively short life but, besides a cult following, they lack the respect they deserve among fans but not musicians. Musicians tend to cite the 13th Floor Elevators as huge inspirations. Bands like ZZ Top and REM.

 Best Song:

            Straight off of The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators is “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” which is the band’s most famous song. It is immediately noticeable for the opening riff sounds exactly like, “For Your Love,” which was written by Graham Gouldman for The Yardbirds, a revolutionary British band which brought such musicians like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page into the spotlight. It was written in 1965 when Roky Erickson was performing his “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” with the similar riff, with his band The Spades. Well, “For Your Love” was released in February of 1965 and was written when Gouldman was 19. Okay this is trivial. What is most important is that the song is a catchy, rhythmic boogie with a swinging harmonica, hints of southern soul, crazy vocals, and an awesome tone-setting electric jug mixed with Tex-Mex influences.

 Fun Facts:

Did You Know…

–  On Easter Everywhere 13th Floor Elevators did a cover of Bob Dylan’s, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”  Better yet, it is rumored that it is his personal favorite cover

 – Janis Joplin, before she joined Big Brother and the Holding Company, sang a few songs with the band and considered becoming their singer back in Austin before she left for San Francisco and joined Big Brother. You can only imagine what would have happened if Roky and Janis teamed up. Those concerts must have been incredible and that band would have been insane.

 – In 2006 Dell Computers used “You’re Gonna Miss Me” in one of their ads for their XPS laptop. Proving that if you use an XPS laptop you are obviously dropping acid.

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