The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Happy Sunday morning, afternoon, or evening, wherever you are! Are you ready to embark on another excursion into the great world of music? Six tunes at a time? I am and hope you’ll join me!

Oscar Peterson Trio/Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)

There’s just something about jazz and Sunday mornings, which makes them a perfect match. Chances are you’ve heard of Oscar Peterson, even if you’re like me, meaning you’re not a jazz expert. In my case, I believe it was at my brother-in-law’s place where I first encountered the Canadian jazz pianist many moons ago. Over a 60-year-plus active career spanning the years 1945-2007, Peterson released more than 200 recordings and received many honors and awards, including seven Grammys, among others. None other than Duke Ellington called Peterson the “Maharaja of the keyboard.” Evidently, the admiration was mutual. Here’s I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good), originally released in 1942, with music by Sir Duke and lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. Ellington covered the tune on an album titled Night Train, which appeared in 1963 as the Duke Ellington Trio. He was backed by Ray Brown (double bass) and Ed Thigpen (drums).

Sting/If I Ever Lose My Faith In You

Next, let’s travel to May 1993 and another great artist who I trust needs no introduction: Sting. Born Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, the British musician and actor first gained prominence as the frontman, songwriter and bassist of The Police. By the time the group played their last gig in June 1986 prior to their break-up, Sting had already launched his solo career with the album The Dream of the Blue Turtles from June 1985. My pick is from his fourth solo effort, Ten Summoner’s Tales, which I think is his Mount Rushmore: If I Ever Lose My Faith In You. Sting remains active to this day and in November 2021 released his 15th solo album The Bridge. He’s currently on the road for what looks like a fairly extensive international “My Songs” tour, which includes the U.S. and Europe. The schedule is here.

David Bowie/Rebel Rebel

While David Bowie was a pretty versatile artist, I’ve always been particularly drawn to his glam rock-oriented phase. You give me the Ziggy Stardust album any day, and I’m a happy camper! By the time Bowie released his eighth studio album Diamond Dogs in May 1974, his glam rock phase was largely over. His backing band The Spiders From Mars had disbanded. Mick Ronson’s absence prompted Bowie to take over guitar duties himself. On Rebel Rebel, he proved that worked out quite well!…Rebel, rebel, you’ve torn your dress/Rebel, rebel, your face is a mess/Rebel, rebel, how could they know?/Hot tramp, I love you so!

Patricia Bahia/Hold On

Our next stop takes us to the present with a compelling tune by a contemporary artist you may not have heard of: Patricia Bahia. I had not been aware of this Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter myself until recently. From her website: An award-winning songwriter, singer, cancer survivor, and coach, Patricia Bahia (pronounced bah-HEE-yah) is a multi-dimensional artist and songwriter-in-service who lives her bucket list and helps others to do the same. “Though I was always a singer, I didn’t write my first song until after receiving a cancer diagnosis in 2003. I’d spent my life doing what was expected of me, pursuing a career as a lawyer, living out someone else’s dream, while secretly harboring a dream of writing songs.”…Patricia encourages others to follow their own dreams, saying, “I am living proof that it is never too late to start living your dream. My mission is to spread love, healing, joy, and peace through the power of words and music, and to inspire others to follow their own dreams.” Here’s Hold On, a beautiful and powerful song Bahia released in September 2021.

John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band/On the Dark Side

Time to throw in some ’80s music. This next pick is from the soundtrack of the 1983 American musical drama picture Eddie and the Cruisers. The tale about the mysterious disappearance of cult rock star Eddie Wilson and his group Eddie and the Cruisers featured music by John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band, a group from Rhode Island that had started out as a bar band in 1972. The soundtrack, most of which was written by Cafferty and his band, gave them their international breakthrough. Despite some success with a self-released single in 1980, they were largely ignored by major record labels due to frequent critical comparisons of their music to Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. When listening to On the Dark Side, the similarities are obvious. The tune sounds like a blend of Springsteen and John Mellencamp’s R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. That being said, On the Dark Side preceded Mellencamp’s hit by two years! In any case, it’s a cool song, and the Springsteen flavor doesn’t bother me at all!

Jefferson Airplane/Somebody to Love

Let’s take off one last time for today and go back to February 1967 and Surrealistic Pillow, the sophomore album by Jefferson Airplane. At that time, they had been around for approximately two years and released their debut Jefferson Airplane Takes Off in August 1966. While that record made the U.S. charts, climbing to no. 128, it was Surrealistic Pillow that actually made them take off. It also was Airplane’s first record with vocalist Grace Slick and drummer Spencer Dryden, who together with Jorma Kaukonen (lead guitar, vocals), Marty Balin (rhythm guitar, vocals), Paul Kantner (rhythm guitar, vocals) and Jack Casady (bass) completed their line-up at the time. The album’s second single Somebody to Love became the band’s biggest U.S. hit, surging to no. 5 on the pop chart. Penned by Darby Slick, Grace’s brother-in-law and originally titled Someone to Love, the tune first had been released by Darby’s band The Great Society in February 1966. At that same time, Grace was a member of the group as well and also sang lead on the original recording.

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist of the above tracks. Hope you enjoyed today’s trip! The journey shall continue next Sunday!

Sources: Wikipedia; Sting website; Patricia Bahia website; YouTube; Spotify

Planes, Trains and Automobiles – Part I

A three-part mini series of songs related to the three transportation modes

The other day, the 1987 American comedy picture Planes, Trains and Automobiles randomly came to my mind. It’s about a marketing executive (Steve Martin) and a sweet but annoying traveling sales guy (John Candy) ending up together as they are trying to get from New York home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. Their plane’s diversion to Wichita due to bad weather in Chicago starts a three-day odyssey and one misadventure after the other, while the two, seemingly incompatible men use different modes of transportation to get to their destination.

What does this movie have to do with music? Nothing, except it gave me the idea to put together lists of songs that are related to – you guessed it – planes, trains and automobiles. To be fully transparent, in mid-2017, I published tw0 posts with songs for the road and songs for the train. As such, the theme isn’t really new but, hey, it’s been almost four years. Plus, I feel it’s okay to repeat fun ideas every now and then.

In order to avoid creating what would be a rather lengthy post, I decided to make it a mini series and break things up in three parts, with each featuring five tracks listed in chronological order. Here’s part I: Songs related to planes, an entirely new idea! 🙂

Jefferson Airplane/Blues From an Airplane

Blues From an Airplane is the opener of Jefferson Airplane’s debut album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off from August 1966. The psychedelic rock tune was co-written by Marty Balin and Skip Spence, Airplane’s lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist and drummer, respectively. The tune also became the b-side of the band’s second single Come Up the Years, which was released ahead of the album in May 1966. Airplane’s actual was take-off, Surrealistic Pillow, was still six months away. The record only reached no. 128 on the Billboard 200, while the single failed to chart altogether.

The Beatles/Back in the U.S.S.R.

Why Back in the U.S.S.R., given the tune doesn’t have “plane” or a related word in the title? Since it’s my bloody list, and it cannot be without my favorite band of all time. Plus, there’s a sound of a jet engine in the beginning and at the very end of the tune, and the first verse prominently includes a rough flight. Written by Paul McCartney and credited to John Lennon and him as usual, is actually a parody to Back in the U.S.A. and California Girls by Chuck Berry and The Beach Boys, respectively, poking fun at their patriotic sentiments about the U.S. The song, included on The White Album from November 1968, was recorded without Ringo Starr who temporarily had left the group after McCartney had criticized his drumming. Instead John, Paul and George Harrison created a composite drum track from numerous takes.

Steve Miller Band/Jet Airliner

Jet Airliner was one of the first tunes that came to my mind when thinking about plane songs. The other two were Jet by Paul McCartney and Wings and John Denver’s Leaving on a Jet Plane. Since I decided to include Back in the U.S.S.R., I skipped Jet. While Leaving on a Jet Plane is a lovely tune, it would have been another pick from the ’60s. Written by Paul Penna in 1973, Jet Airliner was popularized by Steve Miller Band when they released it in April 1977 as the lead single of their 10th studio album Book of Dreams that appeared the following month. It yielded their fourth and last ’70s top 10 hit on the U.S. mainstream chart.

Indigo Girls/Airplane

After three rockers I thought it was time to include something that’s a bit lighter, so I’m glad I found this lovely acoustic, folk-oriented tune by Indigo Girls. Written by Emily Saliers, who together with Amy Ray makes up the duo, Airplane is from their fourth studio album Rites of Passage that appeared in May 1992. I really dig the vocals and the harmony singing on this song.

The Black Keys/Aeroplane Blues

There they are again, The Black Keys. The rock duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney entered my radar screen recently when I included a tune from their new album Crawling Kingsnake in a Best of What’s New feature. Aeroplane Blues is another edgy blues rock tune, which shall wrap up this first installment. Written by Auerbach and Carney, it appeared on their third studio album Rubber Factory released in September 2004.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube

Tangerine Trees and Marmalade Skies

A trip back to ’60s psychedelic music

While it’s quite possible that more than three weeks of social distancing are starting to have an impact, I can say without hesitation that my interest in psychedelic music predates COVID-19 – I would say by at least three decades. But it wasn’t exactly love at first sight.

I guess a good way to start would be to define what I’m writing about. According to Wikipedia, psychedelic music (sometimes called psychedelia) is a wide range of popular music styles and genres influenced by 1960s psychedelia, a subculture of people who used psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline and DMT to experience visual and auditory hallucinations, synesthesia and altered states of consciousness. Psychedelic music may also aim to enhance the experience of using these drugs.

To be clear, I don’t want to judge people using drugs but personally don’t take any and never had any particular interest to explore stuff. With the exception of alcohol, which I occasionally like to enjoy, I guess the furthest I ever took it was to try cigarettes during my early teenage years. Around the same time, I also smoked a cigar, cleverly thinking that just like with a cigarette, you’re supposed to inhale. As you can see, I was definitely young and stupid. And, yes, I did feel a bit funny afterwards! 🙂

Psychedelic Music Collage 2

Psychedelic music has some characteristic features. Again, Wikipedia does a nice job explaining them: Exotic instrumentation, with a particular fondness for the sitar and tabla are common. Songs often have more disjunctive song structures, key and time signature changes, modal melodies and drones than contemporary pop music. Surreal, whimsical, esoterically or literary-inspired, lyrics are often used. There is often a strong emphasis on extended instrumental segments or jams. There is a strong keyboard presence, in the 1960s especially, using electronic organs, harpsichords, or the Mellotron, an early tape-driven ‘sampler’ keyboard.

Elaborate studio effects are often used, such as backwards tapes, panning the music from one side to another of the stereo track, using the “swooshing” sound of electronic phasing, long delay loops and extreme reverb. In the 1960s there was a use of electronic instruments such as early synthesizers and the theremin. Later forms of electronic psychedelia also employed repetitive computer-generated beats.

Before getting to some examples, I should add that psychedelic music developed in the mid-’60s among folk and rock bands in the U.S. and the U.K. It included various subgenres, such as psychedelic folk, psychedelic rock, acid rock and psychedelic pop. The original psychedelic era, which is the focus of this post, ended in the late ’60s, though there have been successors like progressive rock and heavy metal and revivals, e.g., psychedelic funk, psychedelic hip hop and electronic music genres like acid house and trance music.

Apparently, the first use of the term psychedelic rock can be attributed to The 13th Floor Elevators, an American rock band formed in Austin, Texas in December 1965. Here’s their debut single You’re Gonna Miss Me. Written by guitarist and founding member Roky Erickson, the tune reached no. 55 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became their only charting song.

Eight Miles High by The Byrds is one of my favorite tunes from the psychedelic era. Written by co-founding members Roger McGuinn (lead guitar, vocals), Gene Clark (tambourine, vocals) and David Crosby (rhythm guitar, vocals), the song first appeared as a single in March 1966 and was also included on the band’s third studio album Fifth Dimension released in July of the same year. That jingle-jangle guitar sound and the brilliant harmony singing simply do it for me every time!

In May 1966, The Rolling Stones released Paint It Black. Credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the song was also included on the U.S. edition of Aftermath, the band’s fourth British and sixth U.S. studio album. Not only did Paint It Black top the charts in the UK, U.S., The Netherlands, Australia and Canada, but it also had the distinction to become the first no. 1 hit to feature a sitar.

One of the hotspots for psychedelic music in the U.S. during the second half of the ’60s was San Francisco. Among the key bands based in the city by the bay were Jefferson Airplane. Here’s White Rabbit, a tune written by lead vocalist Grace Slick. Initially, it was recorded for the band’s sophomore album Surrealistic Pillow from February 1967. It also came out separately as a single in June that year.

After ten paragraphs into the post, it’s about time I get to the band that probably is one of the first that comes to mind when thinking about psychedelic rock: Pink Floyd, especially during their early phase with Syd Barrett. Here’s a tune I’ve always dug: Arnold Layne, their debut single from March 1967, written by Barrett. According to the credits, this video was directed by Derek Nice and filmed on the beach in East Wittering, West Sussex, England in late February 1967.

March 1967 also saw the release of Purple Haze, the second single by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and one of my favorite Jimi Hendrix tunes. The track features blues and Eastern modalities, along with novel recording techniques and sound effects like the Octavia pedal that doubled the frequency of the sound it was fed. The song also marked the first time Hendrix worked with sound engineer Eddie Kramer who would play a key role in his future recordings. Purple Haze climbed all the way to no. 3 in the UK; in the U.S., it only reached no. 65 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Two months later, in May 1967, The Beatles released their eighth studio album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It included the psychedelic gem Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds, the tune that inspired the headline of the post:

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

While credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney as usual, the song was primarily written by Lennon.

After the break-up of The Animals, lead vocalist Eric Burdon formed Eric Burdon & The Animals in December 1966. The band subsequently relocated to San Francisco. In May 1968, they released their second album The Twain Shall Meet. Among the record’s tunes is the anti-war song Sky Pilot. Credited to Burdon and each of the other members of the band Vic Briggs (guitar), John Weider (guitar, violin), Barry Jenkins (drums) and Danny McCulloch (bass), the tune also appeared separately as a single. Due to its length, the track had to be split across the A and B sides. Remarkably, Sky Pilot reached no. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100, and no. 7 in Canada and Australia. Chart success in the UK was more moderate, where it peaked at no. 40.

In June 1968, Iron Butterfly released their sophomore album In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. The 17-minute title track, which occupied all of the record’s B-side, was written by the band’s keyboarder and vocalist Doug Ingle. Separately, a shortened version appeared as a single and became the band’s biggest hit reaching no. 30 in the U.S. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida not only is psychedelic rock, but is also considered to be an early example of heavy metal. Here’s the single edit.

The last tune I’d like to highlight is Shotgun by Vanilla Fudge. It was included on their fourth studio album Near the Beginning from February 1969. “Near the End” perhaps would have been a more appropriate title, since by that time, the original psychedelic era was entering the twilight zone. Written by Autry DeWalt, the tune was first recorded by Junior Walker & the All Stars in 1965.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube