It is said that the ancient Greeks wore white to bed to ensure pleasant dreams. It can also said that we are announcing the first of our new psych music showcase series, Love Saves the Day, which will be taking place regularly throughout the spring and summer months at Toronto’s Smiling Buddha Bar.
Our very first Love Saves the Day soiree will feature the debut of Jeff Clarke’s (of Hellshovel/Demon’s Claws/Milk Lines fame) new solo project, Minotaurs Oath, along with performances by Calgary psych voyagers Devonian Gardens and Montreal garage rockers Genital Hospital.
I’ve never travelled or been close to Memphis, Tennessee, but it strikes me as being a nexus, at least as far as the genesis of the American “id” is concerned. From the advent and subsequent growth of the recorded music industry in the early 20th century, it has seen many iconic musicians leave their mark, whether it be the early ragtime and country blues of (Gus) Cannon’s Jug Stompers, Robert Wilkins and Furry Lewis in the late 1920s, the proto-rockabilly of Sun Records in the 1950s, the Motown-south counterpart of Stax Records and Hi Records in the 1960s, or Anglophilia of Alex Chilton and Big Star in the 1970s. As a result, when it comes to the record I have chosen to review today, Sid Selvidge’s The Cold of The Morning, we see a product that is distinctively Memphis-ian; that is to say influenced by the city’s past, but taking it in its own idiosyncratic direction.
The constant that holds this album together is the pressure cooker that was Memphis in the early 1970s. A lift on a late-night liquor ban in bars on the Beale Street strip meant that establishments on that iconic strip were again privy to much merry making, and that there had to be, by extension, artists who would perform for these masses. Enter Sid Selvidge, former Stax and Elektra artist, and a student of Memphis’ country blues and ragtime history (and close friend and student of said elder artists like Furry Lewis), who held a residency which mixed his originals with folk covers and classic country blues. Through mutual acquaintances, Sid managed to befriend a financial benefactor in the form of the fledgling Peabody Records, and enlist the production services of the late Jim Dickinson (the man who played piano on The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” and produced Big Star’s “Third”). It was from these circumstances that Sid entered the studio with the aim to distill his residency setlist into a 45 minute snapshot.
As a music journalist, I receive a rather large number of press releases and pitches from a countless number of publicists and PR agents. Over the years, I’ve learned to sift through the sheer mass of these releases, preferring only to pursue musics sent by those with both a curated focus and a discerning taste. Some of these folks are constantly at the cutting age of “21st century music,” and falling behind on the bands they are representing means falling behind on what is current and relevant to the most discerning, critical-minded listeners in today’s vast musical world.
If music was to follow the global changes that have taken place over the past 50-odd years, what “should” it sound like today? I sometimes feel like I’m behind the times, simply because I’m still listening to bands that use instruments, and have real people playing them. Walk into these avant-garde venues in the deepest and most subterranean rooms in Brooklyn and, these days, and you’ll typically find one person controlling an array of equipment that is only sold in stores that opened within the past 10-20 years. Stores that are completely foreign to me. Take the guitar store down the street from my apartment, for example. Years back, it was a guitar store and a used guitar store split in two. Now, the used side is gone and it’s been replaced by a “studio” department that sells everything from oscillators to monitors to samplers to stuff where I really don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s a far cry from the four-tracks and basic studio equipment that The Beatles revolutionized on Sgt Peppers, or the drum machines and flangers of the 70s and 80s.
It seems, back in the mid to late ’60s, there existed some idea, predominantly in the southern United States, that Canada was home to a large population of hippies and long-haired bearded folk. I mean, it’s not totally inaccurate, but there was certainly a feeling amongst these southerners that Canada was a hippy haven or perhaps a place for weird folks. Perhaps because of this idea that Texas entrepreneur Colonel Paul Beckingham decided to take his San Antonio group The Hangmen to the metaphorical north and change their name to the Five Canadians. Perhaps it was just a cheap play on the the Five Americans, another band from Texas who had achieved Top 40 success. Either way, these lads were southern to the core.
Never stepping foot in these northerly lands, Beckingham booked the Five Canadians at Abe Epstein’s famous General McMullen studio in Houston to record a series of singles in May of ‘66. None of them ever reached the Top 40, and they certainly didn’t achieve the level of success as their American counterparts. But thanks to the inclusion of “Writing on the Wall” on several influential garage compilations, the song is considered one of the all-time garage punk essentials. Hear that farfisa sing…
We’re psyched to welcome Real Estate bassist and his band of Freaks back to Toronto on April 29 at the Silver Dollar. The night will also feature performances by The Auras and Tess Parks & the Good People along with Dog Gone DJs. Ticket information will be posted next week. As usual, we’ll also be giving away a few pairs of tickets so be sure to follow along on the Twitter and the Facebook.
A few years back, when I got the idea to first start hosting shows, I reached out to a few of my favourite local bands along with a little-known California psych act by the name of Jeffertitti’s Nile who happened to be making their way through town. Having only heard their seven song EP, Hypnotic River of Sound, I had no idea what their live performance would be like or even how they might look. But when they walked through the front gates of the Church of the Electric Dirt dressed halfway between pranksters and members of Hendrix’s band, it was plain to the eye that these individuals were not of this earthly realm.
Dino Valente (néChet Powers) is one of those enigmatic types in the footnotes of every third MOJO article dealing with the 60s, and it is plain that he had his fingers in a lot of pies both literally, and figuratively. However, to paraphrase Wayne Kramer’s description of Johnny Thunders in Legs McNeil’s “Please Kill Me,” he “…seemed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.” He wrote “Get Together,” popularized by The Youngbloods and played in every 60s TV/movie flashback scene, but he didn’t make a dime off of it because he sold the rights off to the Kingston Trio’s managers to beat a drug rap; he also had a hand in writing “Hey Joe,” somehow. He was going to be the focal point of Quicksilver Messenger Service, but he went to prison instead. He managed to piss off the CBS brass after signing a lucrative contract by phoning them repeatedly at 4 A.M. and telling them that they didn’t get where he was at.
The main show here, however, is not the man’s life story, but his solo release. His nasal voice, hippie dream poeticisms, and backing jazz instrumentation seems to drop in and out at will. Think Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks meets Tim Buckley’s Happy/Sad with the overtones of a Haight-Asbury hippie dude trying to put the make on a girl, and you’re getting close. Fred Neil is another obvious influence in terms of his 12-string and jazz inflected chording, and it’s no surprise that the both used to play together in Greenwich Village folk scene of the early 60s. Nevertheless, it’s a rewarding listen, especially in the context of the loner folk and DIY-ethic that predominates popular reissues from such labels as Numero Group, whose Wayfaring Strangers: Lonesome Heroes compilation serves as another touchstone. Continue reading →
Perhaps the most ideal vision of a hippie paradise is the love scene depicted in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1970 film Zabriskie Point. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but let’s just say there’s a whole lotta desert lovin’ goin’ on. And who better to score it than Jerry Garcia and Pink Floyd.
Posted on Dead scholar Blair Jackson’s website is Jerry’s commentary on the lengthy solo guitar improvisation. Imagine being in the room for this one…
“There I was on the old MGM scoring stage where they used to do Gene Kelly musicals and The Wizard of Oz — just me and my electric guitar and a little amplifier,” Garcia remembered. “And Antonioni’s back there [in the control room] with one engineer, and the scene is playing on a huge screen, and I’m picking along, trying to get my ideas. “I sat down and just played, and [Antonioni] said, ‘Oh, I like that very, very much. That’s very, very good.’ And I said, ‘Hey, wait a minute. C’mon, give me a chance!’ And he said, ‘Oh no, no. That’s exactly what I want!’ I wanted so badly to do something good because, well, it was Antonioni for chrissakes! He was satisfied so quickly I didn’t know what to think. I was unhappy about it. I was just getting warmed up and, boom, that was it.”
It should be no secret around these parts that we enjoy a bit of evil in our music. And, well, back in the early ’70s, Canadian Vancouver-based bubblegum pop band The Poppy Family released a little number on their sophomore LP Poppy Seeds (1971) titled “Where Evil Grows” that just might top our list of faves. Having been described by critic Kim Cooper as “The Partridge Family + The Manson Family = The Poppy Family,” it’s clear from the band’s lyrics that among its principle members, married couple Terry and Susan Jacks, there existed a peculiar and twisted dark side that echoed the end of the flowery ’60s.
Take the debut album track, “There’s No Blood in Bone,” where Susan hauntingly recites “Marie now walks, her life is sleep, she never looks above her feet, she never smiles nor does she speak.” Or, perhaps their excellent cover of Jody Reynolds’ dark classic “Endless Sleep.” But, as good as both of those tracks are, nothing comes close to what is probably the finest dark bubblegum song ever recorded, “Where Evil Grows.” Take it with you on a late night drive in the woods and you’ll know where we’re coming from.
Following the release of their sophomore album in ’71, the couple divorced and Terry went on to record the unforgivable “Seasons in the Sun” and subsequently confirm all speculation of evil.