This month’s collection of tunes, available for your streaming or downloading pleasure. Have a nice long-weekend, friends.
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…
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.
We’re up here in the north country. Three deer just ran across the frozen lake. Robbie Basho is playing on the stereo. Coffee and tea are brewing. Heading out to this place shortly.
For fans of American fingerpicking masters like Fahey and Kottke, you can delve further into Basho’s eastern-tinged melodies and old-time-y vocals with this excellent essay ‘Guitarist of the Other Shore: Robbie Basho in the 1960s’. It’s a very worthwhile read.
Another deer just ran across the lake. Let’s hope the wolves are still sleeping.
This hauntingly beautiful track was the first to be recorded by Baltimore band The Stratfords back in ’64. Eerie, reverb-laden vocal harmonies, lo fi tremolo-heavy guitar, and minimal hand percussion give the tune a slight western feel that may very well possess some sort of voodoo curse. Featured on the b-side is an excellent noir instrumental titled “Enaj.” The Stratfords managed to achieve minor hit status in their hometown, playing at teen centres (seemingly the thing to do back then), school dances and local clubs. Magical stuff happening here, folks.
A few nights ago while Woodsman were in town, we threw on an interesting looking record that I had recently dug out of my father’s stash of old LPs. What’s interesting about this record is the personnell, which features three fifths of the Stones–Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, and Bill Wyman—along with sessionmen extraordinaire Ry Cooder and Nicky Hopkins. So what’s the story behind this un-official Rolling Stones record that happens to be missing, uh, Keith? It’s said that, while tracking the 1969 sessions for Let It Bleed at London’s Olympic Studio, producer Jimmy Miller set ol’ Keef off when he suggested that they bring in Ry Cooder to beef up the guitar lines. You know how he gets! Well, after Keith stormed out of the studio, the band proceeded to jam for the next few days and the result became Jamming With Edward.
Deadheads will, no doubt, recognize Hopkins’ name from his tenure in the Jerry Garcia Band as well as his signature instrumental “Edward, The Mad Shirt Grinder,” a song he had originally recorded during his tenure with Quicksilver Messenger Service and which JGB was known to slip into during the ’75 era. The song also inspired the name for this record. We’re slipping off track ourselves here, so go and enjoy these jams and have a great week.
Brooklyn psych outfit Woodsman have shared the second track, titled “Rune,” from their forthcoming self-titled LP. Join us when Dog Gone Presents Woodsman on January 29 at Rancho Relaxo in Toronto alongside Carl Didur (of Zacht Automaat) and Glass Tomb (RSVP). The evening will also feature the cosmic liquid light projections of lightsweetcrude.
Woodsman comes out February 4th on Fire Talk.
Our love for Woods should be no secret around these parts by now. With each year, the band ages like a fine wine—constantly refining their songwriting and studio material, while taking their live improvisations further and further toward the cosmos. On April 15, Woods returns with a new album titled With Light and With Love on their own Woodsist label. You can hear the first song from it, titled “Leaves Like Glass,” below.
Steve Gunn, having already secured a pair of spots on our year’s best of list with his Golden Gunn LP and the solo effort Time Off, makes a run at a hat trick with a third release this year recorded together with Pelt‘s Mike Gangloff. The album was recorded in the spring months of this year at the remote farmhouse of noted roots-music engineer Joseph Dejarnette (Carolina Chocolate Drops, Bruce Greene, Curtis Eller). There, in the tiny community of Topeka set in the countryside of Floyd County, Virginia, Gunn and Gangloff spent an entire night improvising with six-and 12-string guitars, a banjo, along with traditional Indian instruments like gongs, tanpura, singing bowls, and a shruti box. The result was an intense night of improvisation captured on the forthcoming release Melodies for a Savage Fix. You can hear one of the tracks, titled “Worry Past Worry,” below.
Purchase Melodies for a Savage Fix on regular or red vinyl from the good folks at Important Records.