Thursday, March 10, 2011

Let's Live for Today

Folk Rock Week: Part 3
Alright, diving right back into the remainder of folk rock week, we have another group from the Greenwich Village folk scene, as mentioned in my last post, the American band The Lovin' Spoonful. Starting out as The Mugwumps, a New York bohemian folk group including two members of The Mamas and The Papas (Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot), the band's leader John Sebastian and guitarist Zal Yanovsky went on to form The Lovin' Spoonful in 1965, eventually producing seven chart-toppers (quite a feat in the midst of Beatlemania). With the use of roots music and folk rock as his inspiration, Sebastian composed/sang original songs with modern sounds that still contained the heart of classic American music. Their second single released in 1965, here's a Shindig! performance of the folk pop hit, "You Didn't Have to Be So Nice," with that beautiful sparkle of John Sebastian's autoharp (pictured above). These guys are having so much fun!

One of the most popular folk rock songs from the 1960's was "Let's Live for Today" by the American band The Grass Roots. From 1967 to 1972, The Grass Roots set a record for being on the Billboard chart for 307 straight weeks! Not only did this particular tune become a big hit with the record-buying public, but it also struck a chord with the young American men serving overseas in the Vietnam War, making it a powerful song of the decade. Although this is a mimed performance, this guys are too cute (I have a thing for sideburns). Introduced by entertainer Jimmy Durante, here are the super-cool Grass Roots at just the beginning of their career.

Released in April 1965, The Beau Brummels' "Just a Little" is considered an example of early folk rock because of its strong vocal blend with acoustic/electric guitars and ascending minor-key harmonies. Due to the band's name and musical style, many listeners thought The Beau Brummels were British, however this San Francisco group was a successful part of the U.S. response to the British Invasion. After "Just a Little" became their highest-charting single, the group's folk rock sound would go on to incorporate many different genres including hard rock, country rock, and rhythm and blues, and were later considered influential in the development of punk rock with their garage rock tunes ("Laugh Laugh"). The band was regarded as teen idols, even appearing in a few films and the animated sitcom The Flintstones. Written by guitarist Ron Elliott and a wonderful lead vocal by Sal Valentino, this performance of "Just a Little" comes from the musical variety show Shindig!.

As The Monkees have shown up in a few posts now, we all know that they didn't come together like most bands do with common interests and musical tastes, but it's those vast musical styles that make their albums so interesting. Their third album released in May 1967, Headquarters was the first time that the group had full creative control over their music, and not only was this album possibly the finest of their careers but it's even included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (I just recently purchased the vinyl LP at a used record store!). Creating a sound between jangle-pop and folk rock, this album was #1 on the charts, until another little album came along: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles. Written and sung by country-influenced Michael Nesmith, "You Told Me" begins the album with a rockin' banjo played by Peter Tork, the first time the instrument was used in a pop/rock song.


Although I still have many songs lined up for this week, I think I'll conclude with just one more song. American singer-songwriter Barry McGuire is best known for his 1965 hit, "Eve of Destruction," written by 19-year-old P.F. Sloan who produced mainly hits for several artists of the '60s. Influenced by the fears of young people in the era of the Cold War, Vietnam War, and the civil rights movement, this was the first protest song to become a #1 hit (there's also a version by The Turtles as well). As McGuire later became known as a singer and songwriter of Contemporary Christian Music, he renounced this song for many years, though has begun singing it again in recent years with new lyrics that refer to the Columbine High School massacre. Great introduction by actor/comedian Jerry Lewis (with his normal voice for once!) on Hullabaloo.


Well, it's been a fascinating week getting into all these folk rock tunes and their variations. Looks like The Seachers, The Seekers, The Turtles, Jackie DeShannon, and other groups will just have to wait till we revisit folk rock later this year. Catch ya next time for another fun week at The 60's Beat!

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