Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Groovin'

Flower Power: Part 7 (Final)
One of the ultimate Flower Power songs would be The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love," but since that love anthem was already featured here, we'll take a look at another Beatles' song, a classic of psychedelia. Written mainly by John Lennon (credited to Lennon/McCartney), "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" comes from biggest-selling album of the 1960s, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. After its release at the beginning of the Summer of Love in June 1967, the BBC banned this song suspecting its title was referencing drugs (LSD), however, Lennon always denied that claim. Lennon's son, Julian, had inspired the song with a drawing of his school-friend Lucy, floating "in the sky with diamonds." The lyrics are a surreal and lavish daydream, accompanied by a complicated arrangement featuring a tamboura (stringed instrument) played by George Harrison, and a counter melody on organ by McCartney. In 1974, Elton John released a cover version of this tune (discreetly featuring John Lennon on backup vocals and guitar), and it is the only Beatles cover song to reach #1 on the Billboard chart. From The Beatles' 1968 animated feature film Yellow Submarine, here's "Lucy in the Sky with Diamond."
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Next up, this light-hearted, groovy tune comes from the classic American folk duo, Simon & Garfunkel. About the Queensboro Bridge in New York City, "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" comes from their third album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme released in October 1966, which reached #4 on the album charts and is considered on of the greatest albums of all time (I even recently purchased it at a used record store!). Written by Paul Simon and featuring musicians from the Dave Brubeck Quartet, the message of this folk rock song is delivered right in the first verse of the song: "Slow down, you move too fast." A popular cover version was recorded by Harpers Bizarre the following year, making it into sunshine pop arrangement. From the Smothers Bros. Comedy Hour, here's Simon & Garfunkel, with a little "accompaniment" by Tommy and Dick Smothers.
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Known for venturing into a wide variety of musical genres, Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan was one of the first British pop musicians to adopt a flower power image. Influenced by US West Coast bands (like Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead), he recorded one of the first examples of psychedelia at Abbey Road Studios in January of 1966. Released later that summer in the U.S., "Sunshine Superman" was a psychedelic folk song that reached #1 on the US Billboard charts (#2 in the UK), selling over 800,000 copies in just the first six weeks, eventually earning a gold disc. Written for his future wife, Donovan's lyrics mention two DC Comics superheroes, Green Lantern in addition to Superman. The eclectic arrangement was quite innovative with the prominent use of the harpsichord and sitar, combined with a funky, conga-like back-beat. Described as " the quintessential bright summer sing along," here's a Donovan classic.

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And for our final band of Flower Power Month, it's American blue-eyed soul group from New Jersey, The Young Rascals. These guys found themselves with one of their biggest hits at the beginning of the Summer of Love when "Groovin'" spend four weeks at #1 on the charts in May of '67, earning a certified gold record by June. Written by group members Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati with lead vocals by Cavaliere, this classic tune is a slow, relaxed groove and has become one of the group's signature songs. Based on Cavaliere's newfound interest in Afro-Cuban music, the instrumentation features a conga, harmonica, and a Cuban-style bass line. Resulting in a different sound from The Rascals' white-soul origins, the head of their record label originally did not the song released, however, the song (and the group) proved to have crossover appeal when "Groovin'" hit #3 on the Billboard Black Songs chart. Considered one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll (by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), it is also a recipient of a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Great tune, but to be honest, as a kid, I always misheard the line, "life would be ecstasy, you and me endlessly" as "you and me and Lesley!" (wait, who the heck is Lesley?).
 

If you enjoyed Flower Power Week, be sure to revisit some past posts featuring other Flower Power-type songs such as The Turtles' "Happy Together", The Mamas & The Papas' "California Dreamin'" and The Byrds' "Turn! Turn! Turn!" both featured here, and Procol Harum' "A Whiter Shade of Pale".

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