Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ladies Night

Flower Power: Part 5
Today, all the groups featured have a female lead vocalist. This next group could definitely have been included during "Out-of-Towner" Week here at The '60s Beat. From the Hague, Netherlands, Shocking Blue was a Dutch rock band that first formed in 1967. With Mariska Veres on lead vocals, the group released the worldwide hit "Venus" in late 1969, taking them to the #1 spot on the U.S. charts in February 1970 and earning them a gold record. With global sales reaching over 5 million copies, "Venus" became the Netherland's first American #1 hit. Based on "The Banjo Song" by The Big Three in 1963 here (with Cass Elliot before she was a "Mama"), this song was written by Robbie van Leeuwen, who also played guitar and sitar in the band.

One of the first female singer-songwriters of the rock 'n' roll era, Kentucky-born Jackie DeShannon first began her music career by singing country tunes on the radio at age 6. Recording minor hits in the early '60s, she gained attention when she joined The Beatles on their first U.S. tour, while composing songs for groups like The Byrds, and even forming a songwriting partnership with Jimmy Page (later of Led Zeppelin) (oh and she dated Elvis). In March 1965, DeShannon released her biggest hit, "What the World Needs Now Is Love" (written by Burt Bacharach), and by May, reached #7 on the charts. Although its release predates the Flower Power era, its message rang true throughout the rest of the '60s. In June 1968, right after the shooting of Robert Kennedy, this song was played continuously on L.A. radio stations as an audio vigil. This anthem for love has been performed by over 100 other artists and has been featured in several films.

One creative group that seems to remain in the shadows is The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, a psychedelic pop/rock band from Los Angeles. Formed in August 1966 out of a folk rock group called The Ashes, this quintet was known for their unique blend of folk rock and psychedelia while incorporating strong male-female vocal harmonies, interesting chord progressions, and multiple time signature changes. Featuring the powerful vocals of Barbara "Sandi" Robinson, their only tune to actually chart was the groovy "It's a Happening Thing," released in 1967. Although it only reached #93 in the U.S., it was a lively flower pop anthem of the time.

And of course we can't forget one of the first black acts to achieve complete and sustained crossover success (with audiences of all races), the international stars Diana Ross & the Supremes. At the height of the Summer of Love in '67, this top Motown act released their first single that embraced the sounds of psychedelic pop, influenced by the psychedelic sounds by bands like The Beatles and The Beach Boys. Representing a shift in the Motown pop sound in the late '60s, "Reflections" reached #2 on the Billboard charts by late summer, only verging on being the group's 11th American #1 single. Featuring one of the first early uses of a synthesizer on a pop record, this was also the last 45 released with Florence Ballad and Mary Wilson singing background vocals together. Written by the Motown production team Holland-Dozier-Holland, here's one of the group's first TV performances featuring Cindy Birdsong as Ballad's replacement (once again, apologies for the video 'obstruction.').

Be sure to revisit posts including these female icons of the Flower Power era, singers Janis Joplin with Big Brother & the Holding Company, and Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane ("Piece of My Heart" and "White Rabbit"/"Somebody to Love" featured here).

No comments:

Post a Comment