Saturday, September 10, 2011

Time of the Season

Flower Power: Part 4
Each of the four bands in this post have been featured a few times before here at The '60s Beat, but what can I say? They have many great tunes! While Flower Power is not actual genre of music, these songs continue to represent the various sounds of Flower Power.

During the '60s, Tommy James & the Shondells released six 1-million-selling gold records, one of which was "Crystal Blue Peruasion," a groovin', gentle-tempoed tune from June 1969. Composed by Tommy James with Eddie Gray and Mike Vale, the song is built around a prominent organ part with gentle lines by an acoustic guitar, a very understated arrangement. While some listeners thought this song was about drug use, James explains where he came up with the title: "I took the title from the Book of Revelation in the Bible, reading about the New Jerusalem. The words jumped out at me, and they're not together; they're spread out over three or four verses. But it seemed to go together; it's my favorite of all my songs and one of our most requested" (Hitch magazine, 1985). Reaching #2 on the charts, its clear the lyrics are expressing that "love is the answer." Although there are no live performances by Tommy James & the Shondells (not until more recent years), here's a primitive, non-representative music video that was made showing images of late 1960s political and cultural unrest (okay, the footage is a bit wild, but we're here for the music anyway).
Although this next song was released a year prior to the infamous Summer of Love (1967), it seems to appear on nearly every Flower Power CD set. After a string of folk-flavored pop hits, The Lovin' Spoonful's biggest hit was "Summer in the City," which scored #1 on the Hot-100 chart in August of 1966. This song was actually written by the brother of band leader John Sebastian, Mark Sebastian (along with band member Steve Boone) who had submitted the lyrics as a poem for a literary magazine while in boarding school. John kept the title and refrain ("but at night, it's a different world..."), but changed the slower verses to be more upbeat. During the instrumental bridge of this song, a series of car horns are featured (beginning with a VW Beetle horn and ending with a jackhammer) to represent the city sounds in the summer. This is another one of those classics included on the Rolling Stones' list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Although this TV footage is a little grainy, you can't miss the band's enjoyment (nor John Sebastian's huge mutton chops!).

Another band with numerous hits at or near the top of charts in the late '60s, The Association enjoyed several success in 1967. After having the unique honor of being the first act to perform at the Monterey Pop Festival that June (kind of a lead-off concert to the Summer of Love), they also scored big with their singles "Windy" and "Never My Love" (already featured here). Reaching #1 on the charts in July and remaining there for four weeks, "Windy" was the group's second U.S. #1, following "Cherish" in 1966. During the session (knowing they were in the middle of recording a hit), The Association members called in the song's writer, Ruthann Friedman, and asked her to sing on the fade at the end. This footage comes from a live performance at the 1967 Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois (complete with a blond Windy being cute. Where can I find a white, ruffle bathing suit?).

And we'll conclude with one of my favorite British groups, The Zombies, who will always remain a mystery (to me) as to why they were more popular in the U.S. than their native England. Unfortunately after the release of their album Odessey and Oracle in 1968 (considered to be one of the greatest albums of all time), the group disbanded, but a few singles managed a U.S. release at the urging of new A&R rep Al Kooper. First recorded in Abbey Road Studios in 1967, "Time of the Season" was finally released as a single in November 1968 and made a breakthrough in early '69, reaching #3 in the U.S. and #1 in Canada. Written by keyboardist Rod Argent, the lyrics of this psychedelic pop song perfectly depicted the emotions surrounding the Summer of Love, and is remembered for its call-and-response verses like "What's your name? (What's your name?) / Who's your daddy? (Who's your daddy?)." The uniqueness of lead singer Colin Blunstone's voice, the memorable bass line (similar rhythm to Ben E. King's "Stand By Me"), and Argent's psychedelic improv on the keyboard make this a masterpiece, so much that it is regularly used in pop culture (film and TV) to represent the late 1960s. As The Zombies were long broken-up by the time of its release, they were no live performances of "Time of the Season" during this decade.

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