Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Wanting to Be, to Hear, and to See..."

Flower Power: Part 6
Well, it's turning out that Flower Power means all kinds of things to different people. Sometimes it's psychedelic, hippie music, anything Summer of Love, or sometimes any late 1960s music that goes with images like smiley faces, peace symbols, lava lamps, and paisley prints. Well, here are some pop-ier sounds that go with all that retro groovy-ness.

Similar to the Flower Pot Men (just featured a few weeks ago here), British pop group Edison Lighthouse was originally a studio-only band that existed solely for session vocalist Tony Burrows, who has sung the lead vocals on hit singles for more groups than any other recording artist (including Flower Pot Men, as well as White Plains' "My Baby Loves Lovin'" and The First Class' "Beach Baby" to name a few). Released in January 1970, "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)" became the fastest climbing UK #1 hit record in history and peaked at #5 on the U.S. charts. After the single's success, Burrows went on to record other projects, so a group was assembled to mime a performance of this million-seller on Top of the Pops (not the featured clip below). For several years to follow, many members would come and go from the group, but since they didn't score any further chart activity, they became known as a transatlantic one-hit wonder.

Starting out in the mid-1960s in Los Angeles as R&B back-up singers, Sonny & Cher (Bono) were an American pop music duo and husband and wife team that even became media personalities with the success of their TV shows in the mid-'70s. In their ten years together, they sold over 80 million records worldwide, after which Cher went on to have a highly successful career as a singer and actress and Sonny became an elected Congressman. A defining record of the early counterculture movement, "I Got You Babe" was released in July 1965, becoming the duo's biggest hit and signature song. Written by Sonny Bono for himself and his wife late at night in their basement, he wanted to capitalize on the popularity of the word 'babe,' as heard in Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe" (a hit for The Turtles). Spending three weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts, as well as hitting #1 in the UK and Canada, this song even made the list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Rolling Stone magazine). Just at the beginning of their career, here's a live performance by the comic relief duo Sonny & Cher.

Known for their vocal harmonies, Spanky & Our Gang was an American folk rock/sunshine pop group that formed in Bloomington, Illinois in 1966. Led by Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane, the band's name comes from the popular Our Gang comedies of 1930s (also known as The Little Rascals), and Elaine was nicknamed "Spanky" by one of the band members (possibly influenced by her last name) who said she resembled the character George "Spanky" McFarland. Released on their self-titled debut album in 1967, "Sunday Will Never Be the Same" was their biggest hit, which reached #9 on the Billboard charts during the Summer of Love. However, during the fall of 1968, an upsetting blow came to the group when their lead guitarist (and trombonist and vocalist) Malcolm Hale died of carbon monoxide poisoning in his home at the age of 27. He had done most of the music arrangements and pretty much had kept the group together, so after his death, deciding they were satisfied with their musical output, the group disbanded in early 1969. McFarland went on to have some success as a solo artist and even toured with The Mamas & The Papas in '80s, singing Cass Elliot's vocal parts. Originally written as a ballad until the group changed the feel, here's Spanky & Our Gang in a rare live performance of "Sunday Will Never Be the Same" for a Murray the K Special.

While nearly every Flower Power CD set out there includes The Monkees' "Daydream Believer" (which we'll save for Bubblegum Week instead), I've decided to post another song that seems to relate more with the psychedelic sounds of the counterculture movement. Written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King as the title song for The Monkees' 1968 feature film Head, the ethereal and psychedelic "Porpoise Song" is a great mix of distorted, echo-y vocals with organs riffs, strings, woodwinds, and horns floating in and out of the song, complete with lyrics that call into question one's place in the world (and as seen below, visually paired with the lava lamp-like solarization effects). Becoming a cult classic in recent years, Head itself is a 'head trip' that plays mind-games on the audience where each scene abstractly connects to the next. When my sister and I first saw this film as young teenagers, we were slightly disturbed that our beloved Monkees had made such a confusing and strange movie, nothing like their TV series, but years later, I've made sense of the symbolism and it's fascinating. In fact, it's all symbolic of how The Monkees were themselves manipulated by the greatest of manipulators, Hollywood, and how they fought their made-for-TV image (i.e. in this clip, Micky Dolenz is not committing suicide but "breaking free," which by the end of the film [or is it the beginning?], the others follow suit). OK, this film's analysis and music should be featured on its own separate post, so for now, here's the haunting yet beautiful "Porpoise Song" that only managed to reach #62 on the charts in the fall of '68.

No comments:

Post a Comment