The Jeff Beck Group’s Truth was the other big deal British blues based hard rocking debut album of 1968 from an ex-Yardbird. Unfortunately for Mr. Beck, the more noted one came from Jimmy Page‘s new outfit Led Zeppelin, because as the history books now have it (and they’re not wrong) Led Zeppelin went on to conquer the known world and the Jeff Beck Group didn’t. Which really shouldn’t take anything away from Truth, because it’s all strong, all cool, all good, from lead off track Shapes Of Things (a smart rethink of a previous Yardbirds hit) onward. And yes, that’s Rod Stewart (still pretty much unknown in 1968) ripping up the lead vocal.
In which Aphrodite’s Child (featuring a young Vangelis among other Greek psyche-prog weirdos) deliver a nugget of pop drama that’s equal parts syrupy and creepy in all the right ways. Come, child, to the end of world which is not all fire and brimstone, plagues and pestilence — it’s just a quiet little place I know about, far, far away from your parents and your friends. Where nobody will hear our ecstatic screams.
“Believe it or not, it was actually half-way normal in certain circles to hate the Beatles at a certain point in the later 1980s, mainly due to twenty plus years of over-adulation, overexposure, over-everything. I remember one guy in particular, Ray, who had it narrowed down to only one song, the only Beatles track he could abide anymore, and he didn’t even know the title, just ‘from the White album, I think, the one about Sir Walter Raleigh being a stupid git for bringing tobacco to England.’ Ray was trying to quit smoking at the time, suffering insomnia as a result, so he was miles past pleasantries. The Winter of Hate, we called it – those bile filled seasons of righteous aggravation and antipathy. The polar opposite of the Summer of Love. Ronald Reagan was also to blame.” (Philip Random)
“It’s 1968 and even Frank Sinatra’s little girl Nancy is getting into the weird stuff, with a lot of help from Lee Hazelwood, who, as the story goes, earned himself a talking-to from a few of Frank’s ‘friends‘ from the old neighborhood for songs such as Sand. Which, it’s worth noting, I didn’t hear until after I’d encountered Einsturzende Neubauten’s rather bleak 1985 take. Strangely, Lee and Nancy’s original feels even darker.” (Philip Random)
The album is called Super Session with Al Kooper, Stephen Stills and Mike Bloomfield credited on the cover, but read the fine print and you’ll discover that all three never actually play together. But so what? It’s hot stuff anyway with the Stephen Stills, Al Kooper jam on Donovan’s creepy Halloween hit Season of the Witch going all kinds of cool places for a nice long time. Trippy in a word.
In which Sly + the Family Stone remind us that there was once a time in which all of life’s travails could be reconciled by the singing of a simple song. That’s what the mid-late 1960s were like apparently, particularly if you were in San Francisco, hanging with all the beautiful people, doing all the beautiful drugs, and you had the funk.
In which The Rolling Stones, at the absolute peak of their late 1960s form, wax artful, poetic, Dylanesque even as to the nature of life, the universe, everything – and conclude it’s all just a jigsaw puzzle more or less. But not before twenty-thousand grandmas are seen waving hankies, burning pension checks, shouting it’s not fair.
“I discovered Eric Burdon + The Animals‘ entirely OK take on Johnny Clash’s classic at least thirty years after the fact. But man, if the timing wasn’t perfect. Mid-1990s. Drinking too much, drugging too much, stumbling through some mid-life blues, it seems I was falling into my own ring of non-heavenly fire. But suddenly there was Mr. Burdon to not so much catch me as welcome me, sounding like a Tom Jones that was actually cool and experienced enough to get what the crazy psychedelic ’60s thing was all about – something to do with saving the entire universe by letting one’s freak flag fly, even if that meant going personally to hell in process. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” (Philip Random)
The Bonzo Dog Band (aka the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band) were never normal. They started out terrorizing jazz and Music Hall stylings, but as the 1960s hit their psychedelic peak, they were crossing over into rock and pop as well, showing up in the midst of the Beatles TV special Magical Mystery Tour and otherwise serving as resident court jesters of the British pop scene. Although sometimes the songs were so damned good, you almost forget they were supposed to be funny. We Are Normal solved this problem by being mostly just weird. And it rocked.