“Procol Harum achieved improbable levels of success with their very first single, 1967’s Whiter Shade of Pale, and it was taken rather seriously. Because it was rock meets Johan Sebastien Bach with lyrics obscure enough to almost make you forget that Bob Dylan had taken a vacation, more or less. But then what do you do for an encore? You go further, higher, deeper, longer, you give all of side two of your second album to a single seventeen minute track called In Held Twas In I, which to many ears, ranks as the first genuine prog rock epic. In other words, yeah, it probably goes too far, too high and deep, definitely too long. But what do expect from young men cut loose from the herd, more or less commanded to go climb the highest mountain? Or as the Dalai Lama puts it in the intro. Life is like a beanstalk. Isn’t it?” (Philip Random)
“London’s Pretty Things were always there in the swinging 60s, in tune with the times, if not in time with them (if that makes any sense), which means that by 1968, they were launching into realms psychedelic and beyond with the epic tale of Sebastian F Sorrow, a full-on integrated cycle of songs that hit the culture many months before the Who’s Tommy would make the notion of a rock opera a genuinely big deal. No, SF Sorrow didn’t sell that well, doesn’t generally get name-checked when the experts are trying to make sense of the age, but for me anyway, it stands up better than Tommy, minute for minute, song for song, maybe because it’s only a one record set, with the high point coming on side two, when SF Sorrow encounters the mysterious Baron Saturday (intended to represent Baron Samedi of Haitian Voodoo notoriety), who ‘borrows his eyes’ for a trip through the underworld, with terrifying consequences.” (Philip Random)
This one’s found toward the end of side one of the first Steve Miller Band album which sort of stumbled out of freak scene San Francisco at a time when nobody at the business end of things really knew how to handle all the psychedelic weirdness, so they just got out of the way. Thank all gods for that. Because there are few better examples anywhere of just how delirious things were in those days. Songs broke down, evaporated into seagulls and drones, found some bluesy B.B. King riff, evolved into profound and visionary choruses, ended up getting titles that had nothing to do with anything you’d actually heard. Maybe you had to be there, but maybe we all were, in our way, and still are, we children of that madly accelerated past’s glowing future.
“The memory is of Grade Seven, a kid named Malcolm Cale that I wasn’t supposed to hang with, because he was known to be bad. Except we both walked home from school the same way. So I inevitably ended up at his place, which was almost always empty after school, no parents or brothers and sisters around to stop us digging through his dad’s Playboys, having a smoke, sharing a beer, cranking the stereo loud. Which usually meant Malcolm’s fave, Steppenwolf‘s first album, the one with Born to be Wild, and The Pusher (God damn him – we loved that, actual swearing on record). But the track that stands up best for me now is Sookie Sookie, funky and hard, and at least as cool as John Kay‘s shades.” (Philip Random)
George Harrison (always the most psychedelicBeatle) offers up a nifty slice of so-called world music (before we had the lame marketing term for it). Found on the soundtrack for a 1968 movie called Wonderwall that nobody ever saw, but then Oasis copped the title for a song name a couple of decades later and went mega-platinum with it. But On The Bed is far better (and cooler) than that derivative and over seasoned pop stew.
“Jimi Hendrix’s superlative 1968 double shot Electric Ladyland features two versions of his anthem toward getting high and dreamy on a rainy day (the first more laid back one being Rainy Day Dream Away, the second more explosive one being Still Raining Still Dreaming). I long ago linked them via an edit that I can’t even find now, but trust that it all flows nicely, powerfully together, with Hendrix rhapsodics to make even the gods cry, which leads to more rain, of course, more dreaming.” (Philip Random)
“Patrick Gallagher was my life’s first full-on Beatles fan. Every Christmas, he’d get a new Beatles album. In 1968, that meant the White Album, two records exploring all kinds of extremes, most of them miles over our tiny heads (his ten years old, mine nine). But we liked the monkey song. What kid wouldn’t like a monkey song? Even if it turned out to have nothing to do with monkeys at all, but was John Lennon’s take on the great and faultless Maharishi being a bit of a horndog, trying to get his hands on Mia Farrow’s ass, and how this didn’t seem to fit the man’s intimations of higher wisdom and humanity. Also, maybe heroin.” (Philip Random)
“It says 1968 on the record jacket but this Taj Mahal stomper is pure 1998 for me, serving as a personal anthem while I scaled back certain extremes of lifestyle, making that decision that most of us make as we see our forties looming – to not just burn out, but to change, because change is good, certainly the kind you choose to make. Like maybe opening your mind, maybe starting to actually ‘get’ the blues. Not just the obvious stuff, howling and mean. No, the real stuff, or real enough anyway, whatever Taj Mahal was digging up and dealing out way back when.” (Philip Random)
The closest thing to a good ole fashioned pop song from Van Morrison‘s 1968 masterpiece Astral Weeks that changed everything forever. Which isn’t to say that Young Lovers doesn’t transcend like everything else on Astral Weeks – it just does so with brevity and deceptively easy purpose, like young lovers set loose in a field of green with soft breezes blowing through.