November 26 – Strawberry Alarm Clock Had The Scent Of ’67

Far out man! It didn’t get much groovier than this back in the summer of love (or fall)! The Strawberry Alarm Clock hit #1 in the U.S. on this day in 1967 with their psychedelic rock classic “Incense and Peppermints.” In so doing, it knocked the year’s top-seller, “To Sir With Love” by Lulu off the top after a lengthy stay.

To the surprise of many the shagadelic band was actually out of the L.A. area rather than a part of the British Invasion, although they have said that they went out of their way to sound British on this record. They had formed the year before when the spacey Thee Sixpence took on several of the members of another area band, Waterfyrd Traene. They’d put out four indie singles under the former name but started their new band name with a bang, man! They signed to Uni Records (which later merged with Decca to become MCA Records) and put out the song which captures the psychedelic vibe of the era as well as any as their debut single. Shortly thereafter, it became the title track to their first album, which also included such far out songs as “Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow” and “Tomorrow,” the follow-up which became their only other (but minor) top 40 hit.

For a hit by a band called Strawberry Alarm Clock, the gold single had two odd features. One was that when you look at the record, neither of the writers credited were in the band, even though it’s not a cover. And two, the singer wasn’t in the band. Doesn’t that blow your mind!

The song is credited to John Carter and Tim Gilbert. Now, no one disputes that Carter, a producer with Uni (although not of this record) penned the far out lyrics. No one seems all that certain who Gilbert is, or what he contributed to the hit. However, Mark Weitz, the band’s spokesman it would seem, and the keyboard player who made their sound one of the quintessential ones of the decade, claims (with much agreement from former band members) that he composed it, with a little help from guitarist Ed King. “The music was written by myself in early ’67 at my home in Van Nuys,” he says, “with some help on the bridge from Ed King. It was midday and no drugs were involved,” surprisingly enough. “The lyrics, that was the brainchild of John Carter… there are many stories to how he came about those” the keyboardist suggests. However, Uni Records gave all the writing credit to Carter and the mystery Gilbert.

Meanwhile, while bassist George Bunnell sung a lot of the band’s material, for their sensational smash, it was 16 year-old Greg Munford taking the mic. Munford was a local teen in another, more or less unknown band who just liked hanging around the studio apparently and had the knack for singing this one song!

If one couldn’t tell from the look of the album cover, allmusic suggest “their image practically defined both the musical as well as peripheral aspects of the pseudo-psychedelic counter-culture” and that’s helped the song live on in the media as a virtual abbreviation for the druggy-’60s. It’s been used in Austin Powers‘ movies , as well as The Simpsons (where Homer hears it when trying medicinal marijuana) and any number of other ’60s throwbacks.

Two final notes on Strawberry Alarm Clock. One, if the name Ed King sounds familiar, you might be a southern rock fan. He went on to join Lynyrd skynyrd in the ’70s. And we said Mark Weitz is the band’s “spokesman. ” Yep, present tense, because the band is still going. According to their website, they “continue to add powerful new elements to the classic songbook.” If you’re in L.A. next month, you can see for yourself – they’re booked to play the Whisky A Go-go on Dec.16.

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October 18 – A Lot To ‘Love’ About Early Cult

Take a bit of retro-psychedelia, a cup of dressed-in-black Goth and a jig of heavy metal and you could end up with quite a sonic mess. Or if you’re lucky, you might get The Cult’s second album, Love, which came out this day in 1985.

The Cult had been around for several years by then, shedding words from their name as they shed the punkish sounds they originally liked. They’d been the Southern Death Cult, then the Death Cult and by ’85, just the Cult. No matter what the name, they always were centred around power singer Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy, who typically co-wrote their music. Bassist Jamie Stewart was the third part of their trio for this record, and although Big Country’s Mark Brzezicki wasn’t an official member, he did the drumming.

They’d signed to Beggar’s Banquet Records, the well-loved Goth indie label that boasted Bauhaus among other acts on its roster. But clearly The Cult wanted to be something more than just another “goth” act. Astbury in particular was fascinated by The Doors and by American Native Indian culture; one might surmise Duffy was fond of British hard rock ala Led Zep and Deep Purple.

Love was widely seen as a transitional record, spanning the gap between straight Goth and the neo-metal they made on Electric and later albums. The ten-ish songs sounded different enough to be interesting, yet still somewhat unified. And we say “ten-ish”, because it seemed like there were almost as many versions of it released as there were bats in a good ol’ gothic church belfrey. Several countries had a couple of bonus tracks, typically “Little Face” and “Judith”, while some tracks were omitted from certain Asian markets, which in turn may have had an early version of “Edie” (which would be a hit on their Sonic Temple album later). No matter which edition you happened upon, the highlights were the singles , “Rain”, “Revolution” and primarily their breakthrough hit “She Sells Sanctuary.

Years later, the album’s held its own in critics minds. The BBC call it “by far their best” album, a “quantum leap forward, but their sound had yet to be distilled into the pure hard rock” that they’d follow it with. Kerrang rate it 4.5-stars, allmusic 4. the latter also suggest it’s “aged better” than their other, bigger records, and it was a “marked improvement” over their previous material. They picked some different tracks as the highlights however, notably the “compelling melodies” of “Hollow Man” and the driving riffs of “Nirvana” and “The Phoenix.”

Sales-wise it was a quantum leap from their relatively obscure debut album. The trio of singles all hit the British top 30, and “She Sells Sanctuary” made it to #15 there and #11 in Canada, where it was a suprise multi-platinum selling single. That pushed the album itself into the top 5 in both Britain and Canada (where it was double platinum), however it peaked at only #87 in the U.S., where it drew little notice upon release…which perhaps prompted them to go to Rick Rubin for the next record, Electric, which indeed made them stars there as well.

September 15 – ‘Express’ Fast-tracked L&R For Success

It was “the first time we were really exposed to music, when we were at the age where we could really appreciate it,” David J says of 1986, “and we were like little sponges …Bowie, T-Rex, the glam thing (also) Roxy Music and the electronic artists like Kraftwerk and before that, Can.” Thus Love & Rockets second album, Express which came out this day that year came to be a rich, different-sounding kind of album that drew from a fair number of inspirations. Seemingly the band’s earlier version, Bauhaus (the members of Love & Rockets were three-quarters of that band, with only singer Peter Murphy missing) was one of the least important ones. Gone was the brooding-in-black Goth; in was wild psychedelic pop they’d hinted at with their debut, Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven the previous year.,

Drummer Kevin Haskins held the fort behind the kit and added some synths here and there, but the band was essentially a partnership between Kev’s brother, David J, and Daniel Ash with both having times at the mic; David playing bass and Daniel guitars and saxophone to boot. Ash wrote the majority of it but the bassist contributed two of the eight tunes on the original LP. Those who were ahead of the curve technology-wise got a bonus – the CD had three more tracks, including a brand new one (“Angels and Devils”) , a remix and their previous single, a cover of the Temptations “Ball of Confusion.” That one had been a hit on American college radio and was on some editions of Seventh Dream... but had been omitted from some due to length constrictions.

That one notwithstanding, the new songs were the album’s real draw, particularly the trio of singles – “Kundalini Express”, which got used in Miami Vice, “All in My Mind”, their first to hit U.S. mainstream rock charts, and the enigmatic and energetic “Yin and Yang (and the Flowerpot Men.)” Despite its bizarre title, its inspiration was apparently quite straight-forward…if you were British. There was a popular kids TV show called The Flowerpot Men.

Most publications seemed to miss Express when it arrived, but remarkably metal-loving Kerrang gave it a listen and then rated it 4-stars. Later on allmusic outdid that, giving it 4.5-stars. They offered that producer “John A. Rivers outdid himself with the sound in this disc” and praised its “rich in sonic detail” approach, “guitars spiral to dizzying heights from beds of sound, arrangements swirl, songs change and mutate.” Diffuser FM seconded that idea, noting it was “tighter and more focused” than their debut and “more diverse…than Bauhaus…mixing psychedelic pop and vintage glam.”

As good as those reviews were, it was a case of those who liked it, liked it a lot…but most ignored it. It did well on North American college radio and on the alt rock superstations, finishing at #45 on L.A.’s KROQ year-end countdown and in the top 10 to the north on Toronto’s CFNY. However, they’d have to wait about three more years to find widespread popularity and gold and platinum success, with their self-titled album and the song “So Alive.

 

August 13 – Fans Thought Donovan Was Super, Man

Psychedelia met folk and the world met the “new Dylan.” Donovan Leitch’s “Sunshine Superman” hit the U.S, top 40 this day in 1966 ; his first significant hit in North America.

The 20 year-old Scot had already scored a trio of top 10 hits in the UK the previous year and had just signed to Epic Records, the first artist signed by then-young Clive Davis (who recalls Donovan being “like his music – gentle, smart and engaging”). Although many compared him to Bob Dylan, Donovan – who went by just his first name – had a voice of his own and blended musical genres in a way highly-appropriate for a year when #1 songs ranged from Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” to Motown to “96 Tears”. This record had some star power making people feel good – John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page were studio musicians on it! Little wonder then that later Donovan referred to it as “my masterwork” and admitted he was worried about The Beatles hearing it because he thought Paul McCartney would plagiarize it. He may have been close on that; The Beatles were fans and showed the record on a turntable in a video they made for “A Day in the Life.” Like many songs in the psychedelic ’60s, it was one with multiple interpretations. While on one hand it was a simple love song he wrote for his new girlfriend at the time and an expression of joy at a nice day with her, on the other there was a counter-culture aspect as well. “Sunshine is a nickname for acid,” he admitted, “and the superman is the person capable of entering the higher state because it’s not easy to go into the fourth dimension.”

Probably not Honda had in mind when they used it in a car ad years later! The song would end up being Donovan’s only #1 hit in the U.S. (it topped out at #2 in the UK, Canada and other countries) although he came ever-so-close months later with the #2 hit “Mellow Yellow.”

July 18 – When The Byrds Were Flying High

Was the Jupiter in line with Mars this day in 1966? Perhaps so because The Byrds put out their third album, The Fifth Dimension on that day. Among the more obvious ways the record changed the world was apparently making a singing group called the Versatiles want to change their name…enter the 5th Dimension who became that mere weeks after this album debuted.

The Byrds are in some ways reminiscent of the Velvet Underground in that they remain one of the most influential rock bands ever, but really didn’t set the commercial world afire. That said, The Byrds did sell well for a couple of years, and this record came on the heels of their only two #1 songs – “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

They’d formed only two years earlier in L.A. as a folk band, featuring guitarists and singers Roger McGuinn (who at the time was going by “Jim”)and David Crosby, drummer Michael Clarke, bassist Chris Hillman and Gene Clark who was a writer and played various secondary instruments like the harmonica. At first they were very folk-oriented and revered Bob Dylan (“Mr Tambourine Man” was one of several of his songs they covered), but as the ’60s moved forward, they became interested in the sounds of the Beatles and like the Fab Four, of the Far East. The influences of Indian music began to show up on The Fifth Dimension. As did the influences of various drugs they began to enjoy.

The album was a change for them, therefore, in that first, Gene Clark left the band soon after beginning the record (he did get partial writing credits on the hit single off the record), and so Crosby and McGuinn stepped up writing more than before. McGuinn had good qualifications for that – he’d been a staff songwriter at the famous Brill Building before joining the Byrds. It was also the first of their records without a Dylan song on it.

The Columbia album did parallel the changes in Dylan’s sound at the time, as well as the Beatles. Which (much like perhaps the Beatles Rubber Soul) created an album that was a little uneven and a sort of bridge between earlier simpler sounds and more experimental ones which would rule the next few years. So while you got the psychedelic “Eight Miles High” (the first single, and only one to make the American top 20) you also got a remake of the old traditional Celtic folk song “Wild Mountain Thyme” and a cover of Billy Roberts’ “Hey Joe”, later made famous by Jimi Hendrix.

If there was anything resembling a theme, it might be being high…literally and mentally, shall we say. There was “Eight Miles High”, which they at the time said was about flying in a jet. Eight miles was said to be a typical cruising altitude (actually six would be more typical, but they felt “Six Miles High” didn’t sound quite right) although David Crosby admitted in 1980, “of course it’s a drug song.” Some of the actual lyrics were said to be inspired by their British tour of the previous year, where they’d been exposed to some of the Indian raga music, psychedelic substances and people they found rather cold. There was also “2-4-2 Foxtrot”, dedicated to Bill Lear, owner of Lear Jets, and a friend of Roger’s. And let’s not forget, “Mr. Spaceman”, again a song obliquely linked to being high but not entirely missing its stated influence, that being the interest in UFOs and alien life several of them shared.

Kids of the day might’ve thought “Eight Miles High” was “far out” but many felt it too far out. A number of radio stations banned it, which probably led to it only getting to #14 in the U.S. and #24 in the UK. The album itself made the top 30 in both lands but didn’t go as high as the previous couple.

Critics at the time were lukewarm to them. While Hit Parader did consider it their “best” work to date, Disc magazine, quite big at the time, thought they sounded like “tired and disillusioned old men”. Today’s assessments are better, needless to say, although not entirely glowing. For instance, Mojo call it a “breakthrough” they aren’t quite happy with how it “can’t decide what sort of album it is.” The NME retroactively gave it an 8 out of 10 while Entertainment Weekly said it had enough keepers to be worth a listen “time hasn’t enhanced the group’s foray into psychedelia.”

While some would call them the American Beatles, The Byrds trajectory went in the opposite direction. While they hobbled along well into the ’70s with various lineup changes, their hit-making days and ones of being a major radio staple were done by 1967. Their influence however, especially that of McGuinn’s jangly Rickenbacker guitar playing, resonate to this day and had major impacts on the careers of R.E.M., Tom Petty, The Smiths, The Bangles and a host of other greats of the ’80s and ’90s.

July 12 – Next Hit For Duo Due in 503 Years?

(well, it’s already past midnight somewhere, like Nova Scotia for example. So I’m getting an early start on the day from the Central time zone.)

Fifty-odd years ago was an exciting time of change, not only socially but scientifically as well with Apollo 11 on its way to the moon. In the past, we looked at one song from that year of fascination  with the changes (“Space Oddity”), today we look at another one which examined the technological march forward… through slightly more cynical eyes. Perhaps the One Hit Wonder of the ’60s, “In the Year 2525” by Zager and Evans, hit #1 on Billboard this day in 1969.

The duo was Denny Zager and Rick Evans, a pair of guitarists who’d met at university in Nebraska in the early-’60s. They formed a band, and although they supplemented their sound with several changing members on drums and bass, they were clearly the focus and leadership of the act allmusic describe as a “psych-pop duo.” A duo which hit it big with this, their first single and title track of their debut album.

The oddball tune incorporating both psychedelic rock and folk elements, plus some Spanish bullfighting horns for an added element, was written by Evans a few years earlier. He was certainly not a fan of mankind’s constant scientific breakthroughs. The song starts in the year 2525, and moves forward in jumps of a thousand or so years per verse, depicting an ever-more 1984ish future with technology taking over, until God “is gonna shake His mighty head” in the year 8510 and presumably start over. Surprisingly his dystopian future included elements already a part of our modern life including robots doing our work and “test tube” babies. Quite a contrast to some of the year’s other chart-toppers like “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies!

They recorded the tune in a small studio in Odessa, Texas with the Odessa Symphony (I know, I’m as surprised as you about the city having one!) helping out with the strings. Zager and Evans both sing lead on the single, which would spend six weeks on top in the U.S., tying the equally new agey “Age of Aquarius” for the most weeks at #1 that year. The song also got to #1 in Canada and the UK and was hands down, the highlight of their career. Although they put out a couple more albums in the following two years, they never charted significantly again making them apparently the only act ever to have a song hit #1 in both the States and Britain and never make the hit parade again in either.

Rick Evans has kept a low profile since, but Denny Zager started and runs a custom-built guitar company these days.

July 3 – Doors Opened A Little More Expansively

The problem with being really good is people expect you to get still better! Such was the dilemma for The Doors who released their third album on this day in 1968, Waiting for the Sun. The record was their only #1 album at home and made #3 on Canadian charts (as well as hitting the UK top 20 for the first time) and went on to sell nine million copies. However, many felt it a let-down despite having the massive single “Hello, I Love You” on it. that song was their second chart-topper in both the U.S. and Canada. It was joined on the 45 racks by the challenging, anti-war anthem “The Unknown Soldier“, a song which perfectionist producer Paul Rothschild required 130 takes of to get right!

The Doors were nothing if not workaholics back then; it was their third album in just 18 months and they’d been touring fairly constantly through the time as well. And not only did they put together this album, Jim had another original concept for Side two – a 17” rambling piece called “Celebration of the Lizard”. They couldn’t get it quite right in the studio, so they dropped that and substituted five other songs but the Lizard would return, in a 1970 live album. Curiously the actual song “Waiting for the Sun” was not on the record; it came a couple of years later on Morrison Hotel. A massive hit single; a searing anti-War anthem and as Rolling Stone put it, “the group is, as always, tight.” Still, no one seemed all that happy with the release. Although Britain’s NME liked it, calling ”The Unknown Soldier” a standout and saying “all (songs) on side two are gems”, North American reviews weren’t as wildly enthusiastic . Rolling Stone at the time said while “it isn’t really terrible, it isn’t particularly exciting either” and suggested “Morrison could use some levity occasionally.” Years later, allmusic noted how high expectations were for it after their first two albums and think the “songwriting (was) no as impressive as it had been” although it was still “quite enjoyable” as an entity. They’d end up rebounding with their next trio of albums which led us to Jim Morrison’s death, also on this day, in 1971.

April 19 – Their Band Was Buried, But Zombies Rose Up

Maybe they should have consulted their oracle more. He might have told them to stick at it a bit longer. Because while The Zombies album Odessey & Oracle (yes, that wasn’t a typo, that was the spelling) wasn’t a real posthumous hit, it was in the sense that the band was kaput by the time most heard it. It came out in Britain this day in 1968.

By then the Zombies had been around for almost the entire decade. However, they had put out only one full album prior to this, supplemented with several standalone singles. They scored hits with “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No” off the first album, but their star was falling by the time this one arrived. The quintet, led mainly by lead singer Colin Blunstone and keyboardist Rod Argent , had begun work on this one in the summer of ’67 at Abbey Road studios, using the same equipment the Beatles had made Sgt. Pepper... on. Fitting perhaps because not only would this one eventually be judged The Zombies best, it like the Beatles opus, was decidedly psychedic-tinged and varied in influences and sounds. For a couple of weeks they had to relocate to the also impressive Olympic Studios in London, eventually delivering the 12 song package to Columbia Records British office early in ’68. Around the same time, tensions were running high in the band and the realization that they were being booked into smaller clubs to play live than they’d done three or four years prior made them break up before it actually hit the shelves. Which, coupled with the psychedelia made Columbia North America, led by Simon & Garfunkel-boosting Clive Davis, refuse to put it out for over a year, thinking it had no commercial potential at all. In terms of the actual LP and its store sales, Davis was correct. However, it did spawn one hit single worldwide and has grown in critical acclaim through the years to when it is now considered among the best of the decade.

The quintet, while not necessarily a conventional “democracy”, did share duties. While Blunstone was lead singer on most tracks and bassist Chris White wrote more than any of the others, they all had at least a part of the songwriting and all did some vocals with Blunstone, Argent and White all singing lead on at least one track – something sure to confound their record label bosses despite the obvious parallel with the Beatles sharing the mic. And varied too were the song inspirations – while there was a typical “hippie love” song (the hit “Time of the Season”) and a couple more love songs, there were ones about being buddies (“Friends of Mine”), a timely anti-war one set in WWI (“Butcher’s Tale”) and even one about a loved one who’s in jail (“Care of Cell 44”) …probably the only such pop song until Dawn’s “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” five years later. Curiously enough, although “Time of the Season” did end up being a hit, it was the song that might have driven the final nail into the Zombies coffin at the time. Apparently Blunstone hated the song, written by Rod Argent, but Argent insisted not only on having it on the record but getting the other to sing it.

Butcher’s Tale” and “Care of Cell 44” were put out as singles but flopped. And it would appear few publications at the time really even took note of it when it came out, perhaps because as Pitchfork later suggested, it was “decades ahead of its time.” “Time of the Season” was put out as a single in 1969 upon constant urging from Columbia exec Al Kooper. Although it still never made an impact in their homeland, it took off over here, going to #3 in the U.S. and #1 in Canada.

Since then, the album has grown steadily in praise, but not so much in sales – Rolling Stone still put it under half a million copies ever sold. Nonetheless, it’s had impact. Paul Weller puts it as one of his all-time favorite albums, and as Rolling Stone point out, Beck and Fountains of Wayne both cover several songs off it in concert. Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet covered “Care of Cell 44” and say they are both huge fans of Colin Blunstone’s singing. This century, the BBC has declared it “among the top three albums of the Summer of Love,” and suggested “on ‘A Rose for Emily‘ they proved to be every bit the equal of the Beatles.” Q ranked it as the 26th best British album ever. Allmusic rate it a perfect 5-stars and suggest “aside from the Beatles and perhaps the Beach Boys, no mid-’60s group wrote melodies as gorgeous as the Zombies” and call the record “pleasing, surprising and challenging.” Rolling Stone have ranked it as high as #80 on their list of greatest albums of all-time, pointing out “its baroque-psychedelic arrangements continue to exert a powerful influence.”

One might have thought that with the single’s success, the Zombies might have thought it was “the time of the season” to get back together quickly, but that wasn’t the case. Rod Argent had some success out of the gate with his new band Argent and it took two decades before they re-formed. Currently they’re still performing with Blunstone and Argent in the lineup, but they’ve only put out one album of “new” material since Odessey & Oracle, and that one was merely outtakes and scrapped tracks from 1960s sessions.

April 15 – Stones Album The ‘Aftermath’ Of Competition With Beatles?

One of the side-effects of The Beatles incredible run of records in the ’60s was the effect they had on other bands of the era. The Beach Boys were openly competitive with them, and so were the Rolling Stones. They all listened intently to one another’s releases and then tried to one-up them. A good example of that was this day in 1966, when the Rolling Stones put out the British version of the album Aftermath. The American version came out about three months later.

It represented quite a step forward for the Stones in many ways…and not coincidentally, they started working on it just after the Beatles released Rubber Soul. And the expansion of sounds and instruments the Fab Four were beginning to show rubbed off on this one – Brian Jones in particular got musically experimental, playing a sitar on “Paint it Black” and a koto (a Japanese string instrument) on “Take It Or Leave It.” Sound-wise, they began incorporating elements of country and psychedelia in with their traditional blues rock stylings. It was the first they’d recorded in stereo. And there was perhaps just a wee bit more American influence as well; they recorded the album in L.A., and they’d hooked up with Allen Klein to work as their North American manager. Few people in music would end up saying much good about Klein, but in the here and now, he got the band an advance of over $1 million which added to their confidence.

The confidence showed up in the lyrics, which generally followed a theme of sex, anger and power. Many today label it a “misogynistic” record, but at the time, few cared. They focused on the songs, which were among the Stones best to that point – including “I Am Waiting,” “Lady Jane”, “Under My Thumb,” “Mother’s Little Helper” and “Paint it Black.” Sort of. “Paint it Black” was put out as a standalone single in Britain at the time and wasn’t on their copies; it did make it onto the shorter American release which was however, short three other songs. The Brits got 52 minutes of music in all, the lengthiest LP made to that point. (That sort of differentiation between North American and European releases was common at the time; in fact Aftermath was only the fourth Rolling Stones album at home but their sixth on this side of the Atlantic.) There were limits to how much swagger the Stones could display mind you. Their record companies (London Records here and Decca Records in Europe) nixed their plans to call it Could You Walk On Water? …which given the Beatles problems later that year after John Lennon made his more popular than Jesus comments, seemed to be remarkably astute of them. Decca however, spared no superlatives when putting out the record, comparing it to equivalent in importance of Shakespeare or Dickens “for gramaphone records.”

Reviews at the time were positive. Record Mirror figured “the Rolling Stones have on their hands the smash LP of the year,” the NME figured that they were musical “masterminds” and speculated “Mother’s Little Helper” and “Lady Jane” could be massive hits, Robert Christgau figured it was the “only possible challenge to Rubber Soul …for innovation, tightness and lyrical intelligence.” Years later, Entertainment Weekly would grade it “A-”, allmusic gave it a perfect 5-stars, and Pop Matters noted that it “cemented their reputation as a subversive cultural force.” Many would point to it as a significant step towards the psychedelic sounds that so dominated the following few years, and the aggression that would spur on the punk movement a decade later.

Predictions were right. “Mother’s Little Helper” was put out as a single here and made it to #8, oddly they didn’t release it as a 7” in the UK. “Paint it Black” was a worldwide hit, their sixth #1 in Britain and third #1 hit in the States and Canada. The album went to #1 for eight weeks in the UK and became their first one to go gold there; it also topped German charts and got to #2 in the U.S. where it eventually became their first platinum one.

Of course, as they were reveling in the “aftermath” of the Aftermath success, the Beatles were putting together Revolver… and the competition continued to heat up.

January 6 – The Crazy Diamond Began To Shine

The crazy diamond began to shine back on this day in 1946 – Syd Barrett (Roger to his parents) was born. Few artists have built up such a reputation and influenced so many in so short a time.

As a child, Barrett was obsessed with art of all kinds, and a friend of Roger Waters. After enrolling at an art school, seeing the Beatles and Rolling Stones and meeting David Gilmour in 1963-64, he began writing songs . However, it was old friend Waters with whom he’d really get things going, they soon had a band called the Abdabs, which a few names later became The Pink Floyd Sound. Barrett was big into experimenting with musical techniques like distortion and feedback, and with psychedelic drugs. The band soon became the darlings of the London underground scene during the Summer of Love and after two reasonably successful singles which Barrett had written (“Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play”) the band had a contract with EMI and were recording at Abbey Road next door to the Beatles. Barrett was a huge factor in the debut, Piper at the Gates of Dawn but his weird and unpredictable behavior got him kicked out of the band, replaced by Gilmour ironically, soon after. Not a step they took easily apparently; all of them were fond of Barrett and their 1975 album Wish You Were Here was dedicated to him, with the lengthy two-part song “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” about him.

He died in 2006 from cancer after withdrawing from society, by and large, to paint and live with his Mom. Gilmour remembered him fondly as a “genius who made us smile with his wonderfully eccentric songs about bikes, gnomes and scarecrows…he touched more people than he could possibly imagine.”