Stay Tuned By Stan Cornyn: Rock Lost and Found, Part One

Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Stay Tuned By Stan Cornyn: Rock Lost and Found, Part One

Every Tuesday and Thursday, former Warner Bros. Records executive and industry insider Stan Cornyn ruminates on the past, present, and future of the music business.

Decades and decades ago, to find a record, you’d go buy it in a record store (probably).

Fifty years later, record stores are fewer.

So that physical record (a 45, a 33, rarely a 78, iffy a tape) with its cover, label, and “liner” notes, that feels like it’s all over. Internet downloads don’t contain liner notes and liner photos or covers or labels.

It’s like a repeat of what happened to records back farther, back in the 1930s, when a new medium – radio – came in. People found no reason to buy records when they could hear them for free. And with that went discs and sleeves.

Enough about historic declines for now... How about a fix for today?

What’s this all about?

Liner notes! Photographs! Credits! Those missing elements from today’s Streaming and Downloads of audio, but with nothing to look at while you’re listening.

Back in the 1960s, edgy records were even more obscure. Singles put out by little labels, singles by tiny groups, with odd sound. Garage rock. Psychedelia.

Back in those ‘60s, a few music die-hards decided to preserve their odd finds of 45 rpm’s, before such odd singles got totally lost. So these die-hards thought up compiling their favorites into an album of them: obscure singles called Nuggets. Elektra Records picked up the sales rights to that compilation, put it out on LP.

But that time is gone, too, so here we are in the 2010s, putting out those obscure, treasured Nuggets in our medium of now: via this internet site. But doing it so you can click-to-hear PLUS read the notes, see the packaging, simultaneously.

We feel clever.

So here again come those 1960s choice cuts, along with package notes. (One quick credit: we’re here copying the notes of writers past, without giving them tons of credits. Mostly by writers Lenny Kaye and Mike Stax. Thank you two.)

1. The Electric Prunes: “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)”

From its oscillating intro to its final, shuddering fade, “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)” is a vivid example of the changes pop music underwent in 1966-67. The song’s effects, overwhelming vibrato guitar, and booming production heralded the seemingly endless possibilities of the new psychedelia, while sacrificing none of the pounding aggression of mid-‘60s, Stones-derived garage punk.

While experimental in design, “I Had Too Much to Dream,” penned by the writing team of Annette Tucker & Nancie Mantz, was also a pop song.

Formed in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley in 1965, The Electric Prunes had misfired with their debut, “Ain’t It Hard,” but “I Had Too Much to Dream” established them nationally – for a while at least.

Hear this single now.

The room was empty as I staggered from my bed

I could not bear the image racing through my head

You were so real that I could feel your eagerness

And when you raised your lips for me to kiss
Came the dawn and you were gone

And you were gone, gone, gone
I had too much to dream last night

Too much to dream

I'm not ready to face the light

I had too much to dream

Last night, last night

Originally from Seattle, the Prunes found their way to number 11 on the national charts with this in January of 1967. A calculatedly commercial organization, they would later go on to have a follow-up hit (“Get Me to the World on Time,” do radio spots for Vox wha-wha pedals, and turn out the first Bible-oriented rock concept album, the eternal Mass in F Minor.

But it was probably producer Dave Hassinger who knew them best. “Come forth, Electric Prunes,” he wrote on the back of their debut album, “and move from the shallow and venture forth into the deep ….”

Credits: The group consisted of Jim Lowe (lead vocals, autoharp, rhythm guitar); Ken Williams (lead guitar), Mark Tulin (bass guitar and keyboards); Preston Ritter (drums and percussion); and Weasel (rhythm guitar and some vocals).

Notes: Recorded in Studio City, CA. Reprise single #0532 (11/66: Pop #11).

Other Place to Look: An interview with James Lowe

2. The Standells: “Dirty Water”

Formed in 1962 by guitarist/vocalist (and later organist) Larry Tamblyn and guitarist Tony Valentino, The Standells had made a name for themselves on the Los Angeles nightclub scene, peddling a sanitary, Peppermint Lounge-R&B sound, complete with dance steps, shiny suits, and glued-on grins. Bassist Gary Lane and drummer Gary Leeds rounded out the original lineup, until Leeds left for eventual fame as a Walker Brother and was replaced by ex-Mouseketeer (and Belairs and Eddie & The Showmen drummer) Dick Dodd in 1964.

Their early recordings for Liberty were pedestrian but The Standells got all the breaks, racking up movie and TV appearances left and right, including a memorable appearance on The Munsters.

In 1965, something of a transformation took place: The Standells traded in their smiles for frowns, their suits for more casual Carnaby gear. They combed down their hair into bangs (Lane being the lone holdout) and with the help of producer Ed Cobb, reinvented themselves.

Cobb’s song “Dirty Water” boasts a killer guitar hook (apparently the invention of Valentino), an aggressive backbeat (boosted by a double-tracked kick drum), and Dodd’s lead vocal, which radiates pure attitude –

Hear this single.

Yeah, down by the river

Down by the banks of the river Charles

Aw, that's what's happenin' baby

That's where you'll find me

Along with lovers, buggers and thieves

Aw, but they're cool people

Well I love that dirty water

Oh, Boston you're my home

Oh, you're the number one place

Frustrated women (I mean they're frustrated)

Have to be in by twelve o'clock (oh, that's a shame)

But I'm wishin' and a hopin', oh

That just once those doors weren't locked

I like to save time for my baby to walk around

Contrary to popular belief, Boston was not The Standells’ “home” (Los Angeles was), though the city does boast the Charles River and assumedly frustrated women, all that time reputed to be due to the dorm curfews at Boston University.

They group had gotten their start at P-J’s in Hollywood, became the first rock group to headline at the San Francisco Hilton, and had grass roots in show business: Leader Larry Tamblyn was the brother of actor Russ Tamblyn, which Dick Dodd had been one of the original Mouseketeers. Bassist Gary Lane, who plays harmonica on this cut, and rummer Tony Valentino rounded out the rhythm section.

Notes: Arranged by Lincoln Mayorga. Produce by Ed Cobb for Greengrass Productions. Recorded in Los Angeles. Tower single #185 (11/65). Pop #11.

3. The Strangeloves: “Night Time”

If you believe everything you read, the Strangloves (Miles, Niles, and Gifles) were born on a sheep farm in Australia to Mr. and Mrs. Wilmot Strange. At the age of 16, Miles, “applying his vast knowledge of cross-breeding,” had developed a stain of long-hair sheep known as the Gottehrer and became independent wealthy. This gave his brothers time to devote to their first love: music,

That started their string of hits, first on Swan Records (“Love Love Love”) then over to Bang Records (“I Want Candy” and “Cara-Lin”) in the middle of 1965. Then, in January, 1966: “Night Time.”

Hear this single now.

Forget Australia. Actually, the Strangloves were a production team from Brooklyn named Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein, and Richard Gottehrer, who previously cut big with the McCoys’ “Hang On Sloopy.”

“Night Time” hit nice; it went Pop #30:

I come home from work
You know I'm tired and I'm beat
I try to make some supper
But I can't even eat
I jump in the shower
Wash the world off my back
I'm gonna get you baby
That's a natural fact

Notes: Arranger by Bassett Hand. Recorded in New York. Bang single #S-514 (12/65).

4. The Knickerbockers: “Lies”

A quartet out of Bergenfield, New Jersey (where there is a Knickerbocker Avenue), this group first got used because of their early-Beatles sound. They sounded “Fab Four.” They’d started out named the Castle Kings, recording for ATCO.

Before that, they’d started out with still another group name: The Royal Teens (“Short Shorts”) starring Buddy Randall (sax). Buddy moved on to be joined by brothers Beau Charles (guitar) and John Charles (bass) and drummer Jimmy Walker.

In November 1965, they’d become The Knickerbockers on the Challenge label. Challenge had at first stalled the success of “Lies” by promoting its B-side, the wimpy “This Coming Generation.” But radio took over, and A-side “Lies” won.

Their label referred to the album as “psychedelic vinyl.”

Hear this single now.

I can't believe a word you say
Lies, lies
Are gonna make you sad someday
Some day you're gonna be lonely

But you won't find me around
Lies, lie-ies
A-breakin' my heart
I said, baby, now (breakin' my heart)

Notes: Produced by Jerry Fuller in Hollywood. Challenge single #59321 (11/65). Pop #20.

5. The Vagrants: “Respect”

“The Long Island Sound” was mid-1960s much attended to, and drew major crowds to the Action House in Long Island, where five long-haired boys (often in trouble at their high school for their hairs’ lengths) played on and on.

But they drew those crowds, and Atco signed the Vagrants in early 1967.

They cut the “blue-eyed soul” of Atlantic’s Otis Redding, but within one month, their co-artist on Atlantic, Aretha Franklin, cut it, too.

That was the end. The group disbanded in 1968.

The Group: Band members were Peter Sabatino (vocals), Leslie Weinstein (guitar), Larry Weinstein (bass), Jerry Storch (organ), and Roger Monsour (drums).

Notes: Produced by Dave Grigati and Larry Vernier for Brigard Music. In New York. Atco single #45-6473 (in 3/67). No charts.

6. Mouse: “A Public Execution”

They came from Tyler, Texas, and their big moment was a hit song which, unfortunately, sounded like a Bob Dylan/Highway 61 take off.

Leading the garage-rock vocals was Ronny Weiss, who’d named himself “Mouse,” and his whole band Mouse and the Traps.

“A Public Execution” eked out two weeks on the Billboard charts, but only to #121 (in early 1966). Later compilations would show up, but not chart much either.

Hear this single now.

Some words are best not spoken,
some things are best not said

But since this is your public execution
I think I'm gonna go right on ahead

The mailman brought your letter, babe,
where you told me how you feel

N about the things he said he told you,
that is, I'm such a heel

But I could never be honest that to you I've always lied

When he saw me take some other hide for a two-wheel pony ride

The Group: “Mouse” (vocals, guitar), and Traps “Bugs” Henderson (lead guitar), Robin Hood Brians (piano), Jerry Howell (organ), Dave Stanley (base), and Nardo Murray (drums).

Notes: Produced by Robin Hood Brians in Tyler, Texas. On the Fraternity label #F-9556 (12/65).

7. The Blues Project: “No Time Like the Right Time”

Danny Kalb’s band started in 1964, when inspired by Tim Hardin’s plugged-in loud band performances at the Night Owl in Greenwich Village, guitarist Danny Kalb and later Al Kooper rounded up their own band to be named The Blues Project. They came up with powerful and inventive R&B and a debut on Verve Records in 1966 plus a long run at the Café Au Go Go. A first, live album was followed by a second, studio album called Projections. Then came their Live at Town Hall LP, with their only single.

This Project band was hot in the growth of late ‘60s rock, and makes the cut for this Nuggets list, composed by organist Al Kooper. It’s a soul-pop, pulsating song with psychedelic overtones.

Hear this single now.

They’d plucked a single out of their work, one called “No Time Like the Right Time,” but it spent only two weeks on the charts, and even that down at #96,

If you need someone to love you
Well, you got someone who will

And there's no time
Like the right time
Baby, the right time is now
Said that there's no time
Like the right time

The band soon split up. Its leaders created a new group: Blood, Sweat and Tears.

The Group: Danny Kalb (lead guitar), Al Kooper (vocals, organ, ondioline), Steve Katz (guitar, vocals), Andy Kulberg (bass), and Roy Blumenfeld (drums).

Notes: Produced by Tom Wilson and Jerry Schoenbaum, in New York. On Verve Folkways as single #KF-5040 (2.67). Pop #96.

8. The Shadows of Knight: “Oh Yeah”

Almost truly a “high school band,” The Shadows of Knight came out of Chicago in Spring 1966, with a remake of The Them’s “Gloria.” The Shadows played teen clubs and dances on the South Side, mostly playing blues as a classic garage-punk band.

Their ages were between 18 and 20, and they described themselves as “high school graduates.” Too young to vote. Still, they landed a record deal with Dunwich Records, and “Gloria” sold and sold. The band built a rabid following, and they toured anywhere in the country’s backwaters, tossing cherry bombs at each other, and staying one step ahead of their angry fathers.

On the back of their first album, the Shad’ label self-consciously wrote “If you invited them over for dinner, your parents would, at first, have you examined or call the police or run screaming to the neighbors. If your parents stayed around, they would find that the Shadows are polite, quiet, considerate and that they might even grow to like them.”

Post-“Gloria,” their second single was “Oh Yeah,” another cover of someone else’s hit, this “else” being Bo Diddley.

Hear this single now.

I got a little woman

She in the town

She say she love me

But best of all

She's my woman

My own all

She's my lover

Yeah she my all

We run around

Have a lot of fun

She whispers in my ear and say
oh you're the one

Said oh yeah

Said oh yeah

Said oh yeah

Oh yeah

The Group: Jim Sohns, vocals; Joe Kelley, lead guitar; Jerry McGeorge, guitar; Warren Rogers, bass; and Tom Schiffour, drums.

Notes: Recorded by Dunwich in Chicago, Illinois. Single #45-122 (5/66). Pop #39.

9. The Seeds: “Pushin’ Too Hard”

The main man here took the name Sky Saxon (Ritchie Marsh was what his mom had named him), who hung with the emerging rock scene in Los Angeles in the early ‘60s, playing bass in small-label sessions with teenyboppers like Bobby Vee and Neil Sedaka. But this compilation runs the other way from “teenyboppers,” and so did Sky.

He created The Seeds in 1965 with a few other Los Angelenos who backed Sky’s raw and whining vocals. The Seeds had the look: very long hair and odd clothes. One Seed (Daryl Hooper) dressed like a Renaissance dandy with frills and ruffles. In press releases, he claimed to be over 200 years old. Guitarist Jan Savage emphasized his Native American background wearing feathers and moccasins.

Hear this single now.

Their key single, “Pushin’ Too Hard” became a smash in Spring of ’66. It’s said that Sky Saxon scribbled down the lyrics for “Pushin’” in a few minutes while waiting for his girlfriend to come out of a supermarket. The song sounds that simple:

You're pushin' too hard, uh-pushin' on me

You're pushin' too hard, uh-what you want me to be

You're pushin' too hard about the things you say

You're pushin' too hard every night and day

You're pushin' too hard

Pushin' too hard on me 
(Too hard)

Well all I want is to just be free

Live my life the way I wanna be

All I want is to just have fun

Live my life like it's just begun

But you're pushin' too hard

Pushin' too hard on me

(Too hard)

Thumping drums. Two-chords. And Saxon belting out his frustrated lyrics with babbling intensity. But it worked. The Seeds liked suddenly being a hit, and walking home from a one-night gig with $6000 to split.

For L.A., The Seeds set a new trend, and from this year forward “teenyboppers” became a description no band ever wanted. Change the good description to “flower power.”

The Group: Sky Saxon (vocals, bass), Jan Savage (guitar, vocals), Daryl Hooper (electric piano, vocls), and Rick Andridge (drums).

Notes: Produced by Marcus Tybalt for Brompton Productions. Recorded in L.A. for GNP Crescendo. (8/66) Pop #36.

10. The Barbarians: “Moulty”

This foursome had been assembled by drummer Victor “Moulty” Molton in Cape Cod. They got crowds locally, and soon enough were signed by record maven Doug Morris, who at this point was writing songs and heading the Laurie label.

Their appearance was a bit “barbaric pirates on a beach” (leather sandals, not Beatles boots; open-neck shirts). But their most notable eye-catcher was drummer Moulty’s left hand, which had been lost during an explosion when he was 14. He’d replaced his hand with prosthesis, and had that prosthesis modified to hold a drumstick.

Doug Morris thought his label should capitalize on this, and co-wrote a song to tell about it: “Moulty.” It was a minor hit, even though it was backed by a selected-for-this-session group, musicians later known as Dylan’s own The Band.

Hear this single now.

wI remember the days when
Things were real bad for me
It was right after my accident
When I lost my hand

It seemed like I was all alone
With nobody to help me
You know, I almost gave up
All my hopes and dreams

But hit singles need to change from down to up, soon, and so this one does:

So I'm saying this to all of you
All of you who think you'll never make it
All of you guys and girls
‘Cause you think you're so bad off

Or maybe you think you're
A little different or strange
So listen to me now
‘Cause I've lived through it all


Don't turn away
(You gotta keep on trying)
Don't turn away
(Well, don't you give up, baby)
Don't turn away

Now there's just one thing that I need
Not sympathy and I don't want no pity
But a girl, a real girl
One that really loves me

And then I'll be the complete man
So I'm gonna tell you right now, listen

Don't turn away (you gotta, baby)
Don't turn away (you gotta keep on trying)
Don't turn away, don't turn away

The song’s simple message – “never give up” – became an embarrassment for The Barbarians. Moulty got so mad that his label had released it as a single, he flew down to New York and chased Morris around his office, breaking copies of the record over Morris’ head.

And that was the end of the Barbarians deal with Laurie.

The Group: For this single, The Barbarians may have been replaced by Robbie Robertson & Co. The true Barbarians, however, were Victor “Moult” Moulton (vocals, drums); Bruce Benson & Jeff Morris (guitar), and Jerry Causi (bass).

Notes: Recorded by Doug Morris in NY as Laurie single #3326. (1/66). Pop #90.

11. The Remains: “Don’t Look Back”

Groups that deserve fame and Top Ten but never get either are sad stories, so brace yourself:

The Remains came from Boston in 1965-66. They became local favorites, led by Barry Tashian, who put together Barry and The Remains with fellow Boston University players, and made life busy at local hot spots as the Rathskeller, the Banjo Room, and Where It’s At.

Hot? They opened for The Beatles 1966 summer tour. They appeared on Ed Sullivan. They signed with Epic Records.

Their records and one album did not catch.

By late 1966, disillusioned, they disbanded.

Their final single was “Don’t Look Back.” It had “it all,” Epic thought: hard rock, Tashian’s soul vocal, the band’s “down your ears” play.

For The Remains, it was over. One reviewer (Mark Kemp) said in an article in his Paste magazine, “Had these Boston bad boys stuck it out beyond their 1966 debut, we might today be calling them – and not the Stones – ‘The World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band.’ As it is, The Remains most certainly are America’s greatest lost band.”

It just never happened, despite all those good points. But maybe that’s one of the virtues of records. Here it is.

Hear their single now.

The Group: Barry Tashian (vocals, guitar); Bill Briggs (electric piano, vocals); Vern Miller (bass, vocals); N.D. Smart (drums).

Notes: Produced for Epic in New York by Ted Cooper. Epic #4-10060. (8/66)v

12. The Magicians: “An Invitation to Cry”

Down in Greenwich Village, assuming you’re uptown-now, down there was for many in pop music the center of the universe. Clubs where bands were the meaning of life. One such place, the Night Owl Café, was part of “the scene.”

Managers wanting to discover acts to sell to labels, they hung there. It was where managers/producers Bob Wyld and Art Pothermus fell for a group called The Magicians, and quickly signed them to Columbia.

Summer of 1965. And by November, the Magicians had their first single out: “An Invitation to Cry.” It was (and is) a soulful ballad, in The Young Rascals style. With waltz rhythm.

This being the height of the business, the single didn’t get to first base. Two follow-ups, ditto. Their first album, unreleased. The Magicians were dropped by Columbia. Two of them stepped off-stage and became a songwriting team for The Turtles.

But their single, “An Invitation to Cry,” got remembered by many.

I don't wanna go, 'cause I don't wanna cry
Everybody knows the way I feel inside
I just can't invitation to cry
No, I don't wanna cry

Open up the mail and much to my surprise
I read your card and tears came to my eyes
I just can't invitation to cry
No, I don't wanna cry

I can just see myself falling to pieces
When you say, "I do"
Here comes the bride and my pride is in pieces
Wish it were me walkin' with you

The Group: Gary Bonner (vocals, guitar); Allan Jacobs (lead guitar, vocals); John Townley (bass, vocals); Alan Gordon (drums, vocals).

Notes: Produced by Ppolhemus and Wyld for Koppelman-Rubin Assc., Recorded in New York. Columbia single #4-43435. (11/65)

13. The Castaways: “Liar, Liar”

Step by step, we’ve found by now that we’re usually telling the stories of briefly-hit groups. We may have hit a climax here.

Hear this single now.

All that’s known about The Castaways is: They are (were) four lads from Minneapolis/St. Paul. They created one hit record, issued on Minneapolis-based Soma Records. Soma belonged to a record and jukebox distributor in that town (Amos Heilecher – first name spelled backwards is his label). Soma specialized in polka records, but the whole label is gone now.

With a hit in “Liar, Liar,” the four Castaway teens did a quick tour of America, a few TV show drop-ins (like Shivaree), and one quick movie shot (in It’s a Bikini World, alongside The Animals and lesser-known groups [The Gentrys; The Toys]}.

Ask me, baby, why I'm sad

You been out all night, know you been bad

Don't tell me different, know it's a lie

Come kill me, honey, see how I cry

Why must you hurt me, do what you do
Listen here, girl, can't you see I love you

Make a little effort, try to be true
I'll be happy, not so blue

Liar, liar, pants on fire
Your nose is longer than a telephone wire

They sang their one hit for some hot months. And then, were heard of never again.

“Liar, Liar” had enjoyed its top, briefly. Ditto The Castaways.

The Group: Bob Folschow (vocals, guitar); Jim Donna (organ); Roy Hensley (bass, vocals); and Denny Craswell (drums). Craswell and Donna wrote “Liar Liar.”

Notes: Producer unknown. Recorded in Minneapolis. Soma single #1433. (5/65) Pop #12.

• • • • • • •

Which brings us to half way through that original list of rebellious. mid-Sixties singles that challenged the Pop world, with oddities from garage to psychedlia. Stay Tuned, and a second half of that list should be right next in line.