All Hopped Up Music and Maps: Chapter 11
This Mix accompanies “Plug In, Tune Up, Rock Out,” Chapter 11 of my book All Hopped Up and Ready To Go: Music from the Streets of New York 1927-77. Specifically it covers that period from 1964-66 when New York pop, blues and folk went fully electric.
That said, this mix starts (the first time you listen to it) with “Creeque Alley” by the Mamas and the Papas. An odd choice perhaps, given that it’s a 1967 hit named for a location on St. Thomas, by a group more closely associated with the sound of “California Dreamin’.” But “Creeque Alley” is important because tells the story, and with great humor, of the shift from folk to rock (and for that matter, from New York to Los Angeles) that took place in music in the mid-1960s, name-checking key players John and Michelle Phillips, of (old) folkies the (New) Journeymen turned Mamas and Papas, and their subsequent recruits Dennis Doherty and Mama Cass; Zal Yanovsky and John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful; Jim (later Roger) McGuinn of the Byrds; and Barry McGuire, too.
“Creeque Alley” also references the Night Owl, where the Lovin’ Spoonful enjoyed a ground-breaking New York residency, in the summer of 1965, which led swiftly to a record deal and a hit with “Do You Believe In Magic.” Indeed, that song was written about a girl that Sebastian and Yanovsky observed dancing (“like we danced – and not like the last generation danced,” says Sebastian) at the Night Owl just a few nights into the residency. As produced by Eric Jacobsen, the single “captured the feeling of optimism that was running through the younger Village scene in 1965, and it hit the top ten that fall.” See it performed live on Shindig! in the clip below.
By this point, Jim McGuinn, a Greenwich Village folk musician turned Beatles fanatic, had left New York behind for Los Angeles, acquired a 12-string Rickenbacker in imitation of George Harrison, formed the Byrds, got his hands on an unreleased Bob Dylan song, and hit the top of the charts with “Mr. Tambourine Man.” A few months later, the Byrds had another top ten hit with Pete Seeger’s adaptation of a biblical versem “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season). While not strictly New York recordings, these two Byrds hits, like that of the Mamas and the Papas’ “Creeque Alley,” could not have come about without the New York folk scene.
As for Dylan himself, he’d been considering amplification for some time, a process sped up when Britain’s the Animals took his arrangement of “House of the Rising Sun” to the top of the American charts in 1964. But it was an invitation into the recording studio with John Hammond, the son of Dylan’s A&R man, that really solidified the idea. For his 1964 LP So Many Roads, Hammond recruited Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson, and Garth Hudson from R&B/blues band the Hawks, along with guitarist Michael Bloomfield and harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite. Though the album was not a hit, it was a major influence, on Dylan and others; “You can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover” is included on this mix.
Bob Dylan announced his new, electric self early in 1965 with “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” from the LP Bringing It All Back Home. That same spring, at the Woodstock cabin belonging to Peter Yarrow, Dylan wrote “Like A Rolling Stone,” not sure at first if he was composing a song or a piece of literature. In June, having decided it was the former, he entered a Manhattan studio with guitarist Mike Bloomfield appending his regular studio team and long-term producer Tom Wilson. Wilson in turn invited Al Kooper, a young guitarist and hit songwriter, along as an observer, and Kooper ended up supplying the famed Hammond organ part in the only one of fifteen takes that day that was completed. Originally split across two sides of a 7-inch, “Like A Rolling Stone” was soon delivered to radio stations as an unprecedented six-minute epic. By the end of the summer, it had risen to number two in the charts, Dylan had turned the Newport Folk Festival on its head, and the legacy of the Greenwich Village folk scene was irrevocably changed.
Kooper played a continuing role in that shift, by joining Danny Kalb’s Blues Project, who brought a highly electrified form of the blues into the Village scene through the later months of 1965. The energy of the band was captured on the Blues Project Live at the Café Au Go Go, produced by Tom Wilson for the Verve label and released in early 1966. Sadly, songs from this album and the group’s highly influential subsequent studio set Projections, are not currently available as MP3s and are therefore not included on this mix.
Just before he moved from Columbia to Verve, Dylan’s producer Tom Wilson used many of the same musicians who had worked on “Like A Rolling Stone” to overdub “The Sound of Silence” by a failed Village folk duo Simon & Garfunkel. As I write in an earlier draft of All Hopped Up and Ready To Go, in a paragraph not included in the final book…
The manner in which (Wilson) did so was one of subtle genius. He still allowed Simon’s original acoustic guitar line to announce the song, as if a folk number, but within a few seconds, a quietly chiming electric guitar doubled up on and soon overtook the same part; as the full band came in on the second verse, bluntly imitating the jingle jangle of the Byrds, one could hear a cultural baton being passed. Columbia rush-released the new version to radio stations eager for anything that sounded like electric Dylan or the Byrds (both, not coincidentally, Columbia acts), and almost overnight, the pair of 24-year olds, who had gone their separate ways after their disappointing major label experience, Simon to London to play music, Garfunkel to become a teacher, were working together again. “The Sound of Silence” – the electric version – was the number one single in America as 1965, that most pivotal of pop years, concluded.
While the Lovin’ Spoonful, and the Blues Project were, literally, electrifying Greenwich Village, a group called the Rascals, formed by the Bronx-raised Hammond organ player Felix Cavaliere, were having the same effect on midtown dance clubs – and at a floating nightclub called the Barge, out in the Hamptons. Covering blues, soul and R&B music on the understanding that, in Cavaliere’s words, “If you don’t get the people up and dancing, you don’t get paid,” the Rascals soon came to the attention of Beatles promoter (and future Blues Project manager) Sid Bernstein, who got them signed to Atlantic records – the first all-white group on the esteemed label’s roster. After a near hit with their debut single, “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Any More” (see performance on Hullabaloo below), the Young Rascals (their name amended to avoid confusion with a harmonica group of the same name) covered a minor hit by veteran R&B group the Olympics, “Good Lovin’,” with a prominent Hammond organ solo, and found themselves on top of the charts in early 1966.
The Rascals’ effect on the scene was immediate. In my earlier (and subsequently abridged) edit of All Hopped Up and Ready To Go, I wrote the following about the Vagrants from Forest Hills in Queens:
The Vagrants released several 45s on a Vanguard label looking to break into the rock market, and as the act alternated suburban bookings (including Long Island’s legendarily crazed discotheque the Action House) with mid-Manhattan residencies (a lengthy stay at Scott Muni’s Rolling Stone club in 1965), they were acquired by Atlantic, for whom they released a cover version of Otis Redding’s 1965 R&B hit, “Respect.”
A thrilling rendition, primed by Jerry Storch’s Hammond B-3 organ and Leslie West’s Steve Cropper-like guitar, it could have done for the Vagrants what “Good Lovin’” had achieved for the Young Rascals. But when the Atlantic bosses realized they might have a pop hit on their hands, they had “Respect” “covered” by their proven Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, instead. “They nullified it, literally,” said Cavaliere, who could only empathize, for no sooner had Atlantic recorded the Young Rascals’ set at the Barge than it had Wilson Pickett record two of their own live staples: “Mustang Sally” and “Land of 1000 Dances.” In a world where white groups had typically had the bigger hits covering black artists’ songs, per “Good Lovin’,” then Cavaliere could only wax lyrical about it. “I guess they turned the tables,” he said.
In the meantime, the ongoing success of the Lovin’ Spoonful (who hit number one in 1966 with “Summer In The City”) inspired the likes of the Strangers, the Blues Magoos and the Magicians to flock to the Night Owl, which briefly became the hippest club in downtown Manhattan. The Blues Magoos, formed by Cavaliere’s former college band mate Mike Esposito, had a major hit in early 1967 with “(We Ain’t Got) Nothing Yet.” Along with the Vagrants’ “Respect” and the Magicians’ “An Invitation To Cry,” it can be found on the celebrated compilation Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era.
Just about all these acts, and all their stories, appear to occupy an exclusively male world. But as I note in All Hopped Up, “If one wanted a single – a solo – parable to define the journey the city took in those few short years, one that was not built around the all-male electric bands of the Village and the suburbs, it could be found in the saga of a girl who came from the suburbs and helped realign the Village, bringing together not just the worlds of folk and rock – but that of the Brill Building too.” That would be the story of Janis Ian, who was fully participating in the Village scene at the age of eleven, who was tutored by many of the names that filled earlier chapters in the book, and who by 1964, at the age of 13, had her song “Hair Spun of Gold” published by Broadside magazine. Two years later, by which time much had changed in the Village scene, she secured a manager and was brought to the Shangri-Las former producer and songwriter Shadow Morton. The unlikely partnership blossomed instantaneously, as Morton produced Ian’s song about inter-racial dating, “Society’s Child,” with a perfect blend of folk earnestness and pop drama. Unofficially blacklisted (pun intended) by radio stations due to its sensitive subject matter, “Society’s Child” finally found a supporter in Leonard Bernstein, who featured Ian on a major network televison show in April 1967, after which the song quickly became a top 20 hit and Janis Ian, all of 15 years old, a most unlikely pop star. Both “Society’s Child” and Ian’s eventual recording of “Hair Spun Of Gold” are included on this mix. Ian can be seen performing “Society’s Child” on the Smothers Brothers show below.
So, too, finally, is “Groovin,” by the Young Rascals, a sweetly soft number that exemplified a new strain in soul music (Cavaliere took great pride in the fact that many listeners thought they were a black act) and helped book-end another period in the New York City scene. The hippie era had arrived, and music was about to change once more – and yet, as I note in the book, “As a crowd of 200,000 headed out to Monterey in June ‘67, a New York act had the number one single in the country.”
View 11) Plug In, Turn On, Rock Out in a larger map
You can get a better sense of the concentration of clubs in Greenwich Village – new rock clubs alongside old folk coffee houses – from this Google Map. The map also shows a number of the midtown clubs that played a prominent role in electrifying New York City in the mid-sixties.