Gary Pig Gold's
All-Time Top Ten Psychedelic Records (circa 1966)
By: Gary Pig Gold
With every waking hour bringing yet another ill-advised Revival of sorts to our virtual doorsteps ? today Slinkies, tomorrow "Saturday Night Fever" ? I thought it, yes, high time I toss in my two tokes' worth (sorry) and offer the dazed ?n' confused reader out there a Consumer's Guide, as it were, to the kind of sounds one really should be hearing after staying up three or four nights in a row ?that is, should the mood ever strike to slap on some patchouli oil and get back to (what's left of) the garden.
1. "HAPPENINGS TEN YEARS TIME AGO" by THE YARDBIRDS
One of the few times the fabled J. Page vs. J. Beck sword fight was actually captured on record, this sensational single's cacophonous "middle eight" sported fog-shrouded mutterings, Telecastered police sirens and an all ?round sinister whirlygig of sound which may very well have helped keep it out of the Top Ten at the time ?but that's only because it was at least a quarter of a century ahead of itself.
2. "THIRD STONE FROM THE SUN" by THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE
And on the subject of New Frontiers In Sound, that first Experience elpee did little to even hint at the wonders yet to come from this most powerful of all power trios. But this here track in particular certainly did take brave new steps into the realm of hi-fidelity freakdom -- not only lyrically, but in its guitar solo(s). Of course, we certainly did hear surf music again, didn't we? In fact, last I heard, Dick Dale's out-lived Jimi by nearly two decades already!
3. "TAKE A GIANT STEP " by THE MONKEES
Maybe it wasn't so weird after all that this Prefab Foursome chose the above-mentioned Experience to open their Summer of Love tour of the Americas: Snuck onto the backside of the very first Monkees release a year earlier was this monumentally out-there Gerry Goffin / Carole King (yes, that Carole King) ditty, which to this day stands head and shoulders above most of its contemporaries, on TV or otherwise. Try dancing to this one, Monkeemen!
4. "2-4-2 FOXTROT (THE LEAR JET SONG)" by THE BYRDS
No Dancing Allowed Here, either: In their grand tradition of freaky, far-out-maaaan album closers, these Tambourine Men spared no expense to record this tribute to their pal (and supersonic passenger plane inventor) John Lear. To this day, big byrd Jim-slash-Roger McGuinn insists he dragged an Ampex reel-to-reel clear out to Los Angeles International in order to capture on tape the Actual Sounds of a Lear Jet preparing for vertical take-off. Nevertheless, those in the know (especially those equipped with high-tech headphones) hear the unmistakable shrill of a lowly vacuum cleaner motor instead. Which leads us now to ponder that age old musical question: Hoover or Regina?
5. "RETURN OF THE SON OF MONSTER MAGNET" by THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION
Speaking of album-enders, wheezy home appliances are about the only thing that can't be heard on this side-long climax to F. Zappa's first full-length audio opus. Under the able direction of Father of Psychedelic Music Himself (pause for reverent applause) Kim Fowley - "producer" Tom Wilson had already dashed out of the studio in horror - Frank and his Mothers proceeded to spend an entire night having a good old-fashioned Freak Out live and in color at the Hollywood studios of MGM Records, as the tapes spun and the legal department tried to find an escape clause in their contract with these crazies. "Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands" you say? As always, Frank did it first ?and better.
6. "GOOD VIBRATIONS" by THE BEACH BOYS
Meanwhile, elsewhere in L.A., a no-less-crazed creator than Brian Wilson was undertaking an equally grandiose project: A little "pocket symphony for the kids" that employed all of the Beach Boy hallmarks to date (brotherly chorale vocals, the best arrangements this side of "Pet Sounds") and then some: like the theremin, an instrument heretofore heard only on the soundtracks of cheap European horror movies. Six months and six-some-odd-hundred-thousand-million-dollars later, Brian played the first mix-down of his masterwork over the phone to new B.Boy Bruce Johnston. "When I heard it, I knew we either had the record of our lives, or our career was over", Bruce later revealed. And y'know, when you think about it, he was right on both counts!
7. "HAVE YOU SEEN YOUR MOTHER, BABY, STANDING IN THE SHADOW?" by THE ROLLING STONES
Bruce could have very well been talking about this final Stones single of '66 as well: The pressure was on to top the magic "Paint It Black", Brian Jones was about to begin his long, slow spiral towards pool bottom, and producer / manager Andrew Loog Oldham was determined to fulfill all of his Phil Spector fantasies on this one penultimate uber-track. The fact that these initial sessions were recorded on a tiny cassette machine didn't help matters much when Decca Records, the band's home label, jumped the gun by pressing and releasing an early, unapproved mix of this Herb Alpert / Windowpane extravaganza. Still, most buyers were too busy gawking at the brilliant Stones-in-drag-on-Park-Avenue picture sleeve photo to take much notice of the bloody, muddy sounds housed therein. Good thing too!
8. "COBWEBS AND STRANGE" by THE WHO
Rushing to complete their second album in time for the lucrative Christmas shopping season, last year's Mods became this year's Salvation Army Band on this Keith Moon (who else?) composed, uhh, song which consisted of little more that Pete and pals marching round and round a single microphone, apparently blowing forth whatever notes happened to pop into their heads and out of their mouths at the time. Yes, this may all seem quite quaint and silly today, but it's my firm belief that if Townshend had allowed his drummist to concoct at least one such ditty for "Who's Next" onwards, the band - not to mention dear, sweet Keith - would probably still be alive today ?and not on f-n' Broadway either!
9. "TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS" by THE BEATLES
Ahh yes? those guys! Well, if you can all ring the aftermath of that rotten "Anthology" series out of your minds (especially those two answer-machine tapes of John's they made singles out of), trip on back instead to the glory daze of their crowning achievement "Revolver", and marvel at how positively contemporary this particular track still sounds: with a rhythm track as loopy as anything the Brothers Dust have yet come up with, drumming and vocals Steve Albini circa "In Utero" would be proud to have created, and just about the greatest Lennon vocal - and lyrics - ever, there really was in retrospect nowhere to go but down for the mopheads after this slab of pure, psycho-genius.
10. "THEY'RE COMING TO TAKE ME AWAY, HA HAAA!" by NAPOLEAN XIV
I think I've just saved the best til last! Yes, not only did Jerry Samuels, aka N-14, beat out the Last Poets by a good two years in the quest to press the first-ever (psychedelic) rap record, he even succeeded in putting the damn thing high up into the Top Ten by summer's end. For those of you who have unfortunately not yet been exposed to this great, great record, I'm certainly not going to attempt to describe it here in mere words: Suffice to say, its surface aura of kooky MAD Magazinesque novelty just barely masks the disturbing, violent subtext of betrayal and revenge which lurks behind each eerie thud of its lead-footed death-beat, making this just about the coolest, creepiest and, yes, most psychedelic-flavored hit in a year so well remembered for a multitude of such animals. And is it true "Napoleon" now makes his living driving a cab? Somehow that would seem a fitting conclusion to this all, would it not?