inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #226 of 288: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Wed 16 Oct 02 14:00
    
Yes, blues was influential and important too. I didn't mean to imply,
in case the wrong impression was given, that jazz was the only or the
dominant non-folk music young acoustic folk musicians were listening to
in the early 1960s. They were also listening to rock, pop, electric
blues, gospel, world music, flamenco, even classical (Roger McGuinn's
riffs often boast a distinct classical influence, even quoting directly
from Bach's "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" on the Byrds' early B-side
"She Don't Care About Time"). Of course the rock and pop they listened
to increased monumentally after the Beatles became big in America in
early 1964.

The whole question of how much of folk-rock grew out of the blues is a
difficult one. I deliberately didn't spend all that much time
examining it and similar questions in "Turn! Turn! Turn!" because I
really did want to make electric folk-rock the focus of the book, and
want to orient it toward a general readership rather than an academic
one. I thought getting too deep into such questions would tilt it too
much toward acoustic early-1960s folk music, which has already been
examined in depth in numerous other books, and might make the text too
musicologically academic in tone.

But: you did ask the question, and inkwell.vue gives me the
opportunity to elaborate on such things at length which I didn't or
couldn't in my books. I see the blues, the acoustic country blues
manifestation of the form at any rate, as one of the several stylistic
pillars that made up that unwieldy mass we call "folk" music. To
simplify pretty broadly, folk music also included bluegrass, old-timey
music, Appalachian music, traditional ballads of indeterminate origin,
and traditional songs from all over the world. It also included the
Woody Guthrie-Pete Seeger-like tunes -- simple melodically, usually
strummed on an acoustic guitar, and featuring lyrics based on both
everyday experiences, traditional sources, and contemporary topical
issues -- that are probably what spring first to mind in the general
public when they think of "folk" music. So I don't see the blues as a
an influence separate from folk music -- it was part of folk music,
albeit a partwith a pretty strong musical identity.

Blues was an influence on the folk musicians who became folk-rockers
as a particularly colorful, expressive form that was in some respects
grittier and tougher than much of the other folk music to which they
were exposed. Because blues had fed into R&B which had fed into
rock'n'roll, it was also just a little more aligned with popular music
that was catchy and easy to assimilate than some other forms of folk
were. There was also the hip cultural cachet of identifying with the
oppressed blacks of the South, and with integrating living history into
contemporary culture when so many of the bluesmen who had recorded in
the '20s and '30s (or had never recorded then but had performed then)
were "rediscovered" by the folk circuit in the early to mid-1960s: Skip
James, Son House, Bukka White, and many others.

Because the blues was an African-American folk form, its electric
manifestation was given more license to perform on the folk circuit
than electric performers of other styles were. That's part of why you
had people like Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and
Lightnin' Hopkins performing at some folk festivals and clubs,
sometimes even before folk-rock took off. Lightnin' Hopkins would play
both electric and acoustic on the club circuit, and apparently never
got any flak when he showed up to play electric. This played a subtle
but underrated role, probably, in interesting some young acoustic
players in the possibility of performing with electric instruments.
Even playing blues acoustically probably helped many make the
transition to electric folk-rock, as so many rock riffs are close to
what you hear in the blues.

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band were probably more influential upon
folk-rock itself than any other blues act, for several reasons. Most
importantly, they helped open the folk circuit to electric music in
general. If Butterfield could play venues like Club 47 in Cambridge, it
didn't make as much sense for the same venue to refuse to let a less
blues-oriented rock group like the Lovin' Spoonful play. If folkies
heard Butterfield play and liked it, it made them that much less
resistant to giving a rock band like the Lovin' Spoonful a chance,
whether at Club 47 or a non-folk venue or on the radio or turntable.
This is, incidentally, not a connection I would have made myself, but
one which was noted to me several times during the course of my
interviews with musicians of the era.

Butterfield's influence upon Dylan's music, though indirect, was also
important. Butterfield's very presence at an event like the 1965
Newport Folk Festival was helping to break down barriers against
electric music at such gatherings, and in fact their appearance at a
workshop at that festival generated its own controversy when Alan Lomax
gave them an unenthusiastic introduction and got into a fight with
Dylan/Butterfield manager Albert Grossman as a result. It made Dylan
stand out less as an exception when he did his own electric set later
in the festival. Of course Dylan used several members of the
Butterfield band in his band that night. Although Dylan would not use
them as a permanent band, one of those members, guitarist Mike
Bloomfield, made vital contributions to Dylan's first fully electric
album, "Highway 61 Revisited."

Though it sounds a little silly now, Butterfield's presence as an
Elektra recording artist itself made it a little more permissible for
folkies to like electric music. If an electric group was on a label
like Elektra, the reasoning went, they couldn't be bad. In turn,
Butterfield's success on Elektra -- the band were very successful by
Elektra standards when their first album came out in 1965 -- helped
Elektra break into the electric rock market. Once the Butterfield Band
was established, it was a natural leap to get more out-and-out rock
bands like Love, and then bands that (unlike Love) didn't even have a
strong folk-rock influence, the Doors being the most notable of those
by far.

And why did Butterfield have this impact on folk and folk-rock, and
not someone like, say, Howlin' Wolf? It's controversial to put this out
there, but in part I think it's because they featured some young white
guys not much unlike young white folkies in their appearance and
background. There were older black men in the band too, but it was
still something different than seeing elder country bluesmen like Skip
James or even established electric blues artists like Howlin' Wolf, who
were still regarded as something of museum pieces by much of the white
audience. It would be easier for young white musicians to see peers
like Butterfield and Bloomfield and identify with them, and realize
there could be a place for them to be doing electric music too, though
not necessarily blues-based electric music. There were exciting young
black electric blues musicians then too, but they didn't have as much
overspill into the folk circuit where young white adults were so
prevalent.

Although the Paul Butterfield Blues Band were undeniably influential
on folk-rock, their actual music doesn't sound much like folk-rock to
me: it's more electric blues, or blues-rock, or (on "East West")
psychedelic. As another side note which some might find controversial,
although blues was definitely part of the musical foundation of key
folk-rockers, I think it was often the weakest part of their repertoire
when they did go electric. I'm thinking of songs like the Byrds'
"Captain Soul," a blues jam from their 1966 album "Fifth Dimension"
that might be their least distinguished early recording. I don't care
much for the Lovin' Spoonful's attempts at straight blues, or some of
the Airplane's and Grateful Dead's efforts in that regard, though Dylan
(and sometimes Donovan, to an unnoted extent) did blues-influenced
original material very well. I prize diversity, but sometimes it seemed
bands of the 1960s felt obligated to throw on a blues tune or a
jugband tune for variety's sake, just to prove they could do them, even
if they did them badly.

As another opinion that some would find controversial, I think one of
folk-rock's greatest strengths is its diversity, and hence find
folk-rock more interesting to hear and learn about than the blues or
blues-rock. I like much blues and blues-rock very much, but the greater
range of influences -- from folk, pop, rock, and more -- that
folk-rock drew upon makes it more interesting, textured, and complex to
me than pure blues itself. That's one of the reasons I would evaluate
the blues as a notable influence on folk-rock, but not one of the more
key ones; part of what made folk-rock different from the blues was its
wider, more eclectic range.
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #227 of 288: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 16 Oct 02 15:28
    
I would add to the notes about the Byrds and jazz a mention of Hugh 
Masekela's forceful trumpet solo in "So You Want to be a Rock 'n Roll 
Star"...
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #228 of 288: John Ross (johnross) Wed 16 Oct 02 16:27
    
It seems to me that another important transitional figure between blues-as-
museum-piece and something that the young folkies did themselves was John
Hammond Jr.
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #229 of 288: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Wed 16 Oct 02 17:03
    
That's right, Hugh Masekela on "So You Want to Be a Rock'n'Roll Star"
is an extremely noteworthy instance of jazz filtering into the work of
the Byrds. There was also the trumpet arrangement heard on the far more
obscure non-hit, non-LP, David Crosby-penned 1967 Byrds single "Lady
Friend."

The Masekala-folk-rock links don't end there. Peter Fonda recorded an
entire unreleased album around late 1966, with input from Roger
McGuinn, David Crosby, and Hugh Masekela. He also issued one single,
"November Nights," on Masekela's small Chisa label in 1967, written by 
Gram Parsons, then a nearly total unknown. The song is an average
pop-folker with adequate, characterless vocals by Fonda and some
trumpet, perhaps by Masekela. The single did nothing commercially;
plans for another album by Fonda came to nothing; and shortly
afterward, the Easy Rider film became a hit, perhaps permanently
distracting Peter Fonda from pursuing a singing career.
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #230 of 288: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Wed 16 Oct 02 17:12
    
That's right, John Hammond has a notable auxiliary role in the
folk-rock story, though like Butterfield I hear his stuff as blues and
a little blues-rock, not folk-rock. Also Hammond, like the Butterfield
Blues Band, had some influence on Dylan's career. Hammond played on
Dylan's "Bringing It All Back Home," and recorded electric blues covers
in late 1964 with Mike Bloomfield and future members of the Band (then
known as the Hawks), before those musicians became Dylan's road band.
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #231 of 288: John Ross (johnross) Wed 16 Oct 02 20:43
    
As I said, he was a transitional figure. Remember that this was the era when
young musicians were glomming onto stuff from old records and making it
theri own. The Kweskin band was doing it with old jug band music, the New
Lost City Ramblers and their accolytes with rural string bands, and
everybody was swiping stuff from the Folkways Anthology. John Hammond was
doing the same thing with blues. Butterfield's band, on the other hand, was
actually incorporating some of the working Chicago blues guys.

In the same way that Elektra made the Butterfield Band "okay" for folkies,
the Vanguard "Chicago/The Blues Today" series exposed people like Buddy Guy
to people who would never otherwise have found them on labels like Chess.
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #232 of 288: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Wed 16 Oct 02 21:51
    
The mention of that Vanguard series made me think of another kind-of
connection between the blues and folk-rock. Many of the late-1960s
Vangaurd blues recordings were produced by Sam Charters, a folklorist
who had produced numerous folk, blues, and jug band recordings for
Prestige during the folk revival, and has written extensively about the
blues. Charters also produced the Vanguard recordings by Country Joe &
the Fish, one of the leading folk-rock-to-psychedelic late-1960s
bands. Charters also produced another Vanguard rock band, Circus
Maximus, which included the young Jerry Jeff Walker.

Also Country Joe & the Fish were managed by ED Denson, who'd done
important work in the folk revival by helping to locate old country
bluesmen and revive their careers.
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #233 of 288: Dave Zimmer (zimmerdave) Thu 17 Oct 02 09:15
    
I saw John Hammond, Jr. solo acoustic at the old Keystone Palo Alto
club in 1976. He played some mean guitar and harp while growling out
one blues number after another ... Talk of Country Joe for some reason
raised thoughts of an old San Francisco band called It's A Beautiful
Day. Listenting not long ago to their first album, released in 1969 and
featuring the track, "White Bird," I'm curious if David LaFlamme and
his group (blending together instruments such as flute, celeste,
harpsichord and bells with a rock rhythm section) fall into the
folk-rock realm or if their sound is considered purely psychedelic?
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #234 of 288: (fom) Thu 17 Oct 02 09:16
    
(It's A Beautiful Day is playing at an upcoming Berkeley event, btw!)
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #235 of 288: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 17 Oct 02 10:25
    
It's a judgement call, but I think It's a Beautiful Day is more a
psychedelic band with a folk-rock influence, than a folk-rock band or a
band blending folk-rock and psychedelia in strong or roughly equal
measures. That would be true of some other San Francisco late-'60s
bands too, like Moby Grape, who had a lot of influences going on
including folk-rock, but who didn't have as much folk-rock as, say, the
Airplane or the Fish. In It's a Beautiful Day, the folk-rockiest
traits I hear are the harmonies, particularly the male-female harmonies
on "White Bird."

Some people disagree strongly with me on this, but though I like It's
a Beautiful Day, I think they're a relatively minor band of the era.
It's hard to think of other album-oriented bands of the time in which
one song -- "White Bird," in their case -- towers over the rest of
their legacy to such a great degree. I don't think any of their other
tunes came close to matching "White Bird."
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #236 of 288: Dave Zimmer (zimmerdave) Thu 17 Oct 02 12:31
    
Agree about "White Bird" towering over the rest It's A Beautiful Day's
material; and your analysis of their music and historical standing
makes sense. Some harmonies and instrumental sections of other songs
are interesting, but they don't really measure up by comparison.

I'm curious, Richie, how you view another S.F. band, Quicksilver
Messenger Service, which featured Dino Valenti, David Freiberg (who is
a WELL member <freemountain> and, as I understand it, has been
following this topic) as well as a very distinctive lead guitarist,
John Cipollina, in relation to the evolution of folk-rock and the rise
of psychedelia. How do you treat the band in "Eight Miles High?"
Quicksilver always seemed to dwell in the shadows of the Dead and the
Airplane, but, to my ears, contributed mightily to the "San Francisco
Sound" of the late '60s and early '70s.     
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #237 of 288: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 17 Oct 02 13:45
    
I'm a Quicksilver fan, and in fact wrote the liner notes to a recent
double-CD of rare and largely previously unreleased late-1960s
Quicksilver material, "Lost Gold and Silver." Those notes are on my
site at www.richieunterberger.com/quicksilver.html.

As to how they're treated in "Eight Miles High" and how I view them
fitting into folk-rock, while I discuss them fairly briefly, I do think
they had a stronger relation to folk-rock than, say, It's a Beautiful
Day and Moby Grape. This came largely through the influence of David
Freiberg, who had been a folksinger before Quicksilver started. Dino
Valenti, who might have been a founding member of Quicksilver had he
not been busted just before the band started, also had a bit of
influence on their early repertoire, if only indirectly, since he
didn't actually join the group until the beginning of the 1970s.

I see Quicksilver's strengths as interpreters and excellent
instrumentalists, rather than as vocalists or songwriters. In common
with some other early SF bands, only a part of their repertoire was
folk-rock; they also did blues, R&B, improvisation-oriented
psychedelia, and even some jazz-tinged numbers (like the great "Gold
and Silver"). But they also did some really nice folk-rock with vocal
harmonies, particularly on their very first album: "Pride of Man" is
the best known of those, but there was also Dino Valenti's "Dino's
Song," known as "I Don't Want to Spoil Your Party" when the Byrds did
an unreleased cover of the same tune in 1965. Also nicely folk-rocking
on that LP were "Too Long" and "Light Your Windows." There is (as
usual) some disagreement with me about the following opinion, but I
much prefer their folk-rock and psychedelic tunes to their blues-rock
covers, which I find much more ordinary.

David Freiberg brought a bunch of good folk songs into Quicksilver's
set that the band gave good, sometimes riveting interpretations.
Foremost among those was Hamilton Camp's "Pride of Man," which David
told me he learned from a publisher's lead sheet given to Dino Valenti,
rather than from the version on Camp's mid-1960s Elektra "Paths of
Victory" LP. But there were also other songs that only showed up on the
soundtrack to "Revolution": "Codine" by Buffy Sainte-Marie, and "Babe,
I'm Gonna Leave You," credited to Erik Darling (who was in the Rooftop
Singers and a late version of the Weavers). They also did Dino
Valenti's "Stand By Me" on a non-LP 1968 single, backed by "Bears,"
learned from Freiberg from folkie Roger Perkins.

Also worth noting are some connections Quicksilver had with other
folk-rockers as the SF early rock bands were forming. Freiberg had
lived in a semi-communal situation in Venice, California with Paul
Kantner, Sherry Snow of Blackburn & Snow, and David Crosby. Freiberg
played briefly in a duo with Kantner. Skip Spence very briefly worked
with members of Quicksilver as Quicksilver was forming, before becoming
drummer for the Jefferson Airplane. Spence left the Airplane after
their first album to join Moby Grape, and after leaving Moby Grape made
what was in my estimation the very finest obscure late-1960s
folk-rock-psychedelic album, "Oar."

So, in sum: Quicksilver were only a part-time folk-rock band, or one
that only made folk-rock part of its wide stylistic range. But they
were very good at incorporating folk-rock into their sound, adding some
early San Francisco psychedelia to a folk-rock base, particularly in
their guitar arrangements and vocal harmonies.
So, in sum: 
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #238 of 288: Dennis Donley (dennisd) Thu 17 Oct 02 15:00
    

"Lost Gold and Silver" is a very cool CD!
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #239 of 288: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 17 Oct 02 15:35
    
Quicksilver makes me think of The Youngbloods (it's the Chet Powers/Dino 
Valenti thing)... I always thought of them as kind of a folk-rock band, 
partly because Jesse Colin Young became more of a folkie as he evolved.

And have we mentioned Love?
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #240 of 288: David Freiberg (freemountain) Thu 17 Oct 02 16:21
    
I've been following this all along ... learned how much I didn't know
about that time - AND I WAS THERE!  This is great.  Just want you to
know how much I appreciate this, Richie.  Thanks.
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #241 of 288: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 17 Oct 02 19:11
    
Cool! Glad you like the discussion, David.

The Youngbloods are an important band, somewhat underrated and lost in
the shuffle by many rock historians. For my book, it was somewhat hard
to place them in a certain "scene" or "movement." They had roots in
both  Boston and New York, and moved from the East Coast to San
Francisco shortly after starting their recording career. They weren't
really East Coast folk-rock, West Coast folk-rock, or psychedelic. They
were just...good!

And of course they had one of the finest folk-rock singers in Jesse
Colin Young, and one of the best folk-rock hits in "Get Together." I
think of them as somewhat like the Lovin' Spoonful in their knack for
happy, good-time folk-rock; even their sad and wistful tunes are
pleasant. They also had some similar blues and jug band influences as
the Lovin' Spoonful did.

We were talking a bit earlier about jazz influence in folk-rock, and I
should have mentioned the Youngbloods there. Banana Levinger told me,
"There was a bigger than usual jazz influence in the Youngbloods. The
electric piano sound was unique." Also their drummer Joe Bauer had been
trying to make it in jazz before switching to rock.

Love were a very important band that somehow hasn't figured strongly
in this topic yet. I see them as one of the foremost examples of a fine
folk-rock band -- for much though not all of the time on their first
three albums -- that came primarily from a rock, not a folk,
background. Arthur Lee was a genius, unique songwriter and singer, way
up there in a skill for stringing together lyrics and pretty melodies
that might not have made the most "sense," but were extremely
evocative. He was also, along with Richie Havens, the only
African-American to make a major mark in folk-rock as a performer.
Bryan MacLean, the sole member with a strong folk background, didn't
get to put nearly as many of his songs on the albums as he should have.
He had a very delicate, fragile voice and compositional sense, like a
glass about to shatter. It was he who wrote Love's best-known song,
"Alone Again Or."

As the first folk-rock band to have an album on Elektra Records, Love
had a subtle importance in reflecting and changing how folk-rock was
perceived in the industry as well. As Crawdaddy editor Paul Williams
told me, "It was interesting and very cool that Love was on Elektra.
That would cause folk music fans at college radio, which I was,
actually, to start listening to 'Message to Pretty'[on the first Love
LP] and the first Love album, and discover they liked it. But they
would listen to it because it was on Elektra. 'Message to Pretty,' you
couldn't resist that if you were a folk music fan. And it wasn't just
like, 'Well, I like Love, but I only like these songs.' Pretty soon you
liked the whole thing. It was like you were discovering that the new
rock and roll was your music."

Love's "Forever Changes," their third album (1967), is one of the
greatest rock records. It's also a great example of folk-rock merging
with orchestrated strings and Latin influences, as well as moody
psychedelic lyrics. It's tragic that the original Lee-MacLean lineup of
the band split after this record and didn't get to record more.

There's lots more to say about Love, but that's a basic rundown.
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #242 of 288: Dan Levy (danlevy) Thu 17 Oct 02 21:28
    

I'd say that in all the years I've been on the Well, there's never been
such a concentration of deep first-hand knowledge of echt California
bohemian music.
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #243 of 288: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Fri 18 Oct 02 09:41
    
We were talking about the Paul Butterfield Blues Band a few responses
back, and I just thought of a couple of odd little contributions the 
Butterfield Band made to folk-rock.

Members of the Butterfield band, including Mike Bloomfield, played on
themost blatant "Highway 61"-era Dylan imitation of all time, Dick
Campbell's Mercury album "Dick Campbell Sings Where It's At." This one
really has to be heard to be believed; it's impossible to tell whether
it's bad imitation or parody. Shortly before his death in 200, Campbell
told me he didn't like Dylan's voice and had no intention of doing
folk-rock, but a friend "convinced me to write a cuople of Dylanlike
songs for Mercury to publish before I left [Chicago] for the West
Coast. The upshot was Mercury liked the songs, Columbia had Dylan,
Mercury didn't, and I was told to come back in two weeks with ten more
songs so we could cut an album. Frankly, it was an offer I couldn't
refuse. True, I did take a shot at singing like Dylan." As for the
musicians in the Butterfield Band, who were hired by producer Lou
Reizner (no doubt in an attempt to emulate Dylan's sound), Campbell
admitted, "I didn't have the foggiest idea who they were."

Also, Paul Butterfield, Bloomfield, and Butterfield organist Mark
Naftalin played on a song ("The King of Names") on the 1966 LP "The
Peter, Paul and Mary Album," which had their first attempts to use
rock-ish backing. I'm not sure how this came about, but it would seem
that the logical connection was PP&M and Butterfield sharing the same
manager, Albert Grossman (who of course also managed Dylan).
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #244 of 288: (fom) Fri 18 Oct 02 09:50
    
Have you interviewed Mark Naftalin or Elvin Bishop?
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #245 of 288: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Fri 18 Oct 02 10:02
    
I've talked to Mark Naftalin, but an on-the-record interview was not
arranged. I haven't talked to Elvin Bishop.
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #246 of 288: Dave Zimmer (zimmerdave) Sat 19 Oct 02 05:43
    
Stephen Stills approached Mark Naftalin in 1969 about joing CSN as a
keyboardist. Though Stills says, "I could never pin him down," I'm not
sure what kind of an impact Nartalin would have had on the CSN sound
beyond adding a little blues color. This leads to a question about the
role keyboards -- piano and organ -- played in the evolution of
folk-rock in the '60s. The electric guitar, of course, was the flag
bearing instrument. But in what ways did keyboards affect the emerging
folk-rock sound? 
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #247 of 288: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 19 Oct 02 13:26
    
While I don't think the keyboards played a huge role in the
development of a folk-rock, they did play a role as part of the general
expansion of sound and depth that folk-rock permitted. Folk-rock
didn't just allow groups of electric guitars and a rhythm section,
instead of the more habitual acoustic guitars and harmonicas (and
sometimes other stringed instruments) of early-1960s folk music. It
also allowed pianos, organs, strings, celestes, brass, and more, around
a core of songs that took in varying measures from folk, rock, and
pop.

For some of the more obvious ways in which keyboards affected the
emerging folk-rock sound, a key figure of course is Al Kooper. The
story of how Kooper kind of surreptitiously snuck onto the session for
Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" is pretty well known, and has been told
by Kooper numerous times, best in his highly recommended autobiography
"Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock'n'Roll
Survivor." But of course Kooper stayed on to play on much of "Highway
61 Revisited" and "Blonde on Blonde," as well as some Dylan live gigs,
including Newport 1965.

It's interesting that Kooper became such a big part of the mid-'60s
Dylan sound, not only because he wasn't a very experienced organ player
before "Like a Rolling Stone," but also because he had little folk in
his background, coming from much more of a pop-rock-R&B place. I think
his organ was instrumental in giving Dylan what Donovan termed to me a
"direct blues-gospel-soul organ and electric guitar" sound.

And of course because it became such a big part of Dylan's sound --
think of the organ on "Positively 4th Street," "I Want You," "Just Like
a Woman," and "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands," as some of my favorite
examples -- Kooper immediately became a highly sought-after session man
for other fledgling folk-rockers, despite his inexperience on
keyboards. Some of the other records Kooper played on at the time, for
instance, were Judy Collins's "I'll Keep It With Mine," Joan Baez's
cover of Richard Farina's "Pack Up Your Sorrows," Jim & Jean's
"Changes" album, Phil Ochs's electric version of "I Ain't Marchin'
Anymore," Simon & Garfunkel's "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" LP,
Eric Andersen's "'Bout Changes and Things Take 2" LP, Peter, Paul &
Mary's "Album 1700" LP, and Tom Rush's "Take a Little Walk With Me" LP
(for which he also served as the organizer of the band). When I asked
Kooper why he got onto so many early folk-rock sessions, he replied
simply, "The fact that I was DYLAN'S organist. That fact only, believe
me."

Kooper, of course, was also important as the keyboardist in the Blues
Project, who did folk-rock some (but certainly not all) of the time. He
also intersected with the Crosby, Stills & Nash story since he and
Stills collaborated (with Mike Bloomfield) on the hit "Super Session"
LP shortly before CSN formed.

Another important New York folk-rock session keyboardist was Paul
Harris, who played on albums by Judy Collins, Eric Andersen, Nick
Drake, Richie Havens, John Martyn, Tom Paxton, Tom Rush, and John
Sebastian. Of course he played on Crosby, Stills, and Nash's debut
album, and was considered to be made part of their backing group,
though that didn't happen.

Sometimes session keyboardists added touches that were absolutely key
to making folk-rock records as good as they were. Here I'm thinking of
a pretty obscure name, Lincoln Mayorga, who plays the marvelous
ticky-tack saloon piano on Phil Ochs's "Outside of a Small Circle of
Friends," as well as the lounge piano on Ochs's far less celebrated
"The Party."

There weren't that many notable keyboardists in folk-rock bands. Of
course there were some, like Banana in the Youngbloods, who had a
distinctive electric piano sound. Also of course the piano-organ combo
of Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson in the Band, who as the Hawks backed
Dylan live on his mid-1960s tours and came up with particularly rich
keyboard blends.

But to get back to a thread earlier in this post, keyboards were
important to folk-rock in adding possibilities to electric folk-rock
arrangements that went beyond electric guitars, bass and drums. You
find this with many fine folk-rock records where there weren't
especially fine specialist keyboard players in the band, but there were
good keyboard parts. I'm thinking of tracks like the Lovin' Spoonful's
"Summer in the City," which has positively great menacing electric
keyboards; Janis Ian's "Society's Child," which has that great
stuttering bluesy organ at the end that corresponds to absolutely
nothing else in the track, but adds immensely to its effectiveness; the
ethereal organ, by Van Dyke Parks, on the Byrds' "Fifth Dimension"; or
the piano playing by session man Don Randi on Buffalo Springfield's
"Broken Arrow," or the organ and piano by Stephen Stills himself on
Buffalo Springfield tracks like "Rock and Roll Woman" and "Four Days
Gone" (and Young himself on "Burned"). I wouldn't rate Stills or Young
as keyboard virtuosos on the level of Ray Manzarek, Alan Price
(Animals), or Rod Argent (Zombies), or say they were nearly as good at
keyboards as they were at guitars, but they were skilled in playing
keyboards in a personal way to fit the needs of certain songs and
tracks.

When the singer-songwriter movement really got going at the end of the
1960s, piano in particular helped lend some welcome variety to solo
singer-songwriters thought of primarily as guitarists, both live and in
the studio. While I would much rather in general hear Joni Mitchell
and Neil Young on guitar than piano, their being able to switch back
and forth between the instruments (particularly on live solo
performances) added a good deal of diversity that didn't often take
place in the early 1960s during the folk era, when guitars were so
prominent. Sandy Denny was another performer whose occasional solo
piano outings I enjoy, though I might tire of her stuff had solo piano
accompaniment been more prevalent in her work.
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #248 of 288: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Wed 13 Nov 02 15:16
    
Just a note that I will be discussing "Turn! Turn! Turn!" and playing
two hours of rare and classic mid-1960s folk-rock music covered in the
book from 8-10pm on Wednesday, November 27th, on KPFA (94.1 FM) in
Berkeley. This will be on the "Dead to the World" show, hosted by
Inkwell host David Gans.
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #249 of 288: something named (stdale) Thu 14 Nov 02 03:37
    
And a note to say that anyone interested can find my review of "Turn! Turn!!
Turn!" at http://www.cosmik.com/aa-november02/everything89.html

It's the second item in the section.

Short version?  I liked it.
  
inkwell.vue.160 : Richie Unterberger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
permalink #250 of 288: David Gans (tnf) Thu 14 Nov 02 09:40
    
It's an excellent book!
  

More...



Members: Enter the conference to participate

Subscribe to an RSS 2.0 feed of new responses in this topic RSS feed of new responses

 
   Join Us
 
Home | Learn About | Conferences | Member Pages | Mail | Store | Services & Help | Password | Join Us

Twitter G+ Facebook