Meet The Monkees

Did you know that The Jimi Hendrix Experience was once the opening act for The Monkees, not once, but seven times? It’s true.

I remember as a very young kid watching the monkeys on TV. I used to love watching the misadventures of this rock and roll band trying to make it in the music business. It wasn’t until years later that I first heard Jimi Hendrix.

The Monkees TV show aired once a week from 1966 to 1968 and looked very different from most other TV shows at the time. The scenes were typically edited in short clips that cut from one camera angle to another quickly. This was most evident during the selected song the band performed in each episode. Although it was not a style that was used by any TV shows the followed it, the video style became a precursor to many of the first wave of music videos on MTV in the ’80s.

Many people thought back then that the Monkeys on TV were merely actors and none of them could really play their instruments. That wasn’t true. Both Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork could play multiple stringed instruments, Micky Dolenz could play guitar and David Jones was an accomplished drummer. The producers felt Jones would make a better frontman, so he was handed a microphone and tambourine, and Dolenz had to learn the drums.

While it is true in the early days of the Monkeys, they did not play the majority of the instruments on their first record, they did play on some of it, and they could have played it all. The problem was that filming a TV show back in the ’60s – especially one as time-consuming as The Monkees was, with the complex editing and camera angles – made it impossible to have the time to be in both the recording and filming studios. After about of year of the band protesting they were eventually given more liberty to write their own songs and play the instruments themselves.

The Monkees went on their first live tour during the final year of the show and continued to record and tour until 1971. In one of the biggest mismatches ever in the history of rock and roll, a new up and coming band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience was chosen to open for the Monkees on their 1967 tour. After seven shows, it was decided that the combination was bewildering audiences and not benefiting either group, so the team-up was cancelled.

No harm, no foul … except possibly to the concert promoter who set it up.

The Dave Clark Five’s Greatest Hits

What’s the first band that comes to mind when you think of the British invasion? Probably The Beatles. Now, what’s the second? The Stones? Fair enough. But you should also consider The Dave Clark Five.

The Dave Clark Five was the second band from England to appear on the Ed Sullivan show. The Beatles of course, were the first, appearing on the show three weeks in a row, marking the start of the British invasion. Right on their heels was The Dave Clark Five, stealing the spotlight for the next two weeks. They would make repeat appearances on the show more than any other band; an amazing ten times!

Combining ’50s doo-wop with pop music of the ’60s, The Dave Clark Five’s music lost popularity going into the ’70s. But with hits like “Do You Love Me”, “I Like it Like That”, “Bits and Pieces”, and “Glad All Over”, and the others on this album, their influence can still be head today.

Led Zeppelin – Live at the Olympia

One of the greatest things about the resurgence in the popularity of vinyl is bonus content.

Just like when albums started to be reissued on CDs, sometimes the record companies feel the need to include incentives to get music lovers to buy – or rather re-buy – recordings that may already be in their collection.

So how do you get someone who already owned an original copy of Led Zeppelin’s debut album to buy it on vinyl again? You include a previously unofficially released live recording with it as a bonus second album. And if you didn’t still have the original vinyl copy of “Led Zeppelin” because you had a cheap turntable that wore it out way back in the day?

Well…bonus bonus!

The bonus records here is from a French radio broadcast in late 1969 of a Led Zeppelin concert performed in Paris about a month before. Zeppelin’s second album had just been released and the show included songs from both albums, including the John Bonham drum solo extravaganza “Moby Dick”. Bonham’s solo here differs significantly from what appeared on Zep’s first official live album, “The Song remains the Same”.

The thing I find funny, and what is unique with the bonus content included with This vinyl re-release of Led Zeppelin’s eponymous debut, is that there is more bonus content than original material – four sides compared to two. This live recording could have easily been released as a stand-alone new release, and I would have still bought it. But hey…bonus, bonus!

Fillmore: The Last Days

Today, the Fillmore is a pretty popular concert venue in Detroit. Maybe that name is used in other cities now days as well. I don’t know. What I do know – and what a lot of the younger music lovers around today may not know – is that the name “Fillmore” was taken from a couple of legendary concert venues from the ’60s and early ’70s that were run by a man who was perhaps the greatest concert promoter who ever lived: Bill Graham.

Bill Graham was a German holocaust survivor who fled to France and later immigrated to the United States. He was an entrepreneur and philanthropist who more than anything, respected artistic expression; and believed in the power of music. To help promote the emerging music scenes in the ’60s he opened The Fillmore concert hall in San Francisco. It became the premier venue for bands to play in the United States. Without the Fillmore, the world would probably have never heard the music of Santana, Janis Joplin, Bos Scaggs, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and many more performers who are hugely influential in pop and rock music today.

Bill Graham is also responsible for the one other thing I collect besides records and CDs – concert tour posters. He would commission local artists to create unique artwork for promotional posters advertising specific shows at his venues. Along with a 32 page historical book, This three record box set also includes a replica of the poster that was used to promte the final shows at the Fillmore.

Bill Graham was a man who believed there could be a balance between financial success and artistic expression. Unfortunately, following the Woodstock festival in 1969, the record companies realized that rock and roll was big business and the intimacy of moderately sized concert halls like the Fillmore gave way to the larger arena rock shows. Knowing the smaller venues couldn’t compete, Bill Grahasm threw in the towel and made the business decision to close the Fillmore in 1971. He continued to promote bands and concerts into the ’80s. In 1985, he and Bob Geldoff organized Live Aid, a series of concerts that were perrformed and broadcast around the world to raise millions of dollars for famine relief in Ethiopia.

“Fillmore: The Final Days” captures the music of the bittersweet days that marked the end of a philisophical and musical era. It is a memoir of a unforgettable era in music.

Big Brother and the Holding Company – Cheap Thrills

While most people today probably think Janis Joplin performed the song “Piece of my Heart” they’re wrong. It’s true, Janice did sing lead vocals, but the song was actually performed by a band Janis Joplin was in, Big Brother and the Holding Company.

Those who know the album and the band that recorded it still might have some misconceptions about it. The album comes across as being almost entirely live tracks. The cover even says “live material recorded at Bill Graham’s Fillmore Auditorium”. However, only one song off the album, “Ball and Chain”, was actually recorded live. The rest of the songs just had audience overdubs put in to make them sound live. The album even kicks off with an introduction by Bill Graham that by today’s standards would probably be considered politically incorrect: “Four gentleman and one great, great broad, ‘Big Brother and the Holding Company.'”

Like “Piece of My Heart” the rest of “Cheap Thrills” is filled with mostly blues laden rockers that are played as passionatly as they are sung by Janis. There is a little psychedelic sound that also creeps in from time to time (this was 1968 afterall) most notably on “Oh Sweet Mary”, although the closing “Ball and Chain” is a great combination of the two.

I was turned on to the this album by my mom when I was 6 years old. She loved Janis Joplin. My dad however, could not stand her. Some of my earliest memories of music are listening to Janis Joplin with my mom. She had great taste in music.

The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour

This marks the 200th post to my blog. I feel a need to make it about an exceptional album.

In 1967 color TV was a big deal. So were The Beatles. What better combination could there have been then, than to make a colour movie for the telly featuring their music and, of course starring the fab four themselves?

The hour long programme had to be originally broadcast in black and white when the BBC first aired it on boxing day (the day after Christmas in the U.K.). However, it aired again in colour a couple weeks later.

Although the album soundtrack to the film was well received, the movie itself – a story of a bus trip across England and the bizarre events that occur on it – was not. Probably because the film had a psychedelic feel to it that was not appreciated by elder viewer. Opinion of the movie changed as time passed and both are now considered classics.

The album came in a gatefold cover that included a 24 page full color book with scenes from the movie. Because of the original packaging, “Magical Mystery Tour” is an album that could never be presented effectively when released decades later on the smaller CD format.

One of the things I find interesting about the Magical Mystery Tour album packaging is that the album the cover uses the American spelling of color when referring to the book inside, but the book itself uses the British spelling of colour when referencing the movie.

The Ventures’ Christmas Album

The Ventures’ Christmas Album was my favorite Christmas album when I was growing up. It’s still one of my favorites today. It’s also a classic example of an album being totally screwed up when released on CD.

When the Ventures’ Christmas Album was finally released on CD, I immediately ran out and bought a copy, even though the vinyl copy I had was one I would never part with. I mean, the CD had to sound better, right?


Somebody at some point must have thought it would be a good idea to remaster the Ventures Christmas Album before releasing it on a digital medium. Gone was the exceptional stereo mix that gave a wonderful soundstage, making it sound like the band was right in front of you – one guitar on the left, one on the right, the bass slightly to the left, and the drums near center behind all of the others. The remastered CD sounded like all the instruments were in same place, on playing on top of each other.

And then there’s the case of “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer”. It was like somebody tried to intentionally ruin the song. The Ventures played Rudolph with the lead guitar up front and a second guitar adding harmony underneath the lead. On the CD the guitar on harmony was brought up even to the lead guitar, making it sound like the Ventures were trying to play the song with some kind of non-traditional jazz styling. It was terrible.

The Ventures were a popular instrumental group in the 1960s. They released their Christmas album in 1965. What made this album so unique was that it took traditional Christmas songs and mixd them with riffs from popular rock and roll songs from the ’60s. It’s kind of like a mashup between the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Tequila” by the Champs and “Frosty the Snowman”, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, “Sleigh Bells” with Walk Don’t Run” by…well, the Ventures. And this is decades before anyone ever coined the phrase mashup.

The Ventures Christmas Album is truly one of the coolest Christmas albums ever, and was ranked number 12 by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 25 greatest Christmas albums ever recorded. But the only way you should ever listen to it is on the original vinyl. It may be hard to find, but its well worth the effort.

Cream – Disraeli Gears

Considered to be the first supergroup, Cream consisted of guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce, and drummer Ginger Baker. Eric Clapton was well known as one of the best blues guitarists in the ’60s, having formerly played in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Jack Bruce had already made a name for himself playing with Manford Mann and also with Clapton in the Bluesbreakers. Ginger Baker was considered at the time to be the best drummer in rock and roll. He played with an intricate jazz style combined with intense hard rock pounding and was known for extensive drum solos when playing live. He is also noted for being the first drummer in rock and roll to use two bass druns instead of only one.

On their second album, “Disraeli Gears”, Cream held to their formally established blues roots but also ventured into psychedelic territory. The band spent only three and a half days in the studio recording it and it became their breakthrough album in the United States. 

The album title came from an inside joke within the band regarding Eric Clapton wanting to buy a road racing bicycle. Disraeli was a past Prime Minister of England, and one of the band’s roadies referred to the bike as having “Disraeli” gears, when he really meant “derailleur” gears. The band found the snafu so funny, they decided make it their new album title. …I guess you had to be there.

The Beatles (original master recording and white vinyl edition)

Unofficially known as the “White Album” because of its plain white cover, The Beatles was the beginning of the end for The Fab Four. The recording sessions were marred with many arguments over creative differences. John Lennon started bringing Yoko Ono to the studio with him, which the band had always had a policy of never bringing wives or girlfriends to the recording sessions. At one point, Ringo Starr walked out the studio and for a short period, it was rumored he may have left the band (of course, he later returned).

It’s strange how so many bands, during some of their most turbulent times in the studio, produce some of their most brilliant albums. The Beatles’ “White Album” was no exception. Even if one doesn’t consider this album one of the Beatles’ best, it can’t be denied that it is their most varied in musical styles. 

The first pressings of The Beatles, had a pure white cover, with the band’s name embossed on the cover. Later pressings, like this original master and the one pressed on white vinyl, had the band’s name printed in gray letters. The original master did not include any of the extras that came with both the original release and the white vinyl Edition.

When I sit down to seriously listen to the “White Album”, I will always put on the original master version. When I’m doing other things and it’s more or less playing in the background, I usually put on the white vinyl edition, just because I think it’s cooler.