Season of the Witch

If memory serves me correctly, I was at a jam in Lawrence, KS the first time I can consciously remember hearing this 1966 song by Donovan. It is a great jam song — it’s not too fast, it’s not too complicated, and you can play the A minor pentatonic scale over it.

I like the lyrics…it’s kind of a funky, 60s vibe to it. Great for altering/improvising your own lyrics as well. I like to refer to the tune as “Season of the Wee-otch.” While researching the many different covers of this one, I found a great one by Richard Thompson.

You can hear Thompson’s unique vocal stamp on this one and, around the 4 minute mark, his unique guitar stamp as well. I counted at least fifty different versions of this song. I thought it was interesting to hear a version by Lou Rawls as well.

In recent years, a less-jammy yet still groovy version was released by Lana Del Ray.

If you have a favorite band, chances are, they’ve played this if not recorded as well. Just a few other musicians who have recorded it include Joan Jett, Vanilla Fudge, Stephen Stills/Al Kooper, Dr. John and The Blues Brothers. Somewhere along the way I read that Led Zeppelin used to play this a lot during their pre-show soundchecks.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Paperback Writer

When I think of this Beatles’ classic from 1966, the harmony is the first thing to pop into my mind. However, there are other interesting elements including a bit of “Frère Jacques” towards the end.. I found a vocal-less version on YouTube and enjoyed listening to the instrumental track as a rocker in and of itself. (No one can mistake this for Karaoke!)

This track moves quickly so it’s easy to miss all of the elements. I’ve always liked the guitar riff in this song as well.

Then there’s the bass of Paul McCartney. There’s a really cool bass lick around 1:50.

It wouldn’t be complete without the, you know, full-on complete version.

You can also find the “isolated vocals” version out there as well. I would have to pick 1966 as my personal favorite year of “Beatledom.” They wrapped up their last tour and were starting to focus their efforts on studio work. This single was released a few months before the “Revolver” album, which is my personal favorite. It’s almost like this effort hinted at what was still to come. The flip side of this single (“Rain”) is an overlooked track which has some of the same elements as “Paperback Writer”: great harmony, and great rhythm section. A bit of backwards guitar on it as well. “Revolver” features more of the same.

Since The Beatles broke up in 1970, I think we should refer to 1966 as “the Year 4 Pre-Beatles Breakup.” Or should it be the Year 4 Pre-B.B. — the year 4 Pre-B.B.U? 1974, on the other hand, would be “the Year 4 Post Beatles Breakup. or the Year 4 Post B.B.U.” I think it may catch on, but I could be wrong.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Arpeggios and Animals

I was fooling around with the guitar riff to John Lee Hooker’s classic tune “Boom Boom”, which led me to the version by The Animals. Their take on it is a bit more pop, but Mickie Most produced their self-titled debut album so I should thank my lucky stars it didn’t come out sounding like “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.” Yikes! It got me to thinking about The Animals as a band. Like a lot of people, “House of the Rising Sun” is the song that turned me onto them. I think the appeal of that song in particular is the vocals of Eric Burdon, the spooky minor key thing, and the simple-but-memorable arpeggio guitar part played by Hilton Valentine.

I enjoyed reading Hilton’s bio on his website ( http://www.hiltonvalentine.com/bio.html), especially the part about him learning from a book called “Teach Yourself A Thousand Chords”. I had one called “How to Play Guitar” by Roger Evans among others. It’s actually a great reference on the guitar in general. (Ironically, “House of the Rising Sun” was in there.)

If you look at the track listing on The Animals’ first album it’s probably typical of a lot of stuff being played around the same time by the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Pretty Things, and other British bands. It includes covers of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Fats Domino.

The Animals had a unique sound. It was bluesy, maybe even “gritty,” but also featured the keyboards of Alan Price. Of course you can’t talk about The Animals without mentioning bass player Chas Chandler — he went onto manage Jimi Hendrix. John Steel rounded out the band on drums.

“House of the Rising Sun” had a big impact on me. I can remember trying to figure out ALL of the lyrics. I finally found a guitar method book which cleared them up for me, but pre-internet it wasn’t easy. It’s funny to think about the influence of guitar books now, but it got Hilton Valentine and many others like him playing.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

“My Dinner with Jimi”

I stumbled across this Rhino Films effort in the public library a few years ago and was fortunate enough to find it again on some free streaming channel recently. If you are a fan of Sixties Rock, it is a must see! The story was written by Howard Kaylan of Turtles fame and takes viewers on a point of view ride through a swingin’ scene. It’s a fun film. It starts on the Sunset Strip where The Doors are opening for The Turtles. Before they leave America, though, Kaylan deals with his draft card and rubs elbows with other musicians like Frank Zappa, Mama Cass, and more.

The film centers around The Turtles’ trip to London, England. (I’ve never really explored that band, but they had some hits like “Happy Together.” I mean you have to give them some credit — especially when you think about who else was in the charts. ) When they finally get to London Town they start by hanging out with Graham Nash and Donovan, then bump into none other than The Beatles in a local hot spot. This was the day before the release of the epic Sgt. Pepper album.

As the evening progresses, the band mingles with a couple of The Moody Blues and Kaylan meets Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones. Jones introduces him to Jimi Hendrix and, as the title implies, they have dinner and wrap about playing music, enlightenment, and beautiful women. What’s interesting to me about this film is it sucks you in and puts you right in the middle of all that groovy-ness. Not only that, but the conversations just feel real to me. A couple of familiar actors appear in this film including George Wendt and John Corbett. An actor named Royale Watkins plays Jimi Hendrix and I think he does a good of capturing Hendrix’s speech patterns. I’ve seen a lot of films about different bands and documentaries about Sixties rock, but this is the only film I can recall about that is anecdotal. Basically, it’s not the same ole news footage and clips of Monterey Pop.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

White Bike-Psych

The Sixties — more specifically the Summer of Love (1967) — produced some interesting art and music. To me, there’s something appealing about the whole psychedelic thing. Spirals, kaleidoscopes, vivid colors, and Indian-influenced music. Apparently the origin of psychedelic is supposed to mean “soul revealing” or “mind manifesting.” Whoa, man, that’s heavy. (For the record, the only acid I’ve ever “dropped” was the saclicylic kind — commonly known as Compound W — you know, plantar wart removal.)

In any event, I find it hard to separate the music and the imagery — maybe that’s because I enjoy them both. I thought about doing a list of my favorite or all-time best songs in this category, but decided to start with a hidden gem called “My White Bicycle” by a British band called Tomorrow.

The song has a definite trippy, Indian feel to it — thanks in part to the backwards instrumentation on it and the whispered echoes of “My White Bicycle.” (More about the origin of the song in a moment.) When you hear the words “white bicycle” you automatically get an image of one. Maybe that’s part of the appeal of the psychedelic thing, too — putting a trippy spin on something ordinary.

The first time I heard this song was riding in the car with my cousins at Lake of the Ozarks. It was on an 8-track tape with Nazareth’s harder rock version.

It’s a different interpretation from the original, but I’m living proof that Nazareth kept this song alive and spread it to the masses. Osage Beach, Missouri is a long way from Abbey Road (where Tomorrow originally recorded the song. Tomorrow featured a pre-Yes Steve Howe on guitar.)

Apparently the song was inspired by an Amsterdam anarchist outfit called The Provos. They wanted to alleviate traffic by leaving free, white bicycles at the disposal of their countrymen among other things.

If you don’t like the song or the psychedelic thing, hopefully, you’ll get a chuckle out of this novelty version featuring Neil the Hippie (Nigel Planer) from 1980s British TV comedy The Young Ones.

If you enjoy parody and/or psychedelia, you must seek out “Neil’s Heavy Concept Album.” Great title. “My White Bicycle” was written by Tomorrow band members Keith Hopkins and Ken Burgess. To put it into perspective, I even found pics of John and Yoko with a Provo White Bike.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon.