Moon in June

20160620_070112921_iOS“On a dilemma between what I need and what I just want…

… She sees you in her place, just as if it’s a race

And you’re winning, and you’re winning

She just can’t understand that for me everything’s just beginning…

… So before this feeling dies, remember how distance tells us lies”

By Robert Wyatt, “Moon in June” from the Soft Machine LP “Third”, 1970

Is there really anything that is truly merely coincidence? This month is June, 2016. And earlier this week we experienced something that had not occurred since the Summer of Love, 1967: the full moon appearing on the northern hemisphere’s Summer solstice. And I awoke the morning after with Soft Machine’s, “Moon in June”, becoming that day’s earworm. This 19-minute song has reverberated in my mind since the night before Thanksgiving, 1971, when it ran constantly in my head while tripping at a party. And it has been quite relevant “in my life now and then”; or now as well as then. It is a strange thing, this interplay between self and sound. And we can learn from these experiences. Perhaps earworms provide a means for our subconscious to elucidate something that we need to learn. After all, if we look around us we can see that everything and everyone are potential teachers – people, animals, plants (especially plants), inanimate objects, chemicals, coacervate molecules, music, aleatoric sounds, time, space, dreams, free range thoughts.

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Now, I am not going to expound upon “Moon In June” although it is tempting to do so. It is not the only song that has grabbed my attention during an altered state, or has become an earworm.

There have been evenings,

and a few days,

where somehow

out of the bewildering haze,

I associated altered moments

with specific waves,

of songs,

whether it be “Do You Believe in Magic” by The Lovin’ Spoonful, “The Rain, The Park, and Everything” by The Cowsills, “Dark Star” by The Grateful Dead, the Quicksilver Messenger Service album “Happy Trails,” or even more recently the album “Hello Nasty” by The Beastie Boys. This raises an issue that used to be discussed among my college buddies back in the early 70s:

“What is psychedelic music?”

The late Paul Kantner once said psychedelic music is simply any music listened to while tripping. Although I respect Kantner as an artist and political catalyst, I am not so sure that I agree with his definition. For me, there is music that takes me outside the realm of the time and space packet I exist within (typically called reality), and this is what I would call psychedelic. It is something that takes me out of this reality and into other realities, or non-realities. And the same song may do this on one occasion and not on another, depending upon the ambiance, my approach, and the conditions existing at that moment. So, for me, no one music genre or style is psychedelic but any can be. Yet, there are some compositions that when I hear them, I know they are psychedelic, hands down. It is sort of like the definition of pornography offered by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in 1964 in Jacobellis v. Ohio: “I know it when I see it.”

But that is a personal definition. In the attempt to find a definition that would be workable for anyone, I believe psychedelic music can be described in different categories:

  • Overt psychedelia: this music is either created under the influence of psychedelics, or is an attempt to describe within a musical context the composer’s or performer’s psychedelic experience. A good example of overt psychedelia would be the album, “Electric Music for the Mind and Body” by Country Joe and The Fish, from 1967. The highlight and most exemplary selection from this album would be the song “Bass Strings”, with the lyrics “Just one more trip now, you know I’ll stay high all the time.” What is interesting about this song is that it ends with Country Joe McDonald whispering repeatedly “L-S-D” over very trippy music. This leaves no doubt as to what the band was attempting to convey. Sometimes it is not the words, but the musical sounds that directly convey that what you are hearing is a re-creation of a psychedelic experience, such as in Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive”. These are just two examples, but I am sure the reader can come up with many more.

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  • Discreet or subtle psychedelia: here neither the music nor the lyrics can be interpreted just one way, but one of the ways would be to describe a psychedelic experience. Examples can be found going back as far as 1830 with Hector Berlioz’ “Symphonie Fantastique,” or perhaps even earlier. Berlioz may have been writing to describe his passion for a particular woman, or he could have been describing his experiences under the influence of opiates, or both. In the 1960s, The Byrds recorded “Eight Miles High” which generally describes the band’s first Atlantic flight to and arrival in the United Kingdom to perform for their British fans. Upon its release in 1965 the song was banned by several US radio stations because it sounded like the “trip” described in the song was actually a chemically induced trip. The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” may have been an intentional reference to LSD, or it could simply be what John Lennon said it represented: a drawing by his then four-year-old son, Julian, and tapping into “Alice in Wonderland” imagery. Of course, Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson), the author of “Alice in Wonderland,” has often been associated with psychedelics, but there is no indication he ever indulged in any mind-altering substances, while there is evidence that he suffered with a form of epilepsy.

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  • Inferred (or designated) psychedelia: could be considered a cop-out definition, I suppose. Basically it is any music that an individual considers psychedelic. In this sense, Paul Kantner’s definition works, since a person could be listening to anything while tripping and from that point onward associate the composition with a psychedelic experience. I could also apply this to my experience with “Moon In June”. I have found Jim DeRogatis’ book, “Turn On Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock” to be quite an enlightening guide on modern psychedelic rock. At first, I questioned some of his choices, but then I realized that psychedelia “is in the eye of the beholder.” In other ways, I think he limited himself too much, for there are recordings that fall under the genres of classical, country, folk, exotica, and jazz that I consider to have psychedelic elements. In classical, I consider Richard thIBUU3PSYWagner’s “Tannhauser Overture and Venusberg Music” as well as the electronic composition “Time’s Encomium” by Charles Wuorinen, to be very psychedelic. Under country, I would say David Allan Coe’s album, “Requiem for a Harlequin,” is a fine example. In folk, Dylan’s song, “Visions of Johanna,” would qualify as well as Jake Holmes’ “Dazed and Confused.” As for jazz, Herbie Hancock’s album “Sextant” as well as Miles Davis’ “Bitches’ Brew” have psychedelic elements. Ethel Azama’s “Exotic Dreams” LP would be an example of exotic psychedelia. I could cite many more examples in all genres.

 

  • There would also be a category I would call “pseudo-psychedelia”, which masquerades as overt psychedelia but is simply a fake. Pseudo-psychedelic music often has similar characteristics but instead of reflecting an authentic psychedelic The-First-Edition-Just-Dropped-Inexperience, it often overstates sounds and lyrics, since it is not based on real experience. An example, from 1967, would be the song “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” written by Mickey Newbury and popularized by The First Edition. Interestingly, Jerry Lee Lewis recorded a version of this song prior to the more popular version. While the intention of this song was to describe a scary trip in order to discourage the use of LSD, it ended up being derided as phony and treated as a humorous parody. A sub-category of pseudo-psychedelic music that found its way to the late 60s bargain bins and grocery store check-out stands would be exploito-psychedelic albums such as The Animated Egg’s untitled album from 1967. This recording was created by a collection of studio musicians under the leadership of surf guitar ace, Jerry Cole. In fact, it is suspected that many releases on the Alshire, Somerset, Custom, and related labels with various animatedegg“band” names contained Jerry Cole compositions, and often the same recordings appeared on different albums under different titles, including on albums by The Id, “The Inner Sounds of The Id”; The Generation Gap, “Up Up and Away”; and The Projection Company, “Give Me Some Lovin’.” There are several others. Even Muzak specialists, 101 Strings, got in the game with their album “Astro-Sounds”. None of these supposed bands ever performed anywhere except in the studio to create fake psychedelic music.
  • But in some instances, pseudo-psychedelia can be psychedelic, but not based upon the innate characteristics of the music, but based upon environment and other variables. Those that come to mind include Fire & Ice, Ltd. “The Happening”, from 1966, excerpts of which appear on the 1966 documentary LP “LSD” on Capitol Records. Two more with similar names include The Fire Escape’s LP, “Psychotic Reaction”, and The Firebirds’ LP, “Light My Fire”. The latter has a sister release, “Hair,” by the band, The 31 Flavors but it really sounds like additional music from the th2PMT1QGKsame recording sessions. One of the most humorous of such recordings is from a band named The Unfolding, with an outrageous LP title, “How To Blow Your Mind & Have A Freak-Out Party” complete with printed instructions for your very own freak-out party. The California Poppy Pickers (another outrageous band name) actually released four country rock LPs, all in 1969. While they never performed publicly and were merely a collective of studio musicians, the label hired an actual performing band to record their last album “Honky Tonk Women”. The band was in reality an early Christian rock band, Wilson McKinley, that used the proceeds from this album to fund their Christian music endeavors.

So, to conclude this discussion of psychedelic music, perhaps we should simply leave it to each person to decide the definition that works best for them. Then again, how many really think about such things when they listen to music? Probably a fewer number than those who think about the moon in June.

In Other News

Well now, let me come back from the world of LSD to the present and what I have been seeing in San Diego. The month began with the Art Around Adams 2016 music and art walk. There seemed to be more stages and more artists packed into this one-day event (Saturday, June 4) than I can recall in previous years. I probably saw less than a tenth of the artists performing. But what I did see was very impressive. All were excellent, and all very different.

I started at the Kensington Library Park stage, enjoying the music of singer/songwriter Kimm Rogers, who was accompanied by Beezie Gerber. Many of the songs were from her excellent recent album “Where the Pavement Grows” but some dipped back to her two albums on Island Records from the early 90s, “Soundtrack of My Life” and “Two Sides.” It was a great way to begin the day.

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Kimm Rogers with Beezie Gerber

Next, I moved to the Blindspot Records stage by Smitty’s Garage to see The Elements, a new four-member band started by Bart Mendoza with another familiar face on keyboards, David Fleminger. These guys were tight, and on fire with excellent self-penned modern pop-rock as well as 60s standards. You would think all of them had been playing together for years.

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The Elements

I then paid a visit to Rosie O’Grady’s to hear Zach Cole with Eric Freeman performing some basic country blues with Eric on acoustic guitar and Zachary on blues harp. This reminded me of Tomcat Courtney’s performances I enjoy from time-to-time on Thursdays at Proud Mary’s.

Left photo: Zach Cole with Eric Freeman  Right photo: NST

At the Integrative Health Stage I caught part of the performance by jazz group, NST, reading poetry accompanied by drums, sax and bass. Quite interesting, but it was super-hot with no shade available. So, I moved on to DeMille’s to have lunch, rehydrate, and prepare for harpO, followed by Alvino & The Dwells at the DeMille’s Beer Garden stage. This was the first time seeing harpO, a tight blues-rock band. I would not mind seeing them again. When Alvino & The Dwells plugged-in, they blew the sky open with cosmic surf music that was at once fresh and new, as well as taking me back to the 60s. They always provide a great show.

Left: harpO      Right: Alvino & The Dwells

I then moved back to the Blindspot Records stage to see The Cherry Bluestorms, followed by The Schizophonics, then Jason Hanna and The Bullfighters, and finally Hills Like Elephants. These four bands are so different from one another that it is quite surprising they were performing on the same stage. And yet the audience stayed for most of it. The Cherry Bluestorms were very mod/pop-rock with original tunes, and quite accomplished playing. They piqued my interest enough to pick up their latest CD, “Bad Penny Opera,” which by-the-way, is excellent.

Left: Jason Hanna and The Bullfighters

Top Right: The Cherry Bluestorms   Bottom Right: Hills Like Elephants

Schizophonics were, well, schizoid. My gawd! Guitarist Pat Beers is simply unbelievable to watch. I actually was hoping he had a spare guitar waiting in the wings because I was certain the one he was playing was going to be destroyed when he jumped, fell, sprung-back, and rolled-over, while never missing a note. Wait, were they notes? It was all such a blur. He is explosive! Guitar sounds of Jimi Hendrix, visuals a mix of Pete Townshend and Iggy Pop, and a band sound similar to MC5 from their live “Kick Out the Jams” album. I do want to know if Lety Beers took drum lessons from Mitch Mitchell. Sure sounded like it. I did not catch the bass player’s name but God bless him, he kept up with it all and successfully improvised when Pat experienced audio problems with the equipment. Their performance was the highlight of the day for me.

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Schizophonics

Next came a huge band, Jason Hanna and The Bullfighters; I mean like, a 10-piece unit, including two go-go dancers. We were suddenly transported to 1964 and the reign of the Tijuana Brass on pop radio. With backing sax, trombone, and trumpet plus bass, guitar, drums, marimba, and a lead singer/trumpeter, they went through a repertoire that would make Herb Alpert proud, including the TJB hit, “Spanish Flea”. What a fun bunch!

What followed was modern alternative jangle rock by Hills Like Elephants with expressive lyrics and fine playing – but it was getting late and so I left before the end of their set. It was another great Adams Avenue event put to rest.

Thursday night, June 16, found us at Riviera Supper Club’s Turquoise Room in La Mesa. Performing was Liz Grace and the Swing Thing. That evening the band consisted of Liz Grace on vocals and Jon Garner on guitar. Jon is an excellent jazz player and is always fun to watch – things I never learned to do he can make look so easy. Listening to Liz sing is pure joy as she performed popular songs from the 40s through the 60s. Liz’ other band, Three Chord Justice, does all country, yet she seems comfortable in both genres. I do think she is one of the most versatile and accomplished local singers I’ve heard in San Diego. Later Liz’ husband, Mark Markowitz, stopped in and visited with us as we listened to the band. It was an enjoyable evening.

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Liz Grace and The Swing Thing

On Friday, June 17, I began the weekend at Java Joe’s. Performers that evening included Dave Humphries with Mike Alvarez, followed by Sara Petite, and ending with Jacques Mees. This was an evening of varied styles that seemed to fit nicely side-by-side. With Dave Humphries on guitar and lead vocals, and Mike Alvarez on cello and backing vocals we were treated to a collection of 60s British invasion pop/rock standards as well as recent songs penned by Dave Humphries and The Hollywood Project. I never get tired of his performances.

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Top: Dave Humphries with Mike Alvarez   Middle: Sara Petite   Bottom: Jacques Mees

I had heard a lot about Sara Petite but had never heard her perform. What a pleasant surprise! With a beautiful voice straight out of Nashville, she performed all originals providing stories of personal experiences leading into her songs. I could tell I was witnessing a truly old soul inhabiting a younger body. Sara pulled no punches with her honest and revealing stories. Beautiful.

Jacques Mees’ performance was the highlight of the evening, which is really saying something. Again performing several personally penned songs, as well as tapping into such modern folk venerables as Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Susanna Clark. He is another storyteller who shared his wisdom in song. When it was over I walked back to the car with a contact high.

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Well that does it. If I am to get this out I have to end it here. I do want to dedicate this to jazz singer Shelley Moore, who lost her battle with cancer this week. She was the mother of my good friend, the late Bryna Golden, founding member of goth-psych band Babylonian Tiles. I got to know Shelley through Bryna. She was a warm and giving person, and thanks to Bryna I had the great fortune of seeing her perform in Santa Ana a few times about 10 years ago. R.I.P. Shelley.

 

Tripping, and Stumbling, in the Dim Light Fantastic

“There are only forty people in the world and five of them are hamburgers.”
Captain Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet), from Rolling Stone interview by Langdon Winner, May 14, 1970

There has been a ton of activity in the 7stones uni-verse lately and it has been hard for this Popeswami to keep up. Going back the past couple months, there have been two tremendous music events we have attended. And, there is other important stuff to talk about as well, so let me get right down “tuit”.

Women in Jazz

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The 6th annual Women in Jazz performance occurred at 98 Bottles, Saturday evening, March 28. The objective of this event is to highlight Women’s History Month and the music of female composers. The local all-female jazz players included: Allison Adams Tucker, voice; Steph Johnson, voice & guitar; Ellen Weller, flute & saxes; Melonie Grinnell, piano; Jodie Hill, bass; and Laurel Grinnell, drums.
Let me just say that this was mind blowing! Such talent! Melonie Grinnell, while a very shy personality, was very vocal and articulate through the ivories, with some jaw-dropping solo work as well as supportive ensemble playing. Steph Johnson just has to be one of the most soulful guitarist/singers I’ve seen locally, with a style all her own. Her gregarious personality shows through her playing and singing. She is really fun to watch. Ellen Weller brought a more academic, music conservatory approach, often veering into the avant-garde in her arrangements. One of her compositions reminded me of Cecil Taylor’s jazz experiments – a brilliant, calculating, free/modal jazz number, and the other players were right with her. Allison Adams Tucker has a beautiful voice, and her version of Bernstein’s “Somewhere” from West Side Story got me really emotional… or was it her in combination with the band’s impeccable interpretation? Allison’s sweet, pure voice was a nice balance to Steph’s more bluesy singing style. Drummer Laurel Grinnell is very young – I would guess early 20s, but her time on the drum stool sounds like decades of experience. The amazing thing about this ensemble is that other than rehearsing for this show, they had never played together! You would never know if they had not said it. We left the event totally blissed-out!

Spring Harp Fest

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Cadillac Wreckers

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Lance Dieckmann & Bayou Brothers

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Bubba McCoy

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Zachary Cole

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Chet Cannon & The Committee

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Billy Watson

The 16th Annual Spring Harp Fest was held at Harry Griffen Regional Park on Saturday, April 4. It was a beautiful day, bright and sunny but with mild temperatures – perfect for an outdoor festival. We got there early, and had to leave late in the afternoon to take care of other responsibilities, but at least we got to see most of the local acts we came to see. The festival opened with Cadillac Wreckers, featuring Dane Terry on blues harp. As expected, they were tight with great harp playing by Dane. Dana Duplan, on guitar, was excellent as ever, and the rhythm section was tight. Next up was Lance Dieckmann with the Bayou Brothers. This was a powerful set with a mix of blues and zydeco, which worked nicely together. Lance is one of the most powerful blues harpists I’ve ever heard, and a powerful blues singer as well. Next up was Bubba McCoy, featuring Big Jon Atkinson on guitar, who would later front his own band, The Nationals, on blues harp. Bubba did some excellent harp work as well as some gutsy singing. As his own promo says, “Bubba has a square head and sounds like it!”. The last set before noon was Zachary Cole, another powerful harpist with a great rhythm section and a singer who put his heart and soul into it.
After lunch and the unknown players jam, Chet Cannon and The Committee provided another great set. Chet is another great blues harpist who is also a powerful vocalist. For whatever the reason, he reminds me of Burl Ives, if Burl had let it all hang out and got into the blues big time. And finally, we saw Billy Watson’s set. Billy is another great harpist – and with a great sense of humor! He is a very animated player with a tremendous band, The International Silver String Submarine Band.
That’s where we had to leave it, missing locals Troy Sandow, Big Jon Atkinson & the Nationals, featured star player – nationally known Kim Wilson, and more locals Steve Bulger & 145th Street, and Harmonica John Frazer. Maybe next year.
I would be hard pressed to pick a best of the day, but the most enjoyable set for me was Lance Dieckmann and Bayou Brothers. But there was something about every set that was exciting for me.

Other Happenings

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Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse

I have been into the weeds at work, flying all over the country, training, auditing, writing, revising – all so that I can bring home the Pork Soda.
I also entertained a friend and old colleague I used to work with in Ohio over 15 years ago. Since then we both left the Buckeye State – he to owning a resort on Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and me to California. Had a great time last Saturday. Sunday, however, is something else. We took a road trip to the mountains – another gloriously beautiful day. However, our lunch on the road brought me food poisoning, causing me to miss 2½ days of work and cram a week’s worth of work into a half week, with many near-perfect storms, including technical malfunctions during the Webcast I hosted on Friday. I saved up my energy by not going anywhere after work (still wiped out after the food poisoning) and missing some great performances by some of my friends for the El Cajon Boulevard celebration at the Lafayette Hotel. Missing this and conserving energy was all so that we could enjoy the big Adams Avenue Unplugged event this weekend. I will write more on this in a future post.
In the meantime I picked up some amazing music in the form of CDs. My biggest find was a totally trippy album, “Wondrous Bughouse”, by Youth Lagoon, recorded in 2013. I heard Youth Lagoon on a community radio station in Brooklyn last week and just had to pick up a copy. Youth Lagoon is Trevor Powers, a San Diego native who now lives in Idaho. I don’t know what kind of mushrooms they grow in Idaho, but Trevor obviously has overdosed on them. This other-worldly swirling, dizzying recording will make you high without organics or chemicals. His voice is filtered through a vocoder with lyrics half-recognizable that speak of things metaphysical, when you can figure it out. I love this CD. Strongest similarity is the album “Start a People” by Black Moth Super Rainbow, which is another killer album that is essential in any modern psychedelic music collection. Other acquisitions include “The Making of Freak Out!”, a 4-CD collection of Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention’s first album from 1966. This is the first time the original vinyl recording has been accurately transferred to CD, plus you get 3 cd’s worth of outtakes, interviews, and other goodies. Also purchased were restorations of The Mothers of Invention albums “Absolutely Free”, “Lumpy Gravy” & “We’re Only In It For The Money” (in a 3-CD set called “Lumpy Money”), and “Greasy Love Songs” – which is actually the original LP version of “Cruising with Ruben & The Jets” with several extra goodies. And, then there are a couple CDs of one of my favorite alternative folk/bluegrass bands, Crooked Still, “Hop High” and “Shaken by a Low Sound”. Both are excellent and reflect some of the darker sides of Americana and folk/bluegrass, with excellent use of cello and the beautiful voice of Aoife O’Donovan.
Coming soon to my mailbox is the first authorized re-release of the late psych-pop private press eponymous LP of Michael Angelo (that’s actually Michael Angelo Nigro). The original master tapes were long lost and the Guinn label is no longer in existence. There were only 500 LPs issued in 1977. Void Records in Germany had done a horrible noise-reduction-remastering from an original LP about 10 years ago and it sounded like it was recorded under water. Beatbox in Korea did a CD release that was hopeful, but I discovered they used the Void LP to make the CD, which did nothing to help matters. This time Mexican Summer found a mint copy of the original Guinn LP and they promise that it will sound much improved over the Void & Beatbox versions. Let’s hope so. The music is so beautiful in a McCartney-esque manner that it deserves a decent reissue. I have ordered both the LP and CD, and they are on their way. I can’t wait!
And this catches up the past month’s worth of experiences and happenings – well almost all experiences. There was that time while playing Beastie Boys‘ “Hello Nasty” CD, but some things a Popeswami cannot reveal to those who have not undergone initiation.