by Robert Wilkinson
Today we celebrate the birthday of three unique and special musical talents, all of them fantastic songwriters who were pioneers at what they did!
We’ll begin with the great Arthur Lee. Arthur Lee (March 7, 1945 – August 3, 2006) was a pioneer of the LA progressive rock scene, and inspired much of what happened out there through his band Love. Producer and multi-instrumentalist, his was somewhat of a tragic story of flying too high and then crashing too hard.
A genius who wrote some very dark and brooding music, the album “Forever Changes” is generally considered a masterpiece to this day. It’s been one of my favorite albums of all time, but it does leave me in a strange emotional space each time. Released in late 1967, it was written and recorded during the legendary “Summer of Love,” but painted a darker picture of the counterculture than any of the other psychedelic offerings of the time.
To note, Rolling Stone magazine ranked "Forever Changes" 40th in its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. NME puts it 6th, and many reviewers across the years feel it's one of the top three of all time. From AllMusic,
"Forever Changes" is also an album that heralds the last days of a golden age and anticipates the growing ugliness that would dominate the counterculture in 1968 and 1969; images of violence and war haunt "A House Is Not a Motel," the street scenes of "Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hillsdale" reflects a jaded mindset that flower power could not ease, the twin specters of race and international strife rise to the surface of "The Red Telephone," romance becomes cynicism in "Bummer in the Summer," the promise of the psychedelic experience decays into hard drug abuse in "Live and Let Live," and even gentle numbers like "Andmoreagain" and "Old Man" sound elegiac, as if the ghosts of Chicago and Altamont were visible over the horizon as Love looked back to brief moments of warmth. Forever Changes is inarguably Love’s masterpiece and an album of enduring beauty, but it's also one of the few major works of its era that saw the dark clouds looming on the cultural horizon, and the result was music that was as prescient as it was compelling.
And from Wikipedia, a final note:
In an obituary of Lee in early 2007, Kandia Crazy Horse of Vibe Magazine wrote that "'Forever Changes' (was) his psychedelic masterpiece ... an exhilarating mash-up of West Side freak folk with East Side mariachi and blues. Lee out-jangles his heroes the Byrds on the immortal 'Alone Again Or' and aims his symphonic trigger dead at the Beatles on his greatest work, 'You Set the Scene.' In total, a glorious song cycle exploring the dark side of hippiedom."
For your consideration, the dark, brooding genius of Arthur Lee.
First, a very rare find! Here's Arthur and Love on what looks to be "Where the Action Is" with Dick Clark hosting. Yes, that's Bryan looking very young, and Johnny looking very guitar-y! Welcome to Love as they do a "live" performance of "Little Red Book"
Here's Arthur live in Glasonbury in 2003. performing a tune from his masterpiece album "Forever Changes," the haunting "A House Is Not A Motel."
Also from 2003, Arthur in a live performance of his very late 1967 Beatlesque closer from "Forever Changes," "You Set The Scene." As trippy today as it was then.....
Now we go to the studio work. We’ll begin with Arthur Lee’s masterpiece. If you don’t listen to any other Arthur Lee compositions, this is the one to check out! Here’s the entire album “Forever Changes” in its magnificent uniqueness. From November 1967, it’s haunting to this day. “Love – Forever Changes”
From January 1967, the second Love album (featuring their hit “7 and 7 Is”): “Love – Da Capo”
From April 1966, the very first Love album (featuring “My Little Red Book”): “Love – the First Album”
We’ll now turn the spotlight to a legend of “outlaw country” music, Townes Van Zandt. Townes Van Zandt (March 7, 1944 – January 1, 1997) was another tragic figure, and struggled with bipolar disorder, drug addiction, and alcoholism throughout his life. His music is so good that it’s been covered by such major talents as Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, Norah Jones, Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, Cowboy Junkies, Robert Plant, and Alison Krauss. While you may not have known he wrote some of what these talents made into hits, his music is unique!
First, his greatest and best known song! Here’s Saint Willie and Merle Haggard on PBS performing the number 1 hit, "Pancho and Lefty."
From 2000, here’s Willie and Emmylou Harris in a duet performing “Pancho and Lefty”
Here’s the official music video with Willie and Merle Haggard performing “Pancho and Lefty”
From 1993 on TNN's "American Music Shop," here’s Townes performing in 1993 on TNN's "American Music Shop": “Pancho and Lefty”
Townes live performing "For the Sake of the Song"
From 2007, the great Guy Clark in a live performance of Townes’ "To Live is to Fly"
From the Townes Van Zandt tribute show, here’s Nanci Griffith doing Townes’ “Tecumseh Valley"
Here’s an audio-only performance by Nanci Griffith and Arlo Guthrie of “Tecumseh Valley”
Here’s Emmylou Harris, Stevie Earle, and Townes live performing the song she took to number 3 on the charts, Townes’ beautiful composition "If I Needed You”
From San Antonio in 1993, Townes performing “Marie”
From Live At The Old Quarter in 1973, an audio-only performance by Townes of “Lungs”
A legendary song from his first album way back when. Here’s Townes in a live performance of “Waitin’ Around to Die”
Here’s Townes performing an audio-only version of “Cowboy Junkie’s Lament”
Townes live doing “The Catfish Song”
Towns live doing “Brother Flower”
From Germany in 1994, Townes live doing “Blaze’s Blues”
For our closing two-fer, we have a couple of tune from 1984’s “Austin Pickers.” First, a duet by Townes Van Zandt and Blaze Foley
Also from “Austin Pickers,” here’s Townes telling some stories and doing his version of the Boss’ hit “Racing In the Streets”
For our encore, we have a clip from the Austin Music Network in January 1995! Here’s 53 minutes of the Townes Van Zandt Solo Sessions Jan 17, 1995
Here’s a website dedicated to all of Townes’ songs performed by others: The Townes Van Zandt Lonestar Webstation
We close our birthday tributes today with a huge Happy Birthday to Chris White, bass player and songwriter for the British Invasion group the Zombies. While Rod Argent wrote most of their hits, such as “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No,” and “Time of the Season,” Chris White (7 March 1943) also contributed some breathtakingly beautiful tunes, as well as one that was banned and an early Zombies obscurity that became a huge hit for “People!” called “I Love You.”
The Zombies were one of the most underrated groups ever to hit the scene, and in some respects were creative geniuses with a distinct sound that still holds up to this day. Their 1968 album “Odessey and Oracle” was voted number 80 on the Rolling Stone list of the top 500 albums of all time. After they broke up, Chris continued to work with Rod when the latter went on to form the group “Argent,” co-writing their biggest hit “Hold Your Head Up.” He was also instrumental in discovering Dire Straits and making sure we could enjoy the genius of Mark Knopfler. So here's a huge Happy Birthday to the work of the great Chris White!
From the Zombies’ first US album, the audio-only studio version of Chris White tunes! The first is classic British invasion rave up with Rod’s organ front and center!!
Also from the first album, “I Don’t Want to Know”
From the UK first album, more British invasion Chris White tunes!
(Often back in the mid-60s what was released in the UK had different tracks than albums released in the US. The Beatles’ first few albums are a prime example of this.)
A few more from the mid-60s!
Here's a rare find! It's the Zombies VERY early in their career performing live in France! No black outfits yet, and they sound like they're still trying to polish their sound. For your enjoyment, a Zombies cover of the Isley Brothers' hit, This Old Heart of Mine"
Here’s Chris White’s mega number one hit by the People! You'll remember this obscure gem! “I Love You”
Here’s the original 1965 studio version by the Zombies of “I Love You”
And now, the psychedelic masterpiece “Odessey and Oracle,” also written in the Summer of Love in 1967 and released in early 1968, complete with the tracks in order! This has been another of my favorite albums across the years. Chris White (CW) compositions and Rod Argent (RA) compositions are noted.
“Care of Cell 44” (RA)
“A Rose For Emily” (RA)
"Beechwood Park" (CW)
“Brief Candles” (CW)
“Hung Up On A Dream” (RA)
“Butcher’s Tale (Western Front 1914)” (CW – sung by Chris White)
“Friends of Mine” (CW)
“Time of the Season” (RA)
Since I first posted this, I found the entire album at one link. So for your listening pleasure, with no breaks to switch tracks, here's the entire masterpiece by the Zombies, "Odessey and Oracle.
From “the Midnight Special” in 1973, here’s the band Argent in a live performance of the Argent-White composition from the album “All Together Now,” “Hold Your Head Up”
From the same album, here’s Argent live in 2010 doing the Argent-White tune “Keep On Rollin’”
Though many of the tunes weren’t written by Chris, the album “In Deep” has some of the best Argent tunes ever released. So for your enjoyment, here’s the entire album. Chris and Rod Argent wrote songs 4, 5, 6, and 7, so enjoy!
For our finale today, we'll return to the Zombies performing their biggest hits live back in the mid-60s! Of course, Chris is the bass player.
First, “She’s Not There”
Live on Hullaballoo in the mid-60s, their second huge hit, “Tell Her No”
Live from the Hippodrome in 1966, here are the Zombies live doing “Got To Get Ahold Of Myself”
And for the encore, from Shindig in 1965, the Zombies live doing a very exciting rave up rocker, “It’s Alright By Me”
So Happy RIP to the two greats who have already checked out and left the building, and a big Happy to Chris White who still rocks on! Thanks for the songs, gentlemen. You three are among the best of all!
Copyright © 2013 Robert Wilkinson