1967 was The Summer Of Love. Everywhere in the country, peace, love and understanding abounded. The sounds of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” could be heard from every suburban street as kaftans became obligatory. The charts were full of great songs and life would never be the same again. Future society would be run by flower power children and we would all be free.
On 23rd February 1967, the Number One single in the UK charts was “This Is My Song” by Petula Clark. Other songs in the Top 20 included “Release Me” by Englebert Humperdinck, “Peek-A-Boo” by The New Vaudeville Band, “Snoopy vs The Red Baron” by The Royal Guardsmen, “I Won’t Come In While He’s There” by Jim Reeves, “Edeilweiss” by Vince Hill and “The Green Green Grass Of Home” by Tom Jones. There were only five albums that reached Number One in the UK Album Charts: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles and two Monkees albums – great! But also “The Sound Of Music” and “Val Doonican Rocks, But Gently”. It is easy, with hindsight, to look back on “The Summer Of Love” and “Swinging London” and assume that everything was groovy and fab but the truth is, as Jon Savage puts it, this was the year that pop divided. The generation gap was alive and well and the music that our parents liked was from a completely different era and genre. The charts reflected the divide and watching “Top Of The Pops” was very much a hit and miss affair. For example, on October 5th 1967, we got to see The Bee Gees, Traffic and The Herd, but also Englebert Humperdinck, The Seekers, The Barron Knights and Frankie Vaughan. That’s a real mixture and an accurate reflection of what was popular at the time.
A number of significant musical events occurred in 1967, apart from the singles and albums that were released. Pirate Radio was forced off the air by Tony Benn and the Wilson government. Radio 1 launched. Album sales exceeded single sales for the first time. By the end of the year, the musical centre of Western culture had shifted from London to San Francisco. It was a great year for singles and this fantastic compilation reflects the excellence that was common but it’s worth remembering that for every great song by The Buffalo Springfield, there was a real clunker from Englebert Humperdinck. Luckily, this 48 song compilation gathers together the very best of the singles from this tumultuous year. Some of the songs are very familiar. All of the lesser known songs are really very very good.
“So You Want To be A Rock’n’Roll Star” by The Byrds. This caustic look at how to become an overnight success in the music business is even more ironic, given that The Byrds themselves became instant stars with their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Hugh Masekela, sometimes referred to as “the father of South African Jazz” plays trumpet on this song.
“I’m A Man” by The Spencer Davis Group. Jimmy Miller was a producer who worked extensively with The Rolling Stones on all their albums between 1968 and 1973 and he co-wrote this song with Stevie Winwood who was a member of The Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and Blind Faith.
“The Beat Goes On” by Sonny & Cher. Sonny Bono’s gravestone is carved with the title of the song. Carol Kaye from The Wrecking Crew plays a sensational bass part on this song.
“Try It” by The Attack. Alan Whitehead from Marmalade and David O’List from the Nice were members of The Attack when this, their first single, was released. They released a version of “Hi Ho Silver Lining” a few weeks before Jeff Beck but it sank without trace.
“Levitation” by The Thirteenth Floor Elevators. They were the first group to refer to their music as “psychedelic” rock.
“The Behemoth” by The Shadows Of Knight. This four piece group from Chicago originally called themselves The Shadows but changed their name when they learned of the name of Cliff Richards’ backing group. This song is a great early example of raga-rock.
“Never Again” by The Action. Alan King went on to be in Ace, who had a hit in the 70s with “How Long”. Martin Stone played lead guitar and he went on to be a member of Savoy Brown, Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers, The Pink Fairies, the 101ers and many others. This is British psychedelic pop music at its very best.
“Take Me In Your Arms And Love Me” by Gladys Knight & The Pips. The erotic nature of the lyrics of this song caused it to be censored when her first album was released. Obviously, as a 12 year old, I had no idea what “This feeling is strong to hold / any second now I’ll explode” meant.
“Believe It Or Not” by Rex Garvin & The Mighty Cravers. This paean to LSD is extraordinary.
“Feelin’ Reelin’ Squeelin'” by The Soft Machine. This is completely off the wall and features a brilliant vocal performance by Kevin Ayers as well as some “singing” by Robert Wyatt.
“I Can Hear The Grass Grow” by The Move. Written by Roy Wood (who later went on to be in Wizzard) and produced by Denny Cordell (who also worked on albums by The Moody Blues, Procul Harum and Joe Cocker), this is a brilliant example of colourful accessible psychedelic pop music.
“Show Me” by Joe Tex. A song extolling the virtues of two people living together, just as long as the woman “tends to her good man at the end of the working day“.
“Groovin'” by The Young Rascals. If any song summed up the blissful sun drenched spirit of 1967, it’s this US Number One from the Jersey group, later known as, simply, The Rascals. The song was written by Felix Cavaliere and Edie Brigati and was inspired by the former’s girlfriend Adrienne Buccheri; he said “I believe she was divinely sent for the purpose of inspiring my creativity.” I tried saying that to Roo and her answer was succinct.
“So You Say You Lost Your Baby” by Gene Clark. Having written many of The Byrds’ early hits, Gene Clark’s solo career was not commercially successful but was critically well regarded. This single from his first solo album features Glen Campbell, The Wrecking Crew along with Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke from the Byrds.
“Western Union” by The Searchers. By 1967, the peak popularity of this Mersey band had passed but “Western Union” is one of their best singles.
“Soul Finger” by The Bar-Kays. Otis Redding’s future backing group had a minor hit with this instrumental. Sadly, four of the group were killed along with Otis Redding in the fateful plane crash in December 1967.
“Respect” by Aretha Franklin. Written and recorded by Otis Redding, this is a masterpiece. The phrase “sock it to me” was one that Aretha Franklin’s two sisters (who are the backing singers) often used.
“The Hand Don’t Fit The Glove” by Terry Reid with Peter Jay’s Jaywalkers. Terry Reid was 17 when he recorded this song. He was offered a role as lead singer in Jimmy Page’s New Yardbirds but turned it down because of other commitments. Robert Plant took the spot and the group transformed into Led Zeppelin.
“Night Of The Long Grass” by The Troggs. Reg Presley wrote this song while drinking a cup of tea so any idea that references to his brain melting in this spooky song could have anything to do with a drug stronger than caffeine must be rejected, despite the video.
“I’m Five Years Ahead Of My Time” by The Third Bardo. With a sound reminiscent of classic Them, The Third Bardo were a New York group who released just one single. It’s excellent with sneering vocals and a searing guitar line.
“So Sharp” by Dyke & The Blazers. Arlester Christian, who was the leader of this group, was murdered on a street in Phoenix four years after this single was released.
“Cold Sweat Pt 1” by James Brown & The Famous Flames. This song epitomises great funk with a sensational vocal, a wonderful sax solo, one of the first ever drum breaks and probably, only one chord.
“Mr. Soul” by The Buffalo Springfield. Neil Young ripped off the riff from “Satisfaction” on this fantastic track, pre-empting his obsession with the effects of fame. Even at this early stage, Neil Young’s guitar playing is sensational.
“Alternate Title” by The Monkees. Having seen an episode of “Till Death Us Do Part” whilst on tour in the UK, Micky Dolenz loved the phrase Randy Scouse Git when Warren Mitchell shouted it at Tony Blair’s future father-in-law. Unfortunately, the title was not deemed acceptable to the record company who insisted on an alternate title. The four members of The Monkees played all the instruments on this recording apart from bass which was played by Chip Douglas, formerly of The Turtles.
“At The Third Stroke” by The Piccadilly Line. This was named after the Speaking Clock which makes an appearance towards the end of this terrific song.
“Hold On” by Sharon Tandy. This is fantastic. The beautiful South African singer, Sharon Tandy, is backed by the amazing Fleur De Lys.
“Lazy Life” by William E. Gordon Haskell wrote this lovely languid summer song and he was a member of Fleur De Lys who provide the music here. William E. later expanded his name to William E. Kimber. Gordon Haskell went on to sing in King Crimson.
“Reflections” by Diana Ross & The Supremes. Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, this classic Tamla Motown song includes synthesiser oscillations and mind expanding lyrics such as “Trapped in a world that’s a distorted reality.” Shamefuly, I sometimes forget what a great voice Diana Ross has.
“The Idol” by The Fortunes. “You’ve Got Your Troubles ” and “Here It Comes Again” were big hits for The Fortunes in 1965. Their manager was Reginald Calvert, who established the pirate radio station, Radio City. After a dispute about equipment for the radio station, he was shot dead by Major Oliver Smedley.
“Dream Magazine” by Svensk. With an organ sound vaguely similar to “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”, this is a wonderful song.
“I See The Rain” by The Marmalade. The harmonies on this song are really excellent. I never really liked The Beatles’ version of Paul McCartney’s “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da”, let alone Marmalade’s cover but this song is terrific with a great electric guitar solo. The video is unmissable and those of us old enough to remember the free brooches you could get with Robertson’s marmalade will understand the seemingly offensive drawing on Alan Whitehead’s drum kit.
“You Keep Running Away” by The Four Tops. This is another song written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland. “Just look at me – I’m not the man I used to be” are typical of the lyrics of this song about heartache, self-loathing and loneliness. On the other hand, Levi Stubbs’ fantastic vocals make listening to this song a joyous experience.
“Yellow Brick Road” by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band. “Keep on walking and don’t look back” sings Don Van Vliet and he spent his whole career following his own advice.
“Slim Jenkins’ Place” by Booker T & The MG’s. Another deceptively simple instrumental from the group that gave us “Green Onions”. Booker T Jones was named after the great educator Booker T. Washington and attended the Booker T. Washington High School.
“Revolution” by Tomorrow. Keith West sings this very 1967-ish idea of a revolution which urged flower children to spread love. Steve Howe plays guitar three years before he joined Yes.
“Stop And Listen” by The Shag. Don’t take drugs just because your friends tell you to. “Phil came up and told me he decided he would do it. With everybody going, ‘well there must be something to it’. I said ‘I can’t disagree but when you find it out, don’t think you have to tell me what it’s all about.'” Lyrically sensible and musically very exciting.
“Psyche Rock” by Les Yper Sound. “Futurama” is an adult science fiction cartoon series that ran from 1999 to 2003. The opening sequence adapted this song which was written by Pierre Henry (more well known for his musique concrete compositions) and Michel Colombier (who wrote film scores). This is annoyingly unforgettable, as is the video.
“Look At Me, I’m You” by The Blossom Toes. This is an interesting, multi-part song by a psychedelic band who were managed by Giorgio Gomelsky, owner of The Crawdaddy Club, and manager of The Yardbirds. Jim Cregan was in The Blossom Toes; he later married Linda Lewis and co-wrote many of Rod Stewart’s hits.
“Love Power” by The Sandpebbles. One hit wonders but what a great vocal performance.
“The Wind Blows Your Hair” by The Seeds. More garage punk than psychedelic pop, this song features some worrying organ playing with lyrics threatening that “a big machine” is about to take over a wedding.
“Suzannah’s Still Alive” by Dave Davies. “Death Of A Clown” was a surprise hit for Raymond Douglas Davies’ brother and the follow up was inspired by his love for Sue Sheehan. The website “The Audiophile Man” takes up the story. “Sue Sheehan became pregnant with Dave Davie’s baby daughter when Davies was 16 years old. The couple were forcibly separated which proved to be traumatic to Davies. He would, in fact, refer to Sheehan in songs he would pen later in life. Davies didn’t meet his daughter until 1993. When he was reconciled with Sheehan and his daughter, the experience was an intense one, ‘Sue and I, we met again in the 90s and I met Tracey and it kind of resolved itself but it leaves a mark. It was fantastic too, unbelievable. You can’t explain it. A joyous union. It had a profound effect on me. There’s something about the trauma of the thing that happened between me and Sue…it went very deep. It was a wonderful chance for me to put things right.’” A great song and a wonderful video.
“The One I Love” by Ken Boothe. Known as “Mr Rock Steady”, Ken Boothe was a wonderful Jamaican singer whose performance on this song is the most powerful on this compilation.
“I Can’t Stand Myself (When You Touch Me)” by James Brown & The Famous Flames. The 11th single released by James Brown in 1967 is described in the sleevenotes as a “tortuous funk workout“.
“Chain Of Fools” by Aretha Franklin. The song, written by Don Covay, describes someone who is stuck in an abusive relationship but can’t break away. “One of these mornings, the chain is gonna break but up until the day I’m gonna take all I can take.” Aretha Franklin sings these lyrics with a charming smile on her face in this video. In 1993, Ronnie Wood, Iggy Pop, Todd Rundgren and others performed on a Don Covay tribute album, “Back to the Streets: Celebrating the Music of Don Covay”. The placing of this song in this compilation is part of a run of astounding vocal performances.
“Garden Of My Mind” by The Mickey Finn. This is another fantastic song, mixing wild electric guitar, insistent drumming and an intense vocal from Alan Marks. It’s very similar to “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix.
“Vacuum Cleaner” by Tintern Abbey. Copies of the only single released by Tintern Abbey exchange hands for upwards of £1000. Jon Savage calls this “a perfect creation” and I can only agree. The long guitar solo is unique.
“It’s Been A Long Time” by Andy Ellison. John’s Children were a band that briefly featured Marc Bolan. Their lead singer was Andy Ellison and this song was included in the film “Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush” in which most of the music was produced by The Spencer Davis Group.
“The Music Goes Round My Head” by The Easybeats. Having previously had a hit with “Friday On My Mind”, The Easybeats joined the psychedelic scene with this song containing lyrics like “All my life I’ve searched upon the reasons for us being here. The universe and all that it contains. Well I tried to find the secrets of the brain. And the music goes ’round my head. And I can’t hear a thing that you said. And my life echoes through my brain. It’s so comical I’m insane” Exactly. The music goes round my head too, with the feelings of 1967 ever present.