I'm sure AARP Magazine is working up a 45th Anniversary of The Summer of Love special, a dry run for the big 50th Anniversary coming up in -- let's see if my math is right -- five years. Though the chances are good that if you were of a certain age you were busy working that summer and didn't have the time or the money to make it out to San Francisco, a decent amount of upper-middle class kids made their way over to slum in the slums and they gave the media their hook. The Golden Gate Park Human Be-In on January 14, 1967 sounds like the kind of thing that as a young person I would've been curious about and as an older person much prefer to watch on YouTube, since I have a nice computer and a fantastic television set that I worship every night while counting the oodles of money I make from compiling these lists, drunk.
The first volume of my lists for 1967 consists of the well-known, the tried and the true. Nothing leaps out at me as being particularly obscure, which says a lot about how interesting music was in 1967 and how the business part of the music business was at the mercy of the music end. Music this diverse and groundbreaking for its day doesn't make the charts anymore -- or not with any regularity. Sure, there's always the odd woman out who captures an audience, but most interesting bands today have a small box of fans, who often don't even share the same tastes as their friends. But a nine-CD box on the making of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida? Who wouldn't come up with $270 to buy that one! (It's a 1968 album for those wondering.)
So, what do you say we all stand out in front of our office building and breathe the second-hand smoke for an extra high!
25) Rod McKuen -- Listen To The Warm: Sure, Aaron Freeman (Gene Ween) just recorded an album of Rod McKuen covers and clearly illustrated how even the most sentimental and trite ideas have movement. Whether you listen to this because it's of good quality or because there's something oddly appealing about its weirdness, is something for you to work out with your creator. I wouldn't pay big bucks to hear this stuff, but if it's on, I don't turn it off.
24) Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention -- Absolutely Free: Zappa would go on to record enough guitar solos to confuse anyone who wasn't already onboard. Then again, Zappa's music divided the red sea of hipsters and dilettantes. Freak Out made such an impact and was so idiosyncratic that the follow-up could never equal its freshness. But who doesn't love an album with "Status Back Baby" and "America Drinks and Goes Home." He never stopped me from loving brown shoes.
23) Tim Buckley -- Goodbye And Hello: Buckley was 20 years old when he recorded his second album, which is why it's such an artistic jump from his first. He was still young enough to believe there were no limits and to try things a more mature songwriter would outright reject. Which is why you can play this album and be amazed at its ambition. That he was just getting started doesn't even seem possible. But he was.
22) Timothy Leary -- Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: It isn't 1967 unless you follow the mantra of the day. Having never actually heard this album, I can only imagine what it sounds like. (New This Week columns have survived on less.) It's said to feature "narrated meditation mixed with freeform psychedelic rock music," according to the semi-reliable Wikipedia. It might be better to break out your own guitar, a wah-wah pedal and some Alan Watts tapes for a more personal experience.
21) Sam and Dave -- Soul Men: Soul music was slower to embrace the album format. They saw their audience as a singles crowd. "Soul Man," written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, was a monster and the backing band of Booker T. and the MG's and the Mar-Key Horns meant they could try anything and make it sound the greatest thing since sliced bread. And even sliced bread wasn't as great as Sam Moore and Dave Prater in their prime. Dr. Atkins would agree.
20) Scott Walker -- Scott: The Walker Brothers' third album, Images, was released in March, 1967 and Scott Walker's first solo album was issued in the U.K., where people liked this sort of thing, in September. It came out a year later in the U.S. where we ignored him for decades, since he was covering Jacques Brel and we've always had a difficult relationship with anything French. Would you like Freedom Fries with that, punk?
19) Eric Burdon and The Animals -- Eric Is Here, Winds of Change: Considering the Animals broke up in 1966 and didn't get a new record out with their new line-up until September 1967 with the underrated Winds of Change, it was crucial to keep their name out there in the months between actual releases. So Eric Is Here, an album featuring Eric Burdon and the Horace Ott Orchestra, was sent out to satiate the hungry masses in March. Whew, I was beginning to think we'd never hear anything from them!
18) Otis Redding -- Live In Europe: Once again, Booker T. and the M.G.'s find time to get over to Europe and back up Otis Redding before he died. Playing lots of modern hits, Redding proved there didn't need to be divisions in music and you didn't need to sing whaling songs to be legit. Though he updated "Try A Little Tenderness" so no one cared about the old versions. It was now an Otis Redding tune.
17) Phil Ochs -- Pleasures of the Harbor: Ochs may have been a few steps behind Bob Dylan -- back then, who wasn't? -- but when he made his moves he did so with a tunefulness and sense of adventure that proved he was in the shadow of no man. If anything, it took most of us years to catch up to its greatness.
16) Wilson Pickett -- The Wicked Pickett, The Sound of Wilson Pickett: Like most soul artists of the day, Pickett was a singles artist who featured a crack studio band behind him. That he could sing anything and make it stick meant that even the casual covers were worth hearing. Compared to how serious musicians are these days and how carefully orchestrated the product often is, it's nice that someone had more to do than issue a remix album, which back then would've seemed really weird coming out of your transistor radio.
15) Tim Hardin -- 2: Hardin's muse would visit him less consistently after this album, which feels very much like the second part of what he started with 1. It's often considered the better of the two and just staring at the titles there's no arguing that it's flawless. There are only two songs that pass the three-minute mark and five that don't break two. This ten-track album might be considered an EP by today's standards, but it brings more pleasure per second than albums seven or eight times its size. Do you really want to take off work for an entire afternoon to hear Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness?
14) The Who -- Sell Out: Interesting that Mr. Townshend would imagine a Who album with commercials, since it now seems to be his goal to sell any Who song you held dear to the highest bidder. Like they say, trust and love the art, hate the artist! (I'm originally from Jersey. Our "hate" is equal to most people's cheery indifference.)
13) Jefferson Airplane -- Surrealistic Pillow, After Bathing At Baxters: Though they are forever linked with San Francisco and "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love" and the Time-Life collections that late-night TV thrives on, in their prime the Jefferson Airplane clanged along with the energy of a very good punk rock band. Don't let simpleton nostalgia reduce their explosive side. Join up for the revolution in only three easy payments plus shipping and handling. Operators are standing by, so don't wait!
12) Aretha Franklin -- I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You: Aretha connects. All her talent needed was the right platform to launch. The title track is one of those moments you can't plan for. The way the band cruises into the finale, the way her voice lets out an ecstatic whoop, the sound of the room all add up beyond the parts. Remember the way you won at Name That Tune? You guessed it in the fewest notes.
11) The Kinks -- Something Else by The Kinks: Their final album "produced" by Shel Talmy, Something Else represents another perfect balance between their early loud riffage and Ray Davies' emerging career as a man of letters. "Waterloo Sunset" gives the superlative crowd something to meet their hype, while "David Watts" gave the lads in the Jam something to aspire to. Dave Davies felt the heat to do something of his own and "Funny Face," "Death of a Clown" and "Love Me Till The Sun Shines" gave Ray good reason to be nervous and to prepare for bloody battle.
10) Donovan -- Mellow Yellow, A Gift From A Flower To A Garden: Though his hippy-trippy worldview and love for kooky outerwear makes him an anachronism, Donovan recorded music that was adventurous and fun and that had no debts to particular genres. The boxset, Flower to Garden, featured the Wear Your Love Like Heaven album and the For The Little Ones collection that was kiddie music before it became an industry. Hard rockers won't get this stuff, but for those ears that haven't been flattened by Marshall stacks, you'll want to light some incense and find that inner child you stuffed away for safe keeping.
9) The 13th Floor Elevators -- Easter Everywhere: While Roky Erickson's mental health has been considered the source for the band's cult status, their record label woes surely helped. While you could find any Cream album or Stones album your heart desired, finding 13th Floor Elevators vinyl was a different story. When you did you needed to pony up more than the $2.99 you'd spend on most used records. But if you had the extra bucks and the smarts, you understood that you would be repaid handsomely for your extra efforts.
8) The Rolling Stones -- Their Satanic Majesties Request, Between The Buttons, Flowers: Granted, Flowers was one of those weird knock-offs that were common in the 1960s where you grabbed a few singles, obscurities and whatever and called it an album. I probably like it a little more than Between the Buttons, if I think about it long enough. Satanic Majesties is their response to Sgt. Pepper's and while the consensus for years has been that it's not Stones-like and therefore of lesser importance than the storm that brewed with the next four or five, I believe it to be a part of the A-game. I might not be able to hum "Gomper," even after a million plays, but "Citadel" makes my head spin.
7) Leonard Cohen -- Songs of Leonard Cohen: Could anyone have expected this album to outlive many of its contemporaries? Had you told a young person in 1967 that in 2012, Leonard Cohen would be cruising at a speed he barely touched in his prime, you'd get back a quizzical look before they thought harder about it and realized these songs sound almost silly coming from someone under sixty. That they needed to age seems obvious now. Then you try to explain what's a Bonnie "Prince" Billy and the kids think you've lost your cotton-pickin' mind.
6) The Beatles -- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour: Even John Lennon had his moments where he admitted he preferred other Beatles albums to Sgt. Pepper's. It's become a near consensus that Rubber Soul, Revolver and "The White Album" were more interesting, track for track. That said, it defined an era like few records could. I'd still take Magical Mystery Tour before Pepper. Singles and random tracks sometimes make a grander statement, especially if it's "Strawberry Fields Forever."
5) Pink Floyd -- The Piper At The Gates of Dawn: The Syd Barrett-era was so deep and revolutionary that it's shocking to think it's really one album and then onto the psychiatric bench. But lots of "important" bands have their entire legacies based on one album and scraps. That Floyd found a new voice with David Gilmour speaks highly of Gilmour. And Roger? What can we say? He's been building walls just to knock them down for years. Syd might've thought him to be the crazy one.
4) The Jimi Hendrix Experience -- Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold As Love: Jimi could play guitar. Anybody with eyes and ears could tell that. But he could also layer those guitars in ways that turned them into complex puzzles. Are You Experienced? has a guitar tone so severe that you're forgiven if you initially thought there was something wrong with your system. The album went for the jugular, while Axis: Bold As Love is subtler and reveals itself over time. Noel Redding says it's his favorite of the three Experience albums, but he might be fond of the royalties from his tune "She's So Fine." I would be.
3) The Velvet Underground & Nico: The old saw is that everyone who bought this album formed a band. The droning intensity sounded easy enough for amateurs to think they could emulate the darker moments without too much trouble -- and they did. But who attempted the sweet tragedies of "Sunday Morning," "I'll Be Your Mirror" or "Femme Fatale" with anything resembling authority? Galaxie 500?
2) The Doors -- The Doors, Strange Days: Other groups soaked up the L.A. sunshine, but the Doors drove by night. The Brecht-Weill chestnut, "Alabama Song," made perfect sense up against the Oedipal drama of "The End" and the up-all-night hallucinations of "Soul Kitchen." The group had only scratched the surface of their clubland repertoire and sent out "When The Music's Over" for the underrated follow-up.
1) Love -- Forever Changes: Da Capo came first in January, but it's Forever Changes, recorded during the summer of 1967 in Los Angeles, that is such a singular achievement that no other album sounds like it. Nor would you want another album to try. The acid-damaged poetry, the sense of apocalypse lurking just under the sunny surface (Lee thought he would die soon after) and the joyous string arrangements form an album that deserves to be left alone. If this album doesn't change your life, maybe you're a rock.