The Top 25 1960s Folk-Rock Albums: A Subjective List of Personal Faves
1. The Byrds, Mr.
2. Love, Forever Changes
3. Buffalo Springfield, Buffalo Springfield Again
4. The Byrds, Greatest Hits
5. Buffalo Springfield, Buffalo Springfield
6. The Beatles, Rubber Soul
7. The Jefferson Airplane, Surrealistic Pillow (half folk-rock and half psychedelic, but we can count it, can't we?)
8. The Byrds, Younger Than Yesterday
9. Skip Spence, Oar
10.The Bluethings, Story Vol. 2 [LP version]
11.The Beau Brummels, Best of the Beau Brummels
12.Fairport Convention, Heyday
13.Joni Mitchell, Joni Mitchell
14.Fred Neil, The Many Sides of Fred Neil
15.Donovan, Sunshine Superman
16.The Lovin' Spoonful, Anthology
17.Tim Buckley, Goodbye and Hello
18.The Leaves, ...Are Happening! The Best of the Leaves
19.Donovan, Summer Day's Reflection Song
20.Pentangle, Basket of Light
21.Dino Valenti, Dino Valente
22.Richard & Mimi Fariña, The Best of Richard & Mimi Fariña
23.Fred Neil, Bleecker & MacDougal
24.Kaleidoscope, Rampe Rampe
25.The Byrds, The Preflyte Sessions
Honorable Mention: Fairport Convention, Fairport Convention
The 25 Most Important 1960s Folk-Rock Albums (judged by historical significance and impact upon 1960s popular music):
1. The Byrds, Mr.
2. The Beatles, Rubber Soul
3. Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited
4. Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde
5. The Byrds, Greatest Hits
6. Buffalo Springfield, Buffalo Springfield (double-LP anthology)
7. Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home
8. Simon & Garfunkel, The Columbia Studio Recordings 1964-1970
9. Donovan, Troubadour: The Definitive Collection 1964-1976
10.The Lovin' Spoonful, Anthology
11.The Mamas & Papas, Creeque Alley
12.Bob Dylan, John Wesley Harding
13.The Jefferson Airplane, Surrealistic Pillow
14.Crosby, Stills & Nash, Crosby, Stills & Nash
15.Fairport Convention, What We Did on Our Holidays
16.Leonard Cohen, Songs of Leonard Cohen
17.Neil Young, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
18.Gordon Lightfoot, The United Artists Collection
19.Bob Dylan, Live 1966: The Royal Albert Hall Concert
20.Bob Dylan, The Basement Tapes Vol. 1-5 (bootleg series)
21.The Beau Brummels, The Best of the Beau Brummels
22.Joni Mitchell, Clouds
23.Pentangle, Sweet Child
24.Love, Forever Changes
25.Fred Neil, The Many Sides of Fred Neil
Twenty-one Important "Pre-Folk-Rock" Albums: The Music That Helped Pave the Way For Folk-Rock
1. The Byrds, The
2. Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
3. The Searchers, Greatest Hits
4. The Beatles, A Hard Day's Night
5. The Beau Brummels, Introducing the Beau Brummels
6. Jackie DeShannon, What the World Needs Now...The Definitive Collection
7. Fred Neil, Bleecker and MacDougal
8. Richard & Mimi Farina, Celebrations for a Grey Day
9. Ian & Sylvia, Northern Journey
10.The Beatles, Beatles for Sale
11.Peter & Gordon, The EP Collection
12.Tim Hardin, This Is Tim Hardin
13.Dion, The Road I'm On: A Retrospective
14.Judy Henske, High Flying Bird
15.Judy Collins, #3
16.The Springfields, Over the Hills & Far Away
17.Various Artists, Before They Were the Mamas & the Papas...The Magic Circle
18.The Mugwumps, The Mugwumps: An Historic Recording
19. Davy Graham, Folk, Blues & Beyond
20. Jesse Colin Young, Young Blood
21. Gale Garnett, We'll Sing in the Sunshine
The Twelve Most Important Folk-Rock Songs
1. The Byrds: "Mr. Tambourine Man." The mid-1965 #1 hit single that truly made folk-rock a phenomenon, socially, artistically, and commercially. The ideal combination of the Beatles and Bob Dylan.
2. Bob Dylan: "Like a Rolling Stone." The biggest and hardest-rocking hit by folk-rock's most noted (and covered) songwriter.
3. The Byrds: "Turn! Turn! Turn!" Another #1 single by the Byrds. A cover of a Pete Seeger song that was the ideal marriage of rock with a progressive social conscience. The song that, as the critical phrase went, rocked the Bible and got away with it.
4. Simon & Garfunkel: "The Sound of Silence." Not just Paul Simon's first great song, but the most canny realization of how a good acoustic folk song could be made over into an electric folk-rock hit, in this case through the literal overdubbing of electric instruments onto an acoustic recording.
5. Buffalo Springfield, "For What It's Worth." The most memorable protest folk-rock song of the 1960s.
6. The Mamas & the Papas: "California Dreamin'." The most pleasing overtly commercial manifestation of folk-rock, the harmonies and beguiling melody resulting in the group's first big hit.
7. The Lovin' Spoonful: "Do You Believe in Magic?" Folk-rock at its happiest, on the song that introduced the Lovin' Spoonful to a wide audience.
8. Donovan, "Sunshine Superman." The track that not only fully moved Donovan from acoustic to electric music, but also helped trigger psychedelic rock.
9. The Beatles, "Norwegian Wood." Undoubtedly the Beatles' greatest lyrical triumph during their folk-rock phase.
10. Judy Collins, "Both Sides Now." The most graceful mass folk-rock smash of the late 1960s, an example par excellence of an original early 1960s folkie growing into the folk-rock revolution with maturity, and the track that first enabled a Joni Mitchell song to reach most ears.
11. The Youngbloods, "Get Together." Many artists covered Dino Valenti's classic ode to love and brotherhood, including the We Five, the Jefferson Airplane, and (in live performance) Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell. The Youngbloods were not the first to do it, but they were the ones to have the biggest hit with the song, and deservedly so, as their slow arrangement and Jesse Colin Young's vocals brought out the most rousing, soulful qualities of the tune.
12. Country Joe & the Fish, "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag." The funniest, and most vicious, anti-Vietnam War protest song. Not always thought of as a folk-rock song, but it should be noted that -- in addition to boasting a psychedelic jugband flavor -- it was first recorded as an acoustic jugband folk tune on a 1965 EP, prior to the release of the famous rock version two years later on the group's second album.
Seventeen Crucial Behind-the-Scenes Architects of Folk-Rock
1. Jim Dickson: Early manager of the Byrds, and producer of their electric demos in 1964 (now available on The Preflyte Sessions). The one who gave them nearly unlimited studio time to learn their electric instruments and perfect their harmonies, the one who brought bluegrass musician Chris Hillman into the band on bass, and the one who suggested the group cover "Mr. Tambourine Man." The Byrds probably would have never happened without him.
2. Tom Wilson: The producer at the helm when Bob Dylan made his transition from acoustic folk to electric rock music, helping to facilitate the change by overdubbing electric instruments on Dylan's acoustic version of "House of the Rising Sun" as an illustration of the possibilities (unreleased at the time, this later came out on a Dylan CD-ROM). He later did the same thing, this time resulting in a #1 hit, for Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence." Also the producer for Dion's overlooked folk-rockish recordings of the mid-1960s.
3. Bob Johnston: Columbia producer. Behind the boards for Bob Dylan's 1960s recordings from the middle of the decade onward. Also produced Simon & Garfunkel, Dino Valenti, and Johnny Cash.
4. Jac Holzman: Founder and president of Elektra Records, often doing production for the discs as well. Elektra was home of several of the 1960s most important folk singer-songwriters and folk-rockers, including Judy Collins, Love, Tim Buckley, and Phil Ochs.
5. Joe Boyd: Although American, he was the key non-musician in the evolution of British folk-rock, as producer and overall mentor for Fairport Convention, the Incredible String Band, and Nick Drake.
6. Albert Grossman: Manager of Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul & Mary, Ian & Sylvia, the Band, Janis Joplin, and others.
7. Lou Adler: Co-founder of Dunhill Records and, as producer for the Mamas & the Papas and Barry McGuire, the visionary behind folk-rock at its most commercial. Also the co-producer, with the Mamas & the Papas' John Phillips, of the Monterey Pop Festival.
8. Bruce Langhorne: Session guitarist who played on early (and often the first) first folk-rock records of Bob Dylan, Richard & Mimi Farina, Fred Neil, Richie Havens, Gordon Lightfoot, and others.
9. Sis Cunningham & Gordon Freisen: The husband-and-wife team that co-founded Broadside, the magazine that helped give major 1960s songwriters -- and future folk-rockers -- Bob Dylan, Janis Ian, Tom Paxton, Eric Andersen, the Fugs, Phil Ochs, and Richard Farina their start by printing their songs and in some instances making some of their early recordings.
10. Paul Rothchild: Elektra Records producer for Love, Fred Neil, Tim Buckley, Phil Ochs, Paul Butterfield, and eventually the Doors.
11. Terry Melcher: Producer of the Byrds' first albums.
12. Shel Talmy: Far more famous as the producer of the early hits by the Kinks and the Who, but also a major contributor to British folk-rock as producer for the Pentangle, Bert Jansch, Roy Harper, and Ralph McTell.
13. Nik Venet (sometimes spelled Nick Venet): In the late 1960s, producer of laid-back folk-rockers and antecedents of Southern California country-rock and soft rock, including Fred Neil, Hearts and Flowers, Linda Ronstadt & the Stone Poneys, and John Stewart.
14. Erik Jacobsen: Folk banjo player turned producer, he produced the earliest and best recordings by the Lovin' Spoonful and Tim Hardin, as well as some obscure folk-rock by the Charlatans, Jerry Yester, and a pre-Mamas and the Papas Cass Elliot.
15. Bill Lee: Bassist for innumerable folk records of the early and mid-1960s, including ones for Ian & Sylvia, Judy Collins, and Odetta, popularizing the concept of adding accompaniment to folk sessions. Also filmmaker Spike Lee's father.
16. Herb Cohen: Manager for Judy Henske, Fred Neil, Tim Buckley, Linda Ronstadt & the Stone Poneys, and the Modern Folk Quartet.
17. Naomi Hirshhorn: Invested $5,000 for a five percent interest in the then-unknown Byrds as they were starting, enabling them to finally buy state-of-the-art instruments, including a 12-string Rickenbacker guitar for Roger McGuinn, a Fender bass for Chris Hillman (who was previously using a cheap Japanese bass) and a full drum kit for Michael Clark (who was previously using cardboard boxes!).
Twenty-Three Great Overlooked Folk-Rock Songs
Phil Ochs, "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore" (1966 electric single version). Ochs had previously done this protest classic as a solo acoustic track. For a 1966 non-LP single, it was totally redone as a galvanizing electric number, with bursts of bagpipes at the beginning and end, and roadhouse piano runs throughout. Inexplicably only released in England, this could have been a hit if it had been promoted properly.
The Byrds, "I Knew I'd Want You." The B-side of "Mr. Tambourine Man," this is one of many gorgeously melodic, sensitively sung early Byrds songs written by Gene Clark that could have qualified for this list.
Bob Dylan, "If You Gotta Go, Go Now." Recorded in January 1965, but only released as a European single in 1967, and then later (in an alternate take) on his Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3box. A great hard-rocking number with an infectious chorus that could have been a big hit. (And in fact a pop-oriented cover by Manfred Mann got to #2 in 1965 in Britain; an even more unlikely French-language cover by Fairport Convention, "Si Tu Dois Partir," made #21 in the UK in 1969.) The decision not only not to put it out as a single, but not to release it at all, is one of many such curious decisions on the part of Dylan and Columbia throughout the singer's career. Incidentally, Manfred Mann and Fairport Convention were not the only well-known performers to give the song an airing. Warren Zevon, as half of the folk-rockish duo Lyme & Cybelle, covered it on an obscure 1966 single that seemed to be trying its hardest to make it into a clapalong good-time pop song, while the Flying Burrito Brothers put it on their second album.
The Jefferson Airplane, "Today." Perhaps the greatest folk-rock ballad ever, and a hit single that should have been, but never got released as a 45. From their classic Surrealistic Pillow album, with Jerry Garcia contributing guitar.
Fred Neil, "The Dolphins." The greatest song by the singer-songwriter most known for "Everybody's Talkin'," mixing oceanic dolphin imagery with allusions to failed love.
Judy Collins, "Hard Lovin' Loser." Yet another hit single that should have been, from her In My Life album. A great cover of a Richard & Mimi Farina song with an ascending harpsichord riff, barrelhouse honky-tonk piano, and convincing rock'n'roll vocals that totally outdistances the original.
Richard & Mimi Farina, "Reno Nevada." The husband-and-wife duo's best song, a moody meditation on loss and chance, with a hypnotic minor-key melody and winding, wordless backup vocals by Mimi Farina. Later covered masterfully by Fairport Convention in the late 1960s for the BBC.
The Bluethings, "Doll House." With its veiled references to the sad life of a prostitute, the best song from the only album by Kansas' Bluethings, the great lost folk-rock band. Guaranteed to appeal to fans of the mid-1960s Byrds and Beau Brummels.
Tim Buckley, "No Man Can Find the War." The opening track of his 1967 album Goodbye and Hello, and one of the great anti-war songs of all time, right from the atomic explosion that opens the cut.
The Beau Brummels,
Little Girl." A bolero-like ballad with ringing guitar riffs and
enchanting harmonies from that most haunting of folk-rock groups.
Dion, "Baby, I'm in the Mood for You." A cover of an obscure early Bob Dylan song, recorded in September 1965, but sadly unreleased until the 1991 CD compilation Bronx Blues: The Columbia Recordings (1962-1965). A terrific blues-rock performance by Dion, produced by Dylan producer Tom Wilson, who from the sound of the track may well have employed some of the same musicians who played on Dylan's first electric sessions.
Ian & Sylvia, "You Were on My Mind." Not quite but almost folk-rock, the original version of the song covered for a huge pop hit in 1965 by the We Five. Written by the duo's Sylvia Fricker, the original is a far earthier performance, with the pair's trademark moving harmonies, an autoharp, and an almost gospelly earnestness.
Blackburn & Snow, "Stranger in a Strange Land." Written by David Crosby, though credited to the pseudonym Samuel F. Omar, this great haunting close-harmony jangler was recorded by this male-female San Francisco duo in early 1966. Unfortunately it wasn't issued until the beginning of 1967, as an obscure Verve single. Blackburn & Snow never issued an album during their lifetime, but a fine compilation of their two singles and many unreleased tracks, Something Good for Your Head,is now available as a Big Beat CD.
Jim & Jean, "Strangers in a Strange Land." Believe it or not, a totally different song than the nearly identically titled one by Blackburn & Snow described above, although Jim & Jean were also a male-female folk-rock duo. It too, however, is a magnificent bittersweet tune with close harmonies, recorded (like Blackburn & Snow's track) around 1966. This one was written by another folk-rock David, David Blue, though the composition is credited to his real name, David Cohen; it was a darn sight better than anything on Blue's self-titled, mid-1960s Dylan photocopy LP, David Blue, also released in 1966.Taken together, both songs present an argument for Robert A. Heinlein, author of the classic science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land , as one of the great lost influences on folk-rock. Just kidding...
P.F. Sloan, "I Can't Help But Wonder, Elizabeth." A superb, rare non-LP single by the underrated author of "Eve of Destruction." A delicate yet forceful ballad of love that never bloomed, underscored by an arrangement with beautiful cello, strings, vibes, and standup bass.
Fairport Convention, "Suzanne." Recorded for the BBC in August 1968, but never done for Fairport's proper studio albums, and only released until the Heyday compilation of late-1960s BBC sessions nearly twenty years later. A stunning interpretation with great alternation between harmonies and male-female solo turns, as well as dramatic guitar work. The album, incidentally, is full of such relatively hidden goodies, including covers of songs by the Everly Brothers, Joni Mitchell, Eric Andersen, Gene Clark, Bob Dylan, and Richard & Mimi Fariña's "Reno, Nevada," the original of which is mentioned elsewhere on this list.
The Avengers, "Open Your Eyes." Not exactly folk-rock in the classic formal sense, but if there's a better obscure mid-1960s garage rock single with a heavy Byrds influence in the guitars and harmonies, I'd like to hear it. Initially released on the tiny Current label, and reissued more than once on '60s garage compilations, most recently on Ya Gotta Have Moxie Vol. 1.
Sandy Denny & the Strawbs, "And You Need Me." From the album done during Denny's brief stint with the Strawbs, recorded in 1967 but unissued until 1973. A great catchy folk-rock ballad with some melodic resemblance to the Beatles' "If I Fell," if you can imagine that, from the pen of Strawbs mainstay Dave Cousins. When this album came out on Hannibal in the early 1990s, some tracks had orchestral overdubs, including this one; it's better (and harder) to find the unoverdubbed original.
The Belfast Gypsies, "Baby Blue" (aka "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"). Perhaps the best virtually unknown Bob Dylan cover of the 1960s. The Belfast Gypsies were a Van Morrison-less spinoff of Them, who had done their own version of this same song, with Morrison on lead vocals. If Morrison or a comparable lead singer had taken lead vocals on the Belfast Gypsies' version, it would be a classic, but even so this is an amazingly taut, tense interpretation with an ultra-catchy, intricate guitar riff.
The Rising Storm, "Frozen Laughter." From the very obscure 1967 Calm Before album, a beautiful hazy psychedelic folk-rock ballad, somewhat reflecting the influence of early Love songs such as "Mushroom Clouds." Recorded by prep school kids on the album they privately pressed as souvenirs of sorts for them, their friends, and their graduating class, this serves as evidence of just how far and wide the tentacles of the folk-rock movement reached.
The 13th Floor Elevators, "Splash 1." Known more for garage-psychedelic dementia than folk-rock, the 13th Floor Elevators did have ties to the Austin, Texas folk scene. They were never put to better use than on "Splash 1," a folk-rocker of shimmering melodic beauty from their debut album, with eerily psychedelic yet romantic lyrics. There's also a fine, somewhat more forceful live 1966 recording of the song that has shown up on several releases (such as Live at the Avalon, 1966 ), and a good acoustic version of the tune by lead singer Roky Erickson and co-composer Clementine Hall.
Donovan, "Celeste." The most beautiful composition from the bard of beautiful psychedelic folk-rock ballads, from his best album, Sunshine Superman. What possible reason could there have been for excluding this from his Troubadour: The Definitive Compilation anthology?
The Mamas & the Papas, "Got a Feelin'." Not that obscure, perhaps. But relative to the Mamas & the Papas' numerous hits, this early track, from their debut album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears (and also placed on the B-side of "monday, Monday), is somewhat overlooked. This is folk-rock at its most lovely and haunting, in the restrained yet angelic female vocals, shimmering flecks of reverb guitar, counterpoint harmonies, ticking-clock rhythms, and a lyric that, better than any other of the group's songs, captured the melancholy ambivalence and impermanence of relationships at the dawn of the free-love era.
Yet More Overlooked Obscure Folk-Rock Albums
If you've made it this far down the page, you are either thinking: Enough! Or, hopefully: More! What about some more folk-rock I haven't heard, you may be saying? So here are some interesting, rather (or very) little-known folk-rock albums, all from the 1960s, that didn't quite fit into any of the above lists, but are certainly worth a listen:
Blackburn & Snow, Something
Good for Your Head
Fapardokly, Fapardokly (would have made personal fave list, except only about half of it's folk-rock)
P.F. Sloan, Anthology
Jim & Jean, Changes
Dan Hicks, Early Muses
Hearts and Flowers, The Complete Hearts and Flowers Collection
The Gentle Soul, The Gentle Soul
The Stone Poneys, The Stone Poneys Featuring Linda Ronstadt
Nico, Chelsea Girl (if it ain't quite folk-rock, it comes damn close)
The Rising Sons, Rising Sons FeaturingTaj Mahal and Ry Cooder
The Gosdin Brothers, Sounds of Goodbye
Melanie (yes, Melanie), Melanie
Satya Sai Maitreya Kali, Apache/Inca (Note: the two albums combined onto this CD reissue originally came out in the early 1970s, but almost certainly were largely or wholly recorded in the mid-to-late 1960s)
The Daily Flash, I Flash Daily (side one)
Marianne Faithfull, North Country Maid
The Dillards, Copperfields
The Strawbs, The Strawbs
Townes Van Zandt, For the Sake of the Song
The Johnstons, Give a Damn/Bitter Green
Steve Young, Rock, Salt & Nails
Important Unreleased 1960s Folk-Rock
All right, now we're getting to the hardest of the hardcore folk-rock collectibles: Music that has still never found official release. It might not be the best music done by these artists, but it's pretty good, and quite historically important. Will it ever come out? Well, Bob Dylan's 1966 Royal Albert Hall concert (which was actually not at Royal Albert Hall) finally came out, didn't it? And since this list was first composed and put up on this site, one item's actually been released (P.F. Sloan's mid-1960s demos), with the long-awaited Buffalo Springfield box set scheduled for release in July, and rumors of unreleased Nick Drake hitting the shops soon. And Neil Young has been promising so many unreleased early solo goodies on his archival box set for so long that their actual appearance would be an anti-climax! Here's to multi-CD box sets of unreleased Jackie DeShannon demos...
Bob Dylan, The Basement Tapes Vol. 1-5. This would probably head many lists of the most important unreleased music of any kind, period. An exhaustive, five-volume CD retrospective of the music made by Bob Dylan and the then-unnamed band in 1967, most of which does not show up on the official The Basement Tapes collection in any form. These CDs even provided the basis for an entire scholarly book, Greil Marcus' Invisible Republic.
Buffalo Springfield, Stampede. Sometimes referred to as a missing Buffalo Springfield album from 1967, that's really not quite accurate, although a sleeve bearing this title was printed (and not used). Actually, the Buffalo Springfield bootlegs bearing this name feature a variety of studio outtakes, all good and some great (including some alternate versions and solo acoustic demos), laid down by the band in 1966-67. These are in turn usually augmented by a few fair-fidelity but enjoyable live 1967 tracks, done during one of the periods when Neil Young was not in the band. (Most of the material on Stampede was issued on the Buffalo Springfield Box Set in mid-2001.)
Joni Mitchell, Second Fret Sets: 1966-1968. There are quite a few unreleased late-1960s solo acoustic tapes of Mitchell floating around. This double-CD bootleg is a good place to start, with live versions of numerous early outstanding compositions from her first pair of albums, as well as a number of good original tunes that never made it onto those albums, particularly "Eastern Rain" (covered by Fairport Convention) and "Urge for Going," as well as a cover of Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain."
Paul Simon, live in England, circa June 1965. A fairly good quality tape of Paul Simon, playing solo during the year or so he lived and worked in England, prior to Simon & Garfunkel's first hit. This was reported to have been recorded at a party after a show in Exeter in June 1965. Simon plays a lot of material that would appear on early S&G LPs, including "Kathy's Song," "April Come She Will," "I Am a Rock," and "The Sound of Silence," the last of which deservedly excites a zealous ovation from the onlookers at its conclusion. It's also interesting to hear Simon interrupt himself mid-song to castigate someone talking loudly in the audience, and perform an otherwise unreleased song, "Northern Line." Of the several Simon & Garfunkel bootlegs that have come out, incidentally, the most interesting is Village Vanguard, mixing three 1966-67 studio outtakes with various TV, live, and BBC tapes from 1966-69. Also worthy is the 71-minute, professionally recorded disc of a 1968 Hollywood Bowl concert (issued under various titles), in which the two played acoustic and unaccompanied, as they usually did in live performances.
Neil Young, Elektra demos, late 1965. Recorded in Elektra Records' studio in New York, which might make the session appear more impressive than it actually was. These seven solo acoustic tracks, Young has recalled, were sung into an old tape recorder on a metal chair. Nonetheless, these seven songs -- which have appeared on numerous bootlegs -- are undeniable evidence of his blossoming talent as an outstanding songwriter, with early versions of "Sugar Mountain" and "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing"; parts of another, "The Rent Is Always Due," would evolve into "I Am a Child."
Fairport Convention, A Chronicle of Sorts, 1967-1969. This boot has no less than 22 songs from BBC and television broadcasts that not only were not released, but don't even appear on the excellent official studio compilation of 1960s Fairport BBC sessions, Heyday. Fidelity is quite variable, but at the least listenable and sometimes good. Includes lots of covers never recorded by Fairport on their studio records of the era: Eric Andersen's "Violet of Dawn," Joni Mitchell's "Night in the City" and "Marcie," Tim Buckley's "Morning Glory," and even a brief send-up of the Doors' "Light My Fire." The long version of "Reno, Nevada" is different from the one on Heyday, with some excellent extended soloing by Richard Thompson.
Sandy Denny, Dark the Night. True, half of this 19-song bootleg was done in the early 1970s, and the half that was done in the 1960s is solo acoustic. Still, an excellent document of extra-studio solo material by one of the great folk-rock singers, including a couple of 1966 BBC tracks, eight 1966 home demos, and more BBC items from 1972-73 (which surfaced on the briefly available legit Strange Fruit comp The BBC Sessions 1971-1973). A few more obscure late-1960s solo demos, including covers of Fred Neil's "A Little Bit of Rain," appear on the Australian Friends of Fairport cassette The Attic Tracks Vol. 3, and it would be great to see these and other early Denny rarities make it into wider circulation.
Sandy Denny, Borrowed Thyme. Yet more Sandy Denny! And who are we to complain, even if this 2001 bootleg -- which, unbelievably, repeats absolutely nothing from the Dark the Night bootleg described above -- is entirely devoted to 1966-68 demos and BBC cuts that are truly acoustic folk, rather than folk-rock. The fidelity is erratic but generally quite acceptable, and includes some obscure Denny originals (according to the songwriting credits) and solo versions of songs that she would redo in more famous studio versions, like "Fotheringay" and "She Møves Through the Fair."
Jackie DeShannon, Metric Music Demo LP May 27, 1965. In 1964-65, DeShannon made five LPs of demos for Metric Music, almost certainly intended for circulation within the publishing and recording industry to solicit possible cover versions. All of them are actually listed, with track listings and catalog #s, in the discography with DeShannon's EMI CD compilation What the World Needs Now Is...Jackie DeShannon: The Definitive Collection. From a folk-rock historian's viewpoint, the most interesting of these is the one given the date May 27, 1965 in that discography. These dozen solo acoustic demos feature her blooming from an expert pop-rocker to a more serious and personal, very folk-influenced singer-songwriter, with early versions of "Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe" (covered by the Byrds) on their first LP, "With You in Mind" (covered by Marianne Faithfull), and "Splendor in the Grass."
Nick Drake, The Complete Home Recordings. Perhaps this would not be so remarkable if not for Drake's eventual emergence as one of the most popular cult rockers (there's an oxymoron for you) on the planet, and the hunger for just about anything he recorded, since he only released three albums (plus one posthumous outtakes compilation). Recorded at the end of 1967 at his family's home, the fidelity is lo-fi but bearable, and gives us a chance to hear Drake as he sounded prior to his recording contract. The influence of Bert Jansch and Donovan were much more prevalent than they would be on his proper albums, both on the original compositions and odd covers of items like "Summertime," "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," "Get Together," and "Cocaine Blues." A couple of home recordings from this time did show up on the official Time of No Reply release, and there have been reports that some or all of the home recordings on this bootleg might find official release in 2001.
P.F. Sloan, mid-1960s demos. Sloan recorded several dozen (at the minimum) unreleased demos in the mid-1960s. A CD compilation of many but not all of them was scheduled by Varese Sarabande in the late 1990s, but failed to appear. Not all of them are folk-rock -- some would be much more comfortably categorized as pop-rock -- but there are a good number of quality folk-rockish tunes in this batch, including "Miss Charlotte," "Child of Our Time," and "Autumn." Not all of these are the kind of underproduced numbers you might expect from demos; quite a few have full band arrangements that are totally up to the standards associated with final studio releases. (Note: Twenty of these demos appeared in spring 2001 on the fine official Varese Sarabande compilation Child of Our Times: The Trousdale Demo Sessions 1965-1967.)
The Jefferson Airplane, August 5, 1967, live in Toronto. There are several fine unreleased live tapes and bootlegs of the Airplane from 1966 and 1967, the time in which they were most folk-rocky. This one is my favorite, but there are others from late 1966 that are quite good as well. The later you go in the 1966-67 span, the more psychedelic the set veers (which isn't at all a bad thing), but superb original folk-rockers like "Today," "It's No Secret," and "Go to Her," as well as covers like Fred Neil's "The Other Side of This Life," Billy Wheeler's "High Flying Bird," and Donovan's "Fat Angel," were also mainstays of their shows.
David Bowie, The Beckenham Oddity. David Bowie?! Folk-rock? Yep, or close enough at any rate to deserve mention here. Probably recorded in early 1969, this unreleased acoustic tape, since bootlegged (usually under the title The Beckenham Oddity ), documents the brief period when Bowie, with singer-guitarist accompanist John Hutchinson, sounded something like a British Simon & Garfunkel. Bowie takes most of the vocal leads, with frequent harmonies by Hutchinson, on this nine-song set, recorded to solicit interest from Mercury Records. There are "unplugged" versions of several of the better songs that would show up on his 1969-1970 recordings, including "An Occasional Dream," "Letter to Hermione," "Janine," "Conversation Piece," and of course "Space Oddity," as well as some rarer items known primarily to Bowiephiles. Despite wobbly low fidelity, it's charming, tuneful, affecting, and, well, sincere -- an adjective you wouldn't often use for Bowie's work. Only "Space Odditiy" has seen official release (on a box set) from this batch, and since the sound is vastly superior on that official release, one hopes that the entire set exists in similar superior fidelity, and wonders if it will ever be issued in its entirety.
Dino Valenti, unreleased Dick Charles Recording Service acetate, 1961. Yes, this predates folk-rock by a few years, and these seven songs are solo acoustic folk, not folk-rock. Still, it's a document of how one of the most important folk-rock precursors sounded in the early 1960s, notable for his intense guitar drumming and dramatic balladeering vocal delivery on traditional material such as "Wayfaring Stranger." In his autobiography, Richie Havens says that there are two unreleased Valenti solo albums from the early 1960s; all of this material would make interesting listening for aficionados. And if you've read this entire list, you must be an aficionado, right?
They Just Missed...Ten Important Folk-Rock Albums of 1970
You've got to cut off a mammoth study somewhere, and my history of 1960s folk-rock history does actually end at the end of 1969, though a few albums of special importance from 1970 are discussed. Folk-rock, of course, has continued to be an element of rock music through the present, and was still a strong though diminishing force in rock as the 1970s began. Here are ten important 1970 folk-releases, or at least releases that were very strongly folk-rock-flavored, that came out just too late to qualify for the 1960s best-of lists. They're listed in order of my personal preference, rather than their actual influence/impact:
Nick Drake, Bryter
Neil Young, After the Gold Rush
Joni Mitchell, Ladies of the Canyon
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Deja Vu
The Grateful Dead, American Beauty
The Grateful Dead, Workingman's Dead
Steeleye Span, Hark the Village Wait
James Taylor, Sweet Baby James
Bob Dylan, New Morning
And honorable mention for most interesting unknown folk-rock release of 1970: Linda Perhacs, Parallelograms.
And another honorable mention for the most interesting unknown unreleased folk-rock of 1970, even if the artist might not have conceived of it as folk-rock: George Harrison's All Things Must Pass-era demos, performed solo on guitar, and issued on bootlegs with different titles, such as Beware of Abkco.
Oh Yes They Did...Unlikely Folk-Rockers
For a day, a month, or at least one record, quite a few performers who were never identified with folk-rock tried their hand at the style, with results ranging from rather impressive to quite awful. Here are some of them, on a list bound to expand as research continues...
Glen Campbell, "The Universal Soldier." Before becoming an MOR pop star, Campbell actually chalked up some decent rock credentials, including a stint as a touring Beach Boy and work on numerous rock'n'roll recording sessions in the first half of the 1960s. In the fall of 1965, he had one of the earlier folk-rock, or at least folk-rock-pop, hits with a cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Universal Soldier." This went head to head on the charts with Donovan's superior version of the same song, actually making #45, slightly better than Donovan's #53 placing. Soon after the single was released, Campbell made it clear he didn't take the anti-war message of the song that seriously, telling Variety that he thought people who burn their draft cards "should be hung...If you don't have enough guts to fight for your country, you're not a man." Furthermore, Variety reported, Campbell said "the 'Universal Soldier' disk resulted in his receipt of several anonymous cmoplaint letters from fans, but that he really didn't think protest songs do much in shaping or changing opinions. Campbell, however, emphasized that if he records any more protest songs, they will be of the 'red-blooded American variety.'"
The Bee Gees, "And the Children Laughing." Prior to moving to England in 1967 and becoming international superstars, the Bee Gees did quite a bit of recording in Australia from 1963-66, including this mid-1960s stab at social consciousness, featuring loud Byrdsy guitars and harmonies, as well as castigation of a neighbor that won't shake hands "with a Negro."
Nico, "I'm Not Saying"/"The Last Mile." As noted in the listing of Nico's solo debut Chelsea Girl elsewhere on this site (as a notable obscure 1960s folk-rock LP), there was more folk influence in Nico's sound, at least prior to the late 1960s, than has been acknowledged. Even before joining the Velvet Underground, she made this 1965 single for Immediate, the A-side featuring what must have been one of the very first Gordon Lightfoot covers. It was arranged in a pop-folk style rather similar to that heard on some mid-1960s Marianne Faithfull records. The B-side, by contrast, was an entirely acoustic, moody ballad, co-written by Rolling Stones manager/producer Andrew Oldham and then-sessionman Jimmy Page. It has been reported that both Page and Brian Jones play guitars on the track.
The Wonder Who, "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright." Surely the most absurd Dylan cover to reach the Top Twenty was this bouncy castrato pop rendition at the end of 1965, which went all the way to #12. Even the teenyboppers quickly figured out that it was in fact the Four Seasons under a pseudonym. The group did trot out the Wonder Who alias one more time in May 1966, but this time opted for a treatment of "On the Good Ship Lollipop," which not only had no relationship whatsoever to folk-rock, but got no further than #87. Other Four Seasons oddities: it's not well known that on their early 1964 album Born to Wander, the Four Seasons did a Phil Ochs song, "New Town," that Ochs never recorded himself. Plus, in 1965, they did a whole LP side of Dylan songs, backed with...a whole LP side of Bacharach-David tunes.
The Staple Singers, "For What It's Worth." The Staple Singers are actually an under-recognized, if tangential, influence on folk-rock. Pop Staples' style of guitar reverb was a big influence on Bruce Langhorne, who played guitar on numerous early folk-rock sessions by Bob Dylan, Richard & Mimi Fariña, Fred Neil, Gordon Lightfoot, and others. Also, the Staple Singers were among the earliest non-folkies to cover Bob Dylan, doing "Masters of War" early in the 1960s. Still, covering the Buffalo Springfield hit seemed like an unlikely choice, but they did so in 1967, and even got to #66 in the pop charts with it.
Bob Seger, "Persecution Smith." In the mid-1960s, Seger was a long way off from his mainstream arena stardom of the mid-to-late 1970s. But he was already pretty well-known on the Michigan scene, and some of his earliest singles are not only wholly unlike his big pop hits of later vintage, but quite intense and worthwhile. "Persecution Smith" is a dead-on rewrite of Bob Dylan's "Tombstone Blues," and pretty smoking hard talkin' blues-folk-rock despite its derivative genesis.
Chad & Jeremy, "Teenage Failure." One could argue that British Invasion popsters Chad & Jeremy had some influence on folk-rock with their acoustic-oriented arrangements, although I would contend that Peter & Gordon had a far more tangible and concrete effect. There's no doubt that C&J's 1966 single "Teenage Failure" was folk-rock, though, with its parodic (and not incredibly funny) sub-Dylan vocal and catalog-of-complaint lyrics. Like the song's protagonist, the single was a failure, reaching just #131 in the charts.
The Loose Ends, "A Free Soul." A very little-known, and quite good, 1966 single by a Fort Worth, Texas band, with a strong late-1965 Beatles/Kinks influence and adamant I've gotta-do-my-own-thing lyrics. The writer and guitarist of the group? A teenaged T-Bone Burnett.
Jan & Dean, "The Universal Coward." A bit desperate, perhaps, to remain relevant at a time when surf and hot rod music was on the way out, Jan & Dean put out their Folk'n'Roll LP, which included passes at "It Ain't Me Babe," "Turn, Turn, Turn," and "Eve of Destruction," interspersed with far more innocuous pop-rock tracks. Also on the album was "The Universal Coward," a vicious satire of "Universal Soldier." I like Jan & Dean (when they did surf and pop-rock, anyway). But "The Universal Coward" is not just as politically unhip as could be at a time when anti-war protest was heating up, but also musically terrible, and lyrically unfunny. One of Jan Berry's co-writers on this non-charting single (credited solely to Jan Berry when it was issued as a 45) was then-girlfriend Jill Gibson, who briefly replaced Michelle Phillips in the Mamas & Papas shortly afterward, when Phillips was kicked out for various indiscretions. (According to Steve Kolanjian's liner notes to Jan & Dean's All the Hits -- From Surf City to Drag City, Jan's partner Dean Torrance "felt Jan and Dean should be apolitical and didn't want to release it," hence its appearance as a Jan Berry solo effort on the single.)
The Ides of March, "I'll Keep Searching." Known primarily for their blustery 1970 Blood, Sweat & Tears-style megasmash "Vehicle," the Ides of March actually started as a rather typical midwestern teen pop-rock band in the mid-1960s. "I'll Keep Searching," buried on the B-side of a 1966 single, is not too folk-rock lyrically -- it's a typical lovelorn ode -- but has downright riveting folk-rock guitar riffs and harmonies. A prime example of how folk-rock's influenced reached into teen/garage rock.
Ben Carruthers & the Deep, "Jack o' Diamonds." Ben Carruthers was primarily known as an actor, particularly for his role as the moody brother in John Cassavetes' groundbreaking independent film Shadows in 1959. He also had parts in The Dirty Dozen and avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas' Guns of the Trees. He was living in London in the mid-1960s and tried, just once, his hand at becoming a recording artist. He set part of a poem that Bob Dylan had written and put on the back cover of Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964) to music, calling the result "Jack o' Diamonds," and recording it with the Deep (whoever they were). The record was produced by Shel Talmy, another American expatriate, then riding high with productions by the Kinks and the Who. Released in June 1965, this pretty decent rock tune -- one of the earlier rock covers of a Bob Dylan creation of any sort -- sank without a trace. Fairport Convention, who in their early days had a genius for discovering obscure songs to cover, somehow found it and covered it on their first album. Shel Talmy, Ben Carruthers, Bob Dylan, John Cassavetes -- all those influences coming together for just one early folk-rock single? It did happen. And not in America, but England. Ain't rock history amazing?
Peter Fonda, "November Nights." Fonda, like Ben Carruthers (see above), is primarily an actor, and a much more famous one than Carruthers. But, like Carruthers, he was a musician too, and recorded an entire unreleased album around late 1966, with input from Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Hugh Masekela. He also issued one single, "November Nights," on the small Chisa label in 1967, written by none other than Gram Parsons, then a nearly total unknown. The song is an average pop-folker with adequate, characterless vocals by Fonda and some trumpet, perhaps by Masekela. The single did nothing commercially; plans for another album by Fonda came to nothing; and shortly afterward, Easy Rider became a hit, perhaps permanently distracting Peter Fonda from pursuing a singing career.
Johnny Winter, "Birds Can't Row Boats." This utterly atypical 1966 single, years before Winter became a blues-rock star, has very attractive Byrds-like guitars, magnificently moody melody and harmonies, and somewhat surreal lyrics about what a statue would think if it was able to come to life and view the present. Oddly, this track has been reissued with two entirely different vocals. The version included on the compilation Acid Visions (a highly recommended compilation of mid-1960s Texas garage rock, incidentally) is pretty straightforward and serious; another, on the early Winter compilation Birds Can't Row Boats, has joking, novelty-slanted singing. The rendition on Acid Visions is the one to get.
Terry Knight & the Pack, "A Change on the Way." Former Michigan disc jockey Terry Knight had some regional hits in the mid-1960s by aping a variety of trends and top artists, including "Positively Fourth Street"-era Bob Dylan on "Dimestore Debutante" and the Lovin' Spoonful on "What's On Your Mind." "A Change on the Way," one of those "the new generation will usher in a new dawn for mankind" anthems, is thus probably about as sincere as a presidential campaign promise, but is a likable melancholy soft folk-rocker despite itself. In a few years, his backup group, the Pack, would become Grand Funk Railroad. And Terry Knight? He became Grand Funk Railroad's manager.
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, "Call on Me" (1965 version) . One of the most pop-oriented numbers on Captain Beefheart's debut album Safe As Milk -- his most accessible album to the pop audience, though not that accessible -- was "Call on Me." It was yet more normal-sounding in its 1965 demo acetate version, unearthed for the recent Beefheart rarities box Grow Fins , with a decidedly Byrdsy guitar line, appealing melody, and a vocal so sweetly restrained that one is tempted to believe that it might not actually be Don Van Vliet singing (although the Captain is given the vocal credit). Or, perhaps, that he was parodying folk-rock with his deliberate, elongating phrasing, though it just sounds too sincere for that. If you're a rabid fan of Beefheart's unfathomable avant-rock weirdness, it might be your least favorite item n his catalog; if you generally can't stand Beefheart, it might well be your most favorite song in his discography. By the time it was recorded for Safe As Milk, however, the arrangement had been somewhat Beefheartized, with a yelping vocal and funkier jagged rhythms that removed it some distance from its folk-rock prototype.
Noel Harrison, "Suzanne." Perhaps better known as an actor on the TV series "The Girl from U.N.C.L.E." than as anything else, Harrison had actually been performing in British folk clubs since the late 1950s, and recorded several albums for major labels in the late 1960s. And he actually had a mild (#56) hit with this 1967 cover of the famous Leonard Cohen song. For many listeners, it was not just the first version of "Suzanne" that they heard, but the first time they had heard any Leonard Cohen song. Harrison also did a ridiculously jaunty cover of a P.F. Sloan song, "The Man Behind the Red Balloon," on a 1966 single. (Some would also throw William Shatner's legendarily ludicrous cover of "Mr. Tambourine Man" into the TV actors-turned-folk-rockers category, but that was a recording that crossed the border from oddity to novelty.)
The Guess Who, "Flying on the Ground Is Wrong." Big for years in Canada before they became huge in the US with "These Eyes," the Guess Who recorded the very first cover of a Neil Young song in early 1967 when they did this tune from Buffalo Springfield's debut album. The arrangement, with AM radio-friendly fluegelhorn and glockenspiel on the bridge, was inferior to the original, if undeniably more pop-slanted. The Guess Who, like Young, emerged as performers in Winnipeg, and knew Neil dating back to his pre-Buffalo Springfield days in his early band the Squires.
The Cowsills, "All I Wanta Be Is Me." Yes, these are the same Cowsills who scaled the charts with the wholesome prototype-Partridge Family pop-rock of "The Rain, The Park and Other Things." Before that, however (and before Mom Cowsill came aboard), they were a struggling New England garage band. Their obscure mid-1960s indie single, "All I Wanta Be Is Me," was a typically snarling raw rebellious adolescent folk-rocker, with a heavy Byrds influence to the guitars and P.F. Sloan/Sonny Bono flavor to the vocal and defiantly individualistic lyrics.
Link Cromwell, "Crazy Like a Fox." The teenaged Link Cromwell did a pretty credible, witty Sonny Bono homage/takeoff for this obscure independent mid-1960s single. In the 1970s, as critic Lenny Kaye, "Link Cromwell" would become one of the first champions of overlooked vintage rock music; as musician Lenny Kaye, he was an important first-generation punk/new wave pioneer, as guitarist in the Patti Smith Group.
Leon Russell, "Everybody's Talking 'Bout the Young." It wasn't until the very end of the 1960s that Russell truly launched his career as a singer-songwriter and solo recording artist. In the mid-1960s, however, he was already a successful L.A. session keyboardist, arranger, and producer on a variety of pop-rock recordings. In the summer of 1965, he found time to record this obscure solo folk-rock single for the Dot label. Continuing the sub-Dylan/Sloan/Bono thread, here we have another defiantly abrasive-but-hummable observation of the widening gulf between old and young generations. Co-produced by Snuff Garrett and Russell himself, there's a bit of an everything-but-the-kitchen sink feel to this track, with lyrics scooting over themes of the assertion of youthful identity, anti-Vietnam War protest, and nuclear weapon angst, not to mention the snarling Dylanesque vocals and angry high-pitched distorted guitars. Like many top session musicians of the time, incidentally, Russell played on folk-rock recordings of note, including the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man" and Gene Clark's debut solo album.
Link Wray, "Girl from the North Country." Although known principally as a supreme purveyor of instrumental guitar mayhem, and mostly identified with pre-Beatles rock'n'roll and rockabilly styles, Wray has occasionally issued vocal numbers throughout his career, and sometimes even concentrated on vocal productions. Soon after folk-rock hit big in 1965, Link weighed in with a raw cover of Bob Dylan's "Girl from the North Country," complete with harmonica, tambourine, and organ. Its B-side, the Wray original "You Hurt Me So," was clearly inspired by the Beatles' "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," albeit with a more countrified twang, and a guitar riff that sounded halfway between wah-wah pedal and Jew's harp. Of course, that Beatles song had been to a large degree inspired by Bob Dylan-styled folk. Wray's interest in folkish music was not a one-off detour, as in the early 1970s he recorded several interesting low-key vocal albums for Polydor that showed a heavy Band influence. This material was repackaged for the double-CD reissue Guitar Preacher: The Polydor Years.
The Blues Magoos, "The People Had No Faces"/"So I'm Wrong and You Are Right." Remembered primarily as a Nuggets-type garage-psych-pop band, particularly for their big hit "("We Ain't Got) Nothing Yet," the Blues Magoos actually began life as the Bloos Magoos, a folk-rock band. Their rare debut single, recorded for Verve Folkways and issued under the Bloos Magoos spelling, was actually a fairly tasty, moody folk-rocker with all the hallmarks of youth newly awakened to the form circa late 1965: sullen vocalizing, a lumbering but appealing mid-tempo beat, slightly surreal lyrics projecting social alienation. Both sides were produced by Rick Shorter, who wrote the A-side and co-wrote the flip. Shorter, one of the few African-American singer-songwriters to record in the folk-rock's early boom days, had a pretty respectable what-does-the-future-hold-for-me-in-this-messed-up-world folk-rock single of his own, "Last Thoughts of a Young Man," produced by Teo Macero, who in turn was far more famous for producing Miles Davis. The odd connections abound in folk-rock, and we'll stop this particular thread, though we could note that it was Miles Davis who helped the Byrds get a contract at Columbia by personally recommending them...By the way, although the B-side of the Bloos Magoos single does show up on the most common Blues Magoos compilation (Mercury's Kaleidoscope Compendium: The Best of the Blues Magoos), the superior A-side does not, though it's recently appeared, believe it or not, on a reissue of the single (of dubious legality).
The Deviants, "Child of the Sky." Yes, it's true that not many rock listeners would even know who the Deviants are, and thus have no basis upon which to be surprised that they did a precious, enchanting acoustic song with flute, rather in the mold of Donovan, on their debut LP. The group, however, does have a considerable cult reputation as one of the more interesting British underground acts of the late 1960s, usually known for far more abrasive pre-punk blasts of blues-rock and avant-rock noise collage. "Child of the Sky," however, did much to enhance the diversity of Ptooff!, the manic psychedelic rollercoaster ride that was their highly recommended 1967 debut LP. In an interview with me, Deviants singer Mick Farren -- one of the three writers credited with the song's composition -- expressed considerable disdain for the track, blaming the inclusion of it and the acoustic guitar instrumental "Bon" on guitarist Cord Rees, whose stint in the group was brief. Says Farren: "I always felt they were kind of a sop to the worst kind of Donovan fey hippie Incredible String Band mentality in the audience."
George Hamilton IV, "Urge for Going." Improbably, the country star was the first to release a Joni Mitchell song, recorded in late 1966 (and produced by Chet Atkins), and a #7 country hit in early 1967. It's not a bad version, actually, with the opening three-note burst of steel guitar strongly echoing the style of Bruce Langhorne, who played on Tom Rush's cover of the same song. Mitchell herself would not release the song until it appeared on the B-side of a 1972 single.
Christopher & the Chaps, "It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding." This garagey, not-so-great rock cover of one of Bob Dylan's finer mid-1960s songs by a terribly obscure mid-1960s group would not be so notable on its own grounds. What's interesting is that one of the members was one Mike Lookofsky, who co-wrote the B-side, "They Just Don't Care," a vaguely folk-rockish tune. Under the name Mike Brown, he would be the keyboardist and prime creative force of the Left Banke, the great baroque-rock group that formed shortly after Christopher & the Chaps vanished into oblivion.
John Denver (with the Mitchell Trio), "The Sound of Protest (Has Begun to Pay)." The Chad Mitchell Trio was one of many innocuous harmonizing groups during the early-1960s folk revival; Roger McGuinn worked with them as an accompanist for a while. McGuinn was long gone, as was Chad Mitchell, by the time of their 1966 LP Violets of Dawn, credited to just the Mitchell Trio. In this lineup was a young John Denver. Most of the album is unmemorable, passé acoustic folk, with the astonishing exception of "The Sound of Protest Has Begun to Pay." Its full electric folk-rock arrangement, with its twelve-string guitar and soaring harmonies, is an obvious attempt to recreate the sound of the Byrds. This is not an homage, however, but a mean-spirited swipe at folk-rock as a whole, the lyrics quite clearly inferring that the Byrds and their flock were mining the social protest song with dollar signs in their eyes. The intention might have been humorous, but actually it comes off as the last desperate gasps of drowning folk revivalists, bitterly bemoaning the tidal wave of electric folk-rock that was quite literally putting them out of business. The song was co-written by Fred Hellerman, a member of the vastly important 1950s folk revival stars the Weavers. Hellerman couldn't have taken the sentiments of his song too close to heart; in just a year or two, he would be producing the first albums by folk-rock singer Arlo Guthrie.
Solomon Burke, "Maggie's Farm." Who knows what the reasoning was behind getting Solomon Burke, the soul singer known for classics like "Cry to Me" and "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love," to cover this Bob Dylan song in April 1965? It was a daring decision by Atlantic Records, as the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man" had yet to reach the charts and open the floodgates for rock covers of Dylan songs. Burke's version isn't as weird as you might think, given an uptempo soul-rock dance rhythm and some brass in the backing, with some nice slashing funky guitar. No cover version can quite cover up the song's lack of melody, though.
Keith Jarrett, Restoration Ruin album . Jarrett is mostly, if not wholly, known as a major jazz pianist and composer. Restoration Ruin, from 1968, is the folk-rock skeleton in his closet, recorded while he was still a member of the Charles Lloyd Quartet. Jarrett does not play jazz on this album, but sings and plays all the instruments, alternating -- quite literally, track to track -- between sub-Dylan outings and more folk-baroque ones that echo the late-1960s work of artists like Love and Tim Buckley. There's a certain amateurish appeal to the LP, in keeping with other crossover "acid-folk" artists of the period. Yet the fact is that Jarrett is a major jazz musician, but a journeyman-at-best folk-rock singer (with a hoarse, wavering croon-whine), instrumentalist, and songwriter, with a bent for flaky wordplay that gives this a bit of a fried-psychedelic tinge. At times, to be harsh, it's less than journeyman, particularly on the Dylanesque cuts, which have almost embarrassing wheezing son-of-Dylan harmonica, and some downright embarrassing out-of-sync drums. Better are the daintier, more melodic tracks with trimmings of flute,strings, and flamenco-like guitar, like the title song, "For You and Me," and "Sioux City Sue New," with their bossa nova feel.
Far and Wide: Folk-Rock's Influence on Major 1960s Rock Artists
Several of the greatest and most influential rock acts of the 1960s made brief or not-so-brief detours into folk-rock, even if they were not themselves folk-rockers all or much of the time. For proof, check out the following:
The Beatles. The Beatles' huge influence on spurring folkies to rock has been documented, and a folk influence was apparent in some of the Beatles' material from the start. As noted by the inclusion of Rubber Soul in the list of top folk-rock albums, in 1965 much (though not all) of the Beatles' output was folk-rock, although they didn't stay in that bag or indeed any bag for too long. It isn't often observed that the folk influence made something of a comeback on the White Album, on songs such as "Dear Prudence," "Blackbird," "I Will," "Julia," and "Long, Long, Long." This may well have been an afterglow of their trip to study transcendental meditation in India, where only acoustic instruments were available. Also on that meditation course was Donovan, who has recalled teaching John Lennon the finger-style folk guitar used on White Album songs such as "Dear Prudence." Just prior to the White Album sessions, the Beatles did a couple of dozen or so "unplugged" acoustic demos of White Album material that might qualify as a lost Beatles folk-rock album of sorts, complete with a campfire singalong version of "Revolution"; some of the songs were released on Anthology 3, the others are available on bootlegs such as Unsurpassed Demos. To stretch things further, there's an entire album of "unplugged" George Harrison 1970 demos from the All Things Must Pass era (see list of important 1970 folk-rock recordings above).
The Rolling Stones. Folk-rock is not a style identified with the Rolling Stones, who are often stereotyped as a raunchy blues-soaked band no matter what the era. Yet in the mid-1960s, several of their songs were quite folky and acoustic in feel, dating right back to their first American Top 40 entry, "Tell Me." If "Lady Jane" is not folk-rock, with its Elizabethan melody and dulcimer, then what is? To which we can also add "Play With Fire"; "Take It Or Leave It," covered by the Searchers; "Sittin' on a Fence," with its distinct Appalachian feel; and "Who's Been Sleeping Here?," a quite obvious attempt to mimic Bob Dylan's mid-1960s sound.
The Kinks. Acoustic folk roots had informed occasional Kinks songs well before folk-rock became fashionable, including obscure tracks like "Nothin' in This World Can Stop Me Worryin' About That Girl" (early 1965). Their late 1965 EP Kwyet Kinks was mostly folk-rock in tone, including the classic "Well Respected Man" (a hit in America) and the far less celebrated "Don't You Fret," with its almost Celtic feel. Kinks producer Shel Talmy has recalled that "Well Respected Man" and "Dedicated Follower of Fashion," another song that used bashing acoustic guitars, were folk-rock spoofs of sorts. Folk and social commentary with a British slant continued to be heard in much of the subsequent Kinks work, and some of Dave Davies' late-1960s solo singles, such as "Lincoln County," were noticeably Dylan-influenced. Dave once went on record noting the guitar work of folkie Spider John Koerner as a profound influence.
The Animals. People such as Bob Dylan were blown away by the Animals' classic blues-rock interpretation of "House of the Rising Sun," a worldwide #1 hit with a song that was a staple of many folksingers' repertoires, including Joan Baez, Dave Van Ronk, Carolyn Hester, and Dylan himself. It's sometimes been speculated that the Animals learned this song and their first single, "Baby Let Me Take You Home" (a variation of the oft-played folk tune "Baby Let Me Follow You Down"), from the versions on Bob Dylan's first album. As it turns out, that was not the case: Animals bassist Chas Chandler said he learned "House of the Rising Sun" by seeing Josh White perform it at a club in Newcastle, England in the late 1950s, and learned "Baby Let Me Follow You Down" from a rendition by the obscure blues performer Hoagy Lands. The Animals didn't do many other explicitly folk-derived songs in their classic phase, but they did do a good, little-known cover of Donovan's "Hey Gyp" in 1966.
The Velvet Underground. The Velvet Underground have so often been pegged as the anti-everything band of the 1960s -- anti-peace-and-love, anti-hippie, anti-whatever trend that was going on -- that it might seem heretical to point out that much of their work was in fact informed by a melodic, folk-rock sensibility. Nonetheless, it's there for anyone to hear, right from the first song of their first album, "Sunday Morning," which is something like the Mamas and Papas in a down mood. (Save your tomatoes -- that's a compliment.) You could also add that: Lou Reed's voice, and much of his songwriting, was and to some degree is quite Dylanesque at times; that Nico was always angling for a chance to sing and record Dylan's "I'll Keep It With Mine" (which he had yet to release at that point), both with the Velvets and solo, succeeding in placing it on her first album; that an entire CD's worth of unreleased drumless demos from 1965, now available as the first disc on the Peel Slowly and See box set, is quite folky in tenor, as on the gentle version of "Venus in Furs" and the very Dylan-like "Prominent Men," complete with harmonica; that Dylan himself hung around the Andy Warhol crowd from time to time in the mid-1960s; that one of Reed's favorite guitarists was Roger McGuinn; that John Cale's first solo album, Vintage Violence, has arrangements that sound quite a bit like the Band in places; and that Nico did solo folky gigs with accompaniment by various guitarists including Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Tim Buckley, Tim Hardin, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and Jackson Browne. Plus their third album, The Velvet Underground (1969), itself sounds quite close to a folk-rock record, the band lowering their wattage to create a hushed and almost tremulously quiet sound. The folk-rock sensibility is particularly strong on ballads such as "Pale Blue Eyes," "I'm Set Free," "Jesus," and "Candy Says," as it had been on the first album's "I'll Be Your Mirror," "Sunday Morning," and "Femme Fatale," and even on the 1969 Live version of "Sweet Jane." Were the Velvet Underground a great band, one of the best of the 1960s? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean they were totally above or apart from the trends of the day, including folk-rock. Well, especially folk-rock, in my view.
The Beach Boys. In mid-1965, the Beach Boys did a live-in-the-studio "unplugged" album of sorts, designed to simulate an informal recording at a Beach Boys' Party! Among the pseudo-hootenanny items was an unlikely cover of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'," sung by Al Jardine, the one member of the band with some folk music experience prior to the formation of the Beach Boys. On that same album was Dennis Wilson's hoarse but heartfelt cover of the Beatles' own Dylanesque "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away." And let's not forget that the group had a #3 hit in 1966 with "Sloop John B," a 1920s song from the West Indies that Jardine had learned from a version on the Kingston Trio's first album.
Them. Van Morrison's first group is most known for rough, menacing R&B/rock like "Gloria" and "Baby Please Don't Go." An eclectic even then, Van also tried his hand, with quite respectable results, at covering Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" and Paul Simon's "Richard Cory," the latter of which is actually quite an improvement on Simon & Garfunkel's milder treatment. Plus there were occasional Morrison originals, like "Friday's Child," with a very folk-rockish bent.
Pink Floyd. Britain's most famous acid rock group actually used dainty, jaunty British folk-isms fairly often, both in the Syd Barrett era ("The Gnome," "Scarecrow") and later ("See Saw," "Paint Box," "Julia Dream," "Cymbaline"). My vote for their best work in that idiom is the enchanting "Grantchester Meadows," whether in its Ummagumma version or other unreleased ones that add different harmonies and colors to the arrangement. And let's not forget Syd Barrett's solo work, which often had the feel of a benign busking lunatic, as on "Milky Way" or "The Effervescing Elephant."
Jimi Hendrix. The folk-rock in Hendrix's oeuvre is largely confined to his Bob Dylan covers. But what a strong influence: in addition to having his biggest American hit with a Bob Dylan song ("All Along the Watchtower"), he also made "Like a Rolling Stone" one of his early live showpieces, and did "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window," a rather off-the-beaten-track non-LP Dylan 45 from the mid-1960s. In January 1967 he even told Melody Maker, "I have one or two Dylan singles that were withdrawn from the shops just a few days after release," perhaps referring to a mispressing of "Positively 4th Street" that accidentally contained an otherwise unreleased slow version of "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?" instead. The Jimi Hendrix Experience's first single, "Hey Joe," was in the repertoire of numerous American folk and folk-rock acts, and Hendrix played for a time in the band of John Hammond, the folk-blues guitarist who also gave backup work to the Hawks, later to become the Band.
Traffic. We're straying a bit outside the 1960s here, but their 1970 version of the traditional British song "John Barleycorn" certainly rates as one of the finest, and most famous, rock adaptations of a British folk number. It was learned via a recording of the tune by British trad folk group the Watersons.
The Pretty Things. Britain's best-loved cult band of the 1960s, perhaps, are mostly known either for either their Rolling Stones-type ravers or their 1968 psychedelic rock opera, S.F. Sorrow. They played fetching and folky acoustic rock, however, more often than has been noted, particularly on 1965's "London Town" (also done by Donovan on a 1964 demo that came out on his Troubadour box set) and "Death of a Socialite," the best track on 1967's Emotions.
Manfred Mann. Most known for quality pop-rock hits of all kinds, Manfred Mann were very important in popularizing Bob Dylan's songs in the UK, where they had hits with "If You Gotta Go, Go Now," "Just Like a Woman," and "The Mighty Quinn," the last of which made it big in the States too. They also did a mighty fine version of "With God On Our Side," transforming it from an acoustic dirge to an epic orchestral pop-rock production. Dylan cited them as favorite interpreters during the 1960s, and Manfred Mann never lost interest in locating interesting folk-rock-flavored material to cover, as evidenced by his 1970s hit version of Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded By the Light."
The Hollies. The top-flight British Invasion pop-rockers found time to cover a number of folk and folk-rock tunes, like "I Am a Rock," Peter, Paul & Mary's "Very Last Day," and George Harrison's "If I Needed Someone." Paul Simon said in the late 1960s that the Hollies had spent a good deal of time at Simon & Garfunkel sessions, and believed that S&G influenced the group. Ironically, perhaps, their decision to do a whole album of Dylan covers (released as Hollies Sing Dylan in 1969) rather than original material influenced Graham Nash to leave and join Crosby, Stills & Nash, one of the biggest folk-rock groups of all.
The Blues Project. One of the most eclectic bands of the 1960s, they may have been most frequently categorized as a blues-rock act. However, their reach occasionally extended to folk-rock, with covers of Donovan's "Catch the Wind," Eric Andersen's "Violets of Dawn," Bob Lind's "Cheryl's Going Home," and the Al Kooper original "Fly Away."
Big Brother & the Holding Company. Like several of the top San Francisco psychedelic bands, several members of Janis Joplin's band had earlier experience as folk musicians, including Joplin herself. Nowhere is this better heard than on their first single, "Coo Coo," a pulverizing adaptation of a traditional folk song that's been done to death on record by innumerable acoustic folk artists, going back to the 1920s and continuing through the present. According to the liner notes on the CD reissue of their first album, this was remembered by the band's bassist, Peter Albin, from his folk days; for this track he played lead guitar. Also recorded on that day, for inclusion on their debut LP, was "All Is Loneliness," by eccentric New York street musician Moondog.
Quicksilver Messenger Service. Another San Francisco band primarily known for their psychedelic excursions, but also capable of some pretty commanding rock versions of folk songs, particularly Hamilton Camp's "Pride of Man," which led off their debut album. Like several other groups of the time, they also covered Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Codeine." They also did some nice original tunes in a folk-rock mood, such as "Dino's Song" (written by subsequent QMS member Dino Valenti), an unreleased version of which had been done by the Byrds in the mid-1960s.
Creedence Clearwater Revival. The premiere roots rock band of all time always made everything sound like rock, rather than blues-rock, country-rock, folk-rock, or what have you. Still, it's worth mentioning that their Willy and the Poor Boys album (late 1969) included two songs, "Cotton Fields" and "The Midnight Special," that must have been in the early repertoire of uncounted musicians, folk and rock, from both sides of the ocean, in the days when they were first mastering their instruments.
The Monkees. Whether or not these fellows were a "major" group might be in some dispute, but whether they were a "big" one is definitely not. It is not universally known that half of the quartet, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork, came from folk backgrounds. As the solo artist Michael Blessing, Nesmith had done a cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Until It's Time For You To Go" before joining the group. Many of Nesmith's Monkees compositions had a country-folk-rock flavor; "The Girl That I Knew Somewhere" would get my vote as the best of these. Tork did not get much of a chance to contribute to the Monkees as a songwriter, one instance where he did being the outtake "Lady's Baby," which has since been released on CD. As it turns out that was one of the Monkees' strongest tracks, sounding rather like a Buffalo Springfield outtake, which is unsurprising as Stephen Stills contributed guitar. And who was on drums? Buddy Miles.
Bobby Darin. The consummate all-around entertainer and musical genre grasshopper, Darin did not always sing rock (or, at times, often sing rock). However, he did play a minor, little-known role in folk-rock's gestation by putting a folk set into his act for a while in the early 1960s, and, in 1962, hiring a 20-year-old Roger McGuinn to be his accompanist for that portion on 12-string guitar (along with a standup bassist). McGuinn also briefly worked for Darin's publishing company in New York, as a Brill Building songwriter, in early 1963. Shortly before the Youngbloods formed, Darin helped Jesse Colin Young get signed to Capitol, for whom Young recorded his first solo LP in the mid-1960s. Prior to all of this, Fred Neil, long before recording his mid-1960s folk-rock solo albums, played guitar on Darin's huge late-1950s single "Dream Lover." He played drums, oddly enough, on one of the first Roger McGuinn songwriting efforts to be recorded, "Beach Ball," a 1963 single by the studio group the City Surfers; McGuinn co-wrote this with Frank Gari, and future Byrds producer Terry Melcher played piano. What's more, Darin's very first single, in 1956, was a cover of "Rock Island Line," a song that already been popularized by the Weavers and, particularly, Lonnie Donnegan, whose recording of it sparked the skiffle craze in England. And, in 1966 and 1967, the unpredictable Darin jumped into folk-rock himself, recording numerous covers of Tim Hardin and John Sebastian songs, and writing some of his own in a style heavily indebted to Hardin. Plus, of course, Darin had a big hit with a Hardin cover, "If I Were a Carpenter." As folk-rock goes Darin's material is pretty mild and mainstream, and really not that good, although some critics rate it far more highly than this writer does. He wasn't done with folk-rock after "If I Were a Carpenter," using the billing "Bob Darin" for one album only (Commitment ) in 1969, growing a moustache and donning a jean jacket for the cover shoot. He even did Dylan, Tim Hardin, Leadbelly, and Beatles songs with acoustic guitar, harmonica, and a four-piece band at L.A.'s Troubadour club around this time. You know, "Bobby Darin" doesn't sound too different to the ear than the words "Bobby Dylan"...is it possible the teenaged Bob Zimmerman had this in mind, even sub-consciously, when he changed his name to Bob Dylan?
Rick Nelson. From 1966 onward, one of the biggest stars of rock's first decade slid into country-rock, forming the Stone Canyon Band, which employed future Eagle Randy Meisner. Along the way he threw in the odd folk-rock cover, recording "Daydream," "Reason to Believe," "Don't Make Promises," "For Emily Wherever I May Find Her," a single of Bob Dylan's "She Belongs To Me," and (in 1967) the quite little-known Dylan composition "Walkin' Down the Line," which Dylan had not released himself at that point.
Elvis Presley. When Elvis Presley had the first stirrings of musical awakenings from his movies malaise in the mid-1960s, one of the things that caught his attention was Peter, Paul & Mary. Through them he became aware of songs by Gordon Lightfoot and Bob Dylan, some of which he would record. The most famous of these was his 1966 cover of "Tomorrow Is a Long Time," which Dylan himself had never released, although it had shown up via cover versions, such as the one by Ian & Sylvia. Elvis actually learned it from an album of Odetta's, Odetta Sings Dylan.Famously, Dylan has referred to Elvis' cover of this tune as his all-time favorite recording of one of his songs by another artist.
Rod Stewart. While bluesy and boozy rock was Stewart's usual forte even at the very beginning of his career, he has been very vocal in his admiration of folkies such as Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Wizz Jones. His first solo album, 1969's The Rod Stewart Album, had a cover of Ewan MacColl's "Dirty Old Town," and some of his best work of the early 1970s was folk-rockish, such as his cover of Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe" and the megahit "Maggie May."
David Bowie. David Bowie's brief folk-rock phase is not well documented on official releases, although a very good bootleg exists of an early 1969 session with him and John Hutchinson on acoustic guitars and harmonies (see listing under Important Unreleased 1960s Folk-Rock). Aside from that document, we have the folky elements in numerous early songs like "Space Oddity," and of course, although this is getting into the early 1970s, his "Song For Bob Dylan." It is not as well known that Bowie covered the Fugs' "Dirty Old Man" live in 1967, and praised the band in one of his first press interviews that year. It's also not well known that Bowie was a big fan of Love's Arthur Lee. Lee once recalled that a then-unknown Bowie sent Lee his debut album, accompanied by a personal note. Lee was not impressed by the music, or amused by "Uncle Arthur," which like most of Bowie's first album (from 1967) was a chirpy sub-Anthony Newley character sketch.
John Mayall. Bob Dylan, and some other folk-rockers, had a huge attraction to early blues-rock bands such as the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in the States. During Dylan's 1965 British tour (immortalized in the documentary Don't Look Back), he apparently entertained the thought of recording with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (Mayall is seen, very briefly, in one of the scenes in Don't Look Back, riding with Dylan in a car). A very small fragment of a recording session survives, in which Dylan and the Bluesbreakers, then including Eric Clapton, had a go at "If You Gotta Go, Go Now." From the slim available evidence on tape, the session was a shambles.
Led Zeppelin. Known for the most part as one of the world's most successful hard rock or early heavy metal bands, Led Zeppelin did incorporate a good deal of acoustic folk and folk-rock influences into their works, although these tended to show up on their lesser-known tracks. Jimmy Page had already made an explicit venture into folk-rock in his Yardbirds days with the instrumental acoustic guitar showcase on "White Summer," on that band's Little Games album. This song was based on the British Isles traditional folk standard "She Moves Through the Fair," and on Led Zeppelin's debut album, another folky guitar showcase, "Black Mountainside," was similar to the arrangement of the traditional Irish folk song "Blackwater Side" heard on a 1966 Bert Jansch LP. Also on Led Zeppelin I is "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You," a folk-rooted song that had already borne various writing credits and given quite different cover treatments by several rock bands, including Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Association, and the obscure British band the Plebs (who did a quite respectable version on a 1964 single). Going back again to the Yardbirds days, in 1968 as the group reached their death throes, they reworked "Dazed and Confused," a song by the little-known New York folk-pop-rock singer Jake Holmes, into a hard rock epic. A few live 1968 Yardbirds versions of this tune are available on bootlegs; by the time Led Zeppelin put it on their debut LP, it had acquired the bombastic sheen familiar to all of us today from innumerable FM radio plays. The folk-rock connections go on and on, actually, with Led Zeppelin, into the 1970s: Jimmy Page played memorable guitar on Roy Harper's best album (Stormcock); Led Zeppelin III 's "Hangman" is close to a 1965 version of the traditional number "Hangman" by based-in-the-UK American singer Dorris Henderson; Page has often credited Jansch as one of his favorite guitarists; Sandy Denny contributed vocals to Led Zeppelin's "Battle of Evermore"; Jimmy Page cited American folk-psychedelic combo Kaleidoscope as one of his favorite bands; it has been reported that Page and Plant were big fans of such folk-rock artists as the Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, Joni Mitchell, and Love; and today Plant shares bills with artists such as American cult folk-rocker Tim Rose. And, back in his days as a session man, Page had played guitar on Donovan's seminal "Sunshine Superman" hit, as well as (in 1968) handling the searing lead guitar on Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man." Many of Led Zep's folk roots are detailed in an extensive piece in the April 2000 issue of MOJO; for a more critical examination of Led Zeppelin's folk and blues adaptations (and the songwriting credits attached to them), see Will Shade's piece in the December 2000 issue of Perfect Sound Forever webzine (at www.furious.com/perfect/jimmypage.html).
Elton John. An artist who really didn't emerge as a solo performer until the very tail end of the 1960s, Elton John's influences are many, spread throughout the entire pop and rock spectrum. This did include folk, and both Elton John and Nick Drake fans still find it hard to believe that Elton John was once engaged (in July 1970) by producer Joe Boyd to record publishing demos of Drake's songs. Don't believe it? The evidence is there to hear on bootlegs, which have gone by such misleading names as 1968 Nick Drake Session (the session was in 1970, and also includes covers of songs by John Martyn and Mike Heron of the Incredible String Band, sometimes sung not by Elton John but by Linda Thompson).
King Crimson. What, King Crimson, folk-rock? These purveyors of serious and cerebral art-rock? That's what they're most recognized as, true, but in their very early days, there was a brief King Crimson-Fairport Convention connection. Judy Dyble, the original female voice of Fairport Convention (replaced in 1968 by Sandy Denny), was the girlfriend of original King Crimsonite Ian McDonald. The pair joined the embryonic King Crimson -- then struggling under the name of Giles, Giles & Fripp (who released one album, also in 1968) -- in June 1968. Dyble only worked with the musicians for one month, but that was long enough to record several songs. Two, "Murder" and "Make It Today," show up on the limited edition Tenth Planet LP of Giles, Giles & Fripp rarities, Metamorphosis. The other, McDonald's engaging "I Talk to the Wind," was eventually issued in 1976 on the Young Person's Guide to King Crimson compilation. A heavier, fuller art-rock version of that same song shows up on King Crimson's debut album In the Court of the Crimson King , which still -- largely through McDonald's presence -- bears traces of folk-rock in the lilting, melodic, storytelling songwriting of most of the tunes, also including "Epitaph," "Moonchild," and the epic title track. It's also interesting to note that early King Crimson included folk-rock songs like Joni Mitchell's "Michael from Mountains" in their rehearsals, and played Donovan's "Get Thy Bearings" live; a 1969 BBC recording of "Get Thy Bearings" appears on their Epitaph compilation of live 1969 material.
Yes. Yes? Surely you jest, you say! No, there wasn't much folk-rock to Yes's approach, even at its outset. It's interesting, though, that they covered a number of songs by major folk-rock artists in their very early career, including Buffalo Springfield's "Everydays," the Byrds' "I'll See You," and Richie Havens's "No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed." And let's not forget that Rick Wakeman was in British folk-rock group the Strawbs in the early 1970s before he joined Yes on keyboards.
The Nice. To further the folk-rock/art-rock connection, the Nice -- featuring keyboardist Keith Emerson, prior to his more famous work as part of Emerson, Lake, & Palmer -- covered a number of songs that originated with folk-rock performers, including Tim Hardin's "Hang on to a Dream," Bob Dylan's "She Belongs to Me," and (on a BBC session) the Byrds' "Get to You." Even stranger, they did a BBC version of jazz giant Sonny Rollins's "St. Thomas" with newly-penned lyrics by their friend (and cult British folk-rock singer-songwriter) Roy Harper.
Gregg Allman. Allman's image is usually one of a gruff blues-rocker, in keeping with his contributions as singer and keyboardist for the Allman Brothers. He did have a liking for folkier stuff, covering Jackson Browne's "These Days" on his 1973 debut solo album. Back before the Allman Brothers formed, he also wrote a little-known, quality tender folk-rock ballad recorded by the Sunshine Company in the late 1960s, "Sunday Brought the Rain."
How did they get in here?: Unusual bit players in the story of '60s folk-rock
Some of the most fascinating things about researching popular music history are the unexpected connections that surface between figures more commonly associated with wildly differing styles. None of the people below are identified with '60s folk-rock, but all of them somehow popped up to play surprise bit roles in the story of the music:
Miles Davis. The jazz great was instrumental in getting the Byrds their deal with Columbia Records in late 1964. After hearing about the band from entertainment entrepreneur Benny Shapiro, Davis -- who still hadn't heard the Byrds -- called Irving Townsend, head of Columbia's West Coast office, to arrange a meeting between Byrds co-manager Jim Dickson and CBS West Coast A&R man Allen Stanton. The Byrds were signed to Columbia shortly afterward.
Doris Day. The mother of the Byrds' first producer, Terry Melcher, who was at the helm of the group's first two albums. Most likely Melcher, who was only about the same age as the Byrds, would never have risen as high and fast as he did at Columbia Records if his mother hadn't been one of the company's biggest stars.
Roger Miller. The country star most known for his mid-1960s crossover smashes "King of the Road," "Dang Me," "Chug-A-Lug," and "Engine Engine #9" is credited by Roger McGuinn as helping the future Byrds guitarist out when McGuinn opened for Miller at the Troubadour in Los Angeles in mid-1964, shortly before helping to found the Byrds.
John Kay. Though eventually known as a hard rock/metal forefather as the head of Steppenwolf, in the early 1960s Kay was part of the Buffalo, New York folk circuit with Jackson C. Frank and Eric Andersen. Around 1964 he was briefly the manager of the New Balladeer coffeehouse in Los Angeles, where according to previous manager Morgan Cavett, "John, on purpose, would run the espresso machine during David [Crosby']s songs, which would piss him off. They'd start yelling and screaming back and forth."
Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers. The Searchers' hit 1964 cover of Jackie DeShannon's "Needles and Pins" is often and justly credited as one of the pre-1965 songs that most anticipated the sound of folk-rock, particularly in its jangling electric 12-string guitar riffs. It turns out, however, that the Searchers learned it not from DeShannon's 1963 single, but from a live cover version they heard in Hamburg by British blue-eyed soul band Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers. (Bennett & the Rebel Rousers never had success in the US, but had a Top Ten UK hit in 1966 with a cover of the Beatles' "Got to Get You into My Life.")
Kenny Rankin. Although known primarily as a smooth jazz-pop crooner, in 1965, before he'd released his first album, he somehow ended up playing some of the guitar on Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home album.
Mose Allison. The beatnik jazz singer-pianist might seem an unlikely inspiration for early folk-rock songwriters, but Mimi Farina recalled that one of Richard & Mimi Farina's best tracks, "Reno Nevada," was recorded in hopes that Mose Allison would cover it.
Geoff Stephens. He's most known for forming the New Vaudeville Band and writing their #1 1966 single "Winchester Cathedral," as well as writing or co-writing numerous pop hits, including Dave Berry's "The Crying Game," Herman's Hermits' "There's Kind of a Hush," Scott Walker's "Lights of Cincinnati," and Wayne Newton's "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast." Back in 1964, however, he helped start Donovan's career as (with Peter Eden) co-manager, also co-producing (with Eden and Terry Kennedy) Donovan's pre-1966 recordings.
Nancy Priddy. The inspiration behind one of the Buffalo Springfield's prettiest songs, Stephen Stills's "Pretty Girl Why" ("Pretty Girl" = "Priddy Girl," get it?). She also sang backup vocals on Leonard Cohen's first album, and made a little-heard late-'60s solo LP. Her biggest claim to fame, however, is as the mother of Christina Applegate, star of the hit TV series Married...with Children.
Jim Stafford. The country-pop singer who had a brief vogue in the mid-1970s with the dumb novelty hits "Spiders and Snakes" and "My Girl Bill" was, way back in the early 1960s, in the Legends, a Florida rock'n'roll band that also included the teenaged Gram Parsons.
Lobo. And also in the Legends was Lobo (real name Kent LaVoie), who'd make it big in the early 1970s with the MOR singer-songwriter hits "I'd Love You to Want Me" and "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo."
Tommy Chong. A comedy superstar in the 1970s as half of Cheech & Chong, in the 1960s he was part of soul-rockers Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers. Steve Lalor, later of Seattle's top '60s folk-rock band the Daily Flash, was in the early '60s part of the folk group the Driftwood Singers, who also included Lynn Shepard and "Hey Joe" author Billy Roberts. According to Lalor, he and Shepard used to sit in with Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers doing Jimmy Reed, Bobby Blue Bland, and obscure Chuck Berry tunes in afterhours jams, with Chong on guitar, before the folk-rock sound had taken off in the hands of the Byrds and Bob Dylan.
Norman Petty. Known principally for producing much of Buddy Holly's work in the late 1950s, he also produced some folk-rock-related recordings in the mid-1960s by Jimmy Gilmer and Carolyn Hester, as well as the Fireballs' 1968 Top Ten cover of Tom Paxton's "Bottle of Wine." In the late 1950s he produced Hester's rare debut album Scarlet Ribbons, on which Jerry Allison, drummer in Holly's band the Crickets, contributed brushes on a cardboard box to one song.
Shadow Morton. Shadow Morton rose to fame as the producer of the great girl group the Shangri-Las, writing some of their songs (such as the hits "Remember (Walking in the Sand)" and "Give Him a Great Big Kiss") as well. He'd go on to produce early heavy rockers Vanilla Fudge in the late 1960s, and pre-punkers the New York Dolls in the 1970s. In between, however, he produced teen prodigy folk-rocker Janis Ian, including her debut hit single "Society's Child."
Leonard Bernstein. The famed classical music conductor and composer was instrumental in making Janis Ian's "Society's Child" a hit. Though it had been on release for some time, the single failed to make the charts until she performed it on the Bernstein-hosted CBS television special Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution , after which it soared into the Top Twenty. That same special, incidentally, included interview footage with Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, and a snippet of Tim Buckley performing "No Man Can Find the War."
Val Doonican. This Irish easy listening singer seriously ate into the sales of Bob Lind's "Elusive Butterfly" with his cover of the tune in 1966, where the competing versions each peaked at #5 in the British charts.
Pat Boone. Boone signed one of the best early Los Angeles folk-rock bands, the Leaves, to his production company in the mid-1960s. In a much weirder move, he covered songs by Fred Neil and John Stewart on his 1969 album Departure, which also presented the first released version of Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren" (which the singer-songwriter would do on his 1970 album Starsailor). For good measure, the album was produced by two guys who'd played a role in early folk-rock, ex-Lovin' Spoonfulers Jerry Yester and Zal Yanovsky, the supporting cast including Ry Cooder and David Lindley as session musicians.
Rick James. In early 1966, long before he became a late-1970s funk superstar, Rick James sang in the Toronto rock band the Mynah Birds, who also included guitarist Neil Young and bassist Bruce Palmer. Although they got as far as a contract with Motown, for whom they recorded some unreleased material, the group split up after James was arrested for being AWOL from the US navy. Almost immediately, Young and Palmer headed to Los Angeles, where they joined Stephen Stills and Richie Furay to form Buffalo Springfield. A few years later, James surfaced on Bruce Palmer's rare, far-out early-'70s solo album The Cycle Is Complete , on which he contributed some vocals and percussion.
Hugh Masekela. The jazzman played trumpet on the Byrds' "So You Want to Be a Rock'n'Roll Star," and it was his Chisa label that issued Peter Fonda's 1967 single "November Nights," written by Gram Parsons.
Micki Callen. In another bizarre Buffalo Springfield connection, in August 1967, L.A. radio station KHJ ran a contest in which a listener would write the words for Buffalo Springfield to put to music, for a prize of $1,000 cash and publishing royalties. So it was that Richie Furay of Buffalo Springfield was saddled with the task of writing a melody for teenager Micki Callen's poem "The Hour of Not Quite Rain," which ended up on the group's third album. To his credit he pulled it off, even if it meant devising particularly tortuous phrasing to make the words fit, swamped with orchestration in the absence of anything resembling a standard rock rhythm. Has anybody ever found or interviewed Callen?
Toni Basil. Although she's most known for her #1 1982 bubblegum new wave hit "Mickey," Basil's career goes all the way back to the mid-1960s, when she was a pop-rock singer and film choreographer; she was also an actress, appearing as one of the New Orleans prostitutes in Easy Rider. And also in the 1960s, it was reported that she was choreographing a "modern love psychedelic love ballet," with music by Donovan.
Wayne Carson. He's most famous as the author of the Box Tops' #1 1967 single "The Letter." But slightly before that, he wrote one of the best and most socially conscious songs, "The Man on the Street," by one of the best little-known mid-1960s folk-rock groups, the Blue Things.
Ray Stevens. Also for the Blue Things, Ray Stevens -- known for his novelty hits "Ahab, The Arab," "Gitarzan," and "The Streak" -- worked as a session musician, playing organ on the band's single "Orange Rooftop of Your Mind," and also playing the toy piano at the end of their single "Doll House."
S. Clay Wilson. Primarily known as an underground comics artist, in his younger days S. Clay Wilson co-wrote a song that appeared on a non-LP 1967 Blue Things single, "You Can Live in Our Tree."
The Jordanaires. To wrap up the unlikely bit players in the Blue Things story, one of the Jordanaires -- most famous for singing backup vocals for Elvis Presley, though they sang backup for numerous rock and country artists -- sang a high harmony part on the group's "I Must Be Doing Something Wrong."
Greg Lake. This is a real tangential connection, but before joining King Crimson, Lake played in the Shame, who covered Janis Ian's "Too Old to Go 'Way Little Girl," rewriting a lyrical reference to rape so as not to discourage BBC airplay. Covering accusations of selling out, slightly, the group inserted slips with both the original and changed lyrics in 1,000 of the 45's record sleeves. Britain's W.H. Smith chain withdrew the slip from those sleeves, with BBC producer Denys Jones emphasizing to Disc, "I can't imagine any producer playing a song mentioning rape." As the Shame probably never came close to selling 1,000 copies of this release (which was their sole single) anyway, it seems possible that the whole thing was a stunt cooked up to get what turned out to be the band's only media publicity.
Yoko Ono. It's seldom reported that Al Stewart was an early investor in Ono's work, before either of them were famous, sinking 100 pounds into Ono's 1967 film Number 4 , a montage of 365 bottoms framed in exactly the same manner for 20 seconds each.
Jef Jaisun. Regular listeners to Dr. Demento's show may well be familiar with Jaisun's folk satire "Friendly Neighborhood Narco Agent," a staple on the program in the mid-1970s. Back in the mid-1960s, he was the teenage janitor at the Jabberwocky, the Berkeley folk club at which Country Joe & the Fish formed and built their local following.
Dr. Demento. Speaking of Dr. Demento, under his real name Barry Hansen, he was for a time editor/publisher of The Little Sandy Review, the early-'60s folk magazine which by the mid-1960s was covering quite a bit of folk-rock. He was a friend of the Rising Sons, the neglected mid-1960s L.A. folk-rock band who featured both Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder, and even got an arrangement credit for one of their best unreleased recordings (since issued on CD), a cover of the Gerry Goffin-Carole King song "Take a Giant Step" (more famous as done by the Monkees). Hansen was also a good friend of John Fahey (who, though not folk-rock, influenced some folk-rock musicians) in the mid-1960s, as a fellow student in UCLA's Folk Music Studies program, his next-door neighbor in Venice, California, and (briefly) his road manager. (He also worked as a roadie for Canned Heat and Spirit in the '60s.)
Leonard Rosenman. Film composer Rosenman's most remembered for his mid-1970s Academy Award-winning scores for Barry Lyndon and Bound for Glory, as well as for his work on the score for Rebel Without a Cause. In 1970, he also produced Linda Perhacs's Parallelograms, one of the finer unknown folk-rock albums, and one which has developed a growing, avid cult reputation. The deal came about almost by accident when Perhacs met Rosenman and his wife, who were patients at a clinic where she worked. They asked her what she did with her personal time; she told them she traveled and wrote songs; they asked to hear them; she gave them a homemade tape. They called her at 8am the following morning (a Saturday) and asked her to start working with them immediately.
Andy Williams. The MOR crooner ran the Barnaby label, which put out the debut album Goodnight Everybody by Mary McCaslin in the late 1960s, produced by Larry Murray of the underrated country-folk-rock group Hearts & Flowers. Williams also covered the song "Holly" by Craig Smith, one of the songwriters in one of the most overlooked L.A. folk-rock groups, the Mike Nesmith-produced Penny Arkade (who didn't release anything while they were active). Smith used the royalties from cover versions of his songs by Williams, the Monkees, and Glen Campbell to travel around the world, changing into the weirder character Satya Sai Maitreya Kali, who would record spooky solo folk-rock that was eventually issued (along with numerous Penny Arkade recordings) on privately pressed LPs in the early 1970s.
Sam Shepard. One of the most respected playwrights of modern times (and also an acclaimed actor) was also, for a spell in the late 1960s, drummer for the Holy Modal Rounders, who were not just one of the wackiest folk-rock groups, but one of the wackiest bands ever.
Joseph Byrd. Experimental composer Byrd is most known within the rock world for leading the United States of America, one of the most interesting and avant-garde psychedelic rock groups of the late 1960s. He was also responsible for the unsettling musique concrete-like arrangement of Phil Ochs's studio version of "The Crucifixion" (on the album Pleasures of the Harbor), whose merits and demerits are the cause of considerable controversy among Ochs fans.
John Andrew Tartaglia. Known principally for jingles, soundtracks, and his work with the easy listening Mystic Moods Orchestra, he arranged and conducted the orchestrations on John Stewart's unusual and underrated debut album, 1968's Signals Through the Glass (co-credited to Stewart's wife Buffy Ford).
Alan Douglas. Douglas is most notorious for his controversial overdubs as producer for much of Jimi Hendrix's posthumous catalog, and also recognized for his production of the Last Poets and jazzmen Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans, and Charles Mingus. Before meeting Hendrix, Douglas had overdubbed some solo demos of traditional material folk material by Richie Havens with a full electric band. He released two unauthorized Havens albums of such tracks, Richie Havens Record and Electric Havens, on his own Douglas label in the 1960s. Years before that, he had produced the Big Three, a folk act whose members -- Tim Rose, Cass Elliot, and James Hendricks -- went on to have varying degrees of impact in the folk-rock world.
The Balloon Farm. The Balloon Farm are known solely for their bubblegum-garage single "A Question of Temperature," which inched into the Top Forty in early 1968. Far from folk-rock, but its producer, Peter Schekeryk, would shortly go on to produce and marry Melanie. And in order to produce Melanie, he had to pry her from the contractual clutches of the production team (and Roulette Records executives) Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore. He bought her freedom by trading his financial interest in "A Question of Temperature" to Hugo & Luigi.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Strictly speaking, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was not a musician or a music professional, although he did release an album of spoken word material, some of it with sitar backing. In 1968, though, the Beatles and Donovan went to Rishikesh, India to study on a meditation course with the Maharishi for a few weeks. And while there, they played together on acoustic guitars, Donovan teaching John Lennon finger-style guitar picking, influencing some of the quieter and folkier songs to appear on The White Album.
Ossie Byrne. The Australian is best known as the producer of the Bee Gees' first internationally successful album, 1967's The Bee Gees First. He also produced the sole album by Eclection, one of the finer obscure folk-rock groups of the late 1960s.
Flatt & Scruggs. Bluegrass stars Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs usually did bluegrass music, and are best known to the masses for the theme to The Beverly Hillbillies , as well as contributing "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" to the Bonnie and Clyde soundtrack. On October 30, 1967, though, they recorded the first released version of the Bob Dylan Basement Tapes song "Down in the Flood"; Dylan's own version wouldn't come out until 1975.
Eddie Rabbitt. The future mainstream country star, who got to #1 on the pop charts in 1980 with "I Love a Rainy Night," co-wrote the title track of the Gosdin Brothers' overlooked 1968 early country-rock album, Sounds of Goodbye. The Gosdin Brothers had intermittently worked with some of the Byrds on various projects before then. That LP and some 1966-68 singles were interesting combinations of country, folk, and rock with some resemblance to some of the Byrds' mid-1960s records and Gene Clark's early solo work, though the song "Sounds of Goodbye" was one of the more country-oriented items on the LP.
David Clayton-Thomas. According to Simon & Garfunkel co-producer Roy Halee, Paul Simon thought "Bridge Over Troubled Water" might be a good song for Blood, Sweat & Tears to cover, before Simon & Garfunkel had decided to release their own version as a single. But blustery BST lead singer David Clayton-Thomas didn't care for it when it was played to him, leaving the way clear for "Bridge Over Troubled Water" to become a huge hit for Simon & Garfunkel.
Robin Lane. Singer-songwriter Lane had some success in the early 1980s as the figurehead of the Boston new wave band Robin Lane & the Chartbusters. Back in 1969, she sang backup vocals on Neil Young's "Round & Round," from Young's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere album.
Leo Sayer. A bunch of British singer-songwriters who became pop stars had loose early ties with the folk or folk-rock scene, including Elton John, Cat Stevens, and Gerry Rafferty. Another was Leo Sayer, who did some time in folk clubs and as a street busker in the early '70s before rising to mainstream pop stardom.
Steve Baron. Steve Baron had been in the Hardly Worthit Players, a satirical group who had a Top Twenty hit (credited to "Senator Bobby") in 1967 with a takeoff on "Wild Thing," featuring a lead vocal that was an obvious facsimile of then-Senator Robert Kennedy. In a much more serious mood, Baron also wrote "Loneliness," which was recorded by Jim & Jean on their 1966 folk-rock album Changes.
Stone Monkey. The unclassifiable performance art ensemble Stone Monkey linked up with the Incredible String Band to help them develop the mixed-media piece U, which combined music, drama, dance, and pantomime. The show only lasted for a few weeks in April 1970, but did help generate the Incredible String Band's studio double album U.
"A good witch."
Jerry Jeff Walker's song "Mr. Bojangles" was covered by the Nitty
Dirt Band, it became the biggest commercial success for both composer
group, reaching the Top Ten. In his autobiography Gypsy Songman,
Walker wrote that the Dirt Band's Jimmy Ibbotson told him he had first
come across the song when "a good witch" gave Ibbotson Walker's "Mr.
single while he was packing his car for his move from Indiana to
uttering "I know this will mean a lot to you" before walking away. It
until a few months later, mulling over what songs to record for the Uncle
Charlie album after having joined the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, that
Ibbotson remembered the gift and dug it out of his trunk. The Dirt
John McEuen confirmed that the Walker single was given to Ibbotson "by
a definitely strange witchly type, but not so uncommon in those days."
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