Posts Tagged ‘John Sebastian’

See the source image

Numerous autobiographical songs have been written since the dawn of rock, but few have told the story of a band’s formation as vividly and colourfully as The Mamas and the Papas“Creeque Alley.” Released as a single in late April 1967, it climbed to No5 on the Billboard Hot 100; it also appeared on the quartet’s third album, “Deliver”

The song, credited to the group’s husband-and-wife co-founders John and Michelle Phillips, chronicles the events leading up to the 1965 creation of the Mamas and the Papas, which also included Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty. The lyrics are stocked with names and places, some of which may have been (and still are) unfamiliar to fans of the group. 

First, there’s the song’s title. “Creeque Alley” (pronounced creaky) is a real place, one of a series of alleys (actually named Creeque’s Alley and owned by the Creeque family) on the docks on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. The soon-to-be members of the Mamas and the Papas spent time there shortly before changing their musical direction and taking on their new name. There they were still performing folk music, at a club called Sparky’s Waterfront Saloon, and basically trying to make ends meet and figure out their futures.

The song’s story line only makes passing reference to the Mamas and the Papas’ time on the island though, and never mentions Creeque Alley by name. It starts in the years leading up to the seemingly preordained coalescence of the four singers. The first line, “John and Mitchy were getting’ kind of itchy just to leave the folk music behind,” refers to John and Michelle Phillips activities as folk singers in the early ’60s. John Phillips, then 26, had been singing with a folk group called the Journeymen when he met 17-year-old Michelle Gilliam during a tour stop in San Francisco. They fell in love and, after John divorced his first wife, married on December. 31st, 1962, moving to New York where they began writing songs together while Michelle did modelling work to earn some cash.

By late 1964, with the rock scene exploding, John and Michelle had become, like many others, “itchy” to move away from folk. It wasn’t all that easy, they quickly discovered, and the couple, along with Doherty formed the New Journeymen in the meantime.  In the meantime, other similarly inclined folk artists were coming into one another’s orbits. First, there were “Zal and Denny, workin’ for a penny, tryin’ to get a fish on a line,” which refers to Zal Yanovsky and Dennis (known as Denny) Doherty. Both Canadians, they’d been working together in a folk trio called the Halifax Three in their home country.

In a coffeehouse Sebastian sat” brings into the picture John Sebastian, the New York City-born singer-songwriter who at the time was part of the Even Dozen Jug Band and would soon form one of the most beloved American rock bands of the era. And then there were “McGuinn and McGuire, just a gettin’ higher in L.A., you know where that’s at.” McGuinn, of course, was Jim later Roger McGuinn, whose group the Byrds would vault to the top of the charts with their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” in the late spring of ’65, while McGuire was Barry, whose rendition of P.F. Sloan’s protest song “Eve of Destruction” struck a nerve that summer, also catapulting to the No1 position.

The first verse leaves off with a name-drop of the fourth member of the Mamas and the Papas: “And no one’s gettin’ fat except Mama Cass.” Cass Elliot (born Ellen Naomi Cohen), originally from Baltimore, she also had a background in folk music when she came to the attention of the other folkies in the song. She’d sung in a trio called the Big 3 with Tim Rose and Cass’ husband, James Hendricks, but like the others she saw the proverbial writing on the wall and wanted to expand her range of music. The “gettin’ fat” remark has a double meaning, however: not only was Elliot physically large but she was the only future M&P member who was making a decent living with her music, singing jazz in the Washington, D.C., area.

The second verse begins with a couple of mutual compliments: “Zally said, ‘Denny, you know there aren’t many who can sing a song the way that you do, let’s go south.’ Denny said, ‘Zally, golly, don’t you think that I wish I could play guitar like you?’” And so they headed south from Canada, soon finding themselves at a popular club in New York’s Greenwich Village: “Zal, Denny and John Sebastian sat (at the Night Owl), and after every number they’d pass the hat.” (More trivia: The Night Owl would become the home base of the Lovin’ Spoonful, Sebastian and Yanovsky’s group, and much later on would be the site of the famed New York record store Bleecker Bob’s.

Meanwhile, McGuinn and McGuire were “still a-gettin’ higher in L.A.” and Mama Cass was still “gettin’ fat,” but no one had yet found their destinies. Verse three gives us some more background on Cass’ run-up to joining the group. She was planning to attend college at Swarthmore, the song says, but instead hitchhiked to New York to see if she could make it in the music world. She wanted to attend Goucher College near her hometown of Baltimore. But John Phillips needed a rhyme so he used sophomore and Swarthmore.) Upon her arrival in NYC, she met Denny Doherty and fell in love with him. “Called John and Zal and that was the Mugwumps” adds the next piece to the puzzle: The Mugwumps were a folk quintet formed in 1964 featuring Elliot, Doherty, Sebastian, Yanovsky and Hendricks. (The John here refers to Sebastian, not Phillips. The Mugwumps recorded enough material to be compiled into an album in 1967, which did not feature Sebastian, but the group was short-lived as its members were also “itchy to leave the folk music behind.”

The next verse ties up the loose ends and takes us to the point where everyone is on the verge of fame: “Sebastian and Zal formed the Spoonful; Michelle, John and Denny getting’ very tuneful; McGuinn and McGuire just a-catchin’ fire in L.A., you know where that’s at.” And there you have it: the various figures peel away from folk and move into what was then called folk-rock: Sebastian and Yanovsky teamed with bassist Steve Boone and drummer Joe Butler in the Lovin’ Spoonful; the Phillipses, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty became the Mamas and the Papas; McGuinn led the Byrds for several years; and McGuire had a chart-topping hit as a solo artist. In fact, says a previous verse, “McGuinn and McGuire couldn’t get no higher and that’s what they were aimin’ at.” “And everybody’s gettin’ fat except Mama Cass,” goes the final line in that verse, inferring that success had arrived.

But there’s some unfinished business, that matter of the time spent at Creeque Alley. The last chorus/verse informs us that it wasn’t overnight success for the Mamas and the Papas by any means. It’s here, at the end of the song, that the scene shifts to the Virgin Islands. The singers, still called the New Journeymen and minus Cass at first (as the song said, they “knew she’d come eventually”) are cash-poor and borrowing on their American Express cards. They’re “broke, busted, disgusted,” but thanks to some help from a fellow named Hugh Duffy, who owned a boarding house in Creeque’s Alley, the four young singers who would soon be known worldwide were able to start thinking about their future: “Duffy’s good vibrations and our imaginations can’t go on indefinitely,” they sing toward the end of “Creeque Alley” So the four returned briefly to New York, then all headed out to Southern California to see if they could catch a break. “And California Dreaming is becoming a reality” is the final line of the song. We all know what that one means.

The Doors returned to their roots and were reborn a rock and roll band on “Morrison Hotel”, the group’s fifth studio album. 1970 was more than the dawn of a new decade. It was also the end of an era.

The year began with the breakup of the Beatles, wrapped up with the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and was also hallmarked by any number of other musical convolutions. The Rolling Stones did not release a new studio LP, The Who were still struggling to follow up “Tommy,” and rock ’n’ roll itself was on such shaky ground that, when the critics looked around and tried to prophesy what the “Next Big Thing” was going to be, most of them settled upon the crop of singer-songwriters who — let’s be honest here — would barely have gotten a look in a year or two before. And then The Doors released “Morrison Hotel,” and, for 40 marvelous minutes or so, it was worth waking up in the morning again.

For this new collection, the original album has been expanded with more than an hour of unreleased recordings taken from the sessions for Morrison Hotel. These 19 outtakes transport listeners into the studio with Jim Morrison, John Densmore, Robby Krieger, and Ray Manzarek for an unprecedented perspective on the making of the album. Botnick says: There are many takes, different arrangements, false starts, and insightful studio conversations between the band who were in the studio and producer Paul Rothchild  who was in the control room. It’s like being a fly on the wall.

Several of these unheard recordings spotlight how Queen Of The Highway and Roadhouse Blues evolved across multiple sessions. It’s especially interesting to hear how the band played with different bass players on Roadhouse Blues. Early versions include Harvey Brooks, who played on the band’s previous album, “The Soft Parade”. Later takes feature guitar legend Lonnie Mack on bass along with The Lovin Spoonful’s John Sebastian on harmonica who, due to contractual restrictions at the time, had to be credited as G. Puglese.

Among the treasure trove of unreleased outtakes are also rough versions of Morrison Hotel tracks Peace Frog and Blue Sunday, as well as The Doors rarity I Will Never Be Untrue. The collection also captures some incredible session outtakes of the band jamming on cover versions of the Motown classic Money (That’s What I Want) and B.B. King’s Rock Me.

Completed in only a few weeks and released in February 1970, the hard-charging album took its name from the skid row hotel in downtown Los Angeles that’s featured in the iconic cover photo taken by Henry Diltz. Morrison Hotel: 50th Anniversary Deluxe edition includes the original album newly remastered by the Doors’ longtime engineer and mixer Bruce Botnick, plus a bonus disc of unreleased studio outtakes, and the original album on 180-gram virgin vinyl. the music will also be available from digital and streaming services the same day. for this new collection, the original album has been expanded with more than an hour of unreleased recordings taken from the sessions for Morrison Hotel. “There are many takes, different arrangements, false starts, and insightful studio conversations between the band – who were in the studio.

“Morrison Hotel” is not the sole glimpse into this new-found funkiness around these days. Earlier this year, a staggering six CDs of live material culled from The Doors’ four-show residency at the Felt Forum in New York provided us with the most complete examination yet of The Doors as a working band. The shows catch The Doors firing on every cylinder, a blazing rock ’n’ roll band at the height of its creative and improvisational powers.

Plus, says Manzarek, New York was the Doors’ favourite place to play. “The New York audience was always interesting. London was great, and Los Angeles was good. But New York was the best, and you can feel that in the live show.”

“Morrison Hotel” was still several weeks away from release at the time of the Felt Forum shows, but much of the album was already firmly nestled in the live set, including the song that remains the new record’s definitive track, the opening “Roadhouse Blues. “What a signature lick. That’s all you have to hear, and you know what that song’s meant to be. And that great last stanza by Morrison… ‘I got up this morning and got myself a beer.’ Is that rock ’n’ roll or what?”

On that evidence alone, Manzarek says, “‘Morrison Hotel’ was definitely back to roots, back to basics. Great songs. In fact, the only thing it lacked was, as we called them, an epic. There was no song over five minutes. We didn’t have a ‘Light My Fire,’ ‘When The Music’s Over’ or ‘The End.’ But so what?”.

“Indian Summer” was an outtake that dated back to “the very first day of recording for the first album. We found it in our bin of stuff. There was us, our producer Paul Rothchild and our engineer Bruce Botnik, and we wanted a simple little song so we could get the sound down. So we did ‘Indian Summer’ and then went into ‘Moonlight Mile.’

Revamped and with much of it rerecorded, “Indian Summer” emerged as one of the most unexpected treats on the new album. But pressed to name his favourite, Manzarek has little hesitation in pointing to another song whose genesis dated back a few years, “Waiting For The Sun.”

The song was originally intended as the title track to The Doors’ third album, back in 1968. “We loved the title so much that we called the album ‘Waiting For The Sun,’ the artwork was done, but the song wasn’t ready. It hadn’t come out of the oven yet. Never mind, nobody will know there’s the song called ‘Waiting For The Sun’ as well. So when it did finally come out on ‘Morrison Hotel,’ people went — wait a sec! But I’m glad we waited, because it came out a stunning piece of music.”

So is the rest of the set, an album that drives from the opening punch of “Roadhouse Blues” to the closing grind of “Maggie M’Gill,” and, in between times, launches such future Doors favourites as “The Spy,” “Ship Of Fools” and “Land Ho!”.

Dave Marsh at Creem called The Doors’ fifth album “the most horrifying rock and roll I have ever heard,” and that was a compliment. “When they’re good, they’re simply unbeatable.” It was the best record he’d heard all year. Rock Magazine and Circus unanimously agreed that it was The Doors’ best record yet, and while it was maybe a little early to be making such pronouncements (‘Morrison Hotel’ was released in February 1970), Circus described it as “one of the best albums

Joe Lewis Walker album

Blues favorite Joe Louis Walker releases the single “Old Time Used to Be” featuring Keb’ Mo, with John Sebastian on harmonica, ahead of his upcoming guest-filled album “Blues Comin’ On,” to be released June 5th on Cleopatra Blues.

Joe Louis Walker’s new Cleopatra Blues album “Blues Comin” On features Keb’ Mo’, John Sebastian, Jorma Kaukonen, Mitch Ryker, Lee Oskar, Albert Lee, Waddy Wachtel, Eric Gales and more special guests.

Blues Comin’ On features guest performances by fellow blues icons Keb’ Mo’, Eric Gales, and Albert Lee, plus Detroit hit singer Mitch Ryder, John Sebastian, formerly of The Lovin’ Spoonful, harmonica virtuoso Lee Oskar, known for his work with War, Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna fame, punk rock vocalist Charlie Harper, legendary session guitar player Waddy Wachtel, and many more. The album explodes with the passionate playing and soulful melodies that have made Joe Louis Walker a favorite among true blues aficionados including The Rolling Stones.

Originally from San Francisco, Joe, a Blues Hall of Fame inductee and four-time Blues Music Award-winner, celebrates a career that exceeds a half century. His musical legacy as a prolific torchbearer for the blues is proven by his 26 albums. A true powerhouse guitar virtuoso, unique singer, and prolific songwriter, he has toured extensively throughout his career, performed at the world’s most renowned music festivals, and earned a legion of dedicated fans.

Joe says, “From the opening track to the final note, the guests and fellow musicians on this album made this one of the best musical journeys I’ve ever had, and I hope it is the same for you.”

“Blues Comin” Released on: 22nd April on the Cleopatra Blues label,