Tag Archives: Frank Zappa

What does “Louie Louie” have to do with the Birth of Progressive Rock? The Album “Touch”

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This blog was inspired by my friend and former roommate in college, Ken.  Ken is the first person who ever told me about this album.  Then Ken sent me a copy of the CD.  Later on I found two copies of the LP and bought both.  It turned out that they were both in VG+ condition.  I gave one copy to my daughter and I kept the one you will here on this blog posting.  

When the song “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen opens, you hear a keyboard riff that is easily one of the most famous and influential musical ideas of all time. A fifteen year old young man named Don Gallucci created that keyboard riff. A billion songs have used that chord progression. It is arguably the most influential song in Rock history. It is certainly one of the most recognizable songs in Rock history. The song is the Root of the tree that all “Garage Rock” grew from. “Punk Rock”, too.  The song and group came out of the Pacific Northwest.  Portland to be exact.  So it is also the root of the tree that Grunge Rock sprang from as well.
The song and the riff were a blessing and a curse to Don Gallucci.  .  The curse was that he was so young that his parents  wouldn’t let him go out on tour with the rest of the band. The blessing was that the course of his life and destiny lay in another direction.
He started a new band called “Don and the Goodtimes” with drummer Bob Holden. He had another hit record. The song was called “I Could Be So Good To You”. The song made it into the top 20. The song was produced and arranged by the famous Jack Nitzchie.
The year was 1967. Don felt like every song, every album, was just like every other album and every other song… Two things happened that lead to Don Gallucci’s next great contribution to Rock history… He discovered L.S.D. and he heard “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”.
Gallucci felt that song structure could be expanded beyond the typical 3 minute radio friendly song.  He felt that Rock-n-Roll had much more potential. Rock offered the opportunity for serious musical composition. He took some acid and came up with 12 minute long, wildly original song he titled “Seventy-five” and Rock music would never be the same.  He formed the band Touch with John Bordonaro on drums, percussion and vocals, Bruce Hauser on Bass and vocals, Jeff Hawks on Lead Vocals, and Joey Newman ( AKA Vern Kjellberg) on Guitar and Vocals.

They rented a house in the Hollywood Hills that resembled a Moroccan Castle and started writing additional songs and rehearsing.  They invited A & R men and Producers up to their Moroccan Castle to hear what they were working on.  Word spread around Hollywood that they were working on a very different kind of album.  This resulted in a bidding war for the bands debut album.  They finally signed with Coliseum Records for a reported advance of $25,000.  That was a lot of money in 1967!    While they were preparing for their own recording session the record label asked them if they would act as the studio musicians for an artist named Elyse Weinberg.  She was working on an album at Sunset Sound.  Sunset sound was founded by Walt Disney in order to record the soundtracks for his movies.  It is one of the most famous recording studios in the world.  The people who recorded successful albums at that studio is a “who’s who” of music history. ( It’s ironic to note that the same studio that recorded the songs for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs also recorded the first two albums by The Doors!)  .They were credited on Elyse Weinberg’s album as “The Band Of Thieves”.  They took their name from one of her songs on the album.

The recording of the Elyse Weinberg album simply morphed into the Touch recording sessions.  The album was recorded in a party-like atmosphere.  Mick Jagger , Grace Slick, and Jimi Hendrix were all hanging around the sessions.  Jimi Hendrix even bank-rolled some of the studio time.

The recording engineer was the now famous Gene Shiveley.  Apparently, no one really remembers how all of the sound effects were created.  A lot of drugs and alcohol were involved.  The only unusual piece of equipment they had at their disposal was a tone generator.  Although, synthesizers were around in 1967 they were not always readily available.  According to Shiveley no synthesizers were used in the production of this record.  After you hear this music you will find that hard to believe.  So what you are about to hear was all done by real instruments and outstanding studio production techniques.

When you hear the stunning guitar work it’s easy to see why Jimi Hendrix was hanging around.  When you hear the piano and keyboard playing you won’t believe it’s the same guy that play “three cords and the truth” on Louie, Louie.

This album predates any English progressive rock.  It was recorded and released before King Crimson or Renaissance.  Maybe Frank Zappa could claim that Freak Out which was released in 1966 was the first Progressive rock album.  But it is a very different sounding album compared to Touch.

So take a listen to the eponymous album “Touch”.  Recorded in 1967 and released in 1968.

Side 1

We Feel Fine

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Friendly Birds

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Miss Teach

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The Spiritual Death Of Howard Greer

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Side 2

Down At Circe’s Place

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Alesha And Others

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Seventy-five

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I am also including some songs that were not on the original album.  They were included on the CD when the album was re released in 1999

Alesha And Others (Alternate Version)

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Blue Feeling

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We Finally Met Today

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The Second Coming Of Suzanne[cincopa AgNA6m7BjfjL

The piano work on this album sounds like Keith Emerson is performing it.  This album is sighted by many progressive rock musicians as a source of inspiration.  Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Kansas, King Crimson, Yes, Uriah Heep, and Renascence all sight this album as an inspiration and the beginning of Progressive Rock.

So what happened?  What is the reason that this album isn’t better known?  One of the reasons the album didn’t sell well is that they never toured to promote it.  There is a story out there that says they refused to tour because they couldn’t figure out how to perform the songs live.  This is obviously not true because there are outtakes that were recorded live in the studio of the band performing some of the songs.  The real story is that they had personal issues that caused them to decide not to tour.

And what happened to the band members?  Well, Newman still works as a musician.  Hauser is out of the business and lives and works in Central Florida.  Bordonaro is a successful business owner and also an equestrian.  He lives in Southern California.  Hawks is a hair dresser.  And what about Gallucci?  He too, is out of the music business.  He sells Real Estate in Southern California.  It is unbelievable that a man that has had such a major impact on Rock and Roll could  be out of the business and largely unknown by the general public.  He should be in the Rock n Roll  Hall Of Fame!!  But Don Gallucci can always take comfort in the fact that when opportunity came his way, he had the Touch…

 

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Posted in Rock Music, Vinyl | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Is Music for the listener or for the composer/performer??

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band and their wild and crazy LP “Trout Mask Replica.”

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It is curious that the general public has an easier time accepting the avant-garde in art and literature before music. It is a part of the history of music in the 20th century that music diverged into a never ending ever expanding delta instead of the river it used to be.  Part of this divergence was directly attributable to the fact that some musicians and composers no longer sought or even cared about public acceptance of their music.  Captain Beefheart was this type of musician.  What you are about to hear is not an accident.  It’s not a result of bad musicianship. And equally true, this is not some kind of joke or farce being perpetrated on you the listener.  This is an attempt to make art for the artist sake whither anyone else enjoys it or not.

This record was made in 1969.  It was produced by Frank Zappa.  Frank actually named Donald Van Vliet “Captain Beefheart”.  Van Vliet once told David Letterman that his named symbolized that he had a “Beef in his Heart against this society.”  This may give insight into the genesis of this record.  This record is highly acclaimed by Rock historians and critics.  It is on The Rolling Stone top 100 LP’s of all time list and top 500 recordings of all time.  It is also included in the book “1,000 recordings to Hear Before You Die”  by Tom Moon.

The album would never have happened without Frank Zappa.  Frank owned two record labels so he offered to put the record out on one of his labels if he could produce the LP and then he gave Captain Beefheart full creative authority to do what ever he wanted…  Let’s just say that Captain Beefheart took full advantage of his creative freedom.

This songs were all meticulously composed by Van Vliet.  The band moved in together and rehearsed the compositions for 8 months in a relentless, physically and emotionally abusive, cult-like atmosphere created and driven by Donald Van Vliet.  At one time or another every member of the band bordered on having a nervous breakdown.  None of them had any money and they subsisted on Welfare and shoplifting for food.

Van Vliet claims that all of these songs were written in one 8 hour session, however; it has been proven that at least 2 of the songs were written in 1968.  What is true is that all of the music tracks were recorded in one 6 hour session.  Vliet spent another 2 or 3 days adding in the horn overdubs and vocals.  I guess rehearsing 14 hours a day for 8 months paid off.  Keep all of this in mind when you hear the songs.  Everything you hear was rehearsed until it was perfect. Hmmm… The band consisted of the follow cast of characters:

Donald Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart):  Vocals, Tenor and Soprano Sax, Bass Clarinet, Musette, Smiran Horn, Hunting Horn, and jingle bells.

Jeff Cotton (Antennae Jimmy Semens):  Slide Guitar and Vocals.

Bill Harkleroad (Zoot Horn Rollo):  Slide Guitar and flute.

Victor Hayden (The Mascara Snake):  Bass Clarinet and Vocals.

Mark Boston:  (Rockette Morton):  Bass Guitar and narration.

John French (Drumbo):  Drums and Percussion.

Without any other comment to influence your opinions and/or insights to this album.  I present to you the complete set of songs from the infamous album “Trout Mask Replica”!

Side 1

Frownland

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The Dust Blows Forward ‘N The Dust Blows Back

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Dachau Blues

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Ella Guru

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Hair Pie: Bake 1

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Moonlight On Vermont

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Side Two


Pachuco Cadaver

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Bills Corpse

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Sweet Sweet Bulbs

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Neon Meate Dream Of A Octafish

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China Pig

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My Human Gets Me Blues

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Dali’s Car

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Side Three

Hair Pie: Bake 2

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Pena

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Well

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When Big Joan Sets Up

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Fallin’ Ditch

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Sugar ‘N Spikes

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Ant Man Bee

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Side Four

Orange Claw Hammer

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Wild Life

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She’s Too Much For My Mirror

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Hobo Chang Ba

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The Blimp

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Steal Softly Thru Snow

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Old Fart At Play

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Veteran’s Day Poppy

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So there you have it.  Trout Mask Replica in all it’s avant-garde, bluesy, free jazz glory!  Did you like it?  I think it gets better and better the more you listen to it.  Most listeners probably won’t be able to do that.  So, is music for the composer or the public?  Here is a great example to debate.  This album influenced people like Tom Waits, P.J. Harvey, The Sex Pistols and punk rock in general, even modern composers like John Cage.  In the end I have to vote in favor of the composer.  If it were not for the bold artist, writers, and composers that didn’t care about popularity, some of the greatest art, music and literature of all time would never have come into being.  That’s what I think.  But I’d love to hear what you think.  In the end  Captain Beefheart summed it up the best with the opening line of the first song…”My smile is stuck, I can’t go back to your Frownland…”

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Posted in Rock Music, Vinyl | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment