Lost Classics of the 1960s, Vol. 9

A carefully curated selection of obscure musical wonders from an ex-disc jockey with a specialization in American and British psychedelia recorded from 1965 to 1972.

{Note: This series features ten lost sixties classics at a time, offered in no particular order but intended to be approximately the length of an LP. Among the genres and subgenres included in the series are rock, pop, folk, soul, funk, reggae, psychedelic pop-rock, psychedelic folk, folk-rock, folk-pop, proto-electronica, proto-punk, early prog, early glam, early trance, garage rock, art rock, and instrumentals. The reading of “60s” used here is what collectors call the “long 60s,” which ends in 1972. Dates are—to the best of my ability—recording, not release dates.}

Perhaps more than any decade in the last century, the sixties are a decade of “what ifs.”

What if Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and John and Robert Kennedy had lived? What if President Lyndon Johnson had run for a second term? What if the Chicago Police Department hadn’t brutalized protestors at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, preventing them from accessing the convention floor? Needless to say, every decade has near-misses and innumerable seemingly escapable tragedies, but there are so many obvious, profound inflection points in the sixties that it’s dizzying.

The same is true—unsurprisingly—for sixties music. What if The Kinks hadn’t been banned from the United States from 1964 to 1969, at the height of their artistic powers, because of a minor brawl they were involved in with a union roadie after their manager had abandoned them mid-tour to go help Sonny & Cher record an LP (a truly historic miscalculation by the said manager, surely)? Had the Kinks been able to tour America at a time when doing so was absolutely essential to the success of any British band, Ray Davies and his brother Dave Davies might today be even closer to the center of the pantheon of America’s musical mythology than they presently are. On the other hand, had he not been blocked from an enormously influential prospective fan base, Ray Davies might not have penned a trio of decidedly British albums that sounded so fabulously distinct from the Beatles’ output. In any case, it’s remarkable to think that 1968’s The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society—now considered one of the great albums of the sixties—sold just 25,000 copies total when it was released, while the Beatles’ White Album, released at the very same time, sold 2 million copies in its first week. These two albums are arguably at the same level of musical genius, and that’s not even considering the fact that “Days” (see below) was inexplicably only added to the South African, Australian, and New Zealand releases of the former album at the time. In any case, it flopped terribly, almost ending the band—but would, in time, get its due.

What if Tim Buckley, one of the great singer-songwriters of the sixties, hadn’t gotten a bad batch of drugs in 1975, just as he was on the verge of national recognition? What if we hadn’t lost Janis Joplin, Mama Cass, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Bobby Fuller, Sam Cooke, Brian Jones, Marc Bolan, Keith Moon, and Duane Allman—all artists who made their names in the sixties—to untimely deaths in the sixties and seventies? {Note: The peerless John Lennon is also well worth mentioning here, though of course he was murdered rather than dying by his own hand or via accident, and his death came slightly later than the period delineated above, in 1980.}

The sixties brought us great music but also stole from us, by virtue of its emotional toll on both artists and others around the nation, significant future music we might have heard had the decade been less tumultuous. It’s something I suppose many of us think about now, too, in a young decade marked by pandemic, insurrection, rising far-right authoritarianism, and shocking economic polarization.

Fortunately, some things about the sixties we don’t have to imagine. Certain inflection points unfolded in generative ways—with impacts still measurable a half-century on.

So, for instance, The Stooges existed, and with Black Monk Time by The Monks (see “Oh How to Do Now” in the Bonus section, below), and a few other albums by a few other bands, created punk music in much the same way that Blue Cheer had heavy metal in 1968 (via an album recorded in 1967, Vincebus Eruptum). Parliament erupted on the scene with its 1970 album Osmium, with songs (including some that helped give birth to funk) recorded in 1969, the same year that Grand Funk Railroad assisted in bringing that genre of music the fore. Included here, in perhaps a bit of a surprise—but then again, this is a series for “lost classics”!—is Parliament’s 1969-recorded song “Little Ole Country Boy”, which really underscores how versatile George Clinton is.

Punk, funk, heavy metal—all born in the sixties. And on the other end of the musical spectrum, so was popular soul and gospel music, and from a host of sources, including James Brown (who is not a great fit for this series only because so much of his work is so well-known now) but also lesser-known groups like Delaney & Bonnie, whose great 1969 album the review site AllMusic raved about by saying, “It gives the listener a taste of what gospel music might sound like if performed by a good 60s rock band.”

Also included here are the band that would eventually produce Led Zeppelin at the end of the sixties, The Yardbirds; a obscenely unknown obscurity—every entry in this series must have a few!—that being Morly Grey’s “I’m Afraid”, which features some great guitar work and harmonies; and, just to balance out all the heaviness in this entry in the “Lost Classics of the 1960s” series, one of the gentlest songs of the decade: “Cloud Song” by The United States of America, which is made all the more amazing by the fact that it appears on the same album as one of the scariest songs of the decade (a song that previously appeared in this series with a trigger warning, “The American Metaphysical Circus”).

We also have, below, our first “Cheat Code” entry: this being a section in which I find inventive ways to crowbar a song into the Long Sixties because it’s awesome and I really want everyone to hear it. Here, it’s the amazing baroque prog-rock of Gryphon.

In any case, all the “what ifs” we find here and throughout sixties music help make the sixties even more poignant, as when the right people arrived in the right moment to do the right thing in that decade, the results would resound for decades and decades. And by the same token, when the worst thing happened at the worst possible moment and in the worst possible way, as America saw in the streets of Chicago in 1968 or a motel balcony in Memphis in 1968 or on a downtown street in Dallas in 1963 or inside a hotel kitchen in Los Angeles just after a political rally in 1968, the effects also reverberated through time in a way people my age have only seen a handful of times now: with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2021; and the ongoing domestic-terror insurrection launched by Donald Trump on January 6, 2021.

My hope is that the songs below, many of which are “heavy” in different ways but also historically important, will call to mind the fact that inflection points can be generative as well as disruptive—and that in fact acts of creation are often acts of disruption, too.

1. The Kinks, “Days” (1968)

2. Parliament, “Little Ole Country Boy” (1969)

3. Morly Grey, “I’m Afraid” (1969)

4. Tim Buckley, “Phantasmagoria in Two” (1968)

5. Delaney & Bonnie, “Someday” (1969)

6. The Stooges, “1969” (1969)

7. Grand Funk Railroad, “Winter and My Soul” (1969)

8. The United States of America, “Cloud Song” (1968)

9. Blue Cheer, “Parchment Farm” (1967)

10. The Yardbirds, “Over Under Sideways Down” (1965)

(Cheat Code) Gryphon, “Opening Move” (1974)

Gryphon was formed in the Long Sixties (1972), released its first album during a year many—albeit not this series—include in the Long Sixties, 1973, then wrote the songs on the album pictured below during this latter definition of the Long Sixties (i.e., 1973) and finally recorded them, and the stunning album Red Queen to Gryphon Three, in 1974.

(Bonus) The Monks, “Oh, How to Do Now” (1965)