Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Angus Stone (born 27 April 1986) is an Australian folk singer-songwriter and record producer-engineer. He is one half of the musical sibling duo Angus & Julia Stone, with whom he has released four studio albums. His debut solo album, Smoking Gun, was issued in April 2009 under the pseudonym Lady of the Sunshine, and reached the top 50 on the ARIA Albums Chart. His second solo album, Broken Brights, was issued on 13 July 2012 and peaked at No. 2.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Hoyt Axton wrote this for an animated TV special called The Happy Song that never materialized. Axton, who was a popular country singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, pitched it to the group while he opened for them on a tour. Three Dog Night also had a Top 10 hit with “Never Been to Spain,” which was also written by Axton.

The opening lines of this song, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine. Never understood a single word he said, but I helped him drink his wine,” are part of some wonderful song meaning speculation. A common interpretation is that Axton’s bullfrog is the prophet Jeremiah from the Bible, and we’ve seen at least one sermon that makes the case that the song represents God’s desire to unite all people in happiness (the bullfrog, with his distinctive call that stands out in nature, is God’s voice in this interpretation).

There’s also a case for John Jeremiah, the keyboardist for the ’70s rock group Aliotta, Haynes and Jeremiah, who are best known for their song “Lake Shore Drive.”

Axton, however, told a different story about the famous lyric. With the chorus and melody already written, he added some placeholder lyrics where he intended to write proper verses. What came out of his mouth was that famous first line. Axton explained in the Oregon News-Review: “Jeremiah was an expedient of the time. I had the chorus for three months. I took a drink of wine, leaned on the speaker, and said ‘Jeremiah was a bullfrog.’ It was meaningless. It was a temporary lyric. Before I could rewrite it, they cut it and it was a hit.”

So it was that these nonsense placeholder lyrics became part of rock history. Religious interpretations rarely take into account that Axton was more of a hell-raiser than a student of the Bible: He was a heavy drinker and pot smoker with a passion for fast cars, women and motorcycles. By the time he wrote “Joy to the World,” he was twice divorced with hundreds of speeding tickets on his record.

The group didn’t think much of this song when they recorded it, tacking it on to the album because they needed one more song to complete it. The song ended up being a massive hit and stayed six weeks at #1 on the US Hot 100.

For the story of how this song became a runaway hit, we found the DJ who was the first to play it. The Naturally album was released in November 1970, and the first single to chart from the album was “One Man Band,” which peaked at #19 US in December. “Joy To The World” was a lowly album cut, until Larry Bergman brought it to life in Seattle.

Larry told us: “I was the DJ who first played ‘Joy To The World’ on the radio that caused it to start its journey to #1. I was working at radio station KISW-FM at the time. It was the sister station to the number one radio station in Seattle, KJR-AM. That was when AMs were more popular than FMs. My job was to select odd cuts from albums by popular artists, not necessarily their hits, and record them on tape for on-air use.

I remember I needed to find one more song to fill a tape I was producing and came across Joy To The World. It was on the second side, last cut on their Naturallyalbum. I put it on the tape and played it on the air. Within the hour the KJR DJ (Gary Shannon) came running over from the AM side and asked where I got that song. ‘People were calling,’ he said.

I told him and he had me record it on to another tape for him. He took it and played it on KJR and within a few weeks it went to #1 in Seattle. It wasn’t long after that the song reached #1 on Billboard. The station got a gold record for it and Three Dog Night came to Seattle to launch their next album.”Three Dog Night got their band name from an old Australian Aborigine saying they heard. If it was cold at night, you slept with your dogs for warmth. The next day you might tell a friend, “Man, it was a three dog night last night.” This led a lot of people to believe that the group was Australian, but they were based in California.

Psychedelic Lunch

  • Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
  • But for some silly noises which can’t really be called vocals, this song is an instrumental. In an interview with the British newspaper New Musical Express in May 1973, lead guitarist Jan Akkerman said “Hocus Pocus” was “just a send-up of those rock groups.”

    Joke or not, it was a big hit. The album version of this Van Leer/Akkerman composition runs to 6 minutes 42 seconds. The radio edit entered the Billboard Chart at #98 week ending March 3, 1973 and peaked at #9 week ending June 2. In the UK it made the charts the same time as the classic Focus instrumental “Sylvia”; not many groups can boast that.
  • This instrumental hit is known for its use of yodeling. The song stood out on the radio as there was nothing like it on the airwaves. The song also contains flute, accordion and various vocal sounds.
  • This song came together very quickly when the band was at their recording studio. Drummer Pierre van der Linden started playing some two-bar fills, and guitarist Jan Akkerman came in with a tune. Focus frontman Thijs van Leer decided this would be a good time to yodel, something he had never done before. “Everyone considered it a very funny joke,” he said. “But we found ourselves drawn back to the song.”
  • The song was originally recorded in 1971, but didn’t chart as a hit until the faster radio version was recorded and released in 1973.
  • Focus is a Dutch progressive rock band. This is their only hit.

Psychedelic Lunch

  • Many people believe this song is about drugs, but the band claimed it was inspired by a flight where singer Gene Clark asked guitarist Roger McGuinn how high they were in the sky. McGuinn told him six miles, but for the song they changed it to eight.

    This story was likely a smokescreen to keep the song in the good graces of sensitive listeners. The band had been doing a lot of drugs at the time, including LSD, which is the likely inspiration. If the band owned up to the drug references, they knew it would get banned by some radio stations, and that’s exactly what happened when a radio industry publication reported that the song was about drugs and that stations should be careful about playing it. As soon as one station dropped it, others followed and it quickly sank off the charts.

    When McGuinn was asked in 2016 if the song was really about drugs, he replied: “Well, it was done on an airplane ride to England and back. I’m not denying that the Byrds did drugs at that point – we smoked marijuana – but it wasn’t really about that.” In his book Echoes, Gene Clark said that he wrote the song on his own with David Crosby coming up with one key line (“Rain gray town, known for its sound”), and Roger McGuinn arranging the song with help from Crosby.

    In the Forgotten Hits newsletter, McGuinn replied: “Not true! The whole theme was my idea… Gene would never have written a song about flying. I came up with the line, ‘Six miles high and when you touch down.’ We later changed that to Eight because of the Beatles song ‘Eight Days a Week.’ I came up with several other lines as well. And what would the song be without the Rickenbacker 12-string breaks?” This song is often cited in discussions of “Acid Rock,” a term that got bandied about in 1966 with the release of Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde album. The genre covers a kind of psychedelic music that became popular at the time, and also the look and lifestyle that went with it. “Acid Rock” was hailed as a pathway to higher consciousness and derided as senseless drug music. At the end of the ’60s, the term petered out, as rock critics moved on to other topics for their think pieces. The band recorded this on their own, but Columbia Records made them re-record it before they would put it on the album, partly because they had contracts with unions. The Byrds liked the first version better. Don McLean referred to this in his song “American Pie,” which chronicles the change in musical style from the ’50s to the ’60s. The line is “Eight miles high and falling fast- landed foul out on the grass.” McLean could be sardonically implying that the song is about drugs, since “foul grass” was slang for marijuana. Husker Du recorded a noise-pop version in 1985. For decades, the story went that “Eight Miles High” was a commercial failure because it had been banned from radio due to its perceived pro-drug messages. Research presented by Mark Teehan on Popular Music Onlinechallenges this theory. Teehan instead blames the song’s failure to chart on three factors:

    First, its sound was too far ahead of its time, and radio stations didn’t know what to do with it.

    Second, the departure of Gene Clark led to Columbia Records significantly shrinking the scope of the band’s advertising campaign.

Psychedelic Lunch