Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “The 27 Club Edition” 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!

Robert Johnson, the legendary blues musician, died on August 16, 1938 at the young age of 27. The age and year of Johnson’s death makes him the earliest member of the unfortunate 27 club, a group of elite musicians that passed at the age of 27 that includes Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain. So little is known for certain about the biography of Robert Johnson, including the circumstances of his death. Much of the story surrounding Johnson’s life is folklore, myth, and legend. As the magazine Mother Jones reported, testimony from Johnson’s friend and fellow musician David Honeyboy Edwards indicates that Johnson’s death was a murder. As Edwards tells the tale, Robert Johnson was poisoned by a possibly unwitting lover or her jealous husband. The poisoned glass of whiskey contained strychnine in it, and it took three agonizing days to kill him. This narrative about Johnson’s death has been disputed by others. Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know the real truth. Just like we’ll never know the exact truth about how Johnson had transformed from a young aspiring blues star with laughable guitar skills into a master of his instrumental craft.

There is lore about how Robert Johnson happened upon a stranger at a cross roads and sold his soul to become famous, perhaps only the Devil knows for sure.

What is documented for sure is the collection of amazing recordings that Robert Johnson made during his short lifetime. Cuts like “Cross Road Blues”, “Come on in My Kitchen”, and “Walking Blues’, are part of a canon of music that has inspired everyone from the likes of Eric Clapton to the Cowboy Junkies. But even those records have fallen into controversies. Whether or not the recordings we’ve heard are actually played at the right speed. The speculation is that the recordings were accidentally sped up, accounting for the uncanny high-pitched quality of Robert Johnson’s vocals. There is also controversy surrounding the existence of a couple of purported photographs of Johnson. It’s funny to imagine how different things would be now in the age of social media and 24/7 news updates and the existence of music blogs like this one. Not only would we know how Johnson’s recordings should sound, but also what kind of mustard he liked to eat on his sandwiches and where he likes to shop for guitar strings. In the age of social sharing and oversharing we’d know pretty much everything.

There’s something to be said for the abundance of information that we now know about our music, our celebrities, everything. Yet, the consequence of the ease of access to music news would probably have removed so much of the intrigue and mystery that surrounds both the life and death of Robert Johnson. The mysteries will probably never be solved and we’ll always want to know. But like other American legends, that intrigue keeps us interested and helps us keep the story of Robert Johnson alive and fresh.

Keeping the Blues Alive

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “The 27 Club Edition” 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!

“The 27 Club” or “Club 27” is the colloquial name given to a group of influential rock musicians who died at the young age of 27. There are a few “members” who are always listed in “27 Club” groupings—such as Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain. Of course, not every one in the 27 Club list were musicians, such as renowned artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Though the official causes of death for these famous people vary between the different musicians—from suicide to overdoses on sleeping pills to, yes, choking to death on vomit—drug and alcohol abuse is often cited as a primary cause behind many of these deaths. Everyone on this list will never turn 28 – they will be forever 27.

Technically the music of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain are not of the psychedelic 60’s or 70’ era but for the sake of writing about the “27 Club” I feel his addition is rather pertinent.

Controversy still swirls around the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain who, on April 8, 1994, was found dead in his Lake Washington home by an electrician. The coroner’s report estimated Cobain’s time of death to be around April 5 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. However there are conspiracy theories telling a different tale such as his wife Courtney Love hired someone to murder Kurt, among other stories.

Kurt Donald Cobain (February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994) was an American singer, songwriter, and musician, best known as the guitarist and frontman of the rock band Nirvana. He is remembered as one of the most iconic and influential rock musicians in the history of alternative music.

Kurt Cobain had a rough upbringing, bouncing from one family member to the next. Struggling with his own identity, depression and against all odds became a legend rising to stardom in the midst of the grunge rock revolution in the early 90’s.

When news broke out about Kurt Cobain’s death legions of fans around the world grieved the loss of the guitarist and front man of Nirvana who’s lyrics both moved and resonated with the Gen X youth.

There have been a few films made about Kurt Cobain documenting the events that led up to his suicide with mixed versions and conspiracies. Needless to say his death still remains one of the great mysteries.

The music of Nirvana stills holds up today as timeless.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “The 27 Club Edition” 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!

When Jimi Hendrix’s debut album, Are You Experienced? was released in 1967, it turned the music world upside down. With its crackling feedback and ground-breaking guitar playing, Are You Experienced? fused the psychedelic sounds of the late ’60s with the classic traditions of rock, blues and soul.

Released first in the United Kingdom and a few months later in the United States, the album propelled Hendrix to international fame.

Today Are You Experienced? is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential debut releases in rock and roll.

“It’s still a landmark recording because it is of the rock, R&B, blues… musical tradition,” notes Smithsonian musicologist Reuben Jackson. “It altered the syntax of the music, if you will, in a way I compare to, say, James Joyce’s Ulysses. You read a page or two of Ulysses and then you listen to just “Purple Haze,” and you think, my goodness, what is this?”

The recording introduced the world to the guitar virtuosity of Jimi Hendrix. A master at the instrument, he pioneered new techniques in distortion, echo and volume.

“We were experimenting,” says Eddie Kramer, the audio engineer for the album. “That was the exciting part. Whatever he did in the studio we had to just keep up and try to figure out how to record it in a halfway decent fashion.”

But musician Vernon Reid says that Hendrix’s guitar skills have often obscured his other gifts: “I think Jimi’s singing, I think his lyrics have often been given short shrift in consideration of his guitar playing, because his guitar playing is so overwhelmingly powerful. See, there was no dividing line in Hendrix between a song, the improvisation, the singing. It was all one thing.”The question “Are you experienced” was commonly interpreted as Hendrix asking if you have experienced drugs. He said that this song was not necessarily about drugs, but about being at peace with yourself.

Guitar, bass and drums were all played backward as part of the effects. The part at the beginning may have been ahead of its time, as it sounded a lot like the record scratching Hip-Hop DJs began using years later.

Hendrix played the piano on this.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “The 27 Club Edition” 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!

Janis Joplin

There was only ever one Janis Joplin. No one else could come close. Janis was unique – she was the Queen of Psychedelic Soul.

On 4th October 1970, singer Janis Joplin was found dead at the Landmark Hotel in Hollywood after an accidental heroin overdose. She was only 27 years old.

“Janis Lyn Joplin was an American singer-songwriter who first rose to prominence in the late 1960s as the lead singer of the psychedelic-acid rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, and later as a solo artist with her own backing groups, The Kozmic Blues Band and The Full Tilt Boogie Band. She was one of the more popular acts at the Monterey Pop Festival and later became one of the major attractions to the Woodstock festival and the Festival Express train tour. Joplin was well known for her performing abilities, and her fans referred to her stage presence as “electric”. At the height of her career, she was known as “The Queen of Psychedelic Soul,” and became known as Pearl among her friends. She was also a painter, dancer and music arranger. ”

Janis Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas, on January 19, 1943, to Dorothy Joplin, a registrar at a business college, and her husband Seth Joplin, an engineer at Texaco. Janice was different. As a teenager, she befriended a group of outcasts, one of whom had albums by African-American blues artists Bessie Smith and Leadbelly, and it was while listening to these that Joplin discovered she had an inborn talent to sing the blues.

Joplin graduated from high school in 1960 and attended the University of Texas at Austin, though she did not complete her studies. The campus newspaper The Daily Texan ran a profile of her in the issue dated July 27, 1962, headlined “She Dares To Be Different.” The article began, “She goes barefooted when she feels like it, wears Levi’s to class because they’re more comfortable, and carries her Autoharp with her everywhere she goes so that in case she gets the urge to break into song it will be handy. Her name is Janis Joplin.

Around 1963, Janice left Texas for San Francisco and made some early recordings of blues standards with future Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen. It was also during this period that Joplin’s drug intake increased, topped with heavy drinking sessions.

In 1966, Joplin’s bluesy vocal style attracted the attention of the psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, a band that had gained some renown among the west coast hippie community. Janice became their singer, and the group soon signed a deal and saw their debut album released by Columbia Records in August 1967.

Their breakthrough came with the release of their second album. Cheap Thrills topped the US charts for eight weeks and a star was well and truly born. This was Joplin’s destiny; it’s been said during the recording of the album Joplin was always the first person to enter the studio and the last person to leave. The album captured their raw sound and even included the sounds of a cocktail glass breaking and the broken shards being swept away during the song “Turtle Blues”.

Janice was fast becoming a star. Time magazine called her “probably the most powerful singer to emerge from the white rock movement,” and Vogue stated Joplin was “the most staggering leading woman in rock… she slinks like tar, scowls like war… clutching the knees of a final stanza, begging it not to leave… Janis Joplin can sing the chic off any listener.”

The Lord never did buy Janis a Mercedes-Benz, but in 1968 with the first real money, she made she treated herself to an eye-catching 1965 Porsche Cabriolet Super C – which was pained in bright rivers of yellow, orange, pink, and turquoise with a bloodied American flag on the trunk.

With this success came the usual workload of a heavy touring schedule, TV appearances, and more recording sessions. By early 1969 the singer was allegedly shooting at least $200 worth of heroin per day.

One of her last live performances was at the Concert for Peace at New York’s Shea Stadium with Steppenwolf, Paul Simon, Poco, and Johnny Winter. The concert date coincided with the 25th anniversary of dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

Janis made her last recordings on October 1, 1970, when she laid down ‘Mercedes Benz’ and a birthday greeting for John Lennon, whose birthday was October 9 (Lennon later told of how her taped greeting arrived at his home after her death). On Saturday, October 3, Joplin attended Sunset Sound Recorders in Los Angeles to listen to instrumental tracks prior to recording her vocals, which were scheduled for the next day. She never returned.

When Joplin failed to show up at Sunset Sound Recorders for the next recording session by Sunday afternoon, producer Paul A. Rothchild became concerned. Full Tilt Boogie’s road manager, John Cooke, drove to the Landmark. He saw Joplin’s Porsche in the parking lot. Upon entering her room, he found her dead on the floor beside her bed. The official cause of death was an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol.

On 26 October 1970, a wake was held at Lion’s Share in San Anselmo, California to celebrate the singer’s life. Almost as though she’d had a premonition about her own death, Janis had left $2,500 in her will to throw a wake party in the event of her demise. The party was attended by her sister Laura and Joplin’s close friends. Brownies laced with hashish were unknowingly passed around amongst the guests. Joplin was cremated in the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Mortuary in Los Angeles; her ashes were scattered from a plane into the Pacific Ocean and along Stinson Beach.

“Flower in the Sun” is a previously unreleased psychedelic rock song by Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin written by founding member, guitarist Sam Andrew.

It appeared in the band’s live sets in 1968, and was recorded during studio sessions that year for their critically acclaimed album, Cheap Thrills. However, although the studio outtake was eventually released as bonus material on more recent pressings, the song was not actually included on the original album. Thus, its first commercial release was a live version (recorded June 23, 1968, The Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA) that appears on the posthumous In Concert album from 1972.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “The 27 Club Edition” 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!

Jim Morrison (Young Lion) Circa 1968 Photo By Joel Brodsky

“Where’s your will to be weird?”

Jim Morrison will go down in history as one of the greatest frontmen in the history of music. Serving as the lead singer of the Doors, Morrison’s incredible voice and poetic lyrics helped define the counterculture music scene of the 1960s, while his tragically abrupt end only enhanced the aura around his legacy. So just what was it about this man that enthralled so many fans? Read these facts to find out!

When the Doors were first formed, three of the members—John Densmore, Robby Krieger, and Ray Manzarek—bonded over their mutual interest in meditation. They even went to scheduled classes. Morrison was allegedly the only one who didn’t join in, presumably because he was busy staring wistfully at ocean.

Morrison famously spent most of his adult life in a relationship with Pamela Courson, who served as his muse and partner. Their relationship was eventually considered a common-law marriage by the State of California, even though common-law marriage wasn’t recognized in California. Courson is buried as Pamela Susan Morrison.

Like many rock stars, Morrison obtained a few nicknames during his musical career. The most popular one was “The Lizard King,” but there was also “Mr. Mojo Risin” (which came from the song “L.A. Woman” and is an anagram of Morrison’s real name) and “The King of Orgasmic Rock” (which we’re sure he must have made up about himself).

During his lifetime, Morrison maintained a close friendship with Beat poet Michael McClure. The two of them planned a number of uncompleted film projects, including a film where Morrison would have played Billy the Kid! After Morrison’s death, McClure wrote the afterword for No One Here Gets Out Alive, a biography of Morrison written by Danny Sugerman.

A Club You Don’t Want to Belong To

Morrison’s tragic death at the age of 27 means that he belongs in the 27 Club, a group of actors and musicians who tragically died when they were 27 years old. The list also includes Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and Anton Yelchin.

Morrison and the Doors did have the chance to perform at the legendary Woodstock in 1969. However, they turned down the chance to be there, though a few different reasons are given as to why. According to Ray Manzarek, passing on the concert was simply a stupid decision, while others claimed that Morrison disliked performing outdoors. Regardless, Doors drummer John Densmore went to Woodstock independently of the band, performing with Joe Cocker.

There are also rumors that The Doors weren’t able to perform because Jim Morrison was embroiled in legal troubles from getting arrested in Florida for indecent exposure charges where he allegedly exposed himself onstage.

“The End” in my opinion is one of The Doors most psychedelic songs.

I was just exploring the limits of reality. I was curious to see what would happen. That was all curiosity.— Jim Morrison.

The end was nigh and no one would be spared. Children would be driven mad and they’d kill their fathers and rape their mothers. A great snake would slither and devour the sinners. The church would fall, schools would burn, and homes would crumble into dust, swallowed by an incandescent, burning earth. Destruction would reign and love would disappear little by little.

This apocalyptic scenario is perfectly described in “The End,” one of the most psychedelic songs of The Doors. The End” is death, although the song also deals with Jim Morrison’s parents – it contains Oedipal themes of loving the mother and killing the father. Morrison was always vague as to the meaning, explaining: “It could be almost anything you want it to be.”

The Doors developed this song during live performances at the Whisky a Go Go, a Los Angeles club where they were the house band in 1966. They had to play two sets a night, so they were forced to extend their songs in order to fill the sets. This gave them a chance to experiment with their songs.

“The End” began as Jim Morrison’s farewell to Mary Werbelow, his girlfriend who followed him from Florida to Los Angeles. It developed into an 11-minute epic.

On August 21, 1966, Jim Morrison didn’t show up for The Doors gig at the Whisky a Go Go. After playing the first set without him, the band retrieved Morrison from his apartment, where he had been tripping on acid. They always played “The End” as the last song, but Morrison decided to play it early in the set, and the band went along. When they got to the part where he could do a spoken improvisation, he started talking about a killer, and said, “Father, I want to kill you. Mother, I want to f–k you!” The crowd went nuts, but the band was fired right after the show. The Doors had recently signed a record deal and they had established a large following, so getting fired from the Whisky was not a crushing blow.

Morrison sang this live as “F–k the mother,” rather than “Screw the mother.” At the time, the band couldn’t cross what their engineer Bruce Botnick called “the f–k barrier,” so they sanitized the lyric on the album. When Botnick remixed the album for a 1999 reissue, however, he put Morrison’s “f–k”s back in, which is how the song was intended.

This was famously used in the movie Apocalypse Nowover scenes from the Vietnam War. Director Francis Ford Coppola had it remixed to include the line “F–k the mother.” 

Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek recalled in a 1995 MOJO interview: “To sit back in an audience and hear ‘The End’ come on at the beginning of Apocalypse Now, it’s absolutely thrilling.”

Morrison was on an acid trip when they first tried to record this song. He kept singing “F–k the mother, kill the father” rather than the actual lyrics. In The Mojo Collection, it states: “Comprehensively wrecked, the singer wound up lying on the floor mumbling the words to his Oedipal nightmare. Then, suddenly animated, he rose and threw a TV at the control room window. Sent home by producer Paul Rothchild like a naughty schoolkid, he returned in the middle of the night, broke in, peeled off his clothes, yanked a fire extinguisher from the wall and drenched the studio. Alerted, Rothchild came back and persuaded the naked, foam-flecked Morrison to leave once more, advising the studio owner to charge the damage to Elektra; next day the band nailed the track in two takes. Morrison lived for only another five years.”

This is supposedly the last song Morrison heard. The night he died, he was playing old Doors albums, ending with this one. This was the last song on that album.

This was recorded with the lights off and only one candle burning next to Morrison.

The album version of the song is an edited combination of two takes, which took a total of about 30 minutes to record. Producer Paul Rothchild called it “one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever had in a recording studio.”

Morrison would sometimes stop in the middle of this during concerts to get a reaction from the crowd.

The instrumentation is meant to be like an Indian raga. The guitar imitates a sitar, with seemingly unrhythmic pluckings of diatonic notes. The drum beat is designed to sound like a tabla, and the keyboard is supposed to provide the humming support of a tambura.

Ray Manzarek told Rainer Moddemann of The Doors Quarterly that he believed the “blue bus” in the song is, “Jim’s version of the Egyptian solar boat… it is the boat that the pharaohs and everyone, everyone else rides on through infinity, through eternity, and ‘the blue bus’ was for me a vehicle that would take you on a voyage into magical places.”

Moddemann asked about the more simple interpretation that the “blue bus” was referencing the blue buses of the Santa Monica line, but Manzarek resisted the idea. “I don’t think it has anything to do with that,” he said. “It’s more cosmic. It’s a cosmic journey, and blue being the color of the cosmos out there. And then the next line is, ‘driver where are you taking us.’ On a trip, man, on a voyage to some place you have never been before, and some of them are gonna be scary, some of them are gonna be a lot of fun, lot of fun, like ‘The Crystal Ship.’ A thousand girls, a thousand thrills.”

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