inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #51 of 254: Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Sun 21 Sep 03 13:08
    

'Open Road' is my favorite Donovan LP. By then Donovan
had trimmed down the eclecticism of previous lps, and had
worked out a consistent set that could be performed by
a small ensemble.  It seemed a fine & elegant synthesis of
Donovan's take on Folk-Rock, with all the Celtic and mystical
alliterations intact. It seems like the LP and the band he did it with
could of been a bigger splash. 

Ritchie, do you have any idea why this LP did not become 
more popular?
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #52 of 254: John Ross (johnross) Sun 21 Sep 03 13:36
    
Where does John Hammond Jr. fit into that discussion of blues in folk-rock?
It seems as if he stayed as a solo, but I suspect that he was probably the
first of the revival performers to play blues on the coffee-house and
college circuit, so he probably turned many incipient folk rockers onto
blues for the first time.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #53 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sun 21 Sep 03 15:24
    
I'm not as big on "Open Road" as Darrell is. I actually found Donovan
the most interesting when he was at his most eclectic, particularly on
the "Sunshine Superman" album. But as to why the album itself wasn't
more popular, I think a good part of it comes down to the mundane lack
of a catchy hit single, which all of his albums up to that point had.
Also Donovan himself seemed to be less intent on pushing and promoting
his career than he had over the last five years. I don't know all of
the  reasons for this, but Donovan's own website does refer to 1970
(the year of "Open Road"'s release) as a year when "During a tour of
Japan Donovan decides to break a long tax exile and return to his
little cottage in England. This is a major revolt against his success
and his advisors are in a panic. Donovan stops the merry-go-round." In
Clive Davis's autobiography (going from memory here, the book's back in
the public library), he gave the impression that in the early 1970s
Donovan wasn't as committed to making the most of his opportunities as
he could/should have been, though I wouldn't treat Davis's perspective
as gospel.

John's quite right to bring John Hammond Jr. into the discussion of
blues and folk-rock. In late 1964, Hammond recorded electric blues with
Mike Bloomfield and future members of the Band, all of whom would soon
make vital contributions to Bob Dylan's folk-rock. Hammond himself
played guitar on some of the electric sessions for Dylan's "Bringing It
All Back Home." Aside from those tangential contributions, he too was,
as John says, one of the first folk-revival-era performers to play
blues on the coffeehouse and college circuit -- or, at any rate, one of
the first young ones, since older rediscovered bluesmen like
Mississippi John Hurt were also on that circuit, Hurt for instance
heavily influencing John Sebastian of the Lovin' Spoonful.

In that sense Hammond is somewhat similar to the Paul Butterfield
Blues Band, though in my view the Butterfield group rocked considerably
harder and tougher. Hammond, unlike Butterfield, also recorded
entirely acoustically in the studio sometimes, as he did on his 1965
"Country Blues" LP.

Hammond (and to a lesser degree Butterfield) have sometimes been
denigrated by critics as a watered-down version of the real,
African-American blues. I do think that Hammond's (and again to a
lesser degree, Butterfield's) early work was more faithful rendering
than imaginative, both in the performance and song selection. And yes,
ultimately hearing the Robert Johnson or Blind Willie McTell originals
is more interesting, historically and otherwise, than hearing Hammond's
covers of them. But Hammond did expose many listeners to the likes of
Robert Johnson for the first time, and that was important, whether in
helping open up some folk-rockers toward incorporating some blues
sensibility into their repertoire and style, or making listeners aware
of how much important blues source material was out there to be
investigated.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #54 of 254: Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Mon 22 Sep 03 01:01
    

Sounds like everything pours into Folk-Rock.
Coltrane/Shankar via the likes of the Byrds, Blues by
way of it's place in the Folk songlists, perhaps
even Debussy by way of Jack Nitche (SP)/Niel Young,
and country by various threads. 

Some more questions...

Did the English folk-rockers owe as much to the Beatles
or were they looking more to North America for cues?

What about folk-rock in places like Quebec and France?
I know of Malicorne and some of it's spin-offs, but was
curious if you looked into Folk-rock as expressed in other
language groups, or had any thoughts/comparisons on those
scenes?

What's your take on how "Psychedelia" doved tailed with 
such musical/artistic success with Folk Rock.  Was there 
something in the tonal characteristics of folk or was
it just something in the punch?

Also, commercial drive seemed to be a component in most if 
not all the artists you mentioned.  Seems many artists lost
motivation at some point, (Fred Niel, McGuinn, Donovan) 
was this entirely due to drugs or were they just being 
forced to work too hard, or what?

Any comparisions between the past, present, future
of the folk music communities, and where comparable rock 
scenes are at?



Thanks 
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #55 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 22 Sep 03 08:02
    
Here's a comment I got on everything pouring into folk-rock, from
Barry Melton of Country Joe & the Fish: "Rock music is the garbage can
of music, or the melting pot, depending on what your attitude is. You
can throw anything in the soup, and it becomes a big stew. You can keep
throwing things in all day, and it will absorb it, and still be
edible. So in a band like Country Joe & the Fish, we could absorb jazz,
Japanese music, Middle Eastern music, Indian music, blues music,
country music?it all fit in there somewhere. It was okay to do that.
And for a lot of folk musicians, particularly guys like me from fairly
urban areas, here was a chance to throw in all the stuff that we knew,
everything from Pete Seeger and the Weavers to John Coltrane, in one
place."

As to why and how psychedelia dovetailed with folk-rock, I got a
couple of other similar comments, another one from Melton, who
characterized psychedelic rock as "a folk-rock idiom borrowing from
jazz's ability to incorporate improvisation. Folk musicians improvised
anyway. The only thing 'psychedelic' music did was, it jazz-ized folk
music. Musicologically speaking, it was logical at a time when Miles
Davis and Doc Watson existed on the same plane. You have a time when
there's all these elements coming together, because of the power of the
media, and the intermixing of people from different backgrounds."

In Big Brother & the Holding Company, bassist Peter Albin and singer
Janis Joplin had been folk performers before going into rock . Albin
told me that Big Brother gave them the chance "to do jazz-type things,
but within our frame of reference, blues and folk music and rock and
roll. We would take a song like 'Hall of the Mountain King,' which was
classical music, and turn it into kind of a jazz thing, with this
extended [jam]. We did lots of experimental-type music. We incorporated
all sorts of different, weird shit, from Moondog, Coltrane to John
Cage to Betty Boop cartoons."

Here's what I speculated in the book: "If the square root of why so
many folk-rock musicians dove into psychedelia might seem apparent when
the entire folk-rock revolution is taken into account, it's rarely
been cited. For ultimately, in expanding from folk-rock to psychedelia,
the musicians were only continuing to feed the same hunger that had
led them into folk music in the first place. The voracious acquisition
of Child ballads, contemporary protest tracts from Sing Out! sheet
music, traditional American folk songs from Alan Lomax and Harry
Smith-assembled collections, and even more exotic recordings and
songbooks was the same restless, self-actualizing impulse that had led
so many into folk-rock. The subsequent admission of influences from
free jazz, Indian music, and drugs was essentially a continuation of
the same eclecticism that had been driving the musicians since they
were teenagers in the late 1950s. Barry McGuire had seen this coming in
Melody Maker in late 1965, where he predicted, "The folk-rock
controversial songs are just the beginning. Soon there'll be sounds
that people have never dreamed of?the integration of Eastern and
Western music. The Eastern scales and quarter tones will integrate well
with rock'n'roll music. The Byrds, the Beatles and others are already
doing it."

Nat Hentoff was one of the critics to pick up on it at the time,
presciently writing in The American Folksong Revival book in 1967: "The
message of the new folk music can only be fully apprehended through
the total medium -- instrumental textures and ways of singing as well
as the lyrics themselves. It is, therefore, all the more essential for
the new folk performers to construct instrumental colors and rhythms
and new singing voices that can be corollaries for the new expanded
verbal language. And that construction, still inchoate, has begun. The
use of Indian instruments by the Beatles, the Byrds and Donovan. The
experimenting with more complex metrical patterns. The increasingly
venturesome play with electronic possibilities. The kind of open
listening that leads Paul Simon to say: 'I'm learning to play the sitar
and I'm fascinated by the singing in intervals of seconds by those
Bulgarians. You see, the new pop music can incorporate all those
influences, and more.'"

A difference between the new folk-rock-psychedelic musicians and many
previous folk-based artists was that, having found one style that
stoked their simultaneous urges for musical and social stimulation,
they didn't feel bound to stay there and both play and defend it to
death. That applied not just to acoustic folk, but also to folk-rock.
They felt no obligation to either establish or adhere to rigorous
party-line boundaries within folk-rock, or even to remain folk-rock
artists. And, just as vitally, they had a new, younger audience that
wasn't hung up on purist dedication as the folk revivalists were, but
was equally anxious to investigate new directions and combinations.
Very few folk-rock fans were going to see a folk-rock act's branch into
different areas than folk-rock as a betrayal, as long as the music was
good.

I'll go on to Darrell's other questions in the next posts.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #56 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 22 Sep 03 08:32
    
As to whether "the English folk-rockers owe as much to the Beatles
or were they looking more to North America for cues?," I think the
answer is neither. This was covered more in "Turn! Turn! Turn!" than
"Eight Miles High," but while the Beatles inspired hundreds if not
thousands of young North American folk musicians to go electric, for
some reason this definitely did not happen in the UK. Before 1967,
Donovan was the only British acoustic folkie of note to make a quick
changeover to electric rock. Donovan was definitely influenced by the
Beatles, among other things; he himself would come to be a friend of
the Beatles and influence them somewhat, in helping Paul McCartney with
a lyric of "Yellow Submarine" and teaching John Lennon finger-style
guitar picking that's heard on "The White Album."

This is what Donovan had to say when I asked him about why others
didn't electrify as soon as he did: ""In the States, Roger McGuinn was
influenced by the Beatles and his own folk roots. McGuinn did not play
the electric as an amplified acoustic. This allowed him to use electric
guitar in a powerful way, while the fewer UK folk stars who went
electric used the electric guitar as an amplified acoustic. I was the
exception as I also heard what the Beatles had done in breaking the pop
band mold in 1963, and the Kinks and the Who. I was not shy in
developing a power-riff Celtic-rock fusion, while most other UK folk
stars were not into raising the level like McGuinn and I would
naturally do.

"It is also true that to leave behind a tradition is a bold act, and
the American folk-rock stars were brave enough to try it out and act
the rock star with folk commitment. The radio is our friend, [but] many
folk purists still had an aversion to governmental institutions, a
kind of class consciousness that prevented them from actually leaving
the folk club in their head and storming the establishment citadels to
take over the radio media. Americans, with their revolutionary past,
could do just this, and I did in Europe. It is a question of boldness
and expression."

But then, what did British folk-rockers look to (other than Donovan)
in the late 1960s? I think the answer's pretty variable. Fairport
Convention initially looked wholly to North America, in covering
obscure songs by folk singer-songwriters and using a West Coast harmony
folk-rock approach, before going in a different direction and looking
to rock up (with fiddle too) English folk songs, or original
compositions with an English folk flavor. A similar approach was used
by some other bands, such as Steeleye Span, who were co-founded by
ex-Fairport bassist Ashley Hutchings. Eclection, like early Fairport,
sounded almost like California harmony folk-rock, though Eclection were
poppier than Fairport; although based in England, they weren't
strictly speaking British, with one member from England, two from
Australia, one from Canada, and one from Norway. The Incredible String
Band looked to some British Isles traditional music as well, but also
brought in some American old-time folk music, many varieties of world
music, beatnik culture (according to what ISB's Robin Williamson told
me), mysticism, and psychedelia. The Pentangle brought in an amazingly
wide range of influences from the UK, North America, and elsewhere --
jazz, blues, traditional British folk, a little Indian music, sporadic
pop and rock'n'roll. The range of material on their double album "Sweet
Child" (half studio, half live) might be wider than on any other
notable '60s folk-rock album, with spirituals, blues, Charles Mingus, a
children's Christmas song, traditional Scottish folk, traditional
British folk, a tribute to New York avant-jazz street musician Moondog,
and original compositions drawing from all of this and more.

There was also a singer-songwriter sub-category within British
folk-rock that wasn't nearly as large or successful as its American
counterpart, with Al Stewart, Nick Drake, John Martyn, Roy Harper, and
some others. I think they shared some influences with the American
singer-songwriters: Dylan certainly, Paul Simon for sure in Stewart's
case, Leonard Cohen perhaps in Nick Drake's case. Drake producer Joe
Boyd told me that "with Nick, I think I was, as a producer, certainly
very influenced by the first Leonard Cohen record. I was very impressed
with that, I thought that was a really beautifully produced record.
The voices on 'Poor Boy' are definitely a nod, a tip of the hat, in the
direction of [Cohen's] 'So Long, Marianne.'"

But I think the UK singer-songwriters also drew from some British
influences that the Americans rarely did, particularly Bert Jansch (as 
guitarist, singer, and singer-songwriter) and Davy Graham (as
guitarist), both of whom have been mentioned earlier in this
discussion. And although I haven't seen it acknowledged much in print,
I do think that some of them were influenced by Donovan as well; you
can hear what seem to be similarities with Donovan in some of Al
Stewart and Nick Drake.

Dave Cousins of the Strawbs did specifically cite Donovan as an
influence to me, saying, "My early songs are very much pop songs. It
was only when Donovan started to rise, I thought, 'Christ, if he can
write, so can I.'" Interestingly, he claimed mostly North American
influences, and seemed reluctant to be characterized as folk-rock at
all, though this seemed to me a reluctance to admit that he had much
traditional British folk influence than a reluctance to admit
similarities to what many in the US think of as folk-rock. He said,
"The only records I maybe listened to were the Mamas and the Papas,
Simon & Garfunkel, and the Beatles. I'd given up listening to the old
folk records. I was listening much more to pop music at that time. So
we were much more of a pop group in our early days than we were ever a
folk group." As to the first album they recorded (rejected by A&M,
though some tracks appear on "Strawberry Music Sampler No. 1,"
circulated to publishers in 1969, and issued on CD in 2001, "It was a
pop album. We were much more interested in the Beatles and the Bee Gees
[than folk]."
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #57 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 22 Sep 03 08:51
    
Regarding Darrell's question about folk-rockers losing motivation at
one point, that did happen in many cases, but I don't think it was
especially more prevalent in folk-rock than it was in other areas of
rock. It's a tough business, and a lot of people burn out or at least
need to recharge because of the stressful pace, commercial pressures,
drug use, personnel/management conflicts, etc. Even some of the figures
we think of as among the most durable retreated from the fray at some
point. Dylan's a notable example of course, virtually retreating from
the public eye for 18 months after his mid-1966 motorcycle accident,
though we now know that he did a lot of recording with the Band in 1967
on the Basement Tapes. Later, Dylan didn't release any proper studio
albums in 1971-73. Neil Young's career has periodically been less
prolific as some points, as when he had some health problems in the
early 1970s, and then when he had an infant son with serious health
problems in the early 1980s.

As to why specific folk-rockers lost motivation at some point, again I
think all the cases are variable. Donovan was incredibly busy and
prolific (perhaps churning out a bit more than he really should have)
between 1965 and 1970. Although McGuinn's never regained the
artistic/commercial prominence he had in the 1960s, he did keep the
Byrds going, as a bandleader, for about five years after all the other
members had split.

Fred Neil I think is an unusual case: even at the peak of whatever
recognition he got, he was pretty reclusive by any standards applied to
entertainers, giving only one interview and not performing much. It
seemed that he was genuinely uninterested in doing the things that most
musicians accept as necessary to further their career: touring,
playing live, doing publicity, recording regularly. The same applied in
different degrees to Nick Drake, who gave hardly any interviews and
hardly ever played live, and with hindsight many have agreed he was
suffering from serious psychological problems. Interestingly, though,
apparently he very much wanted commercial success, and was very
disappointed when his albums sold poorly (while he was alive; they've
sold in good numbers recently, especially after one of his songs was
used in a Volkswagen commercial).

As touched upon earlier, many folk-rock groups were instable and
didn't last long because of volatile personnel conflicts, some of which
might arguably be attributable to having just made a transition from
solo acoustic (or even group) folk to an electric group situation. In
the cases of California groups, I think some of the instability might
also have beena result of coming from all over North America to form in
California, and not knowing each other well (as, say, groups like the
Beatles and Who did) before becoming star groups. Examples would be the
Byrds and the Buffalo Springfield. The Mamas & the Papas might have
known each other *too* well. And other groups, like Love, just seemed
like a time-bomb waiting to implode after a short period of brilliance.

When we look at folk-rock figures who've had very long careers, like
Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young, constant factors seem to be
an extraordinarily diligent work ethic, and also a willingness to
change artistically, even when it might be alienating some or many of
their long-time followers.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #58 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 22 Sep 03 09:58
    
Regarding '60s folk-rock from non-English-speaking territories, I
haven't come across much that I find impressive. That's not to say that
none may exist, particularly since the music's hard to find for
someone like myself from the US; it's just that I haven't found much to
speak of. I have heard a good amount of '60s rock outside of North
America/British Isles/Australasia, and although some of it's clearly
influenced by folk-rock, what I've heard has usually been pretty
derivative or unremarkable.

Malicorne fall outside of the book's scope, as their first album came
out in 1974. Some other artists working in different languages that
might have been considered as folk-rock-influenced were Alan Stivell
(whose first album came out in 1970) and Dan Ar Bras. Stivell seems to
me to be somewhat close to spirit to bands like Steeleye Span, in that
he reached back to the Breton and Celtic folk music of his region and
added some, though not huge, amounts of contemporary rock influence.
Clannad did some very cool folk-rock in both Gaelic and English on
their debut album, which had a much stronger Pentangle instrumental
influence than their previous work. It didn't come out until 1973, so
it wasn't covered in my book, though I gave it a passing mention.

One French artist I've heard who has a good amount of the mid-1960s
folk-rock influence from the likes of Dylan and Donovan (and who sings
wholly in French) is Antoine. He's most famous for his mid-'60s
Dylanish song "Les Elucubrations d'Antoine," where he replies to a
Presidential letter asking what can be done to make the country richer
thusly: "Put the pill on sale in the dime stores." Time magazine
described his "La Guerre" as "like a medley of 'Eve of Destruction' and
'Blowin' in the Wind.'" Donovan, a Zelig-like figure of '60s rock as
he pops up in connection with an astonishing variety of fellow
musicians, appears in a photo with Antoine in the gatefold sleeve of
Antoine's first album.

As for artists from non-English countries doing some interesting
folk-rock in English (and in a style pretty close to the American
variety), I'd recommend some of the records by the Outsiders (from
Holland), who did some nice moody Byrds-Searchers-styled sides,
sometimes adding a Continental European flavor.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #59 of 254: Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Mon 22 Sep 03 10:04
    

Whatever inspired/motivated you to write 2 books
on this subject?

What's next?
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #60 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 22 Sep 03 10:13
    
Wrapping up Darrell's questions:

"Any comparisions between the past, present, future of the folk music
communities, and where comparable rock scenes are at?"

Well, that's the grist for a whole book or three -- and not, actually,
covered by the two '60s folk-rock books I wrote. 

It's impossible to boil down general comparisons between the scenes
into  a paragraph or two. In general, though, I'd say both that folk
music has never again come near the commercial prominence it had circa
1963 -- which, though it was swept aside by the British Invasion, did a
great deal to school the "folk" side of the future folk-rockers. Also,
the folk and rock influences in popular music have never again been as
close to each other as they were in the mid-to-late 1960s.

Like all popular music tidal waves, the folk-rock explosion of the
mid-1960s was very much the result of numerous highly combustible
elements being in exactly the right place at the right time. It's hard
to envision a similarly explosive fusion happening again with rock and
folk specifically, although they'll continue to influence each other in
smaller, more sub-genric ways in both the mainstream and underground.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #61 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 22 Sep 03 10:35
    
Darrell slipped in with another question.

I was inspired to write the '60s folk-rock books because it fascinated
me how two different styles of music -- with different audiences, many
of whom abhorred (or thought they abhorred) the other styles and its
listeners -- came together to create a different music with a
different, bigger audience, taking the music to places neither folk nor
rock could have gotten to on their own. This fusion was often written
about in rock history books I'd read, but usually in the context of
single-artist biographies or general rock histories, never looking at
the whole movement and how broad it was. Also, as a writer it
interested me to be able to also bring in how the music reacted to and
evolved with the social change of the era as well -- the social
dissent, the birth of the counterculture, changing demographics,
changing attitudes within the entertainment industry, and more.

Although I'd written a great deal of rock music journalism before
these books, these were usually record reviews and (in my prior books)
collections of pieces about different artists or different
styles/regions. As a writer, the project appealed to me on several
different levels. One was the chance to write a book (well, it turned
out to be a two-part book) around a central, evolving story, instead of
combining numerous chapters about different groups and singers.
Another was the opportunity to relate the musical story to a social
one.

Also, although it does focus on the style known as folk-rock, within
folk-rock there are so many different styles -- sometimes, within
folk-rock *albums* there are so many different styles -- that I felt
(correctly, as it turned out) that it would sustain my interest and
curiosity throughout a mammoth, several-year-long research/writing
project. There was also the opportunity for me to learn a great deal I
didn't know and was curious about, whether having an excuse to listen
to a lot of obscure folk-rock records and hear something new I hadn't
come across before, or talk to a lot of the musicians and background
figures (about 130 in all) whose work and accomplishments interested me
a great deal.

I should also mention that even in my prior three music books, I'd
often interviewed or written about performers where the combination of
folk and rock had been a crucial juncture in starting their career or
vaulting them to greater prominence. That in itself piqued my interest
in going into the whole folk-rock thing in as much depth as I could.
And I can't emphasize enough how much the heterogenous nature of
folk-rock appealed to me, knowing that I'd face a few years of work.
There are other styles that I love, like '50s electric Chicago blues or
Detroit soul or surf music or whatever, where I nonetheless would find
it hard to write a complete book on the topic because too much of the
music would have been too similar for my tastes, especially if I'd had
to listen to and write about it day after day.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #62 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 22 Sep 03 10:43
    
What's next? Ooh, I was hoping to save that for the end. But since
I've been asked -- 

I am trying to think of/develop a few book proposals; I don't have any
ready to go yet. Two of them are single-artist biographies of rock
performers. Another is a non-musical, non-fiction book that would,
however, cover the growth of a countercultural media phenomenon.

There are considerable obstacles to all of those projects so far. In
the case of the single-artist biographies, it might prove impossible to
get interviews with the principal subjects. For the other book, it's
such a large topic that the focus will have to be narrowed to a
particular aspect of it, and one that doesn't duplicate other books
that have already been published.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #63 of 254: Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Mon 22 Sep 03 11:51
    

For some reason I always associated you with a slightly younger
generation of musical interests. So I'm a little surprised to find you
writing 2 books on Folk-Rock.  I'll likely buy and read both
titles with great interest. 

Were you drawn into this genre via later artists who were influenced
by these people?  Or was that you in fact sitting in the 10th row,
when others of us here went to see solo acts by people like McGuinn,
Donovan, and Country Joe in the early 70's?
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #64 of 254: Berliner (captward) Mon 22 Sep 03 11:59
    
Richie, one of the most impressive things about these books is the
research. I'm really curious to know how you found some of these
people. Melanie, for instance. Where in the world has she been? I
gather she's given up performing, right? And Blackburn and Snow, who
were obscure enough, must have been made harder with Sheree Snow
changing her name. 
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #65 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 22 Sep 03 12:29
    
Darrell, I'm 41 so I'm younger than the artists I covered in the two
folk-rock books, indeed younger than everyone who heard the music as a
listener the first time around. But 1960s rock has always been my
strongest interest, though I've written about lots of other styles
(some non-rock) as well.

I wasn't drawn into folk-rock by people influenced by it (unless you
count the Beatles), more by the music itself. I was lucky in that
actually I was able to listen to the radio from the age of five onward
(holiday gift in late 1967), so although my first-hand memories of
1960s rock are faint and I wasn't able to go to concerts then (or for a
long time afterward), I did hear some of it when it was actually
happening. I did find out about the Byrds and Jefferson Airplane by
hearing the actual records, whether on the radio or on my oldest
brother's (nine years older) turntable. By the time I got a little
older and was listening to more diverse radio, I again got some
first-hand exposure that I guess was kind of unusual for someone my
age. I distinctly remember hearing a three-hour special on Buffalo
Springfield in 1973 (on AM radio!) that made me directly aware of the
band; not just "For What It's Worth," but also things like "Broken
Arrow" and "Kind Woman" that were never hits. Hard to imagine "Broken
Arrow" being played on AM radio in 1973, but they'd given one DJ a
"progressive" Sunday 10am-1pm slot.

As an aside, it seems I heard very little Dylan before my teens,
besides "Lay Lady Lay"; perhaps the market in Philadelphia, where I
grew up, wasn't his strongest. The first time I remember reading his
name in print, which was around 1971, I thought his name was pronounced
Dye-lann.

When I got to the age where I could actually start buying more than a
half-dozen records a year in the late 1970s, I went way in-depth to
collecting '60s records of all kinds. Not because I'd suddenly become a
fan of '60s music, but because I wanted to here more than what I could
on the radio and was starting to get the means to do so. I remember
buying "Surrealistic Pillow" and "Buffalo Springfield" again (used for
$2.45 at Plastic Fantastic, I still have the stickers) my senior year
of high school. And so my voracious collecting of the records and
reading about the music continued over the next 20 years, which gave me
my foundation for writing the folk-rock books. 
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #66 of 254: Dennis Wilen (the-voidmstr) Mon 22 Sep 03 12:39
    
A Philly boy, eh?  

You were lucky to grow up listening to a radio station (WMMR - I was
music director) 
that played much more British folk rock than the usual "progressive"
station - lots of Fairport, etc.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #67 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 22 Sep 03 12:50
    
One of the disadvantages of doing this sort of book is that in some
ways it's hard to research events that took place 30-40 years ago, and
hard to find the people to interview if they're not active anymore, or
not nearly as active. Yet in an ironic way, just as it's in some ways
easier to hear this music now than it was at the time since tons of
stuff have been reissued on CD, in some ways it's easier to do this
kind of research decades later.

First, the Internet has made it much easier to find and communicate
with a lot of these figures, particularly the more obscure ones. You
wouldn't believe some of the unknowns that have their own websites,
some of them very good ones, complete with email addresses. Second, a
lot of the secondary figures have been found by other researchers
who've talked with the musicians for CD reissue liner notes, fanzine
articles, and the like. Here's where my background in indie/alternative
music journalism paid off: over 20 years I'd built up a large network
of other writers and fans with similar interest who had contact info I
didn't. I was even able to help out Ed like this with one of his liner
notes recently, when he was trying to find someone in the late-'60s
band Autosalvage that I'd interviewed.

Melanie was one of the very last interviews I did for the book, I was
lucky to be able to fit her in. Here's an example of how the technology
and community fostered by the Internet can pay off. I'd submitted
interview requests to her through various of her representatives three
times, over the period of a year, with not so much as a yes or no
response. I'd given up, but then after "Turn! Turn! Turn!" came out, I
got an email from a reader in Australia. He wanted to know if I'd be
covering Melanie in the sequel. I said, I'm not going to have any
first-hand interview material with her, because I've had no luck
getting through etc. He said, well, I know someone who might help. And
I believe he did know that certain someone who was able to get through
somehow and impress upon Melanie and/or her minders that this was
actually a project worth her participation. 'Cause then I was put in
touch with somebody totally different who, after some more
teeth-pulling, got the interview set up. After all that, Melanie was
pretty talkative and enjoyed the interview very much. Often far more
work and time goes into setting up the interview than to doing the
interview itself.

Melanie's living in Florida, and actually did release a CD a year or
so ago. She still tours too, as far as I know. A lot of figures such as
herself have not exactly gone underground, but gone into a circuit of
oldies/club/low-level concert touring that escapes the commercial media
radar, sometimes because the venues are small and marginal, sometimes
because they're in small towns away from the main urban centers,
sometimes because they're not in the US (she actually has a decent
following overseas), and often because they're definitely not written
up in the local alternative weeklies and such. And like Melanie, some
of them are releasing CDs, but on small or self-distributed labels that
don't get much airplay.

Sherry Snow (now going by the name Halimah Collingwood) wasn't hard to
get in touch with at all. The Blackburn and Snow material has been
reissued on CD, and she was interviewed for the liner notes by a local
(SF Bay Area) writer. Also, she was interviewed for Jeff Tamarkin's
recent Jefferson Airplane biography, "Got a Revolution!" (which I
recommend, and which Jeff recently discussed in inkwell.vue topic 189).
I actually had more than one convenient option here, but I believe it
was Jeff who passed on Sherry's contact info.

Sherry/Halimah is living in Northern California, several hours north
of San Francisco, and seems to be doing well. Some readers might also
remember that as Sherry Snow, she was part of Dan Hicks's Hot Licks in
the early days.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #68 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 22 Sep 03 12:53
    
Yes, I'm from Philadelphia, though I've lived in California for 20
years. Dennis, I listened to WMMR a lot in the years 1973-76 or so,
particularly to the DJ Michael Tierson (I might not have that spelling
correct), who I think is still there. I even remember how he used the
instrumental circus-like section of Buffalo Springfield's "Broken
Arrow" as background music when he used to read the musician gig ads of
sorts nightly around 10pm.

Although I don't remember a whole lot of what British folk-rock I
heard MMR play as I was young and not taking notes, I know they
certainly played Fairport Convention's "Tam Lin" a lot; I remember
hearing Steeleye Span there for the first time too.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #69 of 254: Dennis Wilen (the-voidmstr) Mon 22 Sep 03 12:59
    
Yes.  

I produced a great remote broadcast with Steeleye Span live at the
Main Point in Bryn Mawr.

Michael Tearson, Philly Daily News writer Jon Takiff - and weekend MMR
DJ - and I were all together at Penn.

Like longtime Philadelphia (and sometimes WMMR) DJ Gene Shay, we were
all big folkies, and regular attendees of the Philadelphia Folk
Festival every summer.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #70 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 22 Sep 03 13:18
    
So I'm continuing the staunch tradition of Penn-spawned music
journalism, I guess, since I went to the University of Pennsylvania
too; I did some shows on the school's community radio station, WXPN.

I heard Gene Shay's WMMR folk show on late Sunday nights sometimes. I
heard him play his live radio tapes of Joni Mitchell from the late-'60s
there several times; I was more familiar with her Gene Shay-live
renditions of some of her early songs than the ones she recorded for
early official studio albums. And eventually I interviewed him about
radio's  role in folk-rock for "Eight Miles High." It would be great if
some of those Shay radio performances could be released, especially
the ones by Joni Mitchell, which I think were about as good as what you
hear on her early albums (some of them circulate on bootleg).

What year was that Steeleye Span remote, Dennis? With so much archival
live stuff coming out on CD these days, I wonder if there'd be any
interest in releasing that.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #71 of 254: Dennis Wilen (the-voidmstr) Mon 22 Sep 03 13:42
    
The Steeleye Span show - like my live concert broadcasts with Jackson
Browne, Bruce Springsteen , Taj Mahal, the Persuasions, the Burritos,
Bonnie Raitt, Tom Waits, David Bromberg, etc., were 1972-1974 as near
as I remember.

As to where the tapes are, maybe Michael, or Jon or Gene Shay can
help, or our old pal Ed Sciaky, who came to WMMR from Temple
University's WRTI.  

I know my Bonnie Raitt show is out there in the concert-trading vines;
her greatest hit from that show is on my site, www.spacebrothers.com
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #72 of 254: Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Tue 23 Sep 03 00:05
    
Did you begin the process of researching this book,
with any perceptions/speculations that were either
nullified or radically modified in the process of
your research?

I enjoyed your observation that the west-coast groups
seemed to be more framentary while many of the english
groups had a different kind of bond.  I suppose CS&N
were an attempt to envelope the egos of rugged 
individualists into a functional musical unit.

Here at the well in the P.E.R.R.O. topic their has
been considerable reflection on the rarefied west
coast moment of communal music making, that bay
area groups enjoyed for a year or 2 (circa 1971-72?).
Did anything similar happen in L.A.,N.Y.C. or England?

It seems California dominates our image or projections
of Folk-Rock, then after that there is the British thread.
What about Canada, Ireland, Chicago, Atlanta, Texas, 
Washington, and so on...?  Maybe that is a stupid question,
invariably it seemed folk rockers drifted to California
or the Village like devotees to mecca, still though I'm 
curious about the dispersion of the form.

You mention a curiousity in the analogous social processes,
to the music movements in question, can you tell us a
little more about that?
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #73 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Tue 23 Sep 03 07:30
    
Crosby, Stills & Nash (and later Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) were as
Darrell suggests "an attempt to envelope the egos of rugged 
individualists into a functional musical unit." I suggest in "Eight
Miles High" that the group was conceived as a means for the members to
enjoy the best of both worlds: the camaraderie and stimulus of a
working group, but also the freedom to play and even record elesewhere,
as a soloist or with others. Often it even meant the freedom to play
as a soloist and in different fragmentary combinations onstage during
CSNY concerts, where they'd often go acoustic, take a solo spotlight,
or play a song using only some of the members.

To brush with another topic Darrell just raised, in some ways that
could be considered to be a reflection of the era's rising communal
values, applied to music-making.

On the surface, this seemed to address some of the concerns that had
led all of the members to leave their former groups in the first place.
David Crosby had felt stilted by the Byrds, not getting some of his
controversial songs on their albums (like "Triad"); he seemed to be the
most social Byrd and the one most apt to sit in with people, which had
led to some friction with the others when he sat in with Buffalo
Springfield at the Monterey Pop Festival. Neil Young had left and
returned to Buffalo Springfield several times (in fact he was not in
the group at the time they played Monterey), and both he and Stills had
been frustrated by having to split up the space on Buffalo Springfield
albums (eventually with Richie Furay as well). This gave him the
freedom to keep a new solo career evolving at the same time as playing
as part of CSNY, which he enjoyed (at least at the start), but also
gave him a great deal of useful exposure. Graham Nash wanted freedom to
do more "serious" songs than he could with the Hollies, the rest of
whom wanted to remain more of a pop group. Stephen Stills, most would
agree, was the prime musical engine of CSNY, and the most inclined in
character to fall into the bandleading role; CSNY was a good way to do
this, but in a more relaxed setting than the volatile Buffalo
Springfield.

The irony is that, after all that, CSNY fell apart after just two
albums (only one of them with Neil Young) and less than two years,
although they've reunited off and on since. It might be stretching it,
but they fell prey to the earthly flaws that a lot of utopian, communal
experiments suffer. There were still ego battles, musical conflicts,
and interference of solo careers with group goals. An associate of
Young's told me that while the other three thought of CSNY as their
main project and gave their all to it, Young only did so at the moments
he was playing with them; at the same time CSNY were becoming
superstars, his own solo career (which had started with a debut album
that didn't even make the Billboard Top 200) was finally taking off,
and that was more his focus.

I need to be away from my computer most of today, but I will try to
resume answering the questions posted above (and any other that come
in) tonight.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #74 of 254: Life Is Easy When Considered From Another Point Of View (dam) Tue 23 Sep 03 15:55
    
IS THERE A TOPIC THAT ANNOUNCE THESE BOOKS AHEAD OF TIME?

I WOULD HAVE LOVED TO READ THE DAMN BOOK SO I COULD BE PART OF
THE DISCUSSION.

THIS IS A BOOK I'LL BUY, BUT GOSH DARN, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE TO BE
PART OF THIS.

<off my soapbox>
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #75 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Tue 23 Sep 03 17:58
    
The book/topic was announced in mid-September, a few days before it
started, in topic 140, "Coming Up in Inkwell.vue.," which admittedly
isn't long before the discussion started. It was also referred to in
June in topic 160 (when I discussed the first volume, "Turn! Turn!
Turn!"), though that might not have caught the attention of some
readers unaware of that prior go-round. Maybe the hosts can add any
other comments about where topics might announce these books ahead of
time, as I'm not involved in inkwell.vue administration.

Back to the questions in post #72...
  

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