KKRN FM, is a volunteer-based, listener-supported radio station fostering positive social change and healthy communities by entertaining, informing and educating through diverse music, culture, news, and public affairs programming.

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era

    • Thursdays, 12:00pm2:00pm
    Stuck in the Psychedelic Era is a weekly two hour radio
    show featuring music from roughly the years 1964-70. The
    show is rooted in the music generated by self-contained
    American bands of the late 1960s (and their British
    inspirations), yet is constantly expanding beyond those
    roots to create an eclectic blend of music unlike anything
    else in modern radio.

     

    Much of the music is taken directly from vintage vinyl,
    scratches and all. The rest comes from Compact Disc
    compilations and re-issues of original albums, all taken
    from the Hermit’s personal collection.

     

    Invoking the original underground radio format of the
    late 1960s the style is clean and direct, with no jingles,
    stingers or pre-recorded promos to clutter up the mix.
    Commentary is centered on the music itself: artist
    histories, contextual information, anecdotes, personal
    memories and occasional forays into how the music of the
    psychedelic era relates to today’s world.

    The Era

    Every week, Finger Lakes Public
    Radio presents “Stuck in the Psychedelic Era,” a two-hour show about
    music; specifically the recorded music that came about as a result of
    the temporary democratization of the U.S. record industry in the mid to
    late 60s. This democratization was due to a convergence of several
    factors at exactly the right time.


    The first wave of rock ‘n’ roll in the mid 1950s, itself
    inspired by early 50s rhythm and blues, laid the groundwork for music as
    a voice of youthful rebellion. The older generation of the time was at
    first bemused and befuddled by this new music. As its popularity
    increased, however, the older generation’s reaction to it changed to
    fear and anger. Rock ‘n’ roll was seen in some circles as a threat to
    the American way of life. Ultimately, the first wave of rock ‘n’ roll
    was co-opted and compromised, becoming a multi-million dollar industry.
    Many of the early stars of rock ‘n’ roll found themselves outside of
    this industry, replaced by safer, made-to-order pop stars. Elvis
    Presley, the undisputed King of early rock ‘n’ roll, found himself
    drafted into military service, his career temporarily derailed at a
    crucial time. Other big stars, such as Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis,
    found themselves having legal difficulties. Still others, such as
    “Little Richard” Penniman, chose to leave rock ‘n’ roll altogether.


    Meanwhile, a new grass-roots folk music movement was sweeping
    the nation. Major folk music voices of the 1940s such as Pete Seeger and
    Woodie Guthrie, having been silenced by the McCarthyism of the early
    50s, began to make themselves heard once again by the end of the decade,
    soon to be joined by a cadre of new talent that included Joan Baez,
    Peter, Paul and Mary, and a young man calling himself Bob Dylan. At the
    same time, a new phenomena was developing across the nation: regional
    rock ‘n’ roll bands were springing up, playing local sock hops and
    occasionally getting limited airplay on local radio stations alongside
    the national hits. Although all of these new musical “scenes” were
    direct descendants of 50s rock ‘n’ roll, each had its own unique take on
    the music. Bands in the Chicago area had a solid blues influence, while
    those in Detroit were more R&B oriented. The New York metro area
    boasted several “Blue-Eyed Soul” bands and doo-wop, while bands in Texas
    incorporated traditional Mexican arrangements and instrumentation.


    The most successful regional music scenes, however, were up and
    down the affluent West Coast. The Pacific Northwest region was home to
    the loudest and brashest musical scene of all, producing, among others,
    the song “Louie Louie1” in 1963. From further
    down the coast, vocalists Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys were joined
    by instrumental groups such as the Ventures and Dick Dale and the
    Del-Tones to make Surf Music a national phenomenon in the early 60s.


    Against this backdrop of a grass-roots folk scene and the
    various regional rock ‘n’ roll scenes came the catalyst that would make
    the democratization of the American music industry not only possible,
    but inevitable: the British Invasion.


    In the early 60s, the heart of the pop music industry in
    America was New York City. Rock impresarios such as Don Kirschner, who
    controlled the songwriting factory known as the Brill Building, and top
    record producers such as Phil Specter with his “wall of sound,”
    dominated the industry. A typical hit song would start out as a
    composition by a Brill Building songwriter or team such as Neil Sedaka
    or Gerry Goffin and Carole King. The song would then be turned over to a
    producer like Specter, who would book studio time and line up
    professional (but uncredited2) studio
    musicians to record the instrumental tracks. Once those tracks were
    recorded, the featured vocalist(s) would come in to record vocal tracks,
    and then anonymous backup singers would be brought in to flesh out the
    final recording. The final step in the process of manufacturing a hit
    record would be to send the final take out to a record pressing plant3.
    From there it was simply a matter of promotion and distribution, most
    of which was ultimately controlled by the major record labels.


    Led by the Beatles, the British Invasion changed all this. In
    part necessitated by the economic realities of the British music
    industry, the British bands were much more self-contained; they wrote
    their own songs, played their own instruments and sang their own lead
    and backup vocals. The total production costs were far less than in the
    U.S. and were often paid for by the band members themselves. Perhaps
    more than any other factor, it was this economic model that led to the
    democratization of the U.S. music industry in the late 1960s.


    From a business standpoint, the essential reality of the
    British Invasion was that it was now possible to sell more copies of a
    relatively inexpensive British recording than a more expensive American
    recording. As it was virtually impossible to significantly lower
    production costs (due in part to existing union wage scales for studio
    musicians), industry leaders found themselves at a loss as to how to
    stay competitive.


    The answer to this dilemma would not come from the music
    industry itself. Instead, it was the members of the folk music movement
    and the various regional music scenes who found a way to beat the
    British at their own game.


    Folk music artists had always performed a repertoire that was a
    combination of traditional songs and original compositions. There were
    no professional writers of folk songs that were not themselves
    performers. Although many folk singers would perform each other’s songs,
    going outside the community for material was simply not part of the
    equation.


    At the same time, the regional music scenes were populated
    mainly by selfcontained four or five member bands making a living by
    covering the most popular songs of the day. Although songwriting was not
    a priority for these “cover” bands, many of them came to realize that
    having one or two original “signature” songs was a way to make them
    stand out from the pack without alienating their core audience: the
    young baby boomers who would turn out at the local teen clubs and high
    school gymnasiums to dance to their favorite tunes.


    Sensing vulnerability at the traditional power centers of the
    music industry (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles), smaller regional labels
    and promoters began signing more and more local bands, creating more
    regional hits. The more ambitious local promoters, along with national
    record distributors sensing an opportunity, began to pick up these
    regional hits for national circulation.


    There were external factors playing a part in the
    democratization of American popular music as well. As the first wave of
    baby boomers graduated high school and entered college, they began to
    develop a new political and social awareness, becoming intertwined with
    the Civil Rights and Peace movements. The psychopharmacological
    experiments of Dr. Timothy Leary and others, combined with the natural
    rebelliousness of youth, resulted in an explosion in popularity of
    mind-expanding drugs. First folk music, then regional rock, became the
    voice of a new generation of young Americans. In 1965 Bob Dylan, to the
    chagrin of many of his early fans, began experimenting with rock
    instrumentation overlaid onto his own unique style of folk music. The
    result was a whole new musical hybrid, Folk-Rock, which took root in the
    L.A. club scene, giving birth to such bands as the Byrds, Buffalo
    Springfield, and Love, all of which boasted multiple songwriters.


    By early 1967, American pop music had reached its peak of
    democratization. The British Invasion was still going strong, with newer
    bands like the Who and Cream joining the Beatles, Rolling Stones and a
    rapidly maturing Kinks. Several bands from psychedelic epicenter San
    Francisco, including Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, were on
    the verge of becoming a national phenomenon, as was a young guitarist
    who had just relocated to England and formed a new band: The Jimi
    Hendrix Experience. Rhythm and Blues, which had given birth to rock ‘n’
    roll in the early 50s, had itself evolved into several regional sounds,
    including Detroit’s “Motown Sound” which overlaid the traditional
    R&B beat with a highly accessible form of melodic pop, and “Memphis
    Soul,” with its decidedly Southern gospel flavor. The Beach Boys, the
    top group of the surf era, were still going strong and had just released
    the most expensive single ever produced, the classic Good Vibrations,
    and were reportedly working on a new project called “Smile.” Frank
    Zappa’s Mothers of Invention had released their first album Freak Out,
    which incorporated an avant-garde element inspired by early 20th century
    composer Edgard Varese. There were even hits coming from groups like
    the Four Seasons, throwbacks to the pre-Beatle methods of producing
    songs. And of course there were all those regional bands hitting the
    national charts, if (in most cases) only for one song.


    Perhaps the most significant byproduct of the democratization
    of American Popular music was a sense of ownership shared by both artist
    and audience that has not been equaled since. This sense of shared
    ownership persisted into the early 70s for most people4, and still exists today among a fortunate few5.


    And that is what getting Stuck in the Psychedelic Era with the
    Hermit is really all about. I invite you to join me to share the music.



    1 Generally considered the greatest party song of all time.

    2 It has been estimated that bassist Carol Kaye, for example, has played on over 10,000 recordings, most of them uncredited.

    3 There
    were six companies that owned record manufacturing plants: RCA Victor,
    Decca and Columbia in New York, Mercury in Chicago, and Capitol and MGM
    in Los Angeles. Virtually all vinyl records manufactured in the U.S.
    came from those plants.

    4 Until the advent of Disco

    5 Deadheads being the best example, although there are others as well.







     


    Stuck in the Psychedelic Era