So I wrote up my thoughts, possibly somewhat chaotically. Sorting the book out comes next, though there’ll probably be a bit of a break.
Caption: Crawdaddy!, Jan 1967, created by the late Paul Williams in 1966. It lost its exclamation mark in 1969, briefly ceasing publication that year. It ceased publication again in 1979, after a few issues as Feature. Williams himself rebooted it in the 90s, and an online version currently exists. Williams died in 2013.
Paul Williams, Crawdaddy!, August 1966 Love, Love (Elektra)
“UNDERGROUND” IS the big In word this month, thanks to the EVERGREEN subway ads and the Times Book Review and other sundry overground media. It is only a question of time before ESQUIRE comes out with a big map of the Underground Establishment (don’t laugh); meanwhile, anyone in the audience who likes to think of himself as a little furry animal will be glad to know he has come to the right magazine to find out about In records. Status-seekers are advised to rush out and buy albums by the Who and the Pretty Things, which are Inner In; meanwhile, I’d like to discuss a happily ex-In group, who would still be In today had their record not made the accursed top 10 charts.
The name of this excellent, unusual group is Love, and that is also the name of their first album (Love, Elektra 4001). This is the first of a line of pop LPs at pop prices from Elektra, already known for its very good lines of folk music and low-price classical LPs. The album is unusual from the outside because the jacket is in color on both sides, and there is a bare minimum of information offered. This is because: a) no-one on the East Coast knows anything about this group, and b) it pays to be enigmatic.
Love is hard to describe; they don’t sound like anybody. The first song on this album is ‘My Little Red Book’ from the movie What’s New Pussycat?, a song Manfred Mann flopped with about a year ago. It’s the worst song on the LP, which doesn’t really explain why it was chosen to be Love’s first single (it did get up into the middle of the national top 100). Actually, it comes through pretty well for a song with no melody to speak of; the syncopated, mean-sounding vocal is in perfect accord with the pogo-stick accompaniment.
'Can’t Explain’ is annoying because no notice is taken of the fact that it’s really 'What a Shame’ (by the Rolling Stones) in different clothing. Otherwise, the song is excellent, particularly the fantastic drum-work. The drummer is more, or less the leader of the group, musically, with the organist close on his heels. This is not to belittle the vocal work, which is essential to most of these songs but which usually either follows the lead of the drummer (and rightly so) or [ilegible] in at counterpoint to the instrumental, although always perfectly attuned to it. Love has impeccable timing; this is one of the keys to their sound, and of course we can again praise the drummer for this, although the entire group deserves credit.
'A Message to Pretty’, number one on the Underground hit parade, is easily the best song on the album. All credit here goes to the singer(s) and the harmonica, although there is some beautiful guitar/organ back-up. The vocal is subdued and deliberate; it sounds like something sliding off a wall. The words are very moving (this and all the songs on the album except 'My Little Red Book’ and 'Hey Joe’ were apparently written by members of the group) but it is really the harp that says everything. It pierces, prods, whimpers. The ending of the song is fantastic.
'My Flash on You’ comes on like a stampede. There are all sorts of things happening here, all well-coordinated, all rushing out at once. The vocal screams, the organ stabs while drums and rhythm race along keeping up with the melody and meanwhile a strangely-fuzzed guitar runs up and down the sidelines. It all adds up to a groovy protest song in the 'Get Off Of My Cloud’ vein: angry, free.
I’m very fond of 'Softly to Me’ – it’s a familiar tune but blended nicely into a new concept. Trying to pick out the sounds in the delicate and expressive accompaniment is fun: I think the low notes that aren’t organ are bass figures, which I usually can’t hear; the guitar, though odd, is surely guitar; and I think that the sharp gentle high notes are the organ. Obviously, I’m not sure of anything, but they are good sounds. It’s a pretty song, with pretty words and a very attractive theme.
'No Matter What You Do’ again offers the rolling thumping, ringing, occasionally exploding accompaniment that is by this time familiar and, by the end of the LP, over familiar. This one has a catchy melody, and words that might be trite somewhere else. 'Emotions’ is all instrumental, lonely but beautiful; kicking a pebble down an empty street, marching around far-off city blocks, mysterious, lost, lonely but full of love for life. 'You I’ll Be Following’, with its wordless refrain, is an attractive, lively tune, with the usual disregard for rhythmical clichés. 'Gazing’ is a far-out song with unintelligible lyrics, full of crescendos that break into harmonies and other pleasant explosions. Who cares what they’re talking about?
“Hey Joe” was made popular by the Leaves after this album had appeared. Love’s version is better, though both are good. The song never lets up; vocal and instrumental complement each other flawlessly in a breathless sort of continuity. Not a note is superfluous. 'Signed D.C.’ is a modern blues, somewhat in the vein of 'When a Man Loves a Woman’, The beautiful, powerful vocal is aided by an ominous bass and some wonderfully expressive harmonica playing. The last line is shattering.
'Colored Balls Falling’ is a strange little thing that seems unfinished and leaves you with a curious taste in your ears. 'Mushroom Clouds’ is a well performed non-sequitur, the words having little to do with the music or each other. 'And More’, which is a delightful title for the last song on the album, serves as yet another example of potentially trite words rescued by a highly creative performance and by the depth of implication in phrases which also, paradoxically, gain strength from their simplicity.
Thus, Love; a highly unusual album put together with paste and pyrotechnics, a montage of marching rhythms and resiliencies and subtle silences, plaintive and expressive and thoroughly alien, but still very 1966 and very, very real. That their album is selling is a bit surprising; it’s a good indication of how much we have matured.