Helter Skelter

Bono once said before playing the song  “This is a song Charles Manson stole from The Beatles, well we’re stealin’ it back.” Charles Manson did, in fact, hijack the song from the Beatles. The song is about an amusement park attraction (not a coded message to Charlie). A “Helter Skelter” is an amusement ride popularized mostly in the U.K. with a slide built in a spiral around a high tower. Paul McCartney read an interview with Pete Townshend saying that the Who just recorded the loudest, rawest and dirtiest song ever…well it was “I Can See For Miles.” A great song… but not what Townshend described it as exactly…

Paul then started to write a song that fit that description and went above it. Helter Skelter was recorded with all four Beatles in studio two with their amps on 11. It’s a great brutal hard rock song. It is one of the rawest songs ever released by a well-known band at that time. If I hear someone call the Beatles only a pop band…I just point them to this song. Covers of this song range from Motley Crue who despite their image their version sounds like a light pop song compared to this, Pat Benatar version is not up to this one…U2’s version tries but no version gets close to the Beatles version in rawness. Some credit this song as one of the inspirations of Heavy Metal…

This song fits great on the White Album. The album is the most diverse the Beatles ever made. On the same album, you have Helter Skelter, Rocky Racoon, Sexy Sadie, Honey Pie, Back In The USSR, Blackbird, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Revolution Nine and many more.

When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride
Till I get to the bottom and I see you again

Yeah, yeah, yeah, heh, heh, heh, heh
But do you, don’t you want me to love you?
I’m (Ahhh) coming down fast but I’m miles above you
(Ahhh) Tell me, tell me, tell me, come on tell me the answer

Well, you may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer
Now
Helter skelter

Helter skelter
Helter skelter
Yeah!
Woo!, hoo!

A Will you, won’t you want me to make you?
(Ahhh)
I’m coming down fast but don’t let me break you
(Ahhh)

Tell me, tell me, tell me the answer
You may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer

Look out!
Helter skelter
Helter skelter

 

Charlie Rich – Mohair Sam

It’s a song by Charlie Rich who is more known as a country artist and his 1970s hits “Behind Closed Doors” and “The Most Beautiful Girl” off of his album Behind Closed Doors. This is not like Rich’s other hits but it’s a good song.

I first heard about this song when I read The Beatles were listening to this song when they met Elvis and Elvis had it on his jukebox when they all met. The song peaked at #21 in the Billboard 100 in 1966. The song became a hit, ending up in the top 30 on the pop charts.

Charlie played piano on Sun Records in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and then signed with Grove records…after that, he signed with Smash records and this was his first release on that label.

The song was written by Dallas Frazier who also wrote “Elvira”…the song that the Oak Ridge Boys made famous.

Mohair Sam

Well – who is the hippie that’s happenin’ all over our town?
Tearin’ up chicks with the message that he lays down
Who is the coolest guy, what is, what am?
That’s fast-talkin’ – slow walkin’ – good-lookin’ Mohair Sam
Chicks are making reservations for his lovin’ so fine (so fine)
Screamin’ and shoutin’ he’s got ’em all waitin’ in line
Who is the coolest guy, what is, what am?
That’s fast-talkin’ – slow walkin’ – good-lookin’ Mohair Sam
Who is the hippie that’s happenin’ all over our town?
Tearin’ up chicks with the message that he lays down
Who is the coolest guy, what is, what am?
That’s fast-talkin’ – slow walkin’ – good-lookin’ Mohair Sam

The Who – Happy Jack

It took me a few listens to warm up to this song…after that, I’ve been hooked. Roger Daltrey on Happy Jack. “I remember when I first heard ‘Happy Jack’, I thought, ‘What the f–k do I do with this? It’s like a German oompah song!’ I had a picture in my head that this was the kind of song that Burl Ives would sing, so ‘Happy Jack’ was my imitation of Burl Ives!”

The song peaked at #24 in the Billboard 100 and #3 in the UK in 1967.

 

From Songfacts

Pete Townshend based the “Happy Jack” character on the strange and not-too-intelligent guys who used to hang around English beaches and play with the kids. Townshend would play on the Isle Of Man beach as a kid.

This was featured on The Who’s second album, A Quick One. In the US, the album title was changed to “Happy Jack” due to record company fears that the original title was a reference to sex.

In 1966 The Who were slotted to film a television series in much the same vein as the Monkees series. For the pilot episode, the band filmed a clip to go along with this song. It featured the 4 of them as robbers attempting to rob a safe. They get distracted, however, by a cake sitting close by and wackiness ensues as The Who smear themselves from head to foot with frosting. Finally a cop busts in and foils their plan, chasing them out of the room. The show never aired, but the clip can now be found in the Kids Are Alright DVD. The clip is light years ahead of its time for what other bands of the ’60s were doing.

A live version can be found on the expanded Live at Leeds album.

At the tail end of the song, you can hear Townshend yelling the phrase “I saw yer!” to Who drummer Keith Moon. Apparently, Moon had been banished from the studio and was trying to sneak back in. 

This song was used in an ad campaign for the Hummer H2 in 2004. The commercial featured a boy in a wooden car rolling straight down a hill to win a soap box derby instead of taking the winding road down like everyone else. 

Happy Jack

Happy Jack wasn’t old, but he was a man
He lived in the sand at the Isle of Man
The kids would all sing, he would take the wrong key
So they rode on his head on their furry donkey

The kids couldn’t hurt Jack
They tried and tried and tried
They dropped things on his back
And lied and lied and lied and lied and lied

But they couldn’t stop Jack, or the waters lapping
And they couldn’t prevent Jack from feeling happy

But they couldn’t stop Jack, or the waters lapping
And they couldn’t prevent Jack from feeling happy

The kids couldn’t hurt Jack
They tried and tried and tried
They dropped things on his back
And lied and lied and lied and lied and lied

But they couldn’t stop Jack, or the waters lapping
And they couldn’t prevent Jack from feeling happy

I saw ya!

? & the Mysterians – 96 Tears

I absolutely love the organ riff that starts out this song. It was performed on a Vox Continental.

Well, it’s an original name I will say that much for the group…or the lead singer anyway. This song was written by “?,” the band’s frontman who wanted to be anonymous (he’s listed on the composer credits as (Rudy Martinez). At one point he referred to the individual band members only by three-letter names (at one point, the band was known as XYZ). The mystery helped market the group, who wore dark glasses to add to the intrigue.

The song peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100 and #37 in the UK in 1966.  They were an American garage rock band of Mexican origins from Bay City and Saginaw in Michigan who were initially active between 1962 and 1969.

From Songfacts

Since mystery has always been a staple of their act, it’s hard to know which stories about the group are factual. When they recorded this song, they were a five-piece whose families migrated from Mexico and Texas to work in the Saginaw Valley in Michigan.

? tells us that the song was always called “96 Tears,” and never “69 Tears” or “Too Many Teardrops” as sometimes reported. He insists that the number 96 has a deep, philosophical meaning, but refuses to tell us what that is. Here’s the full interview with ? – it’s quite an adventure.

Note that the singer is not the one crying the 96 Tears. He’s been dumped, and plans to get revenge by reuniting so he can dump her back. That’s when she’ll be crying the 96 tears.

When the group came up with this song, ? didn’t want to use a title with a number in it because he thought they would be accused of ripping off The Rolling Stones, who had a hit with “19th Nervous Breakdown.” His bandmates convinced him to go with it.

The record was taped in a converted living room in Bay City, Michigan. The band then had the Texas-based Pa-Go-Go Records press 500 copies so they could distribute them to the DJ’s in southern Michigan. The song became the most requested record on WTAC Flint, and CKLW out of Windsor, Canada, which went into Detroit. Cameo Records, having solvency problems, picked up the record after one of its staffers heard it on CKLW.

In our interview with ?, he talked about how this song came together: “Little Frank [keyboard player Frank Rodriguez] comes in singing a tune, and I said, ‘I’ve heard that before. And I ain’t going to do nothing until I’ve heard where that music and the title of it comes from.’ He played it for like 45 minutes. Everybody’s getting mad. And then all of a sudden it dawned on me, I said, ‘Oh, I know where I heard that. I wrote that song long time ago.’

Then the lyrics came out: ‘Too many teardrops for one heart to be crying,’ all that came out just like that. Boom. See, it was meant to be. There are certain things that are meant to be.”

The follow-up to “96 Tears,” “I Need Somebody,” peaked at #22 in 1966. Three more singles followed including “Can’t Get Enough Of You, Baby,” which made #56 in 1967. The group disbanded in 1968, but have reunited from time to time since.

The organ riff on this song is one of the most recognizable in rock, and helped define the sound of that era.
Often thought to be a Farfisa, the band’s keyboard player Frank Rodriguez used a Vox Continental on “96 Tears.” 

This trashy bar band sound would later become vintage – many musicians use a Vox or Farfisa to get a retro sound (see: “Dirty Laundry” by Don Henley). Hearing this sound causes a rush of nostalgia for those of a certain age.

Garland Jeffreys covered this in 1980, with moderate success at the end of the disco era. ? & the Mysterians re-formed that year, with ? the only original member.

This was very popular with American soldiers during the Vietnam War.

96 Tears

Too many teardrops
For one heart to be crying
Too many teardrops
For one heart to carry on

You`re way on top now since you left me
You’re always laughing way down at me
But watch out now, I`m gonna get there
We`ll be together for just a little while
And then I`m gonna put you way down here
And you`ll start crying ninety-six tears
Cry, cry

And when the sun comes up, I`ll be on top
You`ll be way down there, looking up
And I might wave, come up here
But I don`t see you waving now
I`m way down here, wondering how
I`m gonna get you but I know now
I`ll just cry, cry, I`ll just cry

Too many teardrops
For one heart to be crying
Too many teardrops
For one heart to carry on

You’re gonna cry ninety-six tears
You’re gonna cry ninety-six tears
You’re gonna cry, cry, cry, cry now
You’re gonna cry, cry, cry, cry
Ninety-six tears

Come on and lemme hear you cry, now
Ninety-six tears, woo
I wanna hear you cry
Night and day, yeah, all night long

Uh, ninety-six tears, cry cry cry
Come on, baby
Let me hear you cry now, all night long
Uh, ninety-six tears, yeah, come on now
Uh, ninety-six tears

Byrds – Eight Miles High

One of the reasons that Roger McGuinn is one of my favorite guitarists is because of this song. Roger has said he was influenced by John Coltrane when arranging the song.

The song peaked at #14 in the Billboard 100 and #24 in the UK in 1966

Many people…including me 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.

Roger McGuinn on Eight Miles High

Eight Miles High has been called the first psychedelic record. It’s true we’d been experimenting with LSD, and the title does contain the word “high”, so if people want to say that, that’s great. But Eight Miles High actually came about as a tribute to John Coltrane. It was our attempt to play jazz.

 

From Songfacts.

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 we asked McGuinn 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 Online challenges 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.

Third, the success of Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “Kicks” further diminished Columbia’s support for the Byrds and “Eight Miles High.”

Eight Miles High

Eight miles high and when you touch down
You’ll find that it’s stranger than known
Signs in the street that say where you’re going
Are somewhere just being their own

Nowhere is there warmth to be found
Among those afraid of losing their ground
Rain gray town known for its sound
In places small faces unbound

Round the squares huddled in storms
Some laughing some just shapeless forms
Sidewalk scenes and black limousines
Some living some standing alone

Merle Haggard – Mama Tried

Merle Haggard wrote this song while serving time in San Quentin prison for robbery. The song is based on his life, and how his mother tried to help him but couldn’t… This song came out in 1968 and peaked at #1 in the Country Charts in 1968.

The man had 38 number one hits, 71 top ten hits, and 101 songs in the top 100 in the country charts. Merle is one of my favorite country artists. If only the new ones would listen and learn.

This song has been covered by a wide range of artists, including the Everly Brothers and the Grateful Dead.

From Songfacts

The song is largely autobiographical; Haggard’s father died when he was nine years old, and his mother, a devout member of the Church of Christ, tried to keep him on the straight and narrow with a strict upbringing based on her conservative values. This didn’t sit well with Haggard, who said he was an “incorrigible” child and constantly rebelling against her (“Despite all my Sunday learning, towards the bad I kept on turning”).

He was always hopping on freight trains (“The first thing I remember knowing was a lonesome whistle blowing”), an early indicator of his itinerant outlaw personality. He got into trouble for offenses like shoplifting and writing bad checks. Stints in reform school didn’t help, and in 1957 he landed in prison for burglary, where he spent his 21st birthday.

In this song, Haggard takes full responsibility for his choices and takes pity on his mother, who did the best she could (“No one could steer me right but Mama tried”).

Mama Tried

The first thing I remember knowing,
Was a lonesome whistle blowing,
And a young un’s dream of growing up to ride,
On a freight train leaving town,
Not knowing where I’m bound,
And no one could change my mind but Mama tried
One and only rebel child,
From a family, meek and mild,
My Mama seemed to know what lay in store
Despite my Sunday learning,
Towards the bad, I kept turning
‘Til Mama couldn’t hold me anymore

I turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole.
No one could steer me right but Mama tried, Mama tried
Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleading, I denied
That leaves only me to blame ’cause Mama tried

Dear old Daddy, rest his soul,
Left my Mom a heavy load,
She tried so very hard to fill his shoes
Working hours without rest,
Wanted me to have the best
She tried to raise me right but I refused

I turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole
No one could steer me right but Mama tried, Mama tried,
Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleading, I denied
That leaves only me to blame ’cause Mama tried

Beatles – Hey Bulldog

The Beatles recorded this while they were filming the promotional video for “Lady Madonna.” Since they had to be in a studio while filming, Paul McCartney thought they should record a song. This is a nice rocking song written by Lennon. The original name was “Hey Bullfrog” but Paul barked at the end and made John Lennon laugh. They kept in the barking and changed the title, even though there is no mention of a bulldog in the verses or chorus.

John said Hey Bulldog was “a good sounding record that means nothing.” This song would not be out of place today. It is one of the few Beatle songs that gets overlooked and underplayed.

Geoff Emerick, the engineer describes the events of this session. “Even though it was destined to be given to the ‘Yellow Submarine’ film, ‘Hey Bulldog’ was a really strong song. The vibe that day was great… all four Beatles were in an exceptionally good mood because they knew they would be heading to India in a matter of days.  Despite the fact that there was a film crew underfoot, it was a Sunday session, so things were quite relaxed – the Abbey Road complex was largely deserted, and The Beatles could wander around the corridors if they wanted to.”

Dave Grohl played the song with Jeff Lynne in 2014 in a tribute to the Beatles after the Grammys.

From Songfacts

This was the first recording session to which John Lennon brought Yoko.

This was the last song The Beatles recorded before leaving for a retreat in India to study meditation with the Maharishi.

John Lennon called this “a good sounding record that means nothing.” Musically, it has some interesting nuances. The middle part contains an interesting example of Lennon’s polyphonic technique: The piano in the background does not follow the singer. Near the end of the song, Lennon talks while accompanied by the music, which could be considered a forerunner to Rap. In the climax, Lennon starts shouting, and the others follow. They scream like mad while the guitar in the background plays the same notes again and again as if nothing has happened.

Hey Bulldog

Sheepdog, standing in the rain
Bullfrog, doing it again
Some kind of happiness is
Measured out in miles
What makes you think you’re
Something special when you smile

Childlike no one understands
Jackknife in your sweaty hands
Some kind of innocence is
Measured out in years
You don’t know what it’s like
To listen to your fears

You can talk to me
You can talk to me
You can talk to me
If you’re lonely, you can talk to me

Big man (yeah) walking in the park
Wigwam frightened of the dark
Some kind of solitude is
Measured out in you
You think you know me, but you haven’t got a clue

You can talk to me
You can talk to me
You can talk to me
If you’re lonely, you can talk to me

Hey hey

Roar

Hey, bulldog (hey bulldog)

Woof

Hey, bulldog
Hey, bulldog
Hey, bulldog

Hey man

Whats up brother? 

Roof

What do ya say

I say, roof

You know any more? 

Ah ah (you got it, that’s it, you had it)
That’s it man, wo ho, that’s it, you got it 

Woah

Look at me man, I only had ten children

Ah ah ah ah ah ah ha ha ha ha
Quiet, quiet (ok)
Quiet
Hey, bulldog, hey bulldog