The times were a changing … again.
Well, at least the musical times were.
Some people that music can change times but I believe that the times create the music.
That music may have a profound impact on you, the individual, but it doesn't necessarily change times … unless you are a Charles Manson type who listens to The Beatles (allegedly) and then goes out and does what he did.
And, even then, he was a product of his times, perhaps, and his own personality, probably, and the music was the straw that broke the camels back.
That's not to say that musicians can't create history, they have, but that is something different.
I'm straying off the point here and I'm talking about Tommy Roe not Bob Dylan.
No disrespect to Tommy Roe but it is not a discussion that is associated with him.
But, it applies to Dylan as equally as it does to Tommy Roe.
It's only music and it wasn't created in a vacuum.
Like many other pop (and rock) performers Tommy Roe reflected his times. His music is both a reflection of him and his times, as well as the representation of a popular or dominant sound which had, in market driven increments, evolved to that point
ie: subject matter and music both reflect the themes and sounds of the day.
What drives that is commercial considerations or, if you don't like equating modern music with money, then you can use "popularity".
And what is popular becomes the basis of "pop (ular)" music.
The music has to appeal to as many people as possible so changes in style and themes are incorporated into its frame work.
And, that is not a bad thing.
Pop music and the pop singer are often derided but in many ways they accurately reflect their times.
Tommy Roe was a pop singer, and a convincing one.
As the popularity of sunshine and psych pop increased Roe decided to move in that direction. It was a natural move anyway. His 60s pop had all the basics but needed the obscure or questioning lyrics as well as pop instrumentation and arrangements which were a little trippy to fit into 1967 comfortably.
Commercial considerations always dictate you follow the sun
And, here, Roe did follow the sun (shine pop)(sic) and psych sounds of the day.
It's a little jarring hearing Roe singing so gently and sweetly but he had already moved in that direction when he created the "It's Now Winter's Day" album (apparently) earlier in 1967 with vocal arrangements by (sunshine pop legend) Curt Boettcher.
That album got to #159 in the charts.
Not a success commercially.
But they tried again with a similar team team. Detail is thin on the ground but it seems this music may be from the same sessions. The producer, Steve Clark. Is the same, the tracks were recorded at the same place (Gray Paxton's Hollywood) and nearly all the musicians are the same.
Curt doesn't appear here (former band mate Jim Bell does) but future Millenium band member, Sandy Salisbury, provides two songs as well as vocals, as does Lee Mallory who also plays.
These guys are all intertwined and collaborated, performed or sessioned together like on this album which was recorded in Hollywood.
This is part of the "California Sound" and it's a sound I like. It's pleasing to the ears.
It's also era I like …. California in the 60s.
The optimism is palatable (even in criticism) as are the possibilities.
Is there any better place that California in the 60s before Altamont and Manson?
Despite following the in sound the album and the single releases didn't do well … to have a hit involves so much more (or perhaps so little less).
Tommy Roe writes most of the songs which is impressive. Not that writing your own songs is the be all and end all of musical expression (it's not) but I note this because pop singers like him (and Gene Pitney, Bobby Darin, Del Shannon etc) are rarely given credit when it comes to song writing.
I haven't heard the "It's Now Winter's Day" album released in earlier in 1967 )though I have it) but some of have said that album is stronger and it was asking, perhaps, too much for Roe to pump out another album or original material (though some of the material may have been older unrecorded stuff he had written dating back to 1964). If the former is correct, then that is reasonable. He was 24 years old and probably had other things to do.
But, as a capsule of the times the album is great listening.
And, Roe bounced back with the worldwide #1 cabaret psych pop hit, "Dizzy" in 1969.
All songs written by Tommy Roe, unless indicated
Tracks (best in italics)
- Paisley Dreams – a slow , moody song with very familiar themes.
- Plastic World – as a pejorative comment on the (then) contemporary world, "plastic" was used as a short hand. Think "Plastic Man" (1969) by The Kinks, "Plastic People" (1968) by Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, "Plastic Jim" (1968) by Sly And The Family Stone. I quite like this.
- Melancholy Mood – this is sugar but quite nice.
- Visions – ripe psych lyrics.
- Mystic Magic – this one has a foot in both camps… like a gentler version of something Paul Revere and the Raiders were doing.
- Little Miss Sunshine – this is more like the old Roe. Pop. The psych vibes are in the background. This predates bubblegum by a couple of years.
- These Are The Children – (S. Salisbury) – the obligatory song about kids … which is normal in sunshine pop. Kids are the future …
- Goodbye Yesterday – (S. Salisbury) – another (very) poppy one. All sugar but one you can tap your toe to.
- The Executive – (T. Roe & B. Bowie) – another cynical one … on the lonely, shallow "executive". A good tune with good conga / bongo (?!) beat. Okay, this is dated but I like it. It reminds me a little of PF Sloan or Bob Lind.
- The You I Need – a psych pop love song.
- It's Gonna Hurt Me – Quite a good song with all sorts of things going on, but what is missing is a killer hook.
A successful (albeit minor) psych pop album. But, what is needed is more of Roe's trademark pop hooks, still … I'm keeping it.
1967 Little Miss Sunshine #91 Pop US
Little Miss Sunshine
It's Gonna Hurt Me
- Future Elvis Presley regular, Jerry Scheff plays bass on this album.
- On all things Elvis, the cover art looks, strangely, like the playground scene (where "Confidence" is sung) from Elvis' film "Clambake" (1967).
RIP David Axelrod (1931 – 2017)