Monday Musicologist: It Was 1968, part 1

I have been enjoying listening to records from the “Summer of Love” era that I haven’t heard for decades, many of which I listened to on our 1/4″ reel-to-reel Sony tapedeck. They were tapes that my brother made of his friend’s LPs. I was only nine and ten during 1968, but boy was I into anything psychedelic: Sgt. Peppers, Magical Mystery Tour, The Beatles (“White Album”), Surrealistic Pillow, Strange Days. 

You can’t find everybody on Spotify, and I hear that more artists and labels are pulling their catalogs–can you blame them? Meanwhile, I found both Cream and Jimi Hendrix. Here are two records that I remember listening to as a kid:

Wheels of Fire by Cream was a 2-disc LP which was half studio, half live. As a kid I loved all the psychedelic songs, “Passing the Time” and “Pressed Rat and Warthog” in particular (songs by Ginger Baker, curiously enough) and I rarely listened to the live material, which bored me. As an adult, although I have fond memories of the more experimental stuff, they are mere novelties to me, and it’s the blues stuff that I enjoy now. Cream had a split personality: They were a blues band that would perform sprawling 20+ minute jams on stage, yet they wrote experimental numbers for the studio that they rarely played live, if ever. The live portion of Wheels is more representative of the band, although I can probably only listen to “Toad” maybe once a decade, which features one of the longest (if not the longest) drum solos on record.

Axis: Bold As Love by The Jimi Hendrix Experience I find equally enjoyable as an adult. There are very few records from that era that sound as fresh as this one; it still sparkles. “Up From the Skies” and “If 6 Was 9” have always been my favorites. The studio tricks employed on this record are delightful, especially the liberal panning of parts in the stereo mix. It is hard to believe that this was also released in mono.

The thing about both these groups that always stood out to me were the drummers, Ginger Baker and Mitch Mitchell respectively. Both had jazz backgrounds and the engineering on their drums were impecable. Both were trios, of course, both from the UK, although Hendrix himself was a Seattle native. Clapton and Hendrix of course were guitar legends.

What more can I say? Both these records are worth a fresh listen if you haven’t heard them lately.


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