Those lyrics from The Mamas and the Papas’ 1967 “Creeque Alley” begin to tell the story of the famous band, and it’s one of eighteen tracks on a new compilation aiming to tell a bigger story: that of “The California Scene in the 1960s.” Yes, this story has been told more comprehensively elsewhere; see two of our favorite box sets dedicated to San Francisco Nuggets and Los Angeles Nuggets. But the new single-CD release Sunset Strip to Haight-Ashbury from Starbucks Entertainment does an admirable job of hitting many of the high points in the dual tale of Los Angeles and San Francisco, circa 1964-1970. Along the way, familiar tracks and hidden gems are featured from artists like The Turtles, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Love and Iron Butterfly, as pop cedes to rock with more than a dollop of psychedelia.
Steven Stolder’s liner notes admit that Sunset Strip to Haight-Ashbury doesn’t touch on every aspect of California music in the 1960s; there’s nothing from The Beach Boys or Jan and Dean, for instance. But the story being told travels from the Strip’s hotspots like Ciro’s and the Whisky A Go Go to the Bay Area’s Matrix and Fillmore. The earliest track is a San Francisco one, from The Beau Brummels. “Laugh, Laugh,” produced by Sylvester Stewart, a.k.a. Sly Stone, proved that American musicians could beat the British Invasion at its own game, as it melded that Brit sound with the strains of folk-rock. The major triumvirate of Bay Area bands might just be considered Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service, and all three are represented here, with “White Rabbit,” “Box of Rain” and “Dino’s Song,” respectively. One trait shared by all of the bands on the new anthology was a desire to bring their sounds to the world at large, a feat most of these artists succeeded in pulling off. Janis Joplin had a talent too big for any one region, and she’s heard on Big Brother and the Holding Company’s searing version of George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin’s “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess. It was a transformative song if there ever was one, and characterized the limitless, mind-expanding approach to music taken by most of these artists.
Hit the jump to travel south to the Sunset Strip! Plus: the full track listing with discography!
Fully one half of the tracks here date from 1967, the year of the Summer of Love. The artists of Northern California met their SoCal brethren – and many others – that year at the Monterey Pop Festival: from the north, the Dead, the Airplane, the Dead, Country Joe and the Fish; from the south, The Byrds (not heard on this CD), the Mamas and the Papas, Canned Heat. Lou Adler produced Monterey Pop with John Phillips, and one of Adler’s managerial concerns, Spirit, is represented here with “Nature’s Way” from The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus. One of the fieriest of the Sunset Strip bands, Arthur Lee’s Love offers “A House is Not a Motel” from the landmark Forever Changes LP. The most enduring hit heard here might be The Turtles’ “Happy Together,” as perfect a slice of pop music as any. The Turtles could rock with the best, though, and a few years later, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman joined Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention as Flo and Eddie. The Music Machine and The Leaves didn’t achieve the same kind of success as L.A. contemporaries The Turtles or even Love, but they made quite an impression on songs like “The People in Me” and “Too Many People,” respectively. One of the quirkiest acts ever to appear on the famous Reprise label (founded by Frank Sinatra) closes out the compilation. The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band is featured with “Shifting Sands,” written by Baker Knight (“The Wonder of You”).
Monterey Pop wasn’t the only monumental occasion on which these famous bands met; many also headlined two years later, in 1969, at the eventful Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Country Joe and the Fish, Canned Heat, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane and Sly Stone (this time as a frontman and not as a producer) all appeared at Woodstock and are heard on this set. (Spirit reportedly declined an invitation to play Woodstock!)
Sunset Strip to Haight-Ashbury is packaged in a glossy, tie-dye styled digipak with a 20-page booklet containing track-by-track liner notes. Though the scene in both Los Angeles and San Francisco remains vibrant today, the music of the mid to late-1960s in those locales remains some of the most influential of all time. The Starbucks Entertainment/Rhino Custom Products release is a fine sampler of the era’s best and brightest California rock. It’s available now at the chain’s coffeehouses around the States, as well as at the order link below!
Various Artists, From Sunset Strip to Haight-Ashbury (Starbucks Entertainment, 2012)
- Baby’s Calling Me Home – Steve Miller Band (from Children of the Future, Capitol SKAO-2920, 1968)
- Nature’s Way – Spirit (from Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, Epic E-30267, 1970)
- White Bird – It’s a Beautiful Day (from It’s a Beautiful Day, Columbia CS-9768, 1969)
- A House is Not a Motel – Love (from Forever Changes, Elektra EKS-74013, 1967)
- Dino’s Song – Quicksilver Messenger Service (from Quicksilver Messenger Service, Capitol ST-2904, 1968)
- Happy Together – The Turtles (from Happy Together, White Whale WW-114, 1967)
- Box of Rain – The Grateful Dead (from American Beauty, Warner Bros. WS-1893, 1970)
- On the Road Again (Single Version) – Canned Heat (Liberty single 56038, 1968)
- Laugh, Laugh – The Beau Brummels (from Autumn single 8, 1964)
- Creeque Alley – The Mamas and the Papas (from Deliver, Dunhill DS-50014, 1967)
- White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane (from Surrealistic Pillow, RCA Victor LSP-3766, 1967)
- Iron Butterfly Theme – Iron Butterfly (from Heavy, Atco SD 33-227, 1967)
- Summertime – Big Brother and the Holding Company (from Cheap Thrills, Columbia KCS-9700, 1967)
- I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night – The Electric Prunes (from The Electric Prunes, Reprise R-6248, 1967)
- Who Am I – Country Joe and the Fish (from I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die, Vanguard VRS-9266, 1967)
- The People in Me – The Music Machine (from Turn On The Music Machine, Original Sound OSR LPS 8875, 1966)
- Too Many People – The Leaves (from Hey Joe, Mira LPS-3005, 1966)
- Shifting Sands – The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band (from Part One, Reprise RS-6247, 1967)