john_sebastianJohn and Ceci Sebastian, The Farm, Los Angeles, CA 1969 © Jerry de Wilde, 1969

When You Awake’s own Bryan Thomas explores the history of a place that Rolling Stone magazine once referred to as a “ramshackle semi-commune.” The Burbank, California-based community known as The Farm was home to a number of influential people in the late 60s and early 70s, including musician John Sebastian, photographer Henry Diltz and record producer Cyrus Faryar among others. In this piece, Thomas shares snippets of interviews he conducted with Diltz and Sebastian over the years as well as a handful of photos of the commune by Henry Diltz and Jerry de Wilde. Read more after the jump.

Friday November 12th 2010, 11:00 am
The Return Of The Grievous Angel: The Story Behind The Song
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Friday, November 5th marked what would have been Gram Parsons’ 64th birthday. To celebrate, we’ve decided to highlight the story behind the essential Gram Parson’s song “The Return Of The Grevious Angel”. You may be surprised to learn that the lyrics to the song were mostly written not by Parsons, but by a shy young poet named Thomas Stanley Brown (hereafter Tom Brown).

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As the story goes, Brown came up to Gram Parsons in a bar called Olivers in Boston where he was performing during the summer of 1973 and handed Parsons a sheet of lyrics that he’d written, asking him to please consider setting it to music. More about the song after the jump, and be sure to check out the comments below to see an update on this article!

Monday October 18th 2010, 1:21 pm
One For The Books: Greaser’s Palace – An Absurd Acid Western
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Robert Downey Sr.’s 1972 movie Greaser’s Palace has often been described as one of the first “acid westerns” (also commonly referred to as “hippie westerns” and “electric westerns”). It’s a revisionist, slapstick-influenced film, a stoner’s goof on the story of Jesus Christ with over-arching and underlying religious themes forming the basis for a loosely-woven plot ripped directly from the pages of the New Testament. The typical early 70’s-era western seems to have been a good medium to tell a Christian parable, as long as you don’t take all the gun-slinging and drug referencing too seriously, and Greaser’s Palace is no exception to the rule.

For the incidental soundtrack music, Downey reached out to none other than Jack Nitzsche. You might recognize his name from his work as an arranger on dozens of classic girl group tracks produced in L.A. by Phil Spector (some say Nitzsche’s role was often times more like than of an engineer-producer, not just arranger, and Spector is frequently given credit for the ideas that Nitzsche had) or from his orchestral work and arrangements for the Rolling Stones (“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”) and Neil Young (“A Man Needs A Maid”, “Expecting To Fly”). He was even in Young’s touring band for a time and was a full-fledged member of Crazy Horse during the recording of their first record.

We spoke with Nitzsche’s friend and former roommate, Denny Bruce, about Nitzsche’s involvement in the movie and its soundtrack. Check it out after the jump. (more…)

Wednesday September 01st 2010, 1:32 pm
Midnight Cowboy’s Soundtrack Music: What Might Have Been
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If you’ve never seen Midnight Cowboy — John Schlesinger’s Oscar-winning classic from 1969, starring Dustin Hoffman as Enrico “Ratso” Rizzo and Jon Voight as Joe Buck — do yourself a favor and check it out sometime. Schlesinger’s direction is in top-form in this very Times Square-centric flick, with all kinds of visually arresting and interesting stuff to look at, whether it’s color-turning-black & white, smash cuts or rapid-fire cutting, trippy dream sequences or distorted wide-angle shots, flash-forwards or crudely-inserted flashbacks from Joe’s childhood, all of it accompanied by crackling, memorable dialogue and weird sound effects…you name it. It’s also the only X-rated movie to ever win an Academy Award for Best Picture.  In fact, besides Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, which came out a few years later in 1971, it’s the only other X-rated film even nominated for Best Picture. Midnight Cowboy was later reduced to R,  but you can just imagine how this film was blowing everyone’s minds in ’69.

YouTube Preview ImageMidnight Cowboy Party Scene

The film’s soundtrack is particularly memorable, too, and features a very carefully-blended mix of styles and genres. Check out our look into the soundtrack, as well as some of the songs that were considered but didn’t make the cut, after the jump.

Thursday August 19th 2010, 12:40 pm
Beach Boys Country
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Ok. I admit it. I somehow missed When You Awakes’s great Beach Boys-themed Sweet Relief Fund show earlier this summer. So even though this post is a few months late, I just couldn’t resist sharing some videos that highlight the interesting connections between the Beach Boys and the world of country music.

YouTube Preview ImageGrateful Dead & The Beach Boys-Okie From Muskogee

The Merle Haggard (via The Grateful Dead) Connection: On April 27, 1971 the Beach Boys joined fellow California rockers the Grateful Dead for a wild show at the hallowed Fillmore East in New York City. As a packed audience (including Bob Dylan) looked on, both groups joined together for a version of the Merle Haggard classic “Okie from Muskogee.” A few months later here’s the Beach Boys cranking through the Haggard chestnut for a tv special.

YouTube Preview ImageThe Beach Boys – Okie from Muskogee


Tuesday August 17th 2010, 1:51 pm
Arthur Lee’s Forever Changes: Who Wrote The Book Of Love, Indeed.
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The recent publication of John Einarson’s Forever Changes: Arthur Lee and the Book of Love (Jawbone Press, 2010), is certainly cause for celebration, particularly if you happen to be a fan of the band’s Elektra-era recordings from the mid-sixties (unfortunately, there’s not much in Einarson’s book about Arthur’s post-Elektra discography, which spanned nearly four decades and included many excellent solo efforts released under his own name). Even though he didn’t live long enough to see the book’s publication — he passed away in August 2006, after losing a battle to acute lymphoblastic leukemia — I’m sure Arthur would be happy to know that Forever Changes also features passages from his own autobiography, which he began writing when he was still incarcerated at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California.

YouTube Preview ImageArthur Lee visiting his old haunt, “The Castle”

I worked with Arthur briefly on these very same autobiographical ramblings, shortly after his release from prison in late 2001, and as a special treat for the readers of When You Awake, Arthur Lee’s widow, Diane Lee, has given us permission to include a sample of Arthur’s autobiography for your reading pleasure. The sample we’re including has been edited from the original text, but it captures the spirit and intention of what Arthur Lee wrote down. At some point in the future, Diane will publish portions of the manuscript that were not used in John Einarson’s Forever Changes. There’s more after the jump.