Host Keith Roth went “Groovy” for the Nov. 19, 2018, episode of “The Electric Ballroom,” his Sunday night rock ’n’ chat show on WRAT-FM 95.9. Keith appointed me his co-host for the night, and let me spin some groovy old songs like “White Room,” “Incense and Peppermints,” “2,000 Light Years From Home,” “Somebody to Love,” “If 6 Was 9,” “Fire,” “Hush,” “Time of the Season” and even goofy stuff like “Sugar, Sugar” and the TV themes for “The Monkees,” “The Partridge Family,” “The Banana Splits” and “H.R. Pufnstuf.” Me ’n’ Keith had a lot of laughs, especially when discussing how Witchipoo’s greatest wish was to get her hands on Jimmy’s magic flute. Excerpts are below.
PART 1: Topics include “hippie chicks” and how to pronounce Appice …
PART 2: Topics include harbingers of psychedelia and groovy movies …
PART 3: Topics include ’60s TV and Jimmy’s magic flute …
PART 4: Topics include Montery, Woodstock and Altamont …
Following is an edited transcription of the show …
(Keith plays “Come On, Get Happy”)
KEITH: The Partridge Family, dare I say, in the Electric Ballroom. And I’m happy to be joined by my good buddy. It’s been a while. Mark Voger — how are ya, Mark Voger?
MARK: Hey, Keith Roth. It’s great to be back in the Ballroom, baby.
MARK: And this ain’t the first time you played the Partridge Family. One time when I was in the Ballroom, like, 15 years ago, we played “Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque.”
KEITH: I do remember that. It’s good to see you. Many people know Mark. You wrote for the Asbury Park Press. You write that great column for The Star-Ledger, RETRO. I mean, we truly are like “brothers from others” as far as ‘60s and ‘70s culture and music. When we get together, we could go, probably, a solid 24 hours talkin’ about music, the passion and love we still have for it. Even as we’re getting older into our later 30s right now.
MARK: I’m in my late 40s right now.
MARK: Yeah, you’re my brother from another mother, mannn.
KEITH: I know you put out a book that came out on Wednesday (Nov. 15, 2017).
MARK: It came out on Wednesday, it’s called “Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed in Pop Culture.” It’s a hardback, 192 pages in color from TwoMorrows Publishing. It’s a psychedelic experience. I built it — I designed it and wrote it — to try to actually put the reader in the late ’60s, and sort of give them the feel for how it started and how it crashed and burned.
KEITH: I mean, there’s no stone left unturned with anything that you do. I’m actually first seeing it now. What gave you the idea to say, “I’m gonna do a book on ’60s culture”?
MARK: I’ve always been intrigued by this period. I was 11 years old in 1969 when Woodstock happened, so I was old enough to be curious about it, but too young to take part.
KEITH: You just liked the naked ladies.
MARK: Well, that was the thing! When I was a kid, hippie chicks were really cute.
MARK: I was going through that painful adolescence and thinking about girls every waking moment. And hippie chicks had, like, hair parted in the middle, and vests and sandals, hip-hugger jeans …
KEITH: Beautiful headbands …
MARK: … yeah, beautiful headbands … they were braless. And I always noticed on the corny old TV shows that had hippies, or in groovy movies, that the hippie girls would always be laying open-mouthed kisses on random hippie dudes that just walk by. And I could not wait to get a little older, grow my hair long, and receive my first sloppy, open-mouthed kiss from a hippie chick.
KEITH: Did that ever happen?
MARK: (Resignedly) Nah, it never happened.
KEITH: Well, you got older. You grew your hair longer.
MARK: In fact, by the time I met the hippie chicks, they weren’t so cute anymore.
KEITH: Now it’s ’79 …
MARK: And I was a punk. I was a kid.
KEITH: You look at this book, and as you’re going through these pages, you feel like you’re there. It’s right in front of you. I know you did some great interviews in the book as well.
MARK: I talked to 100 people for the book, although I can’t really say “for” the book, because I’ve been compiling these interviews forever. I remember we shot the Vanilla Fudge guys right here at the WRAT during a Ballroom night. Those photos of Carmine Appice and Vinnie (Martell), we shot them right here. I tried to get it from the horse’s mouth. So I have a lot of testimonials. The Ten Years After guys’ stories about surviving Woodstock are a riot. They could never eat the whole time.
KEITH: Everything was dosed?
MARK: Everything was dosed, and there was a breakout of hepatitis, and they could not eat. When they finally got back to their hotel, they said, “Is there any place to eat?” And (the hotel staff) said, “There’s a diner up the street …” and the four of them just ran up to the diner and said, “Give me everything you’ve got!”
KEITH: Right now.
MARK: Yeah. A lot of funny stories.
KEITH: You talked to Alvin Lee?
MARK: I talked to Alvin Lee and Ric Lee, the drummer — no relation. Alvin Lee was hilarious. One of the things he said …
KEITH: By the way, I thought that the highlight of the Woodstock festival: “I’m Going Home.”
MARK: “I’m Going Home.” Absolutely. He said that when they first played — they opened with “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” — it was right after the rainstorm, so there was a lot of humidity in the air. They went horribly out of tune. They had to actually stop the song and tune. He said (imitating Lee): “If that bit had made it in the movie, it would’ve been a different story, eh?” Just really funny guys.
KEITH: (Laughs) The book is “Groovy.” It’s available now. You can get it on Amazon …
KEITH: You’re part of the corporation now, Mark.
MARK: I’m happy to be part of the Target family.
KEITH: Like I said, when it comes to you — always meticulous. As I’m looking through the book right now, it really captures the whole vibe of the ’60s, psychedelic culture and the TV shows, the album bands, all the great groovy movies. We’re going to discuss it a little bit more, but you came with a great playlist. You brought “Come On, Get Happy.” What do you wanna play right now?
MARK: Right now, I’d like to play what I think is the greatest psychedelic song in Top 40. It’s “White Room” by Cream. They played timpanis on this thing. Jack Bruce told me that for the most part, Cream would just play live in the studio, and then add stuff on top of it. But on “White Room,” the arrangement is ethereal. It makes you feel like you’re floating to heaven. I just love it. It always gives me pause when it comes on the radio, which it’s about to do.
KEITH: One question before we play it: Do you know what the song is about? There’s a lot of speculation.
MARK: Jack Bruce said, “You’d have to ask Pete Brown, the poet that was the lyricist for a lot of Cream’s songs. Jack said he was told that there was a white room, in the north of England. To me, the song sounds like the white room was a place to make a drug buy. It is an eternal question, because the lyrics are so crazy. “Black roof country, no gold pavement, tired starling” … It’s like: Are you high? Or did you spill all your lyrics on the ground, pick them up and read them in order?
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