By Madeline Bocaro
© Madeline Bocaro, 2021. No part of this site may be reproduced or re-blogged in whole or in part, in any manner without permission of the copyright owner.
LET’S TAKE A TRIP –
FROM GREEN ONIONS TO GREEN RIVER!
The wonderfully funky ‘Green Power’ by Little Richard was a single from his 1971 album, The King of Rock and Roll. This album consisted mostly of cover songs, including the Stones’ ‘Brown Sugar,’ ‘Joy to the World’ and ‘Dancing in the Street’ (written by Marvin Gaye, Mickey Stevenson and Ivy Jo Hunter). ‘Green Power’ is only one of two original songs on the album, the other being a gospel tune by Richard. ‘Green Power’ was co-written by H.B. Barnum – a former child actor who became a songwriter, arranger and producer. Richard’s vocal on this is outstanding! The lyrics speak of the power of money. The groove is similar to Yoko Ono’s ‘Mind Train’ (Fly 1971) and a guitar riff is similar to her ‘Don’t Worry Kyoko’ on the same album. Mick Ronson performed this song on his 1974 Slaughter on 10th Avenue tour.
‘Blue in Green’ appears on the classic 1959 Miles Davis album Kind of Blue. It was admittedly written by Bill Evans, who plays on the track, and also recorded it himself.
Listen – Miles: https://youtu.be/TLDflhhdPCg
Listen – Bill Evans: https://youtu.be/mW_7gRH7ASE
Also see my playlist Blue For You…
Now, let’s have some Memphis Soul! The great instrumental 12-bar blues ‘Green Onions’ from 1962 is by Booker T. & the M.G.s.’ It’s on their album titled after the single. Even if you think you don’t know this song, you really do! The Hammond M3 organ on this gives the song its identity. And it swings. It’s slinky, like Mancini’s The Pink Panther theme song (1963)!
‘Green Tambourine’ by The Lemon Pipers (from Ohio) is on their debut 1967 album of the same name on (bubblegum label) Buddha records. It was a No. 1 hit in America. This song, about a pied piper/street musician is gorgeously psychedelic with a slick production. The glorious instrumentation includes strings, finger cymbals and some wonderful tympani. It’s in the vein of Donovan’s dreamy tunes. The song was covered by Status Quo.
Listen: by Status Quo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2Dy0xoRNbU
The Kinks released their concept album and its title song, about life in England, Village Green Preservation Society in 1968. It was their sixth album. The lyrics are about preserving the innocence of old-fashioned memories and pop-culture icons. Protecting “the old ways from being abused.” The album was not much appreciated until many years later. It is now considered a classic.
Although this song has nothing to do with the color green, it’s by Norman Greenbaum, who wrote and recorded ‘Spirit in the Sky’ in 1969, for his album of the same name. The single went gold within a year. The lyrics have religious connotations. This is a sort of rock gospel tune (complete with hand claps). There is fantastic pioneering fuzz guitar on this track!
Watch: A really cool performance!
Pan’s People – ‘Spirit In The Sky’ Top Of The Pops (starts at :52)
American garage band The Green Fuz (named after a fuzz box) were known for their only single, ‘Green Fuz’ from 1969. It became an underground classic. Thankfully, The Cramps did a wonderful cover version on their 1981 album Psychedelic Jungle, which also contains a cover of the song ‘Green Door’ originally by Jim Lowe, a radio DJ and popular music expert, who had a No. 1 hit with the song in 1956.
Listen: The Green Fuz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxB3coEbli4&list=RDYxB3coEbli4&start_radio=1
Listen – The Cramps: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAbGndKIGZI&list=RDEAbGndKIGZI&start_radio=1
Listen – Green Door – The Cramps: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCZVkKzYZKs
‘Mr. Green Genes’ is on Frank Zappa’s 1968 album Uncle Meat. It’s a strange song about eating meat and/or vegetables. ‘Son of Mr. Green Genes’ is an instrumental arrangement of the above, appearing Zappa’s album Hot Rats. Horns and guitars reign supreme on these tracks. The song titles led people to believe that Zappa was related to the character Mr. Green Jeans on the American television children’s show Captain Kangaroo (which aired from 1955 through 1984) but this is not true.
Listen: ‘Mr. Green Genes’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXSyCJEQcM8
Listen: ‘Son of Mr. Green Genes’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7-LmWyY9no
‘Green Eyed Lady’ appears on the debut 1970 album by American band Sugarloaf. Although their first and only No. 1 single is a pop song, it has elements of early prog rock. It’s also a bit jazzy. The album version is almost seven minutes long. The band is named after a mountain in Colorado.
Kermit the Frog had a very popular song 1970. ‘Bein’ Green’ (a.k.a. ‘It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green’) on the popular kids show Sesame Street. It’s actually performed by Muppets creator Jim Henson. The song has been covered by some great singers including Sinatra and Ray Charles. The moral of the lyrics: although the frog laments blending in with the green of nature and not being noticed, he grows to feel comfortable in his own green skin.
Watch Kermit’s wonderful duet with Debbie Harry – ‘Rainbow Connection’
Debbie Harry also did a fine performance of the Blondie song ‘Call Me’ with The Muppet Band:
Reverend Al Green released the beautiful ‘Tired of Being Alone’ in 1971 on his third album Al Green Gets Next to You. His vocal on this is incredible. Al’s previous album, Green is Blues was released in 1969.
‘I’m So Green’ is the most funky thing that Can has ever done. ‘I’m So Green’ was wonderfully covered by Beck on a Can tribute album that was never released. The cover of the fourth album by German band Can released in November 1972 features a can of okra. Ege Bamyasi (‘Aegean Okra’ in Turkish) was a highly influential album, loved by artists including Sonic Youth and the band Spoon which took its name from a song on this album. I’m not sure if Cibo Matto titled their song ‘Spoon’ after Can’s song – but I wouldn’t doubt it. Kanye West sampled a bit of Can’s ‘Sing Swan Song’. (Another Can album cover is featured in my story – Orange Sunshine). https://madelinex.com/2019/05/29/orange-hangover/
Listen (Beck): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnyVBtRXWs8
‘Green Green Grass of Home’ is an old country tune – a hit in 1965 with recordings by Johnny Darrell and Porter Wagoner. It was also recorded by many others, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash and Tom Jones. The story is of a man visiting his childhood home – in his mind, because he is actually in prison, awaiting execution.
Listen – Tom Jones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmT1ptv3VEc
Listen – Johnny Cash: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLfxsneyfnY
Listen – Elvis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMxUc9WLK7A
‘Green River’ was written by John Fogerty, and became a hit by Creedence Clearwater Revival. It’s also the title of their third album, released in 1969. The lyrics speak of childhood memories. The song was titled after Fogerty’s favorite flavor of soda, Green River – which was actually green!
‘Another Green World’ is the title Eno’s third album, released in 1975. This followed his brilliant pair of pop albums after leaving Roxy Music (Here Come the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy). The recording sessions were conducted based upon Eno’s Oblique Strategies set of instructional cards, followed randomly. Guest musicians include Robert Fripp, Phil Collins and John Cale. This was a transitional album, moving in the direction of his later ambient music. The album cover is a detail of the Tom Phillips painting After Raphael.
Listen to the beautifully calming title track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1GH9WN92s0
‘Greensleeves’ (What Child Is This?) is mostly known as an instrumental (I remember it being played as the Lassie television show’s ending theme). It’s an English folk song dating back to the 1500s. We often hear the instrumental at Christmas time. One of the nicest lyric versions is on Olivia Newton-John’s 1976 album Come On Over.
Listen – Olivia Newton-John: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1g64hauOT6U’
David Bowie released his album “Heroes” in 1977. The serene track ‘Moss Garden’ invokes the garden at Ryoan-ji in Japan. It is so calming that I wish it went on forever. Well, someone made a 19-minute mix, so my wish has been granted!
Listen – a 19-minute edit! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4YO4RJjm8E
‘Pretty Green’ – a song about money, is on the fifth album by The Jam, Sound Affects, released in late 1980. The bass and drums on this are spectacular! Singer Paul Weller puts his “pretty green” mostly in the jukebox!
A song by actor Lorne Green (of Bonanza) called ‘I’m a Gun’ is featured in a mime by Todd Rundgren, performed as a mime sequence in Todd’s hilarious rendition on The Unpredictable Todd Rundgren DVD.
I must include a song from the late, great Poly Styrene’s sax-skroning band X-Ray Spex because I have their fabulous album on Radioactive Green Vinyl! ‘The Day the World Turned Day-Glo’ is one of my favorites, but every song on Germ Free Adolescents (1978) is amazing!
Watch on Top of the Pops: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoifB3e_ZhM
Californian “punk” band Green Day was named due to the members’ love of cannabis. Although they formed in 1987 and released their debut album in 1990, this Californian band accumulated all the success that the Ramones should have had since 1975! ‘Basket Case’ from their third album Dookie only touches upon the speed, the power and the glory of The Ramones’ ‘Teenage Lobotomy.’
‘Greenfield Morning I Pushed an Empty Baby Carriage All Over the City’ appears on Yoko Ono’s 1970 debut album. The concept is from a page in Yoko’s book Grapefruit (1964). City Piece. Walk all over the city with an empty baby carriage. Yoko’s foreboding lyrics speak of several miscarriages and the kidnapping of her young daughter by her ex-husband, both of whom she and John Lennon would spend many years trying to locate. The piece centers upon a drone loop from one of George Harrison’s tapes found in the studio which accompanies Yoko’s echoing ghostly vocal. An eerie echo was also added to Ringo Starr’s drums. In essence, there were three Beatles on this track.
“She’s the one who produced it. She put all the delays on Ringo’s drums and when he heard the song ‘Greenfield Morning…’ he said, ‘Who’s playing drums on it?’ She put so much delay on tit that he didn’t recognize his own drums… It was more on the avant-garde side but it connected to punk… It wasn’t like ‘fuck everybody’ it was like ‘let’s heal through expression’.”
-Sean Ono Lennon, Nero magazine 2016
“Well, it is a song where I carefully collaged many live sounds and tapes and made it into a song that sounds like just natural sounds flowing. I could write a book about how I made it. But I was getting bored with just doing one, two, three, four, one two three four – four in the bar, so I went very far.
– Yoko Q&A 2017
‘Greenfield Morning…’ was later referenced on the song ‘Ask the Dragon’ on Yoko’s album Rising (1995). The two-note drone of ‘Are You Looking For Me?’ on Blueprint for a Sunrise (2001) samples the droning sitar loop and also the chirping birds.
“Do I like sampling? Well, you should go back and listen to Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band. I sampled, I did a lot of electronic tricks. It was very much like dance music. I called it Unfinished music, which meant that you were supposed to put your own thing on, in the same way that remixers do today. Tracks like ‘Why’ or ‘Paper Shoes’ could be dance tracks. I don’t feel that any of these things are particularly new, because they were always there for me.”
– Yoko, To Martin O’ Gorman, Mojo – In the Beginning, July 2002
There is a really cool mix of ‘Greenfield Morning…’ on the 2005 compilation CD, The Enochian Way presented by Super Numeri.
RZA performed ‘Greenfield Morning’ with Yoko.
Extremely limited ten-inch vinyl pressing containing one track on Side One and an etching from Yoko Ono on the flip side. (RZA of Wu-Tang Clan).
Sean Lennon told Rolling Stone‘s David Fricke (June 11, 1998):
When I play “Greenfield Morning” or “Why” for anybody that I know my age who’s into rock, they are fucking floored. When that beat kicks in “Greenfield Morning” [does human-beatbox imitation of the drum pattern] – I would play it for my friends who were only into hip-hop. They’d be like, That’s fat. They want to hear Public Enemy rhyming over it…”
…A deluxe remastered edition of John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band was released in 2021, including the double-length session of ‘Greenfield Morning…’ in which we clearly hear Yoko’s echoing instructions at the end, about how the song should sound (“Keep doing it a bit more quiet, and a bit more Indian”) which are buried amongst the birds tweeting on the released track. This is not as eerie sounding as the album take, but more of a jam indicating what these tracks would have sounded like if they had been performed live.
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See more in my Playlist category:
About A Song
Eat to the Beat