10 Classic Rock Gems that Radio Forgot
My List of 10 Underplayed "Classic Rock" Songs
- Elvin Bishop: “Rock My Soul”
- Steppenwolf: “Monster”
- Ten Years After: “Good Mornin' Little Schoolgirl”
- Youngbloods: "Darkness Darkness"
- Dave Mason: “Only You Know and I Know”
- Spencer Davis Group: “Keep on Running”
- Eric Burdon and War: "Tobacco Road"
- The Moody Blues: “Legend of a Mind”
- Grateful Dead: "Cumberland Blues"
- Sly and the Family Stone: “I Want to Take You Higher”
A Revolution in Music and Radio
The 1960s was a decade of social and political upheaval. It saw the civil rights movement, sexual liberation, the Vietnam war, the anti-war movement, and the use of psychedelic drugs. The decade was filled with dramatic changes. It was an experimental renaissance for music as well.
By the mid '60s, cutting edge rock music began appearing on the newly created FM radio band, which was considered an "underground" means of airing music. It was a looser format that favored longer and more controversial songs.
DJ's eliminated the hype between "Top 40" songs and adopted a more understated attitude, playing music that previously never made it to the airwaves. Artists were arranging albums to be played straight through, and whole albums or album sides were actually being played on the radio. That's what was known as "deep cuts" in FM radio jargon. You didn't just hear the “hit single,” you heard the entire piece of art.
Unfortunately, what radio that is left, except for a few independent stations here and there, has pretty much gone back to the pre-FM format. Even stations that play “classic rock” have their limited playlists, compiled from the top singles from back in the day. They keep it short and snappy. There are so many old musical gems that never see the light of day.
The songs on my list are songs that I love, songs that I used to hear on the radio, but I have noticed that I never hear them on my local classic rock station. I'm sure there is a little variation across the country, maybe you are fortunate to hear some of these songs on your local station, but there are a lot of others you don't hear. I have barely scratched the surface here.
When you're feeling down, turn the music on and let it soothe ya,
When you're feeling good, turn the music up and let it move ya"— Elvin Bishop
1. Elvin Bishop: “Rock My Soul”
Elvin Bishop is a talented singer, songwriter and, guitarist. A former member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, he is best known for his 1976 hit "Fooled Around and Fell in Love," which peaked at number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. Most people know that song, and it's a good song, but I loved Elvin Bishop long before he recorded it.
My favorite song from Elvin Bishop is “Rock My Soul” from the album of the same name released in 1972. This song, and even the album have fallen so far into obscurity that I could not even find a complete song list for the album, so I guess it didn't hit any of the charts. Have a listen and see if you don't love it too.
2. Steppenwolf: “Monster”
Steppenwolf was at the peak of it's popularity from 1968 to 1972. The band sold over 25 million records, had eight gold albums and 12 Billboard Hot 100 singles. They had three top 10 hit singles: "Born to Be Wild," "Magic Carpet Ride," and "Rock Me.” Those three songs you might hear occasionally on a classic rock radio station today.
In 1969 Steppenwolf released their fourth album “Monster.” It was their most political record ever, and it was the first not to have a top ten hit. It did have two songs that made the top 40 though. One of them was the title track, “Monster.”
Listening to it now, and watching the video, it really brings home the fact that this song is just as relevant today as it was when it was written. Maybe even more so.
3. Ten Years After: “Good Mornin' Little Schoolgirl”
When I was a young teen in the late 60s and early 70s Ten Years After was a very popular group, but you don't here a lot about them now. Even though they had eight top 40 albums on the UK Albums Chart, and 12 on the US Billboard 200, the only song of theirs that I've heard on any classic rock radio station is "I'd Love to Change the World."
Again, that is a very fine song, but it is not really representative of their usual style, and they had plenty of other songs that got a lot of radio play back in the day. One that I vividly remember is “I'm Going Home,” but the one I have chosen for this list is “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.”
This song is from the album Ssssh, released in 1969. It is a cover of a blues standard first recorded by Sonny Boy Williamson in 1937. Many have covered the song, but none of those other versions sound like Ten Years After! Some radio stations banned it back in the day because of a racy lyric they added.
4. Youngbloods: "Darkness Darkness"
The Youngbloods was a band lead byJesse Colin Young. Their only U.S. Top 40 song was their 1967 song "Get Together." It was kind of a shimmery hippie anthem that still gets a little air play today.
In 1969 they put out an album, . I remember that picture on the cover well, it was a photo of a well-known landmark in Marin County, California, where I was living at the time. It seemed that everyone had it in their record collection. The album went to number 118 on the Billboard 200 chart. That album included the song, “Darkness, Darkness.” Elephant Mountain
5. Dave Mason: “Only You Know and I Know”
Former Traffic member Dave Mason released his first solo album, Alone Together, in 1970. He was joined by a number of fantastic guest musicians including Bonnie Bramlett (of Delaney and Bonnie), Leon Russell, Jim Capaldi and Rita Coolidge among others. "Only You Know and I Know" reached number number 42 on the Billboard charts in the US. It is a fantastic song. In fact, I highly recommend the whole album.
6. Spencer Davis Group: “Keep on Running”
The Spencer Davis Group was a British band formed in 1963 by Spencer Davis, Steve Winwood and Muff Winwood. Their best known songs include "I'm a Man" and "Gimme Some Lovin," which reached number 2 in the UK and number 7 the US.
"Keep On Running" was written and originally recorded by Jackie Edwards. It became became a number one hit in the UK when sung by a very young Steve Winwood, and recorded by The Spencer Davis Group.
7. Eric Burdon and War: "Tobacco Road"
"Tobacco Road" was included on the album Eric Burdon Declares War, released in 1970. It peaked at number 18 on record charts in the USA, number 50 in the UK. It was also the debut of "Spill the Wine," which is a much more well-known song, it went to number 3 in the US. "Tobacco Road" failed to chart, but it did get played on the radio when it was new.
8. The Moody Blues: “Legend of a Mind”
The Moody Blues' "Legend of a Mind" was written by the band's flautist Ray Thomas. He also provided the lead vocals. It was first released on the Moody Blues' album In Search of the Lost Chord which in 1968. The album's most popular song was "Ride My See-Saw" which charted at 61 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The lyrics refer to 1960s LSD guru Timothy Leary. The song is known by its opening lines: "Timothy Leary's dead / No, n-n-no he's outside looking in."
9. Grateful Dead: "Cumberland Blues"
Workingman's Dead is the fourth Grateful Dead studio album. It was released in 1970. It was certified gold and platinum. In 2003, the album was ranked number 262 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
I hear the songs "Uncle John's Band," and "Casey Jones" on the radio on occasion, but never do I hear the "Cumberland Blues," which I really feel is the heart and soul of the album.
10. Sly and the Family Stone: “I Want to Take You Higher”
"I Want to Take You Higher" is a song by the soul/rock/funk band Sly and the Family Stone. It is not a political song, and it's not about drugs; it's just about feeling high on music.
The band performed "Higher" at Woodstock. Sly Stone had the Woodstock crowd doing a call and repeat of "higher" at three in the morning!
"I Want to Take You Higher" was a Top 40 hit in 1970. The same year, Ike & Tina Turner's cover became a hit as well.
Whew, this compilation was more work than I thought it would be. I know most of these songs are longer than what is usually played on the radio today; I hope you take the time to listen.
It's so easy to complain about the lack of diversity on classic rock radio, but it's harder to nail down what it is you wish they would play.
I'm sure I will think of some other missing gems, but I would love to hear about what forgotten songs you remember from back in the day. Please feel free to leave your choices in the comments.
© 2018 Sherry Hewins