Song of the Week – Mr. Blue, Clear Light

Happy New Year, readers!

I’m starting 2024 with a psychedelic classic from an obscure late ‘sixties group called Clear Light.  The track is a “far out” cover of a song penned by folkie Tom Paxton, called “Mr. Blue” (1967).

I have to admit that 6 and 1/2 minutes of a song that mixes spoken word segments with fuzzed out psychedelia can be a bit much for some (most?) people, but I dig it for the period piece that it is.  At about 5:30, the band goes into a frenetic wig out that sounds much like their Elektra labelmates, The Doors.

Keyboardist Ralph Schuckett has told the story of playing a morning gig in the chapel of a prep school in Massachusetts in August 1967.  In his account, the “fresh faced, squeaky clean ‘old family’ teenage boys” at the school had no idea what to make of the stoned hippie musicians in Clear Light.  His story continues:

“At the cacophonous end of ‘Mr Blue,’ Dallas and Michael knocked over their drums, Bob was Townshending all over the place, hitting the gleaming wood railings and pews. Cliff banged his mic on the floor and things. There’s not much you can do to a Hammond organ without the proper tools, which I didn’t have, but I was sort of shaking it back and forth and running my hands up and down till they literally bled all over the keys. When the carnage sort of petered out, the band was in the car and on the highway in seconds.”

The band was also a little ahead of the curve with the idea to use two drummers – one of them being Dallas Taylor who would go on to greater fame as the drummer on CSN&Y’s classic Déjà Vu album.  This is a lineup the Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers would adopt some time later.

In order to keep their branding message focused, Clear Light was named after a potent formula of LSD. 

Enjoy… until next week.