Organic Fertilizer (part 1- The Hammond B3 in Rock)

I started out to say that ever since I heard a Hammond B3 organ I was enraptured, but that would not have been accurate. My first experience of it was quite awful. At Rockland Shopping Centre in Montreal when I was a boy they had hired some “square” to play music from time to time (it may have been regular ). It was pretty ghastly. Cheapo beguine rhythms on a rhythm ace and corny sounds and really a “square” sound. I was an organ snob. I sang in the Cathedral choir after all. My choirmaster could play a 4 manual organ and still play the bass with his feet. The shopping centre sounded “cheesy” to me. Like this…..

My first significant encounter with the B3, however, was through the radio. I may be leaving some out, but it was probably “Good Lovin'” by the Young Rascals in 1966. I had not made the “brand” connection yet. Felix Cavaliere was obviously someone to listen to based on that solo. Around this time I also heard “Gimme Some Lovin'” by the Spencer Davis Group with that hypnotic ostinato intro: da da da da dah dum. da da da da dah dum. repeating which caught my attention and then the nastiest sounding organ with that huge funky flourish caught my soul. So amazing.

organ solo at 1:36
organ in video is not a B3…. the sound is from the record which is a B3

I then discovered Santana. I am a guitarist and I found his playing inspirational. The organ riff on “Hope You’re Feeling Better”‘s was so powerful and visceral and the clave figure starting off “Oye Como Va” played on the organ was also delightful. I then went back to their previous album with the great percussion features…. “Waiting” has great textures (control of the Leslie speaker and voicing shifts) and features Chester Thompson going wild….. way before the lead guitar enters…. I love Santana’s music. I have continued to follow the band to the present.

The album ends with Soul Sacrifice which also blew my mind. Listen to the organ growl and then the trading of phrases between Carlos and Chester….. the bomb!

My musical education was taking off right around then, and the next few examples are not necessarily in order. The Small Faces had a hit with “Itchycoo Park”. Listen to the riff just after the first line “On the bridge of sighs”…… It is perfect and propels this song…Ian McLagan was a master of the B3.

What did they do there?….

The Zombies featuring Rod Argent, then Argent…

organ solo at 1:23

When I hitch-hiked across Canada at age 16 in 1972 the shorter version of this was on the radio in most cars. Other songs on the soundtrack of my adventure : “Rocket Man” and “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress”…..

Listen to how the organ fills this track… awesome stuff.

This is a DUO!!! Lee Michaels who plays piano and organ and clavinet on this and a drummer…… power chords on the B3. Pretty sure the piano and clav were overdubs, maybe not. I like this track.

Steven Stills is mostly viewed as a guitarist, songwriter and a singer, but his organ playing on this is remarkable.

Good God Amighty!!!!…. Deep Purple…. This was my intro to them.

And this…. The album sounded better, but this looks so good. tight trousers, bad teeth and 1970’s hair…. Organ is a bitch! Jon Lord was great on this!

I saw Focus live in 1973… they had a big hit on the radio with Hocus Pocus, but their album cuts still interest me. This suite has so many different ideas in it. Organ is so great! 3:18 a great little solo. The organist (Thijs Van Leer) also played flute and yodelled.

OK, not a B3, but Garth Hudson brought the organ to the fore. It was a Lowrey….

Not forgetting Booker T and The MGs and the Meters whose funky instrumental music I adore. There are many examples of Booker T’s brilliance but I am partial to “Melting Pot” for the groove and the over use of reverb on the organ which renders this perfect.

I first heard Nelson Symonds (Montreal guitarist and friend of mine) play “Cissy Strut” at Rockhead’s Paradise. Nelson told me what it was. I was unfamiliar with the Meters, but became an immediate fan! Led to the Neville Brothers later on as well. Art Neville (keys) died this last summer… a great musician.

listen to the soaring organ note at 1:22 leading into the improvised part of the performance…

Billy Preston had a hit with the Gospel song “That’s The Way God Planned It” I had heard of him (and heard him) via his connection to the Beatles and the organ at the beginning of this song are the same chords as O Canada…lol. I used to sing along with this “That’s the Way…God Damn It” which my mum forbade me from singing in her house….lol. I had misheard the lyrics. The organ solo at 1:57 is gorgeous.

Around this time I became aware of the Allman Brothers. Greg Allman got switched to organ!!!!! He is perfect for this band. One of my favourite cuts is “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” The organ chords just humming along calmly and the song built on top. The live at Fillmore is long, but it won’t seem long. Bon Voyage…

I was drawn to Roy Buchanan through his Second album, but on the first album he had this “hit” Which is essentially instrumental with spoken “lyrics” that are unashamedly religious. The guitar is outrageous…. He makes the Telecaster Scream, Moan and generally suffer. Listen to the organ though…..It is padding and goading and is so beautiful on it’s own. The chords are shifting one note at a time… masterful voice leading. The original is worth seeking out, but this live version is great.

Then I discovered Tower Of Power……Everything about this group excites me still. I have seen them live many times. This cut is a great example of how the organ drives…. Hard to just choose just one example. Listen how the organ counterpoints and cuts through the mix with this huge band (5 horns, guitar, bass, drums and vox). The playing at the end is so great!

at 3;08 til the end….

There were many great organ solos not on Hammond, but I’ll leave that to someone else. Part two of this article will deal with why I started writing this today. Jazz organ coming soon…. I woke up this morning and put on “The Mighty Burner”…have mercy!

Hidden Gem

Today, I don’t know why, but I decided to listen to some music that I rarely listen to at all, let alone first thing in the morning.. I put on Beck, Bogert & Appice. Their eponymous first album.

It was never a “great” album despite being a “Supergroup” , but in the present moment I am listening with fresh ears. Of course Jeff Beck  is brilliant. He dive bombs and squawks in places that delight. The music is at times Beatlesesque…at times shadowing Cream. I hear a bit of Beach Boy harmony in there as well. Sweet Sweet Surrender is reminiscent of I Shall Be Released.

The lead vocals are workmanlike. Not one of the great voices that come to mind in Jeff Beck’s legacy (Max Middleton, Rod Stewart). The harmony vocals are reminiscent of Vanilla Fudge and Grand Funk. All those  huge industrial rock bands in the 70s. “Why Should I Care” reminiscent of “Let’s Spend The Night Together” by the Stones.

The rhythm tracks are what I find interesting. The playing is very good all round. A lot of work went into arranging and executing these songs. Lots of punches and abrupt (tight) turns. The Allmusic guide gives it 2 and a half of 5 stars. I agree, but this should not deter one from checking out a lovely example of Rock Music on it’s own terms.