Saturday, July 16, 2011

Grass Roots -- "Feelings" (1968)

I have known you all my life
Girl, it seems to me
That you will always be
Very close to me -- close to me

Rob Grill, the lead singer of the Grass Roots, sustained a serious head injury last month when he fell after suffering a stroke.  He was in a coma for several weeks before he died earlier this week.  Grill was 67.

You don't hear much about the Grass Roots these days, but they were one of the most successful top 40 groups of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Rob Grill
The Grass Roots set a record that is likely to never be broken.  There was a Grass Roots single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 307 consecutive weeks -- beginning with "Let's Live for Today" (which was released in 1967 and made it to #8) and ending in 1972.  (That statistic is from the Grass Roots' official website.  I can't quite make the math work, but it's not nice to nitpick rock 'n' roll legends.)  In between came great AM radio hits like "Midnight Confessions" and "The River Is Wide" and "I'd Wait A Million Years" and "Temptation Eyes."

The story of the Grass Roots begins in 1965, when P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri recorded a demo of their song "Where Were You When I Needed You?" as the Grass Roots.  (Sloan and Barri recorded some of their own songs, but are better remembered for the songs they wrote for other performers -- including "Eve of Destruction" and "Secret Agent Man.") 

The demo made a somewhat favorable impression so Sloan and Barri found a San Francisco band called the Bedouins and had them re-record the song under the Grass Roots moniker.  It reached #28 on the Billboard chart.  But the partnership between the Sloan/Barri duo and the Bedouins didn't last long -- they had "artistic differences."

Sloan and Barri recruited a Los Angeles band called the 13th Floor (not to be confused with the great Texas psychedelic band, the 13th Floor Elevators) to be the new Grass Roots.

One of the members of the 13th Floor was Creed Bratton, who is one of the regular cast members of the NBC television series, "The Office."

The 13th Floor's original lead singer got drafted, which is how Rob Grill (a graduate of Hollywood High whose back-in-the-day musician friends included Cory Wells of Three Dog Night and John Kay of Steppenwolf) became a member of the Grass Roots.  

Grill and the new Grass Roots hit it big right out of the starting gate with "Let's Live for Today," and the rest is history.  

The Grass Roots didn't get a lot of respect despite their popularity.  I suppose you could compare them to the Monkees -- they were a singles band (not an album band), and they didn't write their biggest hits themselves.  

But at the beginning, they were an honest-to-God San Francisco "Summer of Love" band.  Their first big hit, "Let's Live for Today," was very different from some of their later and more lightweight hits -- it's lyrics struck a chord with the Vietnam generation. 

The Grass Roots appeared at the "Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival" in Marin County, California, on June 11, 1967 -- at the height of the popularity of "Let's Live for Today."  That festival was arguably the first great outdoor rock festival.  It preceded the "Monterey International Pop Festival' by one week -- but no one made a movie about it.

Here's a partial list of the performers who also appeared at the Marin County festival:  the Doors, Canned Heat, Spanky and Our Gang, Every Mother's Son (don't sleep on "Come On Down To My Boat, Baby"!), Jefferson Airplane, the Byrds, Captain Beefheart, the Seeds, Tim Buckley, Steve Miller, Country Joe and the Fish, and the 5th Dimension.  That's a quality lineup, boys and girls.  

Part of the charm of 2 or 3 lines is its unpredictability.  So to pay tribute to Rob Grill, we are featuring a 1968 Grass Roots single that didn't break into the top 100 -- even though it is probably the best Grass Roots song of all time!  ("Midnight Confessions," a serious contender for that title, was the next Grass Roots single to be released, and made it all the way to #5 -- no Grass Roots song ever did better.)

I don't remember ever hearing "Feelings" until a couple of months ago, when I was listening to the music from the great "Mystic Eyes" radio show I had recorded in 1980.  (I recently found someone who transferred all that music from the ancient audiocassettes on which I recorded it to CDs.)  I had no idea it was a Grass Roots song until I googled the lyrics.  

"Feelings" features a marimba riff, and will likely remind you of "Under My Thumb" by the Rolling Stones.  It is a pastiche of all sorts of rock/pop bits and pieces, but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

If you don't like it, you are banned from 2 or 3 lines FOR LIFE!

Here's "Feelings" -- featuring the late Rob Grill.

And here's a snippet of the band lip-synching the song in Doris Day's last movie, "With Six You Get Eggroll":

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