As I worked on putting together a course on the Beatles over the past month and change, I had an unexpected flashback (and no, not that type of flashback). In listening to the “medley” at the end of Abbey Road, I remembered my first exposure to that music. New Haven’s WPLR has, typically of this era, gone increasingly corporate, systematically dropping their alternative and local programming. BUT, I will always remember (and maintain some degree of loyalty for) programs like “Psychedelic Sunday.” This program, hosted by Mike Lapitino (still, amazingly, serving charmingly as a DJ for the station), was on every Sunday morning from 9am to noon.
For most of my teen years, I would set the alarm on Sunday mornings and lie in bed listening to the entire show.

Of course, this was the pre-internet era, so seeking out a great tune was a more elusive art. There were great songs I heard on the show that I’d hope to hear again, but I didn’t know who performed them or what the titles were, so I couldn’t even request them (much less instantly download them). As such, there was a particular intensity to the listening experience. The following list is of songs that I discovered on this program. I left out songs that I would have heard anyway. These are only songs that were otherwise missing from “normal” playlists, in many cases songs I knew little about for years. I also excluded songs by the Grateful Dead, because I was sufficiently into them that it would be dishonest to imply that I discovered any of their music this way. With that, let’s take a trip through the “PLR-chives.”

1) “Omaha,” Moby Grape – the band was doomed by bad luck and bad marketing, but this is one of the catchiest psychedelic rock tunes ever, enhanced by great vocal harmonies, killer guitar and a great beat.

2) “With You There to Help Me,” Jethro Tull – this is one of their moodier early tunes, very folksy at first, with the energy ebbing and flowing over time.

3) “Fresh Air,” Quicksilver Messenger Service – innocent me, I had no idea what “have another hit” meant, though they are technically suggesting having a hit of fresh air, California sunshine, love and so on. Not Pulitzer-worthy with the lyrics, perhaps, but very catchy. Great solos too, by guitarist John Cipollina and guest pianist Nicky Hopkins.

4) “Nature’s Way,” Spirit – I had literally never heard of this band before, and this song really haunted me (in a good way). Much moodier than their bigger hit, “I Got a Line On You.”

5) “See My Way,” Blodwyn Pig – not only had I never heard of this band before but I probably never would have since, either, if not for being won over by this super-catchy song (which I subsequently discovered to be the only one of their songs I actually like). The group was a spin-off from Jethro Tull, formed by Mick Abrams, the guitarist on Tull’s first album. They even went so far as to have a Roland Kirk styled flutist who also played multiple saxophones simultaneously.

6) “I Bet You They Won’t Play This Song On the Radio,” Monty Python – this short comedic song was the intro music for the show, and I would make sure to set my alarm for 8:59 so I wouldn’t miss it.

7) “Embryonic Journey,” Jefferson Airplane – technically this is a Jorma Kaukonen solo tune, and it’s beautiful. I’m an even bigger fan of his Hot Tuna tune “Water Song,” but I don’t remember if I ever heard it on “Psychedelic Sunday.”

8) “Shanty,” Jonathan Edwards – again, I had no clue what the “good buzz” was to which he was referring, but this was a really appealing jug band sort of tune.

9) “Empty Pages,” Traffic – Steve Winwood is at his best here (playing most of the instruments) and his electric piano solo is great and impacted me quite a bit (sleuths among you can probably find a couple of my stock licks in there). This is actually the only tune on the list where I actually figured out the song’s identity AND got the album before I moved on from listening to the show.

10) “I’m So Glad,” Cream – This one (the folk roots of which I only discovered many years later) is all fun, but it’s got a killer groove too, and great Jack Bruce vocals.

9 Responses

  • george

    Loved Psychedelic Sunday! But the dj wasnt Lappy the whole time . I was trying to find the name of the dj actually.
    Would happen to have any copies of the show on tape at all. I was lookinf for some shows if available . I have one or two , Please let me know, Thanks , George.

  • hey george – sorry for the delayed reply. no, i don’t have any of those recorded (especially since i listened to the show as a teenager – in bed, on my clock radio!). good luck with that!

  • jim

    I just found this…I know this response is delayed 5 yrs lol.
    Wasn’t Pete Z. a host of the show?
    Some of my favorites were
    ‘Too Many People’ by Paul McCartney
    ‘Watch the North Wind Rise’ by Hot Tuna
    ‘Meadows’ by Joe Walsh
    ‘Monster/Suicide/America’ by Steppenwolf

    good times, great tunes and memories!

  • Greg W

    Hi ,Noah! Been hung up for an hour reading your insightful Top 10’s. I was in High school from ’68 thru ’72, living in South Suburban Chicago. We had a very healthy garage band scene in those days and this post in your blog triggered a flow of memories. My kid brother’s band actually did “Nature’s Way” and one band that I played drums in was called “Trader Horn” because we had a years-ahead-of-his-age tenor,soprano, and flute player. We did half a dozen Traffic tunes and believe it or not “Serenade to a Cuckoo” by Rahsaan which,as you probably know,was also covered by Tull. Good times! My true exposure to Jazz came later at the U of Ill. ’72-’77…..Anyway, thanks for the trip and thanks again for your books from which I have been studying piano for a couple years….PS-I recently (4/2016) met your friend Dez-Bassist extraordinaire -at a Benny Green concert at Valpo U(NW Indiana). Great player and guy and he spoke very highly of you! Thanks for all you do! Your fan and student, Greg Walroth, age 61, Lowell,In

  • George

    Jim , thanks for reply! I did later find that it was Pete Z. Wish it was still on!
    Thanks and be sure to Psychedelicize!

  • GaryM

    Glad to see memories of one of my oldest friends Pete Z (Zavidniak) – he passed today…

  • Peter Crouth

    I heard they were bringing it back??!!
    What time if true??
    Some of my favorites were “You”, Jasper Wrath, “White Bird” , Beautiful Day!!

  • Wow, thanks for the tip, Peter, that would be something!

  • Thanks for passing along the sad news Gary, sigh

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