Tag Archives: Buffalo Springfield

What’s big and purple and lives in the ocean?…Moby Grape: the greatest band that never was…

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What’s big and purple and lives in the Ocean?   Moby Grape of course.  The joke is as old as the hills, but it is literally where the band got it’s name.  The same year (1967) that the band “Touch” was making their eponymous masterpiece in L.A., Moby Grape was making their eponymous debut album in San Francisco.  Moby Grape should have been a huge success.  In many ways they were, but they were ultimately overshadowed by their fellow San Francisco based pals The Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane.  While L.A. was embarking on the exploration of Progressive Rock, San Francisco was on the cutting edge of Psychedelic rock.  This album by Moby Grape is one of the finest LP’s to come out of the 1960’s San Francisco rock scene.  I don’t think the Jefferson Airplane or a lot of other bands ever made an album as good as this one.  Alas, fate doomed Moby Grape almost from it’s Genesis…

Moby Grape was formed in 1966 by Skip Spence and Mathew Katz.  Katz had been the manager of Jefferson Airplane and Spence was their first drummer.  Skip Spence even wrote some songs that Jefferson Airplane performed.

Both were booted out of the Jefferson Airplane after the first album.  The proof of the wisdom in that decision is obvious based on the fame the Airplane achieved verses the obscurity of Moby Grape.  Katz was nothing but trouble  for the Airplane.  He was considered unreliable and over-controlling.  Skip was also unreliable.  Shortly after the release of the Airplane’s first album Spence bolted to Mexico with a couple of girls and didn’t tell any of the band members.  Erratic and unreliable behavior would eventually become Skip Spence’s legacy.

Katz wanted Spence to form a band that had multiple lead singers and song writers just like the Jefferson Airplane had.  Spence had played drums for Jefferson Airplane but with Moby Grape he moved back to his primary instrument, the Guitar.  He was a powerful, energetic, and charismatic  rhythm guitar player.  These atributes would be his primary gifts that he would bestow on their debut album.  The energy and excitement of the performances are amazing.

The group was formed from a wide range of musical influences.  Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson were from Seattle Washington.  They were in a band called “The Frantics”.  They came down to San Francisco and met Jerry Garcia.  Jerry encouraged them to relocate to San Francisco.  Once Miller and Stevenson relocated, they met and added Bob Mosley to the group.  Mosley was from San Diego and had been in a surfer band called “The Misfits”. Peter Lewis also joined “The Frantics”.  He was from southern California too.  He had also been in a surfer band called “The Cornells”.  So, the surfer sound joined with the sound of Seattle, and combined with the psychedelic americana sound of San Francisco to create a brand new sound;  a sound that really never got repeated.  This is a very unique album that blends all of the above into a powerful rock & roll statement.  It is replete with great 3 guitar rock.  At times all three players are dueling it out in an amazing wall of sound.  Even Buffalo Springfield, (the other great 3 guitar band of the times) must have been envious.

I have no idea how”The Frantics” hooked up with Spence and Katz.  One  could assume that Jerry Garcia may have played a role in putting Katz and Spence together with the rest of the guys.  If anyone knows please add your comments.  Neither Spence or Katz revealed that they had been kicked out of The Jefferson Airplane.  The new band signed with Katz and unfortunately gave him all the rights to their name and their albums.  The seeds of destruction had been sown.

The original cover of this album featured Don Stevenson “giving the finger”.  The photo was taken by the famous rock & roll photographer Jim Marshall .  “The finger” was discovered and airbrushed out on later album covers.  The album also contained a poster of the album cover. As the air-brushers caught up to the offensive finger, some albums had the finger on the poster and not on the cover and vice-versa.  Unfortunately my copy does not have the original uncensored cover.  It is also missing the poster.  Otherwise it is in very good condition. Naturally, the “finger” cover and poster are highly collectible.

While the rest of the San Francisco rock scene was getting caught up in extended jam sessions that attempted to replicate an acid trip, Moby Grape was focusing on short, tightly focused rock songs.

They began to attract enormous attention because of their powerful live shows.  Al Kooper said they were the only band he really liked that came out of the San Francisco rock scene.  He eventually recorded with the band on “Grape Jam”.  Their tight interwoven guitar sound attracted even more attention.  Buffalo Springfield and Janis Joplin started showing up for rehearsals.  Just like in the case of Touch, record company exec’s started showing up too.  A bidding war ensued.  Columbia won.

This album is about as good as debut albums get.  Columbia spared no expense in the making of this record.  There’s not a weak song on the record.  It is unique to establish a band where every member is a great singer and great musician.  Stevenson was one of the pioneers of drummers  who also sang lead vocal and simultaneously played drums.  So take a listen to one of the great hidden treasures of rock & roll.  Ladies and Gentlemen:  MOBY GRAPE!

Side 1

Hey Grandma

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The album opens with this great rocker written by Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson.  It’s a great example of their powerful, energetic performances and the competing 3 guitar sound.

Mr. Blues

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This sounds like Steven Stills from his Buffalo Springfield days.  Hear we hear Moby Grape out Buffalo the Buffalo Springfield.  Is this a reply to “Mr. Soul”?  This song was written by Bob Mosley.

Fall On You

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This song was written by Peter Lewis.  Another strong song featuring great guitar, great lyrics, and great harmonies.  I am very impressed by the lead guitar of Jerry Miller.  All in all they have guitar riffs that don’t sound like anyone else.

8:05

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The first acoustic Americana sounding cut on the album.  This song was also written by Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson.  It’s a beautiful song.  Great harmonies.

Come In The Morning

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This song was written by Bob Mosley.  This song sounds like it should have been a hit song.  Great vocals, melody, production.  What a shame not many people know it.

Omaha

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This song was written by Skip Spence.  All I could say after hearing this song was WOW!  An awesome three guitar battle.  Great music and a very intense performance.  The energy and power is about to blow the speakers apart.  This is the best example of the powerful performance energy that Skip Spence brought to “Live” performances.

Naked If I Want To

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This short little acoustic number is a real charmer and makes me smile.  I really Like the last line about trying to buy an amplifier on credit…

Side 2

Someday

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Side two opens with this quiet beautiful song written by Jerry Miller, Skip Spence, and Don Stevenson.  Great harmonies and awesome vocals at the break.  The value of having multiple lead singers allows you to change up the vocal texture and add emotion.  There is a great piece of guitar playing at the end of the song as it fades out.  I believe that is Jerry Miller again on lead guitar.  They fade the song out a little to quick.

Ain’t No Use

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This song is written by Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson.  This is the most country rock sounding song on the record.  Very Grateful Dead sounding.  I bet Jerry Garcia wished he had written this one.

Sitting By The Window

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This song was written by Peter Lewis.  It is magic.  What a great song.  Beautiful guitar work.  Very unique sound.

Changes

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This song was written by Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson.  This sounds like it should have been a hit too.  It has all the hallmarks.  I like the ending of this song.

Lazy Me

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This song was written by Bob Mosley.  Now they out Jefferson The Jefferson Airplane.  The vocals and harmonies sound like the Airplane.  The only problem with this song is that it’s too short.

Indifference

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The album ends with this song by Skip Spence.  It is a very strong closing song.  This song also has some Airplane influences.  I love the emotion in the vocals.  The guitar work and harmonies are awesome.  This is one of the earliest examples I know of where a song fades out and then fades back in.  The song ends as it started. But then it kind of  fizzles out.  Real life can be so ironic…

So what happened to this band?  How did so much good go so wrong?  First of all Columbia mishandled their launch.  When they signed Moby Grape they proclaimed them “The Beatles of San Francisco.”  The record company over-hyped them in a time when hype was suspect.  This turned a lot of music fans off.  Next Columbia threw a giant party for the album release.  Purple was everywhere.  Unfortunately a few of the band members  were arrested for smoking marijuana with minor females.  OOPS!  This generated some bad press.  Next, the record company released 5 singles from the album simultaneously.  Can you believe that shit??? 10 of the 13 cuts were released as singles.  As a result the songs canceled each other out and none of them ever made the top 40.  De-Jay’s were put off by the number of singles and all the hype.  There was a backlash.  Sales of the album were less than stellar.

Because the band members were all new to each other, there was no leader, no center.  The band began to bicker among themselves.

Katz screwed up the band’s appearance at the  Monterey Pop Festival. He wanted $1,000,000 for the rights to release the video for the film.  Because of Katz demands Moby Grape went on stage Friday at sunset instead of in the evening right before the headliner, Otis Redding… Valuable exposure was wasted. Katz still has the video locked up in court.  By the time they got to New York the band was coming apart.  Skip Spence was really starting to get strange.

Skip met some strange people in New York City and he started using more serious drugs.  He eventually flipped out and attacked Stevenson’s hotel door with a fire axe.  This landed him in the criminal ward at Bellevue Mental Institution.  He spent most of the rest of his life in and out of mental institutions.  After he was released from Bellevue he left Moby Grape, went to Nashville and made a solo album called “Oar”.  I would love to find this record.  It is supposed to be a great “Acid-folk” album.  It was released in 1968.  Spence never produced any other meaningful work after that.  Sadly he died in California of cancer in 1999. Skip Spence was a causality of the fast lane.

Bob Mosley left the band next.  He was frustrated by the infighting in the group.  Inexplicably, he joined the Marine Corp in 1969.  The Military quickly diagnosed Bob Mosley with Schizophrenia  and he was medically discharged.  He ended up homeless for years.  After the members of Moby Grape won their 39 year court battle with Katz for the rights to their songs and name, Peter Lewis went looking for Bob Mosley.  He found him living under a highway overpass in San Diego.  Peter dusted Bob off and they went back to work in the music business.

Jerry Miller is still alive and kicking and has had a great music career through this entire time period.

Peter Lewis is also doing well and still performing with the remaining members of Moby Grape as well as other music projects.

Don Stevenson is still performing with Moby Grape as well as solo projects.

Matthew Katz tied up Jefferson Airplane, It’s A Beautiful Day, and Moby Grape in court battles for over 30 years.   He ultimately lost his battles.  He is still around and trying to cause legal trouble to the members of Moby Grape.  But the Grape finally owns their work again.

So this is not the end of tale.  Maybe Moby Grape can have a renaissance and finally gain the recognition they deserve.  Some of the members recently performed together at South By Southwest in Austin Texas.  I hope so.  They may be the greatest band you never heard…

 

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Posted in Rock Music, Vinyl | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Captain Beyond leaves me “Sufficiently Breathless…”

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For those of you who haven’t friended me on Facebook, (A phrase I thought I would never utter!) I spent the Fourth of July in Austin, Texas.  I went to a really cool record and CD store call “End of an Ear”.  I strongly recommend them to any and everyone.  Visit their site at:  www.endofanear.com.  I can assure you that vinyl is alive and well in Austin Texas.  For a complete list of all the cool vinyl and CD stores in Austin check out www.VinylAroundAustin.com.

I tried to resist buying any more LP’s.  but I failed badly.  I picked up four great albums:  Captain Beyond – Sufficiently Breathless, Alan Parsons – I Robot, Buffalo Springfield – Retrospective, and a blues LP by a New Orleans pianist who was know as “Archibald”.

When I found the Captain Beyond LP I flipped out!  I’ve wanted this record ever since I first heard the title cut in 1975.  Back then F.M. Radio wasn’t like it is now.  It was kind of underground radio. D.J.’s had complete freedom as to what they played.  They could play without commercial interruption for long periods of time.  If a D.J. wanted to play the entire live version of Whipping Post from The Allman Brothers Live at Fillmore East they could.  Captain Beyond was one of the “Cult Band’s” of that time.  They were a kind of Super Group.  

Sufficiently Breathless was the second LP from Captain Beyond. The LP also had different band members from the first LP.

The line up of the second LP was as follows:  Lee Dorman – Bass, Guille Garcia – Congas, Timbales, Percussion, Rhino (We will come back to him later) -Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, and Slide Guitars, Rod Evans – Lead and Harmony Vocals, Marty Rodriguez – Drums, Back-up Vocals, Reese Wynans – Electric and Acoustic Pianos, and Paul Hornsby  – Organ on “Starglow Energy”.

Lee Dorman was the bass player for Iron Butterfly when they recorded the Psychedelic Rock classic “In-Na-Gadda-Da-Vida”.  Dorman received all the song writing credit for this record because everyone else was being sued at the time.  It is unlikely that he wrote all the songs by himself, but he definitely was a major contributor.  Guille Garcia had played with Chicago and also played on Joe Walsh “Barnstorming” prior to joining Captain Beyond.  

This brings us to “Rhino.”  Rhino was the nick name of Larry Reinhardt.  Larry had played with Lee Dorman after Iron Butterfly recorded In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.  He first appeared on the album “Metamorphosis”   I actually saw Rhino and Dorman perform in El Paso Texas in 1976.  Iron Butterfly had reformed and were out on tour opening for Rush on the “Fly By Night” tour.  On “Sufficiently Breathless”  Rhino is simply named as Rhino.  If you check out the pictures above there is a detail shot of the band.  The guy in black is Rhino.  He looks like Jimmy Page.  The information super-highway was years away and so a lot of  rumors got started that Rhino was actually Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin).  I think it helped sell a lot of records for Captain Beyond.  I even remember hearing DJ’s on FM radio speculate about this very thing.  It kind of was a smaller version of “Paul is Dead”.   For years I thought that Rhino was Jimmy Page!

 

This brings us to Rod Evans.  Rod Evans was the first lead singer of Deep Purple.  He was the lead vocalist on their first to big hits:  “Hush” and “Kentucky Woman”.  The other members of the band felt their sound was to “Pop”  oriented so they kicked him out of the band and hired Ian Gillian.  (Ian Gillian was every bit as revered as  Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin when I was an angst ridden teenager.)  More on Rod Evans when we get to the wrap up.

I know very little about the Drummer Marty Rodriguez.  I do know that the new producer of “Sufficiently Breathless”  Giorgio Gomelsky did not like the original drummer Brian Glascock  even though he had played with Santana; so, Guille Garcia personally recommended Rodriguez.  

Reese Wynans is a very interesting person.  Reese had been in a band called Second Coming.  This band was a forerunner to The Allman Brothers.  Second Coming had Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley as members.  When Reese joined Captain Beyond, Betts and Oakley joined the Allman Brothers.  Reese got beat out of his spot in the Allman Brothers by some guy named Gregg Allman.  I guess blood is thicker than water.  Things worked out for Reese anyway.  We will get back to his story later as well.

Paul Hornsby is better know today as a major producer than as an organist.  He produced records of The Charlie Daniels Band and The Marshall Tucker Band.  Paul got involved in the session because he knew Reese through his involvement with the pre-Allman Brothers Band called Hour Glass.  Is this a web of musical incest or what?!?!

This LP was recorded in 1973.  It is dedicated to Berry Oakley.  In a strange twist of irony.  Berry Oakley was killed in a motorcycle accident in Macon Georgia almost exactly a year after Duane Allman was also killed in Macon Georgia in a motorcycle accident.  The accidents even occurred just a few blocks apart! With all the Allman Brothers connections on this album it is not surprising that it is dedicated to Oakley.

On the inside fold out of the album and on the back of the album; the song order on side one is wrong. I have no idea why.  The song order is correct on the albums label.  So let’s hear this great cult album from one of the original “Stoner Groups” Captain Beyond!

Side 1

 Sufficiently Breathless

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The LP starts with this very cool and laid back acoustic sound.  The percussion has a Latino flavor.  Then the chorus hits you and you know you are listening to the right stuff.  The lyrics are appropriately cryptic.  At the break we get the first great guitar solo from Rhino.  The background music becomes drone-like and sounds a little Eastern influenced.  There are great harmonies here.  Evans does a great job as lead vocal. And then it all fades out…

Bright Blue Tango

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Right off the bat we get a great dose of the keyboard word from Reese Wynans.  The song has a funky swing to it.  Not exactly a Tango but it does make you want to move your body through space.  Once again great guitar work by Rhino. 

Drifting In Space

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Now Captain Beyond shows their Allman Brothers/Santana roots.  This is really great music.  It swings!  Wynans has a great solo in the middle of the song.  Evans vocals are awesome.  The rhythm section has soul.

Evil Men

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Evil men starts out with a breezy almost Steely Dan guitar sound but quickly switches to a much more sinister sound.  Next a  percussion break followed by a nice guitar solo by Rhino.   Rhino has an extended solo over a stop-start back-beat.  The vocals return.  Rod Evans sings his heart out.  Then Side 1 ends with the fade out…

Side 2

Starglow Energy/Distant Sun

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Side 2 fades in with some nice keyboard work from Wynans and Hornsby.  Don’t tell me Alan Parsons wasn’t a big Captain Beyond fan.  This cut could have just as easily been on I Robot or some other Alan Parsons Project.  Starglow energy is one of my favorite cuts on the record.  It has a majestic feel to it.  Once again Rhino and Evans shine.  Personally, give me a” taste of Starglow Energy!”  The song fades out and then there is an immediate kick of percussion that summons in Distant Sun.  The beginning of this song foreshadows fusion jazz.  The song has a very jazz like middle section too.  This is just very creative high quality rock-n-roll. These guys didn’t want to sound like someone else.  What they came up with had never been heard before.  This is why this LP is considered by many different artist to have been very influential.  The end of this song is surprisingly abrupt.

Voyage Of Past Travellers/Everything’s A Circle

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Track 3 and 4 are uninterrupted as well.  Voyage of Past Travellers (Intentionally spelled this way by the song writer.)  Is very Pink Floyd sounding and segues directly into the final song Everything’s A Circle.    Voyage fades in like a bad radio signal.  There is some nice feedback guitar and then a mysterious voice send us a message.  There is a fade into the Bass guitar and percussion.  This could easily be Santana.    I love the duel guitar sound in this song. Once again the music takes on a Latin Swing sound.  Great percussion, great vocals.  The music makes you want to move.

So I hope you enjoyed Captain Beyond – Sufficiently Breathless.  I think it is one of the great “cult” LP’s of Rock-n-Roll.

So what happened after this great record was finished?  Well, Rod Evans had trouble getting along with others once again.  As soon as the record was completed he left the band due to tensions that developed during the recording sessions.  The band later reformed at the end of 1973 and went on tour.  There is a CD of Captain Beyond recorded “Live” in Arlington, Texas at The University of Texas at Arlington.  It was recorded in 1973 but not released until 2002.  They still couldn’t work out their differences and the band split up again.  Rod Evans completely got out of the music business.  He became a Respiratory Therapist  in 1980.  He was talked out of retirement to do a “Deep Purple” reunion tour.  The problem was Deep Purple didn’t want to have anything to do with Evans.  Rod Evans did the tour anyway and got sued.  He lost the law suit along with a +$6000,00o damage judgement.  In order to pay the damages he gave up all the rights to his royalties from his Deep Purple days.  There are many people who would love to know his whereabouts today.  He has entirely disappeared.

Larry “Rhino’ Reinhardt went on to have a long but not distinguished career.  He played on several recordings of the Bobby Womack.  He had his own band, he play with a band called Mad Dancer.  In 2008 he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  He put out a CD called Rhino’s Last Dance in 2009.  Somehow he managed to survive and is still alive today.  You go, Rhino!

The last person I want to fill you in on is the keyboard player Reese Wynans.  Reese went on to play with Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble.  He played with Stevie till the day Stevie died.  I got to see Double Trouble open for The Who in The Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas a month or two before Stevie was killed in a helicopter crash in Wisconsin.  They were so good that I told my friend that I was with: “If I were The Who, I wouldn’t go on after that.”  Reese continues to have a great career.  He has toured with Joe Ely, Chris Layton, and Tommy Shannon on the Double Trouble tour “Been A Long Time” and has also played with the great Delbert McClinton.  I got to see Reese play with Delbert McClinton when Delbert was asked at the last minute to substitute for George Jones to open for The Rolling Stones.  Reese was great that night as well.

So there ends the story of Captain Beyond – Sufficiently Breathless.  This band stood at the crossroads of so many different bands and trends in Rock-n-Roll.  What is really cool about the record is that you can hear it all in the music.  I have to stop writing now I am breathless…

Another tale from the turntable.

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