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When the wagons reach the city...
May 30, 2007 6:26 AM   Subscribe

Felix Pappalardi was a famous arranger and producer for the likes of Cream, the Youngbloods and the Vagrants, where he met Leslie West with whom he formed the legendary hard rock band Mountain who had hits with "Mississippi Queen" "For Yasgur's Farm" and a masterful reworking of Jack Bruce's "Theme From An Imaginary Western". In 1983, Pappalardi's wife shot him, in what she claimed was an accident. She was convicted of criminially negligent homicide and sentenced to four years.
posted by jonmc (40 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hi kids...been a while. I know, I know, dont bore you with the "I'm back" crapola. But who knows, maybe I'll fool ya this time and actually do some serious updates.
and
posted by tellurian at 6:53 AM on May 30, 2007


for listeners not familiar with Mountain: stream of "Theme..." [self-link]
posted by jonmc at 7:04 AM on May 30, 2007


Neighbors said the couple had quarreled just before the shooting. They reportedly had a history of arguing.

It's all so very Phil Spector isn't it?
posted by three blind mice at 7:04 AM on May 30, 2007


Well, Pappalardi was famous, but not as famous as Spector (or OJ or Robert Blake) but in this case it was the semi-celebrity who was killed. But that is interesting in that there is a precendent. I do remember this case being in the news a lot when I was 12.
posted by jonmc at 7:15 AM on May 30, 2007


24 year old gossip about a B-list rock star? That all you got?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:18 AM on May 30, 2007


Wasn't it Pappalardi that brought The Devil's Anvil to the world? I'm pretty sure that there's a Mountain connection there somehow.
posted by NoMich at 7:24 AM on May 30, 2007


Okay. Now I've done some googling and read some of the links more closely… I'll take back my and. This is a convoluted and ultimately intriguing story (with a lot of references to my musical interests embedded). You're such a tease jonmc. I'm still puzzled though (plate of beans), why post about it now? Is their some sort of anniversary?
posted by tellurian at 7:31 AM on May 30, 2007


I have always been a fan of Pappalardi (and the rest of Mountain). This is some excellent material.

jonmc, have you ever heard the version of "Theme" by Mountain with Jack Bruce on vocal? I wish it were available online for me to link to, as it is one of my all-time favorite songs.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 7:33 AM on May 30, 2007


Enron: yeah, I have that version, it's good but the arrangement is different, more piano based. Mountain's version because of Felix's vocal and Leslie's solo take it up to different level, IMHO.

I'm still puzzled though (plate of beans), why post about it now? Is their some sort of anniversary?

Well, with our recent fascination with celebrity scandal (especially when death is involved) it's interesting to see how something similar to the Blake and Spector incidents (minor celebrity involved in murder) played out in a somewhat less media-gossip saturated period and how something can be 'red-hot scandal' one minute and so quickly be forgotten.

and yes, I am a fan of Mountain, and while most fans of hard rock know of them they might not know this story.
posted by jonmc at 7:42 AM on May 30, 2007


I have never heard this story. I would have been about 8 at the time so maybe a little too young and in the UK and it's possible that the news didn't travel so well over the pond (despite the work that he did with British musicians). Still it's a fascinating and ultimately sad story.
posted by ob at 7:51 AM on May 30, 2007


Jay-Z's "99 Problems" is built around a sample of Mountain's "Long Red."
posted by jonp72 at 8:01 AM on May 30, 2007


Recent fascination with celebrity murder? Like with Fatty Arbuckle drugging and killing a prostitute (1920s), Lana Turner's 14-year-old daughter shooting Mom's mob boyfriend (1958), or a desert death cult killing Sharon Tate and a bunch of others (1969)?

"Interesting observation about society" angle: not buying

"Mississippi Queen rocks it, hard" angle: totally buying that
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:03 AM on May 30, 2007


ssf: Yes, I think Mountain rocks. I also think ZZ Top rocks, but that wouldn't make me post about Dusty Hill. It's a story a lot of people might not be familiar with is all.
posted by jonmc at 8:08 AM on May 30, 2007


I buy jonmc's defense. It's an interesting rock 'n' roll tragedy (way more so than the Britney Breakdown). Plus now I don't have to worry about trying to remember who's Felix Pappalardi and who's Felix Cavaliere.
posted by scratch at 8:23 AM on May 30, 2007


scratch: oddly rock and roll's two greatest Felix's both grew up in the Bronx/Westchester area and both had medical professionals for parents (Cavaliere's a dentist, Pappalardi's a doctor) and both were Italian-American. Coincidence? I think not!

*ahem*

(interesting trivia: before joining Mountain, Pappalardi's bandmate and friend Leslie West was in a Queens garage band called the Vagrants, who did a nice, raw, garagey cover of Otis Redding's 'Respect' (it's in the Nuggets box), 2 days later (literally) Aretha's version came out and buried them. One of the kids who followed the Vagrants' gigs was a Forest Hills native named John Cummings, who later became Johnny Ramone).
posted by jonmc at 8:34 AM on May 30, 2007


Well, if you need another angle, Nantucket Sleigh Ride's about whaling, and that's in the news these days. Kickin' song too, though Mississippi Queen is still my favorite Mountain song. And since we're on the subject of Mountain, I maintain that heavy metal is descended from Mountain and those kinds of bands, rather than Led Zeppelin and their ilk.
posted by Kattullus at 9:00 AM on May 30, 2007


Mississippi Queen is a fantastic song, only slightly marred by the fact that Ozzy's version was terrible, and it got so much radio play that some people probably think it's the way it's the original.

I mean seriously, the Sam Kinison version is better than Ozzy's, and that is just sad.
posted by quin at 9:09 AM on May 30, 2007


Next up, Foghat nostalgia!
posted by MarshallPoe at 9:15 AM on May 30, 2007


Mississippi Queen is a fantastic song

Agreed. Even though it's kind of annoying that it always shows up on 'Southern Rock' comps, when both West and Pappalardi were from New Yorks outer boroughs.

MarshallPoe: even though Foghat has justifiably become shorthand for 'bloated 70's boogie outfit' they really weren't that bad. Plus despite what 4th-hand punk cant would have you believe, the relationship between the various eras of rock is more complicated and interconnected than many would imagine (witness the Mountain-Ramones connection I mentioned above).
posted by jonmc at 9:20 AM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


(also Mountain were a far more talented band than Foghat)
posted by jonmc at 9:27 AM on May 30, 2007


(and Felix produced the Dead Boys' Young, Loud & Snotty. Much like Todd Rundgren with the Dolls first album, he was slicker than neccessary, but he did seem to recognize in punk rock the spirit that got him to pickup a guitar in the first place. It's all connected if you know where to look and how to listen)
posted by jonmc at 9:34 AM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


An acquaintence of mine was interviewing Mountain in the mid 80s, and asked Leslie West about Pappalardi. He said West got furious and even my body building friend got freaked. West was a big dude.

Also, Mississippi Queen is an awesome song.
posted by khaibit at 9:45 AM on May 30, 2007


Don't get me wrong, I like Foghat. And don't forget Head East! I also like Mountain. I remember hearing a cover band do a 30 minute version of Mississippi Queen in the early '80s. Blew my mind. They really stretched out. It was great.
posted by MarshallPoe at 9:56 AM on May 30, 2007


Thanks for posting this, jonmc, because I didn't know about this story. Mountain is a group that I really like, but somehow always forget about. I'm not sure why, but they just don't stick in my mind. "Theme From An Imaginary Western" is pretty damn awesome, though. I first heard the song covered by Dez Cadena's band DC3 on the Blasting Concept Vol. 2 album back in '86 or so (the date listed for the release on the wiki page is wrong, maybe it's for the CD?). I never liked Cadena's stuff much because I already listened to Black Sabbath, but that song always stuck with me.
posted by sleepy pete at 9:59 AM on May 30, 2007


Felix Pappalardi. That is a name I never expected to see on the front page of mefi. Thanks Jon.

As I mentioned before, I got turned on to a lot of this music by raiding my older siblings record collections. Maybe my favourite was Mountain's Flowers of Evil. Especially the song "One Last Cold Kiss". I used to play that song over and over obsessively when I was 12 or 13 (I was a weird kid). Mountain always had a "heavy" side, but much of their early albums were a strange mix of heavy guitar riffs and a much more "art rock" sound. I loved it. They morphed into a much more straight ahead heavy rock band (biker band) and I lost interest, but to this day, that early Mountain sound is unique.

this album with the songs "Long Red" "This Wheels on Fire" and "Look to the Wind" is still in my top 20 albums of all time. I turned a friend who only listens to college rock and indie bands on to it and he fell in love with it. can't recommend it enough.
posted by vronsky at 9:59 AM on May 30, 2007


Don't sweat it, man. The oldschool/newschool dichotomy is a pet theory of mine. and I agree that Mississippi Queen rocks because despite the inane lyrics, it features the perfect amount of cowbell, the best pig-squeal guitar in rock history and a great yelped vocal. Plus along with Canned Heat, Mountain broke the mold by being a multiplatinum band led by a fat guy (Leslie's since lost a lot of weight).

As for Head East: I once spun an elaborate musical theory involving those guys.
posted by jonmc at 10:02 AM on May 30, 2007


I got turned on to a lot of this music by raiding my older siblings record collections.

When I was 13 or so and developing an interest in music, I inherited a bunch of LP's from the oldest brother of the kid up the block, One of which was Nantucket Sleighride. And since I was a metal fan (and something of a reference book geek) I learned that Mountain were a big influence on a lot of metal bands. And I learned that my uncles had hung out at the Fillmore East back in the day and saw a lot of these outfits andI drove them crazy asking about it. and those same music history books and radio shows and old dudes got me to investigate college radio looking for the 'underground' which introduced me to punk and post-punk back in the early 80's. and since my own parents musical tastes were more 50's rock and Motown(which I love too), I didn't have the unfortunate 'dad-rock' associations that probably tainted a lot ofmy younger peers appreciation of this stuff(along with AOR overplay, damn you Clear Channel). So, my education with old school rock and new school happened side-by-side, which is great in that I have plenty of songs to listen to and genres to plumb.
posted by jonmc at 10:10 AM on May 30, 2007




ultimately, good tunes is good tunes. Awesome post, dude.
posted by stenseng at 10:58 AM on May 30, 2007


And since we're on the subject of Mountain, I maintain that heavy metal is descended from Mountain and those kinds of bands, rather than Led Zeppelin and their ilk.

Nothin' like an interesting theory to derail a thread. Sadly I don't know enough about Mountain to argue, though I wish I could. Who wants to pick up the ball?
posted by scratch at 11:20 AM on May 30, 2007


Wasn't it Pappalardi that brought The Devil's Anvil to the world?

Yes, Pappalardi was half the brains behind "Devil's Anvil," the world's first (as far as I know) rock group to use middle eastern instruments like the oud, etc. The tunes were supposedly based on traditional or existing Middle Eastern song, but the best thing about the album was the fact that the songs were not the usual jam-rock droning we were getting used to at that time (1967), but tight little top-40 style numbers, with hooks and everything. A great album, and still available as a two-fer, packed with the only album by a remarkably stinky studio group called Freak Scene. The Devil's Anvil LP has a picture of Pappalardi and co. on the cover wearing Arab get up.

Jonmc -- Thanks the reminder about the history of "Respect" by the Vagrants. If my memory is correct, the Vagrants and Aretha were both beaten to the charts by a Detroit group called the Rationals, who did a fine, neat little mod-psych version of "Respect" that is still my favorite version of the, and worth hearing if you can get your hands on it.
posted by Faze at 11:40 AM on May 30, 2007


Nantucket Sleighride -
"A few days later a sperm whale is harpooned and you take your first “Nantucket sleighride” – your whaleboat is dragged behind the whale at speeds of up to 23 mph (37 kmh). This weakens the whale until it lies exhausted on the surface.
The boatsteerer then spears it with his ‘killing lance’. The dying whale’s spout turns red with blood and the crew cries out “chimney’s afire”.

I always thought that was an amazing metaphor for what a rock song should do.
posted by vronsky at 12:26 PM on May 30, 2007


is this something i'd need an edison wax cylinder phonograph to know about?
posted by Hat Maui at 12:36 PM on May 30, 2007


Theme From an Imaginary Western live 1970 with felix on lead vocals - youtube
posted by vronsky at 4:09 PM on May 30, 2007


the world's first (as far as I know) rock group to use middle eastern instruments like the oud, etc.

What about Kaliedoscope (with David Lindley)?
posted by jonmc at 6:41 PM on May 30, 2007


...and Felix produced the Dead Boys' Young, Loud & Snotty. ..
posted by jonmc at 9:34 AM on May 30



Actually, the first Dead Boys album (YL&S) was produced by Genya Ravan. Felix produced the second album, and the band hated it, according to the interview excerpts in "Please Kill Me" (1996 Penguin Books - see p. 313). Part of the problem seemed to stem from a dispute between the producer and the band's guitarist, Cheetah Chrome. I don't mean to muck around with someone's thesis or whatever, but there ya go...
posted by spoobnooble at 7:06 PM on May 30, 2007


it's good but the arrangement is different, more piano based.

I think you mean the version on "Songs For A Tailor". The one I referred to has Leslie on guitar and Jack on vocal. Perhaps someone will send it to you, (for educational reasons).

What about Kaliedoscope (with David Lindley)?

Seven Ate Sweet!
posted by Enron Hubbard at 4:54 AM on May 31, 2007


I never got into Mountain, but I dig the little bit of work Pappalardi did with Mimi and Richard Fari241;a.
posted by maurice at 9:35 AM on May 31, 2007


that n with a tilde worked on preview....
posted by maurice at 9:36 AM on May 31, 2007


Mountain rocking out hard on Don't Look Around.
posted by vronsky at 9:56 PM on June 4, 2007


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