Moby Grape Just Can't Catch a Break
March 6, 2008 10:16 PM   Subscribe

You haven't lived until you've heard Skip Spence's solo album, Oar.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:21 PM on March 6, 2008

Love Skip Spence. Bless you, y2karl.
posted by dhammond at 10:34 PM on March 6, 2008

8:05, I guess your leaving soon . . .
posted by nola at 11:01 PM on March 6, 2008

No sooner than jon left.
posted by LiveLurker at 11:39 PM on March 6, 2008

Great post.
There's a cool part in Shakey, the Neil Young biography, where Neil says that during the waning days of Buffalo Springfield, he hung out a lot with Peter Lewis. Apparently they briefly considered a trade, Neil to Moby Grape and Peter to the Springfield.
posted by chococat at 11:42 PM on March 6, 2008

Just found an interview (pdf) which references that Neil/Peter connection:

Did you foresee the problems the Springfield were to have
with Neil coming and going so many times?

Well, yeah, but I did that too with Moby Grape. Neil and I were a lot alike. He and I hung around
together a lot. I really loved him. And I saw this similarity in the way we were treated in our bands.
Neil was like this rich kid, and the other guys were treating him like he didn't know shit because they
were "street-wise." And they held it over him. The same way Moby Grape treated me. well as how Stills nicked "For What it's Worth" from two different Grape songs.
posted by chococat at 11:48 PM on March 6, 2008

This must be a guy thing?
posted by LiveLurker at 11:49 PM on March 6, 2008

OK not a guy thing then....maybe a robot thing?

posted by LiveLurker at 11:57 PM on March 6, 2008

I do love me some Moby Grape.

Also, some Electric Prunes (yeah, not really related except in basic genre and in my brain because I first heard their records the same evening). So?

Oh, and I stumbled across this incredible Youtube collection while searching for Electric Prunes videos.
posted by dersins at 12:28 AM on March 7, 2008

"Neil was a rich kid..." Oh, man, that is wrong. I made the error of buying (when it was new) the Wow/Grape Jam thing. That experience soured me on Moby Grippe forever. I've listened to Oar and More Oar, still can't listen to the guy without going "meh." Too bad he went nuts and all, but Roky Erickson is a guy I still find interesting. Spence, nope.
posted by CCBC at 1:04 AM on March 7, 2008

It's interesting to see where Moby got his start.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:38 AM on March 7, 2008

Mike Douglas is the square of awesome.
posted by srboisvert at 5:13 AM on March 7, 2008

Neil was like this rich kid, and the other guys were treating him like he didn't know shit because they
were "street-wise." And they held it over him.

Why can't a person's music be judged on its own merits, rather than whether he's "rich" or "street-wise?"
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:40 AM on March 7, 2008

Nice that these old clips are surfacing. I love how loose and sloppy these shows yoosta be. Live teevee with all the natural shocks that flesh is heir to.

Mike was a square, but he vamps like a trooper to cover the miscue. And though he clearly doesn't dig the rock, he doesn't knock it. Frank Zappa explains why this yoosta happen and doesn't anymore.

The Golden Palominos did a pretty straightforward updating of Omaha in 1985 on Visions of Excess. I don't see audio online anywhere but here's essentially the same ensemble doing an original, Boy (Go), with Richard Thompson on guitar and Michael Stipe on vocal.
posted by Herodios at 6:49 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Neil was like this rich kid. . .

is different from

Neil was, like, this rich kid. . .

His old man was a well-known sportswriter and novelist. Maybe that's what they meant.
posted by Herodios at 6:53 AM on March 7, 2008

Another Grape lover here. Thanks, y2karl!
posted by languagehat at 6:57 AM on March 7, 2008

Oh man, y2karl, I *needed* those music videos this morning. Totally energised now. There is nothing, in my experience, like really good rock music to fill my body with energy and verve. Or, as the Cowardly Lion would say, "voive".

Yup, they had bad marketing luck, for sure. Interesting the band's financial/organisational destiny.

Classic 60's Moby Grape Skip Spence (April 18, 1946 – April 16, 1999) story.

Spence was supposedly never the same after ingesting large quantities of LSD (see also the biographies of Peter Green, Syd Barrett, and Roky Erickson). In the words of Miller: "Skippy changed radically when we were in New York. There were some people there that were into harder drugs and a harder lifestyle, and some very weird shit. And so he kind of flew off with those people. Skippy kind of disappeared for a little while. Next time we saw him he had cut off his beard, and he had a black leather jacket on, with his chest hanging out, with some chains and just sweating like a son of a gun. I don't know what the hell he got a hold of, man, but it just whacked him. And the next thing I know, he axed my door down in the Albert Hotel. They said at the reception area that this crazy guy had held an ax to the doorman's head." Spence was committed to New York's Bellevue Hospital; on the day of his release, he drove a motorcycle dressed in only his pajamas directly to Nashville to record his only solo album, Oar.

posted by nickyskye at 7:17 AM on March 7, 2008

Very nice; thanks!
posted by TedW at 9:03 AM on March 7, 2008

Little hands caring, little hands sharing, all over the world.
posted by porn in the woods at 9:30 AM on March 7, 2008

This is great. I've always loved Skippy and the Grape, but it's really great to now have a mental image of his charisma as a performer. I never knew the dude could rock so hard.
posted by anazgnos at 10:14 AM on March 7, 2008

I was so excited when the Sundazed reissues were announced. My CD copy of the first album was a sludgy-sounding gray-market job on San Francisco Sound (still available, apparently). I also had an LP cut out that didn't sound much better, so the idea that Bob Irwin and his vintage gear would give the Grape their due was thrilling. Silly me for waiting until after the holidays and their related gift cards to try to pick up a copy. By then copies of the album were going for $60+ on Amazon. They have mp3's of the reissue available, though.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 10:16 AM on March 7, 2008

well yeah the 2 guitar army - "Buffalo Springfield on Speed" is the Grape *I * like. The mellow hippie burnout stuff .. meh, like the other guy said. Roky is more Rock n Roll american Crazy! Craaazzzy!
But those Moby Grabe Guys could play the guitars! Also - Jefferson Airplane from that era was fantastic and sounded very similar. Cool man.
Oh and kids .. dont take acid. You can probably form a really really kicka ass psychedelic rock garage band and have a Myspace page for it and get girls to come watch you play and all that with out having to take acid. Trust me . Its not worth it.
posted by celerystick at 10:22 AM on March 7, 2008

3 guitar army.

Everybody's always all Skippy Skippy Skippy, but it was Mosley who was the genius.
posted by rodii at 1:50 PM on March 7, 2008

See also Your Favorite Band Member Sucks.
posted by y2karl at 2:12 PM on March 7, 2008

The name of Matthew Katz recurs throughout these links.

In 1967, there was an underground psychedelic rock show on KRAB FM, which was one of those rarest of all things--a listener supported independent community radio station. Anyway, this show was entitled Notes From The Underground and was hosted by this hillbilly voiced art critic from a local newspaper by the name of Tom Robbins, who later went on to become a bit of a household name. His taste was pretty awful by contemporary standards then, at least as considered by the average kid on the street in the U District those days. He wasn't crazy about the Dead but man was he impressed with the first Vanilla Fudge album.

Well, there was one lightshow emporium in town at Eagles auditorium. And then another one was opened at the Encore Ballroom on Pine street on Capitol Hill. (It's the building the liquor store on the corner of 12th and Pine is in.) It was the brainchild of one Matthew Katz, who titled it The San Francisco Sound. But everyone always called it the Encore anyway. It's A Beautiful Day and Indian Puddin' & Pipe were the house bands there at the start, and part of Indian Puddin' & Pipe formed a group in Seattle called Easy Chair which featured a guy named Jeff Simmons on bass, who later became a protege of Frank Zappa and played on the Hot Rats album.

Anyhow, Katz went on Robbin's program to hype his little project, where his favorite word that day was heavy--and for morst of us, that day was the first time we heard that word used in its slang form as really deep and meaningful. The first, second, third onto the forty-first time. And was he ever a jerk. Unfriendly, uptight, pompous and just plain nasty. And he lived up to that first impression every day he was in Seattle.

He was poison to every band he ever managed, always claiming to own the name of the band and the artwork on their albums. And they all suffered endless decades of lawsuits.

One of his most infamous transactions locally was when he announced a Moby Grape concert to be held at the Encore--where it turned out Moby Grape was Easy Chair. Katz had the band rehearse all the songs from their first two albums and then ran them out on an unlit stage dressed more or less as the Grape from their first album. Simmons was Skip Spence because he had the biggest hair at the time. They played on an unlit stage without a lightshow and, man, that night was infamous for years.

Here's a sidenote, kids: for the first few years after 1967, we didn't call them concerts--we called them lightshows. As in Hey, I hear the Dead are going to be playing at a lightshow at Eagles next month. That, at least, was the way people in Seattle talked for awhile.The lightshow being the part with the oil projectors and the movie clips and montages and rotating psychedelic mantra slides all projected over band and stage. And were we all heartbroken when the lightshows went the way of the dinosaur. Man, banks of spotlights and smoke machines--oh, please...

Matthew Katz did more to torment the Grape than anyone and, from the looks of thelast link, is still at it. His capacity for pettiness and vindictiveness are larger than life and his is a story that will be a good book someday. Probably after he dies, no doubt, considering his lawyering monster ways....

Jeff Simmons, on the other hand, is a hell of a nice guy and, man, does he have the stories. He may very well be the guy to write that book.
posted by y2karl at 3:07 PM on March 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

I never understood the ongoing venom directed at Wow. Murder In My Heart For The Judge, He, and Miller's Blues are all damn good songs. Although my favourite Moby Grape moment is still Someday, from the first album. What a sequence of chords. I may have to steal it.
posted by kersplunk at 8:14 PM on March 7, 2008

I liked Moby Grape best, Wow second, a song here and there thereafter. One of these days I will get around to listening to Oar and I am sure I will like it.

And having rodii decloak to make a rare comment--what an honor. I am touched.
posted by y2karl at 9:15 PM on March 7, 2008

When you consider how little the Grape recorded, really, it's amazing how well-regarded they still are after all these years. And it's not just because of Spence and Mosely. I actually like their music more now than I did back then. A band I was in did "Murder in My Heart for the Judge" and it still sounded good to me, last time I heard our old tapes (maybe five years ago). Thanks for this fascinating link, y2karl.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:14 AM on March 8, 2008

...then ran them out on an unlit stage dressed more or less as the Grape from their first album.

I love that story!

One of these days I will get around to listening to Oar and I am sure I will like it.

y2karl, I may be wrong, but I suspect you will not like it. It lacks even burnout charm. It's the ash that's left after the ashes are burned.
posted by Faze at 7:28 AM on March 8, 2008

It lacks even burnout charm. It's the ash that's left after the ashes are burned.

You are so very, very wrong. Oar is a post-psychedelic masterpiece. It sounds like a cross between Syd Barrett and Tom Waits.

Spence and Barrett were direct precursors to what is now known as freak folk.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:36 AM on March 8, 2008

What is now know is freak folk was once known slow, draggy, tuneless grunting by someone lying face down in a puddle of his own urine. But I admit, "freak folk" is a lot catchier.
posted by Faze at 12:07 PM on March 8, 2008

Some people are more into expressing the how and why of why they like the music they like and others--nothing gets them going more than spitting on what other people like. At least, in terms of keystrokes, word count and gleeful energy spent, it sures seems that way. One direction loves and expands, the other hates and withers; makes itself right by trashing what other people revere.
posted by y2karl at 12:58 PM on March 8, 2008

Y2karl thats good diplomacy of you. We certainly need to be inclusive.
posted by celerystick at 6:12 PM on March 8, 2008

« Older Move, Shoot, and Communicate   |   Geek Pop 08 Science Songs Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments