Size: 114 MB
Ripped By: ChrisGoesRock
One of San Francisco's best-loved bands, Moby Grape was formed in late 1966 by San Diego native Bob Mosley (ex-The Misfits) and Peter Lewis (ex-Peter and The Wolves, The Cornells) from Los Angeles. Mosley and Lewis had already made several trips to the Bay Area in hopes of putting a band together there, but it was not until Skip Spence (who had left Jefferson Airplane because he wanted to play guitar instead of the drums!) and the ex-Frantics Don Stevenson and Jerry Miller came aboard, that they relocated there permanently.
The pre-history of Moby Grape is very complex, involving a number of Southern California musicians (Joel Scott Hill, John Barbata of The Leaves and The Turtles, Kent Dunbar and Bob Newkirk) each of whom played temporarily in pre-album line-ups but were not actually members of the group. Stevenson and Miller had migrated to the Bay Area from Seattle, and Miller had also spent time in Texas where he played on the first version of The Bobby Fuller Four's I Fought The Law. Spence had moved to the East Bay with his family in 1959 but was born in Canada... so in actuality, none of the members of Moby Grape were originally from the Bay Area!
The band played its first concerts at the end of 1966 and soon attracted a large local following. Their all-original repertoire was made up of tightly-structured, short, high-energy songs - the very antithesis of the current trend in San Francisco. They were soon offered a record contract by Columbia and their debut album was issued in June 1967. To their credit, Columbia spared no expense in promoting Moby Grape, producing special press kits in fuzzy purple folders, issuing five singles in picture sleeves simultaneously, throwing elaborate press parties wherever the band played, and of course packaging the album in a full-colour sleeve with a huge poster. Despite their best intentions, all this shameless promotion served only to alienate the band from the hippie culture, who perceived it as arrogant commercialism. Columbia steadfastly continued to support the band, who were now trashing hotel rooms and conducting their affairs on the road in a very unprofessional manner. When several of the band members were busted partying late into the night with some teenage girls, the label finally took a big step back. The record did pretty well on its own, reaching the Top 30, but it surely deserved better. There are some great tracks on the album - hard rockers like Hey Grandma and Omaha appear alongside laid back tracks like Someday, 8:05 and Sitting By The Window. The group had three fabulous lead guitarists and all five members sang. The end result was a structured album with diverse vocal harmonies and some fine interweaving acid guitar work. It's as close to a masterpiece as any American band produced in the late sixties and its power and influence has not diminished over the years, unlike many records from the psychedelic era.
The next album Wow contained a number of short compositions with melodic guitar work, and the opening tracks on each side, The Place and the Time and He, both contained orchestral arrangements which was uncommon among San Francisco bands at that time (although in England groups like The Beatles and The Moody Blues were using them regularly). Three-Four was a sensitive, beautiful song:-
"Cause I love you all
Even though my heart is far away
It's here I'll stayUntil my life is through
When I'm dead and gone
And my life has passed beyond your view
There inside of youMy life goes on and on...
Rose Coloured Eyes and Bitter Wind are equally memorable, whilst Can't Be So Bad, a faster rockier number, demonstrated their musical diversity. One track, featuring Lou Waxman and his orchestra and starring Arthur Godfrey on banjo and ukelele has to be played at 78 rpm! A free bonus album Grape Jam was issued with Wow, and this featured Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper on keyboards. Commercially, Wow made little impact - the group could not recover from their earlier over-exposure. Towards the end of 1968 they split - but by 1969 they had reformed again as a foursome without Skip Spence. They released the competent Moby Grape '69 and did a series of live gigs, but generated little interest outside of California. So 1970 saw them split for the second time and Mosley left to join the Marines. Later that year, the remaining three reformed, adding Bob Moore (bs) to produce Truly Fine Citizen. Inevitably they split again, later reforming as a five-piece band to produce an disappointing LP 20 Granite Creek.
Moby Grape's talented members spawned a number of solo projects. The first and rarest of these is Skip Spence's Oar (Columbia CS 9831) 1969, which was also released in Holland (CBS S 63919). This is an expensive item nowadays but has been reissued on vinyl (Columbia LP 5030) and CD (Sundazed SC 11075) (with ten bonus tracks) and (Sony WK 75031) with five bonus tracks. There's also a 7" All My Life/Land Of The Sun (Sundazed S 153) recorded in 1966/1972. Bob Mosley had a solo album Bob Mosley (Reprise MS 2068) and a single, Gypsy Wedding/Gone Fishin' (Reprise 1096), both in 1972. There's also an acoustic mini-album, Wine And Roses (Nightshift ) 1987 on which he is assisted by percussionist Willie Kellogg (Joel Scott Hill's bands, The Time Machine, The Five # Grin, Pale Fire; Willie was also the drummer of Moby Grape in the late seventies), and Bob Mosley and Mosley Grape: Live At Indigo Ranch (San Francisco Sound SFS-04880) 1989. Peter Lewis also issued a good solo album in 1995 Peter Lewis (Taxim TX-2008-2), featuring Stu Cook (Creedence), John McFee (Clover, Doobie Brothers), Cornelius Bumpus (Moby Grape, Doobie Brothers) and Keith Knudsen (Mendelbaum, Doobie Brothers, Lee Michaels). Finally Jerry Miller has issued Life Is Like That (Messaround Records MRSCD004) 1995, a bluesy album with John Oxendine (Moby Grape, Sir Douglas Quintet) and Tiran Porter (Doobie Brothers), Merl Saunders and Michael Carabello (Santana, Elvin Bishop, Boz Scaggs).
Ultimately Moby Grape never attained their true potential on record, but their first two albums are recommended as offering a glimpse of their real ability. There are also a number of 'Best of' compilations, including the excellent Vintage - The Very Best Of Moby Grape (Sony 53041) 1993, a double CD compilation of album tracks, live recordings and alternate takes. There's also an interesting bootleg CD, Dark Magic, with live cuts, though the Peter and The Wolves tracks it contains are not by Peter Lewis' pre-Moby Grape outfit, but another band with the same name. Lewis had also been in The Cornells, a surf band that issued a hideously rare album in 1963 on the Garex label that was reissued by Sundazed with bonus tracks.
Moby Grape issued a cassette-only album in 1990 The Legendary Moby Grape (Herman Records ), but this was quickly withdrawn when their former manager took legal action, and the tape was repackaged shown as by The Melvilles.
Skip Spence sadly passed away on April 16th 1999.
Compilation appearances have included: Hoochie on Pop Revolution From The Underground (LP); War In Peace and Omaha on Psychedelic Frequencies (CD); Omaha and Hey Grandma on Sixties Years, Vol. 2 - French 60's EP Collection (CD); Om-Aha, Mr. Blues, a 1983 recording Hard Road To Follow and Say You Want To Leave Me on Then And Now, Vol. 1 (CD); and Hey Grandma, a 1983 recording Silver Wheels and a 1988 recording Lonesome Highway on Then And Now, Vol. 2 (CD).
Moby Grape was an American roots rock and psychedelic rock group of the 1960s that was known for having all five members contribute to singing and songwriting, and who collectively merged elements of jazz, country, and blues together with rock. Due to the strength of their debut album, several critics consider Moby Grape to be the best rock band to emerge from the San Francisco music scene in the late sixties.
The group was formed in late 1966 in San Francisco. (Although the origin of the name seems to be undisclosed, it is likely from the punch line of the joke "What's big and purple and lives in the ocean?") Frontman and rhythm guitarist Skip Spence (the original drummer for Jefferson Airplane), lead guitarist Jerry Miller and drummer Don Stevenson (both formerly of the Frantics), rhythm guitarist (and son of actress Loretta Young) Peter Lewis (of the Cornells), and bassist Bob Mosley all wrote songs for their debut album Moby Grape (1967). In a marketing stunt Columbia Records immediately released five singles at once, and the band was perceived as being over-hyped. This was during a period in which mainstream record labels were giving unheard of levels of promotion to what was then considered counter-cultural music genres. Nonetheless, the record was critically acclaimed, and fairly successful commercially, with The Move covering its sardonic ode to hippiedom, "Hey Grandma". Spence's "Omaha" reached the lower rungs of the American singles charts in 1967, and Miller-Stevenson's "8:05" became a country rock standard (covered by The Grateful Dead, Robert Plant, Guy Burlage, and others). Moby Grape has today achieved the status of a highly respected rock album.
In addition to the marketing backlash, band members found themselves in legal trouble for charges (later dropped) of consorting with underage females, and the band's relationship with their manager rapidly deteriorated. The second album, Wow, was a critical and commercial failure, partially due to the double-album format (and price). The 2nd LP was one of loose and mostly directionless jams, and this detracted from the stronger tunes on the 1st LP such as the room-shaking shuffle "Can't Be So Bad". Their basic sound remained consistent from the first album, featuring tight harmonies, multiple guitars, imaginative songwriting and a generally stronger level of musicianship than what was found coming out of the Bay Area at the time with the exception of the seminal Steve Miller Band.
During its recording, Spence, who was supposedly never the same after ingesting large quantities of LSD (see also the biographies of Peter Green and Syd Barrett), started to go through the hotel room door of Stevenson and Miller using a fire axe, intending to murder them; 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. They were really strange, almost Nazi-ish. 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 axe 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. The original lineup released an album in 1971, 20 Granite Creek. The remainder soldiered on for a few years, but save for a reunion or two, essentially joining Jerry Miller's band in Santa Cruz, the group never returned to the level of excellence and popularity they enjoyed in the early Avalon Ballroom/Fillmore Auditorium days.
Moby Grape was an example of a talented band who, through a combination of mismanagement and inexperience, never fully realized their potential. Along with the Flamin' Groovies, they were somewhat of an anomaly in the San Francisco rock scene; their concision and their strong roots in country music and early rock and roll seemed to work against them. In addition, perhaps because they were so versatile, their image was somewhat nebulous; as writer Robert Christgau put it, "All they really lacked was a boss, and what could be more American than that?"
Jerry Miller carries on today (2007) as the Jerry Miller Band, playing rockin' blues and the occasional Grape song. Homeless for years and suffering from long-term mental illness and a multitude of health ailments, the mercurial and brilliant Skip Spence died in Santa Cruz, CA in 1999. In 2006, after three decades of court battles, the band finally won back their name from the much-hated (in the music industry) former manager Matthew Katz and in celebration announced a reunion show with all of its living members, bolstered by drummer Ainsley Dunbar (Mayall, Zappa, Journey) and keyboardist Pete Sears (Jefferson Starship), to be performed in January 2007 at San Francisco's The Fillmore. However, the reunion show did not take place and nothing has been announced about future plans.
The 1993 Vintage: The Very Best of Moby Grape includes their first album in its entirety, as well as selected tracks from 1967 to 1969. The debut is the only one of the original Columbia LPs to have a complete CD reissue with all of the original tracks. The San Francisco Sound label has released a CD version of "Wow", but it is a one-disc treatment that has a few tracks edited down and others deleted from the original album. "Moby Grape '69" has all of its songs represented on the "Vintage" anthology, but two of these are alternate versions not present in the original. (Information from different sources)
When will all Moby Grape Albums be released on CD, just wonder ???
Moby Grape - Wow (1968)
1. The Place And The Time
2. Murder In My Heart For The Judge
3. Bitter Wind
4. Can't Be So Bad
5. He 6. Motorcycle Irene
9. Rose Colored Eyes
10. Miller's Blues
11. Naked, If I Want To
Moby Grape - Grape Jam (1968)
13. Boysenberry Jam
14. Black Currant Jam
Wednesday, June 20
Size: 114 MB