Now I Know High

“The Grape’s saga is one of squandered potential, absurdly misguided decisions, bad luck, blunders and excruciating heartbreak, all set to the tune of some of the greatest rock and roll ever to emerge from San Francisco. Moby Grape could have had it all, but they ended up with nothing, and less.”
-Jeff Tamarkin

Peter Lewis – rhythm guitars, vocals
Jerry Miller – lead guitars, vocals
Bob Mosley – bass, vocals
Skip Spence – rhythm guitars, vocals
Don Stevenson – drums, vocals

Their first album, “Moby Grape” (1967) is widely recognized as a classic.
While recording their second in New York City, Skip Spence’s schizophrenia began to take over. Famously chopping down a band member’s hotel room door with a fire axe. He was committed to Bellevue for six months while Moby Grape soldiered on, finishing “Wow” (1968). Skip never returned to the band full-time. While incarcerated, he wrote enough songs to record “OAR” (1968), in Nashville, playing all the instruments. It’s an un-hinged masterpiece, in many ways similar to Syd Barrett’s post Pink Floyd albums.

Then came “Moby Grape ’69″, “Truly Fine Citizen” (1969) also recorded in Nashville, and finally,
“20 Granite Creek”(1971). Although Spence was no longer in the band they included him when possible, depending on his health.

This compilation covers their initial run.

They have disbanded and reformed many times, and often having to use a fake name as their manager, Matthew Katz, hung on their contract like a drowning man to a log, or worse, a sociopath. They signed their contract under duress, with a large dollop of naivete, resulting in not even owning the name Moby Grape.

From wikipedia:
“Matthew Katz insisted that an additional provision be added to his management contract, giving him ownership of the group name. At the time, various group members were indebted to Katz, who had been paying for apartments and various living costs prior to the group releasing its first album. Despite objecting, group members signed, based in part on an impression that there would be no further financial support from Katz unless they did so. Neil Young, then of Buffalo Springfield, was in the room at the time, and kept his head down, playing his guitar, and saying nothing. According to Peter Lewis, “I think Neil knew, even then, that was the end. We had bought into this process that we should have known better than to buy into.”

Due to continued legal battle between the band and Katz over ownership of their name, pseudonyms were used during several decades for performance or recording purposes; including Mosley Grape, Legendary Grape, Maby Grope, Fine Wine, and The Melvilles.

Moby Grape today:
Peter Lewis – rhythm guitars, vocals
Jerry Miller – lead guitars, vocals
Bob Mosley – bass, vocals
with
Joseph Miller – drums (son of Jerry)
Omar Spence – vocals (son of Skip)
Don Stevenson – drums, vocals (guest appearances)

They were all incredibly talented, and Jerry Miller deserves to be included in any conversation about guitar heroes.

Enjoy!
-BBJ

Now I Know High

Long, Long, Day

“It’ll be easy” I said to myself, “Just throw something together”, I lied. A good mix goes through several permutations. Getting everything to flow, so that it follows a thread, is always a challenge.

Who knew The Hudson Brothers were capable of producing such a slab of prime Pop/Rock, sounding as much like late-period Beatles as Badfinger? This was always the opener and really set the tone.(1974)
Legend was led by Mickey Jupp. The drummer left shortly after this (1971) to join T-REX, where he became known as Bill Legend. Fat bass-line reminds me of Macca.
“Lonely Blue Boy” (1958) is one of those songs everyone should hear. Vocal crick as art.
“The Power Of Your Love”(1969) from the sessions that produced “Suspicious Minds”. The last time Elvis was thouroughly engaged and at a creative peak in the studio. Long Live the King.
“In The Ghetto” was written by Mac Davis and recorded by Elvis in 1969. Given recent happenings in Chicago, it seems particularly relevent. This version by Nick Cave (1984) was when I realized he had a future after The Birthday Party.
“Sam” (1969) is a rare slice of midwestern psychedelia. Unreleased until 2013. It features the singing of Linda Bruner, who recorded 4 songs and vanished.
“Dripping With Looks” (1987) is a massive riff I never get tired of.
“Little Bit Of Magic” (1969) is very rare. Rosco originally recorded for SUN, in Memphis. His early singles featured a piano style which contributed to the formation SKA in Jamaica. Rosco left music during the ’60′s, moving to Queens to run a Dry Cleaners.
In 1969 he cut this single and released it on his own label. In the ’80′s he briefly returned to music, but stayed with his original SUN material. It’s too bad he didn’t make more music like this. What a voice! I imagine Bryan Ferry covering it back in the day.
It’s hard to believe “Electrify Me (1979) was considered punk rock when it came out. I hear a little RT in the guitar breaks.
If Nick Lowe and Rockpile never covered “Move It Baby” (1964) they should have.
The Shazam (2002) drop some classic Big Star style pop/rock. These guys deserve a bigger audience.
I love everything about “Pass You By” (1996).
“Wonderin’” (1983) is the only keeper on “Everbody’s Rockin”. It was written in 1970.
“WPLJ”-Frank genuinely loved Doo Wop and R&B. From “Burnt Weeny Sandwich”. I keep meaning to try it. Not the radio station.
Swamp Dogg, not Snoop Dogg. From “Total Destruction Of Your Mind” (1970).
“I Got It all Indeed” is the only song I know from “Theosophy”, Pete Molinari’s 2014 album.
“Life Is Good” is one of my favorite songs from my favorite Los Lobos album.
“Jimmy Was” is the title music from “Sling Blade” (1996).
I’ve always thought Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus’ voice sounded a little like Jerry Garcia’s, and the gorgeous pedal steel on this song really makes the case.
“Chicken” (2014) by Bill Patton brings things down to a gentle simmer while we get a little introspective.
“I Remember Cissy’s Baby and the noise on the block,
And seventeen policemen that were in a state of shock,
She had it on the pavement she had it on the ground,
out popped the baby with the cops all around,”

-(1970) Jake And The Family Jewels.
Some fine storytelling. It just goes from there.
“Gone Like the Water”(1996) by Freedy Johnston is beautifully rendered. Perfect.
John & Beverly Martyn made two albums. “John The Baptist” is from “Stormbringer”(1970). His early work is some of my very favorite music, but soon he went MOR and made some records I’d rather not think about.
This demo of “Seeing” is far superior to the version which turned up on “Moby Grape ’69″. Featuring Skip Spence’s original vocal.

Enjoy!
-BBJ

Long, Long, Day

Weed, Whites, And Wine

I’m “Willin’” to admit that Little Feat’s “Sailin’ Shoes” just might be my favorite album of all time.

I’ve written elsewhere about the life changing moment I received “Looney Toons And Merrie Melodies” (1970), a Warner’s Loss Leader’s 3 record set I sent away for.
“Strawberry Flats” was the third song on side one, after Faces “Had Me A Real Good Time”, and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, and before Fleetwood Mac’s “Tell me All The Things You Do” from “Kiln House”.
I liked the other songs, and I bought all those albums too, but “Strawberry Flats” stood out. So many ideas packed into a little over 2 minutes.

I didn’t know what a record store was. All I knew was the local Target equivalent. They didn’t have “Little Feat”, so I settled for “Sailin’ Shoes” with it’s bizzarre cover art.
From the chiming opener, “Easy To Slip” I liked it. A lot.

I’ve come to recognize it as a perfect encapsulation of it’s time and place. Southern California in the early ’70′s. I hear elements of Country Rock, CSNY, The Eagles, Flying Burrito Brothers, Warren Zevon, Captain Beefheart, and of course, The Mother’s Of Invention.

I’m on my third vinyl copy and have the cd.

This compilation is a tribute to Lowell George, founder and guiding light. He was a tremendously gifted guitar player, singer, songwriter, producer, and bandleader. It recreates the order I first heard them. “Strawberry Flats” followed by “Sailin’ Shoes” in it’s entirety, and then highlights from “Little Feat” and “Dixie Chicken”.

Lowell George met Bill Payne when he was a member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention.
Payne auditioned for the Mothers, but didn’t join. They formed Little Feat along with former Mothers bassist Roy Estrada and drummer Richie Hayward from George’s previous band, The Factory. Hayward had also been a member of the Fraternity of Man whose claim to fame was the inclusion of their “Don’t Bogart Me” on the million-selling Easy Rider film soundtrack.
The name Little Feat came from a comment made by Mothers’ drummer Jimmy Carl Black (The Indian of the group) about Lowell’s “little feet”. The spelling of “feat” was an homage to the Beatles.

There are three stories about the genesis of Little Feat.
One has it that George showed Zappa his song “Willin’,” and that Zappa fired him because he was too talented to be a sideman, and he should form his own band.
The second version has Zappa firing him for playing a 15-minute guitar solo with his amplifier off. The third version says he was fired because “Willin’” contains drug references.
On October 18, 1975 at the Auditorium Theater in Rochester New York while introducing the song, George commented that he was asked to leave the band for “writing a song about dope”.

In any version, Zappa was instrumental in getting George and his new band a contract with Warner Bros. Records. The eponymous first album delivered to Warner Bros. was recorded mostly in August and September 1970, and was released in January 1971. When it came time to record “Willin’,” George had hurt his hand in an accident with a model airplane, so Ry Cooder sat in and played the song’s slide part.
“Willin’” was re-recorded for “Sailin’ Shoes”, this time with guest Burrito “Sneaky Pete” on pedal steel. It’s the the first Little Feat album to feature cover art by Neon Park, the artist responsible for Zappa’s “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” (On which Lowell is a member of The Mothers).

Despite good reviews, lack of success led to the band splitting up, with Estrada leaving to join Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band (And even more lack of success).

In 1972 Little Feat reformed, with bassist Kenny Gradney replacing Estrada. Also added was second guitarist Paul Barrere, a friend of Lowell’s from Hollywood High, and percussionist Sam Clayton (brother of session singer Merry Clayton). As a result the band was expanded from a quartet to a sextet.

I was so excited when “Dixie Chicken” came out, until I played it. They had 3 new people in the band and it tilted towards New Orleans, and lite funk, which was not what I was looking for.
However, the title is a classic and “Fat Man In The Bathtub” is one of their finest moments.
I didn’t hate the album.
Then came “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now”. Another Neon Parks cover, and a reworking of two songs from “Sailin” Shoes” played as a medley. Which I now understand was made to better reflect their live shows at the time, for which they were getting quite a reputation, but to my ears was a travesty.
I didn’t buy any more of their albums after that.

George continued to produce the albums, but his songwriting contribution diminished as the group moved into jazz fusion, a style in which he had little interest. In August 1977, Little Feat recorded a live album from gigs at the Rainbow Theatre in London and Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC. “Waiting for Columbus” is considered by many to be one of the best live albums of all time, despite the fact that significant portions of George’s vocals and slide work were over-dubbed later in the studio. It was released in 1978, by which time it had become apparent that Lowell George’s interest in the band was waning, as was his health.

In an interview with Bill Flanagan (for the book Written in My Soul) conducted eleven days before his death, George made it clear that he felt the demise of Little Feat was due to his having allowed the band to be run democratically, with the result that Payne and, to a lesser extent, Barrere, had a presence as songwriters and in production which was disproportionate to their abilities.

Nowhere on the wikipedia page I reworked for some of this does it mention that Lowell’s drug use was a contributing factor to his abdication of leadership in the band. Or that Zappa fired him for smoking dope.

His only solo album, “Thanks, I’ll Eat It Here” (1979) is mostly covers. I’ve never heard it.

Too bad there isn’t more of this.

Link In Comments

The Curse Of The Mekons

The Mekons should be better known. They are so much more interesting than Radiohead, or Oasis, for instance.

They were briefly signed by A&M, and released one great album, “The Mekons Rock ‘n’ Roll” in 1989, but the fit was poor, and they were soon back to indie purgatory.
Their next, “Curse Of The Mekons”, which is even better, didn’t even see a US release initially.

I used to gauge a new record store by how many Kevin Ayers albums they had. Then I’d check for Roy Harper and Lee “Scratch” Perry. A quick indication of the depth of their catalog.
In the early ’90′s I added The Mekons to the list. Their cd’s were pretty hard to find, but over the years I managed to collect a baker’s dozen. This compilation covers from 1987-2002.

Formed in 1977 by a group of Leeds University art students: John Langford, Kevin Lycett, Mark White, Andy Corrigan, and Tom Greenhalgh (Gang Of Four and Delta 5 came out of the same group of students). I just now found out that they took the name from the Mekon, an evil, super-intelligent Venusian featured in the British 1950-1960′s comic Dan Dare.

The band’s first single was “Never been In A Riot”, a satirical take on The Clash’s “White Riot”.
They’re debut album, “The Quality Of Mercy Is Not Strnen”, was recorded using the Gang Of Four’s instruments, and due to an error by the Virgin Records art department, features pictures of that band, instead of The Mekons on the back cover.

Through the years, the band’s musical style has evolved, incorporating country, folk, rock, and occasional experiments in dub. These days, The Mekons are often described as a post-punk, cowpunk and/or alt country band.

The Mekons
Jon Langford
Tom Greenhalgh
Sally Timms
Sara Corina
Steve Goulding (The Rumour)
Susie Honeyman
Rico Bell
Lu Edmonds (The Damned)
J. Mitch Flacko

Past members
Ben Mandelson
Dick Taylor (original Rolling Stone and Pretty Thing)
John Langley
Kevin Lycett
Mary Jenner
Robert Worby

Mekons Mekons Mekons

Enjoy!
-BBJ

I highly recommend the terrific documentary, “The Revenge Of The Mekons”

Mekons Mekons Mekons

Acid Washed Weekend

I didn’t buy a copy of the original double lp”Nuggets” as compiled by Lenny Kaye in 1972.
I never really sought this stuff out before getting Bowie’s “Pinups” in 1973. At first I preferred his versions because the sound was so much better. I thought the Kink’s original “Where Have All The Goodtimes Gone?” sounded weak and thin by comparison. On the other hand, Syd’s “See Emily Play” had something that Bowie’s did not.

Neither of those are here, however.

Only “Lies”, “Open My Eyes”, and “Farmer John” appeared on the original 1972 “Nuggets”.
The rest are from the much expanded Rhino versions, and a few from various other sources.
I included the best, and most obscure songs I know, while mostly avoiding the usual suspects.
While I’m sure some of this is familiar territory, I hope it’s the surprises that really get you.

Enjoy your trip!

-BBJ

Acid Washed Weekend

Here Comes The SUN

If Elvis is Jesus then Sam Phillips is GOD. I’ve read Peter Guralnick’s terrific two volume biography of Elvis, as well as “Lost Highway: Journeys and Arrivals of American Musicians”, so I look forward to his latest, “Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock N Roll”.

All the songs on this collection come from the accompanying 2 CD set curated by the author.
I don’t have a single argument with his selections. These are my favorites sequenced by me.
Everybody should stop off in Memphis on their way to New Orleans. When I had to pick one or the other I chose Nashville, and I don’t regret it, but next time will be Memphis.
In the ’80′s I had a friend working in a record store who routinely sold me fancy imports at her employee discount. I discovered SUN through Charly Records, and their top-shelf reissues. They all look and sound great. I still have a lot of them including a 9 record set of SUN Blues.

I dug the brief post- punk Rockabilly revival of 1980 (culminating with “Crazy Little Thing Called Love), and even formed a band with a childhood buddy which went on without me to get a record deal and everything(Jimmy And The Mustangs).

I know all these songs like I wrote and played them myself and you should too.
The music speaks for itself. Regardless of the weather have a SUNny weekend!

Here Comes The Sun

Foglizard

 
 
 
 
 
(our only cover)

The “Hits”, Instrumentals, and “B sides”

This couch came with the space where a lot of this material was recorded. It didn’t fit there.

You are forgiven for not knowing Foglizard. While we never played a live show, all the recordings featured here were performed live in the studio in one or two takes. The only overdubs were vocals added later. This is raw Rock N Roll of the highest order.

We began in 1999 as Friends Of Harry, named after my cat (now deceased). We were an improvisational electro-acoustic ensemble with only two rules: No blues, and no drums. We’d all been in plenty of rock bands and were determined not to go there until late 2002, when our bass player, Sharky Tao Mao, booked a nonexistent band named Chariot! to perform as Cheap Trick at Uncle Joe’s (local dive, now demolished) annual Halloween bash. We didn’t learn any Cheap Trick songs except the chorus to “Dream Police” which we tacked onto our signature song, “Chariot”. We wrote 6 originals over two weeks while preparing for the show, but we didn’t really have a singer or lyrics yet. Our songs were instrumentals with minimal words and nonsense syllables.
We had such a good time that Chariot! became a lot more than a side project. D-Lux, a founding Friends Of Harry member, was on an extended vacation in Ecuador while all of this went down and returned to find out he was our new singer. We recorded a self titled album, available here, and played a handful of gigs. D-Lux left town shortly after. For awhile he continued to add lyrics and vocals from a distance, but it soon became clear that we needed a singer who lived in town. Instead of finding one we began to write and record the vocals ourselves with occasional guests.
We realized that there was already too many “Chariots”, so we changed our name to Foglizard. Run a search, we’re at the top of the list.
One thing we learned from our Chariot! experience was that we got really tired of rehearsing our set. We usually ran it as a 45 minute suite with no spaces between songs. It was hard to introduce new material that way. Sharkey was at the point of mutiny.
As a result, Foglizard never rehearsed a set. Every time we came into the studio we’d lay down a new track, usually in one or two takes. At a later session we’d write the lyrics and overdub vocals. The Instrumental disc is mostly material we never got around to “finishing”.
About half the time I’d bring something I was working on into the session. I did this because Beast(baritone guitar, vocals), Q(drums, vocals), and Sharky(bass, vocals) are much better musicians than me, and it was my way of holding down my end. It’s from being self taught, since I didn’t know how to play anything, I make stuff up. Beast, on the other hand, is a Berklee grad who can play the shit out of his guitar, and as far as I can tell, pretty much anything I’ve seen him pick up. Q is rock solid in every way, and Sharkey is the perpetual wild card. He’s always solving problems in unexpected ways.
I’m Buzz Baby Jesus, the other guitar and occasional vocalist.

In 2008, Q began his journey into domesticity and as we saw less of him, Sharkey, Beast, and me developed a side project, The Smoove Sailor’s. When Q announced his retirement in 2010, it became our primary focus. However, we all left the door open and manage to get together as Foglizard about once a year to find out we still “have it”.
In addition to the original players, The Smoove Sailor’s have added several more members, and occasionally play live, but we don’t like rehearsing a set any more than we used to. We split our time between improvisation and the usual “two take wonders” a la Foglizard.

Useless Records is proud to release what I’ve compiled as the “best of” Foglizard on 3 cd’s. Disc one is the “Hits”, disc two are Instrumentals, and disc three is the “Boner” disc of “B” sides and songs that narrowly missed inclusion on disc one.

Here’s a video of “Von Douche”, which has over 14,000 hits thanks in part to it’s link to “Hot Chicks With Douchebags”. It’s the rare case where I sing verses I wrote, and whistle a “solo”.

Disc One Vox
Disc Two Instrumental
Disc Three Boner

The Curse Of The Mekons

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Mekons

The Mekons

The curse is of course an unwillingness to compromise and the lack of success that goes with it. I have no idea how popular they are at this point. I’m sure they still play Maxwell’s, in Hoboken, where back in the day they probably shared bills with the likes of REM, the B-52′s, or other bands that went on to find fame and fortune. Except for a brief experience with A&M, who soon dropped like them like the proverbial hot potato, they have spent their entire career on Indie labels making their music difficult to find. When I went to record stores or cd shops, I’d make a quick check to see how deep their catalog went by looking for artists most didn’t bother to carry. After searching for Kevin Ayers, and Roy Harper, I’d check for anything by the Mekons.

The Mekons are a British rock band. Formed in the late 1970s, they are one of the longest-running and most prolific of the first-wave British punk rock bands.

The band was formed in 1977 by a group of University of Leeds art students that included Jon Langford, Kevin Lycett and Tom Greenhalgh – the Gang of Four and Delta 5 formed from the same group of students. They took the band’s name from the Mekon, an evil, super-intelligent Venusian featured in the British 1950s-1960s comic Dan Dare (printed in the Eagle). The band’s first single was “Never Been in a Riot”, a satirical take on the Clash’s White Riot. For several years the loose-knit band played noisy, bare-bones post-punk, releasing singles on a variety of labels. The Mekons’ first album, The Quality of Mercy is Not Strnen, was recorded using the Gang of Four’s instruments, and due to an error by the Virgin Records art department, featured pictures of the Gang of Four on the back cover. After 1982′s The Mekons Story, a compilation of old recordings, the band ceased activity for a while, with Langford forming The Three Johns.
By the mid-1980s (revitalised by the 1984 miners’ strike) the Mekons had returned as an active group. The band was now augmented by vocalist Sally Timms, violinist Susie Honeyman, ex-Damned member Lu Edmonds, accordionist/vocalist Rico Bell (a.k.a. Eric Bellis), and former The Rumour drummer Steve Goulding, and Dick Taylor, original guitarist of The Pretty Things.

They began to experiment with musical styles derived from traditional English folk (tentatively explored on the English Dancing Master EP prior to the hiatus), and American country music. Fear and Whiskey (1985), The Edge of the World (1986) and Honky Tonkin’ (1987) exemplified the band’s new sound, which built on the innovations of Gram Parsons and blended punk ethos and left wing politics with the minimalist country of Hank Williams. Subsequent albums, such as The Mekons Rock’n'Roll, continued to experiment with diverse instrumentation (notably the fiddle and slide guitar).

The Mekons Rock and Roll was the band’s first major label release. Issued by A&M Records in 1989, Rock and Roll was not a commercial success, but it was met with critical acclaim.

Just as the Mekons began to grow in critical stature, their relationship with A&M Records became tense, and the Mekons were soon dropped by the label, unable to fulfill their commercial expectations. However, they continued to record at a prolific rate, releasing such notable albums as 1991′s The Curse of the Mekons, 2000′s Journey to the End of the Night, and 2002′s OOOH!. In April 2009 the Mekons returned to the studio to complete a new collection of songs, although it was unclear how these would be released as their label Touch and Go had gone bust.

Jon Langford has been busy as an artist and as founder of several solo and band projects, including the Waco Brothers (a punk-meets-Johnny Cash-like ensemble) and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts (exploring the music of Bob Wills, Johnny Cash and others). Besides his solo albums he has released CDs with Richard Buckner and Kevin Coyne.

The band has toured and recorded with a mostly unaltered lineup (Langford, Greenhalgh, Timms, Goulding, Bell, Edmonds, and bassist Sarah Corina) throughout the 1990s and early 21st century, and has a highly devoted following.

The Mekons today-ish

The Mekons today-ish

The Curse
Memphis, Egypt
I Love Apple
Chemical Wedding
I Can’t Find My Money
Maverick
Hole In The Ground
Secrets