Wednesday, February 20, 2013

THE AXE AND THE OAR


 Alexander Lee "Skip" Spence (April 18, 1946 – April 16, 1999) was a Canadian-born American musician and singer-songwriter. He was co-founder of Moby Grape, and played guitar with them until 1969. He released one solo album, 1969's Oar, and then largely withdrew from the music industry. He had started his career as a guitarist in an early line-up of Quicksilver Messenger Service, and was the drummer on Jefferson Airplane's debut album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. He has been described on the Allmusic website as "one of psychedelic rock's brightest lights"; however, his career was plagued by drug addictions coupled with mental health problems, and he has been described by a biographer as a man who "neither died young nor had a chance to find his way out."

  

During the recording session of Moby Grape's second album, Wow, in 1968, Spence attempted to break down a bandmate's hotel room door with a fire axe, while under the influence of LSD. Spence's deterioration in New York and the "fire axe incident" are described by bandmate Jerry Miller as follows: "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 was wearing a black leather jacket, 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."

As described by bandmate Peter Lewis, it appears that both Jerry Miller and bandmate Don Stevenson were targets of Spence: "We had to do (the album) in New York because the producer (David Rubinson) wanted to be with his family. So we had to leave our families and spend months at a time in hotel rooms in New York City. Finally I just quit and went back to California. I got a phone call after a couple of days. They'd played a Fillmore East gig without me, and Skippy took off with some black witch afterward who fed him full of acid. It was like that scene in The Doors movie. He thought he was the anti-Christ. He tried to chop down the hotel room door with a fire axe to kill Don (Stevenson) to save him from himself. He went up to the 52nd floor of the CBS building where they had to wrestle him to the ground. And Rubinson pressed charges against him. They took him to The Tombs (and then to Bellevue) and that's where he wrote Oar. When he got out of there, he cut that album in Nashville. And that was the end of his career. They shot him full of Thorazine for six months. They just take you out of the game."

During his six months in Bellevue, Spence was diagnosed with schizophrenia. On the day of his release, he drove a motorcycle, and as the urban myth goes (and not true according to his wife), dressed in only his pajamas, directly to Nashville to record his only solo album, with no other musicians appearing on it, the now-classic psychedelic/folk album Oar (1969, Columbia Records).
Skip Spence Memorial Tribute
April 30, 1999
Brookdale Lodge, Brookdale, California

-This show was a tribute to Skip Spence put on shortly after he died in Santa Cruz, California on April 16, 1999. It featured Moby Grape members Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis, Bob Mosley & Don Stevenson, David LaFlamme of It's A Beautiful Day, Skip's children Adam, Heather & Omar , Skip's friend Chris, his sister Sherrie , and possibly others....
This sounds like a soundboard but one source states it is from a television broadcast in the area,
. It does sound real good either way. There are probably some errors in the set list, so any corrections or more info/ details about this show are welcome. Three separate files for a three set show.


Disc #1:
acoustic:
1. -Skip's son talking
Bob Mosley 2-16
2. Hard Road
3. Queen Of The Crow
4. You Can Depend On Me
5. Ain't It Love
6. King Neptune
7. Sailor Man
8. Come In The Morning
9. My My My
10. Better Day
11. Spider And Tack
12. -talking
13. City Lights
14. I Picked A Rose
15. -talking/Three Hours
16. -talking/Choppin' Wood Blues
17. -"Chris", friend of Skip, talking
Chris-acoustic:
18. San Francisco Bay Blues
__________________
Disc #2
Moby Grape:
1. -talking
2. Murder In My Heart For The Judge
3. Must Be Going Now
4. -talking
5. Someday
6. All My Life
7. -Skip's half brother talking
8. Song For Skippy
9. -talking/Spence family takes the stage/Sherrie Spence talking
10. Amazing Grace
11. -talking/tuning
12. Dark Magic
____________________
Disc #3
Moby Grape with David LaFlamme:
1. -talking/tuning
2. 8:05
3. Hey Grandma
4. -talking/tuning
5. Truckin' Man
6. -talking
7. Miller's Blues
8. -talking/tuning
9. Sitting By The Window
10. -talking
11. Naked If I Want To
12. -talking/"thanks you's"/Skip's son talking



7 comments:

auweia said...

Hi, I was at this show at brookdale Lodge and was one of the tapers. There was 4 tapers plugge into the sound board in a daisy chain and I wa the only one with a Sony D6 analog cassette. The other three were on DAT and minidisc. so this version you have is one of those other three since I never got around to copying all my cassettes into digitial

I did do one song tho, Dark magic and you can now do a direct comparison and confirm it's the exact same show and soundboard

http://www.bluoz.com/blog/index.php?/archives/578-It-Crawled-From-The-Vault-10.html


I also have analog photos I finally scanned from this same show here >

http://www.flickr.com/photos/9640932@N04/sets/72157632813462983/

Also I have one single Moby Grape show I taped myself, audience from Santa Rosa new years eve 1998 here also on D6 cassette >

http://www.bluoz.com/blog/index.php?/archives/1313-It-Crawled-From-the-Vault-42.html

then I went digital recording some years later and now I have two brand new Jerry Miller shows

http://www.bluoz.com/blog/index.php?/archives/1556-The-Jerry-Miller-and-Terry-Haggerty-band-Live-at-Ashkenaz,-Berkeley,-September-6,-2012.html

and the most recent one just a month ago
http://www.bluoz.com/blog/index.php?/archives/1604-The-Jerry-Miller-and-Terry-Haggerty-band-Live-at-Ashkenaz,-Berkeley,-January-11,-2013.html



Anonymous said...

Thanks so much. This is a very interesting gathering after Skip died. I had only heard the Dark Magic that Auweia mentioned above. If this was B-cast on local TV someone must have the video[can you imagine!]. He also has the complete Maritime Hall show from 6/30/96 which includes two long encores. Once again, you've put together some very nice artwork too. This gets another A+!! Larry

Anonymous said...

Update-7/19/13.....Does anyone know what happened to the above mentioned Auweia or bluoz.com blog? He seems to have suddenly fallen off the "radar". Has he set up shop somewhere else? He covered lots of San Fran music and news w/lots of 'Grape mixed in! Larry

Anonymous said...

Here's the answer to my own question. Seems that bluoz.com is back in business as of 7/20/13! Looks like the site has been "remodeled" a bit & easier to navigate. Many of the old posts are still up too including some Moby Grape, IABD, Joe Walsh, some jazz, Barry Melton, etc. Hoping for some new music soon. Larry

auweia said...

finally posted the cassette copy http://www.bluoz.com/blog/archives/1882-The-Alexander-Skip-Spence-Memorial-Concert

Anonymous said...

Thank you auweia. And thank you Bill for sharing his link.
steVe

Anonymous said...

The cassette copy from auweia seems to have been removed. Did someone ask him to take it down? I managed to get 2 of the 3 parts before it was gone. Larry

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