Is Moby Grape really THAT good?

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I have been reading for years that Moby Grape was THE San Francisco band from the 60s/70s.

Is that true? Were they really as good as Robert Plant and tons of other musicians and writers have made them out to be?

And if so, why are their CDs so hard to find?


SW

Steven Ward (rockcrit88), Monday, 8 May 2006 18:41 (thirteen years ago) link

When I got the double disc Sony anthology I was actually kinda disappointed, a few songs aside. Skip Spence's Oar may be stuck with the 'fractured genius' tag but I actually do think it deserves the attention in comparison to the group.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 8 May 2006 18:44 (thirteen years ago) link

ahhh baloney! I can see being disappointed by the anthology, because it's poorly programmed and it dilutes the impact of the first album, which from first note to last is one of the finest of the 60's. You'd be more than well served only having that debut record by Moby Grape, as they very rapidly descended into self-parody after Spence's exit.

I don't know if I would call them "THE San Francisco band" but there's no question that they COULD have been if they weren't so poorly managed. I'll find an account of their disastrous record release party. The label spent so much money on this event that all the critics they invited to attend were thoroughly disgusted. Then the label released 5 a-sides from the album simultaneously, confusing all the dj's, so none of the songs was a hit. Then their most talented member went off the acid deep end and started attacking the other members with an axe before they got around to a second album. These are some of the reasons why they don't have the clout you would associate with their critical currency.

I have never had trouble finding the debut. As far as I know it's available on CD for cheap and on LP for cheaper. I would go for the LP.

naturemorte (naturemorte), Monday, 8 May 2006 19:01 (thirteen years ago) link

Man, I just picked up the debut on the strength of some pretty glowing reviews and all it got outta me was a mighty "Meh." Country-ish rock? Yeah. Memorable songs? Well, I listened to it three or four times but could never seem to pay attention enough to actually take it in... It seemed pleasant but nowhere near any claims of REALLY GOOD or THE SAN FRAN BAND.

js (honestengine), Monday, 8 May 2006 19:07 (thirteen years ago) link

However, I will say that a little bit of googling will find you a Rapidshare copy of Moby Grape's first album, if you're apprehensive...

js (honestengine), Monday, 8 May 2006 19:09 (thirteen years ago) link

"the first album, which from first note to last is one of the finest of the 60's"

It's a good album, but Jesus, there are so many good albums from the '60s. As for what could have been, I don't know. Which song off the first album could have been a big hit? I mean, the records were out there. They were on COLUMBIA. But it didn't happen. And Wow was a very mediocre follow-up.

Say this about them: they were pretty darn cracking to start out, on par with the Buffalo Springfield, say (and the first album is a better record than either of the first two Buff. Spring. LPs). Skip Spence was a good songwriter and Bob Mosley was one of the great singers of the period. (See "Come in the Morning" from the 1st album in particular.)

Tim Ellison (Tim Ellison), Monday, 8 May 2006 19:12 (thirteen years ago) link

Yes, yes they really are that good. and yeah, the original 1st album is perfect.

but for me, 1st edition Quicksilver is THE sf band, although the Airplane and Dead probably really were the best.

Stormy Davis (diamond), Monday, 8 May 2006 19:17 (thirteen years ago) link

I love the first record, but it's not a totally easy listen. The music is super dense with an insane about of changes: three axes and three singers. Most of the time, the band sounds totally wire 'n' manic yet ultra tight. Instead of getting all expansive like many of the SF bands, the Grape fused soul, country, and Brit Invasion-inspired garage into a sound that's kind more punk than hippie. I know that sounds strange but this music has a certain aggression and rapid fire approach that's fairly out of place for the time. Hell, it even gets somewhat angular at times Check out the backing vocals on "Omaha". One of my all time fave rock albums.

QuantumNoise (Justin Farrar), Monday, 8 May 2006 19:17 (thirteen years ago) link

but the thing is, they *could* (and did) stretch out -- just not in the studio (with the exception of Grape Jam)

Stormy Davis (diamond), Monday, 8 May 2006 19:25 (thirteen years ago) link

First record is untouchable. I can't see how anyone wouldn't be blown away by it.

It's expensive on CD but it is available.

Keith C (lync0), Monday, 8 May 2006 19:29 (thirteen years ago) link

First album is so stellar! The vocals, the arrangments, the playing. I'd say song for song, it's one of the strongest, most consistent albums of the 60s.

Brooker Buckingham (Brooker B), Monday, 8 May 2006 19:31 (thirteen years ago) link

First album is so stellar! The vocals, the arrangements, the playing. I'd say song for song, it's one of the strongest, most consistent albums of the 60s.

Brooker Buckingham (Brooker B), Monday, 8 May 2006 19:31 (thirteen years ago) link

It's worth repeating.

Keith C (lync0), Monday, 8 May 2006 19:31 (thirteen years ago) link

but the thing is, they *could* (and did) stretch out -- just not in the studio (with the exception of Grape Jam)

Sure, but the phrase "the San Francisco Sound" carries some baggage that's tied to ballroom-era exploration and/or moody folk-rock. And I think that first Mboy Grape record, which is their finest moment, throws folks for a loop when they are expecting Moby Grape to be a "SF sound band."

QuantumNoise (Justin Farrar), Monday, 8 May 2006 19:36 (thirteen years ago) link

1st moby grape record sounds moer like their LA contemporaries than their SF ones, i think.

omaha should have been a hit, or sitting by the window.

electro-acoustic lycanthrope (orion), Monday, 8 May 2006 19:38 (thirteen years ago) link

or Hey Grandma, or 8:05, or...

Stormy Davis (diamond), Monday, 8 May 2006 19:40 (thirteen years ago) link

naked if i want to = classic mix tape side closer, when you've just got a little room left.

electro-acoustic lycanthrope (orion), Monday, 8 May 2006 19:41 (thirteen years ago) link

As for what could have been, I don't know. Which song off the first album could have been a big hit? I mean, the records were out there. They were on COLUMBIA. But it didn't happen.

They were out there all right--Columbia put out five singles at once to promote the album and a lot of people became suspicious. It's one of the biggest PR disasters in rock. If they'd just issued one single it might have been a different story.

Matos-Webster Dictionary (M Matos), Monday, 8 May 2006 19:52 (thirteen years ago) link

I like the first album plenty but don't think it's a masterpiece or anything.

Matos-Webster Dictionary (M Matos), Monday, 8 May 2006 19:53 (thirteen years ago) link

I think they were more a SF band than an LA band. !st Big Brother album and the KAK album probably have more in common with the Moby Grape album than anything I can think of from L.A. (apart from maybe Buffalo Springfield).

Tim Ellison (Tim Ellison), Monday, 8 May 2006 20:13 (thirteen years ago) link

The Grape's manager was a notorious show biz fucker. After the Grape fell apart, he even booked bands as Moby Grape because of previous contractual obligations. One of them was Tripsichord, who made a fantastic record.

QuantumNoise (Justin Farrar), Monday, 8 May 2006 20:15 (thirteen years ago) link

tim, i was thinking specifically of the byrds & buffalo springfield specifically when i said that.

i don't know if i feel the kak similarity. kak were onto some serious epic shit, a quality sorely missing from the grape.

electro-acoustic lycanthrope (orion), Monday, 8 May 2006 20:38 (thirteen years ago) link

Seek out: Omaha, I Am Not Willing, Seeing

kornrulez6969 (TCBeing), Monday, 8 May 2006 20:39 (thirteen years ago) link

while I don't think its near the greatest anything, that album is leagues better than the dead and the Airplane, both of whom are very very bad. maybe a lot of hippies thought they were not as "with it" as those other bands, since, yknow, they wrote pop singles and were pretty tight.

veronica moser (veronica moser), Monday, 8 May 2006 20:44 (thirteen years ago) link

First album's nearly perfect, with many classic songs.


Chrissie Hynde always maintained they were the best hippie band, for what it's worth.

Dee Xtrovert (dee dee), Monday, 8 May 2006 20:45 (thirteen years ago) link

KAK had stuff like "Electric Sailor," though, too.

Tim Ellison (Tim Ellison), Monday, 8 May 2006 20:51 (thirteen years ago) link

maybe a lot of hippies thought they were not as "with it" as those other bands, since, yknow, they wrote pop singles and were pretty tight.

From what I've read, the Grape were a total hit on the ballroom circuit and other musicians were in awe of them. They totally blew the hippies' minds. But the Grape failed on the national pop chart level, as Matos pointed out.

that album is leagues better than the dead and the Airplane, both of whom are very very bad.

I can't decide if I want to take the bait or not, maybe I already did.

QuantumNoise (Justin Farrar), Monday, 8 May 2006 20:53 (thirteen years ago) link

How are "Golden Road (to Unlimited Devotion)" and "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" and "Down on Me" NOT tight pop singles?

Tim Ellison (Tim Ellison), Monday, 8 May 2006 20:55 (thirteen years ago) link

Because hippies sung them. Er...

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 8 May 2006 20:56 (thirteen years ago) link

DNFTT

Stormy Davis (diamond), Monday, 8 May 2006 20:59 (thirteen years ago) link

Grace Slick at Woodstock, "You've heard the hippie bands but now it's time for morning maniacs music."

QuantumNoise (Justin Farrar), Monday, 8 May 2006 20:59 (thirteen years ago) link

all the songs cited above are indeed tight pop singles, but I've always been under the impression that hardcore hippes kinda disdained 'em—like "Drums/Space" is more like it.

I'm not sure though, because I entered this world in 1971.

veronica moser (veronica moser), Monday, 8 May 2006 21:11 (thirteen years ago) link

you're old.

electro-acoustic lycanthrope (orion), Monday, 8 May 2006 21:12 (thirteen years ago) link

and in the way!

Stormy Davis (diamond), Monday, 8 May 2006 22:17 (thirteen years ago) link

yeah i didn't mean to kill the thread.
you're all old, you fucking oldsters

electro-acoustic lycanthrope (orion), Monday, 8 May 2006 22:36 (thirteen years ago) link

"s.f. freak scene is on my mind, fillmore slim is just a wastin' time"

the move did it and didn't know the words, the bit about robutussin and elderberry wine.

sure, they were that good. i mean try playing like that if you're in a band, that restraint. far outclassed those lame-o san francisco bands, the dead and the diggers or the charlatans u.s. or whoever the fuck they were. the jefferson airplane, give me a break. all totally ropey compared to moby grape. but, they had to go country-rock and it ruined them. "21 granite creek" has a couple great moments, esp. "going down to texas" at about a minute fifty-nine. they were always good at compression. plus ragging on veronica is dumb, i'm sure many hippies did think the dead were better; most people today, who are just as stupid as they were in 1968, think of those endless jams and jerry garcia's beard when they think of that era. they failed because they were a typically mismatched group without any one person to focus on, they were all equally talented and that's always fatal for a pop group, since they all need one really talentless person. or used to, now it's all different and they're all geniuses like those guys in coldplay.

edd s hurt (ddduncan), Tuesday, 9 May 2006 02:39 (thirteen years ago) link

I don't think Moby Grape's failure goes much deeper than how troubled and unstable they were as an outfit both commercially and artistically. The band had one show biz fuck up after another. They just didn't have the sense to fire their manager Matthew Katz like the Airplane did. Plus, they had several legal problems that had to do with underage girls, horrible promotion, a recalled album cover, and some very unstable minds in the band. This stuff is gonna tank most bands from that era if we are talking pop stardom. I just don't think the group had the backbone and maybe even the ambition needed for fame. Then again, even the talent wasn't all there. Don't get me wrong, the first record is one of my all time faves but after that there exist only a smattering a good tunes. Those later records didn't deserve to be anything but flops.

As for them not being dug by the hippies because they wrote pop tunes, I wouldn't mind seeing some back-up on that. Sure, free form jamming was definitely a big part of the Haight Ashbury aesthetic but lets not forget that groups like the Lovin' Spoonful were a huge smash at early ballroom happenings. Plus, the Dead's debut, the Airplane's first two records, and all of the Charlatans recorded output is not comprised of acid freakouts. They are fairly concise rock albums with a bunch of pop thrown in (as Ellison basically stated earlier).

QuantumNoise (Justin Farrar), Tuesday, 9 May 2006 03:56 (thirteen years ago) link

I think it's keen but I'm possibly biased because it was probably one of the first used albums I ever bought. The album is so tight it wooshes by like it's the 60's' Pink Flag.

I have heard Muzak's instrumental version of "Sitting By the Window." More than once, but absolutely ages ago.

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Tuesday, 9 May 2006 04:25 (thirteen years ago) link

yeah, what do some of you other freaks think about 21 granite creek? worth the trouble to track it down? Love the first album, some goodies from the next few that were picked for the anthology, but OAR pwns it all, imho. peter lewis is the son of Loretta Young - what other child of a Famous Hollywood Star made it in the rock/pop world - Dino, Desi & Billy comes to mind, but i'm sure there are others (Nancy sinatra, sure, but her dad was a pop star first, movie star second)

timmy tannin (pompous), Tuesday, 9 May 2006 04:45 (thirteen years ago) link

"Then the label released 5 a-sides from the album simultaneously, confusing all the dj's, so none of the songs was a hit."

I wonder if whoever thought that up was on some hard drugs. And I wonder if they got fired.

Carlos Keith (Buck_Wilde), Tuesday, 9 May 2006 04:54 (thirteen years ago) link

Nobody's yet mentioned what a great guitarist Jerry Miller was, so i will. "Oar" is overrated not the 1st MGrape album.

Dadaismus (Dada), Wednesday, 10 May 2006 09:52 (thirteen years ago) link

xpost well, no-one had tried that before so it was a learning experience for everyone from then on. I guess.

mark grout (mark grout), Wednesday, 10 May 2006 10:24 (thirteen years ago) link

Edd’s Coldplay comment above is classic.

YES re Jerry Miller. Eric Clapton wishes he could play like that.

The youtube clip I saw the other day is worth checking out – it’s them on the Steve Paul Scene special (NYC TV), 1967. They do “Hey Grandma” and “Sitting By the Window.” Skippy is positively magnetic.

JAS, Wednesday, 10 May 2006 14:00 (thirteen years ago) link

anthology= CLASSIK.
the spotty-iest hippy band/one of the BEST hippy bands!
they are the epitomie of the duality of 60's 'SF Scene' stuff, they're SO good it hurts and SO bad it's like driving a butter-knife into yr brain w/ a tack hammer.
Seek= all of Skip's stuff. man, that guy had it...and lost it.
Destroy= a bunch of it.
Keep= the anthology. if you can find it.
"Oar" DOES pwn it, tho.
IMHO.
i'm gonna go play that 'Gene Foxtrot' song...it sounds all 'old-timey' and whatnot.

eedd, Wednesday, 10 May 2006 14:36 (thirteen years ago) link

was anyone else really disappointed with Grape Jam, btw? Maybe it's just me, but I can't get into the groove with that at all.

electro-acoustic lycanthrope (orion), Wednesday, 10 May 2006 15:08 (thirteen years ago) link

they are the epitomie of the duality of 60's 'SF Scene' stuff, they're SO good it hurts and SO bad it's like driving a butter-knife into yr brain w/ a tack hammer.

So true...

QuantumNoise (Justin Farrar), Wednesday, 10 May 2006 15:18 (thirteen years ago) link

two years pass...

broke out the 2cd anthology a few days ago for the first time in ages and it is making me very happy. excellent driving music. forgot how good some of the post-debut songs are (and how bad a couple are too). that batch that were recorded for the the follow to the s/t but were rejected are esp. good. also downloaded a few songs from 20 granite creek and they sound interesting, too bad that reunion didn't last.

velko, Thursday, 22 January 2009 03:14 (ten years ago) link

"Seeing", which closes the second disk of that excellent anthology, is a top shelf song for sure.

Euler, Thursday, 22 January 2009 04:39 (ten years ago) link

"Changes, Circles Spinning" off Truly Fine Citizen is my late-Grape fave.

ian, Thursday, 22 January 2009 04:43 (ten years ago) link

did veronica moser ever end up getting into the classic dead LPs??

ian, Thursday, 22 January 2009 05:20 (ten years ago) link

I don't see the word "Creedence" here anywhere, which is what the first album bears comparison to. Or A Hard Day's Night.

If Timi Yuro would be still alive, most other singers could shut up, Thursday, 22 January 2009 06:20 (ten years ago) link

ten years pass...

As for what could have been, I don't know. Which song off the first album could have been a big hit?

Spinning the debut rn, and it seems to me that "Come In The Morning" & "Changes" would have been good picks for an up-tempo single, and "Someday" & "Sitting By The Window" might have broken through if programmers would have taken a shot on a slow/melancholy track. "Omaha" was a bit too out there for AM radio (so of course it charted highest).

Putting out five singles out at once was perhaps the dumbest of the dumb moves Columbia pulled re:the first album.

a large tuna called “Justice” (C. Grisso/McCain), Friday, 7 June 2019 20:52 (three months ago) link


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