Thursday, July 31, 2014
FORGOTTEN MUSIC THURSDAY-SKIP SPENCE'S OAR
Absolutely bare-bones, lovely, unfinished, ethereal, ragged, uplifting and heartbreaking all apply to Oar, the lone solo recording by Alexander "Skip" Spence. He was at the epicenter of the San Francisco music scene in the mid-sixties, playing drums on the first Jefferson Airplane disc and co-founding Moby Grape, who made a stunning debut album and then imploded with Spence in the middle of the fray.
It is not the function of this humble forum to make comment on the tribulations of individuals who saw rough times. Mr. Spence did indeed have more than his share of adversity, though it does not detract from his obvious talent. He was a musical "all-rounder' who could play just about anything that he picked up, a great performer and first rate songwriter.
The tale of how Oar was conceived and recorded is well worth your time, as is the album itself. Following six months of recovery in a mental health facility, Spence emerged with a desire to get his latest compositions on tape. There are many corners of the internet that you may explore to flesh out the rest of the story.
"Little Hands" was the opener...
Should you be interested, seek out this disc, keeping in mind that you are in for a challenging but rewarding listen. This is primarily because he followed his instincts and let the songs flow naturally with no attempts to pander to the prevailing trends of that era. These are the sketches of a great artist, who was not given the opportunity to reach a wider audience in his time, as he was a few steps ahead of the curve. Released with no promotional help in 1969 on Columbia Records, Oar sold a very modest amount of copies before being quietly removed from consideration for further pressing. All of this took place in the space of one year and this disc did not come back into circulation until it appeared on CD in 1991. Still considered a curio, this is forgotten music that subsequent generations have rediscovered (and covered).
Beck, Wilco and Leslie Feist cover "Little Hands", giving Mr. Spence some much deserved love. He would have likely been quite thrilled to hear this.