Friday, August 16, 2013

Spirit -- "I Got a Line on You" (1968)

My summer, she's comin' on strong
I can love you, love you, love you, love you 
All year long!

Summer has been comin' on strong for some time now.  It was beastly hot when we went to Cape Cod for vacation last month, which is unusual.

I'm hoping the driver of this seafood delivery truck remembered to plug in his refrigeration unit when he parked it for the night.  I hate to think how many people could have been laid low if the oysters, clams, scallops and other fruits de mer in this bad boy had been allowed to go bad.

Speaking of spoiled seafood, here's an amusing little exchange I found on an online discussion board:

CHEESEFUNGUS:  i bought a swordfish felle on monday and just took it out of the fridge, it smelled a little . . . fishy.  [NOTE: I assume "felle" means "filet."]  dude at my work said you have to eat fish right away cause they can go bad quick.  dont have much fish knowledge here.  [NOTE: Or any other kind of knowledge, I'd wager.]  its on the grill and will be done in about 10 min.

BADGERBOY1:  if it was frozen the whole time then it should be fine. Unless it was bad before you froze it. Did you check to see if it had an expiration date?

CHEESEFUNGUS:  I didn't freeze it I bought it fresh on Monday. 48 hrs can't be too bad?  My friggin grill ran out of gas and I had to run inside and pan fry.  [NOTE: Cheesefungus don't have much gas grill knowledge either.]   looks fine, tastes alright.  i'm about to mix it in to some cheesy noodles should be decent.  [NOTE: Is there anything that cheesy noodles doesn't make better?]

Grilled swordfish (sans cheesy noodles)
SALMON401: You'll be fine.  Put an extra roll of toilet paper by the throne . . . Just in case.
I'm surprised that 2 or 3 lines has featured well over 500 songs, and that only one of them is a song by Spirit.  That's a major oversight on my part.

How would I describe Spirit's music?  Let me begin by reminding you of the traditional Indian tale of the six blind men and the elephant.

As the story goes, six blind men are asked to touch an elephant and describe it, based on what their hands tell them.  One touches the elephant's tusk, and says the elephant must be very like a spear.  Another touches its trunk, and announces that the elephant is very like a snake.  A third man touches the elephant's knee, and opines that the creature must be very like a tree.  And so on, and so forth.

Each one of the blind men was right, yet each one was wrong.  

The same is true of the music critics who have described Spirit's music as psychedelic, jazz-rock, progressive rock, or just plain pop music.  They're all right, yet they're all wrong.

Spirit's music is uniquely eclectic, which isn't surprising given the diverse musical backgrounds of its members.

Vocalist/songwriter Jay Ferguson took classical piano lessons when he was a child, but then got interested in the banjo and started a bluegrass group with his brother.  

Drummer Ed Cassidy was a veteran jazz drummer who played with legends like Art Pepper, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and Gerry Mulligan.  Cassidy -- who sported a shaved head, dressed entirely in black, and positioned his bass drum sideways with pedals on both sides so he could play it with either foot -- was 44 years old when Spirit's eponymous debut album was released in 1968.  (Cassidy died of cancer less than a year ago.  He was 89 years old -- older than my parents.  I can't quite wrap my mind around the fact that there existed a major rock music figure who was older than my parents.)

Ed Cassidy
Cassidy's stepson, guitarist/singer/songwriter Randy California, was not quite 17 when that album hit the stores.  Born Randy Wolfe, Spirit's wunderkind was given his stage name by Jimi Hendrix.  

Randy played in a band that Hendrix formed in New York City in the summer of 1966 -- he was 15 years old at the time! -- and Hendrix called him "Randy California" to distinguish him from another band member named Randy (whom Hendrix christened "Randy Texas").

Randy California
Hendrix invited California to come to England with him and be part of his new band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but his parents wanted him to finish high school.

(Time out, boys and girls.  I have a feeling that most of you who have kids would have made the same decision.  So would have I.  If Tiger Woods had been our son, I'm sure we would have told him not to drop out of Stanford after two years to play professional golf: "Get your degree first, so you'll have something to fall back on if this golf thing doesn't work out."  And we probably would have told little Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to quit spending so much time playing the piano and do his arithmetic homework.  In other words, WE ARE MORONS!) 

A Molokai beach
Sadly, Randy California died in 1997, when he was just 45.  He and his 12-year-old son were swimming off the coast of Molokai, Hawaii, when they got caught up in a riptide.  Randy managed to push his son free of the riptide, but he was pulled out to sea and presumably drowned.  (His body was never recovered.)

Spirit's first album was quite good.  Its second album, The Family That Plays Together, which was released less than a year later, was outstanding.  (I got both LPs -- gently used -- from a fellow college student in 1972.  Cost me a buck, as I recall.)

The group's fourth album, Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, is one of the great albums of all time.  

We'll be featuring some of the great songs from Dr. Sardonicus in the future, but today's post is about the group's only top-40 single.  "I Got a Line on You" (grammar was not the group's strong suit) is a classic three-minute (actually, 2:38) AM-radio, sing-along-to pop song.  It features one of the catchiest riffs ever and some great back-and-forth vocals in the chorus singing.

Here's "I Got a Line on You":

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

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