With my Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship collection complete, it’s time to move on to something else. One of the bands that became popular in San Francisco in the sixties is Moby Grape.
The band has interesting roots. It’s founding guitarist was Skip Spence, the same Skip Spence appointed drummer of the Airplane on their first album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. He was unceremoniously shown the door when the lineup turned over, Signe Anderson left, and Grace Slick joined the band. Spence picked up a guitar and songwriting duties. He was joined two Northwesterners. Drummer Don Stevenson and guitarist Jerry Miller were members of the Seattle group, The Frantics. They headed for San Francisco during the Summer of Love. SoCal veterans Peter Lewis and Bob Mosley assumed guitar and bass duties respectively.
Though Moby Grape is often identified with psychedelia, they are really hard to pigeonhole. Their first album Moby Grape is a collection of songs that are just really good. There is some folk, folk rock, blues and just good ol’ rock and roll. Of the albums I’ve listened to from this period it is probably the most consistently good from beginning to end. Most importantly, every group member is vocally strong. Stevenson, Miller and Spence take turn with the vocals while Lewis and Mosley sing really good harmonies. All five band members share writing credits. This is a tight, first-rate album. No noodling, no extended jams. No covers. This is first-rate, interesting, energetic, well-performed rock.
Moby Grape was mis-managed and mis-handled. the band never repeated its initial success. Of the records that followed only Moby Grape ’69 approached the same consistent quality of the eponymous release.
Moby Grape is not an easy record to find in good condition and can get pretty spendy. I was able to get mine in VG+ condition for about $15 plus shipping on Discogs. An original pressing of the record featured a picture of Don Stevenson giving “the finger.” It also included a large poster of the same photo. The offending digit was airbrushed out of the picture in later issues of the record. Copies with Stevenson’s salute and the poster intact can be valuable.