Dec 22, 2011

Kyle's Cassettes: Skip Spence - Oar

Alexander “Skip” Spence
1969 Columbia

Usually when most folks start nearing the end of their twenties they start saying things like, “Oh, I would never take acid again. Maybe some mushrooms, but I just don’t think I could handle acid anymore.” And they’re probably right, their fragile psyches would crumble into a million shattered splinters on a healthy hit of clean window pane. It sucks that most people are a bunch of pussies, but then again what are you gonna do?

At any rate, what this kind of conversation begs to question is what exactly would happen if you did just keep on dropping tabs like it weren’t no big deal? Answer: Oar. This is the biggest, baddest, axe-murdering, double-barreled daddy of lost American classics.

A little back story: In 1968 Alexander Skip Spence disappeared into the New York City night with a black witch that filled his head up with an economy sized dose of high grade LSD. Subsequently he tried to kill one of his band mates and then got the padded cell treatment for six months in Bellvue. Upon his release from the hospital he rode his motorcycle down to Nashville in his pajamas and recorded this way-the-far-fuck-out piece of Americana. More than anything this album is about someone humping out past any sort of acceptable boundaries with no promise of return. This shit is no joke. And it sounds amazing too, all haggle toothed and grizzled, slightly panicked, but riding it out all the same.

Spence had founded the Moby Grape and had been in the Jefferson Airplane, but he never really put out anything after Oar. He died of lung cancer in 1999. At the time he was living in a trailer in Northern California all strung out on coke and heroin. Most people probably think this guy was a total loser, but I say definitely not. Most people work their nuts off so that their children will grow up to hate them and they can live in some retirement community on a golf course. Spence may not have been lunching on the back nine, but this dude did more than most fools even talk about doing. This is what paying the price sounds like. Forget about it.

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