One of San Francisco's best loved bands, Moby Grape were formed in Marin County and soon attracted a large Bay Area following. Miller and Stevenson had previously played with Marsh Gas, an earlier Marin County outfit, and Lewis and Mosley with Joel Scott Hill and The Strangers. Newkirk had also played with Lewis in Peter and the Wolves. Lewis had also played in a surf band called The Cornells. Skip Spence, of course, had been the original drummer with Jefferson Airplane, but left the band because he wanted to play guitar. The band were soon offered a recording contract by Columbia and their classic first LP was issued in 1967. The album also contained a full colour poster of the band. However, the record company disasterously launched them in an unprecedented blaze of publicity and released the album's ten tracks as A or B sides of five singles simultaneously. There were some fine tracks on the album. Hard rockers like Hey Grandma and Omaha (complete with psychedelic intro) appear alongside laid back tracks like Someday, 8:05and Sitting By The Window. The group featured three lead guitarists and all sang. The end result was a structured album with diverse vocal harmonies and some fine interweaving acid guitar work. Sadly they were overexposed and both their album and singles sales were bitterly disappointing.
The next album Wow contained a number of short compositions with melodic guitar work, and the opening tracks on each side, The Place and the Time and He, both contained orchestral arrangements which was uncommon among San Franciscan bands at that time (although in England groups like The Beatles and The Moody Blues were using them regularly). Three-Four was a sensitive, beautiful song:-
'Cause I love you all
Even though my heart is far away
It's here I'll stay
Until my life is through
When I'm dead and gone
And my life has passed beyond your view
There inside of you
My life goes on and on...'
Rose Coloured Eyes and Bitter Wind are equally memorable,whilst Can't Be So Bad, a faster rockier number, demonstrated their musical diversity. One track, featuring Lou Waxman and his orchestra and starring Arthur Godfrey on banjo and ukelele has to be played at 78 rpm! In The USA only, a free bonus album Grape Jam was issued with Wow, and this featured Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper on keyboards. Commercially, Wow made little impact - the group could not recover from their earlier over-exposure. Towards the end of 1968 they split - but by 1969 they had reformed again as a foursome without Skip Spence. They released the competent Moby Grape '69 and did a series of live gigs, but generated little interest outside of California. So 1970 saw them split for the second time and Mosley left for good to join the Marines. Later that year, the remaining three reformed, adding Bob Moore (bs) to produce Truly Fine Citizen. Inevitably they split again, later reforming as a five-piece band to produce an awful LP 20 Granite Creek.
Mosley and Spence have also issued solo albums Bob Mosley (Warner Brothers MS 2068) 1972, Wine And Roses (Nightshift) 1987 and Bob Mosley And Mosley Grape, Live At Indigo Ranch, (SFS-04880) 1989 and Spence Oar (Columbia CS 9831) 1969. The latter was not released outside the USA, except for Holland (CBS S 63919) and originals are now rare collectors' items - you can however pick up the album on CD (Sony WK 75031) which includes five bonus tracks. Peter Lewis also issued a good solo album in 1995 Peter Lewis (Taxim TX-2008-2), with Stu Cook (Creedence), John McFee, Cornelius Bumpus and Keith Knudsen (all ex Doobie Brothers). Finally Jerry Miller has issued Life Is Like That (Messaround Records MRSCD004) 1995, a bluesy album with John Oxendine and Tiran Porter plus Merl Saunders and Michael Carabello.
Ultimately Moby Grape never attained their true potential on record, but their first two albums are recommended as offering a glimpse of their real ability. There are also a number of 'Best of'compilations around, including the excellent Vintage - The Very Best Of (Sony 53041) 1993, a double CD compilation of album tracks, live recordings and alternate takes. There's also an interesting bootleg CD,Dark Magic, with live cuts. Although the Peter and The Wolves tracks it contains are not by the pre-Moby Grape outfit, but another band with the same name.
Skip Spence sadly died on April 16th 1999. ~ (Vernon Joynson/Stephane Rebeschini)
02. "I'm The Kind of Man That Baby You Can Trust" 3:33
03. "About Time" 2:51
04. "Goin' Down To Texas" 1:56
05. "Road To The Sun " 2:40
06. "Apocalypse" 2:08
07. "Chinese Song" 5:44
08. "Roundhouse Blues" 2:44
09. "Ode To The Man At The End Of The Bar" 3:40
10. "Wild Oats Moan" 3:03
11. "Horse Out In The Rain" 2:16
Bob Mosley - electric bass, vocals
Jerry Miller – electric guitar, vocals
Peter Lewis – electric guitar, vocals
Don Stevenson – drums
Skip Spence - electric guitar, vocals
Gordon Stevens - electric viola, dobro, mandolin
David Rubinson - electric piano, congas
Andy Narell - steel drums
Jeffrey Cohen - bass