It was a great weekend; lots of vinyl was procured; lots of kilometers were cycled; lots of beers were drank; and mini burritos consumed. And, now, it’s all come crashing back down this morning upon reentry into Ground Zero here at Corporate Hell with the usual tidal wave of office bullshit. I’m trying to block it all out then as best as I can with a little old school psychedelia, namely the ‘Electric Music for the Mind and Body‘ by Country Joe & The Fish.
Their full-length debut (1967 on Vanguard Records) is their most joyous and cohesive statement and one of the most important and enduring documents of the psychedelic era (it was among the first of it’s kind at the time), the band’s swirl of distorted guitar and organ at its most inventive. In contrast to Jefferson Airplane, who were at their best working within conventional song structures, and the Grateful Dead, who hadn’t quite yet figured out how to transpose their music to the recording studio, Country Joe & the Fish delivered a fully formed, uncompromising, and yet utterly accessible – in fact, often delightfully witty – body of psychedelic music the first time out.
‘Nailed it…‘, as they say.
When I first started getting into classic psychedelia around 15 years ago, I originally hesitated in acquiring this album because I didn’t a band named ‘Country Joe‘ sounded very, well, “out there”. I mean, it’s certainly no ‘Chocolate Watchband‘, ‘The Peanut Butter Conspiracy‘, or ‘The Apple Pie Motherhood Band‘ is it?
I mean, it’s a dude…with a fish.
Man, was I wrong.
Ranging in mood from good-timey to downright apocalyptic, it embraced all of the facets of the band’s music, which were startling in their diversity: soaring guitar and keyboard excursions (‘Flying High‘, ‘Section 43‘, ‘Bass Strings‘, ‘The Masked Marauder‘), the group’s folk roots (‘Sad and Lonely Times‘), McDonald’s personal ode to Grace Slick (‘Grace‘), and their in-your-face politics (‘Superbird‘). Hardly any band since the Beatles had ever come up with such a perfect and perfectly bold introduction to who and what they were, and the results might’ve scared off most major record labels. Additionally, this is one of the best-performed records of its period, most of it so bracing and exciting that one gets some of the intensity of a live performance.
So I learned a lesson back then that a band (or album) doesn’t necessary need to sound psychedelic to be psychedelic. And, as in this case, even a dude with a fish can in fact be so much more.