Aired smack dab in the middle of the ‘Summer of Love’ and
one week after the Beatles released Sergeant
Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, ‘Moby Grape’ appeared for a live
appearance on the Mike Douglas Show. A rare paisley glimpse into arguably one of the tightest and best songwriting bands of
the 1960’s. Jamming both aurally and visibly in the ‘rock room’ today is a unique performance by a San Francisco band that burst into flames before they earned their rightful due.
Unfortunately, even in current times, television is not the
best transmitter of perfect sound nor is it a perfect representation of a ‘rock
band’ in their element. Television production is a far cry from front of house
music production and balance and quality is not at the top of the list. But,
that being said the ‘rock room’ considers us very lucky to have a performance
such as this one captured for us to enjoy years after the fact.
Looking like it was dubbed from an nth generation VHS tape
multiple times, the performance itself is precious. First off, having footage of the
original band with Skip is cause for celebration. As previously mentioned the
color is washed out the audio is muffled but the footage is absolute gold. The
band begins their set with ‘Omaha’, a rock guitar monument. Introduced by Mike
Douglas as the ‘Moby Grapes, gives me a chuckle. (NOTE: Recently on social media some time stamped footage of the show outro has circulated with the band playing ‘Aint No Use’ under the exit voiceover. This segment looks absolutely stunning! Let’s hope the entire clip will circulate at some point in the future!)
The footage begins with Mike Douglas checking in with the band
to see if they are ready as instruments can be heard tuning up off screen. The
band begins following introduction and is as tight as a ‘go-go’ dancers skirt right from the start. A
priceless moment occurs when Skip and the group come in a bit late with their
vocals and Spence lends a beaming and mischievous smile at the rest of the band
while getting it on! Jerry Miller stands center stage and splays a teletype
series of lead lines from his hollow body guitar throughout the cut. The energy
emanates from the group regardless of the substandard television sound quality.
It really is special to be able to watch the
individual instrumentalists working out their respective parts.
The band appears to be getting off with shared smiles and bring
the outro jam of ‘Omaha’ to a crowd rousing conclusion. The available visuals
improve slightly with 8:05 probably because of the brighter stage lighting. The
song is played flawlessly, the only issue being the aforementioned messy mix
from live television. Spence again has a trouble making look across his face,
which is to be expected. The band’s harmonies are tightly pressed, especially
in contrast to other contemporaries from the ballroom scene on San Francisco. Oddly
and humorously enough, just prior to the conclusion of ‘8:05’ Mike Douglas
walks out as the band is finishing the song! The band gathers to finish
properly as the show heads to commercial break. A puzzling performance to say the least in the aspect that the band didn’t blow up nationally just on the basis of this clip!
A short juicy bunch of ‘Moby Grape’ in their early prime while colliding with the ‘straight’ world of primetime television. Well worth
searching out for the quality of the musical performance as well as the rarity
of the footage. Well deserving of the possibility, the ‘rock room’ hopes, that
someday a proper box set of rare live cuts and available footage will be compiled. I know I’d be down for helping out any way that I could. 😉
If you like what you checked out above here there is also an
additional bit of rock film of the original members performing two additional cuts
from their debut LP, including ‘Hey Grandma’ and ‘Sitting By the Window’. While
going on a run of available footage of the original ‘Moby Grape’ I figured I discuss another
‘rock room’ favorite. This footage is from a 1967 film shot at the Steve Paul Scene in Manhattan. This film was broadcast on WNEW New York in November of 1967 and features a host of popular musicians from the time performing at the club. Included in the film are ‘The Staple Singers’, ‘Blues Project’, Aretha, and of course, ‘Moby Grape’.
Again, like the Mike Douglas footage the band is playing live on
stage, as this was a favorite club for famous musicians to play in clandestine
fashion. Jimi Hendrix in particular liked the aspect of anonymity and intimacy the NYC club offered. Spence goes properly crazy during the jam, convulsing in excitement and exuding a prickly
stage presence to which the band responds. Specially placed dancers and psychedelic
displays flood the screen, but do not distract from another thankfully
immortalized piece of celluloid from ‘Moby Grape’ and their comet trailing
musical career. This footage is a bit washed out, but in actuality clearer than
the Mike Douglas footage, with more than acceptable sound quality considering the source.
Lewis taking a perfect lead vocal spot. Grape’s three guitars work together
chain on gear lending the song a diverse blend of melodic lines. Spence sits
behind the group on the line of amps watching the band perform the debut album
cut perfectly. Even in this sterile environment the band’s talent is fully discernable.
Man oh man, four songs from the first ‘Moby Grape’ record played with
color footage! What more could a ‘rock geek’ as for? While not perfect in any
fashion, for fans of the ‘Grape’ and or San Francisco rock in general this
stuff is priceless. Short and sweet but full of magic and well worth 15 or 20 minutes
of your rock and roll attention. Until next time…