Spirit was an American psych-rock band from Los Angeles that released three 1968/69 albums on Ode Records, followed by two 1970–72 albums on Epic and a four-album 1975–77 run on Mercury.
Members: Randy California (guitar, vocals, 1967-72, 1974-97), Ed Cassidy (drums, 1967-72, 1974-97), John Locke (keyboards, 1967-72, 1976, 1982-85, 1988-89), Mark Andes (bass, 1967-71, 1974, 1976, 1982-85, 1988-89), Jay Ferguson (vocals, percussion, 1967-71, 1976, 1982-85), John Arliss (bass, 1971), Al Staehely (bass, vocals, 1971-73), John Staehely (guitar, vocals, 1971-73), Stu Perry (drums, 1972-73), Barrymore Keene (vocals, bass, 1974-76), Benji (keyboards, 1975), Matt Andes (guitar, vocals, 1976, 1995-97), Larry Knight (bass, vocals, 1976-79), Terry Anderson (vocals, 1976-77), Scott Monahan (keyboards, bass, vocals, 1985-88)
The Roosters split for a time when California headed east with his mom and stepfather, bald-headed drummer Ed Cassidy (1923–2012), who had jazz gigs lined up in New York City. While there, California (then 14) played with Jimi Hendrix as a member of Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. Soon enough, Hendrix got whisked away to London by Animals bassist Chas Chandler. He invited California, whose parents forbade him from the trek.
Back in LA, California relinked with Andes and Ferguson. With the addition of Cassidy and keyboardist John Locke, they became Spirits Rebellious, named after the 1908 novel by Lebanese-American symbolist writer Kahlil Gibran. They cut a demo with band friend Barry Hansen, later known as radio host Dr. Demento. In August 1967, producer Lou Adler signed them as Spirit to his new label, Ode Records.
Spirit recorded their first album between September and November 1967. Meanwhile, they played notable shows in South California with the Strawberry Alarm Clock and Stone Poneys (9/29/67: Civic Auditorium, Santa Barbara) and a multiple bill at LA’s Hullabaloo with Iron Butterfly, Kaleidoscope, and the Steve Miller Blues Band (9/30/67). On October 15, Spirit played the 1st Annual Sacramento Pop Music Festival at Hughes Stadium with Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, Hamilton Streetcar, and Jefferson Airplane.
Spirit released their self-titled debut album in February 1968 on Ode (US) and CBS (abroad). It features eleven originals, seven composed by Ferguson, including “Girl In Your Eye,” “Uncle Jack,” “Straight Arrow,” “Fresh-Garbage,” and “The Great Canyon Fire in General.” Andes co-wrote “Mechanical World,” which segues into California’s acoustic instrumental “Taurus,” which has a plucked, descending motif that Led Zeppelin would later appropriate on “Stairway to Heaven.” Locke composed the ten-minute album closer “Elijah.”
Adler produced Spirit in succession with albums by The Mamas & The Papas and Mod Squad actress Peggy Lipton. Spirit lists three engineers, including Michael Lietz, who also worked on 1968 albums by Arthur, Fever Tree, First Edition, Libby Titus, and Mason Williams. Arranger Marty Paich conducted strings and horns on select passages.
Art director Tom Wilkes designed the Spirit cover, which has facial parts of each member combined into one head. The photographer, Guy Webster, also worked with Wilkes on 1968 covers for Lee Michaels, Procol Harum (Shine On Brightly), and Sagittarius, in addition to covers for the Incredible String Band and Nico. The back cover features a tree-side photo of Spirit in hippie regalia by Jay Thompson, also credited on the 1968 Mercury release The Ice Man Cometh by original Impressions frontman Jerry Butler.
Ode lifted “Mechanical World” as a single (b/w “Uncle Jack”). It appears on That’s Underground (The Rock Machine Turns You On), a 1968 German CBS comp with cuts by Al Kooper, Blood Sweat & Tears, Chambers Brothers, Electric Flag, Janis Joplin, and the United States of America.
On March 18, 1968, Spirit opened for Cream at the Anaheim Convention Center. They played played three straight nights (March 21–23) at San Francisco’s Fillmore West and Winterland venues with Moby Grape, Traffic, and Lemon Pipers. That month, sessions started on their second album. In April, they shared bills with LA psych-rockers Genesis (4/5–7/68: Kaleidoscope) and Canadian band The Collectors (4/12/68: Whisky-A-Go-Go). On May 26, Spirit appeared in Torrance for the “Hearye Public Notice Blue Law Survival Benefit” with Genesis, Touch, Mothers of Invention, and H.P. Lovecraft.
The Family That Plays Together
Spirit’s second album, The Family That Plays Together, appeared in December 1968 on Ode and CBS. Ferguson wrote six of the album’s eleven songs: “Dream Within a Dream,” “Silky Sam,” “Aren’t You Glad,” “Poor Richard,” “She Smiles,” and “Drunkard.” California submitted three numbers (“I Got a Line on You,” “Jewish,” “Darlin”’) and co-wrote songs with Locke (“It Shall Be”) and Cassidy (“It’s All the Same”).
The Family That Plays Together was engineered by returning soundman Armin Steiner, who worked on concurrent titles by Big Foot, Richard Harris, and Hour Glass (featuring the Allman Brothers). Wilkes and Webster collaborated on the monochrome gatefold, which shows Spirit afar on a motel stairwell (front) and a lone Cassidy, clad in black and shades on a desolate stretch with his hand raised (back). The inner-gates contain two medium shots of each member: one color; one in under-lighted darkness.
Before the album hit shelves, Spirit issued “It’s All the Same” (b/w “She Smiles”) as their second single. It hit No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 while the album reached No. 22 on the Billboard 200.
Meanwhile, Spirit played the Southwest club circuit with A.B. Skhy (11/1–2/68: Whisky-a-Go-Go), Chicago Transit Authority (11/9/68: Long Beach State Uni), Blues Image (11/29–30/68: The Bank, Torrance), Jeff Beck Group (12/5–6/68: Fillmore West), and a Texas show with Bubble Puppy (12/29/68: Pusi-Kat Club, San Antonio). On December 26, Spirit played a triple bill with Led Zeppelin and Vanilla Fudge at the Auditorium Arena in Denver. Zeppelin interpolated “Fresh Garbage” into their cover of Garnet Mimm‘s R&B hit “As Long As I Have You,” a staple of their 1969 live shows.
1969: Live Appearances, Model Shop
Spirit opened 1969 with a three-night stand (January 2–4) at the Fillmore West with the Grateful Dead and Blood Sweat & Tears. The following weeks included multi-act bills at the University of Califoria (1/6/69: with The Womb, Freeborne, and The Kak) and the Fillmore East in New York (1/17–18/69: with Buddy Rich and the Grass Roots). On January 31, Spirit played Baltimore’s Civic Center with BS&T, Mother Earth, Nazz, and Rhinoceros. Over the next two months, they shared bills with Jethro Tull (2/1/69: Grande Ballroom, Detroit) and Ten Years After (3/6–9/69: Fillmore West).
Between their second and third albums, Spirit recorded soundtrack music for Model Shop, a French–American drama film by New Wave director Jacques Demy starring Gary Lockwood, Alexandra Hay, and Anouk Aimée. The soundtrack wasn’t issued in its own time but appeared as a 12-track archival disc in 2005 on Sundazed Records. It features nine jazz-psych instrumentals and two vocal tracks (“Now or Anywhere,” “Green Gorilla”), all group-written apart from the Locke pieces “Eventide” and “Coral.” A demo version of “Aren’t You Glad” (not intended for Model Shop) closes the set.
Spirit made multiple spring–summer festival appearances, including the 1st Annual Atlanta International Pop Festival (7/5/69: Middle George Raceway, Fulton County, with Ten Wheel Drive, Staple Singers, Joe Cocker), the Seattle Pops Festival (7/27/69: Gold Creek Park, Woodinville, Wash., with The Doors, Guess Who, Ike & Tina Turner Revue, The Flock), and the Texas International Pop Festival (9/1/69: Dallas International Motor Speedway, Lewisville, with Crosby Stills & Nash, Sly & the Family Stone).
Spirit’s third album, Clear, appeared in September 1969 on Ode (US), Columbia (Canada), and CBS (abroad). It includes two Locke instrumentals (“Ice,” “Clear”), and multiple collaborative efforts, such as California’s co-writes with Ferguson (“Caught,” “Dark Eyed Woman”) and Adler (“Give a Life, Take a Life”), plus the group-written “New Dope In Town.” Ferguson supplied only four sole-writes, including “Policeman’s Ball” and “I’m Truckin’.”
Adler produced Clear with Steiner, who also engineered 1969 albums by Jackie Lomax and Thelma Houston. The assistant engineer, Eric Weinbang, also worked with Adler on Now That Everything’s Been Said, the singular album by The City, a folk trio with Carole King and Danny Kortchmar.
Clear sports their third and final Wilkes–Webster cover. It shows Cassidy’s silhouetted profile with the faces of the four younger members shaded in his brain. The back has a photo of Spirit beside a wooden fence in the snow, posted on a mock billboard.
Spirit promoted Clear with cross-country ballroom dates, including multi-night engagements with The Kinks and The Bonzo Dog Band (10/17–18/69: Fillmore East) and Blodwyn Pig (10/24–25/69: Kinetic Playground, Chicago). On November 6, they opened for The Who (then touring Tommy) at the Denison University Livingston Gymnasium in Granville, Ohio. On the 29th, Spirit played the First Annual Palm Beach International Music Festival at Jupiter’s International Raceway with Joplin, Sly, and Rotary Connection. They closed out 1969 with a New Years Eve event at Seattle’s Eagles Auditorium with Zephyr, the starting vehicle of (future James Gang, Deep Purple) guitarist Tommy Bolin.
- Spirit (1968)
- The Family That Plays Together (1968)
- Clear (1969)
- Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970)
- Feedback (1972)
- Spirit of ’76 (1975)
- Son of Spirit (1975)
- Farther Along (1976)
- Future Games: A Magical-Kahauna Dream (1977)
- The Adventures of Kaptain Kopter & Commander Cassidy in Potatoland (1981)
- The Thirteenth Dream (1984)
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