ROCK SNOB ENCYCLOPEDIA: Spence, Skip: Like Syd Barrett, Spence was a crazy diamond who reached for the secret too soon. After wandering in and out of grace in the late ’60s, he spent the next 30 years howling at the moon in a trailer park oblivion of welfare and disease, until his death in the spring of 1999 at age 53. The original drummer for Jefferson Airplane, Spence went on to sing, compose and play guitar with Moby Grape, a powerhouse San Francisco psych-pop group that seemed destined for a commercial glory that would never come. In 1968, while in New York recording the Grape’s second album, Spence disappeared for a few acid-flashed days with a woman known to be a practicing witch. When he returned, Spence was one crispy duck. Convinced that Grape drummer Don Stevenson was Satan, Spence chopped his way through the door to the drummer’s hotel room with a fire ax. Not finding him inside, he took a taxi over to the studio, ax still in hand, where he was arrested and eventually committed to Bellevue Hospital for six months. During his incarceration, he would write the songs that comprise Oar, his lone solo album. Upon his release from Bellevue, Spence bought a motorcycle and, still wearing his prison blue uniform, drove straight to Nashville to record this material–singing, playing and arranging every fractured note. Four days later, he pointed his bike toward the heart of the sun, disappearing into the ’70s and beyond, more or less never to be heard from again. He was 22 years old. MORE
RELATED: RECORD CLUB, the informal and irregular gathering of various musicians to record an album in one day’s time, has begun posting tracks from its third endeavor. The current album is SKIP SPENCE’s classic OAR and as reinterpreted by Beck, Wilco, Feist and Jamie Lidell. First track “Little Hands” is up now at Beck.com and new tracks will be posted every Thursday in the same order as the original album sequence. RECORD CLUB’s version of OAR came together in June of this year when Wilco joined Beck and Lidell managing to record all 12 tracks in a night. Leslie Feist happened to be in town editing her documentary and joined in, as did drum legend James Gadson, known for his timeless work with Bill Withers. The session took place at Sunset Sound Studios in the same room where the Rolling Stones recorded much of Exile On Main Street. Record Club is an informal meeting of various musicians to record an album in one day. The album chosen to be reinterpreted is used as a framework. Nothing is rehearsed or arranged ahead of time. A track is put up at BECK.COM once a week. As you will hear, some of the songs are rough renditions, often first takes that document what happened over the course of a day as opposed to a polished rendering. There is no intention to ‘add to’ the original work or attempt to recreate the power of the original recording. Only to play music and document what happens. And those who aren’t familiar with the albums in question will hopefully look for the songs in their definitive versions. The two previous RECORD CLUB subjects have been THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO and SONGS OF LEONARD COHEN.