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Rob
Fisher
8/1999

rob fisher of climie fisher and naked eyesAugust 25, 1999 – Robert ‘Rob’ Fisher  was born on November 5th 1959 in Cheltenham, England.

He attended Lord Wandsworth College in Hampshire, where he was a member of a band called Cirrus.

Fisher’s early bands were Whitewing (1975–1978) and the Xtians (1978), both during his time at the University of Bath. In 1979 he joined up with Pete Byrne to form Neon, whose first single “Making Waves/Me I See You” was released on their own 3D Music label. The band later went on to recruit Neil Taylor, Manny Elias, Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal, before they finally broke up in December 1981. In 1982, Fisher and Pete Byrne, who were key figures in the early days of synthpop, formed the duo Naked Eyes, while in 1981 Smith and Orzabal formed Tears for Fears.

I was walking across Pultney Bridge (in Bath) when I saw Rob being accosted by a girl with a large temper. My group ‘Studio’ had recently broken up, and by the look of it so had Rob’s (the girl was the singer in his band ‘Whitewing’). I intervened on his behalf (she could have taken both of us) and we retired to a local hostelry to debate the pros and cons of being in a band. Two hours later we had a brilliant plan! We would write songs, get a publishing deal, use that to get a record deal and then have a hit record. Four years later we were an overnight success. – Pete Byrne

Naked Eyes’ two biggest hits were their rendition of the Burt Bacharach song “Always Something There to Remind Me”, and the self-penned “Promises, Promises”. They had two more US Top 40 hits, “When the Lights Go Out” and “(What) In the Name of Love”, before going their separate ways. They resumed their writing partnership after a five-year break, and some of the songs written during this period were on the Naked Eyes album released in 2010.

In 1986, Climie and Fisher met whilst they were both doing session work at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, Fisher on keyboards, and Climie on backing vocals, working for Lillywhite. Fisher was looking for a singer/songwriter and Climie was looking for someone to write and record with, and so Climie Fisher was born. Together they took “Love Changes (Everything)” to the UK No. 2 spot, while the hip-hop inspired “Rise to the Occasion” also cracked the Top Ten in the United Kingdom.

Fisher and Climie also composed for other artists including Jermaine Stewart, Jermaine Jackson, Five Star, Rod Stewart, Freddie McGregor, Milli Vanilli, Fleetwood Mac and they wrote ‘You’re Not Alone’, a big hit for Amy Grant. Fisher also collaborated on several songs with the 80’s ‘Stock Aitken and Waterman’ star, Rick Astley.

After the break-up of Climie Fisher, Fisher collaborated on several songs with Rick Astley and Jules Shear. For some years, Fisher had owned his own studio, The StoneRoom, in Shepherd’s Bush, where, until shortly before his death, Fisher had been working with old buddy Pete Byrne on a new Naked Eyes studio album.

Fisher died on 25 August 1999, aged 42, following bowel surgery for cancer.

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Bobby
Sheehan
8/1999

bobby sheehan, bass for blues travelerAugust 20, 1999 – Robert Vaughan Bobby Sheehan (Blues Traveler) was born on June 12th 1968 in Summit, New Jersey. After high school in Princeton where he met the the other 3 members of what became later Blues Traveler.

The hallways of that same Princeton, New Jersey,  high school served as the meeting place for all of the future members of Blues Traveler. Popper and drummer Brendan Hill first hooked up in 1983; they were joined by guitarist Chan Kinchla in 1986, and bassist Bobby Sheehan in 1987. Out of their shared fascination with the Blues Brothers was born a worthy name by which to call themselves – the Blues Band.

Following graduation, Sheehan briefly attended the Berklee College of Music, but soon joined Popper and Hill, who had enrolled in the jazz program at New York’s New School for Social Research and would co-found Blues Traveler in 1987. Kinchla briefly attended N.Y.U.) . The New School was just what Popper et al. needed to get their act together: not only did they have the use of free rehearsal space, but the curriculum taught them how to get gigs. As it turned out, they learned a little too well, as before long, they had lined up so many gigs that there wasn’t any time left for school, so they all dropped out of the program.

Newly baptized as Blues Traveler, the band signed a record deal with A&M in 1989, and released their self-titled debut album later that same year. Travelers & Thieves followed in 1991. Their next album, Save His Soul (1993), was marred by a near-tragedy. Twelve days into recording sessions on the album, Popper was riding his motorcycle in the remote area of Louisiana where the studio was located when a turning car plowed into him. He sustained a broken arm, leg, and hip and had to
endure months of rehabilitation in a wheelchair.
Injuries aside, the band resumed recording after only a single month’s break; and not even the fact that he was confined to a wheelchair could keep Popper off the road after Save His Soul was released.

Throughout their early years, Blues Traveler built its reputation and its fan base by touring constantly, averaging more than 250 shows a year. Despite a lack of any radio or MTV coverage, the band secured a devoted following by word of mouth alone. The grapevine method worked well: the band managed to sell hundreds of thousands of copies of each of its first three releases, although none of the albums quite achieved gold status (sales of 500,000). That all changed with the release of
1994’s four; the album spawned two Top 10 singles, “Run-around” and “Hook,” and went on to sell over six million copies. Apart from the healthy boost in record sales, the band’s profile was also rising due to the ever-growing popularity of the
HORDE (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere) Tour, which Popper had organized in 1992 after the band failed to get a support slot on a major tour.

HORDE has become a summertime staple for concertgoers–it was the fourth-biggest grossing tour of summer of 1996–and as it grew, so did its ability to attract some of the biggest names in rock; over the years, Phish, Spin Doctors, the
Black Crowes, Neil Young, Beck, Sheryl Crow and Dave Matthews Band have all played the traveling summer fest. (Note: The last one was held in 2015 after a 17 year hiatus, as  the result of Bobby Sheehan’s death and John Popper’s heart problems in 1999.)

In 1994/95 on their rise to the lofty ranks of the multi-platinum, the members of Blues Traveler achieved some significant career milestones:

• they reached their goal of having played in all fifty states in December 1995;

• they guest-starred on an episode of Roseanne in 1995;

• they have appeared on Late Night With David Letterman more than any other band in the history of the show;

• and they sold out Madison Square Garden for their annual New Year’s Eve show in December 1996.

Somehow, during all that excitement, they also managed to compile tracks for a two-CD live set called Live From the Fall, which was released in 1996.

Sheehan moved to New Orleans in 1996. The upbeat pop single “Run-Around” became a smash hit and was followed by the catchy “Hook”. “Run-Around” won a Grammy Award and broke a record for most weeks on the chart. The group recorded the Johnny Rivers song “Secret Agent Man” for the film Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and the Bob Seger song “Get Out of Denver” for the film Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, as well as Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin'” for Rebel Highway: Cool and the Crazy. Several previously-recorded Blues Traveler songs were included on film soundtracks, including The Last Seduction, Speed, Very Bad Things, White Man’s Burden, and The Truth About Cats & Dogs. The band also appeared in the 1998 film Blues Brothers 2000 and on its soundtrack, playing “Maybe I’m Wrong”.

Sheehan pleaded guilty in January 1998 to possession of less than a gram of cocaine. He had been arrested at an airport in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in September 1997, where Blues Traveler were opening for the Rolling Stones. He was placed on two years’ unsupervised probation. He almost completed the probation time, but almost is not completely.

Bobby was find unresponsive in his house in New Orleans on August 20, 1999, and tragically died of an accidental drug overdose. He was 31.

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Gar
Samuelson
7/1999

July 22, 1999 – Gary C. “Gar” Samuelson (Megadeth) was born on February 18th 1958 in Dunkirk, New York. Little is known about his early years other than that he was of Swedish descent and that the family moved from New York to Florida in the early 1980s.

He became best known as the drummer for thrash metal band Megadeth, working in the band from 1984 to 1987. Prior to Megadeth he and Chris Poland played in a jazz fusion band called The New Yorkers, and that before this, both practiced and played together for many years.

After meeting with Dave Mustaine and Dave Ellefson of Megadeth in 1984, he joined the band, and Poland soon followed, this being what Mustaine refers to as ‘the first real line-up’. Samuelson would go on to serve as the band’s drummer until 1987, appearing on the albums Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good!, and Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?, as well as serving through tours, until he was ultimately fired for his drug addiction. Gar’s style was heavily influenced by years of jazz training. This is exemplified in the tracks “These Boots”, “Rattlehead”, and “Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good!”.

Gary and his brother Stew then formed, along with Billy Brehme, Travis Karcher and Andy Freeman, the band Fatal Opera, which released a self-titled album in 1995 and the Eleventh Hour in 1997.  He was considered a very unorthodox drummer among the other thrash metal bands of the 1980s even though he is considered as one of the most influential drummers to thrash metal, having pioneered the incorporation of jazz fusion into the subgenre.

He died of  liver failure on July 22, 1999 at the age of 41.

The success of Megadeth‘s break though single, “Peace Sells“, is often credited to the snarling vocals of Dave Mustaine or the thundering bassline of Dave Ellefson. However, in a new interview, former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland has claimed that drummer Gar Samuelson had more to do with the track’s composition than first thought. As Classic Rock Magazine reported, Poland credits the drummer for turning the song from an 8 minute marathon into the shorter, punchier version that we all know today: “I think originally it was eight minutes long, and Gar said, ‘You know what? This is too good a song to drag it out like this. Let’s shorten the arrangement, cut it down to size and make it a single.’ “Dave said, ‘Yeah, let’s do that.’

I honestly think Dave respected Gar’s opinion on stuff he was the only guy in the band Dave wouldn’t mess with. “He totally respected Gar, and thank God he did, If Gar hadn’t talked Dave into shortening the song…”

 

 

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Skip
Spence
4/1999

skip spenceApril 16, 1999 – Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence was born on April 18, 1946 in Windsor Ontario, Canada. His parents moved to San José, California in the mid 1950s where his father found work in the aviation industry, having been a decorated bomber pilot during the war.

He was given a guitar by his parents at the age of 10. A precocious talent, he also played the drum in his school band, a skill which would come in handy when, having moved to California in the late fifties, he dived into the burgeoning hippie scene of the Bay Area.
Spence had already been approached to join Quicksilver Messenger Service as a guitarist when he bumped into Jefferson Airplane singer Marty Balin at the Matrix, a San Francisco club also used as a rehearsal room. Dissatisfied with the drummer Jerry Peloquin, who was only in so the group could use his apartment in Haight Ashbury, the frontman offered the drumming stool to Spence, who looked the part. Spence jumped at the chance and joined a Jefferson Airplane line-up which also featured the guitarists Paul Kantner and Jorma Kaukonen and singer Signe Toly Anderson. “It’s No Secret”, the Airplane’s first single, was released in February 1966, just as Jack Cassidy replaced the original bassist Bob Harvey.

Spence stayed with the Airplane for over a year and contributed several songs (notably “Blues From An Airplane”) to their debut album, entitled Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, eventually issued by RCA Records later that year. Further personnel changes saw Anderson quit to have children and Grace Slick, formerly lead vocalist with the Great Society, take over, bringing with her “White Rabbit” and “Somebody To Love”, two seminal compositions which became the Airplane’s first hits and true flower-power anthems. Anderson coincidentally died last January on the same day Airplane founding member Paul Kantner passed away.

By the time these million-selling singles reached the US Top Ten in 1967, Spence, who felt his songwriting was being eclipsed by the other members’ (though his “My Best Friend” was included on Surrealistic Pillow, the group’s second album), had stopped attending rehearsals and was dismissed in favor of Spencer Dryden, who was dating Slick at the time. At the same time, the Jefferson Airplane switched their management to a local concert promoter Bill Graham, leaving Matthew Katz in the lurch.

Katz kept Spence on his books and hatched a plan to form a band around him in San Francisco. He asked the guitarist Peter Lewis and bassist Bob Mosley to come up from Los Angeles to see if they fitted in. Adding a drummer, Don Stevenson, and guitarist, Jerry Miller, the group, Moby Grape, started to rehearse and instantly found a distinctive sound, blending three guitar parts, vocal harmonies and distinctive compositions of all five members, with Spence often at the helm. “Skippy was always `high’ on this other level,” said Peter Lewis in the sleeve notes to a 1993 compilation, Vintage: The Very Best of Moby Grape.

He recalled:
His mind was always churning with stuff. It was hard for him to sit and talk. He didn’t deal in words but in ideas. He was the most unique songwriter I’d ever heard. Like in “Indifference” on the first album, the way he changed keys right in the middle of the song. Skippy was definitely not copying anybody I’d ever heard. Yet it always came out great.

The name Moby Grape reflected the crazy times. According to Jerry Miller,
Skip and Bob (Mosley) went out to have a little lunch and they came back laughing like crazy with a name for the band. They were thinking of this joke: what’s purple and swims in the ocean? So they came back in and said: Moby Grape, we’ll just be Moby Grape. That’s how it happened. We all laughed and got along with that pretty good. Our manager liked Bentley Escort because it related to Jefferson Airplane and Strawberry Alarm Clock but we hated that one. Moby Grape sounded good and it was made up by the band. Skippy appeared to be crazy but he was crazy like a fox. He was a full- on Aries, laughing all the time.

After two months of solid rehearsals in Sausalito, the group played the Fillmore in San Francisco in November 1966 and instantly started a bidding war between record companies. “When I first saw them play,” remembers David Rubinson, the A&R man who won the battle and signed the group to Columbia, “I knew this was a band that could go around the country, around the world and really kill!” Sam Andrews, guitarist with Big Brother and the Holding Company (featuring Janis Joplin) was full of praise too. “You guys are better than the Beatles,” he told Lewis.

Indeed, the quintet’s debut album, simply entitled Moby Grape, remains a classic of its time, worthy of inclusion alongside The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Love’s Forever Changes, also released in 1967. Unfortunately, an over-eager record company and inept manager conspired to oversell the group with a lavish launch in June at the Avalon Ballroom during which thousands of purple orchids fell from the ceiling. The next day, Miller, Lewis and Spence were found in Marin County with three under-age girls and duly arrested, though charges were later dropped.

Columbia also simultaneously issued five singles from the album when they should have been concentrating on the stunning “Omaha”, a Spence composition which nevertheless crept into the Top 100. Moby Grape reached No 24 on the LP charts (though drummer Don Stevenson’s raised finger had to be erased from the sleeve). ” `Omaha’ was pure Spence energy,” declared David Rubinson later.
He was the maniacal core of the band, the guy who would say fuck it, let’s do it anyway. He was an idiot savant. He couldn’t add a column or figures, couldn’t pay a check in a restaurant. But he saw things in a clear light. He could see through immediately to the truth of what was going on.

The truth was that the five members didn’t get on. “Six months after we met, we were rock stars. That was horrible,” admitted Lewis. Later that year, following abortive sessions in Los Angeles, the group were sent to New York to complete Wow, the follow-up album, which made the Top Twenty. The relocation seemed to have pushed Spence, who consumed psychedelic drugs at an alarming rate, over the edge. Considering that the singer had howled “Save me, save me!” when recording a demo of “Seeing”, the others should have seen the writing on the wall. One day in 1968, Spence went looking for them with an axe. He was jailed and committed to the Bellevue Hospital for six months.
The four remaining musicians attempted to carry on, even touring the UK, despite becoming embroiled in a dispute with Katz, who claimed all rights to the Moby Grape name and put together a bogus version of the band which played the ill-fated 1969 Altamont gig. The legal dispute would rumble on for years; the original group members attempting to reform even resorted to calling themselves Maby Grope or Legendary Grape.

Following his discharge from hospital in 1968, Spence went to Nashville and in four days recorded the dark and whimsical Oar, a truly solo album on which he played every single instrument. Over the years, this record gained something of a cult following and, after its reissue on CD in 1993, was even the subject of a “Buried Treasure” feature in Mojo magazine. By then, Spence had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and had been in and out of mental institutions for most of the Seventies and Eighties. Sometimes, he managed to rejoin his former cohorts but, more usually, he would contribute the odd track to one of their albums before disappearing again.

Spence wrote some music for an episode of the revived television series The Twilight Zone and the X-Files film, but neither score was used. He struggled on with various illnesses and, before his death, heard More Oar, a tribute album assembled by the likes of Tom Waits, Robert Plant, Wilco, and Michael Stipe of REM.

It was with Moby Grape however, that Spence found his greatest musical fame, writing among other songs, “Omaha”, from Moby Grape’s first album in 1967, a song identified in 2008 by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the 100 greatest guitar songs of all time.

Mental illness, drug addiction and alcoholism prevented him from sustaining a full time career in the music industry. He remained in and around San Jose and Santa Cruz, California.

Alexander Lee “Skip” Spence, singer, songwriter, guitarist, drummer and married father of three sons and one daughter, died from lung cancer in Santa Cruz, California on April 16, 1999. He was 52.

Below video is dedicated to one of the greatest psychedelic rock bands to emerge from the San Francisco underground scene, yet who shared in very little of the fame and fortune many of the other SF bands did. Nevertheless, today they are hailed as one of the most influential and iconic rock bands of the psychedelic period. The group was formed in late 1966 by drummer Skip Spence of the original Jefferson Airplane (back when Signe Anderson was still sharing the lead vocals with Marty Balin, a year before leaving and being replaced by Grace Slick). Spence ditched his drum sticks and played rhythm guitar for the new group which consisted of a guitar trio that switched taking turns on lead, often on the same song (much like The Buffalo Springfield). The result was absolutely WILD … and I mean WILD! Dancers went crazy on the discotheque floor keeping in time with the fast-paced frenzy of Moby Grape’s guitar-playing nirvana. Bliss on speed. 

The LP, Moby Grape, was released on June 6, 1967. This video is of the Grape’s song “Omaha” .. probably their most popular tune. In recent years, “Omaha” has been listed as number 95 in Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time”. Released as a single, along with four other singles from the album simultaneously, it peaked at #88 on Billboard and #70 on Cash Box on July 29, 1967 (it debuted on Cash Box with a big red bullet at #72 with a strong upwards surge predicted, but dropped off the chart completely a week after reaching #70 .. the times were so fickle!). Sit back and for the next few minutes enjoy the way it was: Moby Grape and “Omaha”!

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Colin Manley 4/1999

colin manleyApril 9, 1999 – Colin William Manley was born 16 April 1942, in Old Swan, Liverpool, Lancashire which uniquely qualified him in age and geographically to become part of the British Invasion. In 1958 as guitarist and vocalist together with Don Andrew he founded the The Remo Quartet, changing their name to the Remo Four in the summer of 1959. Andrew and Manley were in the same class at school (Liverpool Institute for Boys) as Paul McCartney.

They played a mix of vocal harmony material (à la The Everly Brothers), and instrumental numbers in the manner of The Shadows, The Ventures, and Chet Atkins. In the early 1960s Colin was considered the best technical guitar player in Liverpool by his peeps. He could play and replicate anything and was a joy to watch. 

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Dusty Springfield 3/1999

dusty_springfieldMarch 2, 1999 – Dusty Springfield was born Mary O’Brien on April 16th 1939 in West Hampstead, North London, England. She was given the nickname “Dusty” for playing football with boys in the street, and was described as a tomboy. Springfield was raised in a music-loving family. Her father would tap out rhythms on the back of her hand and encourage her to guess the musical piece. She listened to a wide range of music, including George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Glenn Miller. A fan of American jazz and the vocalists Peggy Lee and Jo Stafford, she wished to sound like them. At the age of twelve, she made a recording of herself performing the Irving Berlin song “When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam” at a local record shop in Ealing. Continue reading Dusty Springfield 3/1999