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Pearls Before Swine - One Nation Underground (1967)




Pearls Before Swine to amerykańska grupa założona we Florydzie na początku lat 60-tych. Liderem grupy był gitarzysta i wokalista Tom Rapp zainspirowany głownie folkiem i muzyką country. Rapp był uczestnikiem konkursu talentów w Nowym Jorku, w którym zwyciężył i pokonał samego Boba Dylana. Rapp zawiązał grupę i przesłał próbki nagrań do wytwórni ESP-Disk. W maju 1967 r. nagrali w ciągu czterech dni i nocy swój album One Nation Underground w Nowym Jorku w małym studiu Impact. Mimo że firma znajdowała się w Nowym Jorku, artyści w niej nagrywający mieli w warstwie kulturalnej więcej wspólnego z rodzącą się psychodelią Zachodniego Wybrzeża niż z Greenwich Village (eksperymentowali, nosili długie włosy, związani byli z kontrkulturą i dążyli do konfrontacji politycznej). Jeśli chodzi o samą muzykę, to byli bardziej związani z Greenwich Village.

One Nation Underground był ciekawym albumem łączącym 3 style: psychodeliczny folk, swoisty punk i minimalizm. Były na nim utwory, które zawierały w sobie wszystkie te style (I Shall Not Care). Album ten sprzedał się w ilości pomiędzy 100 000 a 250 000 egzemplarzy i był największym komercyjnym sukcesem firmy ESP. Rok później grupa nagrała drugi album Balaklava już wyraźnie polityczny, z przesłaniem przeciw wojnie wietnamskiej. Od strony muzycznej rozwijał on pomysły naszkicowane na poprzednim albumie, ale grupę cechowała już pewność siebie i lepsze opanowanie rzemiosła. W nagraniu albumu wzięli także udział Joe Farrel i Lee Crabtree, którzy uzupełnili płytę grą na różnych instrumentach. Muzyka stała się jeszcze bardziej złożona, a cechowało ją także intrygujące brzmienie: szepty, flety, efekty (np. echo), akustyczne gitary itd. W tym czasie także Roger Crissinger został zastąpiony przez Jima Bohannona. Odtąd skład grupy będzie się zmieniał nieustannie.



W sierpniu 1968 r. Rapp poślubił Dunkę Elisabeth Joosten, która stała się najstarszym członkiem wiecznie zmieniającej się grupy W 1974 roku Rapp wziął udział na festiwalu w Filadelfii pomiędzy występami Wishbone Ash i Genesis. Występ z przyczyn organizacyjnych trwał minutę (!!!). Rapp nie widząc chyba sensu rozpoczynania grania obrzucił w trakcie tej minuty stekiem wyzwisk prezydenta Nixona, co zostało przyjęte owacjami na stojąco.

W 1976 r. Rapp porzucił muzykę i po ukończeniu studiów prawniczych na Harvardzie został prawnikiem. W tymże samym roku małżeństwo Toma i Elizabeth rozpadło się. W 1995 r. Tom poślubił swoją wieloletnią narzeczoną Lynn Madison. Nieoczekiwanie w 1997 r. w wieku 50 lat i po 21-letniej przerwie Rapp powrócił na scenę występując na festiwalu muzyki alternatywnej Terrastock w Providence, Rhode Island (organizowanym przez niezależny magazyn Ptolemaic Terrascope wydawany przez undergroundowego gitarzystę, kompozytora i wokalistę znanego jako Bevis Frond, ale pod nazwiskiem Nick Saloman). Rapp wystąpił tam ze swoim synem Davidem. Później pojawił się także w Bostonie i Nowym Jorku a w 1999 r. wystąpił na trzecim festiwalu Terrastock, który odbył się w Londynie. Jego muzyka nagle stała się bliska współczesnym młodym ludziom.

Tom Rapp - vocals, guitar
Wayne Harley - guitar, banjo, mandolin
Lane Lederer - bass
Roger Crissinger - keyboards
Warren Smith - drums




Tom Rapp was born in 1947 in Bottineau, North Dakota, close to the Canadian border. His parents, Dale and Eileen Rapp, were both teachers. He has two sisters, Kathy and Patty. When he was still a young child his family moved to Minnesota where at the age of six he was given a guitar. A country & western player living next door taught Rapp some chords, and a few years later he learned to play the ukulele.

Although he did finally get to share the stage with Dylan in 1975 - at The Bitter End in Greenwich Village, with Ramblin' Jack Elliott - there is an intriguing possibility that the two men had been on the same bill nearly two decades earlier. By the age of ten Rapp was entering talent competitions singing Elvis Presley songs. "Looking back at a scrapbook my parents used to keep," he said, "I saw that one of the other contestants on a show was a Bobby Zimmerman, who sang and played guitar. I have no first hand memory of that, or indeed if it was the same Zimmerman who went on to some sort of fame." Rapp came second, losing to a woman who twirled batons. Zimmerman apparently came fifth.

The Rapp family moved from Minnesota to Pennsylvania before settling in Eau Gallie, Florida, in 1963. Whether or not Rapp did encounter the young Bob Dylan at the talent contest, he did come across him indirectly in Florida in 1963. "I heard "Blowin' In The Wind"," he says. "I remember calling into the radio stations [asking them] to play Peter, Paul & Mary's version again and again until I finally bought the single and saw the song was written by someone named Dylan." It was an unfamiliar name, but Rapp had his local record store send away for a copy of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan album. Inspired by what he heard, and later by albums by Joan Baez and The Byrds, he became a folk singer and started to perform with his school-friends Wayne Harley (banjo), Lane Lederer (bass) and Roger Crissinger (tambourine and organ). Together they formed the first line-up of Pearls Before Swine.


I shall not care

Over the years Rapp has given different accounts of writing his first song. Sometimes he refers to an unrecorded tune called "Be A Man, Join The Klan" - a liberal protest effort with a title that Phil Ochs would have been proud of. Rapp had the pleasure of seeing this song adopted by the Florida folk scene that centered on Fred Neil (although it is not known that Neil performed it). Different artists added their own verses and customized the melody, just as they did with the traditional songs prevalent in the folk revival.

On other occasions Rapp has said that his first song was "Another Time," a philosophical treatise about the indifference of the universe. He wrote this after surviving a serious car crash unscathed. This became the first song on the first Pearls Before Swine album. Rapp and his fellow nascent avant-folk experimenters had taped on a home reel-to-reel recorder a few of his early songs, including "Another Time," as well as some Dylan covers. They had eight demo discs cut, packaged in a hand-drawn sleeve with a blown-up band snapshot taped to the front. One of these homespun demos was sent to ESP DISK records, home of anti-establishment rock-theatre poets The Fugs.

Rapp had bought some Fugs albums from the same store that had supplied his copy of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. The group's primitive experimentation struck a chord, and Rapp thought that ESP were just waiting for some teenagers from Florida to provide twisted, amateurish folk-rock songs that shared something of the same spirit. ESP wrote back saying that the Pearls Before Swine demo, despite being so badly pressed as to be virtually inaudible, was probably the sort of thing they were looking for.

It was ESP's habit to pay for their artists to record using the cheapest local facilities available, so Pearls Before Swine booked into a primitive two-track studio set up in a garage owned by a country & western musician. There the youngsters awkwardly and anxiously recorded their anti-Vietnam songs as the studio owner's redneck friends looked on suspiciously. Inevitably the results were unsatisfactory, and the band were invited to New York City for a second effort. They spent four days and nights recording their first album with engineer Richard Alderson at the tiny Impact four-track studio. The entire album was recorded for $1,500. It was May 1967.

At the time ESP was a small independent label, expecting to sell no more than 10,000 copies of each release. "They hired people that they thought had something interesting to say. They had simple one-page contracts and put you in the studio and said, 'Do what you want, don't spend too much money doing it,'" says Rapp. The ethos of low budgets and artistic freedom suited Rapp and his cohorts, giving them space to explore their fertile ideas unhindered by conventions of musical and technical correctness, or requests for hit singles. It was this spirit of naive musical adventure that has done much to endear Rapp to subsequent generations of underground musicians.

The ESP label was the focal point for a loose-knit scene. "Most of those I knew were the other groups who recorded at Impact Sound behind what is now called Lincoln Center: The Fugs and Ed Sanders; Pete Stampfel and the Holy Modal Rounders," says Rapp. Although each of these groups had its own agenda, there were similarities between them. They combined literary, hippie and anti-establishment aspirations in often folk-influenced music. But where Sanders and Stampfel were almost old enough to be beatniks, Pearls Before Swine were the new kids on the block, a bunch of fresh-faced enthusiasts barely out of their teens.

By 1967, when Pearls Before Swine first arrived in New York, the Greenwich Village folk circuit was past its heyday. Many of the prime movers had drifted to the West Coast where attention was focused on the burgeoning psychedelic scene. Culturally, the ESP bands had more in common with this West Coast underground than with their near-contemporaries in Greenwich Village. They were resolutely experimental and self-consciously part of the counter-culture. Their hair was long and their politics confrontational. Sanders, who was involved with the Yippies (the Youth International Party) was a prime mover. "He took a group of hippies on a bus tour of the suburbs," says Rapp. "All the hippies were gawking and pointing at the suburbanites with their backyard grills and swimming pools. A very political time... lots of anti-war songs." Musically, the ESP groups had a closer link with the Village writers, sharing with them roots in folk, bluegrass, jug-band and country music, though with less of an obvious debt to Dylan.

In the absence of formal musical expertise, and with a low budget, Rapp and his colleagues were forced to rely on innovations and ideas when recording their debut, One Nation Underground. They had both in abundance. On the record, released in 1967, psychedelic folk reminiscent of Donovan collides with Farfisa-driven punk and hard-to-categorize repetitive minimalism, all thrown together with the undisciplined, creative exuberance of youth. A children's song, "Playmate," gets a garage-band treatment; "Morning Song" is a mantra-like organ-based drone; and "Another Time" is cast as a gentle acoustic folk song. "I Shall Not Care," one of the album's most unusual and complex songs, moves through successive phases of all three styles.

One Nation Underground introduced all the characteristics that would appear in Rapp's later recordings. The songwriting was consistently interesting though rarely exceptional, with unexpected details often cropping up in the arrangements, and the themes explored were more literary and intellectual than was common in pop music of the era. Despite the eccentric, unconventional nature of the album, it became the most successful ESP release ever. Different estimates have it selling between 100,000 and 250,000 copies. Even the lowest of those would make it one of the best-selling albums featured in this book.

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