Artist: Country Joe and the Fish
Album: Electric Music for the Mind and Body
Length: 43: 30
Genre: Acid Rock/Blues Rock
“She hides in an attic concealed on a shelf
Behind volumes of literature based on herself
And runs across the pages like some tiny elf
Knowing that it’s hard to find
Stuff way back in her mind
Winds up spending all of her time
Trying to memorize every line
Sweet Lorraine, ah sweet Lorraine.”
Man was this a throwback to a few years ago. three to be exact (could be two, I don’t know anymore). Around my final year of university I had taken a course on the history of Psychedelic Music. Knew nothing about it but took it because I enjoyed the teacher’s Rock n’ Roll history class and was excited to learn about a music genre I barely knew anything about and wanted to expand my music knowledge. It was a pretty good class, looking at all sorts of genres that would act as precursors to psychedelic rock, looking at bands such as Syndicate of Sound, The 13th Floor Elevators, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. One of the bands we had briefly looked at would be one that stayed with me since then, one of their songs getting some good playtime on my ipod. It was none other than Country Joe and The Fish.
No, not that country joe and the fish, although I’m sure he’s doing just fine.
I’m talking about the band. That quirky sounding band that incoporated odd guitar sounds and rhythms, strange vocals and wacky riffs. Well, that’s what I believed at least from the song that I kept listening to. I was curious to hear what a full length album by them would sound like based on knowing that one song and wouldn’t you believe it, it was nowhere to be found on this album.
For those wondering what it was, it was their live show staple and fan favourite “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die-Rag”. A protest song that tackled their feelings towards the vietnam war that had you hooting and hollering along as you danced to kazoo like sounds. It was such an important protest song at the time that I’m completely surprised that they didn’t include it on their debut album.
For you’re listening pleasure, here it is:
It’s honestly such a fun ditty that it’s a shame that it’s nowhere to be seen in this album’s 43 minute run time.
But… on second thought, it’s not crazy that they decided to exclude it. Listening to the album, it would have stuck out like a sore thumb. There doesn’t seem to be an appropriate place in the album to put it without it killing the pace and vibe that the album was working so hard to create. I honestly should have expected it from the other song that didn’t get as much airplay on my ipod that we heard in class “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine”, a staple of psychedelic rock history due to it’s strange and absurd lyrical content of introspection and possible drug induced imagery and it’s swirling keyboards. Wasn’t crazy about it then as I cranked up their protest song, but hearing it here I definitely acquired much more admiration for it.
I really enjoyed this album. Found myself going on quite a trip from start to beginning and never felt a moment where I was taken out of it, each song contributing to that solemn yet peppy vibe that The Fish were permeating throughout. The first half of the album keeps you on your toes with some upbeat blues infused psychedelic rock which slowly deteriorates into harsher and trippier psychedelia throughout the second half. Even though it’s technically acid rock, it feels more like a toned down version of what we would eventually get to know as Psychedelic music but the elements are still there and I can definitely see how this would have helped in developing the genre. From their song “Death Sound” that has some fantastic reverb effects on the guitar to “Section 43” one of the greatest instrumental tracks I ever heard, that takes you on a trip and actually seems to tell a story… in sections, similar to what prog rock would eventually do with their music. Multiple instrumental tracks put together to tell one coherent story. By the time you hit “Sad and Lonely Times” you know you’re in for a bit of a trip as each song starts to get dipped into the acid pool of textures and feelings. “Bass Strings”, “Masked Marauder” and “Grace” (a tribute to Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick) feel out of this world and although it’s never at the heights of psychedelic music to come it definitely set the groundwork for it’s successors to reach higher heights that the Fish didn’t hit.
May have been overshadowed by future acts ad albums within the genre but definitely worth a checkout if you can, especially for those keys. Man I love that keyboard work.
Song of Choice: Section 43
p.s. “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die-Rag” would appear on their second album of the same name. So it wasn’t completely excluded from their discography.