Rare or Unreleased 25: Skip Spence

Alexander Spence: «Land of the Sun» [mp3]

Summer's on the wane, but sun's still out today, so I thought I'd post an ode to the Great Giver of Life in the Sky.

One of the most psychedelic souls to have walked the musical universe must surely have been the late Alexander Lee «Skip» Spence, whose paranoid schizophrenia ensured that his psychedelia was neither feigned nor bland—which alone set it apart from most other expressions in that genre. It's probably also the reason that his remarkable solo output (after significant contributions as drummer for Jefferson Airplane and singer-guitarist in Moby Grape) was limited to one 1969 album, an (at the time) unreleased 1972 single, and this hopeful, but rejected submission for the X Files soundtrack, «Land of the Sun», recorded in 1996 with ex-Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady.

«Land of the Sun» was issued in 2000 as a B-side on Sundazed Records' vinyl-only single «All My Life (I Love You)»—the forgettable glam rock tune Spence recorded back in 1972. But «Land of the Sun»—which Spence recorded at the age of 50, after 24 years of silence—is one of his best recordings. It would also prove his last, and the fact that the song takes stock of the singer's own life is made all the more poignant by his death only three years later. The rambling mumblings indicate the kind of life Spence must have led, emphasised by words that look back on a life without regret, and forward onto death without any fear. He'd had his fun in the land of the sun. What more can you ask?

Now go and buy a copy of Spence's infamous 1969 solo debut, Oar—one of the most human albums ever recorded, heartbreaking and inspirational all at once, and beyond hope. In a good way. That's psychedelia for you.

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