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4.13-OMAHA (Moby Grape)

Moby Grape

LISTEN

[Intro]

Listen, my friends (4x)

(Listen my friends!)
You thought never but
(Listen my friends!)
I'm yours forever.
(Listen my friends!)
Won't leave you ever.

Now my friends
What's gone down behind…
No more rain
From where we came.

[Break]

(Listen my lover)
Get under the covers, yeah
(Sqeeze me real tight!)
All of your lovin'
(Into the light...)
Beneath and above ya
(So outta sight)
Bein' in love!

Listen my friends! (4x with echo response 3x)

[Coda]


Moby GrapeMoby Grape was the third San Franciscan group to break into the U.S. charts, after the Jefferson Airplane and Country Joe & the Fish. Their first album sold moderately well. I recall buying it myself when it was released, for it was heavily advertised; Columbia records was trying to capitalize on a new hip scene. Several singles were released from the eponymous first album, but none did well. Omaha, written by past Jefferson Airplane member Skip Spence, was the best selling cut. When I bought the album in 1967 I ended up not liking it, and I believe I returned or traded it. I felt Moby Grape was somewhere in sound between the Buffalo Springfield and the Airplane, but not as good as either, and I didn’t think much about Moby Grape again.

However, in my research for the Psychedelic Masterworks, Moby Grape were mentioned several times in a favorable light, and I was persuaded to give them another listen. Three cuts surfaced as supplemental tracks to this project. Omaha manages to pack quite a bit of excitement in its guitar work, with a break that goes through three changes of tempo and tone in quick succession, and a coda that similarly changes pace. The performance uses droning guitar feedback in order propel the music into the next phase. For psychedelic music at this time, the music has the rare effect of sounding like a live performance, as if written for the stage instead of a recording studio.

Maybe at the time, I was enamored (like others who enjoyed psychedelic music) with technological developments and exotic instruments that produced new sounds, and Moby Grape fell short in this regard. Maybe the odd sounds chosen—like the backwards drone increasing in volume until it hits a sort of industrial slam that serves as an introduction to Omaha—were not the kind of sounds I would have wanted to hear on LSD. Maybe in the instance of Omaha I was put off by the lack of musical progression at a time when complex compositions were valued, as there is no point of contrast in the song beyond the guitar breaks. Outside of these expectations, on the other side of the heavy metal and punk, Moby Grape sounds better, like the way we listen to Velvet Underground & Nico today. The lyrics are hardly coherent though; a muddled mess. When Spence calls out Listen My Friends! I don’t think he meant for us to pay too close of attention to the words of his song.

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