Demo recordings for the album 'The Fish'
recorded at mickey hart's ranch -novato- CA
Soundboard recording and mix by betty cantor
Source: flac files from a different tracker >
which were attached to the original released cd as bonus tracks
01 - Jessie James
02 - Mountains In Dreamland
03 - Looking For A World
04 - Babylon
05 - Love Is A Mystery
06 - Harbinger
07 - Sunshine
08 - Stranger
09 - Karma
10 - Could You Drive Forever?
Total time 34:26
the following text i took from propylaen's upload in March 2014 (which this version upgrades) and modified it with some more info:
This material usually circulates as part of the Mickey Hart & Friends bootleg 'Fire On The Mountain' which was originally uploaded by 38f back in 2005 and reseeded by mjcrossuk in 2009. Many thanks go out to both of them - also for a wealth of other amazing contributions here!
--true fact --
These songs are all from sessions for Barry Melton's first solo LP 'The Fish'. However, these versions were all abandoned and re-recorded ( @rockfield studios in wales) several months later for the album release. These are also recorded with the same pool of musicians around the same time as Mickey's sessions, which is why all this stuff tends to circulate together. Among the musicians involved in these recording sessions were J. Garcia, B. Melton, R. Hunter, D. Freiberg, P. Lesh, M. Bloomfield, P.J. Creach, J. Cipollina - but not all of them are necessarily present here.
Different versions of these songs eventually ended up on the 1975 official release, except for Love Is A Mystery and Sunshine that did not make it on this record. All of the finally released versions were recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales with different musicians.
The lineup on the official album is
Barry Melton-guitar, vocals
Ray Martinez-guitar (from Monmouth, Wales)
Tommy Eyre-keyboards (from Sheffield--ex Joe Cocker's Grease Band)
Ken Whaley-bass (from Oxford--ex Help Yourself, ex-Man)
Dave Charles-drums (from London-ex Sam Apple Pie, ex-Help Yourself)
During my research for this upload I stumbled across this online article
which I recommend reading for a lot of interesting background information. Parts appear to be anyone's guess as it seems to me the author never heard the original recordings presented here.
find the 1976 ZIG ZAG article as.txt file attached with this torrent
hanwaker upload to dime 2015-12
* * *
Barry Melton: The Tale of a Fish
Andy Childs, ZigZag, March 1976
Strange as it may seem to all of you who may imagine me as a contemporary of [Pete] Frame and [John] Tobler, when the early strains of the much-vaunted ?San Francisco Sound? began to reach these shores, I was still an innocent, youthful specimen, valiantly trying to pass my exams at school, and to all intents and purposes, totally unaware of the cultural holocaust that was to alter the course of my life so drastically. Little did I know that rock music would soon grip me with such feverish enthusiasm and that I would be thrown headlong on a collision course with a world full of strange, eccentric people, outrageous habits and customs, and esoteric and abnormal behaviour of every description.
Looking back, the months during which I first heard the Dead, the Airplane, Quicksilver, and Country Joe & The Fish were probably the most musically significant of my whole life. Not only was the music unlike anything heard before, but the possibilities of a whole new lifestyle were unleashed upon an unsuspecting world, and for one glorious summer San Francisco became the spiritual home for a whole generation of kids, thousands of whom actually made the pilgrimage there. Most of us though, like me, could only dream of what it was like, listen to all the relevant records a million times over, collect every conceivable scrap of information and reportage that emanated from the West Coast, and generally immerse ourselves, as far as it was possible being respectably English, in the spirit of this exciting new culture.
It didn?t take me long to familiarise myself with the personnel and history of the major San Franciscan bands, and after my initial investigations (aided invaluably by early ?Rolling Stones?), distinct personalities and heroes began to emerge above the mass of acid-pickled long-hairs who constituted the majority of San Francisco?s several hundred rock bands. Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, and Marty Balin were singled out as outstanding vocalists, and Jerry Garcia, John Cipollina, Jorma Kaukonen, and Barry Melton became the guitar heroes of the day. Garcia?s work I knew best and was closest to my heart as my introduction to West Coast rock had been through the Grateful Dead; Cipollina, for the comparative scarcity of his brilliance on record, made an indelible scratch across my brain with Happy Trails; and Kaukonen?. well he just seemed to get better and better, peaking, I rather think, on Volunteers.
And so what about Barry Melton? Well due to reasons I can?t quite clearly recall, Country Joe & The Fish were one of the last of the first generation of West Coast bands to attract my attention, but when I finally got round to them it was Barry Melton?s guitar work that made sure I?d never forget them. Like the aforementioned guitarists, he struck me as being a true original, and like Garcia he has beautiful melodic sense and the rare ability to make his notes ring with a sharp crystal clear tone, which at that time showed up the multitude of would-be Eric Clapton imitators in this country as the blundering ten-thumbed sloths that they were. [Author, now becoming marginally more excited than he has for some time when writing in this most revered of journals, rushes off to fetch a copy of C.J. Fish so that he can play ?Silver And Gold? to reassure himself that what he has just proclaimed is the gospel truth].
The action now cuts to January 1975, some seven or eight years after the events outlined above, to a time when the magic, spontaneity and vibrancy in rock has generally been replaced by the methodical, predictable, and altogether mediocre. As editor of Zigzag I am becoming increasingly concerned with the lack of new interesting material worth bothering about, and for one ludicrous moment it seemed the only answer was to bury our heads in the sand and pretend it was still 1967. But what has honestly captured my imagination so intensely and altered my concepts about music so completely since those thrill-packed halcyon days? Hardly anything, that?s what.
So as I brood dejectedly over the languishing state of rock music on this typical afternoon in January, the telephone rings. Barry Melton is coming over to this country and would I care to interview him?, enquires the familiar voice of publicist Keith Goodwin on the other end. My mind immediately wanders back to those scorching summer days when the sultry sounds of The Fish would drift aimlessly and lazily across sunday afternoons spent stretched out under the warm sun. How could I possibly refuse such an invitation? So the interview is arranged for the following week, and at the appointed time I arrive at KG?s luxurious offices in the heart of Tin Pan Alley. It?s freezing cold, pouring with rain, and when I meet him, Barry Melton is huddled around two electric fires and wearing a thick woollen sweater. Obviously not the sort of conditions he is used to, but nevertheless he succeeds in making himself feel more at home by indulging in the good weed.
Now the entire history of Country Joe & The Fish has been documented splendidly in Pete?s chart in Zigzag 54, so for the sake of pointless repetition I?ve edited the one-hour interview down to include a more detailed look at Barry?s own personal career and his musical interests. Needless to say he is one of the most fascinating, intelligent, and entertaining guys I?ve ever interviewed, and every bit the legendary hero I thought he would be.
ZZ: What was your musical background prior to Country Joe & The Fish?
BM: I was born in New York City; took up the guitar at the age of six. My parents were involved in The Movement in New York ? we?ll call it The Movement for lack of specific nomenclature. At any rate, as one of my early influences I went to a dancing school run by somebody named Marge Guthrie ? the wife of Woody Guthrie. Jack Elliott hung around ? were neighbours; the Asch family ? Trudi Asch and Moe Asch ? owner of Folkways Records in the United States. Paul Robeson was also involved in that scene. My parents were part of The Movement and those people were the singers of that movement at that time?. the McCarthy era. One thing that Country Joe and I have in common is that both our fathers were harassed to death by the McCarthy era for their activities; which were really rather innocuous in perspective. I don't mean to play down their role but it was more one-dimensional than some of the things that people were into.
ZZ: So you must have been politically conscious from a very early age?
BM: Yeah. I delivered The Daily Worker in New York City when I was five years old with my brother who was 11. And so that was the music I grew up with ? songs from the Spanish Civil War, American folk music with a left-leaning angle. People like Woody Guthrie were neighbours, and Joe Hill; that kind of music ? Movement music. But I have another kind of musical background that comes from guitar lessons and that?s mixed in there too. But I guess somehow my dream was always to synthesize music and politics. As an adult standing here today, I want to get me and my music together, and if it?s political sometimes that?s cool. But when I was a kid I was very idealistic and didn?t quite understand it all. And so I guess my earliest repertoire consisted of protest songs. My mother just sent me a poem I wrote about Adlai Stevenson when I was six years old about how they should throw Eisenhower out of the presidency. But anyway, I started playing guitar at a very young age and that was the sort of material I leaned towards. And then I hit a new gang musically probably when I was about 14 or 15 and that was the playing part. In other words I discovered that there were places you could go and play with people??. fiddle festivals, bluegrass festivals, blues festivals ? music festivals. And me being 14, when I played with other 14 year olds I?d been playing 8 years already. I stopped my formal training when I was about 11?.. that was classical stuff and a smattering of all sorts of things.
ZZ: When did you move out to the West Coast?
BM: I came to Los Angeles with my parents when I was 8 years old and moved up to San Francisco when I was 16. I went to school for a while but I wasn?t very serious about that ? I always did want to be a musician. And the type of musician I wanted to be was not really taught in schools so I had to go out and experience things. I hitchhiked across the country. I read On The Road by Jack Kerouac and Bound For Glory by Woody Guthrie in the same week, and the next week I was gone! It all sounded great, y?know 16 years old, the life of the road, I was off, guitar in hand.
ZZ: How did you meet Joe?
BM: We met once. Malvina Reynolds was playing at this folk festival in Berkeley? Joe and I actually played together before we really got to know each other. Malvina was playing guitar and Joe was playing jug with her, and I think I just walked in and started jamming on harmonica. In the Bay Area before the whole rock ?n? roll thing started there was a folk music scene going on that was very loose, very gregarious, and very friendly. Everybody played together, and Joe and I played together as folk musicians before we played together as rock musicians. We had a club called The Jabberwock which we shared with 8 or 10 other musicians. But of course pop music eventually made the thing a commercial entity. Joe and I were in The Instant Action Jug Band together. We were part of a scene that hung around this coffee house. In a way, we set about forming The Fish as a band to work on that was just going to be fun. Then we found out that rock bands actually got paid money and further than that we found out that somebody wanted to record us and further than that even we started to sell our records, so we stayed together. But you see I wonder how many groups would stay together if they didn?t chance on success? Because otherwise I think they?d just keep moving on.
ZZ: Is there a story of how The Fish got together?
BM: Well basically I had a lot to do with that I guess. Bruce Barthol went to high school with me. Joe called me up?.. he was cutting these songs for the first Vietnam teach-ins in Berkeley ? the first major protest launch against the war in Vietnam. He was making this record and he?d heard about this ?great guitar player? so he called me, I went over there and we realized that we?d played together some place before. We did this record for the guy who owns Arhoolie Records ? making the record specifically for the Vietnam teach-ins. Joe had two songs, one called ?Super Bird? which was about Lyndon Johnson, and the other was ?I-Feel-Like-I?m-Fixin-To-Die Rag?. So we cut this record and I guess I didn't hear anymore from him for a week or two. Then he called me up and told me they were selling the record at the teach-in and I wandered down there..... I was going to donate a pint of blood to the International Red Cross. We were doing all kinds of weird stuff at that time; they were very dynamic times I feel, looking back in perspective. I'm sure they?re going on somewhere now. We were launching a ship, y?know, an anti-juggernaut.
ZZ: Both Joe and yourself were politically orientated and The Fish were generally known as a ?political? rock band.
BM: What happened was when we grew up, when we shed some of the layers of dogma that had been laid on us and started really examining things for ourselves, I personally didn?t find myself as politically dogmatic as when I was young. Because that?s a young man?s trip to be very passionate about this and that. I?m not an old man by any means, don?t get me wrong, I?m not even thirty yet. But it?s students and young people that keep us aware and awake.
ZZ: How important was the drug scene?
BM: Maybe LSD had a lot to do with it, maybe it didn?t, because there was a lot of other stuff going on. I mean Berkeley was exploding at the time and that?s just right across the Bay. San Francisco was also just going out of its brain, but both places had distinct characters. I?m a mixture of the two myself? I lived in San Francisco for a while.
ZZ: How did the Fish get signed up to Vanguard?
BM: We were signed by Sam Charters, who was an old friend of our manager Ed Denson?.. both of them were blues collectors. Ed, as co-owner of Takoma Records with John Fahey, had gone to the south and re-discovered people like Bukka White and Mississippi John Hurt. At any rate Sam had this job of producing music for Vanguard Records basically to do his blues recordings, but they felt they needed something less esoteric. And we were young white punks who looked like Indians to everybody and were suitably weird. And it wasn?t just a band of weird people ? there was a whole city full of them and we were just the band. We were more like the house musicians for a loony scene.
ZZ: You were one of the first West Coast bands to be signed up, right?
BM: Yeah. Actually we were the first of that whole genre of bands to put out a record and it was on our own label Rag Baby Records? it was ?I-Feel-Like-I?m-Fixin-To-Die Rag?. Then we produced the second record of our own which had ?Section 43? which was an instrumental, a thing called ?Love? which was a song by me, and ?Bass Strings? which was a song by Joe. We were quite successful on a local level with our records ? we sold several thousand EPs which we had pressed in LA, paid for the expense ourselves and distributed them in bookstores and places like that?? a real ?underground? operation. Actually, because Ed had been involved in Takoma Records we had all these esoteric channels to distribute records in. And then Vanguard became interested ? we were actually selling records at that time. So Vanguard gave us the grand sum of $2500 advance which was respectable in those times, and we made a record. And that record stayed in the American charts for the better part of a year, so we became ?a band?.
ZZ: It seems to be generally accepted that once all the San Francisco bands had signed for record companies a lot of the fun went out of the whole scene.
BM: Not right away. But it certainly did when it became a business. The music business, as businesses go, is not run on a very high standard? there are lot of quick-buck people, a lot of shady fly-by-night people. Any business where people can almost double their money overnight in investment terms attracts these sorts of people. But we were very unselfconscious at that time as a band, and I was myself as a person.
ZZ: Why, after all the personnel changes, did the band eventually break up?
BM: For whatever reasons bands break up. We spent a lot of years doing that and we?d grown to a whole new place. And also the band was run by consensus, y?know. They tell me that one of the problems with the American Indian is that they govern themselves by consensus. If everyone doesn?t agree on something it just doesn?t get done. You pretty much have to get everyone to agree on something and that?s the law; which is really high by the way. It?s one of the things that makes the American Indian a really high culture spiritually speaking. So running a band by consensus is sometimes very difficult but it?s also very high. So if you want to make high music, you have to make the music that everybody wants to make, not that one guy wants to make and everybody else is paid to do ? the less people the easier it is of course. And what happened is like I imagine with any other band, one guy wanted to be in Hawaii, one guy wanted to be in the Europe, one guy wanted to be in the ocean, and one guy wanted to be in the air, and all at different times.
ZZ: What did you do when the band broke up?
BM: I immediately finished off work that I was doing on my own ? a movie soundtrack, and then I went fishing for about a year, a year and a half. It was fascinating? I got tuned into the ocean for the first time in my life. You know if you?ve never been out in the ocean before, you?ve been missing two thirds of the world. It taught me to listen.
ZZ: Had you become disillusioned with music and the music business at all?
BM: Oh I?ve been disillusioned with the music business many times, but I don?t think I?ve ever been disillusioned with music. The music business is pretty crazy.
ZZ: You?ve done work on Mickey Hart and Robert Hunter?s albums, is there anything else you?ve played on?
BM: I played on Otis Spann?s last sessions? Otis Spann was the piano player for the Chess house band during the great prolific period that they had. I did an album of my own with a band called Melton Levy & The Dey Brothers for Columbia but when the album came out I was into something else and I never toured. I guess that alienated some business men, because what I did was spend a lot of speculative money and not go on tour. I couldn?t go on tour, it would have been tragic ? it wouldn?t have done anyone any good the way I felt. I believe you should only go onstage in a place where you feel good. At any rate Melton Levy and The Dey Bros. stopped happening for me, but we made an album produced by Michael Bloomfield and Norman Dayron, and I?m very proud of it. I think it?s one of the most uptown albums I?ve ever done. But because I didn?t go on tour the album didn?t receive any real push. Besides I got swept into an entirely different thing musically?. I started to realize that I didn?t know all the stuff I wanted to know to be able to do my masterpiece (laughs). I wanted to know about the studio and find out how the recording process affects music. If you?re dealing with a medium called records you should find out what happens afterwards, because after it goes through all that miles of wire don?t imagine it?s the same thing as you played? it?s an entirely different thing. I realized that a lot of aesthetic decisions were left up to technicians in the recording studio, and I firmly believe that that?s still true. What?s lacking at the moment are people with a combination of both? possessing the technical knowledge to understand how to make records, and the aesthetic qualities of a musician.
ZZ: That?s usually the producer?s role surely, to be a bridge between the engineer and the group or artist?
BM: That?s supposed to be his function, but usually they lean towards one side or another and they?re not truly both. And of course that produces various permutations on the music that we hear. But I wanted to know for myself the technical side of things. See, talking about The Fish again, I?ll tell you this much, I think The Fish were a very great ?live? performing band, far greater than the records ever showed. We used to be billed up there with the best bands in the world, but partly I feel because of a semi-competent record company, we were not on a par with those bands in the record game. I always felt that in the framework of what we were doing a lot of technical know-how was missing. We had our ?live? act pretty together, but we didn?t have the technical understanding to make good records. We tried different producers?. Sam was our guiding light in the beginning but in a way we outgrew Sam and Sam outgrew us. Myself, I find it very difficult to get that spark in the studio that I get in front of an audience? I like to come up to the energy level of an audience and then go up with them. And that?s what I do best. And to summon up that feeling in the studio artificially is always very difficult.
ZZ: So what have you been doing from that time up until now?
BM: I was in the studio for a year, year and a half. I was sort of half living at Mickey Hart?s house in Novato and during that time I did a few sessions ? Mickey?s album, and Robert Hunter did an album Tales of the Great Rum Runners. And I did a tape during that period, and Mickey did a tape which was really fine. But you see we became such good friends that we forgot all about business and just played, so what we did may lack some commerciality. But I hope some day to get it released?.. if not the tapes then the material because some of it?s quite good.
ZZ: Can you tell us something about the electronic music that Mickey Hart and Phil Lesh were making?
BM: Oh yeah, that was Warp 10. That was a gas?.. Ned Lagin was also involved. Yeah, they used to drive all the horses away?. it was very intense. I sat in with those guys, but what was happening while I was there was that Mickey was playing bass too. And Mickey has a very unique style of bass playing, being a drummer. And Phil and Mickey would play bass together with ring modulators and stuff. And Ned played this instrument that he?d built?. he started building it at MIT. Ned?s head is in the zone, but he and I have got some things in common, like in the last couple of years I?ve really gotten into the occult and the significance of music and metaphysically what music is. There?s a book called The Metaphysics Of Music that I was reading for quite some time?. the significance of 12-tone scales, and 22-note Indian scales. You know music can possibly have much higher implications than we mere mortals assume? such as music that could make this chair disappear. I don?t know, if you played the right notes, because it?s only vibrations. I mean even the police are working on vibration equipment to immobilize a crow for a radius of 2 miles or something like that?? sonic warfare. Vibrations are very powerful things and you can control them. Music is the science of vibrations, I would hope, approached from a scientific point of view. There are some other people?.. there?s the famous German physicist who wrote On The Sensations Of Tone ? Helmholz. He was one of the last renaissance men? he did everything from soup to nuts; he invented medical equipment and studied music and at the end of his life he sent up weather balloons. I mean he did a hundred things in his life, all of which were important in the field he did them in. And he wrote this book called On The Sensations Of Tone which dealt with the physical properties of tone; tone affects living cells. One of the obvious results of his work is playing music to cornfields to see how it affects the growth of corn. And music affects people ? it affects their living cells. Helmholz did experiments on cells suspended in petri dishes?. you know, if you play them Mozart they live for 14 days, and if you play them the Beatles they live for?.. well, I won?t say. It?s all rather fascinating. Vibrations are very powerful, they can shatter glass and maybe tear down the walls of Jericho. I don?t know what tune Joshua was playing but I would get out my hammer and nails if I heard he was playing trumpet down the block!
ZZ: What did you do then after living at Mickey?s house?
BM: Well then I moved to the city and decided I was going to start playing in public. I got tired of being in a studio, it got claustrophobic and I wanted to escape. I got tired of looking at music through a microscope? I just wanted to do it. Looking at music through a microscope for too long makes you lose your perspective. At any rate I decided to go out and perform although I didn?t exactly know how I was going to do it. So I played for a month and put together this band with my friend Snooky Flowers ? Snooky Flowers And The Headhunters ? he played sax in Janis Joplin?s Kozmic Blues Band; he?s from Louisiana, a psychedelic soul musician. No, I don?t want to label Snooky, he?s too far out to label (laughs). He?s a good cat. A whole lot of people were in the band depending on what time you caught us. We only played about 2 or 3 dates. Taj Mahal played with us on one of the dates. But at any rate while that was going on I was also doing a solo thing because I?d more or less decided to come back as a solo acoustic performer. I figured it was the most stable thing I could do? when I could play with other people just for the enjoyment of it and just have myself to depend on a dependence level?.. I?m much happier that way. It?s much better to be self-sufficient, rather like being self-employed as opposed to working for somebody. I teamed up with Joe from February until June? he?d called me up and told me about his financial problems. He?d laid a whole load of money on the All-Star Band, which was a great band, to do Paris Sessions, and due, again I think, to the record company, he landed in trouble?.. he used more money than he had. So I went along to help out and it was really a lot of fun because we hadn?t played together in years and we re-discovered why we?d played together all those years before. We liked each other?.. a very natural reason. The bullshit only came later actually.
ZZ: Do you intend to keep playing with Joe whenever possible?
BM: Joe?s my friend; I hope to play with him periodically for a long long time, whether it be in private or public.
* * *
Well, since that interview took place, Barry Melton has been a busy man musically; he finally made the album that he threatened to do for so long, and he played a series of gigs over here ? both solo and with a back up band. Also, as promised in his concluding answer, he has definite plans to play with Country Joe McDonald again, both of them having decided to re-form the Fish, along with original member Bruce Barthol on bass, and new recruits John Blakeley (guitar), Ted Ashford (piano) and Peter Milio (drums).
But first the album. You?ll remember that somewhere in the interview Barry talked about a tape he made at Mickey Hart?s place. Well, it was a fairly straightforward set of songs played by a band consisting of a selection of West Coast luminaries brave enough to venture up to the wild backwoods of Novato but the common feeling was that it was a trifle too self-indulgent for commercial release. So Barry decided to remove himself from his native environment and come over here to re-record the songs. Rockfield Studios in Wales was chosen, and under the experienced eyes of Dave Charles and Kingsley and Charles Ward, he made his album The Fish, which came out in January on the Rockfield label (now distributed by United Artists), number UAS 299O8.
I was lucky enough to be present at some of the recording sessions and had the distinct privilege of seeing Barry lay down some of his blistering guitar work over the basic backing tracks provided by Tommy Eyre (keyboards), Ray Martinez (slide and rhythm guitar), and the good old Help Yourself duo of Ken Whaley (bass) and Dave Charles (drums). The resultant album is very fine indeed, even though I feel a little more pruning and editing might have been in order. There are, however, four really excellent songs: ?Stranger?, ?Mountains in Dreamland?, ?Karma? and ?California Seacoast?, plus a healthy smattering of the Melton guitar virtuosity?beautiful stuff. The low points on the LP, and there are two of them, are a bit dispiriting though. They are both live tracks, ?Marshmellow Road? and ?Ice Cream Man?, taken from one of Barry?s solo performances at the Roundhouse last May (supporting Man), and they come over as little more than tiresome, witless throwaway songs with minimal musical merit. Dispense with these two aberrations, however, and you have an album of quality and great promise.
Besides the three Roundhouse dates, he did one legendary gig at Dingwalls with Country Joe ? and another one at the same place with a backing band identical the one on the album (minus Tommy Eyre). Now Barry has just returned to the States after another flying visit ? this time to tour the country with good old Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen. I saw him (with his Rockfield band again) at the Hammersmith Odeon and thought he was great. He reacted against the largely apathetic audience with his customary eccentricity, but when he actually got down to playing some music, he was fabulous ? as was his band, with Charles and Whaley providing the sort of rhythm section that most front men only dream about.
But for one reason or another, Barry Melton still isn?t as famous as he should be. To my mind, he ought to be in everybody?s Top Ten Guitarists of All Time, and his concepts of music are so interesting and so far advanced as to make the general standard of intelligence and experimentation in rock music seem thoroughly ordinary and pedestrian.
No doubt we?ll see him (and The Fish) over here again soon, and I just hope that the masses will sit up, take notice, and recognize a rejuvenated and as yet underrated talent.
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