Analysis of 1:34 of musique concrete by Spencer Dryden “A Small Package of Value Will Come to You, Shortly” Jefferson Airplane 1967 album AFTER BATHING AT BAXTER’s

Jack Casady (bass), Jorma Kaukonen (guitar) HOT TUNA September 11, 2018 Albuquerque. Photo by Mark Weber

Jack Casady (bass), Jorma Kaukonen (guitar) HOT TUNA September 11, 2018 Albuquerque. Photo by Mark Weber

Jack Casady (bass) HOT TUNA September 11, 2018 Albuquerque. Photo by Mark Weber

Jack Casady (bass) HOT TUNA September 11, 2018 Albuquerque. Photo by Mark Weber

Jorma Kaukonen (guitar) HOT TUNA September 11, 2018 Albuquerque. Photo by Mark Weber

Jorma Kaukonen (guitar) HOT TUNA September 11, 2018 Albuquerque. Photo by Mark Weber

Spencer Dryden

Spencer Dryden (1938 – 2005)

This piece of tape montage is credited to Gary Alfred Blackman, Spencer Dryden, Bill Thompson. It’s not strictly musique concrete as there are elements of sound manipulation that was inherent & part & parcel to reel-to-reel recording machines (ie. you could bump the reels as they spun at 15ips or 30ips) And the echo-y reverb was used and other multiple feeds —- From what I understand, musique concrete only used untamper’d and found recordings then layered in collage form (the Sixties was full of this sort of exploration, you got to remember that reel-to-reels were finally within the price range of us hippies —– See Zappa’s “Help I’m a Rock” and John & Yoko’s “Revolution #9” as other musique concrete creations, AND Zappa’s masterpiece LUMPY GRAVY Lp)

My feeling is that a drumset track is the music bed they started with. Subsequent drumset fragments were overdubbed. All of the way through there is drumset(s), percussion, vibraphone (glockenspiel?), harpsichord, possibly marimba. *these are standard instruments a trained percussionist keeps around, even if he is known as a drummer in a famous rock band.

I’ve always thought of this as the Intro to “Young Girl Sunday Blues” and on the Lp it didn’t have a separate track, it was part of the “Young Girl” track —- The CD gives them separate track I.D.s

  • 00:50 :: orchestra bells play a strain of “We Three Kings”

  • 00:53 – 1:01 :: harpsichord plays Thelonious Monk ending refrain to “In Walked Bud”

  • 1:16 :: is that Frank Zappa? Saying “I don’t understand” – probably not, but it was my first thought

  • 1:27 :: “No man is an island” from English metaphysical poet John Donne’s “Mediation 17” written in 1623 *Many of us Sixties generation were reading John Donne and such like back then, so it was no surprise to hear it here in the mix

  • 1:33 – 1:34 :: the hilarious rejoinder “He’s a peninsula!” runs right into the downbeat to Marty’s song “Young Girl Sunday Blues” brilliantly and powerful and hard hitting (with the marvelous line: “Today is made up of yesterday and tomorrow / Young girl Sunday blues and all her sorrow” among a passel of great lines)

 

  • Bill Thompson (1944-2015)was the manager of Jefferson Airplane.

  • Gary Alfred Blackman was a poet/writer who lived in the Richmond District of San Francisco (north of the Golden Gate Park) On the web I found: born June 26, 1941, died March 31, 2006 in Honolulu.

  • Marty Balin got away from us Sept 27, 2o18.

In the Ralph Gleason’s book THE JEFFERSON AIRPLANE AND THE SAN FRANCISCO SOUND (1969 – I see I have the first printing of this from June when I was but 16) the interview with Spencer reveals his deep jazz background in Los Angeles prior to joining the Airplane, and further into the interview he talks about his interest in electronic music “just putting crazy things together, you know, stream-of-consciousness-type things . . . I’ll tape pieces of tunes together. . . working madly with this home equipment here . . . like I might want three sentences off a Lenny Bruce record sandwiched in between one line of Mick Jagger and two bars of Grace Slick . . . and then put that on another track with Edgar Varese in the background . . . and get all that to coordinate”

Page 154 of Jeff Tamarkin’s great Airplane book GOT A REVOLUTION! (2003) is the most revealing thing I’ve found on this track (altho, I wouldn’t say Frank Zappa was Spencer’s “muse” —- these guys were contemporaries and friends and came out of the same brain space and influences) —— From Jeff’s research it shows that the track was Spencer at the helm, in the studio, and the other two listed “composers” were brought in after the music bed was in place —- AND mystery solved: it’s Blackman who yells “No man is an island!” I’ve always wondered who it was, and it’s Thompson who counters: “He’s a peninsula!” which has always struck me as pot head humor, purely —- Been there, done that ———- AND Tamarkin’s research reveals that the title of the track came from a fortune cookie!

3 Comments

  1. ‘No Man is an Island’
    No man is an island entire of itself; every man
    is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
    if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
    is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
    well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
    own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
    because I am involved in mankind.
    And therefore never send to know for whom
    the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

    Olde English Version
    No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man
    is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
    if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe
    is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as
    well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine
    owne were; any mans death diminishes me,
    because I am involved in Mankinde;
    And therefore never send to know for whom
    the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

    MEDITATION XVII
    Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
    John Donne

  2. In the mid sixties my father bought a Sony 2-track with “Sound-on-Sound”, a proprietary overdub system that allowed the user to record and mix another mono track over the original stereo track already recorded on the tape. Naturally, my freaky friends and I hung out after school recording avant-garde music, vocals, pots and pans percussion, and layering them on top of each other with those wonderful Sony cardioid tabletop mics. Sony still made this consumer machine in the 70s when Peter Ivers used one to mix down his 4-track demos to. He got a deal on Warner Bros with those mixdowns and later and a few years before he was murdered gave the machine to me. I’m looking at it as i type on the floor of my office. It needs belts. I can’t get rid of it. Sentimental value persists.

  3. In 2007 I interviewed Spencer’s half-sister, Ginny Ramsdell, for a feature I was writing on the history of L.A. jazz musicians who had played in burlesque house and strip clubs. He had done a lot of those gigs. He was a jazz drummer but he came along at a time when jazz was on the wane in L.A., so those were the jobs that were open to him. Here’s a taste of what she gave me:

    “A sense of the absurd? Totally! Spencer loved anything that was off-the-wall. And he could find something off-the-wall in almost anything. Who else would think of putting a bolero rhythm to ‘White Rabbit’?
    You know, one thing about Los Angeles at that time was that there was a tremendous gene pool of creativity. All kinds of creative people came there from all over the country and all over the world. They may have had acting talent but the creativity may have come out in their children and grandchildren as music or writing or art. And it was all around. My mother went to high school in Glendale with John Wayne. He came over to the house and they double dated. I used to play golf with Hopalong Cassidy’s brother–Bill Boyd’s brother–Walt.”

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