The group’s original roster comprised Randy California (born Randy Craig Wolfe; guitars, vocals), Mark Andes Jay Ferguson, and others from the Red Roosters, a Los Angeles band (vocals, percussion). The new band was originally called the Spirits Rebellious (after a novel by Kahlil Gibran), but the name was soon shortened to Spirit with the addition of California’s stepfather Ed Cassidy on drums and keyboard player John Locke. California had previously performed with Jimi Hendrix as a member of Jimmy James and the Blue Flames in New York City’s Greenwich Village in 1966, before returning to his home state. Randy Wolfe was given the nickname “Randy California” by Jimi Hendrix to distinguish him from Randy Palmer, whom he dubbed “Randy Texas.”
Barry Hansen, better known as the radio personality Dr. Demento, recorded early demo recordings for the band in Topanga Canyon. Lou Adler (renowned for his work with The Mamas & the Papas and The Grass Roots) signed the band to his Ode Records label in August 1967. Spirit, the group’s first album, was released in 1968. The single “Mechanical World” was released (it lists the playing time merely as “very long”). The album was a success, peaking at number 31 on the Billboard 200 and remaining there for seven months. The album is the most blatantly psychedelic of their albums, with jazz influences and complex string arrangements (not present on their future efforts). [requires citation] “Fresh Garbage,” a song from the album, was included on the CBS sampler album The Rock Machine Turns You On, which was released in the UK, Europe, and South Africa in 1968 and was the UK’s first introduction to the band.
With the success of their first album, the band released another song, “I Got a Line on You.” It became their biggest hit single, reaching number 25 on the charts a month before their second album, The Family That Plays Together, was released in November 1968. (number 28 in Canada). The album followed suit, charting at number 22. In December, they performed at the Denver Auditorium with support band Led Zeppelin, who interpolated parts of Spirit’s song “Fresh Garbage” in an extended medley based on their cover of Bob Elgin and Jerry Ragavoy’s “As Long As I Have You” (popularized by Garnet Mimms) during their early 1969 concerts. In July 1969, Spirit performed with Led Zeppelin at two outdoor music festivals.
The use of a theremin by Jimmy Page is said to have been inspired by Randy California’s use of one that he had put to his amplifier. “California’s most enduring legacy may likely be the fingerpicked acoustic motif of the song ‘Taurus,’ which Jimmy Page lifted nearly note for note for the entrance to ‘Stairway to Heaven,'” according to Guitar World magazine. In 1997, The Independent noticed the resemblance.
In an attempt to get an authorship credit for “Stairway to Heaven,” Mark Andes and a trust acting on behalf of Randy California launched a copyright infringement claim against Led Zeppelin in 2014.
The lawsuit was unsuccessful because Page denied copying “Taurus.”
In September 2018, the verdict was overturned on appeal.
The original jury verdict was reinstated by the Ninth Circuit on March 9, 2020.
“1984” and the era of Sardonicus
They’re described in the notes as “pioneers” of “topical lyrics realized through the song’s production,” which makes me think about how the opening two cuts, ‘1984’ and ‘Mechanical World,’ vary texture tempo. By the stars, I believe these guys were instrumental in the development of art-rock. The topicality is a notch above standard rock sci-fi (they have a sense of humor), and the derivations are more jazz classical. But it’s the fantastic dazzling 2:39 of hard rock guitar that’s the huge highlight here. Randy from the state of California You’ve got a line on me. Christgau’s Record Guide features a review of The Best of Spirit: Rock Albums from the 1970s Following the release of Clear, the band recorded “1984”, a song written by California and produced entirely by the band. It reached No. 69 on the Billboard charts and No. 66 on the RPM charts after its release in February 1970. In 1973, the song was ultimately released in its entirety on The Best of Spirit.
Spirit began production on their fourth album, Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, in 1970. On the recommendation of Neil Young, the band chose David Briggs, a longtime Neil Young collaborator and acquaintance from the Topanga Canyon milieu, as the producer. The album was released in late 1970 and peaked at No. 63 in the United States and No. 49 in Canada during the group’s prolific writing period.
Randy California’s “Nature’s Way,” a small hit (No. 111) composed during a performance at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, was included on the album.
Epic also issued an early version of “Animal Zoo” as a single, although it only charted at No. 97. The Who, for example. Pink Floyd’s Tommy Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, the follow-up to The Dark Side of the Moon, is regarded as a landmark of art rock, with a tapestry of literary themes about the fragility of life and the complexity of the human experience, illustrated by the recurring lyric “life has just begun,” and continued the band’s pioneering exploration of environmental issues in their lyrics (cf. “Fresh Garbage”). The album’s creative production and use of a modular Moog synthesizer are especially noteworthy. Ferguson and Andes departed the group after a promotional tour in support of the album Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, establishing Jo Jo Gunne. They were accused of plotting to take over the group in California. On January 30, 1971, they played their final show with Spirit, which almost resulted in a brawl.
Andes was first replaced by John Arliss. California was still on the bill, but he was unable to tour due to a head injury sustained in a horseback riding accident. Locke and Cassidy quickly found bassist and recent University of Texas School of Law graduate Al Staehely to take Arliss’ place. The trio went on tour for a short time before concluding that they needed to add a guitarist to properly represent the song. John Christian (Chris) Staehely, Al’s brother, auditioned for the band and was promptly hired after leaving the Texas rock band Krackerjack.
Feedback was recorded in Columbia/Hollywood Epic’s studios in 1972 by The Staehelys, Cassidy, and Locke. It was a departure for the band, with more of a country rock influence infecting their jazzier tendencies, but it only received a modest commercial response, peaking at No. 63 on the charts. While the Feedback tour went quite successfully for much of that year, Cassidy and Locke quickly exited the group due to their dislike of roots-based music. Before disbanding the ensemble in mid-1973 and recording their solo album, Sta-Hay-Lee, the Staehely brothers performed a critically acclaimed tour with drummer Stu Perry.
In the meantime, in late 1972, he recorded and released his debut solo album, Kapt. Kopter and the (Fabulous) Twirly Birds, on Epic Records. The album had a hard rock vibe, with cameos by Noel Redding (as “Clit McTorius”), Leslie Sampson (drummer from Redding’s band Road; as “Henry Manchovitz”), and Cassidy. California toured Europe with this trio under the imprimatur of Spirit after a brief tour in support of the album in the Los Angeles area with Cassidy and bassist Larry “Fuzzy” Knight, despite pressure from booking agents who wanted to capitalize on the band’s name and were not interested in his solo work. During this time, Cassidy also recorded a follow-up CD (The Adventures Of Kaptain Kopter And Commander Cassidy In Potato Land). Despite Locke’s appearance, the record was not intended to be a Spirit album at the time. After Epic rejected the final album, California relocated to Molokai, Hawaii.
The Mercury years (1974–79) were a period of transition for the planet Mercury.
Cassidy made it a priority in 1974 to locate and reconnect with his stepson. California was eventually persuaded to return to the mainland and give the band another chance. Andes worked with the duo for a while but never meant to stay because he was creating his own band, Firefall, at the same time. Former Frank Zappa sound engineer Andes took his post. Spirit was set to open for Ten Years After at a gig in Florida in early 1975, but when the headlining band backed out at the last minute, the group was given permission to take over the venue for the evening and spirit album singer songwriter. Spirit managed to sell out the 3,000-seat theatre after traveling around to local radio stations to promote the performance and setting a low ($3) ticket price. They booked as much time as they could at Studio 70 in Tampa, Florida, with the proceeds from the event. Marshall Berle (the nephew of Milton Berle) offered the stash of cassettes to Mercury Records after recording a considerable amount of material at the facility. The group was offered a contract based on the material, and a double-album called Spirit of ’76 was cut from it and released in May 1975. After the album reached No. 147 on the Billboard 200 and received some FM broadcast, they swiftly followed it up with Son of Spirit, which was released early the next year and featured several songs from the same sessions.
Locke re-joined the band for the tour in support of Son of Spirit.Andes eventually returned to the lineup, and despite Ferguson’s initial refusal to join the group reunion, the band produced an album called Farther Along in late 1976, with the addition of Mark’s brother Matt Andes as a second guitarist.
The album reintroduced the band to the US charts for the final time, reaching at No. 179. Ferguson re-joined the band for a couple gigs at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. When Neil Young stepped on stage drunk during the final show’s encore of ” Like a Rolling Stone,” he caused an uproar. California would later claim that he didn’t recognize Young, but at the moment, he was enraged with Young for sabotaging his own career. California pushed Neil backwards, away from the microphone, past the drumkit, and offstage. Young had been visiting the band backstage before their performance, along with other significant artists such as New Hollywood Hal Ashby, and Locke (a friend of Young’s) had urged the guitarist to join them in their encore. When Locke noticed California shoving Young offstage, he stood up from his piano and walked off stage, declaring that he had had enough and that he would never play with California again. Cassidy initially calmed the scene by removing his gear and physically dragging California and Young back onstage to the microphone to finish the song, inviting the audience to sing along. After concluding the song, the band members clashed backstage over the events that had led to the reunion’s termination.
Following that, California put together Future Games: A Magical Kahauna Dream with Cassidy’s help and some session musicians. Although Mercury approved its release in early 1977, the experimental album (which included a Hendrix-influenced cover of ” All Along the Watchtower ” and underpinned science fiction -based lyrical themes with many samples from Star Trek: The Original Series in a variant of filk ) received no promotion, ending what little bit of commercial momentum the group might have regained. It also signaled the end of their deal with Mercury (at least initially). Ferguson was having solo success at the time, with the singles ” Thunder Island ” (1977; No. 9) and ” Shakedown Cruise ” (1979; No. 31).