Saturday, December 02, 2006

Skip Spence

Alexander Lee "Skip" Spence (born April 18, 1946 in Windsor, Ontario - died April 16, 1999 in Santa Cruz, California) was a musician and singer-songwriter. He was a guitarist in an early line-up of Quicksilver Messenger Service before Marty Balin got him to be the drummer for Jefferson Airplane. After one album with Jefferson Airplane, their debut Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, he left to co-found Moby Grape, once again as a guitarist.

Suffering from schizophrenia, during the 1968 recording of the group's second album, Wow, Spence allegedly attempted to break down a bandmate's hotel room door with a fire axe while on LSD, and was committed for six months to the criminal ward at New York's Bellevue Hospital.Upon his release, he recorded his only solo album, the now-classic psychedelic/folk album Oar (1969, Columbia Records). However, mental illness and alcoholism prevented him from sustaining a career in the music industry, and he lived much of his later life as a homeless person in Santa Cruz. When it finally seemed that he might have been overcoming those afflictions, lung cancer claimed him.

Spence continued to have minor involvement in later Moby Grape projects and reunions, as well as helping the Doobie Brothers get signed to Warner Bros. Records (the Doobies idolized Spence and the Grape). More recently, Spence's "Land of the Sun," one of the only post-Grape recordings he ever completed, was nearly placed on the X-Files soundtrack.

More Oar: A Tribute to Alexander "Skip" Spence, featuring contributions from R.E.M., Robert Plant, Tom Waits, Beck, and many others, was released a few weeks after his death.