The Life And Times Of Country Joe & Fish Country Joe & The Fish


Psych / Garage
Catalogue Id:
VCD 27

Originally released in 1971, this album was the seventh and last to emerge on Vanguard Records, and very much placed the band as an important element of the San Francisco area socio-political movement in the sixties. The title of the album points solidly to the relevance of the time period that led to the formation and development of the band, in that they had followed the US folk/coffee house boom and had been very much part of the student unrest that had reacted to US involvement in Vietnam. Joe McDonald and his friend Barry Melton had been active at Berkeley University, being witness to the famed 'teach-in' about the foreign war in 1965 that had attracted the likes of Phil Ochs, Ken Kesey and Norman Mailer to add their weight to proceedings. Joe, Barry and others were producing a small scale magazine called Rag Baby which was distributed at anti-war demonstrations and allied events, and they came up with the idea of producing an audio version of the mag. They formed a jug band and recorded ‘Superbird’ and an early version of ‘I Feel Like I'm Fixin’ To Die Rag’, to which were added two tracks by local folk singer Peter Krug and issued the first Rag Baby 7" EP and thus becoming the first group to issue a self-produced promotional record. 


A second EP followed the next year and managed to get much wider distribution via head shops in the US and Europe, and the first two tracks here are pulled from these historic recordings. The second EP was also heard by Sam Charters who had come from New York to SF to investigate other local bands like Quicksilver Messenger Service. Following this connection Country Joe & The Fish found themselves signed to Vanguard Records, ready for recording and issuing their first album “Electric Music For the Mind And Body” in 1967.


During this time the band had gone through several personnel changes, with the nucleus of Joe and Barry now being joined by David Cohen on lead guitar, Bruce Barthol on bass and 'Chicken' Hirsh on drums. These five formed the group that was to issue the first three albums, and were generally seen to be the most inventive of all the various line-ups. They were certainly the ones that European fans first became aware of as news of the new wave of West Coast 'psychedelic' bands began to spread. What exactly constituted a psychedelic band was then, and still is, subject to discussion, but for many it was enough that the Fish utilised one of the very first light shows behind them at live appearances, shown most effectively through the four shots on the cover of the first album. many fans might have expected guitar distortion, effects and general musical mayhem to accompany this, but this was far from the case with this band. Arising from their folk/jug band roots, they actually presented a wildly varied mix of styles, and many of their songs are gentle and melodic, as ‘Who Am I’, ‘Janis’ and ‘Grace’, the latter with an ethereal range of sound effects, show so effectively here. Alongside these though were the mid-tempo rock of their sole chart hit ‘Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine’, several blues numbers, and even ‘Rock And Soul Music’, a form of James Brown tribute song. All presented with fine guitar and keyboard work, the group was unlike any other making this historical overview a fine place to appreciate them.


Track listing


Side 1

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