Songs You May Have Missed #258


Spirit: “Mr. Skin” (1970)

Led by guitarist/singer Randy California, Jay Ferguson (of the later solo hit ‘Thunder Island’) and bald-headed drummer Ed Cassidy (to whom ‘Mr. Skin’ is a lyrical nod) Spirit was one of the more experimental bands of the late 60’s and early 70’s, enjoying rabid devotion from their fans but lacking the wider success their music deserved.

Comprised of members from disparate musical backgrounds (pop, rock, jazz, blues, classical, folk) the band melded these influences into a mystical and eclectic mix. Indicative of how ahead of their time they were is the fact that ‘Mr. Skin’ first appeared in 1970 (on the pseudo-sci-fi concept album The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus) but did not chart as a single until ’73. Their albums often had a slow-burn quality about them too: their 1968 record, The Family That Plays Together, re-entered the charts four years later, while Twelve Dreams enjoyed FM radio play years after its singles fell from the charts.

Their highest-charting single was the now largely-forgotten straight-ahead rocker ‘I’ve Got a Line On You’ (#25 in 1969)

Their hippie-esque anthem of the following year (and B-side to ‘Mr. Skin’) ‘Nature’s Way’ got some serious FM airplay despite not charting as a single itself. Dig the kettle drums on this one:

The three songs sound like three completely different bands, but are merely three sides of one very versatile and adventurous one.

Randy California was given his name after being invited by Jimi Hendrix to join his band. Jimi, who in 1966 went by the name Jimmy James, called his band Jimmy James & the Blue Flames. Since they already had a Randy in the band, Jimi referred to the two by their home states. Bass player Randy Palmer was “Randy Texas” and the former Randy Wolfe became “Randy California”, which he decided to keep.

In a sad epilogue, California died in Hawaii in 1997. He and his family were swimming off the coast when Randy and his 12-year-old song were caught in a riptide. Though California was able to push his son close enough to shore to save him, he himself was swept out to sea. His body was never found.

See also: Video of the Week: Spirit (and friends) Rip Through ‘I Got a Line On You’ | Every Moment Has A Song (

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