April 14, 2012

Spooky Tooth - a staple of Underground FM, but you had to see them live first.

One of the classic cases in point when assessments are made of bands in the 60's and the argument invariably comes around to "you really had to see them live in concert".

Spooky Tooth were one of those bands. Coming in at the fringes of Psychedelia and ushering in the era of Hard Rock, Spooky Tooth were one of those bands you really had to see live in order to appreciate. And the reason was simple - technology. You just couldn't get what they really sounded like live and put it in a studio environment; it just didn't work. Bands were getting heavy and their sound was getting dirty and dirt didn't translate well against state-of-the-art recording equipment. They weren't the only ones suffering that problem. Going back to the early Grateful Dead albums, the biggest complaint among fans (and the press) was; they just couldn't translate what they did live in a studio environment - you couldn't put it in the grooves. Which was probably why MC5's first album was live and not recorded as an "official studio project". Their popularity may have taken longer to acquire had they gone the other way around. The ability to faithfully capture ear-splitting heaviness and turbo-charged energy would take a few years to happen as recording techniques and equipment improved.

This is a very rare example of Spooky Tooth, just at their peak, performing live in Essen, Germany on October 9, 1969. Fortunately, it was broadcast over German Radio and luckily a tape survives.

The sound isn't great but it's also not terrible, and you get a very clear picture of just how great this underrated band were in the early days. And you also get an idea of how influential a guitarist like Luther (Ariel Bender) Grosvenor was for guitarists coming after him.

History is seldom dull - and that goes for old music too.

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