Our anthology Lost in the Grooves has been getting terrific reviews, as befits a compilation in which 75 thoughtful, knowledgeable writers weigh in on their favorite albums that slipped through the cracks—not to mention the essay on the early rock zine scene (aka "The Greg Shaw Story"), and Tom Neely’s delectable illustrations.
But among notices like Magnet’s (“a stone gas… like a midnight bull session with your inner, ADD-afflicted rock geek”), Fufkin’s (“inspired”), Eye Weekly’s (“carefully written… recall[ing] Creem Magazine at its most prickly and acid”), the Times of London’s (“exemplary pop writing”) and Ear Candy’s (“the perfect book for the advanced record collector/music fan”), a turd was just dropped into the punchbowl, in the form of a 2-star (of 5 possible) review in an e-zine called Curled Up With a Good Book, by one Steven Rosen, Spirit Fan.
As is my custom with all reviews of LITG that I come across, I shared this with our contributors, and asked if they thought something like this should be included on the page of compiled reviews. Most of them who replied thought not.
But there seems no reason not to reference the pan here, at least as an excuse to reprint a few of the contributors’ interesting responses to it.
Any of us who plays in the geeky record collector world runs into these narrow-minded souls, and knows how to tune ‘em out. It’s sad to think that of the nearly 300 albums celebrated in Lost in the Grooves, one weighed so heavily in his psyche that he would devote 400+ words to rebutting Ron Garmon’s essay… thus missing the point of the book itself, which is the joy of discovering great, unknown sounds. As we say in the introduction, “somewhere in the cut-out bin of a record store in Tulsa is your favorite record and you’ve never even heard of it.” In Mr. Rosen’s case, he stuffed cotton in his ears and went “na-na-na-na-na” to make quite sure he missed its siren call.
My rock and roll love letter prescription for our rigid reader: another gorgeous circa 1970 LA album picked by Ron Garmon, Sound Magazine by the Partridge Family. But you just know he’d never let himself enjoy it. (psst! bubblegum isn't a dirty word anymore.)
A bad review should be an opportunity for reflection and improvement on the part of the reviewed, but this one fails in that aspect. I wish he had tried to prove his blanket statement that “Anyway, the writers here have a lot of this wrong. And most of this is so obscure, they could make up anything they wanted anyway.” That might have been fun to watch. I’ll just note that Mr. Garmon wrote the liner notes to the newest Best of Spirit compilation, interviewed every surviving member and devoted an entire (now sold out) issue of his magazine Worldly Remains to the band… which suggest some level of expertise, perhaps worthy of Mr. Rosen’s mentioning his name in the course of trashing his critical appraisal.
As for the suggestion that as a semi-hit record, Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus doesn’t belong in a book of this nature, as editrix, I take full responsibility for its inclusion in LITG--and it is hardly the only best-seller that we deemed worthy of reappraisal (Whipped Cream and Other Delights, anyone?). I love psychedelic pop, and I'm especially interested in LA bands. Spirit blew me away when Ron Garmon played them for me. But I did not listen to FM radio in the '70s, and I doubt many under 40 did. I looked at those freaks in the vinyl bins for years and never thought about picking up an album. I know I'm not alone. Lost in the Grooves, absolutely.
Or as the writers said it…
Tosh Berman: It's a stupid review – but it doesn't matter because it still makes the book sound interesting. It is sort of the school of 'say what you want, but don't ignore me.' Your type of book is the type for people to argue about - it's the great nature of Lost in the Grooves. For instance Jim (fellow Sparks fan) and me have an on-going argument about Sparks later records - where I think they never really ever made a bad album. So your book is a lot of fun - and of course there are bands missing or not missing. I don't think that is the point. The point is for people to discuss and think about the music they like and hate. Very simple and very effective!
Ron Garmon: I've been misread before, but that little Nazi gimp takes the fuckin' cake. I can't even write a rave review of an old album without some fanner-than-thou imbecile taking umbrage.
Jay Ferguson is characteristically modest about his "charisma" but has no reason to doubt the title "genius songwriter with a truly awesome voice." I've interviewed him twice and he would be the first to tell you he's no Tom Jones. Moreover, the band didn't want one overpowering presence, since the act was about sound and nothing else. Spirit had more than one voice, as fans of the late Randy California (author and singer of "Nature's Way") would be delighted to remind this idiot once they got up off his face.
As far as the band breaking up, I've talked to all four surviving members and there are three different stories.
As one who referred to the band as "the American Pink Floyd," (liner notes to THE BEST OF SPIRIT reissue), I can be trusted to know their catalog and appreciate this unjustly neglected act at full value. Spirit fans don't like how obscure the band is. I'm one, so I know.
Domenic Priore: "Jay Ferguson was a beautiful, blonde canyon boy with the voice of an angel and a stage stance that pre-dated a lot of the ensuing Sunset Strip rockers."
Yeh, well, pretty stupid review, basing the whole thing on Spirit... This is just the problem with Classic Rock idiots... they can't handle more than several superstar entities and that's it. Obviously, the guy only wants to read about what he already knows, which is counter to the point of LOST IN THE GROOVES. That said, the above sentence, pulled from his review, is 100% off, because in reality, Spirit did not pre-date any Sunset Strip "rockers" unless he means hessians from the '80s... which Jay Ferguson does not resemble (and Jay certainly doesn't resemble anyone in the Screamers, X, Eyes, Germs, Weirdos etc... my personal era of the late '70s Sunset Strip).
No, the Doors, the Mothers of Invention, the Byrds, the Electric Prunes, the Merry Go Round, Buffalo Springfield, the Turtles, Love, the Leaves, the Music Machine, the Seeds, the Bobby Fuller 4, the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, Kaliedoscope, the Standells, Sonny & Cher, Jackie DeShannon, Brenton Wood, the Afro-Blues Quintet + 1, the Chambers Brothers, Dobie Gray, the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, Canned Heat, the Bees, the Humane Society... hell, EVERYBODY emerged before Spirit on the 1965/1966 Sunset Strip scene. I don't see them listed playing anywhere in Hollywood until early 1967 at Bido Lito's... Spirit weren't even around when it was all happening... by the time they came out, it was pretty much over for that scene. The way I like to put it is that after the Pandora's Box riot in November of 1966, that is the landmark moment when opportunity in L.A. really diminished tremendously... and in early 1967, Charles Manson was let out of Alcatraz and fed on the desperation in the air. Spirit, the Nazz (ne: Alice Cooper), the Stoned Ponies (as their first Troubadour ad read) and a few others actually emerged in 1967 for the first time, but for the most part the moment had truly passed... Spirit was so far from "before" any of this stuff, but then again, for Classic Rock idiots, nothing matters until 1967... and ROLLING STONE... turned the page into a new, less thrilling, less creative era.
Canned Heat also preceded Spirit in Topanga, specifically, recording with Johnny Otis in 1966, and coming in to Hollywood to play at places like Pandora's Box and the Ash Grove.
Kelly Kuvo: Oh, come on. YOU MUST INCLUDE ALL REVIEWS! There is no such thing as bad press, remember? Bad reviews are funny!
Besides, the bad reviewers of LITG make it SO obvious that they are aging imbittered lonely record dorks that can only reflect themselves in their own reviews. This guy who wrote the "2 stars" review is mad that he wasn't included in the book and obviously thinks he deserved to write about the band Spirit since he is so much more worthy since he thinks he knows so much more about the band.... I mean... what is he complaining about? What was he reviewing? It wasn't even about the MUSIC. If he really cared about music he would be happy that Spirit was included in the book. Period. I've never heard Spirit. Why should he assume that everyone has heard their music? Because his head is up his ass. HE's heard Spirit. Therefore HE's all that matters. He's didn't read the book to learn something new and get excited about trying to discover a cool hard to find record. He read it to find something to bitch about. He did and he bitched and I hope he's no longer constipated as a result. This review has nothing to do with the book and everything to do with the reviewer.