Ex Airplane and Moby Grape man dies weeks before tribute album is released...

Originally a member of the Jefferson Airplane – he played drums on their debut ‘Jefferson Airplane Takes Off’ and their classic second album ‘Surrealistic Pillow’Skip Spence left in 1966 to form The Moby Grape.

While Jefferson Airplane were going off into the wilder extremes of LSD-influenced West Coast psychedelia, the Grape were closer in spirit and attitude to British mod bands like The Who and The Small Faces. Spence, singer and guitarist, led a band that was self consciously stylish in an era when facial hair and ragged denim were considered the height of sartorial elegance, played hard fast R&B-tinged pop at a time when soft folk and extended jams were the order of the day and set out to appeal to teenage girls at a time when such ambitions were frowned upon.

Moby Grape were also one of the first bands to be ‘hyped’ by a record company; their debut album, for example, was issued on a collection of seven inch singles. All of which backfired on the group who disbanded. Spence made a solo album – ‘Oar’ released in 1969 – that has acquired a cult following among the likes of Beck and Tom Waits, who have all contributed to ‘More Oar’, a soon-to-be-released tribute album.


‘Oar’ is a strange and unapproachable record, with heavy hints that the mind-expanding 60s were crossing over into out and out mental illness.

Spence‘s recent past is unhappy; he was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia, was an alcoholic and lived as a derelict on the streets of Santa Cruz, although reports suggest that he had finally managed to stop drinking a few years before his death from cancer on Friday in a Santa Cruz hospital. Spence reportedly heard the tribute album featuring REM and Robert Plant in the hours before he died.