Alexander Spence – Weighted Down (The Prison Song)

• “Weighted Down (The Prison Song)” set to a picture of the housing album cover. Thanks to Lucas Pagani.

8.2 “Fantastic Alternative Country from Canada”

From his sole LP “Oar” (Columbia CS-9831) released in 1969.

Weighted down by the possessions
Weighted down by the gun
Waited down by the river for you to come

My darlin’, darning my action
Of when three months, I was gone
But whose socks were you darning, darling
While I been gone so long?

Weighted down by possession
Weighted down by the gun
Waited down by the river for you to come

What wordplay!

If that doesn’t grab you for an opening gambit then nothin’ will. I can do no more for you… ‘bye…

…still with me? Of course you are, you tasteful devil you ;-)

The wiki tells us:

Alexander Lee “Skip” Spence (April 18, 1946 – April 16, 1999) was a Canadian-born American musician and singer-songwriter. He was co-founder of Moby Grape, and played guitar with them until 1969. He released one solo album, 1969’s Oar, and then largely withdrew from the music industry. He had started his career as a guitarist in an early line-up of Quicksilver Messenger Service, and was the drummer on Jefferson Airplane’s debut album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. He has been described on the Allmusic website as “one of psychedelia’s brightest lights”; however, his career was plagued by drug addictions coupled with mental health problems, and he has been described by a biographer as a man who “neither died young nor had a chance to find his way out.”

Oar was Spence’s only solo album, recorded over seven days in Nashville, on which Spence plays all of the instruments. Described as “one of the most harrowing documents of pain and confusion ever made”, the album was recorded after Spence had spent six months in Bellevue Hospital. Spence had been committed to Bellevue following a delusion-driven attempt to attack Moby Grape bandmates Don Stevenson and Jerry Miller with a fire axe.

When first released, Oar was not promoted by Columbia Records, despite pleadings from producer David Rubinson. It was at the time the lowest-selling album in Columbia Records history, and was deleted from the Columbia catalogue within a year of its release.

Despite being so poorly received at the time, the LP has gained a bit of a cult-following in the subsequent decades, with Michael Stipe, Tom Waits and Beck among the notable list of admirers.

Personally, I can’t say I particularly care much for the album as a whole; I’m willing to embrace lackadaisical and ramshackle but I need something else. Some character, some hooks, some invention, but nah, there’s nothing doing. Apart, that is, from today’s fantastic highlighted track, “Weighted Down”. Here, the world-weary ex-con is out. Only to be faced by a betrayal. He’s got a gun and, one suspects, he’s not afraid to use it. Great wordplay and great character – this is right up my street. Seems a shame the boy was unable to make the most of his talent…

You can check out my favoured 1969 album reviews here.

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