“SPIRIT LIVES UP TO NAME IN SHOW HERE”
BY DICK FLEMING
THE DAILY TIMES
SEPTEMBER 12, 1976
Ed Cassidy, the 53-year-old drummer for the West Coast band, Spirit, mopped his face with a towel, opened a soft drink and settled onto a stool in the office dressing room of Ocean City’s Hurricane night club. Cassidy, along with stepson Randy California on lead guitar and vocals, and bassist Jon Terlep, had just completed a rousing 90 minute performance, their first on the Eastern Shore, in which they had easily lived up to band’s name.
Soft spoken and articulate, Cassidy is a veteran of nearly four decades in the music business. He has gone through what he calls “sort of a natural progression” in music, beginning with country and western music in 1938 in Bakersfield, Calif, (“the Nashville of the West”), and going onto jazz, Dixieland music and early rock and roll before forming Spirit in 1965. He claims, with some pride, the distinction of being “the oldest rock and roll drummer in the world.”
The band is pretty excited about a couple of things right now. For one, their album, “The 12 Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus,” released five years ago, was recently certified gold, having sold 500,000 units. “It was a real thrill,” Cassidy admitted, “Although I think it was overdue.” The sales requirement for gold certification, he said, had been upped from 350,000 units since the album was released.
But Spirit is not a band to dwell on the past. Even more important than their previous achievement are their plans for the future. As the title of their most recent album (their eighth) suggests, they are continuing to move “Farther Along.”
According to drummer Cassidy, “We’re about to get into something we feel will be our next plateau.” Having gone through a number of personnel changes during their 11 years, the most recent transition is the first from which they have emerged as a trio, a format which they are finding very comfortable. The “chemistry”, they say, is there.
“We’ll have a lot more freedom,” Cassidy said; “More of a chance to play on record what we’re playing live”.
In fact, their current road tour amounts to a warmup for their next record – a live double album that will be recorded between now and early next year.
The group’s new musical philosophy seemed to be aptly stated in their performance here, with the exception of a couple of standard “powerhouse trio” jams, the songs played, while faithful renditions of the originals, were not lacking in, well, spirit. Randy California proved capable of producing some sounds that might not have been thought possible outside the recording studio, yet with a feeling that could probably not be captured in more sterile surroundings.
Somewhat conspicuous by their absence were songs from the latest album, which, with it’s lush orchestral arrangements would be difficult to reproduce live. The album received minimal attention, with the notable exception of the haunting “World Eat World Dog.”
Among the highlights of the performance were “Nature’s Way,” from the Dr. Sardonicus album; Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” and their 1969 hit, “I Got A Line On You.”
And Ed Cassidy in one extended drum solo and through out all of the show, demonstrated that while he may be the oldest drummer in rock and roll, he also qualified as one of the best.
Despite requests that the dance floor remain cleared during the show, many in the audience found it difficult to keep from getting up and moving with the music. By the end of the performance, several people had left their tables to assume seating closer to the stage on the crowded floor.
The band is accustomed now to playing larger halls and more concert oriented crowds, Cassidy was explaining in the dressing room. “I’d rather play to at least a thousand people, he said. “We’ve done the club thing over the years a lot and you sort of graduate, like in school. You take that step up to concert shows, and then it’s like going a hundred miles an hour and slowing down to 15 miles an hour.”
Still, whatever the setting, the audience feedback is important to the band, and has a lot to do with its new musical direction. “The thing that can happen,” he said, “is when you have something successful to work off of, you can get more of an idea of what the people are digging.”
Perhaps because of his years in the business, Cassidy seems to have a clear perspective in his thoughts on audience, economics and self – satisfaction as an artist. “I think most bands over the years, try to aim for a complete market,” he said. “In a country with 210 million people, and say 100 million of them are record buyers, and you’re only selling 100,000 records, something’s wrong. “We want, to reach a total audience. That’s what it’s all about. “It’s part an ego thing, too. Everybody wants to be a star, and a lot of people relate that just to selling more albums than anybody else or drawing a bigger crowd or playing a larger hall than anybody else…”You have to entertain, and that includes selling records. That’s what we’re in the business for. But I have to get off myself. I can’t just go out and play songs and be a vegetable. “You have to have that feedback. “Some artists,” ,he said, “essentially, could care less who likes them, as long as they sell records.”
Randy California seems to be addressing such artists when he sings, in “Mega Star,” “Driving in your motor car, do you really care? The songs you sing, they mean nothing when you breathe in the air… All you see are dollar signs, melting in the snow.”
California, the other original Spirit member, is regarded by his associates as a serious musician with some definite goals of his own. At 25, he is still developing his own musical style, having drawn most of his influences from people with whom he has played with. As a young teenager he began jamming with old bluesmen like Lightning Hopkins and a then little known guitarist named Jimi Hendrix. He played with Hendrix in New York as part of ‘Jimmy James and the Blue Flames’ before the late guitar trailblazer went to Europe and found the fame that preceeded his American reception. In fact, it
was Hendrix, he said, who gave him his stage name of California.
“There were two Randy’s in the group,” he said, “one from Texas, and I was from California. So they called me Randy California.” Of his association with Hendrix, he said the two had been “influenced by each other.”
Now performing professionally for the first time in the format in which his late musical companion worked best, he observed, “I like playing as a trio. There’s a lot more responsibility, but there’s more freedom and it’s more fun.”
1969 The Family that Plays Together
1970 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus
1973 Best of Spirit
1975 Spirit of ’76
1975 Son of Spirit
1976 Farther Along
1977 Future Games
1977 Live Spirit
1981 Potatoland II
1984 Spirit of ’84
1989 Rapture in the Chambers
1990 Tent of Miracles
1991 Time Circle (compilation of unreleased tracks)
1992 Chronicles ’67-’92 (compilation of unreleased tracks)
1995 Live at La Paloma
1996 California Blues
1997 Made in Germany (Live 1978)
1997 The Mercury Years
2000 Live at the Rainbow (Live 1978)
2000 Cosmic Smile
2002 Sea Dream
2003 Blues from the Soul
2004 Live from the Time Coast Live ’89-’96)
2005 Son of America
2006 the Original Potatoland
2007 Salvation, the Spirit of ’74
2008 Rock ‘N’ Roll Planet (Live ’77-’79)
2009 California Blues Redux (different than California Blues)
2010 The Last Euro Tour
2011 Tales From the Westside