Spirit’s Psychedelic ‘I Got a Line on You’

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SpiritSome of you might have asked in the wake of the 2016 Led Zeppelin plagiarism trial: Just who is this band Spirit? Those of us alive and listening in in the late ’60s and early ’70s – and growing our hair and likely smoking some boo – can tell you: One of the finest rocking psychedelic bands of the era. We could also tell you about how they recorded such irresistibly hooky classics as “Mr. Skin,” “Fresh Garbage,” “Animal Zoo” and “Nature’s Way.” Or how guitarist/singer Randy California played with Jimi Hendrix. Or how guitarist/singer Jay Ferguson and bassist Mark Andes went on to start Jo Jo Gunne, and Andes later played with Firefall and Heart. And how they did manage to score one gold (and fondly remembered) album: 1970’s The 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus. Can we say influential?

Spirit LP coverBut the best way to show you how special Spirit was is to ask you to simply listen to and dig this clip.

And judge this band – whose other members were drummer Ed Cassidy and keyboard player John Locke – by the company they keep in this truly Classic Video. It’s a redux of perhaps their best song, “I Got a Line on You” (a #25 hit in its first 1968 incarnation, and covered by the Hollywood Vampires in 2015) that was on the group’s second reunion album in 1984, titled Spirit of ’84 in the U.S. (and The Thirteenth Dream in the rest of the world).

First… the studio version of the song…

Joining Spirit on the 1984 album and in this live video performance are: guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers), guitarist Bob Welch (Fleetwood Mac; it took Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks to replace him), Joe Lala (CSNY, Bee Gees, Manassas and many more), drummer Keith Knudson (Doobie Brothers), guitarist Howard Lesse (Heart) and other notables. There’s only one word to describe this super-jam: Killer!

Guitarist Randy California (nee Randy Craig Wolfe) was born February 20, 1951. He died January 2, 1997, in a drowning accident, while rescuing his son (who survived).

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  1. JohnnyCNote
    #1 JohnnyCNote 24 June, 2016, 00:22

    THIS is Spirit: https://youtu.be/EjKTPh2FEqk

    The video (film) is pretty hokey, but at least it’s authentic. This one shows their psychedelic side, of which they were masters, and features Randy California’s Hendrix influence:
    https://youtu.be/MqUdswZY6jI

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  2. Hippie Dave
    #2 Hippie Dave 25 June, 2016, 03:38

    Love Spirit!! Awesome and members formed other awesome bands!!

    Reply this comment
    • Mick
      Mick 21 February, 2019, 00:44

      They are a favorite of mine. Saw them several times back in the day.

      Reply this comment
  3. LouisVA
    #3 LouisVA 24 March, 2019, 18:28

    Never had the good fortune to see Spirit; however, they are still on my current playlist. 12 Dreams is an incredible album.

    Reply this comment
  4. Dick Wingate
    #4 Dick Wingate 3 January, 2020, 08:18

    Wow. Had never seen this jam. Thx.

    Reply this comment
  5. Bobby Frufracker
    #5 Bobby Frufracker 3 January, 2020, 09:23

    Yes, we grew our hair long and dug Spirit! I got my worn-out copy of “12 Dreams…” signed by Mark Andes in 2006! It was Spirit’s “Sgt. Pepper’ s” LP — simply brilliant!

    Reply this comment
  6. Joe
    #6 Joe 4 January, 2020, 20:55

    First saw Spirit at Atlanta Pop Festival ‘’69 at 19 years old after buyin’ their first album and graduating in ‘68. “I Got A Line On You Babe” was a must on our band’s playlist. Now Mark Andes is with Firefall still making great music!

    Reply this comment
  7. Mack Maloney
    #7 Mack Maloney 9 September, 2020, 08:37

    Jimi Hendrix once said Randy California was a better guitar player than he was. Randy later died saving his son from drowning.

    Reply this comment
  8. Richard B Ellenberger
    #8 Richard B Ellenberger 9 September, 2020, 14:49

    It’s always been hard for me to believe Led Zep DIDN’T rip off Randy Caly and that he lost his lawsuit. What did other bands and entertainers think of this result? That said, Spirit was one of the best bands ever and Randy California one of the most talented musicians. His end was tragic but he saved his son. RIP

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  9. David S Pease
    #9 David S Pease 8 January, 2021, 10:20

    1984 was my favorite song by them.

    Reply this comment
  10. Da Mick
    #10 Da Mick 1 October, 2021, 11:13

    When you see all these appreciative comments about Spirit, it’s hard to understand how they have remained such an underground band for so many years. For myself, I had not been exposed to them through their earlier LPs, until, in the early 70s, I went with my bandmates over to this guy’s house one day to talk about him joining our band. While there, he pointed to Spirit as the sort of music he’s like to be doing, and played us the “12 Dreams” record. I clearly remember hearing the first cut — “Nothing To Hide” and was quietly flabbergasted — it hit me so hard. Then, of course came the unparalleled “Nature’s Way,” and I can honestly remember feeling like I was having some kind of hallucinogenic experience, as I felt like some kind of musical door in my mind was opening for me. Well, we never teamed up with this guy, but needless to say, I backtracked from Dr. Sardonicus and got all Spirit’s earlier records. And while none of them individually measure up to “12 Dreams,” which is, as others have rightly said here, a masterpiece, but, cumulatively the Spirit catalogue brought the most amazing group of musical style and sounds together, that is probably unmatched to this day. One thing that’s rarely mentioned about them, that I thought was their most appealing aspect was their tremendous vocal presence and mix, and the way they used their vocals on their records to create a unique sound and personality of the band. It’s terribly sad that they were not able to hold their original incarnation together, as each member brought so much to that band, and while most of them went on to have varied musical careers, in my opinion, none of them ever really made that much of a significant mark with any of their subsequent musical efforts as they had with Spirit.

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    • NEOhio Rocker
      NEOhio Rocker 3 October, 2021, 09:52

      I think Heart was pretty significant (knew them all pretty well). Doobie Brothers used my bands PA when they played Blossom music center (Richfield, Ohio Loved Spirit and loved the bands their former members went to and yeah they were significant

      Reply this comment
  11. Larry
    #11 Larry 3 October, 2021, 01:47

    I saw them at the Uptown Theater in KCMO with Iron Butterfly in the early 90s. Was a great show.

    Reply this comment
  12. Arthur Lee
    #12 Arthur Lee 11 October, 2021, 19:34

    There was Love , there was The Doors and there was Spirit, the 3 most influential bands of the Sixties . The music of Spirit is the most underrated of it’s era , the albums are testimony of a fantastic body of work , shame greater success did not come their way .

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