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Jerry Miller

A Conversation with Jerry Miller of Moby Grape

Puremusic: I was very tickled, as a massive Grape fan, to hear that Legacy is issuing a brand new Best Of, Listen My Friends: the Best of Moby Grape.

Jerry Miller: How about that, right?

PM: One of the greatest San Francisco bands ever, not just in psychedelic, period.

JM: Well, thank you. That's nice to hear, Frank.

PM: When I think about those days, "Omaha" is still, to me, one of the most urgent, exciting songs of that whole psychedelic period.

JM: Yeah.

PM: I mean, don't you agree, there's something about that groove and about that sound?

JM: Yeah. I do. I did a lecture kind of thing at San Francisco State. And David Suzuki, the professor there, he played, for example, some really lightweight stuff from L.A., and he said, "Then it changed," and he put on "Omaha."

PM: Wow.

JM: And that was really cool, because it had a little bit of hair on it.

PM: And then on the other hand, "8:05" is one of the greatest ballads of the '60s.

JM: It was a pretty one, wasn't it?

PM: I mean, I think of it really in the same breath as "Today," from [The Jefferson Airplane's] Surrealistic Pillow. You remember that song.

JM: Oh, you bet I do. Yeah, because Skippy had the song "My Best Friend" on that one, Surrealistic Pillow. [Skip Spence, that is.]

PM: Oh, right, that's Skip's tune! Oh, that was a great song, too. I forgot that was Skip's tune.

JM: You betcha.

PM: I read somewhere that the Grape were the Byrds with the blues. Was that your definition?

JM: Yeah, I guess you could say that. But the Byrds were the first band that I heard that made me say, "Hey, I could play with other guitar players."

PM: Right.

JM: Before that I didn't have anything to do with another guitar player.

PM: Really? Because you were more of a jazz guy or a blues guy?

JM: I was playing mostly organ trios. I just love that, and I still do.

PM: Oh, yeah, to get a great B3 player behind an L5, oh, my God.

JM: Oh, yeah. Yeah, and kick back and be cool, it's really fun.

PM: [laughs] And the Grape were a much more explosive band than, say, the Airplane or the Dead, wouldn't you agree?

JM: I would, yeah.

PM: They were both much more laid back outfits in comparison.

JM: They both played very nice, beautiful music.

PM: And the Grape had that essential difference in their personality than any of the other Bay Area bands of that time, don't you think?

JM: Yeah, we had kind of a mish-mash there, for sure, but yeah, we were all pretty strong.

PM: And you being, in my mind, a quintessential L-5 player distinguished you from the pack in temperament and sound.

JM: Well, thanks. I did have a desire to learn how to play the thing.

[laughter]     continue

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