Our Pearls Before Swine songs list looks back at one of the most underrated and forgotten bands in classic rock history. They were formed by Tom Rapp after he recorded some songs with some school friends which they then sent to the ESP-Disk label. They were soon signed up and recorded their debut album One Nation Underground. Although it sold fairly well at 200,000 copies, problems with the record company meant that they did see much profit from the record. Their next album Balaklava was released in 1968 and its lyrics were all themed around anti-war themes.
They left ESP and signed with Reprise Records in 1969 by which all the other original band members had left and Rapp was now practically the sole member and any other members that he played with were hired guns. The rest of their albums were all released on this label and were generally more conventional in nature than the more Avant Garde first two albums. They released their final album Familiar Songs in 1971.
Rapp would then record and release two more albums under his own name before retiring from music in 1974 to pursue a career as a civil rights lawyer. He would remain out of the music business for the best part of the next two decades until he was contacted by the psychedelic magazine Ptolemaic Terrascope in 1997, after which he appeared at the Terrastock festival with his son’s band Shy Camp. After this he released a new album titled A Journal of the Plague Year. He passed away in 2018. In addition to Pearls Before Swine songs, this list will include a couple of songs from albums which were actually Tom Rapp albums some of which were released under the PBS name. This is done to fully explore all of Tom Rapp’s career.
Here is a list of the ten best Pearls Before Swine songs.
# 10 – The Swimmer (for Kurt Cobain)
Kicking off our top ten Pearls Before Swine songs list is this track from the album A Journal of the Plague Year released in 1999. It was Tom Rapp’s first new album in twenty-six years and featured collaborations from people such as Damon and Naomi and Nick Salomon. As the title would suggest, it is dedicated to the late Nirvana frontman.
# 9 – Sunforest
This next song is the title track from an album that is considered to be Tom Rapp’s ninth album which can technically count it as a Pearls Before Swine record. Upon its release in 1973 it was credited to Tom Rapp/Pearls Before Swine and was recorded with touring members of PBS. The album is generally considered to be more musically upbeat than the rest of Rapp’s work.
# 8 – A Life
Continuing with our Top 10 Pearl Before Swine songs list we present the fabulous song entitled “A Life.” The song was released on the Pearl Before Swine album entitled Beautiful Lies You Could Live In. This one has always been one of our favorite Pearl Before Swine songs.
# 7 – Rocket Man
This song is taken from the album Familiar Songs released in 1972. It was Rapp’s first official solo album but several of the albums that were recorded under the Pearls Before Swine name had been recorded by Rapp and a group of sessions musicians as opposed to an actual group. The album is also sometimes known as Tom Rapp because Familiar Songs is not actually written on the front cover. The album was released by Reprise Records without any involvement from Rapp, with his manage having sent the tapes to the record company.
# 6 – Butterflies
Ending the first half of this list is a track from Pearls Before Swine’s sixth album Beautiful Lies You Could Live In released in 1971. Like the previous album City Of Gold it was credited to Tom Rapp and Pearls Before Swine rather than just the band’s name. By this point, Rapp was effectively using the PBS name to record under, with the other musicians on this album all being hired musicians as opposed to official band members.
# 5 – City Of Gold
Kicking off the second half of this list is the title track of the fifth Pearls Before Swine album released in 1971. This album marked the beginning of what would be the saga of whether or not it was Pearls Before Swine or Tom Rapp with it being credited to ( Tom Rapp and the Pearls Before Swine.) The original band had actually ceased to exist by the time of the third album These Things Too and Rapp had taken full control of the name and recorded the fourth album The Use of Ashes with a group of session players as well as his wife Elisabeth. This album was actually largely made up of material that had actually been written during the writing process of that album.
# 4 – From The Movie Of The Same Name
Our next song is taken from the aforementioned fourth record that was released in 1970. This was the first record where it was effectively Tom Rapp and a variety of guest musicians, as all of the other original members had left before the recording of this album. This track is largely instrumental and features a harpsichord from David Briggs.
# 3 – These Things Too
At number three is the title and closing track of the band’s third album released in 1969. This album is the one that marked the end of the original line-up with Lane Lederer and Chris Crissinger both having left and Wayne Harley leaving soon after the album was recorded. Making up the rest of the personnel on this album were hired players.
# 2 – Lepers and Roses
Just off the top spot is a track taken from the second Pearls Before Swine album Balaklava released in 1968. Here we have an album recorded when Pearls Before Swine were a proper band before essentially becoming a Tom Rapp solo act. The album’s lyrics are anti-war themed and use the 1954 Battle of Balaclava as an example of the futility of war.
# 1 – Another Time
Topping this list we have a track taken from the band’s debut album One Nation Underground released in 1967. The album was recorded in New York City with the original line-up. This acoustic song is the first that Tom Rapp ever wrote and is based on his experience in a car crash from which he luckily walked away from unscathed.
Top 10 Pearls Before Swine Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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