Hailing out of Los Angeles, California, Spirit was a group formed in 1967 by Randy California, Marke Andes, and Jay Ferguson. California’s stepfather, Ed Cassidy, joined the band as its drummer, as well as keyboardist John Locke. At first, the name of the band was Spirits Rebellious, which was after a book’s title, but it was then simply changed to Spirit. Aside from a couple of breaks and some lineup changes, Spirit enjoyed a solid career in recording music and touring until the death of Randy California in 1997. Ed Harris later passed away in 2012.
There were fifteen studio albums that were recorded and released by Spirit from 1968 until 1996. The 2005 album to their credit, Model Shop, featured music from a 1968 soundtrack belonging to the movie. At the timing when the movie came out, it was a failure, so the music that was made for it was not released at the time. The collaborative album was credited to Spirit as it was mostly their material that was on it. There’s also fifteen live albums, but most of them were released posthumously after California’s death in 1997, then Harris’s death in 2012. Also to Spirit’s credit are eight studio albums and thirteen singles.
Top 10 Spirit Songs
#10 – All Along the Watchtower
The original “All Along the Watchtower” comes from Bob Dylan, who first recorded this song on his 1967 album, John Wesley Harding. The theme of the song was a frustrated narrator sharing his opinion about what he thought about the handling and mishandling of the entertainment business. The somewhat more psychedelic version from Spirit seemed to share those same frustrations on a subject matter they could also relate to. Both this version of the song, plus its associative album, Future Games, was released in 1977. Still, the ultimate version of this song will always belong to Jimi Hendrix.
#9 – Mr. Skin
The song. “Mr. Skin,” was named after Ed Cassidy, who earned this title as a nickname from his bandmates due to him always keeping his head shaved bald. Not only did the title of the song reference Cassidy for his physical appearance, but his wardrobe, which was always black. Despite his age being twenty years older than the rest of the group, they recognized him for more than just his fashion style, but for his personality and talent as well. He not only served as an inspiration to them but for a number of fans and artists. When the single was released the first time in 1970, it failed to chart. When it was reissued in 1972, it appeared on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number ninety-two.
#8 – Mechanical World
Jazzy, psychedelic, and thoroughly entertaining, “Mechanical World” was a single that was released from Spirit’s debut self-titled album and was charted at 123 on the US Billboard Hot 100. It likely would have charted higher, but due to the length of the song playing slightly over five minutes, it was deemed too long for much radio play. This song, as well as the band, is credited to be among the creators of art-rock, which is a style of music that ventures into the experimentation of different sounds that can also be classified as what we call today psychedelic rock.
#7 – Dark Eyed Woman
On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Dark Eyed Woman” charted at number 118 in 1969, which was the lead single from Spirit’s third studio album, Clear. Through this song, as well as the album, the busy schedule of recording and touring is reflected in what’s a slightly more ominous music style than what the group had performed earlier.
#6 – Fresh Garbage
The lyrically experimental “Fresh Garbage” featured Randy California at his creative best, who seemed to pour his heart and soul into a song that may not have been a charted success, but was still served as an influential piece for a number of fans and upcoming music artists. It served as the lead single for the compilation album, Time Circle, 1968-1972, which was released in 1991. The album was dedicated to the first four years of Spirit when the original lineup was still intact.
#5 – Animal Zoo
Although “Animal Zoo” only made it at number ninety-seven on the US Billboard Hot 100 when it came out in 1970. It was the first single released through the Epic Records label. The experimental sounds of different styles of music merging as one was still a tough swallow among many radio stations, so the commercial success this single could have achieved was sold short. However, as more fans learned about the song after it already appeared and disappeared on the charts, began to follow Spirit’s music like religion.
#4 – Nature’s Way
Although a minor hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number 111, “Nature’s Way” served as one of the best-performed tracks from the group’s fourth studio album, Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus. It became one of the main contributors to why the album became certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) after it was first released in 1971.
#3 – 1984
1970’s single, “1984,” served as a futuristic-style song that ultimately served as a psychedelic, sci-fi experience that served as an inspirational trigger for Pink Floyd to spring forth with its own style of psychedelic rock music which became that group’s signature sound. On the US Billboard Hot 100, 1984 charted at number sixty-nine. Three years later, The Best of Spirit was released as an album, featuring this hit song.
#2 – Taurus
The instrumental song. “Taurus,” became the heart of a lawsuit Spirit filed against Led Zeppelin over its 1971 hit single, Stairway to Heaven. At one time, Led Zeppelin opened for Spirit while on tour and it was suspected its sample was used to record and produce the best single the British group ever produced themselves. Fans of both bands had also noticed the similarities, as well as the music critics. It remained a hot debate for many years, which brought about a 2014 lawsuit filed by the trustees of Spirit against Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement. The 2016 judgment ruled in favor of Led Zeppelin, but the decision was challenged it went back to the courts again. In 2018, this ruling was overturned by a jury, but that decision was also appealed. In 2020, the Supreme Court’s final decision stated Led Zeppelin didn’t do anything wrong to warrant the lawsuit and the case has since been closed as they refused to allow the argument about the matter to continue. Yet, listen to the song and make your own decision, that’s all we are going to say
#1 – I Got a Line on You
“I Got a Line on You” was Spirit’s second single, which was released in 1986 under the Ode label. The hard-hitting, funky guitar riff played in the song served as the instrumental key to what made this song considered a classic rock and roll hit. On the US Billboard Hot 100, I Got a Line on You peaked at number twenty-five. It was the group’s biggest hit and served as an inspirational piece for a number of artists, including Alice Cooper, to record their own versions
Top 10 Spirit Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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