Top 10 Spirit Songs

Spirit Songs

Photo: Swimuser12, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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, and John Locke was the keyboardist. At first, the band’s name was Spirits Rebellious, which was after a book’s title, but it was then 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.

Fifteen studio albums were recorded and released by Spirit from 1968 until 1996. To their credit, the 2005 album Model Shop featured music from a 1968 soundtrack belonging to the movie. When the movie came out, it was a failure, so the music made for it was not released then. The collaborative album was credited to Spirit as it was mostly their material that was on it. There are also fifteen live albums, but most were released posthumously after California died in 1997, then Harris’s death in 2012. Also to Spirit’s credit are eight studio albums and thirteen singles.

Of course, many people know of the band Spirit because of the lawsuit the band’s Mark Andes and a trust representing Randy California filed against Led Zeppelin. The trust accused Jimmy Page of stealing the acoustic guitar part from their song “Taurus”  to be used in “Stairway To Heaven.” After multiple decisions and appeals, Spirit lost the lawsuit against Zep. More on that later.

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 song’s theme was a frustrated narrator sharing his opinion about the handling and mishandling of the entertainment business. Spirit’s somewhat more psychedelic version seemed to share those same frustrations on a subject matter they could relate to. Both this version of the song and its associative album, Future Games, were 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. The song’s title references Cassidy for his physical appearance and his wardrobe, which is 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 served as an inspiration not only to them but also to some fans and artists. When the single was released for the first time in 1970, it failed to chart. When 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 released from Spirit’s debut self-titled album and charted at number 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, a style of music that ventures into the experimentation of different sounds that can also be classified as what we call psychedelic rock today.

#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 and the album, the busy recording and touring schedule 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. He seemed to pour his heart and soul into a song that may not have been a charted success but was still influential 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 remained 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 had already appeared and disappeared on the charts, they 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” was one of the best-performed tracks from the group’s fourth studio album, Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus. It was one of the main contributors to why the album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) after it was first released in 1971.

#3 – 1984

The 1970s single” 1984″ was a futuristic-style song that ultimately served as a psychedelic, sci-fi experience that 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, featuring this hit song, was released as an album.

#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 that its sample would be used to record and produce the best single the British group ever made themselves. Fans of both bands had also noticed the similarities, as did 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, and it went back to the courts again. In 2018, a jury overturned this ruling, 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, 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 many artists, including Alice Cooper, to record their versions.

Updated April 10, 2024

Top 10 Spirit Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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