Remembering John Cipollina

Galibier Design - John Cipollina Amp Stack
Courtesy of John Cipollina Tribute Website

History has pretty much forgotten both Quicksilver Messenger Service and John Cipollina, slotting them into the second tier of San Francisco bands along with Big Brother, Country Joe and the Fish, etc.

The two YouTube clips below, capture both Cipollina and Quicksilver’s raw energy, and it’s my humble opinion that they belong in the pantheon of late 60’s San Fransisco bands, along with the Airplane and the Dead.

There’s only one Quicksilver …

Check out how he uses the mike stand as a slide in this first video. I’ve always wondered how the coaxed those primordial sounds out of his guitar.

It’s difficult to place this one in time.  I have trouble believing the YouTube date of 1980 as it’s more of the 1969 sound.  Of course, this isn’t the full band compliment, so it may well be a pickup set they performed.

Quicksilver ceased to be of interest to its original fans (including me) when Dino Valenti joined the band in the early 70’s.

It’s not so much that they became a bad band, so much as their identity shifted 180 degrees.  It’s reminiscent of the latter years of Jefferson Starship – a bit too much saccharin sweetness.  They had none of the raw experimental energy of the first 5 years of Quicksilver.

Apparently, Cipollina agreed, as he left the band shortly after Dino came on board (click here for details).

If you buy one of their albums, pick up their second one:  “Happy Trails”.  This is the live Quicksilver experience.  Their first, self-titled record and third one (“Shady Grove”) are worth it as well.  These are both studio records, so don’t expect the full “Happy Trails” experience (get the pun?).

Vinyl Lovers released a 2 LP set entitled “Live at the Carousel Ballroom”.  It’s a bit more extended and free-form than “Happy Trails” and might not be the best introduction.

Cipollina’s amp stack was something to behold – a solid state bass amp with 4 – 15″ drivers.  Above that, was Fender Twin Reverb and Fender Fender Dual Showman – the latter, driving six Wurlitzer horns!  The photo above is compliments of the John Cippolina tribute website.

I have no idea of the origin of this jam.  I don’t know if it truly was intended as a soundtrack or whether it was mash-up, done  after the fact.  It’s an odd “Easy Rider” Meets “The Wild One” montage.  I’d love to have heard this jam live.

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