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Op-Ed: Mr. Moonshine – By Bob Lefsetz

I’ve spent all morning downloading albums from a music blog.

I wasn’t even going to comment on the ISP hysteria coming out of the mother country today.

All it confirms is the people making these rules, raising their fists against the damn

Internet thieves, don’t use the Internet themselves. Because if you use the Internet you know

the battle has already been fought, and lost. Music is free online, and as a result, the

populace is richer for it.

I’m not saying music SHOULD be free, just that it is. Record label saber-rattling has only

resulted in driving music acquisition further underground, to the point where it’s impossible

to eradicate the free consumption of tunes. Are you going to eliminate AIM transfers?

RapidShare? How about outlawing P2P? Well, now movies are being distributed legitimately via

P2P, so that’s no solution… The ONLY hope is to create a solution so enticing that people

would rather pay than steal. It’s possible, after all, bottled water is being sold by the

truckload even though water is essentially free from the tap and discarded empty bottles are

anything but green. But the public has been convinced they need their Fiji. And the purveyor

has even managed to mount a PR campaign saying THEY ARE green. Huh? Too busy paying off

programmers all these years, record label infrastructure contains no innovative marketers.

And the old wavers are so busy protecting their rights that they’d rather have their wares

stolen than authorize new methods of distribution. It’s sad, but it’s also laughable.

You can sell music online at the iTunes Store if it’s an impulse item. Like a Coke. A buck

for the track, and that’s it. But that was the business model that existed prior to "Sgt.

Pepper", and it was only when the album became the standard that profits blew up. But the new

acts don’t make albums people want to own, so why should they drop the money for them?

Meanwhile, people like me are combing the Net looking for digital copies of albums we owned

on vinyl that have never been released in a digital format. Like Fat Mattress.

Turns out you can now buy a compilation on iTunes. But I wasn’t looking for it. I haven’t

played my Fat Mattress album for nigh on forty years. But today I saw it listed in this blog

and I remembered, I had to download it.

Along with Thunderclap Newman’s "Hollywood Dream", Ry Cooder’s debut, a couple of Spirit

albums… Shit I didn’t need, most of which I own on vinyl, but stuff that was worth adding to

my digital collection.

And it used to be that you spent all afternoon alphabetizing your albums. Now, it’s aligning

your iTunes library. Are the titles correct? I need to eliminate duplicates. Let me check the

timings… This is record collector fun.

And after deleting the 56k versions of Al Kooper’s "You Never Know Who Your Friends Are" for

their new, shiny 192k replacements, I started working on the Fat Mattress album. There was

one track that I absolutely loved… What was it? "Mr. Moonshine"?

Buying albums was so different. They were a precious commodity. You could only afford so

many. And it was ABOUT the album. Singles were for the radio. You wanted the full experience.

Usually just a bit over forty minutes. You dropped the needle on one side, then flipped it

over for the other. You laid on the floor, your bed, and let the music flow over you, in your

own private world. You may have lived in your parents’ house, but this was your sanctuary,

your escape.

Noel Redding had been in the Jimi Hendrix Experience. But that was not enough for me to buy

Fat Mattress. I had to get it at a discount. A premium for joining the Record Club of

America. Which appealed to me, because it had no obligation. You bought what you wanted. And,

for this low price, I got Fat Mattress. And today, I’ve got Fat Mattress again.

I was listening to the first Spirit album. The one containing "Taurus", which Jimmy Page

ripped off for "Stairway To Heaven". I was struck by the sound. Even though it was an MP3, it

sounded like nothing on the radio today. It sounded just like 1968.

In 1968, albums were about music, not hits. They were not overly-compressed to sound good

over the airwaves. They were made to be played late at night, when stoned, or on lazy

afternoons. My mind is brought right back to that era listening now. To an album I never

heard. Except for the radio track, "Mechanical World". Which I loved. But I can’t believe I

missed out on so much magic. Forty years later, I’m enraptured. Every single track. Listen to

"Girl In Your Eye", if you think that sound was only created in San Francisco, you’re wrong.

And "Topanga Windows" will let you know why everybody wanted to move to the rugged canyon

jutting up from the beach. I’m not sure today’s younger generation will ever discover this

music, but that doesn’t mean it’s not valid, that it’s merely fodder for a time capsule.

Maybe, in the future, people will study the decade from ‘64 to ‘74 in music the same way they

study the Renaissance. The risks, the influence, the MAGIC!

"Mr. Moonshine" has the same feel as that Spirit album. A certain darkness. This music was

not made for adults, it was made for kids, baby boomers. Adults couldn’t get it. You were

supposed to work 9-5, buy a house and create a family. But, listening to this music our minds

were expanded and we wanted no part of that. We went to Woodstock because of the music, we

didn’t know we were part of such a large tribe until we got there!

I’ll hook you up with the BBC live take. But, it doesn’t have the dreamy effect of the studio


Music, when done right, cannot be described.

I can just tell you I lived for these records. Their makers were not sold out whores, looking

everywhere for bucks, but pioneers, adventurers, discovering not a physical world, but a

world of the mind. After hearing Jimi Hendrix, we’d give him all of our money. We weren’t

worried about being ripped off, we just wanted to go along for the ride. A ride so great,

that we’d even listen to the work of the spinoff groups, just to hear what the supporting

players had to say. They were closer to it than we ever were. They were at the center of an

expanding universe. We wanted access, we needed access, we’d do anything for access.

Fat Mattress – Mr. Moonshine –