Dead and Gone

We are close to the end of this song of the day series featuring Minnesota musicians, but I may indulge myself one more time tomorrow. If you have followed along, you may have noticed that I have excavated songs with an upbeat tone or feeling. In the spirit of the Inflation Reduction Act, the time has come for music in a more desperate mood.

With my friend Scott Sansby I saw just about all the good Twin Cities groups of the ’60’s. Indeed, Scottie was in a few of them. Many of the Twin Cities bands we saw had regional hits on Soma Records, the handiwork of Amos Heilicher. They are memorialized on the vinyl double album The Big Hits Of Mid-America: The Soma Records Story 1963-1967.

My favorite band was The Underbeats. They lead off the Soma collection. We saw them many times. They had the vocal group harmony thing nailed and were excellent instrumentalists to boot.

They headed out to Los Angeles at the end of the decade and landed a job as the house band at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go. Both Atlantic Records and Metromedia offered to sign them and they chose to sign with Metromedia. They came out with their self-titled debut — a double album — in 1970.

The double album was a mistake for a debut, but it was full of good songs composed by guitarist Rico Rosenbaum. My favorite was the suite “Dead and Gone” over on side 4. Rico planted a love song in the middle of the suite. I think the whole thing still sounds pretty, pretty good after all these years.

Rick Shefchik tells the story of the band in his excellent, scrupulously researched, well-written history Everybody’s Heard About the Bird: The True Story of 1960s Rock ’n’ Roll in Minnesota (University of Minnesota Press, 2015). Rick’s account raises the question whether the choice of Metromedia over Atlantic was a mistake for the band.

Gypsy’s story is not happy, but the music lives. On WUMB’s Highway 61 Revisited show this past weekend, I was more than a little surprised to hear host Albert O play a track from In the Garden, the band’s 1971 follow-up to Gypsy. Maybe not “Dead and Gone” after all.

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