A Bit Like You And Me Radio

June 05, 2013

Skip Spence - Little Hands (1969)

Born Alexander Lee Spence in Ontario, Canada 1946, this multi-talented singer, songwriter, and musician lived a life overwhelmed by drugs, alcohol, and mental insanity. In the late 1950s, while still a young child, “Skip” and his family moved to San Jose, California because of a job his father landed. Around the age of eighteen or nineteen, Skip joined up with a brand new local music act, Quicksilver Messenger Service. Just as quickly as he had joined them, Skip was plucked from Quicksilver before they had even played their first gig. He had been persuaded by Marty Balin to not only join his in-the-works band, but also convinced him to switch from guitar to drums. Balin’s budding group, which eventually was named Jefferson Airplane, featured Skip on their debut album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. In March 1966, Skip was asked to leave Jefferson Airplane along with their manager, Matthew Katz. Katz, who was called a greedy entrepreneur seeking fortune by his former act, convinced Skip to start his own band in a Jefferson Airplane-styled fashion and Moby Grape was born.

Around 1968, Skip began taking LSD and his behavior quickly became more erratic and unpredictable. According to bandmates, Skip began to hang with a bad crowd that was into “harder drugs and a harder lifestyle.” It’s unknown what all the drugs were that Spence was taking at that time, but what is known is that he showed up at a hotel in New York where his bandmates were staying, wielding a fire axe. After holding the axe to the doorman’s head, Skip went up to his bandmate Jerry Miller’s room and tried to chop through the room’s door. He was apparently attempting to kill bandmates Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson to “save them from themselves.” Naturally, after charges were pressed, Spence found himself involuntarily locked in Bellevue, an insane asylum located in New York, New York.

During his six month stint at the insane asylum, Spence was diagnosed with schizophrenia, possibly triggered by his years of heavily abusing mind-altering psychedelic drugs. While locked up, Skip spent most of his time writing an album, which he would later go on to record in Nashville, Tennessee after his release. The song heard below was written by Spence while instituted at the Bellevue insane asylum. It was recorded by Spence, who played all of the instruments on the album, in December 1968 under the impression that he was recording a demo to be fleshed out with full production later on. Instead, the album, titled Oar, was released exactly as it was recorded on May 19, 1969.

album art

Skip Spence - Little Hands (1969)

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Lyrics:

Little hands clappin’
Children are laughin’
Little hands clappin’
All over the world

Piper is pipin’
Drummers are drummin’
Little hands clappin’
All over the world

Little hands clappin’
Children are sharin’
Little loves lovin’
All little boys and girls

Children are singin’
Truths that they're bringin’
Freedom is ringin’
All around the world

Come, let’s meet them
Yes, we will greet them

Little hands clappin’
Children are carin’
Piper is callin’
All over the world

Out in the street
The sick that you meet
How many friends do
You call your own?

Come, let us meet them
Yes, we will greet them

Children are clappin’
Children are carin’
Children are shatterin’
Records and rules

Little hands carin’
Little hands sharin’
The old ones and the gold one
And the family jewels

Come, let us meet them
Yes, we will greet them

Little hands clappin’
Children are happy
Little hands lovin’
All 'round the world

Little hands claspin’
Truth they are graspin’
A world with no pain
For one and all

And they are learnin’
Their souls, they are yearnin’
A nice place to play
And no place to fall

Come, let us meet them
Yes, we will greet them

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