COUNTRY JOE McDONALD and THE COUNTRY JOE BAND
Country Joe McDonald?s recording career started in 1965, and now, after
forty years he is still releasing relevant and though provoking material.
From his 1965 recording debut - a self produced EP with two tracks by a
nascent Country Joe and the Fish, including the first version of Joe's classic
"I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag" Country Joe's recording output has not
only been prodigious but always worth investigation.
Country Joe and the Fish soon evolved from jug band beginnings to a fully
fledged rock band. As well as two more self produced E.P.s, Country Joe and
the Fish (Country Joe McDonald, Barry Melton, Gary 'Chicken' Hirsh, David
Bennett Cohen and Bruce Barthol) were soon snapped up by Vanguard Records, and
in 1966 recorded their debut album, the classic 'Electric Music For The
Mind and Body', acknowledged by many as the finest psychedelic albums of all
The late great British d.j. John Peel, in his last ever interview, said 'My
favourite album of that era, really, was, and remains Country Joe and the
Fish's 'Electric Music For The Mind and Body'.
'Electric Music For The Mind and Body and the follow-up album, 'I Feel Like
I'm Fixin' To Die', remained on Billboard's album for about two years, while
the group increasingly toured the around America. In 1967, they appeared at
the Monterey Pop Festival, probably the best line-up of any of the festivals
of the sixties - amongst others, Country Joe and The Fish appeared with Janis
Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Otis Redding,
Jefferson Airplane, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds, Canned Heat and Buffalo
By 1968 Country Joe and The Fish had released a third album 'Together' and
were touring successfully around the world. They toured Europe in the fall of
1968 and recorded a fourth LP, 'Here We Are Again' , in the late spring of
Country Joe McDonald's solo career took off at Woodstock Festival in 1969,
when on the first day of the festival he performed an impromptu solo set, after
the scheduled artiste failed to appear. Although Country Joe and the Fish
also played at Woodstock, (only Barry Melton and Joe remained from the line-up
who had recorded the first four Country Joe and the Fish albums) it was the
solo spot which sealed Joe's destiny as primarily a solo artiste for the next
During Joe's solo set he performed 'I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag' and
when Joe prefaced the song by leading the massive crowd through the notorious
'fuck cheer', he had the audience in the palm of his hand. Not bad for an
unscheduled unrehearsed appearance with a borrowed guitar! This became one
of the most enduring images of the subsequent 'Woodstock' film release.
Things were never the same for Country Joe after Woodstock. After the
release of the last Country Joe and the Fish album, 'C.J. Fish', the band broke
up, and Joe signed with Vanguard as a solo performer. He continues to the
perform solo to the present day to much acclaim, and has released in excess of
thirty solo albums since 1969.
Always a political animal, Joe's resolve to bring 'the bigger picture' to
his public has never wavered. His interest in the work of Crimean nurse
Florence Nightingale was a logical extension of his activism on behalf for Vietnam
Veterans and the anti-war movement. Joe is also very active in animal
welfare and Greenpeace issues, themes also explored in his work. Joe has
released several superb albums exploring these subjects.
In 2004, Joe formed The Country Joe Band, with Bruce Barthol, Chicken
Hirsh, and David Bennett Cohen.. This was essentially the classic line-up of
Country Joe and The Fish responsible for the first four albums - only Barry
Melton was missing.
A short Country Joe Band tour of the East Coast of the U.S.A. preceded a
triumphant tour of the U.K in the Summers of 2004 and 2005, and since then the
band have been busy and in constant demand in both the U.S.A and the U.K.
In 2005, during an extenssive tour of England and Scotland, The Country Joe
Band headlined the opening night of Cropredy Festival, where they played to a
crowd of 18,500 and two days later performed a storming set at The Tartan
Heart Festival in Inverness, Scotland, where they were second in the bill to
one of Scotland's top bands, The Proclaimers.
The Country Joe Band sold out The Borderline Club, one of London's most
prestgious venues, in 2004 and 2005, (Country Joe also sold the venue out on
both his solo appearances, in 2001 and early 2005) and The Country Joe Band
headlined the Roots Weekend of the Isle Of Wight Festival in 2004.
However, Country Joe still continues to produce solo albums, and his latest
album 'Natural Imperfections' has recently been released.
The album is a collaboration with soundscape artist Bernie Krause, famous
for his many nature soundscape recordings. The album which Joe describes as
'intended for for relaxation, prayer and meditation', is an intriguing
document, evoking the sublime instrumental albums of Joe's good friend, the maverick
genius known as John Fahey, who died penniless with a massive drink
On some levels it would appear Joe's album is a reaction to Fahey's
lonesome death, which, along with the premature deaths of a number of his friends
and musical peers may well have caused Joe to reappraise his life, after
losing so many good folks along the way. A brief look at the survivors of the
Monterey Festival line-up gives flesh to the thought'.
We are lucky to still have Joe making great music in a time of mediocrity,
and we should treasure his input to enriching our lives.
'Natural Imperfections' and many other Country Joe McDonald items are
available 'on line' via Joe's website,
Secret Films recently released "Turned Up And Turned On", a DVD of the final
gig of the 2004 U.K tour, filmed at Southsea. The DVD is available through
all good record stores.
The Country Joe Band's CD, "Live At Berkeley", is available via
www.countryjoecom . but is also on sale for the special
price of just £10 (plus £1.50 post and packing) from Barking Spider - e mail
firstname.lastname@example.org to order.