Country Joe and the Fish - I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die

My best friend at primary school was a boy called Peter, who lived up the road. His father worked for Fairweather (the builders), and they in turn had a company box at the Royal Albert Hall that was available to its employees - I guess senior management got first refusal and then it filtered down. Peter's dad mentioned this to me, knowing that I was a music fan, and said that if there were any concerts at the RAH that I wanted to go to, to let him know and he'd see if the box was available. So I started checking out the ads in the back of the Melody Maker.

Well it seems that they were a pretty dull bunch at Fairweather, because over the next couple of years or so I got to see Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, John Mayall, Family, Steppenwolf, Albert King, Keef Hartley, Deep Purple, Pentangle, Stone The Crows, Fleetwood Mac, and various others - sadly I didn't get to see Cream's farewell gig (though I think I tried). And the first band that I saw there, in 1968, was Country Joe and the Fish. My mum thought I was too young to go on my own, so my cousin Mike (see elsewhere re Roy Harper) came with me.

Although I'd been to see Hair some time before (and danced on stage at the end), and had therefore heard a live rock band, nothing could have prepared me for a West Coast American psychedelic rock band in full flight. It was unbelievable - incredibly loud (or so I thought at the time) and absolutely overwhelming. I was absolutely overwhelmed and sat enraptured for the duration, shaking my head and generally "grooving along". I don't know what Mike made of it, or my reaction, but afterwards I told him that I thought it was amazing and asked him what that kind of music was called. He shrugged and said "heavy rock, I suppose".

So from then on I was on the lookout for Heavy Rock.

Incidentally, recently I bought a live CD recorded on the same tour and it's pretty grim - the original CJFish had disbanded and Joe McDonald was touring with Barry Melton and a bunch of session players (although any band with Jack Casady on bass couldn't be a total disaster). Nevertheless for me, at that time and that age (12) that gig was unbelievable and one of the key points in my early teens.

Anyway, some time later I saw "I Feel Like I'm Fixing To Die" in a sale bin at my local WH Smith, and immediately bought it. I think I was a bit disappointed at first because it wasn't particularly "heavy rock", but soon I came to love it anyway. I still do. It's one of the top ten or so West Coast acid rock albums, and still sounds fresh and exciting today (if you skip the first track, the "Bomb song" and "The Acid Commercial". There are some gorgeous songs (including "Janis" - about Janis Joplin, his one-time girlfriend - or "lady" in contemporary parlance), great shimmering lead guitar (and keyboards), and it's a cracker of an album.

I'll tell you all an awful story
Yum yum
They turned me on to the Karelia
of, not on
Each place I go
I'd rather have my country die for me
That's a nice little Guild...
Get me offa this pedestal
Why's he got an apple in his mouth?
Produced by Giorgio Gomelsky
Big Ted's gone, he was a great old pig
I'd swear there was somebody there...
this here next on's rock and roll
notices lean on each other in yearning
are you hung up?