He can call Super Woman and his Super Dogs
But it sure won’t do him no good
Yeah, I found out why from a Russian spy
That he ain’t nothing but a comic book
(from Superbird (Tricky Dicky))
So sang Country Joe and the Fish in San Francisco in 1967 or thereabouts. The first time I heard it was in a seedy hovel of a flat off Sefton Park in 1986. Dave was on his plan to listen to every major Haight Ashbury band that summer. We had collectively devoured Quicksilver, The Dead, the Airplane and Janis, Dave was however enthralled by Country Joe and the Fish mainly as they at times could be laugh out loud funny, and deadly serious. While everyone around us was enamored of the Doors and the Velvet Underground and wearing long coats and being serious Dave was digging us into the Merry Pranksters and the search for Paisley. A big part of that summer was the strange off-kilter homemade jug band psychedelia of Country Joe.
And they appeared in the Woodstock movie which we had managed to see at the Futurist cinema one late night, I think I fell asleep for much of the movie though.
The shame of the Woodstock movie is that it distills Country Joe and The Fish to basically the Fish Cheer and Fixin’ To Die which are great songs but do not convey the psychedelic soul and rock stew they really were. Country Joe and the Fish have pretty much meandered anarchically into the backroom of musical history with a “Give me an F'” The satire of the lyrics and the funkiness of the music is lost but not forgotten.
This is not to say they were an important band, or even an unimportant band, it is however to say that when the politics got serious they new how to laugh at the hypocrites, something we could all do with now. They are perhaps best left firmly in that time to emerge every now and then when a 50 year old lyric becomes meaningful and contemporary again.