Moby Grape: Naked, If I Want To
I was at the gym the other day, trying to distract myself from how much I don’t like being at the gym by thinking about something to write about. And then this song came on my iPod, with its lyrics about “fireworks on the fourth of every single July,” giving me a topic.
Moby Grape. If ever there was a name that immediately brings to mind the psychedelic era, it is Moby Grape. Despite the fact that their self-titled debut album, from which this song comes, is generally considered a masterpiece, and at least one critic has stated that it was better than any album released by their better known temporal and geographic contemporaries the Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead, they are all but forgotten today. (But not at Star Maker Machine.) Unfortunately, if Moby Grape is remembered at all, it is for singer/guitarist Skip Spence’s LSD induced mental illness, or for their failure, for a number of reasons, to ever record a worthy follow up. There’s also an unfortunately all-too-common history of record company bumbling, band strife and litigation, none of which is as interesting as the music.
“Naked, If I Want To” is a short, countryish song, 55 seconds long, written by guitarist/singer Jerry Miller, and it is about the irrationality of certain laws. The band released an electric version of the song on its second album, Wow, but I kind of like the original.
You’d think that such a short song by an overlooked band would be forgotten, and you would be wrong. None other than Robert Plant has covered it:
And Cat Power has done both a slow version:
And a fast version (in which she sounds more than a little like Grace Slick, who joined the Airplane after Spence departed:
In both cases stretching the song out well beyond its original concise confines.