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Members include Robin Amon (member c. 1998), electronics;Masaki Batoh (member c. 1998), finger cymbals, wineglass;Jim Bohannon (member c. 1968), keyboards; David Briggs (member c. 1970), piano, harpsichord, keyboards;Morris Brown (member c. 1971), bass;Kenneth Buttrey (member c. 1970), drums;Roger Crissinger (member c. 1967), organ, harpsichord, clavoline;Hutch Davie (member c. 1970), keyboards, wind;Bob Dorough (member c. 1971), piano;John Duke (member c. 1970), flute, oboe, wind; Arti Ellis (member c. 1972-4), flutes;Jim Fairs (member c. 1969), guitar, co-producer;Amos Garrett (member c. 1971), guitars; Mac Gayden (member c. 1970), guitar; Steve Grable (member c. 1971), piano, keyboards;Wayne Harley (member c. 1967-9), autoharp, banjo, mandolin, vibraphone, audio oscillator;Gordon Hayes (member c. 1971), bass;Gerald Jemmott (member c. 1971), bass;Michael Krawits (member c. 1971), piano;Lane Lederer (member c. 1967-8), bass, guitar, swinehorn; Herb Lovell (member c. 1971), drums;Charlie McCoy (member c. 1970), bass, dobro, guitar, harmonica, vocals;Phil McMullen (member c. 1997-8), finger cymbals;Billy Mundi (member c. 1971), drums; David Noyes (member c. 1971), vocals; Bill Pippin (member c. 1970), flute, oboe, wind;Norbert Putnam (member c. 1970), bass;Tom Rapp (born Thomas D. Rapp, March 8, 1947, in Bottineau, ND), guitar, vocals; Billy Rollins (member c. 1972-74), cello; Nick Saloman (b. March 11, 1953 in London, England, member c. 1997-8), guitar, autoharp; William Salter (member c. 1969), bass; Stuart Scharf (member c. 1971), guitars;Paul Simmons (member c. 1998), guitar;Warren Smith (member c. 1967), drums;Buddy Spicher (member c. 1970), violin, cello, viola; Grady Tate (member c. 1969, 1971), drums;John Tooker (member c. 1971), guitar.
Among the profusion of musical groups arising from the counterculture of the 1960s, Pearls Before Swine offered some of the most poetic and surreal lyrics of the day. While it was not unusual for music at that time to make social statements, Pearls Before Swine used poetry and metaphor to weave multiple layered lyrics that have earned them a following among musicians.
According to Goldmine magazine "[Pearls Before Swine was] really more a fictional entity than a genuine working band, the group consisted of singer/songwriter Tom Rapp and a rotating cast of supporting talent". None of the original band members would remain past the third album. However, Rapp pulled together many talented musicians throughout his career to help weave musical magic. Hence, although the band boasted many members, Tom Rapp and Pearls Before Swine have become synonymous.
Rapp was born in Bottineau, North Dakota, near the Canadian border. His earliest musical influences included his grandfather who could learn any instrument in a matter of minutes and his mother who sang radio commercials as a child. He learned to play the ukulele from a neighbor and guitar from a country singer name "Red" in Northfield, Minnesota. As a child he played country songs. Talent shows were Rapp's earliest live performances. In the Washington Post, Rapp recalls leafing through his mother's scrapbook and finding the results of a show in Rochester, Minnesota. Tom had placed second, and an older boy named Bobby Zimmerman, who would later be known as Bob Dylan placed fifth.
Between 1958-65, Rapp thought little of music until he heard Peter Paul and Mary playing "Blowing in the Wind" and felt compelled to play the song. Upon discovering that the original was by Bob Dylan, he tracked down most of his songs and began once again to play. He learned picking styles from a Joan Baez songbook and formed a band with some high school friends in Melbourne, Florida. They made a demo tape, sent it to ESP Records, and were invited to New York to make an album; Pearls Before Swine was born.
In an article for Goldmine Rapp recalls, "I think the first real song that I ever wrote was `Another Time," which is the first song on the (first) album. I was in a car accident when an Austin Healey Sprite flipped over a couple of times. I was thrown out, but essentially uninjured. I found myself standing in the road with the car turned around and the windshield up in a tree. I can remember just having the overpowering feeling that the universe didn't care at all. Nothing was really holding you up and whether you lived or died was just pure chance." Such was the case with many Pearls songs, arising from circumstances, shaped by Rapp. In an interview with Goldmine, Rapp discusses his method of songwriting: "My sense of writing a song was that you started with a mood or a feeling and you just chipped away everything that wasn't that feeling and in the end you'd have something that had crystallized it somehow. You know the theory of making a statue by starting with a piece of stone and chipping away what isn't the statue."
Pearls Before Swine's debut album, One Nation Underground, was recorded in four days in 1967. In addition to "Another Time," it featured a rich repertoire of songs about timely issues. "Uncle John" was one of the first about the Vietnam War, and "Playmate" was a playful song with the words of a children's nursery rhyme. Its next album, Balaklava, was an anti-war album; its cover was a powerful painting by Breughel the elder titled The Triumph of Death.
After receiving no financial compensation from ESP, Rapp record his next five albums with Reprise. These Things Too was recorded in 1969, followed by The Use of Ashes. Notable on this album is the song "Rocket Man" which inspired Elton John's song of the same name.
Around the time Ashes was recorded, Pearls Before Swine did its first live performance. Most live shows were on the folk circuit with artists such as Dave Van Ronk, Odetta and John Hartford. However, the band also opened for Pink Floyd, and is reputed to have been invited to perform at Woodstock, but Rapp was living in the Netherlands at the time.
Rapp continued to record for Reprise with City of Gold, Beautiful Lies, and Familiar Songs. He did not fit neatly into any one genre; his manager and Reprise hardly promoted his work so his last two albums were released on the small label Blue Thumb. On these albums, Rapp had the artistic freedom he had desired and recorded under his own name. By this time however, he was tired of being broke and quit performing music in 1976. He sold popcorn in a movie theater and went to college. He received a Bachelor's degree (Magna Cum Laude) in Economics from Brandeis and studied Law at Northeastern University. Rapp became an attorney for a law firm that tries civil rights cases. Most are cases in which the client is disabled or sick and their employer has chosen to discriminate. One of his cases is currently slated to go before the Supreme Court.
In 1995, it seemed to Rapp that his musical career was long behind him. Others, however, had not forgotten him and were still listening to and covering his songs, many assuming the artist had long since disappeared. In the spring of 1997, a small English fanzine Ptolemaic Terrascope asked him to perform at a benefit concert. Rapp performed his own set along with his son David who has a band of his own. Magic Eye Singles released For the Dead in Space, a tribute album featuring many who count Rapp among their inspirations. In the end, whether Tom Rapp will be known as a great musician or a great lawyer remains to be seen; perhaps this song will be seen as one and the same.
by Jim Powers
Pearls Before Swine's Career
Formed by Tom Rapp; signed to ESP Disk; released debut album One Nation Underground, 1967; Balaklava, 1968; signed to Reprise Records; released These Things Too, 1969; City of Gold, 1971; Beautiful Lies, 1971; signed to independent label Blue Thumb; released Stardancer, 1972; Sunforest, 1973; Rapp left music business; studied law, Northeastern University; performed benifit concert for fanzine Ptolemaic Terrascope; released tribute album For the Dead in Space, Magic Eye Singles, 1997.
- Selected discography
- Morning Song / Drop Out! ESP Disk, 1967.
- I Saw The World / Images Of April , ESP Disk, 1968.
- Suzanne / There Was A Man , ESP-Fontana (Holland), 1969.
- Rocket Man / The Jeweler , Warner/Reprise, 1970.
- Marshall / Why Should I Care? , Blue Thumb, 1972.
- Translucent Carriages (alt.) / The Cowboy Who Ate Vietnam / Ring Thing (alt.) , Ptolemaic Terrascope, 1993.
- One Nation Underground , ESP Disk, 1967.
- Balaklava , ESP Disk, 1968.
- These Things Too , Warner/Reprise, 1969.
- The Use Of Ashes , Warner/Reprise, 1970.
- City Of Gold , Warner/Reprise, 1971.
- Beautiful Lies , Warner/Reprise, 1971.
- Familiar Songs , Warner/Reprise, 1972.
- Stardancer , Blue Thumb, 1972.
- Sunforest , Blue Thumb, 1973.
- Best Of Pearls Before Swine , Adelphi (2LPs), 1980.
- (with various artists) For the Dead in Space , Magic Eye Singles, 1997 (Includes one
- previously unreleased song by Tom Rapp, "Hopelessly Romantic").
July 20, 2004: Pearls Before Swine's album, Wizard of Is, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_3/index.jsp, August 5, 2004.
- Joynson, Vernon, Fuzz, Acid, and Flowers: A Comprehensive Guide to American Garage, Psychedelic, and Hippie Rock 1964-1976 , Borderline Productions, 1996.
- Goldmine , October 28, 1994.
- Washington Post , Sunday May 17, 1998.
- Dirty Linen, Feb/Mar 1994.
- http://www.allmusic.com, (September 28, 1998).
- http://www.terrascope.org, (September 28, 1998).
- Additional information was obtained from an interview Tom Rapp in October 1998.
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