Serpent Power II - Ouroboros


This Side

The Other



1969: After Serpent Power, our first LP for Vanguard,  Benny Ellis (rhythm guitar) & David  Stenson (bass) quit the band.  They'd been w/ The Grass Roots & did the Vanguard recording session as a favor to mutual friend Chris Brooks. Clark Coolidge & I were the sole survivors since Tina, the lead singer, quit after hearing the first album & then performing at The Fillmore.


We had a contract for a second album & had a year to put together a new band & get our shit together.  Working out of a cave-like basement in a big office building in San Francisco — w/ mounds of dirt in various uneven slopes & ridges — Clark I began auditioning musicians for the new band.


Mostly we spent hours improvising.  We hired Bob Cuff, rhythm guitarist, who was a member of The Mystery Trend, one of the first art school art bands in SF, & Jim Moscoso, bass.  Jim was the younger brother of our friend Victor Moscoso, an artist & one of the vanguard poster & underground comic artists of the 60’s. We also re-enlisted banjoist J.P. Pickens to join in whenever he had the time. (J.P. & I had been experimenting at the Coffee Gallery of our version of free folk-music, sometimes joined on acoustic guitar by Jim Gurley (who became lead guitar for Big Brother.)


This newly formed group was invited by John Rockwell (now a NY Times cultural critic) to perform on his weekly show on KPFA-FM in Berkeley. Cuff, Coolidge, Moscoso, Meltzer, & Pickens walked into KPFA & were greeted by Daniel Moore (visionary poet, leader of The Floating Lotus Opera Company, & now Sufi teacher & storyteller in the East coast.)  He introduced us to his friend Christian who had an alto saxophone which he was in the first stages of learning how to play. They wanted to sit in. Daniel was/is one of the greatest intuitive musi­cians I've run into.  He brought his shenei (Chinese oboe) & a bunch of bells & conch shells into the studio.  It was all decidedly spontaneous & in the moment since none of us had really played together.  (Daniel & Christian were to become regular members of the band when we worked weekend gigs in North Beach clubs; Pickens wd sit in whenever he cd, developing new sounds from his amplified banjo.)


This hunk of that first confrontation is one of 2 reel-to-reel tapes recorded at KPFA that night.  I gave the other half to Jim Moscoso & suspect it's lost in Borgesville.


                                     David Meltzer

                                     Oakland, CA

                                     Autumn, 2006