Skip Spence - singer-songwriter, guitarist, and drummer. A guitarist in an early lineup of Quicksilver Messenger Service, while rehearsing at Marty Balin's club The Matrix, Balin talked Spence into switching to drums and joining his folk-rock group The Jefferson Airplane. Spence was with the Airplane for around a year appearing on their first album Takes Off RCA 1966 and co-writing 2 songs - Blues from an Airplane and Don't Slip Away. Balin subsequently fired Spence when Skip went on an LSD fueled trip to Mexico and missed an Airplane gig. Although no longer in the band, Skip's song My Best Friend appeared on the Airplane's break through album Surrealistic Pillow RCA 1967.
Skip Spence then put together Moby Grape releasing their first album, that many claim as a masterpiece, for Columbia in June 1967. Staying at the Albert Hotel in New York City while recording the second Moby Grape album WoW, Spence suffered from a drug induced schizophrenic break. Wielding a fire axe, he battered the hotel room door of band-mate Don Stevenson seeking to kill him and fellow Grape Jerry Miller. Failing that, he grabbed a taxi, axe in hand, and headed to Columbia studios to confront producer/manager David Rubinson. He was subued and committed to Bellevue Mental Hospital for six months. There he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
While he was in Bellevue, Spence amassed a backlog of songs. David Rubinson was able to secure Skip a "solo deal" with Columbia. Upon his release, Spence got a meager advance of around $1000, purchased a motorcycle, and headed to Nashville.
Skip Spence began recording at 504 16th Avenue South (Columbia Nashville) on December 3, 1968. 28 songs later, on December 12th, he was finished with Oar. All vocals, instruments, and production was handled by Spence with engineer Mike Figlio.
Alexander Skip Spence, age 22, road out of Nashville and into 30 years of drug addiction, alcoholism, mental illness, and sporadic periods of homelessness. He died of lung cancer in 1999 days before his 53rd birthday.
Oar was released by Columbia with no promotion and "cut out" with the year. It was subsequently released on CD by Sundazed in 1999 in an extended format - including unreleased bonus tracks. Oar remains an audio documentary of one man's mental fragmentation at the edge of sanity.