Pearls Before Swine (band)
|Pearls Before Swine|
|Origin||Melbourne, Florida, USA|
|Genres||Folk rock, psychedelic rock|
|Labels||ESP-Disk, Reprise, Blue Thumb|
|Associated acts||Area Code 615|
|Past members||Tom Rapp
Wayne Harley (1965-69)
Lane Lederer (1965-68)
Roger Crissinger (1965-67)
Jim Bohannon (1968)
Jim Fairs (1969)
Elisabeth Rapp (1969-72)
Mike Krawitz (1971)
Gordon Hayes (1971)
John Tooker (1971) (d.2008)
Morrie Brown (1971)
David Wolfert (1971)
Art Ellis (1971-74)
Bill Rollins (1971-74)
Harry Orlove (1971-74)
Pearls Before Swine was an American psychedelic folk band formed by Tom Rapp in 1965 in Eau Gallie, now part of Melbourne, Florida. They released six albums between 1967 and 1971, before Rapp launched a solo career.
Early years, 1965-68
With high school friends Wayne Harley (banjo, mandolin), Lane Lederer (bass, guitar) and Roger Crissinger (piano, organ), Rapp wrote and recorded some songs which, inspired by the Fugs, they sent to the avant-garde ESP-Disk label in New York. The group took its name from a Bible passage: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine ...." (Mat. 7:6, KJV), meaning: do not give things of value to those who will not understand or appreciate them. They were quickly signed up, and recorded One Nation Underground (1967), featuring songs of mysticism, protest, melancholia, and some controversy in the case of “Miss Morse”, which spelled out an obscenity in code. The album eventually sold some 200,000 copies, although management and contractual problems meant that the band received little reward for its success.
On working with the label ESP-Disk, Rapp has said that "We never got any money from ESP. Never, not even like a hundred dollars or something. My real sense is that he (Bernard Stollman) was abducted by aliens, and when he was probed it erased his memory of where all the money was".
The strongly anti-war themed Balaklava (1968) followed, inspired by the Charge of the Light Brigade. Rapp has said "The first two albums are probably considered the druggiest, and I had never done any drugs at that point. I smoked Winston cigarettes at that time, so these are all Winston-induced hallucinations." The album covers featured paintings by Bosch and Brueghel, while the records themselves included interpretations of the writings of Tolkien and Herodotus as well as archive recordings from the 1890s, with innovatively arranged songs using an eclectic variety of instruments.
Reprise period, 1969-72
The band signed for Reprise Records in 1969, although by this time the other original members had left and the band name now referred to Rapp and whichever musicians he was recording or touring with, one of whom, Jim Fairs, was previously a member of The Cryan' Shames. The five albums on Reprise were generally more conventional in sound, but contained a unique blend of humanistic and mystical songs, with some whimsical touches. Some were recorded in New York and others – particularly The Use of Ashes and City of Gold - in Nashville with top session musicians including Charlie McCoy, Kenny Buttrey, and other members of Area Code 615. Several also featured Rapp's then-wife Elisabeth on vocals. The oddly-upbeat "The Man", from City of Gold, was sung by David Noyes and recorded at A&R Studios in New York City during the summer of 1970. Noyes' friend, Jon Tooker, took his position when the band toured Europe that fall.
In his teens, Rapp lived close to Cape Canaveral and watched the rockets take off. The song "Rocket Man", on the album The Use of Ashes - written the day Neil Armstrong landed on the moon - was credited by Bernie Taupin with inspiring his hit song with Elton John of the same title. Quote : "We didn't steal that one from Bowie, we stole it from another guy, called Tom Rapp...". Many of the other songs of this period reflected Rapp's interests in mysticism, his relationship with his alcoholic father, and his experiences of living for a time in (and marrying a native of) the Netherlands.
In 1971, Pearls Before Swine toured for the first time, the group then comprising Rapp, Mike Krawitz (piano), Gordon Hayes (bass) and John Tooker (guitar). Around this time, Rapp often referred onstage, not quite seriously, to the group as "the house band for the SDS." A live album from this period, Live Pearls, recorded at Yale University, was released as a download in December 2008. The final Reprise album, Familiar Songs, consisted of newly conceived, arranged, and produced recordings of some of Rapp’s earlier songs, featuring his then-current band, Morrie Brown (bass, guitar, mandolin and vocals), Robby Merkin (piano, organ, synth, bass and vocals), and David Wolfert (acoustic and electric guitar, 12-string, Dobro and vocals) along with drummer Billy Mundi, formerly of The Mothers Of Invention. Without Rapp's knowledge, the label released it not as a "Pearls Before Swine" album, but under his name alone.
Two further albums followed, released under Rapp's own name on Blue Thumb Records. The first, Stardancer, was again recorded in Nashville, followed by Sunforest. The band - by that time comprising Rapp, Art Ellis (flute), Bill Rollins (bass, cello) and Harry Orlove (guitar, banjo) - toured until 1974, with Rapp from then performing solo until a final appearance in 1976 supporting Patti Smith.
After this, Rapp retired from music and, after graduating from Brandeis University, became a civil rights lawyer. After being contacted by the magazine Ptolemaic Terrascope, he re-appeared in 1997 at Terrastock, a music festival in Providence, Rhode Island, with his son's band, Shy Camp, and began recording again with 1999's A Journal of the Plague Year.
John Tooker died in a motorcycle crash in 2008.
PBS have been cited as a key influence by various musicians including The Dream Academy, Damon and Naomi, the Bevis Frond, Magic Hero vs. Rock People, The Late Cord, This Mortal Coil, and the Japanese band Ghost. Three tribute albums have been released by Secret Eye Records.
- One Nation Underground (1967, ESP-Disk)
- Balaklava (1968, ESP-Disk)
- These Things Too (1969, Reprise)
- The Use of Ashes (1970, Reprise)
- City of Gold (1971, Reprise) (Thos. Rapp / Pearls Before Swine)
- Beautiful Lies You Could Live In (1971, Reprise) (Tom Rapp / Pearls Before Swine)
- Familiar Songs (1972, Reprise) (Tom Rapp)
- Stardancer (1972, Blue Thumb) (Tom Rapp)
- Sunforest (1973, Blue Thumb) (Tom Rapp / Pearls Before Swine)
- A Journal Of The Plague Year (1999, Woronzow) (Tom Rapp)
- Live Pearls (recorded 1971, released 2008, WildCat Recording)
- Constructive Melancholy (1999, Birdman) (CD compilation of 1969-72 Reprise tracks)
- Jewels Were The Stars (2003, Water) (4 CD box set of first four Reprise albums)
- The Wizard of Is (2004, Water) (2 CD collection of live recordings, out-takes etc.)
- The Complete ESP-Disk Recordings (2005, ESP-Disk and WildCat) (the two ESP albums on one CD)
- "Morning Song" / "Drop Out!" (1967, ESP-Disk)
- "I Saw The World" / "Images Of April" (1968, ESP-Disk)
- "These Things Too" / "If You Don't Want To" (1969, Reprise)
- "Suzanne" / "There Was a Man" (1969, Reprise)
- "The Jeweller" / "Rocket Man" (1970, Reprise)
- "Marshall" / "Why Should I Care?" (1972, Blue Thumb)
- Tom Rapp by Mark Brend
- Weiss, Jason (2012). Always in Trouble: An Oral History of ESP-Disk', the Most Outrageous Record Label in America. Wesleyan. ISBN 9780819571595.
- Sleevenotes to Jewels Were The Stars box set
- Comments by David Noyes
- Official PBS site
- Sleevenotes to Familiar Songs CD reissue
- The Washington Post. 1998-05-18 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/features/rapp.htm. Retrieved 2010-05-22. Missing or empty
- The Hangar
- http://www.wildcatrecording.com/ WildCat Recording
- Official Tom Rapp / Pearls Before Swine website
- A tribute to Tom Rapp and Pearls Before Swine
- 1994 interview with Tom Rapp
- Article by Mark Brend
- Washington Post article
- Lane Lederer