self-titled debut album simultaneously. Soon the group's five members were fighting with Katz, who'd managed to secure rights to the band name for himself. Within a few years, he would be putting all-new lineups calling themselves Moby Grape on the road.
Meanwhile, Spence was falling into heavy drug abuse. In New York during a protracted recording session for the Grape's second album, he started hanging around with some demonic characters. At the Albert Hotel, Spence flipped out, taking an ax to his bandmates' door. After being subdued, he spent six months in Bellevue, where he was diagnosed as schizophrenic.
When he was released, Spence jumped on a motorcycle -- allegedly in his pajamas -- and rode straight to Nashville, where he recorded all the tracks for his solo opus, 'Oar,' in four days. The ghostly, one-of-a-kind album was released in 1969, to paltry sales. In Rolling Stone, critic Greil Marcus predicted that it would one day be seen as a classic of the era.
Thirty years later, Grape guitarist Peter Lewis seconded the notion about Spence. "I guarantee you," he told the New York Times, "he will become the Van Gogh of the '60s. This guy was peerless." The occasion was the 1999 release of 'More Oar,' a tribute album featuring tracks by fellow Spence admirers including Beck, Robert Plant and Tom Waits.
Weeks before the album's release, Spence was lying in a hospital bed. This time he really was dying, of lung cancer. Spence's family and friends listened to a copy of 'More Oar' as they pulled the plug on the troubled guitarist.
Download Alexander "Skip" Spence Songs