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15 Nov 2016

Copperhead “1st Unreleased” 1970 US West Coast Rock from John Cipollina’s master cassette






Copperhead “1st Unreleased” 1970 US  West Coast Rock from John Cipollina’s master cassette 
Group leader John Cipollina is considered one of the founders of the San Francisco psychedelic rock. Material prepared for the first album in November 1970. .. 

Recorded at John Cipollina’s home’s studio, Mill Valley, California.This is a rare recording. Copperhead’s story is long, but in a few words: first Copperhead attempt in this, John tried to shopthis at various record companies with no luck. Two years later his father Gino paid for the recording of a demo that finally was sold to CBS (= First Lp). 
A year later the second album was ready to release, but Columbia stopped the project because the first one sold nothing. Columbia still have the masters of the 2nd lp. John’s brother Mario tried to rebuy it from them to release it, but did not get a reply from any Columbia executive. 
Nice to hear Jim McPherson. I wonderif anyone’s got/heard much of Jim’s previous band’s Stained Glass and before that, “The Trolls”. The Trolls had a monster song called “Walkin’ Shoes”. It’s a must have in my book…(38f Fabio) 

When John Cipollina left Quicksilver Messenger Service in 1971, he formed Copperhead with Jim Murray and Casey Sonoban (two members of the first Quicksilver line-up), his brother Mario (who later found fame with Huey Lewis and The News) and various other musicians. Their frequent rehearsals and gigs didn’t allow them to get a recording contract and in 1972 Cipollina assembled a new line-up with Gary Philippet (ex Front Line), Jim McPherson (ex Stained Glass), David Weber and Hutch Hutchinson. A record, Sealed For Your Protection, was ready to be released on Just Sunshine Record but was eventually shelved. Finally Copperhead was issued by CBS in 1973 and is a superb example of San Francisco Sound, with seven original tracks and a new version of Kibitzer, already recorded by McPherson with Stained Glass. A must for fans of Quicksilver and Cipollina’s guitar. 
After Copperhead, Cipollina, Weber, McPherson and Hutchinson joined Terry and The Pirates and played with various local groups. Hutch Hutchinson became a renowned bass session player and is still active in the studios.(Stephane Rebeschini)………… 

After leaving the seminal San Francisco "acid-rock" band Quicksilver Messenger Service in 1970 guitarist extraordinaire John Cipollina would spend much of the rest of his life (he passed away on May 29, 1989 of a life long respiratory ailment) playing in a slew of bands that often achieved considerable aesthetic and artistic success but received little in the way of commercial recognition (Terry and the Pirates, The Dinosaurs, Problem Child, Fish & Chip, Free Light, Copperhead, Zero, Thunder & Lightning and Raven were among them). Copperhead was the first and arguably one of the most interesting post QMS bands. Regardless it certainly had immense potential. 

Cipollina's volatile, tremolo heavy guitar licks had been the trademark/signature of Quicksilver's psychedelic sound. No one played quite like him recalls long time friend and one-time Copperhead member Peter Sears "He had a unique guitar style, he played with finger picks and he played that fantastic Gibson SG... he was into his own thing. He was unlike any other musician." 

Cipollina's shimmering and intense lead playing on the Happy Trails album, especially the 26-minute epic "Who Do You Love" many would argue represents the pinnacle of San Francisco-era rock. Of course, the ever-modest Cipollina once nonchalantly told me that he couldn't understand what all the fuss was about noting that "it was just a two-chord jam." 

The affable and accomplished Cipollin's sinewy sound was to be a pre-eminent feature of most of the bands that he played with. His first "real" band after Quicksilver was Copperhead, a band that really promised much, but ended up leaving behind just one interesting self-titled album that hopefully you now possess, but first things first. 

Back in '85 Cipollina explained that his departure from Quicksilver was two-fold. Firstly, he thought the band's music had gotten a little rudimentary and secondly this veritable music junkie had a penchant to play more sessions, which didn't settle too well with the other QMS members. Ironically during the Hawaii sessions for "Just For Love" and "What About Me," Cippo ran into an old friend, Jim Murray, the original vocalist with QMS. It was decided to bring Murray back to San Francisco to record a solo album. From the sessions of the "never-to-be-released Murray sessions," Copperhead took shape. This was late 1970 as Cipollina recalled "I formed Copperhead around the end of 1970 ... Quicksilver (the other members) said "if you want to do more session work you can't stay," so I started doing sessions." 

From the time of the band's inception it underwent quite a few changes as Sears recently recalled. "I was in Stoneground and I met John and we hit it off quite well and there was another guy there, Mark Unobsky (he was a member for awhile and co-wrote "Pawnshop Man" on the album) a close friend of his and we jammed together. So I got Mario Cipollina to replace me in Stoneground ... it was a wild time and I ended up in Copperhead. John had a predisposition towards English keyboard players having played a lot with Nicky Hopkins." 

The formative line-up of Copperhead begun with musicians that Cipollina had pulled together, Jim McPherson (ex-Stained Glass) on guitar and keyboards, Gary Philippet (ex-Freedom Highway) on guitar, keyboards and vocals and drummer Dave Weber. It was a loose agglomeration. The band started rehearsing in the "white house" in Corte Madera where Quicksilver used to rehearse. Sears recalled that was a very loose and informal atmosphere with a mixture of rehearsals and basic hanging out. The band did quite a few gigs including a KSAN radio broadcast (which has been much bootlegged) with Tom Donahue. Soon the band would generate a lot of interest in the industry with its dynamic live shows. Sears ended up leaving due to musical differences, which he sums up by saying, "I didn't think the music represented all that John could do. There were some great songs. Jim McPherson was a great writer but it just wasn't right." 

By the time the band had begun recording for their album Hutch Hutchinson (now a famous session player and constant Bonnie Raitt sideman) was brought into the fold for the departing Sears. 

The band's only album, a self-titled effort, was not released until mid 1973, which drummer Dave Weber (now a real estate salesman in Connecticut) recalls as being something of a mistake, "By the time we recorded the album much of it was stale. We were tired of playing those songs." The band also suffered other problems, mostly in that the two main songwriters didn't always see eye to eye." In Weber's eyes Copperhead was a band that was held together by Cipollina. It was very much John's band, but the recorded work didn't reflect the spontaneity of their live shows. "We did some sessions at Roy Chen's in Chinatown that had energy. I think the best cuts were actually cut in pre-production." In conclusion Weber recalls that the band over rehearsed for the album, perhaps as a result of the big record company contract. 

"In no way did this band reach its potential," recalls Weber but also noted that there's some great material on the album "We had just played much better before." Of course the band had gotten signed to Columbia after having initially been contracted to Michael Lang's (Woodstock organizer) label Just Sunshine which just had no financial support. Unfortunately the band got caught in the whole "drug" scandal that surrounded CBS's Clive Davis and promptly got dropped. "We got caught up in the whole Clive Davis removal (as head of CBS). They dropped us real quick when they let Clive go." Cipollina recalled in the late 80's with absolutely no sense of malice. As a result the band promptly got dropped from the label and received little or no support. Weber feels that had that support been forthcoming the band might have overcome some of its problems recalling that it played some great gigs, some opening for Steely Dan and one before 250,000 people with Santana and Journey. 

Overall Copperhead had a more urgent driving rock sound than Quicksilver but it also had a guttery energy and immense potential. This remastered version of the band's lone album shows that the band did pack a fairly potent musical punch and had quality songs. Sure, the sound was a little schizophrenic, but the band is musically tight and Cipollina's guitar is quite superb especially on the guttural rocker "Roller Derby Star" and the ragged but familiar Bo diddley riffs of "Kibitzer." But best of all are the truly menacing tones and textures of "They're Making A Monster" which Weber recalls "John was very sick when he recorded that solo. It wasn't easy for him." Included also in this disc is the rare 45 side "Chameleon." Which in many ways is an appropriate inclusion for this band that was a little out of the ordinary and sadly never got to reach its full potential. 

Shortly after the album got shelved by Columbia the band folded although enough tracks for a second album were recorded. Hutchinson and Weber surfaced again in other Cipollina related bands, Raven and Terry and the Pirates, while Philippet had some tenure with Earthquake. John, of course, continued to make great music until his untimely death in 1989. In retrospect this album stands the test of time remarkably well and serves as a small chapter in the life of one of rock and roll's most original guitarists. 

Mick Skidmore, April 2001.........


The team from the number of meteorites musical firmament - flashed, lit or not. Group leader John Cipollina is considered one of the founders of the San Francisco psychedelic rock. Material prepared for the first album in November 1970..................


At one time, Copperhead's first unreleased LP must have been the holy grail among the group's fans. Copperhead was formed in 1970 by guitarist John Cipollina after he left Quicksilver Messenger Service. The Rolling Stone Record Guide (1979) might have considered Quicksilver as "probably the most overrated of the original batch of San Francisco groups" but this late '60s psychedelic rock group also performed "among the best instrumental work any San Francisco band did," and the guitarist who stood out was Cipollina.

This is what 38f, who posted the lossless tracks on the internet, said: "Yep, this is one of the rarest John's cassette. Copperhead's story is quite long... in few words, the first Copperhead attempt is this. John tried to shop it to different record companies but with no luck. Two years later his father, Gino, paid for a demo recording that finally was sold to CBS (first LP). A year later, the second LP was ready but Columbia stopped the project cause the first one did not sell. Columbia still has the masters of that second LP. Mario (John's brother) told me he tried to buy the album from them in order to release it, but had no reply from Columbia executives."............

Credits 
John Cipollina - lead guitar, hawaian steel guitar, steel guitar. 
Mark Unobsky - guitars & vocals 
Jim Murray - guitars, tablas & Harmonica 
Jim McPherson - Piano & vocals 
David Weber - drums 
Cyrus - bass 

Tracklist 
01. Rocket Ship 
02. Putting It To You (I Just Gonna Move You) 
03. Drunken Irish Setter (1st ever known version) 
04. Motel Party Baby (tape’s speed is not stable on the original recording) 
05. Highway No.9 (acoustic version) 
06. Mama (title of the first incarnation of Bigelow 6-9000) 
07. Chameleon (Unobsky & McPherson on vocals) 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..

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