Norman Greenbaum: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — June 4, 2022

THE GREATEST SONGS OF THE 1960s THAT NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD

472) Norman Greenbaum — “Marcy”

If the Spirit is willing, let me demonstrate once again (see #46) that Norman Greenbaum was anything but a one-hit wonder. As the renowned rock critic Robert Christgau argued that “[n]or was ‘Spirit in the Sky’ anything like a one-shot, as he proves on the great lost album track ‘Marcy,’ a fond and respectful ode to a chick who takes her chances”. (https://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?id=2967&name=Norman+Greenbaum)

Greenbaum himself recollects: “[i]nteresting how I got an e mail from a guy who wanted to know how I knew his wife. I never met his wife, nor was ever anywhere near him in Texas, but there you go, the power of lyrics.” (https://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2012/02/norman-greenbaum-interview.html?amp=1)

Nik assesses the whole album:

Though the cosmic guitar drone that drives Greenbaum’s most famous tune is also conspicuously absent from the rest of Spirit In the Sky, there are all sorts of inventive musical sounds being explored here . . . [such as] the swirling analogue electronics which dart across . . . Marcy. . . . The band here, headed by producer Erik Jacobsen (best known for his work with fellow jugband disciples The Lovin’ Spoonful), is very tight, and really know how to get these songs to boogie. . . . It’s to Greenbaum’s credit that these songs prove so memorable; indeed, this is one platter that burns all the way through. Just wait and see how many of these songs you find yourself humming after the needle’s lifted.

https://therisingstorm.net/norman-greenbaum-spirit-in-the-sky/

Jason Ankeny gives some background on Greenbaum:

[Greenbaum] relocat[ed] to the West Coast during the mid-’60s and form[ed] a kind of psychedelic jug band dubbed Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band. After issuing the 1966 single “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago,” which fell just shy of reaching the Top 50, the group disbanded, and Greenbaum subsequently formed a series of short-lived acts before finally returning to his solo career in 1968. A year later he issued his debut LP, Spirit in the Sky, releasing several unsuccessful singles before reaching the Top Three with the smash title track, which sold some two million copies. It proved to be Greenbaum’s only hit, however . . . .

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/norman-greenbaum-mn0000391003

And Stephen Thomas Erlewine adds:

Norman Greenbaum was much stranger than his big hit “Spirit in the Sky” would suggest. Then again, that tune — a confident, fuzz-toned paean to God, that sprit in the sky — is hardly the most conventional of ’70s AM anthems, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that the album . . : is all over the map, [such as] with . . . eerie post-psychedelic pop (the genuinely unsettling “Marcy”) . . . . That, of course, means that it’s far more fascinating than many soft rock curiosities of the early ’70s, and the near-schizophrenic cavalcade of material means that the record doesn’t hold together, but that’s part of what makes it worth hearing. And while Greenbaum wasn’t exactly a consistent songwriter, he did hit the mark several times . . . and even the misfires are interesting and well-crafted, at least in terms of its early-’70s peers.

https://www.allmusic.com/album/spirit-in-the-sky-mw0000588123

“Are you shy? Are you afraid? Marcy knows you love her. If you’re shy, she will lead the way. Marcy knows you love her. Marcy knows that she’s takin’ a chance. Kissing you like she is. Kissing you like she is. But it’s the only way to spark romance in you. You didn’t try. You didn’t try. Are you shy? Are you afraid? Marcy knows you love her. If you’re shy, she will lead the way. Marcy knows you love her. Marcy knows she can no longer wait. You did not make your move. You did not make your move. You did not make your move and it’s late. You didn’t try. You didn’t try. Are you shy? Are you afraid? Marcy knows you love her. If you’re shy, she will lead the way. Marcy knows you love her. Are you shy? Are you afraid? Marcy knows you love her.”

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One thought on “Norman Greenbaum: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — June 4, 2022

  1. You have a lot of information about Norman! Thanks for all that! I grew up in Malden MA! My claim to fame was Norman! I know he was in California as a goat herder and was still promoting concerts! I hope 🙏 to get out there and meet him on my bucket list!

    Like

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