Quicksilver Messenger Service – Fresh Air

22nd December 2022 · 1970, 1970s, Music

These guys were never more than a name to me – a name synonymous with psychedelic San Francisco acid rock. So too the name of their virtuoso guitarist John Cipollina.

Apparently they were first formed as a rock vehicle for an East Coast singer-songwriter called Dino Valente, an influential figure on the early-Sixties folk revival in the Greenwich Village coffeehouses who had transplanted to California.

But just as they were about to launch, their leader was busted for drugs and sent to learn the error of his ways in Folsom Prison.

Deciding to carry on without him, Quicksilver Messenger Service started playing around the Bay Area in 1965, their reputation spreading as they travelled further down the West Coast.

Unlike fellow travellers Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead, they resisted signing to a label, delaying their debut until 1968. Two years later Valente had done his time and could finally join the band he formed, along with British session pianist Nicky Hopkins.

His return coincided with that of second guitarist Gary Duncan, who had left after their first two albums, to resume his complex interplay with Cipollina – the band’s signature sound, fusing elements of folk and jazz.

This is from Just For Love, their first album together (amd the band’s fourth in all), and this single, Fresh Air, was the closest they ever came to a hit when it peaked at no.49 in 1970.