Spirit was far from a one-hit wonder. Eight of their albums made the Billboard 200, and four of their singles made the Hot 100. The first song from their first, self-titled album, “Fresh Garbage”, released in 1968, was popular on FM “underground” radio. Their fourth album, the delightfully-named Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, featured another FM hit, “Nature’s Way”.
I’m always happy when Spirit pops up via shuffle play, usually when I’m listening to my ginormous, 2500+ track “FM” playlist. And I've been known to put “Nature’s Way” on mix discs for the car when I know Robin will be driving. But when I just get the urge to hear Spirit, I inevitably put on the opening track from their second album, The Family That Plays Together, “I Got a Line on You”. (That album title was appropriate, as the band’s drummer, Ed Cassidy, was the stepfather of young guitarist/songwriter Randy California.)
California was influenced by Jimi Hendrix, who California met when he was only 15 years old. (Rumor is that California, who played in Jimi’s band, was asked to go with Hendrix to England, where he broke out with Are You Experienced?, but California’s parents wouldn't let him go because he hadn't finished high school.)
California influenced others, notably Jimmy Page, who was always able to excavate intriguing licks and make them his own. Here is “Taurus” from Spirit’s first album … see if something sounds familiar about 45 seconds in:
Led Zeppelin had toured with Spirit at the beginning of their career.
But let’s get to the reason we’re here: “I Got a Line on You”. Robert Christgau, no big fan of the band, referred to the songs as “that great shining 2:39 of hard rock guitar”. AllMusic called it “a rock classic from beginning to end.” It was the closest they came to a true hit record (#25 on the charts). It’s the best thing they ever did:
And, in case Robin checks in, here’s “Nature’s Way”: