Friday, November 22, 2019

Certain Songs #1686: Quicksilver Messenger Service – “Fresh Air” | Medialoper

Album: Just For Love
Year: 1970

Quicksilver Messenger Service came out of the late-60s San Francisco psychedelic scene that also produced The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape.

At least partially because founding member Dino Valenti — who early on, made a name for himself by writing the major hippie anthem, “Get Together” — spent nearly two years in prison on various drug busts, Quicksilver never gained the traction that peers like the Dead and the Airplane did, though they did have at least one near-hit single, and FM staple in 1970’s “Fresh Air,” which tripled as a weed metaphor, environmental anthem and a reaction to getting out of prison.

Even though I’ve heard it a zillion times, I still couldn’t tell you the lyrics of “Fresh Air,” because it’s appeal to me is really about two things: the long jams and the massive massive chorus, which is utterly indelible.

Ooooooooooohhhhh, have another hit!
Of fresh air
Oooooooooohhhhhh, have another hit!

I think I love this chorus because the whole song comes to standstill every time they sing “have another hit!” It’s like they’re all stopping the song to do just that, so we might as well, too!

In between the verses, John John Cipollina took a couple of long guitar solos, and the always amazing Nicky Hopkins — who was an actual band member for a couple years — had a long piano solo, the cumulative effect of which pushed “Fresh Air” over five minutes, and was probably one of the reasons that it stalled at #49 on the pop charts, which I found surprising, because it’s always seemed like a bigger hit to me.

“Fresh Air” also contains one of my all-time favorite musical moments, a variation on the chorus, which Valenti does a couple of times, but you know the one I’m thinking about. It comes just before Nicky Hopkins piano solo, and it goes like this.

Ooooooooooohhhhh, have another hit!
Of sweet California sunshine
Oooooooooohhhhhh, have another hit!

I don’t know why I love that so much, maybe Valenti’s phrasing, maybe the fact that the rest of the guys are still singing “fresh air”, maybe because I’ve always been a California boy and just got kick out of it. Either way, it was probably listening to the song just to hear that part again which brought me into it as a whole. Have another hit!!!

“Fresh Air”

“Fresh Air” live in 1971

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