Fifty Foot Hose

  • Fifty Foot Hose
  • Cauldron (Limelight/Mercury) 1967  (Weasel Disc) 1994 

Great bands inevitably get lost in the maelstrom of releases that are coming out all the time, and every music fan has their short-list of those who deserved more acknowledgment than they went on to receive. The Fifty Foot Hose is such a story, with a happy ending. Formed amidst San Francisco love-ins, the sextet created delirious psychedelic rock songs that shook Captain Beefheart’s hand, while lurching forward in anticipation of Thinking Fellers Union Local 282.

Cork Marcheschi and David Blossom joined up in 1967 and began building their own instruments, a natural result of their desire to produce a new type of experimental music. In the Cauldron rerelease liner notes, Marcheschi describes “an instrument (I use that term loosely) that was based on dual tube type audio generators…a 12-inch all plastic, all-weather speaker which Dave’s dad had removed from a WW2 navy vessel…squeaky box, electronic bongos, electronic siren…a 12-foot-long cardboard tube and a five gallon tin container.” Fifty Foot Hose’s lone album reflects this adventurism, with tracks that propelled into wild tangents and concentrated on uncommon sounds. Still, the music held onto melody, and a song like “If Not This Time,” even with its broken scale guitar riff and heavily-reverbed vocals, retained most of its sound within a spaced blues style. A highlight is Nancy Blossom’s strong vocals, which lead an outrageous cover of Billie Holliday’s “God Bless the Child” with the utmost sincerity.

The album was released and quickly faded, Hose never finding an appreciative audience for their irregular approach. However, a 1994 CD collects the original album, two demo versions and “Bad Trip,” an early single where the group recorded themselves live for two-and-a-half minutes with each member (one of whose responsibilities was to scream through a sea of effects) in a separate room of a house. The group reunited for a San Francisco performance at the space rock festival Terrastock in April of 1998, finally receiving their due from respectful fans.

[Ben Goldberg]