Pearls Before Swine

Pearls Before Swine (PBS), originally from Melbourne, FL, was active between 1967 and 1971 when Tom Rapp (the “main Pearl”) started recording under his own name…and sometimes under the PBS name, and sometimes both. It’s a little confusing, but it doesn’t really matter since Rapp was the main songwriter, singer and driving force behind the band. Their music (apart from the odd Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan cover) was very much their own – a mix of psychedelia and folk steeped in history, philosophy, and often humor. You might say it’s highly intelligent hippie music which has a certain timelessness.

So, what happened to the leader of one of the most countercultural, hallucinatory bands of the late 60’s/early 70’s? He became an attorney! More specifically, he quite the music business in 1976 and eventually became a civil rights lawyer specializing in age, race, sex, and national origin discrimination. “I think of it as Sixties law”, he says.  He was coaxed out of music retirement in 1999 for one new album (with the jaunty title of “A Journal of the Plague Year”…)

A funny story from the cd liner notes of Rapp’s 1973 “Sunforest” album:
Rapp lived in Minnesota, as did Bob Dylan, in the very early 1960’s and says “I used to be in talent shows which they used to have there every year. There would be an eight year old baton twirler and a blind lady who played a saw. Then there were the regular people. I used to play with my guitar when I was 8 or 10 or 12. My parents kept a book of clippings from the newspapers of all those things. One of the newspaper articles listed everybody who was in talent shows and one of them was Bobby Zimmerman, who I presume was Bob Dylan. I knew he had been in these things, but I don’t remember him from that time. I had come in second and he had come in fifth.” (He says elsewhere that the baton twirler took first place.)

For more info. on PBS and Tom Rapp, I recommend the wikipedia article and the PBS website.  You can’t go wrong with any PBS album, though “City of Gold” is sort of a detour into country music so you might want to keep that in mind. “Constructive Melancholy” is a well put together compilation, if you can find it.

(Thanks to Mark for introducing me to PBS’s music years ago!)



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