Copperhead (1973) S/T (LP) Columbia 32250

Copperhead

Copperhead

1973

Columbia 32250

*** noteworthy

While Quicksilver Messenger Service (aka Quicksilver) began as one of the more interesting and enjoyable bands of the 60s Frisco scene…soon the cracks were showing, and as the 60s turned to the 70s, guitarist John Cipollina had the sense to jump ship and form Copperhead. The band played together for years but only released this one album.

While Quicksilver seemed stuck in the 60s, Copperhead was aware of the past but clearly coming from the 70s. Instead of inventing new licks, they applied old hooks to new themes, the opener using Rolling Stone licks to offer a song about roller derby, perhaps showing that it was a fine line between a rock-and-roller and a roller derby star. The song sounds fairly serious and perhaps suggests that campy sports such as roller derby or wrestling could be taken more seriously (something that was explored decades later, but rarely in the 70s) and that perhaps rock and roll shouldn’t be taken so seriously. Next up , the band uses those licks that worked so well on QMS’s best album (Happy Trails from 1968)–the Bo Diddley beat to be exact.  After slowing it down for a hillbilly influenced ballad, they close the side with a song about Japanese Kamikaze pilots, the song concluding with dive-bomb explosions–the serious and silliness of these sound effects fitting this album well.

 The flip side continues in a similar mode–70s hard rock with clear elements of the past–and while fans of the more loose-jam feel of early Quicksilver might actually enjoy side two as much or even more than the first side, others will likely find the formula getting a bit tired.  The excesses definitely become pronounced, and while the extended few-minute jam that concludes the last cut recalls old Quicksilver and arguably works, even if you enjoy that bit of excess, the second side lacks the focus that made the first side enjoyable.

While this band didn’t leave us with a whole lot and the lack of success of this set probably had a lot to do with Columbia refusing to release their second album (which was reportedly recorded) and the band calling it quits, this album is worth a listen for hardcore fans Cipollina’s guitar playing or 70s hard rock.

— winch (author of

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