The psychedelic folk band Pearls Before Swine
was the brainchild of singer, composer, and cult icon Tom Rapp, born in Bottineau, North Dakota in 1947; after writing his first song at age six, he later began performing at local talent shows, and as a teen, he bested a young Bob Dylan at one such event. Upon relocating to Eau Gallie (now part of Melbourne), Florida, Rapp formed Pearls Before Swine
in 1965, recruiting high-school friends Wayne Harley, Lane Lederer, and Roger Crissinger to record a demo which he then sent to the ESP-Disk label; the company quickly signed the group, and they soon traveled to New York to record their superb 1967 debut One Nation Underground
, which went on to sell some 250,000 copies.
The explicitly antiwar Balaklava
, widely regarded as Pearls Before Swine's finest work, followed in 1968; the group -- by this time essentially comprising Rapp and whoever else was in the studio at the moment -- moved to Reprise for 1969's These Things Too
, mounting their first-ever tour in the wake of releasing The Use of Ashes
a year later. Two more albums, City of Gold
and Beautiful Lies You Could Live In
, followed in 1971; moving to Blue Thumb, Rapp resurfaced as a solo artist with 1972's Stardancer
, but upon the release of Sunforest
a year later he then retired from music, subsequently becoming a civil rights attorney.
Frequently cited as a key influence by the likes of Damon & Naomi, the Bevis Frond, and the Japanese psych band Ghost, Rapp made an unexpected return to live performance in mid-1998 when he appeared at the Terrastock festival in Providence, Rhode Island, joining son Dave and his indie pop band Shy Camp; he soon began work on 1999's A Journal of the Plague Year
, his first new LP in over two decades. Constructive Melancholy, a retrospective of Pearls Before Swine's tenure on Reprise, also appeared that same year. This sparked renewed interest in the band, with Water music releasing a box set of the Reprise material in 2003 (Jewels Were the Stars) as well as a set of unreleased demo and live recordings entitled The Wizard of Is. ESP also remastered and combined their first two albums as The Complete ESP-Disk Recordings in 2005.