Joe McDonald - guitar, vocals; Peter Walsh - bass, vocals
Few draft resistance anthems provided greater fuel for the Vietnam War protest movement than Country Joe McDonald's "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag." More importantly, he was among the first rock musicians of the 1960s to see beyond the slogans and posturing, as McDonald took an active role spotlighting the plight of returning soldiers, demanding they be treated with compassion at a time of great political and social turmoil. McDonald's most high profile moment resulted after his unscheduled solo appearance on the first day the 1969 Woodstock festival. The "Fish Cheer" (which always preceded "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag" in his performances with Country Joe & the Fish) had the monumental Woodstock audience joyously replacing the F-I-S-H of the original Fish Cheer with F-U-C-K, soon to become one of the most humorous and memorable moments in the Woodstock movie, essentially launching McDonald's solo career at the dawn of the 1970s. Although his solo albums never reached the popularity of his 1960s albums with Country Joe & the Fish, McDonald remained prolific throughout the next decade, releasing numerous solo albums that continued to mix his unique brand of scathing critical sarcasm, political humor, and compassionate understanding.
This 1977 performance, the final set of a three-night, six-show engagement at New York City's Bottom Line, features McDonald performing a choice overview of his 1970s era material. This particular tour was in support of his Goodbye Blues album, which had just been released the previous month. However, McDonald's set features only one number from that album, and instead he explores material from several of his earlier albums as well as new material unreleased at the time. Accompanied by bassist Peter Walsh, McDonald addresses environmental issues, feminist issues, social commentary, and political humor, all in his uniquely irreverent, yet thought-provoking style.
This performance begins with the reggae-flavored opener, "Oh! Jamaica," which features McDonald's observations on the island life. A key track from his 1975 album, Paradise With An Ocean View, this album is better represented than any of his other projects here, with two additional tracks surfacing later in the set. The next two songs both explore feminist issues, beginning with the scathing social commentary of "Sexist Pig," a song from his 1973 album, The Paris Sessions. "Baby, Baby," written three years later for his uncharacteristically romantic Love Is A Fire album, explores the same general theme, but from the perspective of a reformed Sexist Pig who is now much wiser and appreciative of women and searching for greater understanding and forgiveness. It is no coincidence that McDonald performs these songs back to back, presenting insight into his own growth and maturity in the process.
The next two songs address politics and social issues, beginning with his ever-popular "Tricky Dicky," a 1971 rumination on Richard Nixon that still resonated strongly in 1977. This is followed with a brand new song called "La Di Da" which would not surface on an album until two years later. Here McDonald's venom is directed not at the usual suspects, but at "rich kid liberals" and those that jump on political bandwagons. This song also attacks the superficial "sex, drugs & rock & roll" culture that McDonald himself was a key component of, making it clear that he is no longer supporting that mentality.
Next up is "Blood On The Ice," the most haunting track on his new album Goodbye Blues, with McDonald and Walsh addressing the plight of baby harp seals. Poignant and disturbing, this song is a prime example of McDonald addressing environmental issues long before it was fashionable to do so. At this point in the set, McDonald chats about the brief recent reformation of Country Joe & the Fish, where all five original band members and original producer Sam Charters teamed up again and recorded a "Reunion" album. Then McDonald ventures all the way back to the debut Country Joe & the Fish album for an ominous reading of "Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine," much to the audience's delight. He then treats the Bottom Line crowd to another new song, the semi-autobiographical "Rock And Roll Again," which would turn up on his next album the following year, Rock And Roll From Planet Earth.
The remainder of the set returns to older solo album material, including an excellent audience-interactive performance of the title track to his 1971 album, Hold On, It's Coming, sandwiched between two additional selections from his 1975 album, Paradise With An Ocean View. The first of these, "Holy Roller" is a thoroughly sarcastic homage to born-again religious fanatics. The set-closing "Save The Whales" is one of the most penetrating songs ever written about the issue and one of the most compelling performances of this set, leaving the audience wanting more.
To close out this run of shows, McDonald revisits his most infamous career moment with "The Fish Cheer." However, he is well aware of and acknowledges that this set is being recorded for national broadcast by the King Biscuit Flower Hour, which presents an obvious dilemma. Rather than encouraging the Fish Cheer Woodstock-style (which would negate it as a broadcast possibility), he delivers it self-censored, cheerleading the audience with "Gimme a B! Gimme a L! Gimme a E!" and so on until the audience is responding to his "What's that spell?" shout with the broadcast-worthy "BLEEP!" It's a funny, spontaneous moment that precedes his ever-poignant "I Feel Like I'm Fixin To Die Rag" to end the show.