Music/Lyrics: Lowell George
Original Artist: Little Feat
Original Album: Feats Don't Fail Me Now (1974)
Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
In the historic neighborhood known as Old South Baton Rouge, there is a night club and music venue called The Spanish Moon. The building occupied by The Spanish Moon – which has operated since 1997 and was named for the Little Feat song – dates back to the 1880s when it was first constructed as a firehouse. Patrons of the establishment report that it is haunted by at least one ghost. The apparition is alleged to be the spirit of a young man who gets his kicks by turning on beer taps and hurling glassware around the room. Legend has it that the ghost’s origins lie somewhere in the 1970s, a time when the use of the building has been best described as a “wino flophouse.” No doubt inhabited by hookers and hustlers, drinking whiskey and getting high on bad cocaine, the future home of The Spanish Moon was likely a rough place. One night in January 1973 Baton Rouge got so cold the rain froze on the ground. The whereabouts of Lowell George that night are unknown.
Little Feat, ”Spanish Moon” – 1977, London
Unknown that is until Little Feat’s debut of “Spanish Moon” (with a segue into “Skin it Back”) opened their (11/3/73) early show at Liberty Hall in Houston, TX. Feat fans who stuck around for the late show that same evening were treated to a reprise of the show opening combo. Little Feat have wandered back into the “Spanish Moon” almost 900 times since those first two visits.
The rough tale of this house of ill repute was recorded by Little Feat in early 1974 at Blue Seas Recording Studio in Hunts Valley, MD. Though it carries the same raunchy funk groove and tower of powerful horns, the Feats Don’t Fail Me Now album version of “Spanish Moon” omits entirely the warnings about whiskey and bad cocaine that appear in the Waiting for Columbus version Little Feat recorded (8/8/77) at the Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC. These two favored vices were previously included in the Robert Palmer release of the song on his 1976 album Some People Can Do What They Like. As evidenced by the band’s appearance on his album, the members of Little Feat apparently liked to both work and play with Robert Palmer.
The version Phish played during their Waiting for Columbus Halloween set in Atlantic City featured the complete lyrics, Giovanni Hidalgo on percussion, and the Antibalas horn section that includes Aaron Johnson, Stuart Bogie, Ian Hendrickson, Michael Leonhart, and Eric Biondo to replace the Tower of Power. While these gifted musicians gave the song the treatment it deserves, Trey’s vocals lacked the grittiness and growl of Lowell George. Instead of evoking images of the bad ass that survived that terrible night he walked into the joint; the tale is told with a tremble of fear. Could be that it was channeled from the perspective of the young man whose ghost still haunts the “Spanish Moon.”
Though it would likely be further weakened by eliminating the horn section and additional percussion, “Spanish Moon” is a song that Phish could definitely still make their own. Maybe the next time Warren Haynes is available for a sit in. Ultimately, Lowell George succumbed far too early to the poisonous vices of which he sang in “Spanish Moon.” Though to him, the place likely represented a party-warrior Valhalla. A place to which he ascended and perhaps still roams, spilling beer, and shattering glass.
Phish, ”Spanish Moon” – 10/31/10, Atlantic City, NJ