Ignored Obscured Restored
Mountain was guitarist Leslie West’s band, but was also a vehicle for the artistic expression of Felix Pappalardi (bass, guitar, keys, vocals, production, songwriting).
Mountain’s second album was Nantucket Sleighride (1971). The title song was written by Pappalardi and his then girlfriend (later wife) Gail Collins, who also painted the album’s cover artwork.
For today’s SotW I’m including the 1 minute long “Taunta” with “Nantucket Sleighride (to Owen Coffin)” because to my ear they are inextricable.
By now, most of you have probably heard that a “Nantucket sleighride” refers to what happens to a boat full of whalers when they harpoon a whale that tries to swim away.
The song was written to fictionalize the true story of a tragic whaling expedition in 1820. The sperm whale they attempted to kill sunk their boat. The crew survived on small whaleboats but most of them died, one-by-one. When it got down to the final four, they drew straws to decide who would be sacrificed for the other three to cannibalize. Poor Owen Coffin, the youngest crewman, lost.
Collins wrote the lyrics to the song that begins:
Goodbye, little Robin Marie
Don’t try following me
Don’t cry, little Robin Marie
‘Cause you know I’m coming home soon
My ships’ leaving on a three-year tour
The next tide will take us from shore
Windlaced, gather in sail and spray
On a search for the mighty sperm whale
No mention of poor Owen Coffin, but who is Robin Marie? It turns out Robin Marie was a woman Pappalardi was cheating on Collins with. Collins passive-aggressively wrote her into the song and then sent her man away for three years!
Although Pappalardi and Collins ended up getting married, their relationship continued to be stormy. In 1983 she shot and killed him with a gun he had given her as a gift.
Enjoy… until next week.
Great write-up Tom. As a North Jersey guy this was one of my favorite bands. I saw them live many times and the extended jams on this song sometimes reach epic lengths. A bit more backstory. Corky Laing was the drummer for this group and he had a house on Nantucket where the band would hang out sometimes- -perhaps that is how they found their way to this topic. Corky still lives on the island and just about every summer the local paper interviews him about this song and the “good old days” with Mountain. Thanks for sharing this one.