It’s old, it’s rock and there’s a skull on the cover – that’s pretty much all the careful reasoning I put into buying Josefus Dead Man.  Okay so truthfully you can add it was re-released by the ever-reliable Numero Group, they are touted as some of the forefathers of metal and because I liked the sound of the 17-minute title track.  Dead Man didn’t disappoint either.

Numero Group Rockers 01

Formed in Texas from the ashes of several local outfits, Josefus cut their debut LP in Phoenix in 1969 but due to being mucked about by management right from the start immediately changed their name to, the less than stellar, Come and lost all the momentum they’d already built opening the bill locally for the likes of Grand Funk Railroad, Grateful Dead, Ten Years After, John Mayall, Quicksilver Messenger Service, ZZ Top, Bubble Puppy and 13th Floor Elevators, despite never playing a gig outside of their home state.  Dead Man was cut in just 6 hours of studio time with money put up by the father and father-in-law of bassist Ray Turner, the former also designed the striking cover and record label, Hookah Records*.  They split up in December 1970.

All of which is very historical, but is the music any good? I’m no curator after all, I’m mostly interested in how good Dead Man sounds now.  Right here? right now? pretty damn good actually.

Josefus Dead Man 02Josefus Dead Man 05 (2)

Slapping Side 2 straight onto the turntable we get ‘Situation’ 1:55 of energised Yardbirds-influenced rock, with a fabulous amount of attack and echo, plus suitably histrionic vocals from Pete Bailey, who is no stranger to giving it the full Percy at times.  It’s great and by the time you get to really enjoying it, we’re into the reason why I played this side first ‘Dead Man’, all 17:30 of it.  Like all good things it builds slowly from a few atmospherics on up to a spiked bluesy, trippy plod which ignites as soon as the vocals kick in at 4 minutes.  It really is great, lots of drama, some great rhythm changes and freaking out – if you were a heavy progressive band of the time you clearly needed your epic jam in an ‘In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida/Dazed & Confused’ – style.  ‘Dead Man’ is great, it never feels like pointless showing off and never overstays its welcome.

You’re dead, your flesh is turning pale
You’re dead, I see your body laid out on the rail
Dead man, your whole world is out of time
And you wanna live now but there’s only time to die

In fact as no-one else seems to have done so I have transcribed the lyrics to the whole song below, consider it my gift to future generations of stoners**.  Just light up your candles and sing along.

Josefus Dead Man 04

Dead Man certainly doesn’t suffer from 2112-Syndrome, the other side of the LP is just as worth a listen.  In no particular order I’m very taken with their endearingly misspelled cover of ‘Gimmie Shelter’ which comes on like a speeding train, losing all the numb apocalypse of the original but making up for it with extra ROCK! The guitar melody line reminds of Mötörhead’s ‘Bomber’ at one point, no really, Dave Mitchell really hammers it on down.   I’ve also got a real soft spot for the languid, ham-fisted ‘Country Boy’, bemoaning having to work instead of being ‘some rich girl’s toy’, you and me both Josefus.  Whereas ‘Proposition’ features the world’s most blatant Beatles steal, from the then-almost-new ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’, to excellent effect.

Josefus Dead Man 08Josefus Dead Man 07

Forty Six years after it came out Dead Man still rocks hard.  The likes of ‘Crazy Man’ and ‘I Need a Woman’ still hit the spot  It is transitional stuff, you can hear the 60s melting into the 70s right here, less uppers, more downers.  Josefus really do deserve to be remembered as the progenitors and nurturers of that early hard rock sound along with Blue Cheer, for intent if not for overall impact on numbers of folk.

Dead man rawking!

Josefus Dead Man 06 (2)Josefus Dead Man 01

650 Down.

PS: I gleaned most of the history here from an excellent interview with guitarist Dave Mitchell on the Psychedelic Baby site.

*all lovingly reproduced by Numero Group.  By the way, if you have any Texan relatives with original copies knocking about their attic just let me know and I’ll dispose of them for free, as long as they pay the postage for me.

**(To keep myself comparatively sane, I have omitted all ejaculations of ‘Oh yeah’s’, ‘Right now’s etc.)

Dead man I only hear a rattle when you breathe
Dead man I know you see in darkness when you sleep
Dead man you could have been living if you tried
and you wanna live now but there’s only time to die
Dead man you said that fame and fortune was your game
Dead man if it’s cotton or its gold it’s all the same
Dead man once you had a future, its been denied
and you wanna live now but there’s only time to die
You’re dead, your flesh is turning pale
You’re dead, I see your body laid out on the rail
Dead man, your whole world is out of time
and you wanna live now but there’s only time to die
(Repeat first verse – with extra drama and ‘oh yeah!’s)

43 thoughts on “Dead Man Rawking

    1. That and In-a-gadda-da-vida too.

      I think you’d dig a bit of Josefus.

      Btw. I was in a record shop today where they had a mint copy of Just A Game by Triumph (not the board game version), should I have bought it?

      1. Jeez I honestly don’t know! What was the other cover? I would say if the price was cheap it’s worth buying just for Lay it on the Line. It’s not a one-song album but that’s definitely the highlight.

        Yes I definitely like the Josefus I’m hearing!

      2. No idea it was a pretty groovy gatefold, but I bought Heartbreaker by Free instead – I do a great karaoke version of Wishing Well, already after only 3 hours.

      3. I believe the gatefold has the board game inside, and it was later discontinued.

        You and I can do karaoke together, next time we meet up at the bunker. I only do one song though: The Immigrant Song.

  1. Interesting find for sure, especially for anyone who’s been searching over four decades for something to replace In A Gadda Da Vida.

    PS 1. The ‘numb apocalypse’ of Gimmie (sic) Shelter is a wonderful phrase.

    PS 2. It may be the distance between N W and D U but your ‘new look’ page takes forever to load. I usually click, then wander off for a cup of tea and a side of Iron Butterfly while it arrives. Thought you’d like to know.

    1. r.e. PS 2: Yes! I said the same thing, usually it’s still loading as I type a comment, so the page jumps and I have to find where I was again… although I said I went to get coffee, not tea, so to each their own! 🙂

    2. Thanks for the adjustment. I know from my own adventures in the UK that tea is quite popular… Me, I like both, but if they could do a blood test for coffee content they could probably sell my blood as crude. 😉

    3. Do you think such folk exist? The stoner rock equivalents of lone Japanese soldiers still fighting WW2 on remote atolls in 1968?

      Thank you for the praise you gimmie Bruce.

      I know, it’s because of the larger photos – I have found out, accidentally obviously, that it loads really fast at work. Not sure what the solution is because I really want the added visuals.

  2. “O’ yeah!” … man, I love this album. Dare say it’s one of my favourites that I’ve bought over the last few years. Only negative I can think of is that there was no CD or download code. But then, they didn’t have such extras in the 70s!

      1. I’ll thank you not to use language like that around here, sir. This is, occasional cartoon boobs aside, a family blog.

    1. It is totally, like, umm, profound and stuff. You know like, the straights, they’re all like dead man and so’s like, you know, breadhead society and stuff.

      1. It’s great when you can set off from Land’s End with the track playing and by the time you get to John O’ Groats, they’re only just moving on to the 3rd movement.

Leave a Reply