Spirit's "Mr. Skin," which is either about pimping or pornography, crept into Billboard's Hot 100 three years after the release of their 1970 Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus album, thanks to a promotional boost from Epic's Best of Spirit compilation. Too bad the classic lineup of the LA quintet, after releasing four heady albums between 1968 and 1970, had disbanded by then: vocalist/ songwriter Jay Ferguson and bassist Mark Andes focused on their new boogie rock group Jo Jo Gunne; Ed Cassidy and John Locke joined forces with Texas brothers Al and John Staehely for a revamped boogie rock version of Spirit; and guitarist Randy California got busy with his Kapt. Kopter and the (Fabulous) Twirly Birds album, a future cult favorite.
Spirit - "1984" (Billboard #69, entered 2/7/70). Written by Randy California. Produced by Lou Adler. 45: "1984"/"Sweet Stella Baby" (Ode 1970). LP: The Best of Spirit (Epic 1973).
Whatever the intention, this single comes off a bit as a cash-in on Zager and Evans's "In the Year 2525," but it does feature Randy California's distinctive lead guitar. It was Spirit's second-best charting performance, next to "I Got a Line on You" (#25 in 1969). Side B was a non-album groupie-tribute song.
"Animal Zoo" (Billboard #97, entered 9/12/70). Written by Jay Ferguson. Produced by David Briggs. 45: "Animal Zoo"/"Red Light Roll On" (Epic 1970). LP: Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (Epic 1970); The Best of Spirit (Epic 1973).
The A-side is a city-gripe companion piece to "Nature's Way," which also appears on the Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus album. The B-side is an (uncharacteristically) crude non-album recording of a rocker written by Randy California about being given "the shaft."
"Nature's Way" (Billboard #111, entered 3/20/71). Written by Randy California. Produced by David Briggs. 45: "Nature's Way"/"Mr. Skin" (Epic 1970). LP: Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (Epic 1970); The Best of Spirit (Epic 1973).
The ecology-tinged A-side peaked at #111. The appearance of "Mr. Skin" on the B-side tricked Billboard chart archivist Joel Whitburn into mistakenly listing the 1973 charting version of "Mr. Skin" as the "Nature's Way" B-side in his Top Pop Singles 1955-2010.
"Mr. Skin" (Billboard #92, entered 10/20/73). Written by Jay Ferguson. Produced by David Briggs. 45: "Mr. Skin"/"Soldier" (Epic 1973). LP: Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (Epic 1970); The Best of Spirit (Epic 1973).
This was a fresh reissue of "Mr. Skin," not to be confused with its appearance as a B-side to "Nature's Way" in 1971. The confusing copyright date on the single's label is 1972, even though it charted in late '73 as a result of Epic's push for the 1973 Best of Spirit compilation.
Jo Jo Gunne - "Run Run Run" (Billboard #27, entered 3/18/72). Written by Jay Ferguson and Matthew Andes. Produced by Jo Jo Gunne. 45: "Run Run Run"/"Take It Easy" (Asylum 1972). LP: Jo Jo Gunne (Asylum 1972).
Although the band that ex-Spirit members Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes formed in 1972 scored a Top 40 hit right out of the gate with this hippie joyride, it would be their only chart appearance.