Gram Parsons’ International Submarine Band
Safe At Home
Shiloh Records SCS 4088 (reissue)
“This is a rare reissue which I found in a cassette flea market somewhere. It only cost me three bucks!! I guess someone didn’t know how valuable this was and just got rid of it really cheap.” – Lar
|01 – Blue Eyes||Link|
|02 – I Must Have Been Somebody Else You’ve Known||Link|
|03 – A Satisfied Mind|
|04 – Folsom Prison Blues|
|05 – That’s All Right|
|06 – Millers Cave||Link|
|07 – I Still Miss Someone|
|08 – Luxury Liner||Link||Link|
|09 – Strong Boy|
|10 – Do You Know How It Feels To Be Lonesome (Parsons/Goldberg)||Link||Link|
Vocals: Gram Parsons, Bob Buchanan, Jon Corneal
Rhythm Guitar: Gram Parsons, Bob Buchanan
Lead Guitar: John Nuese
Drums: Jon Corneal
Piano: Earl “Les” Ball
Steel: Good Ole “Jay Dee”
Bass: Chris Ethridge
Recorded December, 1967 at United Recording, Hollywood, CA.
Engineered by Mike Lietz and Eddie Bracket.
Remixed from the original 4 track master for stereo by Buddy Bruno, Conway Recorders, Hollywood, CA. Sept. 1987
A Lee Hazlewood Production
Produced by Suzi Jane Hokum
� 1967 LHI p 1979 Shiloh Records
Reissue Producer: Dale Davis
Safe At Home Sleeve Bio:
“The International Submarine Band”
The International Submarine Band is a classic example of a popular music act whos real worth was only revealed with the passing of time. Safe At Home, the only album ever released by the band, is often referred to as the first full-blown country-rock LP. Perhaps it is. Yet, what is indisputable is the great value of the music within its grooves, for it is there we first see the flashes of brilliance group leader Gram Parsons increasingly dealt in the latter stages of his all too brief career.
The original I.S.B. had released two singles and recorded an entire album of Beatlesque material at Los Angeles’ Bold Star Studios, frequent home of Phil Spector. Those tapes were given to Brandon deWilde for safekeeping and after deWild’s own premature death, his girlfriend kept the tapes. Now, no one knows where deWilde’s ex or the tapes are. However as any Gram Parsons fan knows, the singles went nowhere and the band moved from the Bronx to L.A. – “to get out of the cold and be next door to Bakersfield and some good country music stations”, or so Gram said. In reality, the group was responding to an offer ex-child actor deWilde had made about getting them some film work.
In Los Angeles, the I.S.B. didn’t quite become “household names”, but they found things better than in New York. Sure enough, deWilde did get them in a film by introducing them to his friend Peter Fonda, (see Fonda’s chapter in “Grievous Angel: The Gram Parsons Story”), who promptly put them in the nightclub in The Trip and then watched in surprise as the Sub Band’s music was erased by the producer for the more, “psychedelic” sounds of the Electric Flag, a band who had been rehearsing at Gram’s house. Thanks a lot, fellas!
Fonda also recorded a Parsons song around this time called “November Nights”, presumably on the unreleased Gold Star LP since it was an I.S.B. staple. At this time the bands’ line up was Gram Parsons on vocals and guitar, Jon Nuese on lead guitar, Mickey Gauvin on drums and Ian Dunlop (who named the band) on bass. As with many rock bands who possess the potential but little money, the pressure was on and dissention was brewing.
A split occurred in the late spring of 1967 over the direction the band was taking (natch!). Gram and Nuese stayed with the name and headed into a true country sound, while Mickey Gauvin followed Dunlop over to the home of Billy Briggs and Barry Tashian (bout ex-Barry and the Remains, Boston’s Finest) where they put together an R&B horn act Dunlop christened the Flying Burrito Bros.
In June 1967 Gram returned from a Florida vacation with drummer and boyhood friend Jon Corneal, a veteran of early Parsons outings. Later that month the new I.S.B. with a temporary bassist, auditioned fro Suzi Jane Hokum of Lee Hazelwood’s LHI Records at the Burrito Manor, where they rehearsed and lived. They passed and in July cut Gram’s Blue Eyes as well as Luxury Liner with Miss Hokum producing for a possible single. It is worth noting that Nuese has always said that the I.S. B. should’ve gotten a co-production credit for all the input he and Gram gave.
Chris Ethridge (later in the Gilded Palace-era) was the Sub Band’s bass player on Safe At Home and the live shows. Also in the band at what was fast becoming there eleventh hour, was one Bob Buchanan, who went on to co-write Hickory Wind with Gram one lonely January afternoon in 1968.
Filling out the LP were C&W Stalwarths’ Jay Dee Maness on pedal steel guitar and Earl “Les” Ball on piano. Rumour has it both Don Everly and Glen Campbell make appearances on Safe At Home, hence their rave reviews on the LP’s original sleeve!
In November the Sub Band re-entered the studio to finish the album, working almost straight through mid-December. Nuese admits he really didn’t see eye to eye with Suzi Jane Hokum and claims both he and Gram were dismayed by Miss Hokum’s insistence on piecemeal recording (i.e., recording the basic rhythm tracks, guitar overdubs and lead vocals at different times), preferring instead, the traditional country way of rehearsing the band and then recording as an ensemble.
Safe At Home was finished by Christmas of 1967 and the band took a break to reflect and relax over the holidays. When it came time for cover art, there were, for whatever reason, no suitable photos of the entire band together. So Frank Morton came to the rescue, taking a full colour slide of Gram, Nuese, and Corneal posing on a sofa, adding Bob Buchanan and making an ink drawing of it. (The slide was reproduced in Grievous Angel.)
Yet even with a finished album under their belts the band knew trouble was brewing. Gram shared the same business manager as the Byrds and he’d even visited several of the sessions for the Notorious Byrd Brothers album. He developed a fast friendship with Chris Hillman through their mutual love of real country music and similar sense of humor. Shortly after Gram visited their recording session, David Crosby split the Byrds and Hillman got a great idea …
By February, Gram Parsons was a full-fledged Byrd. There was only one thing wring. He never bothered to get out of his LHI contract. Gram apparently walked into LHI’s lobby and announced to Hazelwood and a startled receptionist, “Ah’m singin’ wit the Byrds now. Goodbye.” Well, it is a good story. He had an amicable parting with Nuese, sold the I.S.B. name to Hazelwood to get out of the contract (and avoid being sued), recorded Sweetheart Of The Rodeo with Messrs. Mcquinn and Hillman and found himself in the Rock Music Big Time.
By March ’68 the International Submarine Band was reduced to Nuese, Corneal and Ethridge looking for Gram’s replacement. They searched until June of that year and not only didn’t find a suitable substitute they couldn’t even find many candidates; which gives you some idea of Parson’s abilities and the popularity of C&W with young people in L.A. at that time.
What of Safe At Home itself? The Parsons compositions truly sparkle and two received important exposure in later years when Emmylou Harris sang Luxury Liner and when Gram himself sang Do You Know How It Feels To Be Lonesome? With the Burrito Bros. On their first LP. Believe it or not, the Sub Band’s version is better. The record’s cover versions sparkle too, yet in a different light. Nost are standards and if Gram’s Johnny Cash on I Still Miss Someone isn’t quite 100% there, just dig his spritely sprint through Merle Haggard’s Somebody Else You’ve Known or compare his version of Satisfied Mind with one of the Byrds cut for Turn, Turn, Turn.
Safe At Home, whatever treasures, was released to an unsympathetic world in spring ’68 with Hazelwood hoping to get some chart action through the Parsons/Byrds connection. He didn’t. The album faded into obscurity and the satisfied minds of collectors and Byrd fans all the world over. The I.S.B. LP, their only LP release, had been bootlegged several times (with and without Dunlop artwork), fought over, argued about and sold for many times it’s original asking price. It’s been said Gram Parsons never made a bad album during his short life and you can be damn sure this LP keeps that promise true. Safe at home, indeed.
Hollywood, CA. Summer 1985
* – Sid Griffin is the author of “Gram Parsons, a Music Biography”, Sierra Books, POB 5853, Padadena, CA, 91107