Doug Jerebine travelled to the UK in the late-sixties, changed his name to Jesse Harper, and recorded one of the great lost psych-guitar masterpieces.
I had sung and played like this in New Zealand, but never my own songs. In fact, I had never written any songs, apart from Metropolis, recorded with the Embers. My friend Jimmy Sloggett was excited about it and wrote for violins. After being in the U.K. for a few months and hooking up with my Kiwi friend Dave Hartstone, Dave said one day, "Come on, Doug! You are an incredible guitarist and you can sing too. So write some songs and let's record them."
I replied, "No way! I'm into playing live, not recording. I want to find some good musicians and play with them, live. The real mission is find good musicians."
Although I had concealed it, I was somewhat excited about composing. My main reluctance was in singing. I had worked with many talented and powerful singers, and felt that I could recognise a good singer-and that I wasn't one of them. Singing is a gift: a timbre, a character, a power. Your own vocal chords are your instrument, at your command; you are more or less born with it. I wasn't. This was my opinion, though I sometimes liked the joy of trying to sing.
My long-time saxophonist and dear friend Bob Gillett and I had had the company of certain outstanding musicians in New Zealand, but we were often stuck without a bass player and a drummer. Drummers were the most difficult to come by. There were good players, but they were not often in our circle for some reason or other.
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In England, Dave introduced me to Dave Preston, a drummer from Liverpool. He had played with the Merseybeats and Nirvana-no, not the Nirvana of later fame-in fact he later told me that his Nirvana was the original Nirvana, and they received a handsome compensation from the "famous" Nirvana for using their name without permission. Preston lived hard and used a lot of coarse language, but beneath that veneer I saw a man of gentle and modest heart. Again, I observed that he could play "fire-music". I appreciated that he seemed to possess no ego, and was always ready to listen to how I wanted the music to sound. There was virtually no money in our work; but he genuinely liked the songs I had written.
So now here we are in a UK studio, 1969. I am perspiring, waving my arms and conducting chorus to chorus, simultaneously playing a Gibson SG guitar with a single P90 bridge pickup. Dave Preston patiently watched the mad conductor, played time and unleashed his fire when the time was right, which gave me great solace.
I was loud. The neighbouring offices could all hear it, and the control room was filled with their office staff playing truant. I was recording-live! I always remember one remark: "Sounds like he's playing the guitar underwater." Their presence gave me purpose, consolation that I wasn't just playing into a dead machine, just to be boxed on an automated assembly line into a 'product' destined for a supermarket shelf next to dishwashing liquid.
I had a heartfelt reunion with Dave Preston just over a year ago. He now sings and writes beautiful music. I would be hard pressed to find a gentler soul amongst my acquaintances. He never forgot our work, and still had an acetate of our original recording-from which it is now published. Did I think it would be released all over the world 42 years later? No way.
Chicago label Drag City have officially released the album Doug Jerebine Is Jesse Harper on vinyl and digital download to worldwide acclaim, with Mojo, Uncut and Record Collector giving the long-overdue reissue a major thumbs up. New local imprint Imperial have released the album with additional tracks from Doug's career - he plays a release show at the Kings Arms on Wednesday 14 March to celebrate.