Corky Laing of Mountain (right) performing with his band in 2016.
|Origin||Long Island, New York, U.S.|
N. D. Smart
Mountain is an American hard rock band that formed on Long Island, New York in 1969. Originally comprising vocalist and guitarist Leslie West, bassist and vocalist Felix Pappalardi, keyboardist Steve Knight and drummer N. D. Smart, the band broke up in 1972 and has reunited frequently since 1973, remaining active as of November 28, 2009. Best known for their cowbell-tinged song "Mississippi Queen", as well as for their performance at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, Mountain is one of many bands to be commonly credited as having influenced the development of heavy metal music in the 1970s. The groups musical style primarily consisted of hard rock, blues rock and heavy metal.
In early 1969 Leslie West, formerly of the Long Island R&B band The Vagrants, put together a band, Leslie West Mountain (a reference to his then-large size), with Norman Landsberg (keyboards, bass) and Ken Janick (drums) and began playing concerts. Right around this time, former Cream collaborator Felix Pappalardi expressed an interest in producing West's work. West, previously disgruntled and unsatisfied with the lack of success he desired in his first project, found Cream to be a great inspiration. He began to feel disillusioned with the R&B and Blues scenes of the 1960s that he previously played in. West immediately dropped the style and envisioned a project that would take on a rawer and much harder style of Rock N' Roll which he had begun to favor. The resulting solo album by Leslie West, Mountain, featured Pappalardi, Landsberg and former Remains drummer N.D. Smart. The album spotlighted West's raw vocals and melodic, bluesy guitar style, and Pappalardi's bass lines were prominent throughout. According to West, when Pappalardi asked what would be next, West suggested the pair go on the road. The group was heavily influenced by seminal British blues-rock band Cream (with which Pappalardi had been a frequent collaborator: he produced Disraeli Gears, Goodbye and Wheels of Fire, also contributing viola, brass, bells and organ to the latter) and also comprised keyboardist Steve Knight (from Devil's Anvil, another of Pappalardi's productions), who was added after Landsberg left to form another group, Hammer, with Janick.
Naming themselves "Mountain", after West's 1969 solo album, West, Pappalardi, Smart and Knight played shows on the West Coast before getting to play their fourth concert as a working band at the 1969 Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York. Mountain was received enthusiastically by the festival audience but the band did not appear in the film of the event, nor was their performance included on volume 1 of the festival's live album. Their performances of "Blood of the Sun" (from West's album) and "Theme for an Imaginary Western" (a song they planned to record for Climbing and co-written by former Cream bassist Jack Bruce) did appear on the second volume of Woodstock performances. The 40th Anniversary Edition of Woodstock on DVD and Blu-ray features filmed performances of "Beside The Sea" and "Southbound Train".
Soon after Woodstock, Smart was replaced by Canadian Laurence "Corky" Laing, who was the drummer on the classic Climbing!, which was released in March 1970. It led off with what became the band's signature song, "Mississippi Queen", which reached #21 in the Billboard Hot 100, and was featured in the 1971 cult film Vanishing Point, while the album reached #17 in the Billboard Top 200.
Mountain began a hectic touring schedule in the middle of which they recorded a follow-up album, Nantucket Sleighride, released in January 1971. This album reached #16 but failed to yield a hit single. The title track was used in the UK as the theme to ITV's Sunday political program Weekend World. After these early releases the band continued to receive a certain measure of critical acclaim but never again achieved great commercial success.
Mountain disbanded in February 1972 after a tour of the UK. West has since cited a combination of drug abuse within the band and Pappalardi's road weariness and burgeoning hearing impairment as primary factors. A live album, Mountain Live: The Road Goes Ever On, was issued in April 1972.
Pappalardi returned to studio work, while West and Laing formed West, Bruce and Laing with former Cream bassist Jack Bruce. Their first American performance was a Carnegie Hall concert, prompting a bidding war that Columbia Records won, and the new trio cut two studio albums and a live release over the next two years. After Bruce suddenly pulled out of the trio in 1973, West and Laing continued on briefly as Leslie West's Wild West Show, which also featured special guest Mitch Ryder plus NYC guitarist Peter Baron and bassist Tom Robb (formerly with Mylon LeFevre's band and later with Marshall Tucker Band).
By August 1973, West and Pappalardi had reformed Mountain with Allan Schwartzberg on drums and Bob Mann (ex-Dreams) on keyboards and guitar; the new lineup toured Japan and produced a double live album, Twin Peaks (February 1974), from the tour. The studio work Avalanche (July 1974), for which Laing returned to play drums and David Perry became the new second guitarist (from November 1973 to September 1974), would be Mountain's final album with Pappalardi as a participant; the group broke up again after playing a final show at Felt Forum in NYC on December 31, 1974.
On April 17, 1983, Gail Collins Pappalardi, Pappalardi's wife and songwriting partner (she had designed many of the band's album covers and wrote many of their lyrics), shot Pappalardi in the neck in their fifth-floor East Side Manhattan apartment.
After pursuing separate musical paths for almost a decade, West and Laing reunited Mountain, recruiting Miller Anderson (ex-Savoy Brown & Keef Hartley) on bass in 1981. Anderson was replaced in 1984 by Mark Clarke, and the group recorded Go for Your Life (March 1985)  (The album was dedicated to Pappalardi's memory.) Shortly thereafter, the band performed with Triumph at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Illinois.
Mountain went dormant again until 1992, when West and Laing teamed up once again and brought in Richie Scarlet (known for his solo work and collaborations with Ace Frehley and Sebastian Bach) to round out the lineup. Scarlet was replaced with Randy Coven in 1993 and in 1994 there was a Mountain lineup that included West, Laing, Noel Redding, and special guest guitarist Elvin Bishop. By 1995, the 1984-85 lineup of West, Laing & Mark Clarke was back, and recorded Man's World in 1996. In 1998 things went quiet in the Mountain camp again until 2001. That year, with Scarlet back in the lineup, the band recorded Mystic Fire, released in 2002.
In 2003 West and Laing authored a book of recollections, Nantucket Sleighride and Other Mountain On-the-Road Stories, detailing their time with the band at its peak and their subsequent careers.
Mountain's video game debut came in 2007 on RedOctane's Guitar Hero III, featuring "Mississippi Queen" as a playable track. The song is also featured in the Harmonix video game Rock Band, although the version featured is a cover of the studio recording.
The band headed out on the road during October and November 2008 on a North American tour opening for Joe Satriani, and with former Michael Schenker Group member Rev Jones on bass. A review of the San Diego House of Blues date covered the Mountain set, including "Blowing in the Wind" from the Masters of War album, with enthusiasm. Of the Satriani set, the reviewer was also pleased with the blues influence he felt Mountain brought to the evening, and with West joining in a Satriani-led, closing "Stormy Monday" and "Going Down" blues jam.
Fellow Long Island native Howard Stern has called Mountain one of his favourite bands and has occasionally played their music on his show. Other Mountain fans include John McLaughlin,Johnny Ramone, Clutch, Karma to Burn, comedian Dennis Miller, and John Frusciante (the Red Hot Chili Peppers track "Readymade" off 2006's Stadium Arcadium features a Mountain-influenced riff). Martin Barre, guitarist for Jethro Tull has stated in interviews that Leslie West was a direct influence on his playing.
The beginning of the live recording of their song "Long Red" has become one of the most sampled drum breaks in hip hop, sampled in songs by EPMD, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Kanye West, Game, among many others.
Mountain has not performed live since 2010. On June 20, 2011, West had his lower right leg amputated as a result of complications from diabetes. And since that time, West has been performing and recording under his own name, with his concerts featuring many Mountain songs. Corky Laing formed a new project, Corky Laing Plays Mountain, in 2015. This project included bassist/vocalist Joe Venti and guitarist/vocalist Phil Baker in 2015. For their 2016 United States tour Laing and Venti were joined by guitarist Richie Scarlet and keyboardist Ken Sidotti. They perform Mountain music in addition to songs by West, Bruce and Laing and Cream.