Pearls Before Swine ( Tom Rapp ) : ESP-Disk'
Pearls Before Swine ( Tom Rapp ) : Reprise
Tom Rapp ( Pearls Before Swine ) : Blue Thumb
Tom Rapp , Pearls Before Swine : Other Rabel
With high school friends Wayne Harley (banjo, mandolin), Lane Lederer (bass, guitar) and Roger Crissinger (piano, organ), Rapp wrote and recorded some songs which, inspired by the Fugs, they sent to the avant-garde ESP-Disk label in New York. The group took its name from a Bible passage: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine..." (Mat. 7:6, KJV), meaning: do not give things of value to those who will not understand or appreciate it. They were quickly signed up, and recorded One Nation Underground (1967), featuring songs of mysticism, protest, melancholia, and some controversy in the case of gMiss Morseh, which spelled out an obscenity in code. The album eventually sold some 200,000 copies, although management and contractual problems meant that the band received little reward for its success. Being such a small label, the success of "One Nation Underground" prompted a number of cover variations. (the first issue seemed to be a brown colored portion of the Bosch painting with a white strip along the right edge, followed by a lighter brown covering the entire cover. Then a black cover appeared with the words "Pearls Before Swine" printed in white, followed by the more well-known white cover with the Bosch painting in color and the name of the band and album printed in black.)
The more mysterious-sounding and strongly anti-war Balaklava (1968) followed, inspired by the Charge of the Light Brigade. Rapp has said "The first two albums are probably considered the druggiest, and I had never done any drugs at that point. I smoked Winston cigarettes at that time, so these are all Winston-induced hallucinations." The album covers featured paintings by Bosch and Brueghel. The records themselves included interpretations of the writings of Tolkien and Herodotus as well as archive recordings from the 1890s, with innovatively arranged songs using an eclectic variety of instruments.
The band signed for Reprise Records in 1969, although by this time the other original members had left and the band name referred to Rapp and whichever musicians he was recording or touring with, one of whom, Jim Fairs, was previously a member of The Cryan' Shames. The five albums on Reprise were generally more conventional in sound, but contained a unique blend of humanistic and mystical songs, with some whimsical touches. Some were recorded in New York and others ? particularly The Use of Ashes and City of Gold - in Nashville with top session musicians including Charlie McCoy, Kenny Buttrey, and other members of Area Code 615. Several also featured Rapp's then-wife Elisabeth on vocals. The oddly-upbeat "The Man", from City of Gold, was sung by David Noyes and recorded at A&R Studios in New York City during the summer of 1970. Noyes' friend, Jon Tooker, took his position when the band toured Europe that fall; Tooker died in a motorcycle crash in 2008.
In his teens, Rapp lived close to Cape Canaveral and watched the rockets take off. The song "Rocket Man", on the album The Use of Ashes - written the day Neil Armstrong landed on the moon - was credited by Bernie Taupin with inspiring his hit song with Elton John of the same title. Quote : "We didn't steal that one from Bowie, we stole it from another guy, called Tom Rapp...". Many of the other songs of this period reflected Rapp's interests in mysticism, his relationship with his alcoholic father, and his experiences of living for a time in (and marrying a native of) Holland. The final Reprise album, Familiar Songs, was a collection of demo re-recordings of some of Rappfs earlier songs, and was released (under his own name, not as a "Pearls Before Swine" album) without his knowledge.
In 1971, Pearls Before Swine toured for the first time, the group then comprising Rapp, Mike Krawitz (piano), Gordon Hayes (bass) and Jon Tooker (guitar). Around this time, Rapp often referred onstage, not quite seriously, to the group as "the house band for the SDS." A live album from this period, Live Pearls, recorded at Yale University, was released as a download in December 2008.
Two albums followed, released under Rapp's own name on Blue Thumb Records. The first, Stardancer, was again recorded in Nashville, and was followed by Sunforest. The band - by that time comprising Rapp, Art Ellis (flute), Bill Rollins (bass, cello) and Harry Orlove (guitar, banjo) - toured until 1974, with Rapp continuing to perform solo until a final appearance in 1976 supporting Patti Smith.
Rapp then retired from music and, after graduating from Brandeis University, became a civil rights lawyer. After being contacted by the magazine Ptolemaic Terrascope, he re-appeared in 1997 at Terrastock, a music festival in Providence, Rhode Island, with his son's band, Shy Camp, and began recording again with 1999's A Journal of the Plague Year .
Original member Roger Crissinger left the group in 1968, joining San Francisco band One (1) led by Reality D. Blipcrotch. Lane Lederer is now a member of the Florida Orchestra.
PBS have been cited as a key influence by various musicians including The Dream Academy, Damon and Naomi, the Bevis Frond, The Late Cord, This Mortal Coil, and the Japanese band Ghost. Three tribute albums have been released by Secret Eye Records.