Certain Songs #1182: Moby Grape – “Murder in My Heart For The Judge”

Album: Wow
Year: 1968

One of the myths that grew up around Moby Grape was that they made one great, undeniable album, and then didn’t do anything worthwhile after it. That my was dispelled in 1993, when Columbia reissued a two-CD retrospective called Vintage, which simultaneously reinforced the myth — including the debut in its entirety — and dispelled it forever, as there a bunch of great songs on subsequent records.

The problem was, of course, those great songs were spread out among the rest of their career. Nevertheless, Moby Grape produced a couple of sleeper classics, one of which — “Murder in My Heart For The Judge” — wasn’t really much of a sleeper, as it was almost immediately covered by Three Dog Night and Lee Michaels.

Co-written by lead guitarist Jerry Miller & drummer Don Stevenson, “Murder in My Heart For The Judge” leads off with its fun and funky chorus, riding a big, slow, Bob Mosley bass groove, with one of them getting lower than the bass leaning into the chorus with a faux-soulful “Iiii’ve”:

I’ve got murder in my heart for the judge
I’ve got murder in my heart for the judge
Well that bad old judge wouldn’t budge
I’ve got murder in my heart for the judge

Meanwhile, guitarists Skip Spence, Miller & Peter Lewis are all playing off of and around the beat, Lewis soloing even before then get into that chorus. Their interplay gets even weirder as the first verse — sung from the perspective of a scumbag who’s probably guilty as fuck, but is still can’t help himself.

Walked into the courtroom
Know this was gonna bring me down
And that big fat bald representative of justice
And the prosecutor began to frown

I’m sorry, sorry for the things I’ve done
I sure want to change my evil ways
And the judge looked down at me and said
For getting smart, boy
Gonna give you more than a lifetime

In the end, after the book has been thrown by the mean old judge, the guitars take over. There’s a solo in one speaker, while the rhythm guitars remain slightly disjointed, like they can’t believe they’re going to spend the rest of their lives in the joint. Then suddenly one of them thinks “fuck it” and launches into a solo the other speaker, just as the drums start kicking into a short sharp rave up that just as you think is going to take off gets slammed shut behind the jail guitar doors.

“Murder in My Heart For The Judge”

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