A fascinating enigma of the San Francisco psychedelic scene, Valente is most famed as the author of "Get Together." This definitive '60s love-and-peace anthem was recorded on the Jefferson Airplane's first album, and taken into the Top Ten by the Youngbloods. Valente was also an original member of Quicksilver Messenger Service, although drug busts meant that he did not actually perform and record with the group for about five years, by which time they were on the downside artistically. Prior to finally hooking up with Quicksilver, he also recorded a strange but attractive folk-psychedelic album as a solo act that, until its belated reissue on CD, was a rare and legendary psychedelic cult item.
Valente wrote "Get Together" while making the rounds of the Greenwich Village folk scene in the early '60s, though unfortunately he sold the rights to the song in the mid-'60s to raise money for legal defense. Valente even got as far as recording the song on an unissued demo tape for Autumn Records in 1964 (finally released on Ace's Someone to Love compilation in 1996). He also recorded a peculiar folk-pop single for Elektra in 1964, "Birdses," its arrangement dominated by a Baroque harpsichord. Valente also knew the Byrds in their pre-"Mr. Tambourine Man" days, even sharing a houseboat in San Francisco with David Crosby at one point. Gene Clark once recalled that when the Byrds were trying to come up with a name, Clark suggested the "Birdses" (amended, of course, to the Byrds) because of his admiration for Valente's "Birdses" single. Valente did not end up joining the Byrds, however, instead allying with three San Francisco musicians that would end up in Quicksilver Messenger Service. Just before rehearsing for the first time, however, Valente was arrested for drug possession and jailed; Quicksilver, for the time being, continued without him, recording one of his happy-go-lucky folk-rock tunes, "Dino's Song," on their debut album.
When Valente was eventually paroled, he got a deal with Epic, releasing one little-heard album for the label in 1968. Produced by Bob Johnston (most famous for overseeing much of Bob Dylan's classic '60s output), it was idiosyncratic even within the psychedelic community. Valente sang elliptical, stream-of-consciousness hippie-isms without much in the way of narrative, beginning, or end, but with an evocative lyricism. Favoring pleasingly haunting, minor folk-jazz acoustic chords, he didn't have much of a voice, which was wisely smothered to a large extent under wads of reverb in the studio, adding to the record's allure.
This would be Valente's only solo effort. In 1969 he and Quicksilver's second guitarist, Gary Duncan, formed a band called the Outlaws before Duncan returned to Quicksilver, which Valente finally joined, officially, in 1970. Rather unbelievably, considering the divergent paths he and the other musicians had taken since the mid-'60s, Valente assumed artistic leadership of the group immediately, which likely says something both for the force of his personality and Quicksilver's lack of direction at the time. Valente, in fact, would write most of the songs on their next album, 1970's Fresh Air (sometimes using the pseudonym Jesse Oris Farrow).
Yet the long-awaited reunion was an ill-fated match: Quicksilver's forte was psychedelic guitar jamming, not singer/songwriter fare. Valente's material for the band, too, did not match his best earlier efforts, although one of his Quicksilver compositions, "What About Me," was one of their most popular tracks. Valente stayed with Quicksilver through the mid-'70s, and signed with Warner Bros in 1974, although no releases resulted from that association, and indeed no Valente releases would appear between then and his death in 1994. ~ Richie Unterberger