Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 28 Sep 02 18:08
Steve, the proposal I used to pitch the book outlined a book that's extremely similar to what I wrote. The only major change that occurred, as noted earlier on, was that originally I was planning a 400-page single volume covering the whole 1960s. Now it's two 300-page volumes, split chronologically roughly at mid-1966. "Positively 4th Street" had no impact on my getting a deal. At the time the contract was signed in mid-2000, I wasn't even aware that "Positively 4th Street" was on the way (it came out in 2001). I would think "Positively 4th Street" *would* be considered a success by most publishers' standards -- it got a considerable amount of press coverage, and I think it sold pretty well, certainly well for a music book. Perhaps some of the publishers who passed on my folk-rock books would have been more excited about it if they'd gotten the proposal after "Positively 4th Steet" came out, but I don't know. The agent I was originally working with wanted there to be a lot more sociopolitical commentary in the book. That was a change I did *not* make, though I did try to work with him on that and submitted a couple of revised proposals before amiably deciding that our respective visions of the book couldn't reconcile. The agent I used pretty much shopped the proposal around as I wrote it, asking for only three or so very minor changes to the proposal that actually barely affected the text I wrote. Perhaps this decision limited its impact to a more mainstream crossover audience; the first agent felt very strongly that I needed to work in more sociopolitical commentary to achieve this. If so, I can live with it. It was more important to write the book I wanted to write, and to give folk-rock itself the deep coverage I thought it deserved. For Blackburn & Snow, here are a couple of excerpts from the bio I wrote of them for the All Music Guide (viewable in total at http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=Bbca9kezt0q70~C): Their male-female harmonies were nearly on par with those of the early Jefferson Airplane, and they boasted a wealth of fine original material by Blackburn that deftly combined folk, rock, country, and light psychedelic influences into a melodic blend that was both commercial and creatively idiosyncratic. Getting the deal I got was greatly aided by my having already written a couple of books for the publisher, Backbeat Books. They were happy with those and trusted that other books I wrote would be good too. I in turn knew that they'd let me write the books as I wanted to write them, rather than trying to change the books or the writing into something with which I wouldn't have been comfortable. More on Donovan: the slogan on his guitar reading "this machine kills" was an approximation of the slogan "this machine kills fascists" that was on Woody Guthrie's guitar. Just after he emerged as a star in the UK in 1965, there wre ads for an "authentic Donovan cap" in the British weekly music paper New Musical Express for months. For Blackburn & Snow, here are a couple of excerpts from the bio I wrote of them for the All Music Guide, viewable in total at http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=Bbca9kezt0q70~C: "Their male-female harmonies were nearly on par with those of the early Jefferson Airplane, and they boasted a wealth of fine original material by Blackburn that deftly combined folk, rock, country, and light psychedelic influences into a melodic blend that was both commercial and creatively idiosyncratic...[Blackburn's] compositions were similar in their unusual shifting melodies, frequent haunting use of minor chords, and hazy yet pungent lyrics reflecting the freewheeling spirit of the embryonic San Francisco hippie counterculture. A skilled guitar player with an interesting voice not unlike the Everly Brothers, his vocals were ably complemented by the soaring, higher ones of Snow, who (according to Alec Palao's liner notes on Blackburn & Snow's "Something Good for Your Head" CD) declined an offer to replace Signe Anderson in the Jefferson Airplane in August 1966." And here's my All Music Guide review of the album, "Something Good for Your Head," on the British Big Beat label: "Although Blackburn & Snow were probably not allowed to reach their full potential due to various problems (not the least of them being a lack of record releases), this collection of 20 1966-67 recordings is only a little below the first tier of mid-1960s American folk-rock in quality. "Stranger in a Strange Land" is a highlight and probably could have been a big hit. Almost on the same level are melodic Blackburn originals that could be ebullient ("Yes Today," "It's So Hard," "Every Day Brings Better Things"), spookily sad and folky ("Takin' It Easy," "Some Days I Feel You Lovin'"), or both high-spirited and hard-edged at once ("Do You Realize"). About a dozen of these songs have circulated on muffled lo-fi collector's tapes in the past, but the fidelity here is pristine. It's recommended to fans of early California folk-rock, the early Jefferson Airplane being the closest reference point (though it's more like the 1966 Airplane than the 1967 model). It's also unusual for such a collector-oriented release in how it is both almost guaranteed to satisfy fans of classic folk-rock groups like the early Airplane, Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield, but quite distinctive in approach and not explicitly derivative of any of the big names in the genre." The song "Stranger in a Strange Land" referred to in the review, by the way, is a David Crosby composition that the Byrds never put on a release, though an instrumental backing track of it was put on the CD reissue of the Byrds' "Turn! Turn! Turn!" album as a bonus track. When it came out on one of Blackburn & Snow's two singles circa 1966, it was, oddly, credited to "Samuel F. Omar." I interviewed Sherry Snow (now known as Halimah Collingwood) and she confirmed with me that the author is David Crosby. There are quotes from our interview, and a good amount of coverage of Blackburn & Snow, just a few pages into the upcoming sequel book "Eight Miles High," in the chapter on San Francisco folk-rock. Free-associating here...speaking of obscure David Crosby songs the Byrds didn't release that were heard by early San Francisco folk-rock acts, in my research I found out that, according to original Jefferson Airplane bassist Bob Harvey, the very early Airplane had the chance to put it into their repertoire, but it was "turned down coldly by Marty [Balin]." I found this out from an interview with Harvey that's posted on a Jefferson Airplane site. More on the Airplane: Steve, I don't recall reading that quote from Balin about singing in fifths with Signe Anderson. I have the book "The Jefferson Airplane and the San Francisco Sound" and just skimmed the two lengthy interviews it contains with Balin, and didn't find the quote. Perhaps it appeared elsewhere in the book, or somewhere else? If anyone knows the source of the quote, please post it, I'd be interested to know. In the meantime I'm checking with the biggest Airplane authority I know to see if he knows where it appeared. The book "The Jefferson Airplane and the San Francisco Sound," incidentally, is recommended if you can find it. It's got lengthy Q&As with all six members of their "Surrealistic Pillow" lineup, plus an interview with Jerry Garcia. It came out in 1969 and it's long out of print. I felt very lucky to find it used for a dollar or two in the late 1980s. These days it would probably go on Ebay for a lot more than that.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 28 Sep 02 20:49
Going back to an earlier question about Koerner, Ray and Glover, I forgot to mention that actually I came across a few interesting mentions of them in my research. Around early 1965, the British magazine Folk Scene included Marianne Faithfull as a respondent in a survey of folkies' thoughts on upcoming trends. (Faithfull was usually thought of as a pop singer in 1965, but actually did a whole album of folk songs around this time.) She said, "The major influence will be white urban blues singers, such urban blues singers as 'Spider' John Koerner." In January 1966, Kinks lead guitarist Dave Davies enthused about Koerner to the New Musical Express, as follows: "He gets these fantastically weird chords by having the extra string on his guitar. A friend of mine recently lent me some of his records and I was fascinated by the hypnotic tempos he uses on the numbers." Davies also inferred those techniques would be used on an unnamed future Kinks single; my guess is that that single was "Dedicated Follower of Fashion." In Elektra Records president Jac Holzman's autobiography "Follow the Music," he remembers going to London to get permission from the Beatles for the Elektra album "The Baroque Beatles Book," which consisted of baroque-classical covers of Beatles songs, arranged by Joshua Rifkin. He wrote that he made his pitch to the Beatles in the studio where they were recording in London, and "John Lennon's first comment was, 'You did Koerner, Ray & Glover.' I nodded a proud 'Yes.' 'Well, that's alright then. Anyone who records Koerner, Ray & Glover is OK with me.'" As an aside, the arranger of "The Baroque Beatles Book," Joshua Rifkin, went on to play a significant role in folk-rock by arranging Judy Collins's albums "In My Life" and "Wildflowers" (the latter of which included "Both Sides Now"). I interviewed him about these and some quotes will appear in "Eight Miles High."
Gary Lambert (almanac) Sat 28 Sep 02 22:38
I *love* that John Lennon dug Koerner, Ray and Glover! Josh Rifkin was also a member of the Even Dozen Jug Band, which was quite the farm team for future musical luminaries: John Sebastian, Steve Katz, David Grisman, Maria D'Amato (before she and Geoff Muldaur got hitched) and Stefan Grossman, among others. Also a member was the amazing Bob Gurland, who could uncannily imitate just about any trumpeter, from Satchmo to Miles, with just his mouth and hands. Gurland did not, alas, achieve lasting fame as a musician, but he would benefit the folk-rock world in another way, as a lawyer for Elektra-Asylum, where he signed Jackson Browne, for one, to his first contract (for years afterward, Jackson would still occasionally coax Gurland onstage to sit in on mouth-trumpet). Am I correct in assuming that Sherry Snow is the same one who was in the original Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks lineup?
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sun 29 Sep 02 02:29
That's right, Sherry Snow was with the first Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks, and appears on their first recordings. Dan Hicks, of course, made his own earlier contributions to folk-rock as part of the Charlatans, in which he was their best songwriter. Big Beat Records in England (part of the Ace label) has done a good job in gathering a lot of odds and ends of obscure early San Francisco folk-rock of this sort, by the way. They did the Blackburn & Snow CD referred to a few posts earlier. They did a 23-track roundup of early Charlatans recordings from the mid-1960s (most unreleased), "The Amazing Charlatans," from the time Hicks was with the band (he wasn't on their sole official album, from the late 1960s). They also put out a quite good and overlooked collection of Dan Hicks demos from 1967-68, "Early Muses," which are the bridge between his time with the Charlatans and the founding of the Hot Licks. I interviewed Dan about the Charlatans era for the second folk-rock volume, "Eight Miles High." As a further connection that many people are unaware of between Hicks and more well-known folk-rock, some of the early Charlatans material was produced by Erik Jacobsen, producer of the Lovin' Spoonful and Tim Hardin's best and earliest stuff (and later producer of Chris Isaak). The Even Dozen Jug Band, incidentally, also included Peter Siegel, who went on to produce albums by Earth Opera, Ellen McIlwaine, Elliot Murphy, Tom Paxton, Paul Siebel, and others. The Even Dozen Jug Band's rare 1964 Elektra album, if you'll permit me a plug, has been reissued by Collectors' Choice Music, with liner notes by myself.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sun 29 Sep 02 02:41
Oops, just to clarify about an earlier response regarding an obscure David Crosby song that the Jefferson Airplane almost did. I originally wrote: "Speaking of obscure David Crosby songs the Byrds didn't release that were heard by early San Francisco folk-rock acts, in my research I found out that, according to original Jefferson Airplane bassist Bob Harvey, the very early Airplane had the chance to put it into their repertoire, but it was "turned down coldly by Marty [Balin]." I found this out from an interview with Harvey that's posted on a Jefferson Airplane site." But I accidentally didn't mention what David Crosby song this was. The song that Balin turned down was called "The Flower Bomb Song." This was also turned down for recording by Crosby's own band, the Byrds, in the mid-1960s. I haven't heard this, even on bootleg. Crosby told Byrds biographer Johnny Rogan that it was "a very bad song," one of his worst compositions. Rogan describes it as written in free verse, one of the lyrics going 'I'm going to make the love gun that will blow your mind.'"
(fom) Sun 29 Sep 02 08:21
Hmmm, that makes me think croz should be participating in this conversation. The Flower Bomb Song!
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Sun 29 Sep 02 09:11
This is fascinating, compelling information. The inter-connections are amazing. Joshua Rifkin, in addition to all else, contributed greatly to the ragtime revival of the early '70s with three excellent LPs of Scott Joplin compositions on the Nonesuch label (at least the first was issued before "The Sting" kick-started a brief ragtime re-craze). There's a CD out that compiles most of the material from the three LPs.
Dave Zimmer (zimmerdave) Sun 29 Sep 02 10:06
There are several tragic characters that you delve into in "Turn! Turn! Turn!." One of them, Tim Hardin, had such a wealth of musical ability that, sadly, was short-circuited due to his self-destructive behavior. What do you think are the best, most enduring aspects of his legacy?
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sun 29 Sep 02 10:28
I like a quote that Steve Boone of the Lovin' Spoonful gave me about Tim Hardin: "Timmy wrote songs of such simplicity, yet they had so much personal meaning in them. As opposed to the flower-dropping type of image you get of a folksinger, singing higher than their range and wailing on with this song of love and passion, Timmy kind of delivered a working man's version of that." As an aside, sometimes you get some of the best quotes by asking people about artists they knew and worked with, and have rarely been asked about before. People always ask Steve Boone and John Sebastian about the Lovin' Spoonful, naturally, but not often about Fred Neil and Tim Hardin, and they really enjoy talking about them. To get into what I myself think are the best, most enduring aspects of Hardin's legacy, I think they are the songs he wrote on his first two albums, which were really the only ones where he was working at full power. Those songs include "Reason to Believe," "If I Were a Carpenter," and "Lady from Baltimore." Some of them are far better known in cover versions than by Hardin himself: "If I Were a Carpenter" was a big hit for Bobby Darin, of course, while Rod Stewart did "Reason to Believe." The one I like the best from the first two Hardin albums is one of the more obscure ones: "How Can We Hang onto a Dream." Hardin was somewhat similar to Fred Neil in that his songs are more known in some cover versions than in the original versions; in his personal and substance abuse problems that curtailed his career; in that fellow musicians were huge fans of his, and influenced by him in ways the general public often didn't pick up on; and in how he combined elements of folk, pop, country, blues, and even jazz and orchestration. His voice wasn't as low as Fred Neil's, but it was just as distinctive, mostly in a vibrato that was about as sorrowful as they come. I found an interesting quote about Hardin from Phil Ochs, another tragic character of folk-rock, in Rolling Stone. "Unfortunately Tim Hardin was never captured on record as he was," Ochs said. "I still think he was the best singer of the '60s. In his youth he shamed everybody else on stage, in terms of singing and the geometry of singing and timing and tones and musicianship; he was just not to be believed."
like trying to breathe cream of wheat directly from the blurping vat (sd) Sun 29 Sep 02 10:50
amazing. this is such great stuff Richie. just want to say thanks for sharing so thoughtfully here.
John Ross (johnross) Sun 29 Sep 02 11:01
Is it entirely fair to describe Judy Collins' work from "In My Life" onward as "folk-rock"? It's my sense (based on my now-fuzzy memory of a conversation with her around 1967) that she was moving away from either "folk" or "rock" and toward some kind of art-song thing that included some theater songs (like the Brecht and later Sondheim) and a lot of non-rock singer-songwriters like Leonard Cohen.
Kurt Sigmon (kd-scigmon) Sun 29 Sep 02 11:05
Great stuff! I am just a few pages into 'Turn! Turn! Turn' but loving it already. The mention of the Blue Things here took me back to my high school days in Topeka Kansas. I was too young to get into the places they played but they were well-known. Another folk-rock group from that era was the Thingies, who I actually jammed with once as one of their guys worked briefly in the music store where I taught guitar. There is info on both groups at http://www.cicadelic.com/ I have a memory similar to <stevebj> about reading Marty Balin discussing his harmonization styles, but I have no idea where it was... Thanks to Richie Unterberger for the book and participating here!
Gary Lambert (almanac) Sun 29 Sep 02 12:11
An amusing little footnote (which would later become unintentionally poignant) to the Lovin' Spoonful/Tim Hardin friendship. On one of the Spoonful's albums, there's a picture of the band posing in some alley in the Village (I think it's Minetta Lane, behind the Night Owl). Scrawled conspicuously in chalk on the brick wall behind them is "TIM HARDIN IS A BAD BOY!" Re 36: Yeah, Judy Collins' connection with folk-rock could be viewed as somewhat tentative, as she moved almost directly into that art-song turf -- but then, the definition of "rock" was getting pretty vague around the same time, what with the Beatles putting string quartets on their records, so it's kind of a toss-up. Judy was, however, using an excellent little folk-rockish combo in concert circa '67-68, which included Bill Lee (Spike's dad) on bass. Lee was one of the first-call bass guys on the East Coast folk-rock scene, turning up on dozens of records by many of the best-known artists in the genre. I have an enduring memory of a moment from a Carnegie Hall concert sometime in the late 60s, when Odetta, accompanied only by Bill Lee, did a great, funny, swinging version of "Home On The Range," of all things!
Gary Lambert (almanac) Sun 29 Sep 02 13:10
... or maybe that Odetta show was in the early 70s... it was a particularly, uh, blurry period in my life. I do know that she was opening for the Butterfield Blues Band, which made for one fine evening!
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sun 29 Sep 02 22:27
Judy Collins also played with Bruce Langhorne in concert around '67-68. Langhorne was a very important session guitarist for folk-rock, playing on records by Dylan, Richard & Mimi Farina, Fred Neil, Gordon Lightfoot, Richie Havens, Tom Rush, and others. If you ever get to the Museum of Radio and Television in New York, there is some interesting Judy Collins TV footage in which she plays with a folk-rockish combo (forget the title of the show, I believe it was on public TV). One of the numbers is an interesting cover of Tom Paxton's "Mr. Blue," which she did not record for her '60s studios albums. But to get to the question as to whether Collins was doing folk-rock on her albums in the last half of the 1960s: the boundary does get a little more arguable here, but yes, I would say so. The press gave what she and some others were doing the label of "baroque-folk," combining folk with some orchestration and art songs. But she was also occasionally doing some straight-out rock songs like "I'll Keep It With Mine" and Richard Farina's "Hard Loving Loser," as well as covering some songs by rock and pop-rock songwriters like Donovan, the Beatles, and Randy Newman. And Leonard Cohen for that matter -- I consider him part of folk-rock, and he's covered in the second volume. Her final album of the 1960s, "Who Knows Where the Time Goes," had by far the most straight rock arrangements of any of her 1960s albums, including guitar by then-boyfriend Stephen Stills. Plus "Both Sides Now" was a huge and important hit, with enough pop and rock elements to qualify as an important folk-rock performance, I believe. Here's part of what Collins's arranger Joshua Rifkin had to say about the matter when I interviewed him (some quotes will appear in "Eight Miles High"): ""Both Sides Now"...to us it was a kind of art song too, with rock elements. But I think yes, this was an even stronger move away from folk stuff. In fact, although this was sort of categorized as folk or folk-rock or whatever, I think largely because of what Judy had been doing in her career and because of some of the nature of some of the songs, it was a very decisive move away from, you might say, all of the basic suppositions of folk and even sort of commercialized or classicized folk music. It was definitely, I suppose, going towards what it sometimes called art pop in those days, or art rock. There was a lot of that kind of stuff about, or at least hints in that direction. It's no accident that Van Dyke Parks's first LP came out at about the same time. And there are lots of string quartets on Beatles and Stones tracks and this kind of stuff. That too was in the air, and we sort of took the consequences, I guess, fairly extreme, on this one. "The kinds of songs [Collins did on the albums], they're not standard pop songs, they're neither blues, most of them, nor are they the normal structure of pop songs, A-A and a bridge and then back to the main tune. There were strophic the way folk songs traditionally were. And they were written by songwriters who had come out of what was loosely defined as the folk tradition, or the folk scene. Joni Mitchell was a singer in folk clubs. It was obviously not country-folk, not traditional folk. It was modern, urban folk. And in that way it was already straddling lines. It was literate folk, if you will. And we were pushing it still farther."
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 29 Sep 02 23:07
Back to Donovan for a minute... how much impact did Shawn Phillips have on Donovan's sound? Didn't he have a profound influence around the time the "Sunshine Superman" album was recorded?
like trying to breathe cream of wheat directly from the blurping vat (sd) Mon 30 Sep 02 03:04
i remember being surprised to see Glen Campbell listed as playing guitar on a Shawn Phillips record.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 30 Sep 02 07:49
Yes, Shawn Phillips had a substantial impact on Donovan's sound in the era of the "Sunshine Superman" album. Phillips, for those unfamiliar, was an American folk singer living in England at the time, who had done a couple of UK folk albums (and subsequently moved into rock himself, though he didn't record often until the 1970s started). Donovan told me, "Shawn Phillips particularly was my sideman for the fusion of the sitar and my music; Shawn also is an excellent 12-string player." Shawn Phillips told me, "My influence with Don is that I would play the guitar, and create a set of chord structures. I would be playing, and he'd start making up words. This happened five or six times. 'Guinevere,' 'Fat Angel,' 'Season of the Witch,' 'King Fishers,' that's the way they came about. Don sort of worked pretty much like I do. I have a basic structure, and then I go to the different people and say, 'Here's my vision. Now put your vision to it.' Because I only used absolutely the best players I could find, I trust their judgement implicitly. It was due to the producer and the arranger that a lot of those tunes turned out the way they did. Also, you know, they were definitely going for a comercial market. I have exactly the opposite problem. I keep going in the studio and going, 'Man, we gotta get commercial.' And it turns out so fucking esoteric. But I love it, so I leave it." There is a very cool video of an episode of Pete Seeger's mid-1960s public TV series "Rainbow Quest" that features Donovan circa early 1966. He plays a couple of songs from "Sunshine Superman," "Guinevere" and "Three King Fishers," live, accompanied by Shawn Phillips on sitar. There are very few live videos of rock musicians from the '60s including a white guy actually playing the sitar. Phillips briefly talks about and demonstrates aspects of playing the sitar. On the same episode is Reverend Gary Davis, which frankly makes for kind of an odd matchup billing. This video is available for sale to the curious: go to www.nwross.com, and look for episode #23 of Rainbow Quest. By the way, Glen Campbell played his own role in early folk-rock. He had a moderate hit single with a cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Universal Soldier," with a Phil Spector-influenced arrangement, that actually did a bit better than Donovan's on the American charts (Cambpell's got to #45, Donovan's to #53). Buffy Sainte-Marie told me she actually preferred Campbell's version, because "I wished that Donovan had gotten the words right. Glen's version was a real compliment to the songwriter part of me, as he recorded several of my songs, each real unique." Donovan in turn told me that when Sainte-Marie later met him while he was recording in Nashville, she told him that she loved his version and that it was her bad pronunciation of the word "Dachau" that led him to get "only one word wrong." Also, Campbell played the great 12-string guitar riff on the original version of "Needles and Pins" (by Jackie DeShannon), later a hit for the Searchers, which did much to establish the kind of circular, ringing guitar riff that Roger McGuinn made so much a part of folk-rock with the Byrds. A little later, the reason the Byrds were able to get virtually unlimited studio time to rehearse and record demos at World Pacific Studios in 1964 was because their manager Jim Dickson had unlimited studio time gratis as a reward for his production of the Folkswingers' World Pacific label album "12 String Guitar," on which Glen Campbell was backed by the Dillards (whom Dickson also managed). Campbell was even considered as a session man to play the lead guitar on the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man" single, though fortunately for everyone concerned McGuinn ended up playing the classic 12-string riffs on that hit. Finally, around the time Campbell had a hit with "Universal Soldier" in late 1965, he told Variety "that he thinks people who burn their draft cards 'should be hung...If you don't have enough guts to fight for your country, you're not a man.' He said the 'Universal Soldier' disk resulted in his receipt of several anonymous complaint letters from fans, but that he really didn't think protest songs do much in shaping or changing opinions. Campbell, however, emphasized that if he records any more protest songs, they will be of the 'red-blooded American variety.'" Nonetheless around that time he also was part of the Seattle Folk Rock and All Cause Music Festival (October 1, 1965), which also featured Barry McGuire of "Eve of Destruction" fame and that song's writer, P.F. Sloan.
Dave Zimmer (zimmerdave) Mon 30 Sep 02 08:46
Your depth of knowledge is amazing, Richie. Thanks for providing further proof that Glen Campbell was more of a "musician's musician" and hipper than most people will acknowledge. Speaking of musician's musicians ... in your book you write about the impact that the Canadian duo Ian & Sylvia had on a number of folk- rock artists (including the Mamas & Papas and Buffalo Springfield). What was it about their sound that was so influential? And why don't you think Ian & Sylvia ever achieved much success in the U.S. market?
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 30 Sep 02 10:01
There are several ways in which Ian & Sylvia's sound was influential. Their close male-female harmonies anticipated male-female vocal blends in major folk-rock bands like the Mamas and the Papas, the Jefferson Airplane, and Fairport Convention. Of course the We Five, who had a huge hit with an Ian & Sylvia song (Sylvia Tyson's "You Were on My Mind"), had a male-female harmony thing going too, though that song was really their only major contribution to folk-rock. Sylvia Tyson told me that "Michelle Phillips once said to me, "When I was starting out, every girl in the music business wanted to be Sylvia Tyson.'" In a more subtle fashion, the early Ian & Sylvia albums had an outstanding diverse mix of folk-based material. They had a wide range of traditional folk songs, from the expected North American traditional songs to tunes of explicitly Canadian origin to country songs to blues (though they weren't too good at blues). They had a good knack for covering songs by emerging songwriters, such as Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell. And they wrote good songs themselves -- "You Were on My Mind," but also "Four Strong Winds" and "Someday Soon." Although I doubt this was conscious on either the part of Ian & Sylvia or other groups, to me this seemed to set a format that several other major folk-rock groups followed: mixing inventive covers of traditional songs with inventive covers of contemporary songwriters and outstanding original material. This is very true of several of the Byrds' albums, and also of Fairport Convention's early records. Ian Matthews, who was in Fairport Convention in the late 1960s, even named his first post-Fairport band, Matthews' Southern Comfort, after the Ian & Sylvia song "Southern Comfort." On their recordings, Ian & Sylvia were vital to helping to expand folk instrumentation from the basic and minimal accompaniment typical of many early folk revival releases to something with more texture, rhythm, and depth. This was heard not only in their rich vocal blend, but also in using additional accompanists (including bassist Bill Lee, referred to in a slightly earlier post about Judy Collins, and director Spike Lee's dad). Prior to their 1966 releases, this fell short of electric folk-rock, but it was influential on some early folk-rock musicians. In Buffalo Springfield's very first interview (in May 1966 with Teen Set magazine), both Stephen Stills and Neil Young immediately and enthusiastically hailed Ian & Sylvia as their favorite folk artists. Stills particularly praised Ian & Sylvia's recording of "Four Rode By" and their accompanist John Herald, while Neil Young was enthusiastic about another of their accompanists, David Rea. Neil Young, of course, covered "Four Strong Winds" in 1978 on "Comes a Time," and also did it at "The Last Waltz" concert (it's on the recent "Last Waltz" box set). Bob Dylan had the same manager as Ian & Sylvia, Albert Grossman, and was obviously a big fan, because on the bootlegs of unreleased material he and the Band did in 1967 during the Basement Tapes sessions, he covered Ian & Sylvia's "Four Strong Winds" and "The French Girl." In a mid-1968 interview with Sing Out magazine, Dylan listed Ian & Sylvia as among a few of his current favorite artists to listen to, most of them surprising non-rock choices (the names included Scrapper Blackwell, Leroy Carr, Jack Dupree, Lonnie Johnson, Jelly Roll Morton, Buddy Bolden, Ian & Sylvia, Tom Rush, Charley Pride, Porter Wagoner, and the Clancy Brothers). Back in 1963, Ian & Sylvia had been among the earlier recording artists to do a then-unreleased Dylan song when they put Dylan's "Tomorrow Is a Long Time" on their second album. As to why they didn't achieve much success in the US market, actually I was under the impression that they were pretty successful here, at least for artists labeled as "folk," in the 1963-66 era. They were actually based in New York City for much of the 1960s, and I would guess that their levels of success in the US and Canada were pretty comparable in the mid-1960s. It's true, though, that they didn't break into the pop market like a lot of folk-rockers did. They did move into folk-rock in 1966 (and later into country-rock), and while I like some of their folk-rock recordings, their transition to using full electric arrangements was more tentative and awkward than a lot of their peers making similar moves. They were also not the kind of act that seemed to come up with a hit single that would have made this transition easier. And Sylvia Tyson told me that she thought Vanguard Records didn't promote them well in the pop market. This relates to a note about Vanguard in an earlier post, where I said that one of the most surprising things I learned in doing the book was hearing several Vangaurd artists say that the label put much more resources behind their classical catalog than it did behind its folk and folk-rock releases.
Andrew Alden (alden) Mon 30 Sep 02 10:14
I love seeing these names, and I'm so glad someone has kept track of all of them. Shawn Phillips did a couple of spacy albums in the early 70s that I enjoyed, but I never knew about his earlier career. The name of Ellen McIlwaine came up; she had some exquisite material and I'd like to know more about her. And finally, I wonder where Jaime Brockett fits in your book. He would be in the Cambridge set, I guess, with Tom Rush.
Regime change in the USA! (sd) Mon 30 Sep 02 10:56
SWWFHMATSITAYKILYBBIGTHTL second contribution was everywhere we went for a period of time Richie, did you ever listen to Lauri Styvers' "Spilt Milk?" I thought she had a nice voice though her writing doesn't hold up too well.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 30 Sep 02 11:35
The early-'70s work of Shawn Phillips, Ellen McIlwaine, and Lauri Styvers falls outside of the scope of my folk-rock books; the second volume will stop at 1970. Still, it's interesting to note these in brief here because naturally a lot of recording artists who didn't start to make their mark until the 1970s had roots in 1960s folk-rock as performers, even if they didn't record much or at all prior to the early 1970s. It always intrigued me about Ellen McIlwaine that Jimi Hendrix worked with her briefly as an accompanist at the Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village circa 1966. To be honest I don't cover Jamie Brockett very much in the second volume of my book, as he was a second-tier singer-songwriter and there wasn't room to cover everyone in depth. I did note his "Legend of the U.S.S. Titanic" as a kind of updating of the storytelling of folk tradition for the more modern late-1960s era, in the same manner as Arlo Guthrie's far more well known "Alice's Restaurant." Both of those songs, also, were big FM radio favorites in the late 1960s, and couldn't have gotten too much radio exposure before FM radio started to take off around 1967-68. For some reason that also makes me think of a tidbit I just learned about Jef Jaisun, who did the late-1960s underground storytelling folk favorite "Friendly Neighborhood Narco Agent" (which eventually became a staple of Dr. Demento's show). Barry Melton of Country Joe & the Fish remembered that when the Fish were forming around the Jabberwock folk club in Berkeley, the janitor of the Jabberwock was Jef Jaisun, who as he remembers couldn't have been more than 16 at the time. I've never heard Lauri Styvers's "Spilt Milk," though as a 1972 release it falls outside of the time frame of my book. What's it like?
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 30 Sep 02 11:38
One more thing I wanted to add about Ian & Sylvia: they had a subtle but important influence just by virtue of being Canadian folk performers who made a big impact in the United States. Canada was a big source of major folk-rock performers in the last half of the 1960s. In that manner, Ian & Sylvia helped serve as inspirations and role models to several important musicians in the folk-rock orbit who became international superstars slightly after them: Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot, and most of the members of the Band.
Regime change in the USA! (sd) Mon 30 Sep 02 12:53
Styvers was a sort of dewey eyed breathy soprano who had a nice way with a melody but tended to work astrology into her lyrics as well as things like, 'spent the day with MDA down by the lake.' Adrian Legg played on the record though and she had the balls to name one of her songs '5 Leaves Left.'
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