Dave Zimmer (zimmerdave) Mon 30 Sep 02 13:10
I must admit that the We Five's version of "You Were On My Mind" was one of my favorite songs in the mid '60s. I was surprised to learn, via the pages of your book, that this version was markedly different from the original -- in terms of production and instrumentation, with even a lyric change. Sylvia Tyson didn't seem to mind as much as I thought she would. Which brings to mind ... How would you compare Ian & Sylvia's original recording of "Four Strong Winds" to Neil Young's version on his 1978 Comes A Time album (which struck me as being very over-produced)?
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 30 Sep 02 14:03
Hmmm...I didn't mind Young's version on "Comes a Time," actually. The song is good enough that it's hard to ruin. I think it would have been better served by a stark acoustic-oriented arrangement, though, which Young certainly was capable of doing. And that's the kind of version you hear him do on the soundtrack of "The Last Waltz." Speaking of "Four Strong Winds," a very nice, acoustic-oriented, and little-heard version of that song was done by the Searchers on their 1965 album "Take Me for What I'm Worth." The Searchers are more often thought of as a British Invasion pop group, but they were a pretty underrated influence on the development of folk-rock. Their pre-1965 guitar riffs and harmonies certainly had some similarities to arrangements the Byrds would use when they started recording. The Searchers didn't do many folk covers on their records, but they did some: Malvina Reynolds's "What Have They Done the Rain" (which was a hit), but also "All My Sorrows" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone."
John Ross (johnross) Mon 30 Sep 02 17:00
There's a passing mention in your book of a tape of Joni Mitchell at Club 47 in January of 1968. I made that recording when I worked at WTBS in Cambridge. Are copies in wide circulation?
Kurt Sigmon (kd-scigmon) Mon 30 Sep 02 19:03
Talking about Ian and Sylvia - should also include their country/rock project Great Speckled Bird, which included at one time or another, Bill Keith, Buddy Cage & Amos Garrett. Also, Sylvia's solo project Woman's World was a lovely piece of work, great arrangements and production (by Ian) of tremendous songs. "Trucker's Cafe", "Sleep on My Shoulder" and "Bluebird Cafe" were particular favorites of mine from those efforts.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 30 Sep 02 19:11
Copies of that Joni Mitchell show at Club 47 are in reasonably wide circulation. I saw it being sold at a sidewalk vendor's table in Greenwich Village in 1998 (along with many other live/rare tapes by other artists). There are tapes of quite a few early live Mitchell shows going around the collector circuit, some of them quite good (and some of them in quite good quality, if they were recorded for radio shows; she did several shows live from FM radio studios in her early years). My understanding is that she's not interested in issuing any of these, which is unfortunate, because they help round out the picture of her early career considerably. Not just in that you hear her live and hear numerous stories as she introduces songs, but also because she does a number of songs she never put on her records, like "Eastern Rain" (which Fairport Convention did on their second album). If I can put in a plug for a friend of mine, if you want to read more about Ian & Sylvia's country-rock years, you should check out John Einarson's book "Desperados: The Roots of Country Rock," a history of country-rock. I cover Ian & Sylvia's late-'60s records a little in my second folk-rock volume "Eight Miles High," but John goes into those and Great Speckled Bird in much greater detail in his book.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 30 Sep 02 19:32
> SWWFHMATSITAYKILYBBIGTHTL Alan, are you okay? :^)
David Gans (tnf) Mon 30 Sep 02 19:33
Jef Jaisun is in Seattle, earning at least part of his living as a photographer specializing in blues artists.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 30 Sep 02 19:37
Richie, let's try to remember that Searchers version of "Four Strong Winds" when you come back to KPFA -- which I hope we can arrange for some Wednesday in November? "Four Strong Winds" is one of those perfect songs, as far as I'm concerned: simple and eloquent and powerfully evocative of a heart that's about to admit it's broken. I had a profound experience singing that song with a new musical pal in Australia a few years ago.
something named (stdale) Mon 30 Sep 02 22:26
Thanks to a hookup via (tnf), it was my pleasure to take Jef Jaisun to a Stew show as my +1. His photography is regularly featured in local publications, but I don't think he plays out much, if at all, anymore. Thanks for your contributions here, Richie. I can't wait to read the book, but I have to because my editor won't turn loose my review copy until he's finished with it. (And if you aren't hip to Stew, you're in the midst of a hotbed of Stew/The Negro Problem fandom. Check out the music conference!)
Regime change in the USA! (sd) Mon 30 Sep 02 23:12
She Was Waiting For Her Mother at The Station In Torino And You Know I Love You Baby But It's Getting Too Heavy To Laugh = SWWFHMATSITAYKILYBBIGTHTL the first song on Shawn Phillips' Second Contribution, often referred to as "woman."
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 1 Oct 02 06:18
I wasn't going to do this, but sd made me do it: here's a link to my interview with Shawn Phillips for Electric Minds, circa 1997. At the tiem he was recovering from heart surgery and working with a volunteer fire department for a small community outside Austin: > http://www.abbedon.com/electricminds/html/wwj_austin_3109.html
Dave Zimmer (zimmerdave) Tue 1 Oct 02 06:29
Richie, I was fascinated by the insights you drew out of Barry McGuire regarding his shift from the New Christy Minstrels and his recording of P.F. Sloan's "Eve of Destruction." While garnering a blast of commercial success, I was surprised to learn that the song ultimately became, as you wrote, "a millstone" around their necks. Why don't you think McGuire or Sloan managed to sustain music careers beyond the folk-rock boom?
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Tue 1 Oct 02 08:06
With Barry McGuire, frankly I think the biggest millstone to his career was not so much "Eve of Destruction" as the fact that he wasn't a first-rate (or even frequent) songwriter. His gravelly voice was well-suited for "Eve of Destruction," but as an interpreter his voice wasn't outstanding or flexible enough to be first-rate. He actually covered several other P.F. Sloan songs besides "Eve of Destruction," most of them in a far different, lighter, more melodic vein. But Sloan himself did a much better job with those than McGuire did. It would be hard to prove to what extent McGuire's career was stalled because of residual bad feelings in the Establishment over his success with "Eve of Destruction," but I do think it's true that radio was sometimes resistant to playing more of his stuff because "Eve of Destruction" caused so much controversy. But also, he was so identified with the song that it might have made media and listeners resistant to accepting other kinds of material he recorded. Howard Kaylan of the Turtles told me that the Turtles turned down "Eve of Destruction" because they were worried about the song typecasting them. He said, "Sloan was introduced to us while we were backstage during a run at the Sunset Strip club the Crescendo (later the Trip). Our producer, Bones Howe, brings this guy in with a potential follow-up to our first single [their hit cover of Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe"]. Sloan proceeds to sing 'Eve of Destruction' and our jaws hit the ground. We all knew that it would be a monster hit, it was that powerful. But we also knew that whoever recorded this song was doomed to have only one record in their/his career. You just couldn't make a statement like that and ever work again. "We explained to him that we were young, white, middle-class kids from the suburbs and had very little to protest, actually. Then we asked if he had anything else, and he played 'Let Me Be' for us. Ah, just the perfect level of rebellion...haircuts and non-conformity. That was as far as we were willing to go. Even then we knew that we wouldn't be singing protest songs much longer." "Eve of Destruction" was less of a millstone around its author P.F. Sloan's neck. He actually wrote quite a few other hits for other artists in the mid-1960s, some of them folk-rock, some of them more pop (Herman's Hermits "Must to Avoid" was his, as was Johnny Rivers's "Secret Agent Man"). Speaking of the Searchers, they had a very good folk-rock hit with Sloan's "Take Me For What I'm Worth," though only in the UK. The millstone for Sloan was that "Eve of Destruction" hurt his reputation in subsequent decades among critics, who were familiar primarily with that song and took that to assume it was typical of his writing, or that he hadn't done much else. Actually he was a very good singer-songwriter on his own first two LPs in the mid-1960s, kind of like an adolescent Bob Dylan at times, but more melodic and poppy, and sometimes capable of serious tender reflection. Also he had a very good voice. He has said that "Eve of Destruction" ultimately damaged his long-term prospects in the industry because of bitterness over its anti-Establishment message within the business. I'm not clear on why his career as a songwriter for others and a recording artist in his own right petered out so suddenly after 1967, when he was still only in his early twenties. As I wrote in "Turn! Turn! Turn!," "Sloan told biographer Stephen J. McParland (in 'P.F.--Travelling on a Barefoot Rocky Road') that Dunhill Records partner Jay lasker threatened him and his family with grievous bodily harm unless he left town in 24 hours, although it is not entirely clear why an executive would sabotage the career of one of his most profitable writer-producers." I would have asked Sloan himself, but he did not respond to numerous interview requests. The book referred to above, by the way, is pretty good and amazingly detailed for such an (by the standards of commercial publishing) esoteric biographical subject, though it's expensive and hard to find in the US.
(fom) Tue 1 Oct 02 08:11
Are there other examples of "protest" songs' affecting careers negatively? (I'm sure there must be but I can't think of any at the moment.)
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Tue 1 Oct 02 08:55
Agree about McGuire's second-rate singing as being the real millstone on his career. My impression is that he had a difficult time carrying a tune. On a "Fresh Air" interview, John Phillips said that "California Dreamin'" was originally recorded with McGuire singing lead and the Mamas & Papas doing the backup, but the song came out wrong. He said they simply changed the singer; everything else stayed the same, and a hit was born. That's an interesting, perceptive quote from Howard Kaylan.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 1 Oct 02 09:06
> And if you aren't hip to Stew, you're in the midst of a hotbed of Stew/The > Negro Problem fandom. We're interviewing Stew here in the Inkwell later this month.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 1 Oct 02 09:06
> She Was Waiting For Her Mother at The Station In Torino And You Know I Love > You Baby But It's Getting Too Heavy To Laugh = SWWFHMATSITAYKILYBBIGTHTL > the first song on Shawn Phillips' Second Contribution, often referred to as > "woman." Thanks, Alan. I was wondering.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 1 Oct 02 09:08
I loved "Eve of Destruction," and I perform it occasionally (wityh some modernized references). But my mind mercifully forgot the verse that begins "My blood's so mad / feels like coagulatin'"!
David Gans (tnf) Tue 1 Oct 02 09:11
My little mind is blown by the info about "Eve of Destruction." I think Kaylan was right that a song like that would doom an artist to one-hit wonderdom, but it's hard to wrap my mind around the idea that the music business (or the greater "establishment") would be so offended by a pop record that it would see fit to crush its perpetrators.
Mary Eisenhart (marye) Tue 1 Oct 02 10:10
In an industry full of an infinite supply of fresh young wannabe hopefuls, I don't think it's so much a matter of crushing as of ignoring. They had a thing on KQED during the latest pledge-ola, which was a reunion of all the old folkies, as it were. It was so annoying as to be unwatchable, in my book, mainly because of the format, which basically let the various artists come on, sing their hits, and bail. But McGuire was just plain annoying in his vibe, too, to the point that it seemed odd that anyone had ever taken him or the song seriously. And, since at the time I did take the song seriously, and liked most of the artists on that show back in the day, I was pretty darn bummed by this development. It came across contrived, manipulative, and superficial. Wotta waste.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Tue 1 Oct 02 10:50
Sounds like all concerned might've been happier if a few of Pete Seeger's old television programs had simply been broadcase back-to-back for the pledge-a-thon. You know, KQED's vaults are stuffed with amazing material -- the Grateful Dead playing in '69 out at the Great Highway, the Ralph J. Gleason jazz programs, etc. etc. Do we ever see this stuff broadcast now? Nooooooo. We see Riverdance and wrinkle cream. Hell, a rerererun of "Civilisation" with Sir Kenneth Clark is a thousand times better than a thousand Michael Flatleys. But that's a rant for another topic and conference. Apologies for the drift.
Mary Eisenhart (marye) Tue 1 Oct 02 10:57
Pete Seeger woulda been a huge improvement. This was the lounge act folk reunion roadshow, and it was positively embarrassing.
Mary Eisenhart (marye) Tue 1 Oct 02 11:25
All of which leads me to another thought--Richie, what kind of response is this book getting from people who weren't born yet, or were otherwise too young to be around in those times? I was talking to a friend of mine not long ago, author of a number of well-thought-of music-related books, who was saying he wanted to do a book about a particular subset of '60s music/culture and was getting no encouragement whatever. What his agent had to say, in essence, was "nobody cares." As you go about discussing this book, who, in your experience, does care? And why?
John Ross (johnross) Tue 1 Oct 02 12:10
That PBS thing has been on around here, too. It was limited to the subset of "folk" in which The Kingston Trio and the Limelighters are elders of the tribe. Feh.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Tue 1 Oct 02 12:21
In response to post #64, near the end of the book I talk a little about how some over-reaction to drug and sex references in folk-rock songs caused controversy and in some cases career damage. That's not quite the same as a protest song causing career damage, but it was an interesting area to look at. Most notoriously, "Eight Miles High" by the Byrds was "unrecommended" for airplay by the top music industry tipsheet the Gavin Report. This was based on the belief that "Eight Miles High" was about a drug trip, something that Roger McGuinn of the Byrds has always denied. McGuinn, who wrote the song with Gene Clark and David Crosby of the Byrds, has consistently noted that it's a song about the Byrds' 1965 trip to England, "Eight Miles High" referring to the altitude of an airplane in flight ("Six Miles High" would have been more correct, but "Eight Miles High" sounded more poetic to them). This had a definite effect on the single and the Byrds' career. The single, which was taking off in a big way, stalled at #14 in the charts, and the Byrds, who had had two classic #1 hits in 1965 ("Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Turn! Turn! Turn!"), never had as big a hit again. Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" was often accused of being a drug song. And I wonder why, with the constant refrain "everybody must get stoned"? Unbelievably, Time magazine wrote that "what cinched it [taking the song off playlists] for radio men was the title: a 'rainy-day woman,' as any junkie knows, is a marijuana cigarette." But actually, the single made #2 anyway, and as we all know Dylan's career wasn't damaged at all. Way back in 1963 before he had gone electric and folk-rock had started, Dylan's protest song "Talkin' John Birch Society Blues" got into censorship trouble and cost him a big career break (though ultimately it did no harm to his long-term career). He was going to be on the Ed Sullivan Show, his first major television appearance, and sing it, but he was told he couldn't, and actually refused to appear, at a point where he could have benefited greatly from the exposure. The song was also taken off his second album, though it's not clear whether it was because of the dispute over his Ed Sullivan performance or another reason. An irony was that Ed Sullivan's show was broadcast on CBS; Dylan's record label, Columbia, was a wholly-owned subsidiary of CBS. Richard Scott of the Blue Things -- a very good obscure folk-rock group from Kansas, who were on RCA -- told me he thought Time's mid-1966 article on supposedly lewd rock songs killed their single "Doll House." The single, which happens to be excellent by the way, depicts a house of prostitution, though in a sympathetic, allusive, and understated way that sees society as the problem and not the prostitutes. He said the article, which sensationalized the lewd titillation in numerous current releases, caused the single to be pulled off a bunch of radio station playlists shortly after its release. Oh, and Janis Ian's "Society's Child," about a failed teen interracial romance, ran into *huge* problems before it became a big hit. Although Atlantic Records had paid for it to be produced, they didn't release it, and about 20 other companies passed. Verve Records put it out, but it only became a hit after she was featured singing it on a Leonard Bernstein-hosted TV special about pop music. Even then it didn't get airplay on some conservative stations and regions, especially in the south. It didn't damage Janis Ian's career so much, though she had to fight the stigma of being a child prodigy one-hit wonder (she was only 15 when the single was released) until she came back with great commercial success in the mid-1970s.
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