I did this about a month ago. Since I hope to be seeing Donovan Monday in Hamburg, this seems like a good time to post it here.
I had been thinking about making this video during my trip through the southern hemisphere. I had even filmed long stretches of the ocean with the intent to use it as the video portion. Yesterday, however, I ran into this time lapse video by Preston Becker on You Tube. Not only was the timing very close to the song, it was also much better and more sophisticated than anything I had filmed. He also gives explicit permission for others to use it in their projects, so I took him at his word (thank you Preston). All I really did was put this together, adding Donovan’s song and stills of Linda Lawrence and of Donovan and Linda as overlays on the video. While this is somewhat similar to what I did with “Turquoise” (a song I have since discovered was actually not inspired by Linda, but by Joan Baez), I think its different enough to justify its existence. The lovely song alone is probably enough to do that (it’s from Sutras), with its haunting Cello (?) line.
My “Song of the Sea” tour plans have slightly changed. I’m still planning to meet a friend from northern Germany in Hamburg on March 5th where we’ll see Donavan that night and then off to Brühl (near Cologne) where I’ll be meeting a cousin and his wife who lives in a nearby town. Then I’ll be running back to Bochum, where Donovan’s concert has been rescheduled on the 7th (he’s been stuck in Ireland because of the horrendous weather). Anyway, I hope everyone is doing well and that you enjoy this gorgeous meditation on love.
I have a somewhat hazy yet clear memory of learning about Janis Joplin’s death over the evening news. I would have been thirteen at the time, and I feel sure I must have seen her perform on some television show or other. We watched This is Tom Jones fairly regurally (my Mom was a fan), so it is quite possible I heard her sing “Little Girl Blue,” although I can’t say I remember it. Still, it was only after her death that I became familar with a broader range of her work. I was (and am) very impressed. I also remember reading Buried Alive, a postuhumous biography of Joplin by her publicist Myra Friedman, which successfully conveyed Joplin’s inner anguish. When I started collecting records a few years later, I got all of her albums.
I was also aware of Melanie Safka (she performed as Melanie at the time), although mostly from her hit single “Brand New Key.” A few years later, when I was buying records, I got her Leftover Wine; Live at Carnegie Hall cd and was particularly impressed by the title songs. As with Joplin’s song, it seemed to convey a deep sadness along with a powerful emotional wallop. In the back of my mind, I found myself wondering if Melanie had written the song about Joplin after her death. This is not the case, as her Candles in the Rainalbum (which included the song) came out a about six months before Joplin’s death on October 4th, 1970. It is far more likely that Melanie wrote the song about her own struggles with fame and self-acceptance. Still, it strikes me as a very appropriate and powerful soundtrack to the slideshow I compiled about Joplin’s life.
I have included two video clips of Joplin performing. The first is an excerpt from her performance of “Summertime” in Frankfurt in 1969. I like it because it show a gracious spirit in action, making sure that the camera focuses on the guitarist while he is playing his lead. I also think the look on her face during the instrumental break is a thing of utter beauty, expressive of a kind of artistic transcendance that she unfortunately couldn’t maintain away from the stage. The second clip is, of course, her performance of “Little Girl Blue” from This is Tom Jones. It has become fairly widely available, but it just seemed to be the perfect way to follow up and conclude the slideshow. I do not own the rights to any of these, and all monies generated by YouTube ads go to the copyright holders. This is fine with me, as this is intended to be a fan-tribute video, not a commercial one. Hope you enjoy it (you can always close your eyes and just listen, both artists are pretty amazing).
In my memory, buying David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane album is inextricably connected with getting deeply into music, at least in terms of buying record albums. I’m sure I had a few before (I remember having the Beatles Second Album, which may have been a gift, and a couple of Monkees albums growing up), but it was probably about this time (I would have been fifteen in 1973 when the album was released) that I started working, making money, and having money of my own which I spent almost exclusively on books and records. By the time I had finished my teens, it was virtually impossible to get around my bedroom as stacks of albums or science fiction and fantasy novels basically filled every available inch of floor space except for narrow pathways so I could reach my record player and the closet where my clothes were.
I was very aware of music, and read Robert Hilburn, the longtime popular music critic at the LA Times, religiously. While he had his detractors, and I didn’t always like every musical suggestion he made, I will always be grateful to him for exposing me to so many different artists and genres. In the early seventies, glam rock was happening, more in the UK than America, but it certainly had an impact in the big cities, including Los Angeles, and I was an Anglophile from very early on, so the fact that Bowie was more popular in his homeland than in the US was–if anything–a kind of recommendation to me. Bowie’s very conscious experimentation with multiple personas and public bisexuality was a source of both attraction and anxiety for me and one day, having somehow scraped together four dollars, I determined that I was going to buy his new album, Aladdin Insane, which was being praised to the skies by Hilburn. The punning title, with its promise of both magical transformation and a kind of companionship in my own mental struggles with the “strange changes” that I was going through, was undeniably an attraction too, while the striking cover art seemed both a more overt statement of a kind of gay aesthetic, and a more hidden one than the limp wristed photo of David in a phone booth that graced the back of Ziggy Stardust, an album which I was very much aware of, but hadn’t yet quite summomed up the courage to buy.
As I remember, at this time the only local record outlet, which sold a very limited selection of music, was Thrifty Drugstore, a big chain at the time. I think only the sleeves were out in the racks, so you had to take the sleeve to the cashier and exchange it for a copy that actually had a vinyl album inside. I remember taking the sleeve out and putting it back several times as I built up and then immediately lost my nerve. I think I finally realized that I was making more of a spectacle of myself in my public indecision than I would do actually purchasing the record so, like ripping off a bandaid, I walked briskly to the counter where the young, dark haired, female clerk checked me out. I think she gave me an odd, slightly searching look, but that was probably my imagination (Does she know? I’m sure I thought at the time).
After that, I was off, getting into Mott the Hoople, T. Rex, and even the New York Dolls, and very quickly into many other musical genres as well. I soon got a license, then a used car, and after that the record stores of the San Fernando Valley, and even the iconic Tower Records down on Sunset, suddenly became accessible to me and I discovered not only used records, but really esoteric things like imported singles and albums, which were instrumental in getting me into punk rock a few years later. I actually saw Bowie once in 1974, on his Diamond Dogs tour when he did a five day stint at the Universal Amphitheatre (here is a link to a video of “Cracked Actor” recorded at one of these shows, and a live recording drawn from the entire run has also just been released–I had completely forgotten, by the way, that he performed the song with a skull, although I remember the shades and the sweater). Anyway, here is my video tribute. I chose these two Who covers not so much because they reveal anything about David, but because they really nail what he meant to me at the time: a slightly inexplicable attraction coupled up with a sense of the opening up of near limitless possibilities: gender, art, politics, literature, everything. Where have all the good times gone, indeed?
I’m also going to include David’s official video of “I’m Afraid of Americans,” partly because I identify with it (which is odd, at least according to my Passport, I am an American), and partly because I had been thinking of making a slideshow about it. After looking at it, however, I doubt I could do better, and there is simply no way I could replace David’s magnetic presence in it. So, if you haven’t seen it, enjoy; even if you have, it’s probably worth watching again. Sort of unfortunately, it seems even more timely today than it did when it was released.