For music lovers everywhere there is always the unquenchable thirst to discover new and inspiring music on an almost daily basis and I am no different. What is exciting is the risk taking involved. It may be that you have heard one song from a particular artist and decide to invest in an album in the hope that the rest of the output is as good as the little you have already heard. Sometimes it transpires you would have been wise to stick with just the one song you liked in the first place but on other occasions the risk is rewarded by being treated to new delights and an expansion of your musical horizons.
One example of this was when I discovered the music of Bob Lind a few years ago. Actually, before owning any Lind material I did own an album with his name in a song title. The song Bob Lind (The Only Way Is Down) can be found on Pulp‘s last studio album We Love Life, an underrated album in my opinion but we shall leave a critique of that for another day. To some who do know the name Bob Lind they consign him to the one hit wonder bracket as he only had one bona fide hit single, Elusive Butterfly making it to number 5 in the UK and US charts in 1966. At that time he was even being touted as the new Dylan but it transpired he would not emulate such success. Like Dylan however, his songs have been covered by a multitude of artists ranging from Aretha Franklin and Cher to Eric Clapton and The Four Tops.
Born in Baltimore in 1942, Lind grew up in Denver and would later move to San Francisco and then on to Los Angeles in accordance with where was best to develop his music and his chances of furthering a professional career. Although Lind was initially a figure in the folk music scene popular at the time he did not easily fit into the growing pop market. This was compounded by the fact that he wasn’t the easiest to work with due to his intake of drink and drugs and an increasing disdain of the music industry where in his view commerce was perpetually trampling over artistic endeavor, nurture and growth.
As the interest in folk music dissipated somewhat in the latter half of the sixties it was hard to see where he could fit in as he was not someone who would adopt a different style in order to keep up with the latest trends. I don’t even see him as a folk musician, certainly not a pop star, just a great songwriter. This is something the man himself has commented on with particular reference to a TV show he appeared on in the mid sixties to perform the song Mr Zero. The show was aimed at the growing teenage market and in the producers wisdom it was deemed appropriate to have Lind lip sync the song in a safari park while a live panther lay beside him. As Lind expands “It wasn’t the danger of it, it was the idiocy of it. It was the fact that I was moving my mouth to a song that was about a deep, important relationship – about pain, feeling like nothing when a relationship that you’ve invested all your heart in falls apart. I’m mouthing words in front of teenage kids and cameras with this fierce jungle animal at my feet, because some producer thinks that’s cute? This wasn’t the course that I was trying to follow. Right then I started hating the business. I had gotten bent and warped and taken so far away from the direction I was trying to head.”
Mercifully that particular show and panther are long gone but Lind material is now more readily available in the UK. In 2007 two of his albums from the sixties were released on CD. There was a third album, The Elusive Bob Lind, also released in the sixties, cobbling together some early but not fully formed original songs and covers. This annoyed Lind greatly as the collection was only shown the light of day after the record company he had recorded them for thought he was going to achieve crossover pop success on the back of Elusive Butterfly. It’s easy to understand why he grew so disinterested with the industry as a result of this commercial endeavor on the part of a record company. They even saw fit to bring in session musicians to complete songs Lind now had no creative control over and did not want released.
Thankfully, the 2007 release entitled Elusive Butterfly: The Complete Jack Nitzsche Sessions coupled together the albums Don’t Be Concerned and Photographs Of Feeling which are a worthy showcase of Lind’s talent. As the title of the collection suggests, the songs were produced by Jack Nitzsche, the producer perhaps most famous for being the arranger and conductor for Phil Spector. The excellent production values on this collection are matched by the strength of songwriting. Aside from the hit single the 25 song collection contains some of the most beautiful and poignant songs concerning love, longing and relationships I have ever heard. It would be forgivable to think that having not heard the album but just read that short description that the material could make for a slightly depressing listen. Nothing could be further from the truth as many of the songs are upbeat musically while all the time complimented by the adept production touches of Nitzsche. In particular the songs Unlock The Door, Oh Babe Take Me Home, Cheryl’s Goin’ Home, It Wasn’t Just The Morning and A Nameless Request stand up to any other songwriters output in the sixties. I would strongly recommend this album to any fans of Fred Neil, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen or latter day Nick Lowe and would imagine that many fans of these artists already admire Lind’s work.
Having grown increasingly dejected with the industry he had to work within, Lind didn’t release any more material in the sixties. It was not until 1971 when a new album Since There Were Circles saw the light of day. Although lacking the production virtuosity of Nitzsche it is still a worthy successor to the output of the previous decade with many of the themes found in the Nitzsche recordings still evident in the 16 song re-released cd version. Alas, it would be a long time until Lind was to release anything else, 22 years to be precise with a best of entitled You Might Have Heard My Footsteps. His only subsequent release was the 2006 limited edition Live At The Lunar Star Cafe, recorded in Miami.
Such a low output of material over the years should not suggest that Lind hasn’t been busy, far from it. He has become something of a polymath. He has written novels, short stories, magazine articles, plays and in 1991 even won the Florida State Screenwriters Competition for his script Refuge, sadly the film was not made. It is this branching into other areas and art forms that make me respect Lind even more. He has a hunger to keep creating in various artistic fields whilst still being able to perform his music to a small yet loyal band of followers of which I am proud to be numbered.
I was speaking to my friend Duglas T Stewart from the BMX Bandits about Lind last year and in particular how exciting it would be to put on a tribute night to the man and his music by inviting a selection of musicians to cover his tracks. Due to the fact I am in London and Duglas is in Scotland it is not an easy proposition at the moment although that’s not to say it couldn’t happen someday. I even caught myself wondering how much it would cost to fly the great man over from the US to perform at it and how he would react to such an event. I would hope favourably.
For the time being I must remain content with listening to his music and recommending it to those I think will be appreciative. This I have done on several occasions by including his songs on compilations for friends. Unsurprisingly, each person has come back wanting to know more about this mysterious artist they had previously never heard. As I steer them in the direction of his recorded output I do so with a sense of purpose in the hope that they will find the same gratification that I did. On the back of the Nitzsche sessions there is a one line description of the music contained, it states “Sublimely orchestrated folk-rock”. Whilst this is a fair summation I would counteract it with one of the mans own lyrics – “I don’t call it anything, I just let it take me.”