Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy Birthday Bob Lind

Born in Ohio on the 25th of November 1942; singer songwriter Bob is best known in the as the writer of The Elusive Butterfly. Remembering that song Bob said:

“A lot of drugs were involved. Most of my songs of my songs from that period of time came from the line between sleep and wakefulness. That’s where Elusive Butterfly was written.”

Strange then that in the UK, at least, it became best known in a version by becardiganed stalwart of 70’s Sunday night TV, the squeaky clean Val Doonican:

“There were people who were outraged at that. They thought he was stealing food out of my children’s mouths…About a dozen pop stars of the-Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield, Eric Burdon-took out a full page add in one of the trades saying that mine was the real and best version. I thought that was a kind gesture, but really unnecessary; because people can make up there own minds. As it happens, Val Doonican and I both ended up in the charts. The British press built up a rivalry but I had no beef with Val. I never did get to talk to him, but I contacted his managers. His version was different from mine, but I kinda liked that.”

Growing up in Denver with his mother and step father, Bob Lind had been a fan of Hollywood singing cowboys like Tex Ritter and Gene Autry before discovering R&B in seventh grade.

“My first paying gig was in Denver at a used car lot. My friend Jerry and I formed a duo. I played guitar and we sang R&B. Now they call it doo wop but nobody it called it that then. It was rhythm and blues – dark and dangerous.”

On graduating Lind briefly studied theatre at western State College in Gunnison Colorado before dropping out to pursue music in the coffee houses of first Denver then, in 1964 in San Francisco before taking a tape of five songs recorded live at Al Chapman’s coffee house to Los Angeles.

Once there Lind contacted Liberty Records:”I just went to Liberty because it was the first on my list. I gave them the tape and they said ‘Yeah we’d like to sign you’. I was amazed. It was that easy.”

Liberty had also signed Lind to there music publishing company, Metric Music which is how Lind came to meet Jack Nitzsche who was looking for material. Nitzsche liked what he heard:

“He turned to Lenny (Waronker – head of Metric Music) and said: ‘you finally got yourself an honest writer’…So I played a few more and he said ‘Boy, this guys really good’.”

As a result of this meeting Lind and Nitzsche became housemates, friends and collaborators:

“It was an Odd Couple kind of a deal. Jack and I both loved to drink and to get high. We had a beautiful friendship.” recalls Lind.

The two albums they made together are the sound of a coffee house folkie honeymooning with pop nouse on the west coast.

Not so difficult for Lind to take on board anyway, for as he said : "If you wanted to work coffee houses , you had to call yourself a folk singer, but I enjoyed doing pop songs in a folk style"

The first recording session in 1965 yielded four tracks; You Should Have Seen It, my favourite Truly Julies Blues (I’ll Be There), Cheryl’s Goin’ Home and Elusive Butterfly.

In November 1965 Cheryl’s Goin’ Home was issued as a single with Elusive Butterfly on the flipside.

It went nowhere. A Florida DJ started to play Elusive Butterfly and it caught on.

Lind returned to the studio to record the further eight tracks that would make up his classic first album: Don’t Be Concerned:

“I think the Don’t Be Concerned album took about three sessions. The songs were ones I already had for the most part. I knew nothing about writing music, but I had this post- adolescent gush – all this sap and passion.” says Lind.

In May 1966 Verve Folkways released an album, cobbled together from an acetate Lind had recorded as a seventeen year old for Denver based Bandbox label, called The Elusive Bob Lind.

Speaking of it now Lind says: “I should be flattered that some people like the album, but it’s a terrible piece of shit.”

In spring 66 Nitzsche and Lind returned to the studio to record their second album together: Photographs Of Feeling .It was to be the last they collaborated:

“Jack had his demons,” explained Lind, “And he had a hard, cynical side. Just when you’d think he and I would be closest, rifts started forming.”

Without Nitzsche, Lind began to drift:

“I was a drunk, I was an abuser of drugs…I just wanted to go to the desert and get my head straight, but Santa Fe ended up being the place where I did my worst drinking and using so go figure.”

It was during this time that he wrote the songs for his 1971 Capitol released album Since There Were Circles which features Gene Clark on harmonica, Doug Dillard on banjo and Sneaky Pete Kleinow on pedal steel guitar. It was reissued by RPM in 2006.

Sober since 1977 Lind concentrated on writing. This included writing five novels and an award winning screenplay, and features for the now defunct wacky US supermarket magazine Weekly World News:

"I wrote, made up stories and had a wonderful time. There were days when I'd leave that newsroom and my face hurt and my stomach would hurt because I was around funny people." Lind told ABC News recalling his time on the staff of Weekly World News.

In 1998 he purchased a saxophone and was once again bitten by the music bug:

“I learned how to read music and I learned how to make chord charts.” He says “My melodic scope started to open and I started to write more jazz orientated stuff songs. I thought people had to hear these things so I started gigging again.”

Pulp’s 2001 album We Love Life featured a track called Bob Lind (The Only Way Is Down) which has helped to lead to something of a career revival.

Last year Lind released Bob Lind Live at the Luna Star Café available through his website:

“The music business is different now – its not so company controlled. This new CD of mine, Live at the Luna Star Café, there’s no label involved. I just put it out myself. It was never that simple before.” explains Lind.

In June this year Lind played his first UK gigs since 1966 partly in support of Elusive Butterfly - The Jack Nitzsche Sessions, the sleeve notes of which provided most of the quotes here.

I saw him at that most wonderful of venues, The Luminaire, were he played some old stuff and some new stuff including Perspective ,written in January of 2006, a new song every bit the equal of his earlier stuff.

The picture accompanying this piece shows, on the right, Bob Lind whose birthday it is today, and me, and by happy coincidence I am also celebrating my birthday today.