Ain't it a Sad Thing - R Dean Taylor
From 1965 to 1981, all records from the US group of labels owned by the Motown Corporation were distributed in the UK under the Tamla Motown record label, a subsidiary of the EMI Record Company. In the same way that R Dean Taylor's later Motown records were distributed on the Rare Earth label in the US, EMI had its own progressive rock label, also named after one of its first signings, Barclay James Harvest. The cover of the label's 1970 sampler double album "Picnic - A Breath of Fresh Air" seems appropriate here.
R Dean Taylor's followed his biggest record, "Indiana Wants Me" (see last post), with "Ain't it a Sad Thing". Unlike many Motown hit follow-ups, this was refreshingly unlike its predecessor, which, as no doubt the label's marketing department pointed out, was probably why it was a flop.
Or maybe, in 1971, its message didn't have the urgency that it now does to the ordinary music consuming public.
Or perhaps it was the jaunty whistling, creating the feeling that Taylor's message is of no importance, we'll just carry on happily, regardless, everyone's walking away whistling, their hands in their pockets.
But it's Taylor at his best, in your face, tuneful but urgent, the thrust of his lyrics hard-hitting and unmistakeable:
"Big brown tin can lying in the black sand we used to lie there and watch the day now the leaves have all turned to grey.....
Little child upon the knee holds a picture of a tree the tears in his eyes say "where'd they all go?" the tears in mine say "I really don't know!"
Down by the river where the river don't flow we can't go there no more down by the river where the river don't flow the birds don't sing, ain't it a sad thing?"
There's always something to distract from the biggest crisis facing mankind, whether it's war, dodgy national leaders or the shocking antics of the rich and famous. In 1965, in a report to the US President's Scientific Advisory Committee entitled "Restoring the Quality of Our Environment" scientists first expressed concerns about what they called "the greenhouse effect". Ten years' later geochemist Wallace Smith Broecker coined the phrase "global warming". Since then, politicians and corporations have serially denied the existence of climate change. More recently they've promised action to curb the excesses of our consumerist society, the use of fossil fuels, the destruction of rain forests, the widespread pollution of our seas and the forced extinction of vital animal and plant links in our natural eco-system.
They did nothing then, and they're doing nothing now. Rome's burning. Ain't it a sad thing? Whistle away.