Theme from an Imaginary Western - Mountain
Jeannie Franklyn died on May 12th,1969, when the Fairport Convention touring van crashed as it approached the southern end of the M1, the driver, the band's roadie, Harvey Bramham, having fallen asleep at the wheel. Besides Jeannie, bandmember Richard Thompson's girlfriend at the time, Fairport's drummer Martin Lamble also died. In recent interviews, Thompson says that Bramham was charged with "dangerous driving" and sentenced to a short stint in prison. Franklyn, besides being a rock journalist, was a clothes designer working mainly for rock bands and had the nickname "Genie the Tailor". A few months before the crash she'd had a brief affair with Jack Bruce, and later, hearing that he was recording a solo album, sent him a letter in which she asked him to "sing some high notes for me" as she liked his vocal on Cream's "White Room" (see last post). Her death hit Jack very hard, even more so when two days later, he received the letter. He subsequently named the album "Songs for a Tailor" in remembrance of her.
Curiously, in 1976 Bramham was sentenced to three years imprisonment in New York, having been extradited from the UK. He was one of a gang of six led by the renowned Francis Morland caught smuggling more than 700 kilograms of hashish into the US.
"Songs for a Tailor" was Bruce's first released solo album, recorded in 1969 after the break-up of Cream. His second released album, "Things We Like" was totally instrumental, and was actually recorded before "Songs from a Tailor" while he was still in Cream, and, according to him, consisted of songs he'd made up in 1955, when he was 12 years old! Apart from "Things We Like", all of Bruce's solo albums feature Pete Brown's lyrics, the Bruce / Brown songwriting partnership featuring on the last three of the four Cream studio albums.
The stand-out song on "Songs for a Tailor" is "Theme from an Imagery Western", a track which gets off to a great start, even before you've lowered needle to vinyl, simply by dint of its title. Having, in my last post, praised Bruce's rendering of Brown's lyrics, I have to confess my favourite version of the song is by heavy rock band Mountain, featuring a beautiful vocal by Bruce's old mucker, Felix Pappalardi.
Pappalardi was the producer of three out of four of Cream's studio LP's (the ones Brown wrote the lyrics for), and producer too for "Songs for a Tailor" so he obviously had strong feelings for the song by the time he teamed up with lead guitarist Leslie West to form Mountain and record their first album, "Climbing" later in 1969.
Pappalardi's wife, Gail Collins, co-wrote songs with him both for Cream and Mountain, and also designed the covers of six Mountain album covers, including "Climbing". In 1983 she shot and killed Pappalardi after he returned late one night from seeing his mistress, seemingly not quite entering into the spirit of their supposed "open marriage".
Imaginary western indeed.
"....Sometimes traveling through the darkness, met the summer coming home, fallen faces by the wayside, looked as if they might have known.
Oh, the sun was in their eye, and the desert that dry in the country towns where the laughter sound.
Oh, the dancing and the singing, oh, the music when they played, oh, the fire that they started, oh, the girls with no regret.
Sometimes they found it, sometimes they kept it, often lost it along the way, fought each other to possess it, sometimes died in sight of day...."