Saturday, January 16, 2016

Vinyl log 26 - 16 January

16January1972Randy NewmanLive

Although I don't remember purchasing this record, I vaguely remember the events which led to its purchase. Sometime before - I think in November 1971 - the BBC broadcast an 'In Concert' program with the Rand (I have just discovered this clip from the programme). I watched the programme and remember coming away with a strong sense of 'claustrophobia', as I defined it then. A month or two I later, I suspect that Richard Williams wrote a review of this record in the 'Melody Maker'.

There wasn't much Randy Newman product available at the time - his first album was reputedly the worst selling record that Warner Brothers ever released (an accolade shared with Richard Thompson's first solo record) -  and his second probably wasn't available. As it happens, when I did buy those two albums years later, I never liked them very much.

I didn't know this at the time, but the record was originally intended as a radio promo recording to gain publicity[1]. I couldn't have cared less. What amazed me at the time was the piano playing - I doubt that I had ever heard anyone play like this before. I used to describe it as 'impressionistic': in certain songs, Randy wasn't simply playing chords, he was playing an entire orchestra.

Some of the songs left an indelible mark on me - "Tickle me", "Simon Smith", "Living without you" (I belatedly realised that I already knew this song, albeit played in a generic style by Bristol folkies Ians Hunt and Turner), "Last night I had a dream", "Lover's prayer" (reminiscent of Woody Allen and singled out in that MM article), "Cowboy", "Davy the fat boy", "Lonely at the top" and of course "I think it's going to rain today".

"Davy" especially was not like anything I had ever heard before (or since). This was an incredible piece of writing and playing; to be honest, I didn't really appreciate the lyrics until I read Greil Marcus's book "Mystery train" a few years later.

"I think it's going to rain today" turned my world inside out; it was my theme tune for several years and summed up my adolescent angst. To this day, I don't know whether this is one of Randy's rare 'straight' lyrics or whether it is meant to make fun of people like me who were suffering from adolescent angst. Judging by the large number of covers, I conclude that everyone else has considered this song bereft of irony. And the harmonies of that bridge!

No comments: