A SONG TO SING ALL OVER THIS LAND
by William Ruhlmann
By the end of March
1971, Warner Bros. had released the first solo album from the trio's
ranks. Mary Travers's Mary, its cover filled by her first name in
the familiar Milton Glaser script.
Glaser wasn't the only member of the old
PP&M team working with Travers. The album was engineered by Phil
Ramone and produced by Milt Okun. (Conspicuous by his absence Albert
Grossman.) And the song selections deliberately bridged from the old to
the new: The lead-off track was a re-recording of "The Song Is
Love," and there was also a solo version of "The First
Time Ever I Saw Your Face," (Given that Roberta Flack's hit version was
still a year away, one can only feel astonishment that, for the second time,
nobody at Warner recognized the song's potential.)
But the major
bridging factor on the album was John Denver, who played guitar and contributed
three songs, "Rhymes & Reasons," "Follow Me" and
"Circus" (co-written by Michael Johnson and Laurie Kuehn). In
fact, a fourth song "I Guess He'd Rather Be In Colorado," also came
from Denver, having been written by a friend of Denver's and the friend's wife
-- Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert, who later would co-write "Take Me Home,
Country Roads" and form the Starland Vocal Band, which topped the charts in
1976 with "Afternoon Delight."
Denver's version of
"I Guess He'd Rather Be In Colorado" also was released in March 1971,
on his third, breakthrough album, Poems, Prayers & Promises. Mary also contained Travers's versions of "Song For The Asking," by Paul
Simon, and "Indian Sunset," by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.
The LP peaked on
the charts at #71 in the course of a 29-week run. "Follow
Me," released as a single, hit #56 on the Hot 100 for the week ending
July 24, also reaching #3 on the Easy Listening chart. The follow-up
single, "The Song Is Love," charted only on the Easy Listening list,
getting to #29.
Instead of turning
to solo work immediately, Peter Yarrow devoted himself during the first half of
1971 to two other concerns. He joined with Allard Lowenstein, now a former
Congressman and head of Americans for Democratic Action, in a campaign to
register newly eligible voters, aged 18-21, in and early attempt to influence
the results of the 1972 presidential election. That proved an unsuccessful
venture, but Yarrow's other effort of the time bore fruit. Working
with Rod Kennedy, he founded the Kerrville Folk Festival in Kerrville, Texas, a
showcase for new songwriting talent that has launched dozens of significant
performers over the past quarter century.
"It's one of
my proudest co-achievements, with Rod Kennedy," Yarrow said. "In
this case, there was a real contest around the acknowledgment of new
singer-songwriters to help them to strengthen their resolve and know that their
work was valuable. The way in which these are structured is, everybody
turns out to be, rather than competitive, very supportive of one another, and
then the option of course is the next year for these people who went to be
invited to the main stage, and at Kerrville, fully half the people there,
whether it's Lyle Lovett or Nancy Griffith or Michelle Shocked, have come
through the ranks. That's really a very important part of what I consider
to be my work on an ongoing level, is being a part of that encouragement
process, and I'm proud of it and proud to say it."
The use of Milt
Glaser's iconography writ large was continued with the release of Noel Stookey's
debut solo album in July. Titled Paul and, it matched the
cover of the Mary album, with the script taking up the front cover,
albeit with a blue background where the previous album was yellow.
Nine of the album's
12 selections were written or co-written by Stookey, who offered as much
evidence of his composing talents as of his reasons for leaving the group.
Consider this verse from 'Been On The Road Too Long' a song that rocked harder
than any Peter, Paul and Mary had attempted: "I'm thirty-two now and my
woman has brought me a child to share/You know the Holiday Inn gets under your
skin when you're not supposed to be there/The good Lord give me wisdom/You know
I got to put it right/pack up my case, walk out of this place and get off the
The song was only
one of several that reflected Stookey's born-again religious faith. He
also found space for humor and social comment, not to mention his famous
sound-effects abilities, on the talking blues "Give A Damn," a song about that other song called "Give A Damn."
And then there was
"Sebastian." A lovely ballad, it remains one of Stookey's most
memorable ballads. But like, for example, Elton John's "Daniel,"
it's also maddeningly oblique. Just what is this song about?
"'Sebastian,'" said Stookey, "was
a metaphor that started off being about a guitar and then ended up being about
anything that would get me out of this quickly! [laughs] It turned from a guitar
into a cat into a little kid."
Of course, the hit
on Paul and was "Wedding Song (There Is Love)," another
religious lyric ("Whenever two or more of you are gathered in his name,
there is love"), but one that was subtle enough and sufficiently
compelling to find its way into countless wedding ceremonies in succeeding
years. Released as a single in advance of the album, it peaked at #24 on
the Hot 100 on October 16 (#21in Cash Box,) reaching #3 on the Easy
Listening chart and helping the LP peak at #42 during a 15-week chart run.
Stookey assigned the publishing rights to "Wedding Song" to the Public
Domain Foundation, which donated the royalties -- amounting to more than $1.5
million by 1990 -- to charity. (In 1972, Warner Bros released "Hey,
Sad Sack" as a single from the album without attracting any chart action.)
On December 19,
"Paul Stookey & Friends" performed to a half-full Carnegie Hall.
One of the friends was Peter Yarrow, who guested on a couple of songs. The
show was recorded for a live album.
inevitable that the next album put of the PP&M camp would be a Yarrow solo
effort entitled Peter, once again featuring the Glaser logo. The
only question seemed to be what color the background would be. In February
1972 came the answer: brown.
All 12 songs on Peter were written by Yarrow, either alone or in collaboration with his sister or his
wife. "I had a lot of confidence in my ability to make a statement as
a solo performer," Yarrow said. At the same time, he noted, the songs
came out of a period of great difficulty. The songs, he said "give
you a sense of some of the aspects of the state of the world that we were facing
at the time. Most of them were written about 1970, and you have to
remember Woodstock had just occurred in 1969, 1968 had been the horrific
Democratic National Convention, and there was the beginning of a sense of
despair about the war and the loss of the election."
been] the sense that the grassroots forces were going to become empowered at the
top levels of government. That dream had come crashing down at that point,
and yet the energies of the '60s in terms of our awarenesses of ourselves in
personal terms and political terms had evolved rather dramatically. A song, for
instance, like 'Take off Your Mask' was very much still a part of the
ethos of the times, the idea that people were not relating to one another in the
past with a sense of their own truthfulness, their own feelings, that they were,
instead, relating to each other with an agenda on a strategic level rather than
an open, trusting level, and the idea that if you did indeed open yourself up
and your heart up to another human being that there was a possibility there to
"There was a lot of sadness in
my life when we had the breakup of the group, and I had some real travail which
I don't want to elaborate on, and that of course is revealed in 'Tall Pine
Trees' which is a very special song, a song of good-bye and sadness, mixed with
anger. And yet, there was this joyous occurrence in my life of my new
marriage and my daughter, and so the song 'The Wings Of Time.' It was a
very personal album, about my own vision, about my own sadness. It was a
very introspective album."
was an important song for me. It was in the tradition of 'Great Mandella'
and talked about the sense of despair that I had, directly relating to the
circumstances at Grant Park, Chicago, in the midst of the terrible police
None of the three
solo debuts, Mary, Paul and and Peter, was as successful
commercially as the groups albums had been, Peter least of all, as it
reached only #163 in the charts. "What I found was that the process
by which an individual distinguishes him or herself and acquires an audience as
apart from the group as a whole has its own life and its own way of being,"
Yarrow said. "The album really had a song on it that everybody was
playing. There was a lot of record play, and people like Kal Rudman, who
was a record person at the time, said that 'Weave Me The Sunshine' was a big
hit. But Ronnie Saul, who was doing singles at the time at Warner Bros.,
was convinced that "Don't Ever Take Away My Freedom' was the appropriate
song, and by the time that had had its run and not hit, 'Weave Me The Sunshine'
had become a turntable hit, which means it got a lot of airplay, but it
was too late to release it as a single. Essentially, in terms of the
timing of albums and promotion, etc., that was a really critical loss and there
was really no place to go with it."
doesn't seem to have been able to provide his characteristic strong assistance,
either. "He was dealing with his own travail." Yarrow
said. "There was trouble in the country and there was trouble in that
world of his. It was after Janis [Joplin] had died [Grossman had
been Joplin's manager, too], and I don't think he was really able to give me the
kind of guidance that he might have at another time. I think his heart was
broken in some ways by her tragic passing."
'Don't Ever Take
Away My Freedom" peaked at #100 on the Hot 100 on April 8, "Weave Me
The Sunshine" "bubbled under" the Hot 100 for a couple of weeks
in May while getting to #25 on the Easy Listening chart.
The Sunshine' became a very big hit in South Africa and in
Brazil," Yarrow said, "and ultimately of course it's a song that has
found it's way into many churches and synagogues and song collections of one
sort or another. But the executive functioning of a record company at this
point prevented the album from having that critical promotional tool that would
have brought it potentially to the fore. That was pretty well known, that
in order to break an album you needed a single, and that was the obvious choice
to a variety of people and it wasn't pursued in that way by Warner Bros."
"That for me
was a very important album, in a sense, I think, maybe the most important of the
four [solo albums] because I was very sure of myself and sure that if I really
told the story of my own soul that it would find acceptance. But artists are sensitive to whether or not the work is fully accepted or not, and its failure
to become a big selling album was very disturbing to me on some level, although
I don't think I consciously dealt with that. I think I was worried."
"But the album itself represents an important watershed
in my life in terms of songwriting. 'Greenwood,' certainly, which [Peter,
Paul and Mary] ultimately recorded, 'Don't Ever Take Away My Freedom'
which was on the Peter, Paul and Mommy, Too album and in the television
show we did, 'River Of Jordan,' which we've just recorded for LifeLines."
Yarrow undertook his first solo tour to support the album, fronting a trio
called Lazarus and playing clubs in April.
The same month,
Warner Bros. released Mary Travers's second solo album, Morning Glory.
Where John Denver had been the primary compositional force on Mary,
David Buskin played that role on Morning Glory, for which he supplied the
title track and four more of the 11 cuts, as well as playing guitar. Paul
Williams was tapped for two songs, among them the lovely "That's Enough For
Me," and the diverse album also included a version of Sibelius's "Finlandia"
and a musical setting of the poem "Conscientious Objector," by Edna
St. Vincent Millay.
The team of
producer Milt Okun and engineer Phil Ramone was still in place, but Travers
noted that she retained them over objections from Burbank. "Warners
wanted me to change after the first album because they felt that the music
business was turning a corner, and they wanted me to turn with it,"
she said. "They felt that Milt had an old-fashioned folkie point of
view, and they wanted some hotshot kind of fellow." Travers won the
battle this time, but it may have cost her crucial record company support.
Warner Bros. released two non-charting singles from Morning Glory,
Buskin's "It Will Come To You Again" and the title track, but the
album got only to #157 in a five-week chart run.
The label can't
have been enchanted by another one of Travers's decisions during this period.
"I remember I was offered the song 'I Am Woman,' and I turned it
down," she said. "Why did I turn it down? Because of the line
"I am invincible." I said, 'Hey, that's not the object of
liberation. I don't want to be Wonderwoman with my bracelets out there,
invincible. I want to be in a society where I can be vulnerable, but
not punished for it.' So, Helen Reddy sang it and had a big hit."
Reddy, the song's
lyricist, charted with "I Am Woman" in June. Rising slowly, the
single hit #1 on December 9 and went gold. Still, it's hard for a Mary
Travers fan to think of this as a big loss, and the singer agreed.
"You know what?" she said, "Exactly."
On June 14, 1972,
actor Warren Beatty staged a benefit at Madison Square Garden for the
presidential campaign of anti-war candidate Senator George McGovern (Democrat of
South Dakota). The show reunited various popular acts from the past on a
one-time-only basis, including the comedy team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May,
Simon and Garfunkel, and for the first time in nearly two years, Peter, Paul and
Mary. This along with other shows organized by Beatty, raised $1.5 million
for McGovern, who went on to win the Democratic nomination, but lost the
election to Richard Nixon in November.
In January 1973,
Warner Bros. released Noel Paul Stookey's One Night Stand, the live album
recorded in December 1971 at Carnegie Hall, which feature such PP&M songs as
"The House Song" and "Hymn," along with "Wedding
Song." Special guest Peter Yarrow sang "Weave Me The
Sunshine." The album was an excellent showcase for humor and his
religious faith, but it failed to chart. (Neither did its single, "Funky
Monkey Pt. 1," a dance song condemning drug abuse.)
Stookey then moved to Maine and parted ways with Warner Bros. Setting
himself up in a four-story converted henhouse on 27 acres in Blue Hill Falls,
Stookey built a recording studio that began to attract commercial work for local
radio and television.
solo album, All My Choices, was released in February. Travers had
again chosen to work with Okun and Ramone and to record songs by David Buskin
and John Denver ("Goodbye Again"), as well as Jackson Browne
("Doctor My Eyes") and Graham Nash ("Southbound Train").
There was also a new version of Hedy West's "Five Hundred Miles."
On February 17, Travers marked the album's release with a sold-out performance
at Carnegie Hall.
Recording some of
the better songs of 1972 the year after their writers had released them doesn't
seem to be what Warner Bros. had in mind for Mary Travers. The label
issued singles of the album's lead-off track, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil's
"Too Many Mondays," which bubbled under the Hot 100 in March,
and of Buskin's "Oh, What A Feeling," which spent a week at #50 on the
Easy Listening chart in October. But All My Choices was another
poor seller, peaking at #169 during six weeks in the charts.
Peter Yarrow moved
to the West Coast in 1973, settling in Trancas, near Malibu. He spent the
better part of the year working on his second solo album, That's Enough For
Me, released in September.
It looks like an
album that cost a lot of money to make. It was recorded and mixed in nine
different studios -- A&R Studios and Record Plant in New York City,
Bearsville Sound Studio in upstate New York, Aengus Studios in Massachusetts,
Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, Studio in the Country in Bogalusa,
Louisiana, Dynamic Sound in Jamaica and CBS Studios and Nova Studios in London.
"I went everywhere that I could go to get the most gifted musicians who had
that particular appropriate style for a song in that mode, in whatever mode that
was," Yarrow said. "Each song was dealt with in its own
universe, rather than having a continuity of instrumental music."
Much of the impetus
for this globetrotting came from Paul Simon. Indeed, That's Enough For
Me makes a good companion volume to Simon's There Goes Rhymin' Simon album, recorded in some of the same places with some of the same musicians and
released four months earlier.
'I had become very
friendly with Paul Simon at that point and indeed had introduced him to Phil
Ramone and Milt Glaser, who did the design of his album, Rhymin' Simon,"
said Yarrow, "and he in turn opened up the door to me to work
in Muscle Shoals, because when I heard the tracks that he brought back for 'Kodachrome'
I just said, 'I've never heard recording that sounds like this, I've never heard
playing or sounds like this,' you know,, that kind of absolute authority
and confidence with which they play. And so I went down there and
did a lot of the recording there for the second album."
contributed a song that he himself had never recorded, "Groundhog."
"He had actually written that and said, 'You can have this song to record,'
" Yarrow recalls. "He helped in the recording and a lot of people came
in. David Bromberg came in, Robbie Robertson was there also.
Everybody was just helping out, it was a wonderful time. I don't think it
was that successful a song because I don't think I was really able to sing it
with the same kind of delicious irreverence that Paul had in his head when he
wrote it. I don't have any irreverence in my voice, it just doesn't
work. I think it was a good try."
Yarrow wrote fewer
of the songs, composing three of the albums 10 selections alone and co-writing a
fourth. This may have been in reaction to the commercial failure of the
first album. "At that point, I remember Albert Grossman was not all
that enthusiastic about my writing all the songs for the second album,"
Yarrow noted. "I did write a number of the songs, 'Old Father Time' I liked
particularly, and that was personal. It was really written for my wife's
parents, and I remember when they did the little in-house video for Warner Bros,
they filmed me dancing around in a white tie and tails with my daughter when she
was just a year old or so."
original was "Whispered Words." "I think 'Whispered Words
was an important work, which I later recorded with the group on No Easy Walk
To Freedom," he said. "That was a song I'd written
for Mary Beth as a kind of a wedding gift, and I've sung it at many weddings
subsequent to our wedding. So, I sang it for her. At the same time as
"The Wedding Song" was written for my wedding by Noel, I wrote
'Whispered Words.' That's become an important song in my life, and I think I
really captured a sense of the commitment to friendship as well as the more
prosaic way of viewing the marriage vows in that song."
Although Yarrow did
not write the title song, Paul William's "That's Enough for Me," which
had already been recorded by Travers, it held a personal meaning for him.
"It was a song of great love and passion and something I felt so much for,
personally now, as opposed to the more generic love of the world and concern
about the world," he said. "Now I had a family, and you
could feel that, I think, in the album. I ran into Paul Williams just the other
night in L.A. at a benefit, and he remarked to me how special a version that
was, and it was to me, too."
The album's single
was a cover of Jesse Winchester's "Isn't That So?" "I think
that was successful," Yarrow said, " and that's where the Muscle
Shoals players , who were fantastic, really came to the fore because they could
play with you and not ruin the acoustic feel of what you were doing. They
were so empathetic to that, and that's a very successful song, I think, and I
liked that one alot. That was released as a single, but
tracks, on which Yarrow was backed by Toots and the Maytals, also owed their
inspiration to Paul Simon, who had traveled to Jamaica in 1971 to record
"Mother And Child Reunion" for his debut solo album, Paul Simon.
"I inherited my fascination with the reggae kind of form from Paul
Simon," said Yarrow. "That's when Paul had done 'Mother and Child
Reunion.' He set it up for me to go and record in Dynamic Sound. He
told me how great they were, and I had a marvelous time down there. I also went
to New Orleans and worked with Allen Toussaint."
The result was an
unusually ambitious album and one that seemed well-attuned to the musical trends
of 1973, which makes it all the more disappointing that the album failed to find
an audience and never made the charts. A review published in Billboard on September 29 addressed the frustrations felt by Yarrow's fans and suggested a
reason why none of the three artists' solo careers had really taken off.
The review is all the more striking, given that, as a trade magazine, Billboard's
"reviews" generally are limited to positive notices about the
commercial potential of new releases.
"It's very difficult to listen to this LP and not
get mad," the unsigned review began. "Peter's art, like
that of his former Paul and Mary associates, is completely masterful and yet
there seems to be a stupid hesitancy on the part of disc jockeys to play music
by any of the individual parts of the old Peter, Paul and Mary group. So
that we have seen good LP's by Mary Travers and Paul Stookey held back from the
public because DJ's refuse to play their music. Yarrow's music is as good
as his former associates and it touches on gentle pop, assertive folk, the most
contemporary sound Peter has been associated with and some modern reggae
material. In a phrase there is ample programming and listening
enjoyment." The reviewer did take the albums "sloppy"
sleeve design to task; one track, "Sitting In Limbo," listed on the
jacket, is not on the album, another has a different title on the cover from the
one on the record.
But the reviewer
was unequivocal about the music itself, call it "strong and
assertive," and noting, "technically [Yarrow] lives up to his end of
the bargain." The review even went further than Yarrow might prefer.
"The music is pure entertainment and quality joy. His gentle voice
carries him through all challenges." Yarrow no doubt would reply that
his intention was to make something that was more than just entertainment.
Yarrow hit the road
again to support the album, this time fronting the four-piece Peter Yarrow Band,
and when he got to a week-long engagement at Max's Kansas City, a small New York
club, in October, Billboard's reviewer Phil Gelormine found it a
"diverse evening of music from a most promising oldcomer." One
night, Stookey joined him on-stage. (Later Yarrow toured as an opening act
for Paul Williams.)
Mary Travers had
the next release among the former trio. For her fourth solo album, Circles,
released in April 1974, she finally acceded to Warner Bros.' pressure to change
producers, employing Terry Cashman and Tommy West, the team that produced Jim
Croce, though the record jacket bore the note, "This album is dedicated to
my friend and teacher, Milt Okun."
songwriter showcased on Circles was Jim Dawson, a Cashman-West protégé
(they were also producing him for Kama Sutra Records), who penned three of
the albums 11 tracks (actually, two and a reprise). The album also
featured the writing of Harry Chapin (on the title track), Kenny Loggins, Jake
Holmes, Eric Andersen, Henry Gross and Jim Croce, and like the mostly
country/folk/pop work of these performers, the album had a light, bouncy style.
To promote it, Travers went on the road with a band containing David
Buskin (who was given a two-song showcase) and Jim Dawson, playing Carnegie Hall
on May 17.
Unfortunately, Circles did not
restore Travers's commercial appeal, spending one week at #200 on the Top
LP's chart. (The title track, released as a single, was a #42 Easy
Listening chart entry.) This left both the artist and the company
dissatisfied, "at which point we parted ways 'cause I didn't want to
do an album the way they wanted me to do an album, fundamentally, and also the
albums weren't really selling well enough," Travers said.
"But the music business had gone off into the stratosphere with disco
music, and I certainly was not a disco singer!" In 1975, Travers
began a syndicated radio show, her guests including Bob Dylan. On May 16,
when she played the Bottom Line club in New York, Billboard reviewer Jim Fishel felt that someone was trying to turn her into a "pop
chanteuse," finding her stage patter, "purely contrived."
reviewer, however, welcomed the change, noting that Travers was "slicker,
in some ways, than in the old days," even making a costume change
"from pants outfit to floor-length gown," but concluding that she
"knows how to keep up to date without losing the luster of older
In January 1975,
Peter Yarrow released this third solo album, Hard Times. It was, he
note, "a really focused album." Unlike That's Enough For Me,
it was geographically focused. Yarrow returned to Muscle Shoals and made
the whole album with its famous rhythm section, drummer Roger Hawkins, keyboard
player Barry Beckett, bass player David Hood and guitarist Jimmy Johnson.
"It was all done in a very move-forward manner," said Yarrow.
"I was really learning at this point how to play with a great band, which
Hard Times was also focused in the sense that it was a concept album expanding on the theme
of "Buddy, Can You Spare A Dime," which Yarrow re-recorded, an album
of older songs revised with new lyrics and new songs, most of them treating the
subject of the Great Depression.
really feel strongly about that," Yarrow said. "For me, in the
legacy of my songwriting and the songs that I liked, even before 'I Am A Man Of
Constant Sorrow,' there was always a sense that through the acknowledgment of
pain and suffering in the world that we could find a route to acknowledging a
better way. And somehow in these songs, which were songs about the
Depression, many of them, and from the Depression, many of them, and some of
them not, like 'Another Chain Unbound,' there was the release of a lot of pain
that I had in my life, both that reflected the world circumstances and personal
things that I was going through at the time. I was also beginning to
come to terms with the reality of the sadness of the world and circumstance in
another way that ultimately needed to be transformed into a very positive
statement, and I think that somehow that happens, even in this album."
"There was a
reprise of a song that I recorded on A Song Will Rise, called 'Buddy, Can
You Spare A Dime.' Again, kind of another approach to it. But
definitely it was a song that belonged on the album. 'Times Are Gettin'
Hard,' for which I wrote some new verses, really expressed the sensibility
of that Depression period.
true that at that point, unbeknownst to myself, I began to experience
depression as a pharmacological clinical reality. It didn't really become
something that I fully had to deal with for a number of years. But by that
time I think, I suspect, that like many of the people in the field, I started to
deal with or know on some level that something really deep within me was
manifesting itself as clinical depression, and I think that you can feel that on
the album. One of the ways that it's expressed is the urgent expression of
the weight of that pain. Some of that is clinical, and some of it's
attitudinal. Some of it's personal, and some of it is the same kind of
pain that was so much a part of people's lives who felt a sense of great loss in
terms of the events in the United States because we feel at a certain point that
we were going to win, that we were going to change the country dramatically and
forever. And indeed, that did occur, but not in the sense and to the
degree that we had hoped, and I think that coming to terms with that was a very
painful process for me and in certain ways still is. So, I think you feel
that in the album, and I think that once again, it really did reflect what I was
Times nor its single, "Another Chain Unbound," reached the
charts. Like Travers, Yarrow then made a more overtly commercial album, Love
Songs, released in November. "Some of the songs on that shouldn't
have been on there," Yarrow said. " 'Love Among People' was a
sophomoric song. I really did it to please the Muscle Shoals folks, because it
was in their catalog and they wanted me to pick out a couple of songs. A lot of
songs were written for Mary Beth. I wrote a song called 'Like A River' [actually
"I Need Someone To Love"], which is a blues song. I haven't sung it in
a long time. It says, 'I need someone who needs me to love her.' I think
already perhaps I had the feeling that I was not going to be needed by Mary Beth
in the way that I wanted to, or the way that at that time may have been
excessive on my part. [The album also includes covers of the Bee Gees'
"How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" and "Love Has No Pride,"
by Libby Titus and Eric Kaz.]
"Later, when we did split up, it was very hard. It shattered my life.
I just adored her, and it was hard to deal with that, but we've become the
best of friends now, with the most wonderful children in the world, so it comes
around, and it worked out. But the interesting thing is that these songs,
unbeknownst to one, really do reflect the state of one's inner point of
view." Love Songs also failed to chart.
Travers and Yarrow played clubs in the spring of 1976. When Travers
returned to the Bottom Line on March 3, Billboard reviewer Radcliffe Joe
noted, "Hopefully, her association with Arista Records will succeed in
achieving for her what her previous label did not." This was all that
was heard of any association between Travers and Arista, however, Yarrow
was back in New York March 30 to play Reno Sweeney's, and Travers came up to
join him on the encore, "Puff, The Magic Dragon."
But with the failure of his solo career, Yarrow was turning
more to non-performing activities. On May 9, with the Song Registration
Service (SRS) of Hollywood, he organized the Santa Monica Music Festival at
Lincoln Junior High School. The idea was to present new music by new
singer-songwriters, the same concept Yarrow had pioneered at Newport and
Kerrville. "I ran around from radio station to radio station, and I
talked about submitting your tape with two songs, and then we chose the 20 songs
that most moved us, rather than [those that had] the greatest commercial
possibility, and those people did two songs apiece at a concert,"
said Yarrow. The second Festival of New Music was held at Hollywood
High School on December 10, and there would be a third in 1977.
Yarrow also turned
to record producing and song writing. Already, he had produced two albums
on Bearville Records by Lazarus, the group he had used as a backup band on his
first solo tour. Next, he began looking for a deal for one of his backup
singers, Mary MacGregor, who had sung on Love Songs. He and Barry
Beckett cut a three-song demo for MacGregor, and one of its selections was a
tune he had co-written with Phil Jarrell, "Torn Between Two Lovers."
"I was asking Mary Beth what I should write about," Yarrow recalled,
"and she said, 'Why don't you write a song about being, like Dr. Zhivago,
in the middle of two love relationships and loving both people?' Phil
Jarrell was going through a really difficult time with the breakup of his
marriage and was only semi-there in a lot of ways. He was experiencing a
lot of pain. A lot of the lyric was written for the verses while Phil was there,
but the chorus actually was written after he left, as was the final melody, in
"But it was
written in the male gender. The original opening line, instead of saying
'There are times when a woman has to say the words she feels, even though she
knows how much it's gonna hurt,' was 'I'm not the kind of man who can lead a
double life, and I'm afraid there've been some feelings left unsaid.' I
remember singing it in New York when I was doing some solo engagements and
people really being affected by the song."
Beckett and I decided to co-produce Mary MacGregor, we just made three songs and
then we looked for a deal. But we had a lot of confidence in the song, and
there was a certain magic to it, and it was very interesting because she didn't
really want to record the song at a certain point. She said that she just
didn't feel she could identify with the person and the message that was being
said because she wouldn't do that. But in point of fact, we as artists
don't necessarily always tell our own biographies in the songs that we do.
So, she did go ahead, and she was a marvelous singer."
as told in this feminine gender, it became almost a proclamation of liberation
from the idea that a woman didn't have a right to be torn between two
lovers. It used to be that when a man was torn between two lovers, like
Dr. Zhivago, that was perfectly respectable, but a woman was a two-timer.
The sympathetic presentation of this was in its own way a very feminist
statement, and men all over the country were furious about this song, furious,
because it was so sympathetically presented, there was no room for really being
furious with this woman. Here she was saying, 'Look, I betrayed you, and I
still love you, and I don't know what to do,' and instead of a man having
that kind of black-and-white circumstance, you know, 'You're wrong, you're
bad, out you go,' there was something so new consciousness appealing about
Released by Ariola
America Records in the fall of 1976, Mary MacGregor's "Torn Between Two
Lovers" hit #1 on the hot 100 for the first of two weeks for the week
ending February 5, 1977.
In 1977, Noel Paul
Stookey released Real to Reel, a live album drawn from a tour of
Australia, and recorded in March 1976 at the Sydney Opera House. It was
issued by Stookey's own independent label Neworld, manufactured and distributed
by Sparrow Records. Stookey gave an engaging solo performance, mixing
songs old and new (mostly on religious topics) with gently comic monologues,
including one in which Puff, the magic dragon, goes on trial for his
supposed references to marijuana, with Newsweek serving as the prosecutor
and the audience as the jury. (Puff goes free.) Stookey also
released a new studio album, Something New And Fresh, on Neworld in
1977, and the label eventually reissued Paul and and One Night Stand.