Saturday Single No. 29

Originally posted September 8, 2007

The RealPlayer was running on random this morning as I was thinking about the general topic of yesterday’s post – the urge felt by so many in the late 1960s and early 1970s to get out of the city. And as I was thinking as well about what the heck I was going to share today, the randomizer helped me out.

The solution came in a whirl of guitars and drums, followed by the twang of a sitar. Well, it could have been an instrument that sounded a lot like one, but given that the record I was listening to was from 1969, I’d bet on the real thing. And then a woman’s voice entered, her wordless vocal sounding somehow crystalline and rising above the accompaniment. And then she began the verse:

“The sky was blue and icy,
“And all around, there was no sound.
“It was, oh, so nice to be free from the city.”
“I left behind the thing called time;
“It used to be that it ran me.
“I felt the clean air cleanse my mind free from the city.”

And then comes a chorus, and all the while, underneath it all, the sitar winds its way through and around the vocals. It’s almost as if the record were a pastiche, a parody. But I doubt that it is. The song is an album track by the Poppy Family, the name under which Canadian musicians Terry and Susan Jacks recorded for a while in the late 1960s.

“Free From The City” came from the 1969 album Which Way You Goin’, Billy? The title track, another piece of froth not nearly so interesting as “Free From The City,” was a No. 2 hit in the U.S. during the spring of 1970. Later that year, “That’s Where I Went Wrong” reached No. 29 on the U.S. charts, and that was the last time the Poppy Family was heard from, as far as the charts go. (The couple got divorced, and in 1974, Terry Jacks earned for all time the top spot in my Hall of Dreck when his “Seasons In The Sun” topped the charts for three weeks. It still makes me shudder to think how that song intruded upon a perfectly lovely January evening with a sweet blonde Danish girl!)

Anyway, as I listened this morning to “Free From The City,” I realized that this naïve little ditty was part of that romanticizing of the rural life that I touched on yesterday. From Canned Heat’s 1968 single “Going Up The Country” through Bob Dylan’s 1970 album New Morning to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s version of “Woodstock” the same year, leaving the city behind was a common theme for a few years. Some good tunes came out of it, at least.

Do I include “Free From The City” in those good tunes? Well, I suppose not. But it does have a disingenuous charm to it, and musically, it is kind of fun, what with the sitar and all. But it’s not something you’re likely to hear on the oldies station, which in a way is too bad. It would be fun to hear it pop up between Argent and the Guess Who once in a while. So, just because it’s fun, the Poppy Family’s “Free From The City” is this week’s Saturday Single.

The Poppy Family – “Free From The City” [1969]

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