Originally posted October 23, 2007
My blogging friend JB, the DJ at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, left an interesting comment on yesterday’s post about Smith’s “Baby It’s You” and other music from 1969:
“‘Baby It’s You’ just flat rocks, as did much else in the fall of 1969,” he wrote, “although as I listen back to those songs (which I did not hear in context, but only after I got into music and radio myself in 1970 and in succeeding years), I also detect some darkness in them.”
And he provided a link to a post at his blog in which he explored that idea at length. I recall reading that post when he wrote it not quite a year ago. I agreed with it then and now.
“There was a gloom there, a deep forboding of anguish to come,” I told him in an email this morning. “I do recall a vague sense of uneasiness in the adult world and among my peers, as we began to wonder which of us would have to wade through rice paddies and run through the jungle on the other side of the world. And popular culture mirrored that vast unease, showing us, as it always does, how we felt about our world and ourselves. Topping the list of doom, in November of that year the Rolling Stones released the album Let It Bleed, which opens with ‘Gimme Shelter,’ a song that’s scarier than anything Blue Öyster Cult ever dreamed of.”
After all, I thought to myself as Yahoo! mail sent my message off, in the autumn of 1969, our nation was embedded in an undeclared war on the other side of the world, a war started through fraud and extended by the fallacy that we had to fight them there so we wouldn’t have to fight them here. And the administration fighting that war was heedless to the growing demands by the populace to end the fighting and, along the way, was trampling the rights of some and endangering the rights of all in its disregard of the U.S. Constitution.
“Darkness, darkness, be my pillow,” sang Jesse Colin Young of the Youngbloods. “Take my head and let me sleep in the coolness of your shadow, in the silence of your deep.”
The song was the opening track of Elephant Mountain, the Youngblood’s third album released in March of 1969. It’s a song that’s been covered by a few people over the years: Eric Burdon, the Cowboy Junkies, Golden Earring, Mott the Hoople, Phil Upchurch, Ann Wilson of Heart. Neo-folkie Richard Shindell did a nice version of it on his Reunion Hill album in 1997, and Richie Havens did the same on his Cuts to the Chase in 1994. But the best version I think I’ve heard is the one that Elliot Murphy and Iain Matthews released on their wonderful 2001 collaboration, La Terre Commune.
Elliot Murphy & Iain Matthews – “Darkness, Darkness”