Mary Hopkin, ‘Temma Harbour’ & Froth

Originally posted February 4, 2009

I’ve got a little bit of music by Mary Hopkin in my collection: One LP on the shelves and a rip of another album and some singles in the mp3 files. But I have to admit I don’t know either of the albums all that well. I found the LP, Postcard, in 2001, and I know I’ve listened to it, as it’s in the stacks and not in the bins of records waiting for a hearing. But it doesn’t seem to have made much of an impression on me, beyond two facts: It’s on Apple and was produced by Paul McCartney.

The other album, Earth Song, Ocean Song, is – I think – something I was referred to by member of a board I frequent. Once I got it, I mentally set it aside, noting as I did that on the album, Hopkin covers one of my favorite songs, “Streets of London.” Since then – and that was a few months ago – I’ve not thought about it much.

So when Hopkin’s single, “Temma Harbour” popped up last week as I was sharing a few songs from 1970, all I really knew about her was her two hit singles. I wrote:

“Mary Hopkin – after being discovered by the Beatles and recorded for their Apple label – was prone to light, frothy and nostalgic singles: ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Those Were The Days’ were the hits. ‘Temma Harbour’ is not quite so frothy and has a tropical lilt to it that I like, so it’s not nearly as wearisome as the other stuff. (Temma Harbour is located on the north coast of the Australian island of Tasmania.)”

Later that day, I got a note from David, a fellow Minnesotan who’s been an occasional correspondent. He pointed out that “Temma Harbour” had reached the U.S. Top 40 (it was on the charts for two weeks, reaching No. 39 in the spring of 1970), and chronicled some of Hopkin’s further success in the British charts.

He also wrote, “[T]o be fair to her, when observing that her career was ‘prone to light, frothy and nostalgic singles’ you might want to note that she resisted that and her second Apple album, Earth Song, Ocean Song, was recorded more to her own preferences, and it’s a lovely compilation of songs by Cat Stevens, Ralph McTell (she’s one of the best at covering his songs, listen to her ‘Silver Birch and Weeping Willow,’ and ‘Kew Gardens’ as well as ‘Streets of London’) and the Apple house writers Gallagher & Lyle (her recording of ‘The Sparrow’ is amazing).  She recorded it with Dave Cousins, Ralph McTell, Danny Thompson, and similar name folkies under Tony Visconti’s production. Of course her approach didn’t yield hits.”

So I went and listened to Earth Song, Ocean Song. I still can’t say I know it well, but it is a much better album than I’d anticipated. “Streets of London” and “Silver Birch and Weeping Willow” are highlights, as are “The Wind” – the Cat Stevens tune – and the album’s closer “Ocean Song.”

Two songs that David mentioned aren’t on the Earth Song, Ocean Song album. I’m not sure how “Kew Gardens” was released, but it’s pretty good. So, too, is the Gallagher & Lyle tune – listed as simply “Sparrow” – that was the B-side of “Goodbye.” I did find a YouTube video using “Kew Gardens” and showing scenery from the actual Kew Gardens in London. And there’s a link to a rip of “Sparrow” below. (I’m making the assumption – perhaps a foolhardy thing to do – that the version of “Sparrow” I have is the same as the one from the Apple single.)

I also went back to my copy of Post Card this week and sampled a bit of it. It’s still pretty frothy, which only underlines David’s point: When Hopkin was allowed to do the things she did best, she was pretty good. (A sidelight to my putting Post Card on the turntable: The fourth track on the second side is “Those Were The Days,” which All-Music Guide says was included only on the British version of the LP. That would mean my copy is a U.K, edition, but based on a few quick looks at other copies of Post Card for sale online, I think that AMG got that one wrong; does anyone know?)

Anyway, here’s Earth Song, Ocean Song.

There’s Got To Be More
Silver Birch and Weeping Willow
How Come The Sun
Earth Song
Streets of London
The Wind
Water, Paper & Clay
Ocean Song

Mary Hopkin – Earth Song, Ocean Song [1971]

“Sparrow” by Mary Hopkin, Apple 1806 [1969]


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