Despite Orrick Johns’ lack of poetic fame, our curious audience seems to be responding to “Ollendorf’s Wife.” Are you forgiving my unilateral revision of Johns’ 1917 words?
OK, here’s another rule breaker. The same day that I recorded the acoustic version of“Ollendorf’s Wife” I also recorded this folk-rock performance with bass, drums, organ, and electric guitars. Is it better or worse than the acoustic version? I can’t say.
By subtitling this post/version “’Bout Changes & Things” I’m making an obscure reference to a quixotic mid-60s LP by Eric Anderson. Anderson was one of a handful of Greenwich Village folkies well positioned in the ‘60s to step into the new post-Bob Dylan breakthrough were the singers were expected to write their own songs with poetic sounding lyrics. ’Bout Changes & Things had some of Anderson’s best early songs, songs that were already getting covered by some of the same acts that might also use a Dylan song.
However, about the time it came out another sea-change was occurring. Everyone’s folksinger records were starting to use electric instruments and drum-sets. Earnest acoustic guitar LPs with maybe Spike Lee’s dad on standup bass or Bruce Langhorne on “second guitar” were no longer what was expected. Dylan goes electric! The Byrds were having hits with folk songs and glorious electric 12-string guitars, John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky had formed the Lovin’ Spoonful.
The trend was so strong that the production equivalent of revisionist history was resorted to. Tom Wilson overdubbed some session men on top of an already released but unnoticed Simon and Garfunkel song “The Sounds of Silence.”* Alan Douglas took old tapes of Richie Havens and added new instruments to make “Electric Havens.”** The former created a hit record and launched a career. The later couldn’t stop the undeniable soul force that was Havens.
Producers and piano players: Alan Douglass with Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus
Tom Wilson producing “Like a Rolling Stone” with Bob Dylan
Eric Anderson just went back into the studio and re-recorded his whole album with a band, and it was released as ’Bout Changes ‘n’ Things Take 2. It did nothing for his career, and maybe even hurt it. It probably seemed not authentic, scene chasing, or some other sin.
Revisions: One set of songs, two albums.
So, there you go, one guy in Greenwich Village years ago who seemed at one point the equal of a lot of other up-and-comers but turned out to be a damp squib that didn’t ignite. And another guy. Same story.
To hear my folk-rock performance of “Ollendorf’s Wife,” use the player below.
*Tom Wilson is another one of those “Why don’t more people know about him” characters. Besides midwifing Simon and Garfunkel’s first hit, even a brief look at who he worked with listed in his Wikipedia article should amaze anyone with any interest in mid-century American music. This labor of love web site can tell you more.
**Alan Douglas has an impressively varied producer’s resume similar to Wilson’s, but his ghost could probably stand to be less well-known. His overdubs of Havens work are largely forgotten, but he spent a couple of decades redoing tracks in the Jimi Hendrix archives (including replacing parts on the tapes with newly recorded session men) in an effort that was increasingly seen as fraudulent and cheesy. It’s not that I can’t see their critics’ point regarding Douglas’ Hendrix releases, and the resulting recordings are a mixed bag, but I indulge in the same sins of reusing and re-doing other artists work.