Winter Solstice Special Edition: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — December 21, 2021

Here are three wistful, often somber, but always stirring songs reflecting the onset of winter.

291) The Bee Gees — “Lonely Winter”

If the song’s subject got a Saturday night fever, it was probably because it was so cold outside. While the Bee Gees recorded this song in ’66, it was actually written by Carl Keats (Carl Groszman) of the Aussie band Steve & the Board:

The Bee Gees recorded . . . “Lonely Winter” in exchange for Carl Keats’s band Steve and the Board recording a revised version of Barry[ Gibb]’s “Little Miss Rhythm and Blues”. Each group was to have a song on their new album that was written by a member of the other group.

The Boards also released the song. Richie Unterberger in All Music Guide notes that the band “made some decent if derivative British Invasion-style records in the mid-’60s.” He calls “Lonely Winter” the highlight of their sole album, a “brooding, sublimely melodic rockaballad.” He opines that the Bee Gees’s version had “better vocals and a slightly fruitier arrangement.”

“Now the summer’s gone and the winter’s coming on. And I wait for you, but I know that you have gone away from me. And I know, yes I know, it’s gonna be a lonely winter. Just to walk alone and leave all the love we’ve known. Autumn leaves will fall, wish winter would only call you back to me. And I know, yes I know, it’s gonna be a lonely winter. It, I know, could be a very long time I can’t make your love mine, mine and mine alone. But I know that I can’t make you love me. I can’t make you want me till the winter’s gone. Leaves begin to fall and the trees begin to bare. Then I wait for you but I know that you’re not there, you’ve gone away. And I know, yes I know, it’s gonna be a lonely winter.”

Here is Steve & the Board’s version:

292) Agincourt — “Though I May Be Dreaming”

This gentle song has some of the coldest opening lyrics I have ever heard — “Everything changes when winter comes o my love. Gone are the promises made in the summer of love.” Agincourt was composed of songwriters Peter Howell and John Ferdinando and vocalist Lee Menelaus:

During the mid-1960s, deep in the Sussex countryside of southern England, aspiring musicians . . . Howell and . . . Ferdinando [recorded Agincourt’s only album Fly Away] in a spare bedroom, an advertisement bringing Lee Menelaus, whose lilting voice provided a stirring female counterpart to theirs. Much of this psychedelic folk oddity has a quaint innocence fitting of the era . . . . [It was p]ressed in minute quantity on a[] private press . . . .

Richie Unterberger, the undisputed master of the left-handed compliment, says in AMG that:

[The album is] nice second-tier British folk-rock, and though the adjective “haunting” is overused in description of this genre in general . . . Howell and . . . Fernando really had that aspect down, with a greater pop savvy than most people working in the U.K. folk-rock field. . . . [I]t’s . . . a combination of folk-rock (of the contemporary rather than traditional British variety), a bit of psychedelia, and a bit of swooning pop. Certainly it’s got more drive and catchy pop melodies than most of the plentiful oodles of obscure barely pressed British folk-rock releases of the early ’70s, though there are similarities in the gentleness of the approach and the wistful, slightly sad melodies. As these kind of U.K. folk-rockish rarities go, it’s certainly one of the better ones — not on the level of the most famous British folk-rockers, mind you, but among the upper tier of things you should check out if you’re accumulating unknown albums in that realm.

Richie, give it a rest. Listen to Tim Lukeman, who nails what was so special about Agincourt:

The slightly psychedelic, pastoral-folk sound is lovely, innocent, wise, and utterly evokes a time & feeling now long gone, when poetry & reflection were major concerns of the sensitive, thoughtful young seeker . . . and if it proved a short-lived dream that faded as all dreams do, it was still a beautiful dream. Put this on, sit back & listen by candlelight as evening falls, and you’ll be transported to another, far more gentle reality – one that remains filled with hope even in the face of human frailty & weakness. . . . There really was a time when people could make & enjoy music like this, and actually mean it, without glib irony or snark.

(male voice) “Everything changes when winter comes o my love. Gone are the promises made in the summer of love. It’s no good in saying how we’ll be when winter’s here. Pour some more wine in my glass and come over here.

(male and female voice) Softly my love take my hand come along with me. We’ll find a land where the sun and the sand meet the sea. Though I maybe dreaming, I know that I will always find plenty to ease my mind drinking country wine. When winter’s here I’ll tell you all I know, all I care for you.”

293) Perry Leopold — “Cold in Philadelphia”

If the U.S. Patent Office issued patents for rock sub-genres, Leopold would likely have one for acid folk. In any event, he is justly legendary. Stanton Swihart in AMG gives the backstory:

At a time when the antiwar movement and the LSD-based drug culture were inseparable and indistinguishable from the counterculture, Leopold was entirely invested in the culture, living on the streets of Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, crashing in the apartments and barns of a wide-ranging net of friends, playing on street corners by day and small coffeehouses at night.

In June 1970, he recorded the Experiments in Metaphysics LP, which was printed in a single run of 300 copies. . . . [It was] an accomplished and unique piece of progressive folk with political overtones. [M]ost of the . . . albums . . . were given away on a Philadelphia street corner in one afternoon in August . . . . [It was r]ecorded live during a five-hour session in the basement of a shoe-repair shop . . . . [T]he music is gorgeous, first-rate progressive folk. . . . Leopold creates a proto-gothic ambience full of dark and brooding imagery that is much less cartoonish than most of what passes as “acid,” while maintaining that music’s visceral punch. . . . exquisitely intelligent and forward-looking. Leopold’s mood is much more pious than most music that came out of the psychedelic era . . . there is something aged and wise about Leopold’s music. . . .

Patrick The Lama rightly hails Leopold:

A person in attendance remembers it as “. . . one incredible evening of altered and accentuated creativity”. . . . Perry Leopold sounds as big a star as Tim Buckley. He was inventing a genre, and he may even have known it. Maybe that’s why the label of his 1970 record says “Acid Folk”, about 25 years before that term became trendy.

“Busted down in New Orleans, that’s where I was born. Nineteen years old and one aim, number 34. Left my home with just my jeans, no money and no stash. Came to Philadelphia, came to Philadelphia, I need a place to crash. I’ve been on the streets so long, and it’s getting pretty cold. It’s cold. Help me please sir, and if you will, can you spare a dime? Do you have a cigarette to help me pass the time? Can’t find work because my hair is thought to be too long. Cold in Philadelphia, I try to get along. I’ve been on the streets so long, and it’s getting pretty cold. It’s cold. Always looking for a way to get me off the ground. Things are looking up today, they can’t get further down. Thank the good lord for my health, I’d hate to take a chance. Free in Philadelphia, free in Philadelphia. How long will it last? How long will it last?”

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