“Hang on to a Dream” Special Edition: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — May 22, 2022


Here I present a stunning folk rock song from Tim Hardin’s debut album, including a fish-out-of-water live performance at Woodstock (I can see people emerging from the mud, saying “This is a good time to pee and score some more acid!”), along with two stunning cover versions, one turning the song into a psychedelic epic and one transforming it into a gentle French chanson.

457) Tim Hardin — “How Can We Hang on to a Dream”

“How Can We Hang on to a Dream” is an A-side off of Tim Hardin’s first album which managed to crack the British charts for one week (at #50). Bruce Eder calls it a “startlingly original and personal song” and goes on to say about the album:

Tim Hardin’s debut album was something of a happy accident, a killer record at least a third of which was comprised of tracks intended as demos, while another half utilized a string orchestra that the artist knew nothing about. Whatever its origins, Tim Hardin 1 is one of the most powerful and compelling records of its era, encompassing deeply personal and compelling poetry, blues, rock, and folk in settings ranging from stripped-down Sun Records-style rock & roll to lightly orchestrated folk-rock. . . . The result is a seminal folk-rock album, every bit as exciting and urgent as it was in 1966 . . . .


Paul Sexton calls the song “gorgeous”, “haunting” and one of “the most beautiful and enduring songs of [Hardin’s] day” and adds:

The understated but penetrating work of the singer-songwriter from Eugene, Oregon figured only three times on the Billboard album chart, and never in its Top 100. . . . He died, of a drug overdose, on December 29, 1980 . . . . By his own admission, Hardin was often uncomfortable in his social surroundings, given to extreme melancholy and unable to interact except through his work. “People understand me through my songs,” he told Disc and Music Echo in 1968. “It is my one way to communicate.”


And Richie Unterberger adds that:

[Hardin was a] gentle, soulful singer who owed as much to blues and jazz as folk [who] produced an impressive body of work in the late ’60s without ever approaching either mass success or the artistic heights of the best singer/songwriters. . . . By the time of his 1966 debut . . . he was writing confessional folk-rock songs of considerable grace and emotion. . . . It was the lot of Hardin’s work to achieve greater recognition through covers from other singers* . . . . Beleaguered by a heroin habit since early in his career, Hardin’s drug problems became grave in the late ’60s; his commercial prospects grew dimmer, and his albums more erratic . . . .


* “But Hardin’s own versions are graced by one inestimable virtue: his voice–a matchless instrument that sounds world-weary and pained at one moment, hopeful and open-hearted the next.” (Anthony DeCurtis, liner notes to Tim Hardin: Reason to Believe (The Best Of)), https://musicianguide.com/biographies/1608001688/Tim-Hardin.html)

Here is Hardin performing the song at Woodstock:

458) Gandalf — “Hang on to a Dream

Psychedelicized says that “[k]icked along by an entrancing keyboard pattern, [Gandalf’s] cover of Tim Hardin’s ‘Hang On To A Dream’ had a[] . . . thick[] lysergic atmosphere. The sudden shift from martial paced ballad to up-tempo segments was quite cool. Kudos to Frank Hubach for the tasty keyboard solo.” (https://psychedelicized.com/playlist/g/gandalf/) Gandalf singer/songwriter/guitarist Peter Sando (see #312) himself reflects that:

“Tim Hardin was a great inspiration to me from our Greenwich Village experience, so we did a few of his too . . . . Never Too Far, Hang On To a Dream, You Upset The Grace of Living- Tim Hardin hung out at the Night Owl and was signed to K&R. He was most influential on my early songwriting with his economy of words and soulful folk style. These are three favorites. We attempted to do Hardin like the Byrds did Dylan.”


As to Gandalf’s lone album, Emilie Friedlander suggests that:

[W]hat they left behind is probably one of the most visionary cover albums in the history of pop. . . . “visionary” in the sense of re-investment, as though these songs — songs we’ve already heard a hundred times before — had suddenly become re-possessed by the ghosts of their true authors. . . . Gandalf is one of those albums that has an almost synesthetic effect on its listeners, filling every room which it’s played with a kind of heavy, perfumed fog. Peter Sando’s wind-kissed, reverb-dripping tenor is perhaps most responsible for this effect. . . . Gandalf is one sexy record. Fuzz guitar, Hammond B3, electric sitar, vibraphone, and chunky, equally reverb-saturated bass ground Sando’s voice in a kind of clipped, baroque accompaniment, voluptuous in its restraint. . . . .


As to Gandalf’s origins, Friedlander explains:

[It] one of those garage line-ups that first saw the light of day in a high school detention hall, when guitarist Peter Sando met bassist Bob Muller in 1958. . . . The Rahgoos[‘]** home was the Night Owl, a cramped storefront-turned-mythic-rock-cafe where the likes of John Sebastian and his Lovin’ Spoonful and The Blues Magoos packed in to watch acoustic sets by James Taylor and The Flying Machine. . . .


Psychedelicized continues the story:

The [Rahgoos]. . . became staples on the New York City/Jersey Shore club circuit . . . . appear[ing] at various New York clubs throughout the ’60’s; such as “The Phone Booth”, Scott Muni’s “Rolling Stone”, “The Electric Circus”, Murray the K’s “World”, and the legendary “Night Owl Cafe” in Greenwich Village. It was there that they met songwriters Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon who brought the band to the attention of record producers Koppelman & Rubin. K&R signed the band and immediately started work on an album for their newly formed “Hot Biscuit Disc Company” label which was distributed through Capitol. K&R suggested various name changes which did not sit well with the group. However, they ultimately decided to forfeit their name and local fan recognition to appease K&R. During a gig at the “Rolling Stone”, drummer Davey Bauer was passing the time reading Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” while the rest of the band went through the ritual of brainstorming a band name. Davey chimed in, “How about “GANDALF AND THE WIZARDS”. Gandalf stuck. The album project was delayed after the Hot Biscuit label distribution deal with Capitol fell apart. In the interim, the band lost faith and also dissolved. Subsequently, K&R and Capitol parted ways with the agreement that two more LP’s would be released on the Capitol label, and GANDALF was one of them. It was finally released in early 1969, but without a band to support the collection, there was no incentive for Capitol to promote the album.


As Mike Stax’ explains in the liner notes to the CD reissue of Gandalf, “[s]till billed as the Rahgoos, the group continued to play gigs in New Jersey, but as the weeks of waiting dragged into months they were becoming more and more disillusioned. A rift developed and [they] split up before the end of 1968. . . . Capitol did little to push the album . . . and with no band around to promote it the record quickly faded from sight, becoming one of the rarest major label psychedelic releases . . . .” Peter Sando reflects that by that time “[w]e had already become disillusioned by then and were no longer together. Upon release it got a flurry of FM radio airplay, but fizzled fast and disappointed, I wrote it off as a failure at the time.” (https://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2012/07/gandalf-interview-with-peter-sando.html?amp=1)

** “All that was needed was a new, more ‘with it’ name. Bob suggested Ragu, after the tomato sauce. Peter modified the spelling and they became The Rahgoos. . . .” (liner notes to the CD reissue of Gandalf) . . . .

459) Francoise Hardy — “Hang on to a Dream”

This enchanting cover version by the French icon is included on her “wonderful” ’68 album of songs in English — “[En Anglaise is] a true lost gem in Françoise Hardy’s discography. It features 12 tracks recorded early 1968 between London and Paris, in order to satisfy the singer’s British and US fans demands.” (https://www.8raita.fi/shop/p26237-hardy-francoise-en-anglais-fi.html)

As to Francoise, Thom Jurek explains:

Francoise Hardy is a pop and fashion icon . . . . With her signature breathy alto, she was one of the earliest and most definitive French participants in the yé-yé movement . . . . She is one of only a few female vocalists who could or would write and perform her own material. She offered a startling contrast to the boy’s club of French pop in the early ’60s, paving the way for literally thousands of women all over the globe. Known for romantically nostalgic songs and melancholy lyrics, Hardy’s first single, “Tous Les Garçons et les Filles,” sold over two million copies and made her a European star overnight. Outside music, Hardy also established herself as a fashion model, actress, astrologer, and author. . . . In 1963, she took fifth place (for Monaco) in the Eurovision Song Contest . . . . Soon she was on the cover of virtually every top music magazine. . . . Because of her place in pop music, he[r lover and photographer Jean-Marie Perier] was able to persuade top designers including Paco Rabanne, Chanel, and Yves Saint-Laurent to adopt her as a model. French director Roger Vadim offered her a prime role in Château en Suède; the experience only increased her national popularity . . . . She quickly became her country’s most exportable pop star, releasing ten albums between 1962 and 1968. . . .


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