Appaloosa — “Bi-Weekly”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — December 19, 2022

THE GREATEST SONGS OF THE 1960s THAT NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD

674) Appaloosa — “Bi-Weekly”

“Bi-Weekly” is an absolutely gorgeous “folk-baroque” song off of Appaloosa’s sole album (see #463). Richie Unterberger calls it one of “the album’s standouts” with “soaring orchestration and distinctive [Al] Kooper organ”. (http://www.richieunterberger.com/appaloosa.html). Oldscreamo describes a “full orchestra reflect[ing] the bustle of the city streets that the protagonist . . . wanders as he anticipates visits from a distant lover. A solemn oboe emulates his melancholy thoughts.” (https://rateyourmusic.com/release/album/appaloosa/appaloosa/)

Singer, songwriter and guitarist John Parker Compton himself reminisces that:

We recorded . . . “Bi-Weekly” live in CBS’ larger studio in the center of Manhattan with a horn section. Al [Kooper (see #642)] brought in Charlie Calello (Laura Nyro’s producer/arranger) to do the horn arrangements. Al also asked Laura Nyro’s guitar player to the session and he added the nice Glen Campbell-ish lead guitar on “Bi-Weekly.

https://garagehangover.com/john-compton/

And:

I like . . . “Bi-Weekly” because of Charlie Calello’s brilliant arrangement. In hindsight, [it] should have been “the single,” with its radio-friendly Glen Campbell-sounding lead guitar part combined with the strings.

http://www.richieunterberger.com/appaloosa.html

As All Music Guide describes the album:

[It] bears the heavy scent of the ’60s coffeehouse scene, with overtones of jazz (there’s some nice saxophone work here) and Renaissance minstrel sounds (a la Steeleye Span) threaded through literate, melancholic singer-songwriter fare.

https://www.allmusic.com/album/appaloosa-mw0000260326

Or, as RDTEN1 puts it:

While Compton’s lyrics were occasionally on the clunky and fey side, I’m sure female college aged English majors were sent into fits of delirium by the sensitivity and insight . . . . Admittedly the set’s arty and delicate feel coupled with those touchy-feely lyrics spelled instant obscurity, but what a way to go down in flames.

https://rateyourmusic.com/release/album/appaloosa/appaloosa/

Compton himself remembers that:

When I was sixteen I attended a small boarding school in farm country in upstate New York and was fortunate to have a great English teacher who taught poetry brilliantly.. . . I wrote most of the songs for “Appaloosa” for my girlfriend at [the] . . . school.

https://garagehangover.com/john-compton/

As to Appaloosa and “folk-baroque”, Richie Unterberger relates:

Although the term somehow didn’t stick as part of standard rock criticism vocabulary, for a while in the late 1960s, there was a vogue of sorts for music that was described in the press as “folk-baroque[]” . . . . folk-oriented material with classical-influenced orchestration. . . . One of the most talented such acts was Appaloosa, whose self-titled 1969 LP matched . . . Compton’s thoughtful, melodic compositions to sympathetic arrangements . . . . In both its combination of instruments and the absence of a drummer, it was a most unusual instrumental lineup for a rock band, even at a time when boundaries and restrictions were routinely bent. The core quartet were bolstered by top session players (including members of Blood, Sweat & Tears) and, above all, producer Al Kooper, who also added a lot of his own keyboards and guitar to the album.

http://www.richieunterberger.com/appaloosa.html

As to Appaloosa’s history and how the band hooked up with Al Kooper, Joslyn Layne explains that:

Compton co-founded the acoustic band Appaloosa with violinist Robin Batteau in the late ’60s. Both musicians had been heavily influenced by the folk scene in their hometown, Cambridge, MA. . . . [and] began playing the coffeehouse circuit together. [Compton] showed up at producer Al Kooper’s Columbia Records office in late 1968, hoping to show him his songs. Uninterested, Kooper [asked] the kid [then 18] to come back some other time. But a little while later, Kooper came in on Compton and Batteau performing for the office secretaries. Finally won over, [he] recorded their demo,* and within a year the newly signed musicians had released an album . . . . Appaloosa soon gave way to a duo project for Compton & Batteau [see # 468]. . . .

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/appaloosa-mn0000496918

Compton adds that:

Robin and I had played the songs at coffeehouses for about a year before we recorded “Appaloosa.” . . . We recorded all of the songs as a live band, doing several takes and picking the best one. . . . I fondly remember how Clive Davis, Columbia’s president at the time, was such a gentleman to us and was super-friendly and supportive. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a manager so we had no one to talk to Columbia. We were just teenagers and so naive and amazed to be in a big city. . . .

Playing the Filmore East was exciting. We opened for the Allman Brothers. I remember Gregg Allman saying to us when we walked past their dressing room, “Hey, where are your groupies?” . . . We also opened for the Young Rascals at Harvard Stadium on a beautiful autumn day and we opened for Van Morrison in Boston.

https://garagehangover.com/john-compton/

* Well, maybe, maybe not. Compton tells Richie Unterberger that “[m]eeting Al Kooper was just a fluke. We were playing for some secretaries at Columbia while waiting for an appointment. Al Kooper walked by and instantly asked us if we would like to make a demo tape that night.”

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