Joanna in the title is Joanna Krotz. She hosted a mixed-gender consciousness-raising group back in the 60’s. Not sure how much our consciousnesses got raised but there was some romantic linking up and it was here that I first met Carolyn Bell, who is the real subject of this song (Joanna makes a brief appearance in the third verse). The wonderful Joanna was not a love interest (although many years later we took a brief, unsuccessful stab at it). The song is full of the New Age imagery and thinking that I was immersed in at the time. And it’s I believe my longest song. This is one of many songs that my 12-string guitar wrote; I just filled in the blanks.
A kind of classic Carolyn song, with me pining and blaming (both her and myself). At the time we were addicted to watching Shelby Lyman host the Fischer-Spassky match so the song channeled a bunch of chess idioms.
Can’t think of why this song was written but I have this vague memory that somewhere on a Joni Mitchell album, either in the lyrics to one of her songs or in the liner notes, Beethoven and Sylvia Plath were juxtaposed for some reason. And so this song erupted out of my guitar, with the two of them accounting for the first two verses. I tag Carolyn on this song only because I wrote it during the time I was seeing/not seeing her. The last verse contains the line: I’m heading now towards Bethlehem perhaps to be reborn. Originally it was: I’m slouching now towards Bethlehem… but the song is already so incurably pretentious I didn’t have the guts.
At a certain point I got obsessed with the Jewish American Princess stereotype, which is really sexist, and I don’t think I either then or now really understood what it means, but I referenced it in a few songs, this one being the most obvious. Carolyn Bell, who was the muse of this song, is an incredibly energetic woman who has reinvented herself several times. So this song is a classic illustration of what happens when you get overly invested in one frame of a moving picture. Some of the imagery is based on our mutual love of wildlife. Since I recorded the song I changed one lyric which is reflected below.
Another song whose origin is lost from my memory. I’ve tagged Carolyn since this fits us (my view of us) but I’m reasonably certain I wrote it before I met her. I knew we sang this song in one of my early bands. Ah well.
Another of my E/F#m/G#m dirges that I wrote during the bumpy years with Carolyn. It’s a perverse phenomenon that singing these rather depressing songs is fun and in some ways elating. Maybe that speaks to how functionally useful they were for expressing my feelings, feelings I was always reluctant to express directly for fear of driving her away. The reverse was probably true.
For a while I was obsessed with a three chord progression starting with E and moving it up two frets to a kind of open F#minor and then two more frets to an open G#minor. There are a number of songs on here that use that. It was my version of Richie Havens’ sound (although I’m pretty sure he used open tuning). This song is definitely about someone, and it’s certainly consistent with my time with Carolyn. But I have this nagging recollection that I wrote it before I met her. Oh well…
My relationship with Carolyn had a cyclical component that mimicked in micro form my general experience of relationships. I was quite taken while writing this with exploiting that image, and with the notion that there was a cerebral path to liberating myself from the circularity of it all. I’ve learned better since.
I sometimes discover when I’ve written a song that I’ve “borrowed” (or gleaned, as Theodore Bikel said in an amusing observation on one of his albums) my melody from some other source. In this case, I actually picked the melody first and then morphed it into my song. The chorus is based on Wagner’s Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde. It was only long after I had written the tune that I realized that the verse is actually a working over of Wouldn’t It Be Loverly from My Fair Lady.
A song written about Carolyn, sung by both Willow I and II. This recording is by Willow II. I always tried to channel the Bee Gees when I performed it.
One of Carolyn’s dreams was to go to Africa, and she did go in the early 70’s and rendezvous’d with her off again/on again lover Keith in what sounded to me like a wonderfully romantic tryst. But when I spoke to each of them after they returned, their tone was somber and they each spoke of disappointment and disillusionment (if there’s any difference between those two things). Since I was in love with Carolyn and would have relished meeting up with her anywhere, even in Queens, I didn’t really get it. Maybe that’s why she preferred him to me. The song title of course leads people to think of the Benny Goodman classic – talk about disappointment. And some of my friends who were avid followers of Willow II told me they would always skip over this song on the Willow II cassette. Sigh. But I love it, I love the lyric, and it totally nails what I was thinking and feeling at the time. Lenny Pogan suggested the reggae beat.
Not sure why or when this song was written. The lyrics tell me it was about Carolyn. And they contain the unfortunately (at the time) omnipresent groovy/movie rhyme. But there are some nice phrases and it’s fun to sing and play (or at least it was when I could sing and play). When I recorded it I used the word “charity” in the last verse but clarity, which is what I’ve changed it to, is better.
My shot at an old style country song. The recording omits the first few lines of the second verse and replaces it with a fiddle break.
Both Willow I and II recorded this. The Willow II recording has a funky sax break by Elliot, but this is the more soulful version, with James singing and Helena’s answering harmonies (and I love my guitar break). I was deeply interested in various spiritual matters in the 60’s, mostly because of how I could use them as metaphors. I particularly get off on the gospel like harmonies in the fourth line of the chorus and how I use the break to return to the original key.