Herb was Harvey Bender, with whom I became extremely close in the 60’s after we both had dropped out of college and found ourselves hanging out at The Rail. This is the rare song that I wrote for a man and not a woman. This recording from the Willow I cassette contains one of my favorite band moments, James’ impassioned harmony on the second verse.
My first “celebrity” crush was on Buffy Sainte-Marie, a Cree singer/songwriter with a very exotic look, a distinctive vibrato and a haunting repertoire. In my teens I would go to see her perform at the Gaslight every time she played, night after night, sitting at the first table right by the stage. One night I was chatting up the owner in the back when she came out to start her set. She stopped and called out: “Where’s Albi?” I don’t know how she knew my name but that remains one of my most cherished memories. I wrote this song for her (although, of course, she never heard it). At the time, I was singing with two of my closest Rail friends, Marty Bresnick and Jake Koenig (occasionally Dave Seader would join us on drums). We sang mostly folk tunes but included a few of my songs. When I set about arranging this song I complained to Marty (who was, after all, studying music seriously) why was I doing all the arranging. He gave me an indignant look (something which he was really good at), snatched up the lyrics and stormed out of my room to my mom’s Steinway and came back a half hour later with a vocal arrangement, which you can hear, slightly modified, in this recording.
Oy. In the spirit of the feminist movement, but the lyrics … And the singing contains a fair amount of shrieking and some off-pitch harmony as well. But I had to include this because I love the arrangement (we should have performed this with 4 Tops choreography) and the Ventures like guitar break. Would love to re-record this some day. Of course, there are large portions of my life I feel that way about (see, i.e., my play Nomad).
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.