Lost One Rainy Morn: Ian & Sylvia’s “The French Girl”

[originally appeared in Shindig! issue 111]

‘The French Girl’ is the musical equivalent of an Impressionist painting: sparse lyrical images weaving together to create an intricately detailed world. Three silver rings, a dark-haired woman, a cozy room, glasses of red wine…..and then she disappears, and no one knows who she was or where she has gone. It’s romantic, but with an underlying and somewhat unsettling sense of unreality.

Ian and Sylvia Tyson wrote the song in late 1965, during what Sylvia described to their biographer John Einarson as “a very transitional period for us”. As the duo of Ian & Sylvia, they were stars on the folk rock circuit, and had already released four albums on the Vanguard label. Songs like Ian’s ‘Four Strong Winds’ and Sylvia’s ‘You Were On My Mind’ had brought them acclaim as songwriters. But they were well aware that Continue reading

Announcing My New Book

I’m very pleased to announce that my new book, Song Book: 21 Songs from 10 Years (1964-74), has been released by New Haven Publishing. You can order it from any of the sites listed here.

The book includes extended and updated versions of some of the Shindig! magazine articles posted on this site, along with previously unpublished material.

I’ll be posting updates and news about the book on Facebook and on the “Song Book – the book” page on this site. There’s also a YouTube channel for the book, featuring playlists of the songs that are discussed in the book, as well as a promotional video.

I hope you’ll check it out!

Procol Harum….in Canada: The Making of “Procol Harum Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra”

(originally appeared in Shindig! issue #77)

Ask a Canadian to describe the city of Edmonton, Alberta, and the two words you are likely to hear are “cold” and “boring”. Edmonton is the northernmost large city in North America, sitting on roughly the same latitude as Moscow – and, as your correspondent discovered while living there, Edmonton can indeed be cold. Very cold. Like “outdoor temperature of -35C and windchill” cold.

However, despite its nickname of “Deadmonton”, Edmonton is not boring. Its winters are long and dark, but many of its residents grew up in small Prairie towns where, if you were bored, you made your own fun. So when Edmontonians get an idea, instead of thinking of reasons why it won’t work, they figure out how to make it happen. That adventurous attitude of “hey, this could be fun” led to the ’72 album Procol Harum Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra – a significant milestone in Procol Harum’s career, and a huge influence on the city where it was recorded.

By the late ‘60s, the potential for crossovers between classical music and rock music had already been demonstrated by Continue reading