I will probably regret this bit of Christmas Eve excess, but I will blame the Single Malt whisky of the Maison du Whisky that fortified me for present wrapping. Before I went off to wrap presents, I sat down to try to sing and record a song that goes way back to the late 1970s by a guy I first discovered in 1976 at Gerde’s Folk City in New York City.
It was September 1976, and I was in Greenwich Village after having conquered Toronto. [IE, I had moved from Ottawa back to Toronto and spent two weeks there and said, “Okay, New York is ready for me….] In Greenwich Village, naturally, it was necessary to go and play in the open mic of Gerde’s Folk City, where Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and so many others had played in the previous decade.
So I went week after week, playing my crap, and taking in the crap of others. Met this weird guy named David Peel, at the bar, and didn’t believe a word he said about him being good friends with John Lennon and recording a cool record called “The Pope Smokes Dope” – although I should have. But another thing I could not quite believe or understand that I was seeing was a guy just three years older than me named Steve Forbert going up on the stage in his torn coat with the cotton stuffing hanging out and his jeans and messed up hair. And hearing him sing Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and other songs, and filling the whole room with this amazing spirit of something.
“What’s going on?” I wondered. There’s something weird here that I don’t understand, I thought.
It was only two years later when I was sitting in a London taxi cab driving from Heathrow back to the center of the city after returning from Iran and the revolution, when I suddenly heard the same voice singing a song from Forbert’s first album, “Alive on Arrival.” I instantly recognized the voice and said to myself, “Now I understand what that was all about.”
He was hailed – as were many at the time – as the next Bob Dylan. He never took that seriously. We had spoken briefly at the time at Gerde’s, I remember one night when we were standing in line outside and I told him I liked what he did and asked how long he had been doing it, and he said “about two years.” Now, I suppose it has been about 36 years, and Forbert is still at it. And today I decided to sit down and try to sing his most successful song, called, “Romeo’s Tune.” It was from an album in 1979, and while it was fairly commercial, it still speaks truthful shit.
My recording is take No. 23 for me today, just as I lose my voice. I had a real hard time deciding between take No. 12 and take No. 23, which was the last take. But I’ve decided on the latter. Certainly pure crap compared to the original. But the blog is synonymous with self-indulgence. So I’m putting it up below (it has also been a way to string out the time before the wrapping of the presents for Christmas) and it is the first time I ever even thought of trying to cover one of his songs (although I was inspired to try the Hank Williams thanks to him):
P.S. Dammit, all right. I guess I have to admit that Forbert’s is 100 times better than my version. Here it is: