Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Well, it's official.  Youtube is amazing.

Just when I was sure there was some music from my past so strange and obscure it would never, EVER end up on this insane WorldWideWeb, I playfully decided today to search for "Jonathan And Leigh" and my favorite song from their single and (I assumed) long-forgotten 1967 Vanguard album THIRD AND MAIN popped up and played for me!

Yes, Youtube, you win.  You are amazing... and, Ok, you're very useful too.

I bought this one on vinyl back about '87 when-- as a college student in Northwest Arkansas-- I was somehow heavily into old folk and blues music.   At a record store in Fayetteville ARK I had struck up a friendship with the owner-- a guy named Dave-- who repeatedly sold me old Vanguard titles at reasonable prices.   Looking back, I think there must have been virtually no call for these titles in the collector's market of the time, as Dave was notoriously expensive on everything else, from current English rockabilly imports to standard oldies fare. 

As a result, I built up quite a collection of recordings by artists like Ian And Sylvia, Judy Collins, Mimi And Richard Farina, Josh White, Odetta, early Gordon Lightfoot, and even occasionally Joan Baez.   I had originally gotten into this kind of stuff because of a record store owner I had known earlier back in Tucson AZ-- Larry The Mad Hatter-- who would play strange songs by Farina and Leonard Cohen on his store's sound system while he drank beer and laughed and read Gregory Corso poems.  All of this stuff-- quite old already at the time-- was actually quite new and strange to a miner's son from Sonoita AZ who had grown up with older brothers playing awesome stuff like Buck Owens, The Ventures and Del Shannon on those old, suitcase-style record players.

I guess what I appreciated about this stuff at the time-- and still appreciate to some extent-- was that it seemed like there was a real attempt at poetry in all of it.  These artists, in their better moments, would actually compose songs that were poetic-- even on paper-- and as an impressionable young English major sitting in my loft discovering Blake and Whitman and Lew Welch I could not help but be compelled to it.  Even today, song-writers like Eric Anderson and Ian Tyson can really impress me with their imagery, but back then?-- sipping Brandy, painting in watercolors, and composing my own strange "poems" at my book-cluttered desk-- it was like I was in a garret in Paris or something! 

[Hey... I warned you in my blog header I was a Beatnik!  It is now a part of me I just can't bury... and believe me, I have tried! :) ]

Anyway... back to the album. This one was cheap even for Dave-- 2 bucks, if memory serves-- and it was so obscure I could find no reference to these artists anywhere, not even in the folk music reference books, although Osbornes' Record Guide did at least list it (nothing ever got by that guy, apparently.)

I bought it because it was on Vanguard, and nothing I had ever found on that label was entirely uninteresting. At first I though it was just OK, good songwriting and selection of covers, with decent-- if wimpy-- vocal interpretation.  But after a few plays it really grew on me.  It just had that wintery, folky feel to it.

Phil Ochs (December 19, 1940 – April 9, 1976)
My favorite cut was this one, "Changes,"  a Phil Ochs tune I had already heard in its original and  several cover versions.   What made J & L's version special to me was the female harmony on the later verses, supplied by the mysterious "Leigh."  I never had any info on her or "Jonatahan, but today, thanks to the 'net, I now know some basic things.

Apparently, according to the site, which uses information from the CD re-issue [there's a CD???!], this much we know:

"The obscure male-female folk-rock duo Jonathan and Leigh recorded one album for Vanguard, Third and Main, released in 1967. Songwriter Jonathan Alden and his partner Leigh (no last name given on the sleeve but actuall Sandy Lee Roepken) echoed contemporary folk-rock male-female acts such as Richard & Mimi Farina, Ian & Sylvia, Jim & Jean, and the We Five... Among the supporting musicians were Russ Savakus (who had played bass on several Ian & Sylvia and Farinas albums), bassist Richard Davis, and guitarist Jay Berliner (both of whom would play on Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, and the rhythm section of Warren Smith (drums) and William Salter (bass), who would play on several albums by Pearls Before Swine. Smith also played on Astral Weeks, although the presence of three sidemen who also played on that album should not be taken to mean that Jonathan & Leigh sound at all like Van Morrison... For all that, it's a rather likable if slight folk-rock album, recorded perhaps before the duo's skills had reached optimum maturation. Considering it was on the rather high-profile independent folk and folk-rock label Vanguard, it made very little impact, though it's not all that hard to find in the used bins."
Both of them are still alive, apparently, so Jon, Leigh... If you ever come across this blog, please know that I liked your record a lot. It was a big part-- of a small part-- of my crazy life.

by Phil Ochs

Sit by my side, come as close as the air,
Share in a memory of gray;
Wander in my words, dream about the pictures
That I play of changes.

Green leaves of summer turn red in the fall
To brown and to yellow they fade.
And then they have to die, trapped within
the circle time parade of changes.

Scenes of my young years were warm in my mind,
Visions of shadows that shine.
Til one day I returned and found they were the
Victims of the vines of changes.

The world's spinning madly, it drifts in the dark
Swings through a hollow of haze,
A race around the stars, a journey through
The universe ablaze with changes.

Moments of magic will glow in the night
All fears of the forest are gone
But when the morning breaks they're swept away by
golden drops of dawn, of changes.

Passions will part to a strange melody.
As fires will sometimes burn cold.
Like petals in the wind, we're puppets to the silver
strings of souls, of changes.

Your tears will be trembling, now we're somewhere else,
One last cup of wine we will pour
And I'll kiss you one more time, and leave you on
the rolling river shores of changes.


1 comment:

jorge daniel flecha said...

Hello, I just discovered a song from this album and liked it, Do you know where I can found a link? Thanks