‘We Almost Didn’t Make It . . .’

An email came in yesterday that piqued my interest and reminded me of a post from more than four years ago. A reader taking the name “mm” asked if I’d ever figured out who covered Jake Holmes’ song “So Close,” adding, “It’s been driving me crazy.”

The question was a follow-up to a chart-digging post that ran here in October 2010, looking back at a Billboard Hot 100 from October 1970. Among the records I noted in that chart was Holmes’ “So Close,” which was sitting at No. 70 on its way to No. 49. I wrote:

“Since I found the record at YouTube a couple of weeks ago, I’ve listened to it several times, and although I recall Holmes’ version, I swear I remember another performer singing it . . . . Is anyone out there aware of who might have covered Jake Holmes’ ‘So Close’?”

And I don’t think I ever heard from anybody about it until yesterday, when mm reminded me of Holmes’ record and my vague memories of a cover version. So I turned to one of my favorite toys, one that I did not know about (if it was in existence) during the autumn of 2010: the website Second Hand Songs, which – as I’ve noted here before – might not have full listings of all cover versions but at least provides a place to start.

First, though, here’s Holmes’ version of the song, which was pulled from his 1970 album So Close, So Very Far To Go. (As is the case with many albums from the early 1970s, I recall seeing and ignoring many copies of So Close, So Very Far To Go in the cutout bins at St. Cloud’s Woolworth’s and Musicland stores. And I have long wished I’d bought the album.)

I still like Holmes’ performance, but I think the backing gets a little busy (and Holmes’ voice gets a little thin as he goes into the higher notes on the chorus.) But even as I listened yesterday for the first time in a while, I was still hearing echoes of a cover version.

So who might have done that cover version? Well, Second Hand Songs has three covers listed, one of which I’ve managed to find. That version is by Harry Belafonte, with some help from Eloise Laws, on his 1973 album, Play Me. It’s a little bland, but it’s not awful. It is not, however, the version that sits on the edge of my memory.

Two other versions of “So Close” are mentioned at SHS: Mary Travers of Peter, Paul & Mary recorded the song for her 1974 album, Circles, and Aruban-born soul singer Julio Bernardo Euson – who recorded as Euson and whose career was centered mostly in the Netherlands – included the song on his 1975 album Sweet Surrender. If I’ve ever heard either of the two, I think it’s more likely that I heard Travers’ version, but I don’t know.

Still wondering, I waded through pages of links last evening, looking for other versions of the tune. There were quite a few other songs with the same title and lots of dead links. But after a bit, there was a reference to one Helen Schneider, a Brooklyn-born singer and actress whose career has been mostly based in Germany. Her one major U.S.-based acting credit, it seems, was playing Joann Carlino, Eddie Wilson’s girlfriend in the 1983 film Eddie and the Cruisers.

But it’s her music career that interested me. She’s had only a few albums released in the U.S., but one of them was her 1977 debut, which was titled So Close. The title song was, in fact, the Jake Holmes tune:

Is it the cover that I remember? It could be, although I can’t figure out how I ever would have heard it. But I do like it, and I would have liked it if I had heard it in 1977.

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One Response to “‘We Almost Didn’t Make It . . .’”

  1. jb says:

    Jake Holmes’ “So Close” is part of one of my favorite bits of broadcasting trivia. It was featured on American Top 40 when it wasn’t actually in the Top 40. In the early days of the show, the new chart positions were phoned over to the AT40 office by somebody at Billboard, and whoever wrote them down made a mistake, thus “So Close” got on the countdown one week late in 1970 when it shouldn’t have. Holmes turned out OK in spite of it, however. He apparently went on to a lengthy career as a jingle writer.

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