Posts Tagged ‘Crispian St. Peters’

‘One Last Cup Of Wine We Will Pour . . .’

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Once more, I start with one idea and then go off somewhere else.

This morning, I was scanning the Billboard Hot 100 for October 15, 1966, and I was finding some nice bits and pieces for a Chart Digging post when I came to a record by Crispian St. Peters. Yeah, the fellow who had a No. 4 hit a few months earlier in 1966 with “The Pied Piper” and who passed on in June 2010 at the age of seventy-one.

His name, of course, wasn’t the Anglophilic Crispian St. Peters; he was Robin Peter Smith, which to my mind sounds English enough, especially as he came from Kent. (I’d think billing him as Smith From Kent might have sounded good, but then, I’m not a mid-1960s record executive.) The promotions and A&R men likely thought that calling him Crispian St. Peters would sell more records. I don’t know how his career went in the U.K., but on this side of the ocean, “The Pied Piper” was clearly his biggest hit. “You Were On My Mind,” a cover of the tune that was a 1965 hit for We Five, went to No. 36 in the summer of 1967, and two of his other three records in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles only reached the Bubbling Under portion of the Hot 100.

And the Crispian St. Peters record that caught my attention today is “Changes,” which was at No. 64 forty-five years ago this week and eventually peaked at No. 57:

It’s a pleasant record, and I knew I’d heard the song before, but I couldn’t place it right away.  Then I noticed the writing credit and I went digging.

I’ve never written much about Phil Ochs, who is often referred to as one of the tragic figures of the 1960s folk movement. A committed political activist who was also a gifted songwriter and performer, Ochs wrote some of the most hard-edged and sometimes caustic anthems to come out of that 1960s movement. The ones that come most quickly to my mind are “I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore” from 1969 and “Here’s to the State of Mississippi” from 1965. He sold some records and got some attention, but as I understand it from a few sources, he also battled depression. He killed himself in 1976.

“Changes” was an anomaly for Ochs, a personal song from an almost perpetually political man. From what I can tell, it first showed up on an album titled Phil Ochs in Concert, a 1966 album that’s very likely not a true live album. It sounds very much like a collection of solo studio performances with applause grafted onto the beginning and end of the tracks. The version in the video below sounds like the version on that so-called live album with the audience sounds removed; it first showed up, as far as I can tell, on the 1989 anthology titled There But For Fortune. But no matter what version you find, “Changes” is a good song.

Sit by my side, come as close as the air.
Share in a memory of gray,
And 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 melod,.
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.

So sit by my side, come as close as the air.
Share in a memory of gray,
And wander in my words, dream about the pictures
That I play of changes.

It also turned out, I think, to be one of Ochs’ most-covered songs. I have a few versions of the song, and – while it’s difficult at All-Music Guide to sort out the listings for Ochs’ song as opposed to other songs with the same title – I found a few more this morning.

Some of the performers that covered “Changes” are unsurprising: Ian & Sylvia, Gordon Lightfoot, the Pozo-Seco Singers and other folk interpreters of the mid-1960s. But there are some interesting covers: bluegrass musician Tony Rice included the tune on his 1988 album Native American, and former Byrd Gene Clark recorded the song – with help from Carla Olson – for True Voices, a 1995 benefit CD. (The video presenting Clark’s cover also includes his performance of “Silent Crusade” from his 1977 album Two Sides to Every Story.)

But the most interesting cover among those I listened to this morning come from an album that I long sought on vinyl, finally settling for a CD rip: Changes, a 1966 release by the folk/pop rock duo of Jim Glover and Jean Ray, who recorded as Jim & Jean. Their take on “Changes” has a Byrds-ish quality to it. A look at the album credits listed at AMG – and I’d guess that the credits are incomplete – shows Al Kooper on guitar and Harvey Brooks on guitar and bass, so I’m not sure who’s doing the Byrds-y thing there. But it’s an interesting folk-rock cover of one of Phil Ochs’ better songs.

Revised slightly and video placed December 21, 2013.