In mid-March 1966, amid a Top 10 chart featuring “19th Nervous Breakdown,” “California Dreamin’ ” and “I Fought the Law” sat the wistful folk tune “Elusive Butterfly.”
The singer, Bob Lind, was a 23-year-old unknown who gave World Pacific Records its one and only big hit. The song and its familiar refrain – “Across my dreams with nets of wonder, I chase the bright elusive butterfly of love” – reached No. 5 on Billboard’s chart, the same position it reached in Britain.
Before he knew it, Lind was touring and rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names of the day.
His songs were covered by more than 200 artists, but his solo career quickly fell victim to record company indifference … with drugs and alcohol only making matters worse.
One of his biggest disappointments was the delayed release of the album “Since There Were Circles,” a favorite of critics in 1971 but ignored commercially. With Lind’s help, RPM Records in Britain is releasing the album for the first time on CD on Nov. 20, serving up five bonus tracks for good measure.
Based in Boca Raton, Fla., Lind is back, touring and recording again, having self-released “Bob Lind Live at the Luna Star Cafe” in early 2006.
In an e-mail interview, he’s more than willing to discuss what went wrong with “Since There Were Circles” – and is brutually honest about his up-and-down career.
PAUSE & PLAY: How disappointing was it that “Since There Were Circles” didn’t do well?
LIND: “The album was released in 1971, but the songs date back further than that. By 1969, my career was ice cold. I despised the pasty-faced lawyers who ran the music industry and they despised me right back. I had poisoned my relationship with my former label, World Pacific, and was well-known as a drunk, a stoner and an all-out pain in the ass to work with – a rep I richly deserved.
“I moved to Santa Fe to get away from the business. But I couldn’t stop writing songs. When I had a bushel full of them, I called every label in L.A. and nobody would take my calls (understandable, since I’d burned – or at least badly scorched) all my bridges. Finally, I connected with the only industry mogul who didn’t yet hate my guts: The flamboyant and totally mad Doug Weston, owner of the famous Troubadour, where I had worked many times.
“God knows why, but he believed in me and in my work and, showing a kind of courage I can’t even begin to fathom, he went out of pocket to hire Jimmy Bond, one of the best arrangers on the West Coast for the project. He booked the pricey, and (at that time) state-of-the-art Record Plant studio. He called in some of the best musicians in the world (John Buck Wilkin on acoustic lead, Carol Kaye on bass, Paul Humphreys on drums and Michael Lang on piano, to cite a few).
“On one cut, ‘Sweet Harriet,’ Doug Dillard is playing banjo, Bernie Leadon (of the Eagles) is playing guitar, Gene Clark (of the Byrds) is playing harmonica and David Jackson, an amazing sideman for Hoyt Axton, Linda Ronstadt and other giants, is playing standup bass. These guys were friends of mine and might have given Doug a break on price, but still, my God, who knows how much he spent, totally on spec.
“How did I repay him? By fighting both him and Jimmy tooth and nail in the studio, questioning their every decision and making the experience, which should have been a joy, hell for everyone. My insecurity and distrust of anything good that came my way made me the worst kind of crazy. But incredibly, in my opinion, some twisted beauty came out of the conflict. It’s not in line with what I believe about music, which is that the best of it comes from cooperation and harmony.
“The only way to explain it is to say the hassles stirred all our creative fires and brought us to life. Still, if Jimmy and Doug would have murdered me in those days, not a court in the land could have convicted them in good conscience. He managed to sell the album to Capitol and they released it in ’71 – to good reviews but no distribution.
“Was I disappointed that it didn’t do better commercially? Sure. I want to be filthy rich and thumb my nose at my naysayers from my stretch limo. But I’ll settle for the critical praise it garnered. Even The L.A. Free Press gave it a good write-up – and they were tough eggs, believe me. Plus, now that RPM is giving it this new jolt of CPR, it has another chance to make me a wealthy man. Overall, it’s an album I’m proud of. And, if you’ll allow me a quick splotch of sentiment, I just wish Doug were still alive to see it revived in CD form.”
P&P: Tell us about the bonus tracks.
LIND: “There are seven songs that were recorded at around the same time. For 35 years, they’ve been languishing in the box of tapes from the sessions. It had been so long since I’d thought of some of them that before I heard them again, just a couple months ago, I couldn’t have sung you a single line. I think RPM is releasing four of them with the reissue with an eye toward releasing the other three if this project catches even the slightest spark of fire.
“I realize there are some dyed-in-the-wool Lind fans who would probably remember these three songs, but I certainly didn’t. But I love all three of them. Those of you who know my stand on many of my old songs may be stunned to hear me say that. But I think these things still hold up.
“A huge share of the credit belongs to a fantastic musician and engineer named Tom Hartman, who took these messy 2-inch, 24-track monstrosities and mixed them down to capture all the fire and nuances on the tracks. I hope RPM is paying him a ton of money, because it’s been a genuine labor of love for him. He feels these songs and he’s mixed them with soul and great care. I can’t imagine how we could have gone with a better remix guy.”
P&P: What are you up to these days?
LIND: “I’m back performing again with a whole mess of new songs. I just released a live CD earlier this year, my first new album in 35 years. I’ll be doing a California tour in October-November that will culminate in the taping of a DVD.”
ALBUM DISCOGRAPHY: “Don’t Be Concerned” (World Pacific, 1966), “Photographs of Feeling” (1966), “Since There Were Circles” (Capitol, 1971), “The Best of Bob Lind: You Might Have Heard My Footsteps” (Capitol, 1993), “The Ultimate Collection” (Black Tulips, 2006), “Bob Lind Live at the Luna Star Cafe” (2006).
WEB SITE: boblind.com
TOUR DATES HERE
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