I was homesick at the time – I didn’t have a home, but that doesn’t stop you from being homesick sometimes.
In yesterday’s post I mentioned that the same 1970 live performance from which Fire and Rain was extracted had also included a standout rendition of Carolina In My Mind, which clip had since, unfortunately, been deleted from YouTube for copyright reasons. Well, I dug into my own archives and found it, so here it is (at least until somebody notices and complains).
Carolina in My Mind was one of the two standout tunes from his 1968 debut album, along with Something in the Way She Moves:
Producer Peter Asher, perhaps aiming to mitigate the general impression of sadness and loneliness, brought in arranger Richard Hewson to add all sorts of pop flourishes to the studio tracks, like the harpsichord intro to Something In the Way She Moves, and a sprightly string section to Carolina In my Mind, altering the mood a bit, particularly for the latter, which was plainly meant to be a more contemplative, wistful piece than it sounded to be on the record. When he performed it live James stuck to his acoustic, rendering what to me is the definitive take, better also than the slicker and more countrified version recorded for his multi-platinum Greatest Hits collection in 1976. I devised a little whistling introduction for it, which I hope you like, he says, shyly, before beginning. It’s lovely.
The bridge, so beautifully evocative of the feeling of being lost and alone, always reminds me of my own fish-out-of-water feeling when I first moved to Toronto, a concrete hive of skyscrapers so much more crowded and fast-paced than my native Halifax:
Now there’s a holy host of others standing round me
Still I’m on the dark side of the Moon
And it looks like it goes on like this forever…
But it turns out that the “holy host” wasn’t a reference to the madding crowd, but about standing in the presence of the Beatles, all but deities to him, two of whom, McCartney and Harrison, performed as session men on the album. It must have seemed truly surreal, being plucked from obscurity and dropped into a studio with the boys on hand, stopping in on their breaks from recording what would soon be their own first album release on Apple, named simply The Beatles but referred to immediately and universally as the White Album. Taylor must have thought he was dreaming; but then, those were heady days, and for a while there it seemed like a time for dreams to come true. The first Beatles single on Apple, Hey Jude, quickly became their biggest hit, topping the charts everywhere (number one for eight weeks in the U.S.), with big releases soon to come from Mary Hopkin and Badfinger. With all that talent on call, what could possibly go wrong?
Plenty, sadly. The crushed and shabby outcome of the Apple experiment stands as a sobering object lesson in the way hubris lures even the greatest towards disaster, and how parasites always linger dangerously around the margins of success. Still, that first batch of releases, Taylor’s prominent among them, remain as poignant reminders of that initial moment of infinite promise, when all sorts of wonderful things seemed not merely possible, but destined to be.