Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Emitt Rhodes

Emitt Rhodes had a talent for pop songs. He led the '60s band, The Merry Go Round, which in looks and songs brought to mind the Beatles. Here they are on TV in 1967 doing their hit, “You’re a Very Lovely Woman.”

Rhodes himself, who wrote the songs, sang lead, played guitar and piano--at age 17, I might add--went on to a solo career. The Merry-Go-Round owed the record company one more record, so after they broke up Rhodes recorded The American Dream in 1969. In 1970 he came out with his masterpiece, his self-titled album, Emitt Rhodes.

Not only was the album self-titled, it was self recorded on a four-track machine in his parents' garage in Hawthorne, California. "With My Face On the Floor" is my favorite from that album, and what you're hearing is all Rhodes, multi-tracking his own instruments, vocals and harmonies. He maintained total control. It's the way he recorded his next two albums, also.

The album took a year to produce and Rhodes' record company, which had a contract with him to produce an album every six months, decided to sue. This put a damper on Rhodes' spirit, but not his creativity. He did two more solo albums, Mirror and Farewell to Paradise. This song is from his last album. It was done in 1971 for British TV and looks like a very early music video.

Rhodes retired from the recording business at age 24 and went on to other endeavors. A few years ago an Italian company put out a documentary, The One Man Beatles, about Rhodes. It's always interesting to me that foreigners have to tell us how great our music is. The Germans sent us imports of our own bluegrass music, and several compilations of the blues were being sold in Europe to music lovers, artists whom the American people had forgotten. Ditto Japan, which came out with their own Rhodes compilation before this American set was released.  The Emitt Rhodes Recordings 1969-1973, a double CD with all four of Rhodes' solo albums, is a domestic American product. It can be bought through Amazon for $29.99, not exactly cheap. It's released by A&M, A Universal Music Corporation, a surprise in itself. This is big business, and a commitment to this treatment seems rare, especially to an artist from decades ago when current rock acts have the lifespan of a fruitfly.
Rhodes' exceptional voice and songwriting skills remind me of Paul McCartney at his peak. Emitt Rhodes, the gifted songwriter, singer, performer of nearly four decades ago is now 60 years old. I think it's time for Emitt Rhodes to get his proper due. Linda Ronstadt did a version of Rhodes' "You're A Very Lovely Woman," retitled "She's A Very Lovely Woman," and this is a rare clip from the Johnny Cash show, circa 1969. I'm surprised more artists didn't pick up on Rhodes' songs, which are full of catchy musical hooks.

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