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*7.20-MEAGAN'S GYPSY EYES (Blood Sweat & Tears)

Blood Sweat & Tears

LISTEN

[Intro]

Meagan's gypsy eyes--
Their lives surround me.
Purple drops of rain--
the sun shone round me.

     Death that clouds her life will be forever.
     She is loved yet cannot love, not ever.

[Break]

Mystic thoughts of love--
I’m hers completely.
Taught her how to run--
though not discreetly.

          Meagan's not as old
          as she'd like to think she's young.
          Sophisticated dreams
          are as plastic as the songs she has sung.

          Likes to think she's hung up on herself
          and aren't you lucky?

[Break]

[Repeat 1st Verse]

[Coda]


Child is Father to the Man was Blood Sweat & Tears’ first album, and the only one to include the keyboard player and composer Al Kooper. (Kooper played organ on Bob Dylan’s album Highway 61 Revisited, creating a signature acid sound on the keyboard for the hit single Like a Rolling Stone.) Though not the first pop album to try and fuse pop music with jazz (Traffic was doing this as well about the same time), it was the first to introduce an array of horns that were part of the band, rather than studio hires. In fact, I would say Blood Sweat & Tears was a band not a group, and was one of the earliest to shift the organization of musicians from a small group of friends who divided the profits between themselves more or less equally to a larger membership of professionals supporting a bandleader (in this case, Al Kooper) who probably took the majority of the profits. (The Mothers of Invention, led by Frank Zappa, however, is probably the first such band in this collection.) Jazz horn arrangements were a new phenomenon in rock music (rather than being used as basically rhythmic accents in the manner of Otis Redding), and Child is Father to the Man opened up a big band market for the later Blood, Sweat & Tears led by David Clayton Thomas, and for the band Chicago, among others. By this time, psychedelia was beginning to be demoted to a supportive role for a newer fashion, jazz-inflected bands.

William Ruhlman of the allmusic website wrote: “Child Is Father to the Man is keyboard player/singer/arranger Al Kooper's finest work, an album on which he moves the folk-blues-rock amalgamation of the Blues Project [Kooper’s former group] into even wider pastures, taking in classical and jazz elements (including strings and horns), all without losing the pop essence that makes the hybrid work. This is one of the great albums of the eclectic post-Sgt. Pepper era of the late '60s, a time when you could borrow styles from Greenwich Village contemporary folk to San Francisco acid rock and mix them into what seemed to have the potential to become a new American musical form.”

Child Is Father To The ManI rarely comment on the artwork of the album covers here, as that’s another fascinating but different topic from the psychedelic music I’m considering. However, I would be remiss not to mention that Sgt. Pepper is quoted in the album cover art for Child is Father to the Man, as the Sgt. Pepper album cover had been quoted as well by the Rolling Stones for Their Satanic Majesties Request. The cover would also be satirized by the Mothers of Invention on their artwork for We’re Only in It for the Money.

I would like to point out that the title of album draws from Wordsworth’s poem The Rainbow. The Wordworthian aesthetic informed the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane, and has been discussed previously. I speculate here, but it seems that the title of BST’s album Child is Father of the Man might refer to a psychedelic “childhood” that, as the form’s dominance ebbed, would become the source of a new “adult” consciousness of “art rock”. The same Wordsworthian quote was used to close out the Beach Boy’s Surf’s Up, composed for participation in the Summer of Love, but released toward the end of the period that the Psychedelic Masterworks is focused on, when the aftershocks could still be felt. At present, now that the initial audience of the period is entering their elder years, these Wordworthian quotes help me to reflect on the psychedelic values expressed in our youth and how they helped form the man I am today.

Meagan’s Gypsy Eyes, written by Steve Katz, who remained with later versions of Blood Sweat & Tears, is a song based in folk music with a horn arrangement and, for psychedelic effect, an electronic instrument called an Ondioline. The Ondioline was one of the precursors of the Moog Synthesizer. It had previously been used by Motown in some recordings to mimic an orchestra, and by Al Kooper himself in previous recordings with the Blues Project. Its keyboard had the unique feature of being suspended on special springs which made it possible to introduce a natural vibrato if the player moved the keyboard from side to side with their playing hand. The result was an almost human-like vibrato that lent the Ondioline a wide range of expression.

The song is oddly composed. Without a chorus or refrain, the song extends into a C section before returning to the first verse to give the song a feeling of completion while riffing wildly on the melody expressed by the Ondioline. The vocals are double tracked and unfortunately filtered through a bit too much tremolo. The horn arrangements slowly move from one speaker to the next, creating a space much larger than the intimate folk guitar picking. I’m not sure what to say about the lyrics…was this the first lyric to contemplate purple rain? It seems Meagan is “hung up on herself”, but the singer accepts this because she is so beautiful. “Meagan’s not as old as she’d like to think she’s young” is a bit of brain teaser, akin to Bob Dylan’s “I was so much younger then, I’m older than that now” [My Back Pages]. But some of the other lyrics are very difficult to make sense of. Frequently the internet reports that the second line of the first verse is the lyres surround me, which makes so little sense I had to speculate what else the singer might be saying here.

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