From folkie to obscure singer songwriter, to pop hit maker and then back to obscure singer songwriter.
Maybe that wouldn't be so bad but the breakdown is, folkie (10 years), obscure singer songwriter (10 years), hit maker (2 years), obscure singer songwriter (30 years), give or take.
There wasn't much time at the top.
I may call Stewart obscure but I only mean that by reference to the mainstream. Don't get me wrong he always had a career, a following, an income.
He deserved more, and it would have been better if he had got more, for our sake as much as for his.
But for two years he shone … just this one album really.
And this is the album you find in all the op shops, the one that people say they have fond memories of, the one that appears everywhere.
It is far from Stewart's best but it is his most commercial and at the time (1979) he tapped into the tight, slick, west coast folk comes rock, comes country, comes pop sound … something perfected by Fleetwood Mac
The Fleetwood Mac reference is not an idle reference.
After signing with Robert Stigwood’s RSO records, Stewart befriended (long time fan) Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac. Buckingham co-produced this album (with Stewart) and called upon many of his L.A. friends (including Stevie Nicks) to come and help. There is a tension throughout the album between Buckingham's slick pop and the ragged, plain sounding honesty of Stewart's voice but it works beautifully if for no other reason than it distinguishes the album from Fleetwood Mac and from all the other soft rock soft cocks who were emulating Fleetwood Mac.
But don't get me wring this is slick stuff.
Lyrically, Stewart has moved his concerns to songs of lost or difficult love peppered by a few cynical songs about music industry all done to a smooth shuffle beat.
Just about every song sounds like a single that could be coming from a AM radio, in a convertible, roof down, cruising along a California road on a summer day 1979.
On this album Stewart sings rock (or perhaps soft rock bordering on folk rock or folk rock disco on some tunes) in his unabashedly masculine baritone (reminiscent at times of Johnny Cash).
The experiment paid off with good great chart placings for both the album and its singles. The follow up album, "Dream Babies Go Hollywood" (1980) with backing by Linda Ronstadt and contributions from Phil Everly was an attempt at the same (apparently) but it failed.
Nevertheless the success of this album, gave Stewart a boost to his career and sustained him (as a marginal artist with a faithful following) for the next couple of decades.
He kept writing and recording and for that we have to be thankful. There are undiscovered joys all over his albums
The guy is a legend and his body of work should be more highly valued
Check out my other entry for biographical detail.
All songs written by Stewart.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Gold – a great track which needs to be covered. It's very slick but there is bite is its lyric and the beat is irresistible. Stevie Nicks and others on backing vocals.
- Lost Her in the Sun – a beautiful melancholy song of love lost with a touch of the Springsteen about it.
- Runaway Fool of Love – slick
- Somewhere Down the Line – this song harkens back to the 60s folk Stewart was familiar with. It is beautiful.
- Midnight Wind – Stevie Nicks and others on backing vocals.
- Over the Hill – pure Fleetwood Mac and none too subtle.
- The Spinnin' of the World – You can't keep a folkie down though. A gem of a song though from a differen era.
- Comin' Out of Nowhere – a gentle gallop of a song with not much in the way of lyric and seems to be a statement of intent.
- Heart of the Dream – another dig at the music industry and perhaps the act of chasing the dream.
- Hand Your Heart to the Wind – the obligatory ballad tinged with doubt and regret with just Stewart on guitar and keyboards.
Slick but more than meets the eye … I'm keeping it.
1979 Midnight Wind The Billboard Hot 100 #28
1979 Gold The Billboard Hot 100 #5
1980 Lost Her In The Sun The Billboard Hot 100 #34
1979 Gold #43
Lost Her in the Sun
Runaway Fool of Love
Somewhere Down the Line
Over the Hill
The Spinnin' of the World
Comin' Out of Nowhere
Heart of the Dream
Hand Your Heart to the Wind
The Kingston trio
Playboy After Dark
- Musicians: Guitars – John Stewart, Lindsey Buckingham / Bass – Bryan Garofalo, Chris Whelan, David Jackson / Keyboards – Joey Carbone, Wayne Hunt / Drums – Michael Botts, Richard Shlosser, Gary Weisberg, Russ Kunkel / Background vocals – Stevie Nicks, Mary Torrey, Chris Whelan, Lindsey /Buckingham, Bryan Garofalo, Buffy Ford Stewart, Christine DeLisle, Mary Kay Place, Joey Harris, Croxey Adams, Dave Guard, Deborah Tompkins, Catherine Guard
- The albums title comes from a suggestion by Dave Guard who was one of the founding members of Stewart folk group, The Kingston Trio.
- The album gives "Special Thanks to Stevie Nicks for her magic and the use of her wall. Lindsey Buckingham for the endless hours, hot licks and encouragement; Herbert Worthington for diving in head first; Russ Kunkel (who was that guy anyway?); Buffy, the shelter from the storm; and Elvis, Dave and Lindsey for opening the door".
- It was as a Presley-admiring teenager that Stewart formed a Pomona, California, rock group called John Stewart and the Furies.