Friday, June 27, 2008
Making the album "Working" was somewhat of an act of capitulation for me, following the trouble I'd had with Verve over writing songs that many deemed questionable. At the same time, I was extremely focused on trying to create a work of some merit.
I chose, and was forced in part by circumstances, to write less objectionable material for the album. By limiting the number of my songs, and using other people's material, I found a way to make the album and sidestep the fight over what I could write for it. It was a new process for me. The only other time I'd done it was in England, when I recorded "All I Want Is My Baby/Each And Every Day" in 1964.
I wanted to record an album, so I created a way to do it, by agreeing to a different direction with "Working." Had I been given the freedom to record what I wanted, following "Color Him In" and prior to "Working," there would be an entirely different record than the one I've been discussing here.
So when I say it was somewhat of an act of capitulation, I mean it. There weren't a lot of opportunities available for me at the time, so I had to choose between standing my ground, or compromising on the type of music I recorded. Making demos was one thing, recording an album that would get released by a label, was another.
In the back of my mind, all the way through the "Working" sessions, was a building resentment over the lack of freedom I had in choosing the kind of album I wanted to make. Although I gave it my all, I knew in my heart that there was another record that should have been being made.
In 1968, following the difficulties of having been on trial for a year, I was aware that a position of strength was not where I was standing. It was to some degree, "take it or leave it" territory, and I tried to make the best of it. Bob Ross, a rather conservative man, was footing the bill, so he was the one dictating on the subject of content.
I do not begrudge him his position at the time. It was his sincere belief that I was capable of writing the right kind of material, and making a good record that both he and I would be proud of. Because of his sincerity, I was able to invest myself in the project as much as I did.
The various difficulties in the way I ended up recording the album were taken in stride by everyone who worked on it, as a necessary decision to insure that the tempos and meter were true to the way I interpreted the songs.
The live performance quality of the album was the one thing I refused to budge on. This of course could have been overcome, if I and the musicians had had endless time to get it right, which we did not. I knew that if I recorded it in the traditional way, the album was not going to portray, in the slightest way, how I played and sang these particular songs.
It is in fact, the essence of what made "Working" different, as well as valid, which over time it has proven to be. The Band, whose song "The Weight" I recorded on the album, has given "Working" a page of it's own on their website out of respect for my version of their work. There is a link "Bobby Jameson Working" at the top of the blog page where you can click to that site.
Trying to make "Working" work was my last ditch effort as a recording artist in 1968. Parts of the album are in a way desperate. When I listen to it, I remember how hard I was trying to make things work. Some of my vocals are exactly what I wanted, and some are attempts at it.
As the alcohol and drugs continued to play a bigger and badder roll in my life during the recording of this album, I would reach higher and fall lower than I had at any time previously. On some days I was completely OK, on others, I was prone to violent outbursts, depending on what I had in my system, and how much of it I'd had.
By 1968, the previous years of using now began taking a serious toll on my ability to guage how loaded I was, or how loaded I was getting. Trying to record in that self imposed prison was at best hit and miss. I was not only addicted to the drugs and alcohol, but to fame as well.
I lived at times, in a world constructed of unreasonable demands and bitter resentment, regarding my past dreams and failures, and my then current fears about the future. My need for attention, and demands for it, continued wreaking havoc with my personality throughout the making of "Working."
Unfortunately, I again put all my eggs in one basket. I hoped against hope that this time would be the time, and that this record would be the record, but neither of those things were true. I always seemed to do the same thing. Over and over, just as I'd done before, expecting a better result than the ones in the past. It seemed to be the only way I could do things.
I lived in a rut. I never learned to deal with things. I just learned how to make records and write songs, and then do it again and again. My skills at being a person were limited to that in many ways, being a recording artist and a song writer, in search of myself, fame, and fortune.
To be honest, I didn't understand enough about the world I lived in. There it was, and here I was, and my job was to get the world to accept me, rather than me finding a constructive way to fit into the world. In essence I was always at war with everything and everybody around me, unless it went my way.
The drugs and alcohol just tended to magnify it all, and that's why "Working" is so important to me, then and now. It was my last cohesive attempt at getting the world to accept Bobby Jameson, which it never did.
I will attempt to make clear the ins and outs of constructing "Working," and the time I spent with some extremely generous and talented musicians, who helped me create the last album I released.
The record is shot through with my then growing interest in suicide as an answer to my life, should I have to face yet another failure. This is the source of the desperation, power, and tiredness in these vocals.
"Ain't That Lovin You Baby"