Tuesday, January 03, 2006

How to spot a future drug casualty

Tim Hardin died of a drug overdose in 1980, but one could see the roots of his future in his first two (and best) albums, imaginatively called Tim Hardin 1 and Tim Hardin 2 (he mostly kept to that naming formula through his final album, Tim Hardin 9*, in 1973.)

One thing to look for in future drug overdoses is a lack of concentration. For instance, of the 10 songs on Tim Hardin 2, only 2 break the three minute mark, with 5 songs clocking in at under two minutes. The shortest song, See where you are and get out, at a scant 1:12, seems to be an argument he has with his Dad in which he, speaking as his Dad, predicts his own death.

Despite the brevity of the songs, he still usually repeats the first verse. Check out Black Sheep Boy, in which he crams the time honored verse-chorus-verse-chorus-first verse again-chorus song format favored by drug users everywhere (e.g. much of the work of Ween) into less than 2 minutes. (This past year, excellent Austin band Okkervil River not only covered Black Sheep Boy, but expanded the concept of the song to an entire album called Black Sheep Boy, and a companion EP called Black Sheep Boy Appendix. Both are highly recommended.) Again, we see Tim's narcissism on display here as "the family's unowned boy" who nonetheless "pretty girls with faces fair" take a liking to.

His career was something of a long-form train crash. He was an erratic performer live (he performed at Woodstock but was cut out of both the film and record and he famously nodded off on-stage during a performance at London's Royal Albert Hall) whose great versions of his own songs were often outshone by inferior covers. Rod Stewart got on the charts with Tim's song Reason to Believe and If I Were a Carpenter (nothing to do with Karen or Richard), was covered by Bobby Darin, whose version infuriated Tim so much that he wept when he heard it.

Like his career, he was also unlucky in love**. He claimed Susan Moore, who he met early and dedicated several songs (including The Lady Came from Baltimore which got a decent treatment by Scott Walker) and one entire album to, was his muse. They had one child and a typically rocky on again off again relationship as she became exasperated with his drug use. And of course it all ended in tears as it was destined to do. Hadn't she listened to his early albums?

* Actually his 7th or 8th album depending on how you count 'em.
** The title of this song is It's Hard to Believe in Love for Long and even though it's the longest track posted here it wins in the attention deficit dept by only having one verse and chorus that gets repeated over and over again. Come to think of it, it's a good contender in the narcissism dept too, with lines like "It's the way that she won't listen to how I paint the scene that makes it hard to believe in love for long." I imagine Susan had to put up with a lot of crap.


Mr. Poncho said...

Thanks for that. I've been wanting to hear his version of "Black Sheep Boy" ever since falling in love with the Okkervil River record. I've read that Bobby Darin "ripped off" Hardin's version of "If I Were A Carpenter," meaning I guess that he lifted the phrasing and emotive vocal ornaments along with everything else, from one of Hardin's demos, though that interpretation seems to corroborate the narcisist theory: people are liable to look to the writer for hints and cues as to how to perform a song.
I'm very fond of Johnny Cash and June Carter's version of "Carpenter."

I've got Tim Hardin 4 or something like that, and it's not yielded up much of anything worthwhile after several attempts.

Vine said...

Yeah 1 and 2 are the best with a fall from grace thereafter. Somewhere out there someone once put his first two albums on one CD but even that's out of print now. I've seen it on ebay, but have never ordered it though it would be nice to have. There's a pretty good compilation out of Australia called Person to Person that has like half of each album on it before getting into the later, less interesting, stuff.

Vine said...

And in the weird coincidences dept... I had never heard the Cash/Carter version of Carpenter before but was woken up this morning by it thanks to my upstairs neighbor who decided to blast it at 6:30am.