As a teen growing up in New Britain, I was captivated by radio. I spent hours calling into my favorite DJ at WPOP-AM (then a top-40 station), talking on-air to my favorite DJ (Lee Babi Simms, who went on to a huge and influential career in Los Angeles), requesting favorites like the Animals version of C.C. Rider, which they called cleverly called See See Rider.
Then along came underground radio on the FM dial, and I listened to WHCN-FM (then an alternative, diverse, DJ programmed station), and my ears were opened to the Velvet Underground, Muddy Waters, John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, Moby Grape, the Band, Love and lots of other musicians who never slipped onto the then wide-open playlists of the top 40.
One of the morning DJ's had a favorite album, which became a favorite of mine, and everyday he played an extended, jazzy song which began with the simple words, "This is a tearjerker." The song was Good To Me, and the band was Forevermore.
I was one of the few in the US who bought a full-priced copy of the album Yours, which featured album artwork out of a Victorian-era scrapbook, an absence of any meaningful liner notes, and a small, blurry photograph of a group of hirsute musicians with Scottish names.
I could never find out much about the band, but after the album tanked I bought dozens of copies, some for as little as 29 cents, in retail and record store bargain bins, and handed them out to friends who appreciated music. The album was amazingly accomplished and diverse, moving comfortably through folk, jazz, blues, country (doing as good a job, as say, Traffic) -- this was a Scottish group who liked American music. And like many albums of the era, it included throwaway, novelty numbers in the Oo-blah-di, Oo-blah-dah school.
I listened to that album for years, and when I was in college and read somewhere that RCA had released the band's second album Words on Black Plastic, I wrote RCA to get a review copy, and a label representative wrote back denying that the album existed (I think I still have that letter somewhere). I subsequently found the album in a NYC record store. The second album spends less time with throwaways, and I always swore that the musicians had obsessively listened to two albums which were also favorites of mine, The Band's Music from Big Pink and Jack Bruce's Songs for a Tailor.
A few of the musicians from Forevermore, went onto greater fame as founders of the Average White Band (Alan Gorrie and Onnie Mair), making really tacky funk and R&B during the mournful disco era.
The original Forevermore album is nearly forty years old, and without a turntable at home, I was rarely able to listen. A few weeks back, I found an online listing of a German release (completely unofficial, I'm sure), of a CD which contained both albums on a single disk, at a totally reasonable price. In addition, I found a place online, where the first album could be downloaded. Since the CD arrived, I've been listening non-stop for about a week. In the process of my search, I found a blog by English writer Tom Cox, extolling the virtues of Forevermore, and another which places the first album on a list of lost albums, which can now be more easily found on the web (thereby spoiling the fun of the search). In a recent article for the Guardian he says:
Few records fulfil the 'great lost album' criteria on as many levels as Yours Forever More, the debut by Simon Napier-Bell prodigies Forever More. From its slightly accidental existence (Napier-Bell was merely fulfilling a contract), to the two very odd Ringo-ish country filler tracks (real lost albums need eccentric filler!) to Permissive, the grimy forgotten B-movie in which its gnome-like creators starred, to the album's childishly hand-drawn gatefold sleeve, it begs to be preserved exclusively on 12-inch cardboard, preferably with Sellotape in one corner and a former owner's ancient address on the inner side.
Or at least that's what I used to think, back in the days when I would waste afternoons scouring Greater London's record shops for extra copies. These days, its lack of CD reissue just seems slightly cruel and arbitrary. Sucked of their romance and promise, Lost Albums seem lost in a different, sadder way than before. That's perhaps nothing to get too cut-up about. After all, they're only objects. None the less, some music will always improve with age and demand reinvestigation, and it's hard to suppress a shiver when considering the possible future equivalent of today's Lost Albums: unmanned ghost MySpace pages, replete with ancient tour dates and outdated comments from long-withered porn stars inadvertently having their images used to sell ringtones. Who, you find yourself wondering, will take them home, wipe some 20-year-old lint off their grooves, and love them?
It make me feel better that I'm not the only person who can get obsessed by a song, or album, that has never made it into the digital realm.