I discovered another musical coincidence recently — two albums with similarly-constructed titles released the same year by two hip and influential songwriter-producer-arrangers: Poet, Fool or Bum by Lee Hazlewood -vs.- Hobos, Heroes & Street Corner Clowns by Don Nix, both from 1973.
On his one and only album for Capitol, Hazlewood surprisingly (or not) turns over production reins to Jimmy Bowen (vinyl copies would later fetch decent money). Hazlewood would then find himself ejected from the cover of the UK edition of Poet, Fool or Bum – could it have been the prospect of having to market Hazlewood without his trademark mustache? Hazlewood and Tim Buckley, it bears noting, would be the first among many artists to record “Martha” off the debut album by Tom Waits.
In 1973, Capitol would issue a pair of singles: “Nancy and Me” b/w “Kari” in May, followed by a promo 45 in November of “Feathers” b/w “The Performer“: an especially powerful B-side — “a stark and somewhat autobiographical picture of a singer who’s sick of the game” as writes Michael Erlewine in All Music Guide to Country:
“The Performer” Lee Hazlewood 1973
Stax, meanwhile, would issue two singles from Hoboes, Heroes and Street Corner Clowns — “Black Cat Moan” b/w “The Train Don’t Stop Here No More” (released in 1973 in the US, UK & Germany), followed by “She’s a Friend of Mine” b/w “When I Lay My Burden Down” in October. I’m only sorry Stax didn’t put more promotional heft into the latter 45, which would have sounded great on the radio in 1973, especially when the strings kick in at the chorus:
“She’s a Friend of Mine” Don Nix 1973
How fascinating to discover that “Black Cat Moan” would be the lead-off song for the famous John Peel broadcast of May 29, 1973 on which he played side one of Tubular Bells by a then unknown Mike Oldfield on tiny indie label, Virgin Records – a radio first (and “the show that launched the Branson empire!“)
Pretend it’s the B-side “The Performer” Written, performed & produced by Don Nix
Charles Shaar Murray vs. Barton Lee Hazlewood
Financial Times grimly reported last July that the New Musical Express — the first magazine, in 1952, to publish the pop charts in the UK, and one which once boasted a circulation of 270,000 during its 1970s peak — has now been turned into a freebie publication by its owner, Time Inc. UK (worse: content is no longer solely devoted to music). NME, nevertheless, will always have its own distinctive place in Lee Hazlewood history, as noted here:
“In 1952 the NME greeted the arrival of rock and roll with the breezy exclamation: “Guitars are news!” Two decades later its star writers behaved as though they were rock stars themselves, chief among them Nick Kent, who extended his worship of Keith Richards to contracting a severe heroin addiction. Reviews toughened up, such as Charles Shaar Murray’s one-word dismissal of a 1974 album called Poet, Fool or Bum by the US singer Lee Hazelwood: ‘Bum.'”