Lee Hazlewood vs. Don Nix: ’73

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.

Lee Hazlewood LP-1Don Nix LP

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.

UK cover

Lee Hazlewood LP-2In 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

Lee Hazlewood 45-aDon Nix 45-a

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.'”

German 45

Don Nix 45-b

Duane Eddy’s Twang + Strings

In 1965 Duane Eddy would release a pair of tuneful albums on the Colpix label that one can now find smartly packaged together as a single compact disc — Duane a Go-Go [and] Duane Does Dylan.

Duane a Go Go LPDuane Does Dylan LP

Lee Hazlewood would be Duane Eddy’s chief collaborator on both Colpix albums, and the two of them would co-write five songs for Duane a Go-Go,  including my personal favorite, with its magnificent, moody strings — “South Phoenix“:

Duane Eddy Gives Tommy Tedesco A Run for His Money

Duane Eddy     “South Phoenix”     1965

 musician Credits for ‘Duane a go-go’

  •           Bass:   Buddy Wheeler & Jimmy Simmons
  •           Drums:   Jim Troxel
  •           Elec. Guitar:  Duane Eddy & Jimmy Gray
  •           Guitar:   Donnie Owens
  •           Harmonica:   Larry Knechtel
  •           Piano:   Don Robertson & Jimmy Wilcox
  •           Saxophone:   Jim Horn

Duane Eddy 45“South Phoenix” would see release in the US, UK, Australia & New Zealand as the B-side of the album’s kick-off tune, “Trash” — a single that was a Billboard Magazine Spotlight Single “predicted to reach the Hot 100 Chart” for the week of July 3, 1965 (though it appears not to have charted).

“Greenwich Village Folk Song Salesman”: Nancy, Lee & Tom T.

I love how much fun Nancy and Lee are having while they sing, audibly evident just 13 seconds into this song.  And Lee isn’t kidding when Nancy queries him about a lyric in the middle of the performance, and he replies, “I don’t know, I didn’t write the song” — that would be Tom T. Hall:

This song was included on 1968’s Nancy & Lee Reprise album for which Billy Strange arranged & conducted and Hazlewood wrote (50%) & produced (100%).

Nancy & Lee LP“Greenwich Village Folk Song Salesman” (originally written for Jim and Jesse, who released a 45 in December 1967) remained strictly an album track for Nancy & Lee — except in Germany, where it served as the B-side to “Elusive Dreams” in May 1969.

Greenwich Village Folk Song Salesman 45

Lee Hazlewood: Lesser-Known Legend of Surf & Twang Guitar

Even if only for his pioneering production work with one of my guitar heroes, Duane Eddy (e.g., using a gigantic grain tank as an echo chamber), let it be known that Hazlewood, while himself not a hotshot guitarist, co-wrote some of Eddy’s best tunes (including half of his excellent 1965 album, Duane-a-Go-Go), as well as penned a fair number of surf classics for other artists:  “Baja“; “Movin'” and “Batman” for The Astronauts, plus all of Al Casey’s best instrumentals – “Surfs You Right”; “The Hearse“; “Surfin’ Hootenanny”; and “Guitars, Guitars, Guitars.”

Is Hazlewood’s 1961 instrumental – five years before Neil Hefti’s “Batman Theme” – the first musical tribute to the Caped Crusader?

Clink on link to hear Lee Hazlewood’s “Batman” as interpreted by The Astronauts

Hazlewood