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Broadside Tapes 1

Phil Ochs

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Album Review

Phil Ochs left behind dozens of demos, primarily songs that he put down on tape at the West 104th Street Manhattan offices of Broadside magazine. These aren't really "demos" in the sense of showcasing the songs for possible recording; he was recording these so that Broadside's editors could print the lyrics. Thus, there are choruses left out, and there's a lot of noise on some of them (these were done in what was essentially a newspaper office), all in the name of getting the words down, as Ochs strums his guitar and runs through the songs in a semi-formal fashion. The material is classic Ochs, earnest and topical, yet also weirdly funny and eclectic — doing songs not only dealing with racism and workers' rights, but also about blacklist victim John Henry Faulk and the then-current controversy surrounding a memorial to Alfred Packer, a mountain guide who was convicted of eating five people to survive in a blizzard. Some of the material is surprisingly lighthearted in its tone and execution, such as "Spaceman" and "Christine Keeler." Among the serious songs, "Remember Me" is one of the best pieces he ever wrote. The strangest moment here is Ochs' cover, in a duet with Eric Andersen, of the Beatles' song "I Should've Known Better," recorded in 1964 at New York's Village Gate. Like most other rock & roll bands of the time, the Beatles were anathema to the folk audience, and Ochs' willingness to do the song, even in a spirit of fun, is startling. Perhaps the most revealing performances here, however, are "The Passing of My Life" and "That's the Way It's Gonna Be," which betray feelings of deep melancholy that might have hinted at the self-destructive suicidal tendencies that ultimately ended Ochs' life.

Biography

Born: 19 December 1940 in El Paso, TX

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s

Phil Ochs is a figure both glorious and tragic who haunts the history of the 1960s folk revival and its aftermath. A topical singer and songwriter in the manner of Lee Hays, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie from the previous generation, he was forever in the shadow of Bob Dylan in terms of the recognition for his music; but unlike Dylan — who, in retrospect, seemed to approach his work with overpowering facility and talent, but only occasional moments of...
Full bio