Då Lennart Perssons 1978 intervjuade Nick Lowe för tidningen Larm, kompletterade han sin artikel med en kolumn som kort beskriver Lowes fascination för den då okände artisten och låtskrivaren Jim Ford. Avbildad finns även Fords enda album "Harlan County", vars omslag föreställer ett inslaget paket adresserat till:
9000 Sunset Blvd
Hollywood, Calif. 90069
Ford hade gjort ett så starkt intryck på Lowe att jag bara var tvungen att försöka skaffa skivan. Det var innan internet eller ebay fanns, så jag skrev till adressen ovan. På den tiden var det alltså vanlig postgång som gällde och efter ett antal veckor återsåg jag mitt brev med texten "Address unknown" och "Return to sender" stämplat på framsidan.
Länge var Jim Ford och "Harlan County" en väl förborgad hemlighet bland de få som ägde ett exemplar av originalskivan. Det skulle dröja till 1997, då Edsel Records släppte den första cd-utgåvan av "Harlan County", innan jag fick bekanta mig med Jim Fords storhet.
Det visade sig att Fords begåvning som låtskrivare och sångare vida överträffade den mytbildning som omgärdade hans person. "Harlan County" innehåller tio sånger i en genial mix av rock-, rhythm & blues, country-, folk- och soulmusik. Samtliga framförda med en inlevelse så stark som bara den som vuxit upp med, och levt fram en förståelse för, den amerikanska söderns rotmusiken kan vara kapabel att prestera.
Till synes oåtkomlig, och utan att ha lämnat några spår efter sig, förblev Ford en gåta fram till dess L-P Anderson rätade ut frågetecknen i en omfattande artikel i tidningen Sonic hösten 2006. Hela vidden av Jim Fords genialitet har därefter presenterats av det tyska skivbolaget Bear Family Records genom ett flertal utgåvor av både tidigare utgivet och outgivet material.
Det har egentligen bara funnits ett frågetecken kvar kring "Harlan County" och det gäller kompositören av sången "Changin' Colors" - Suzanna Jordan. Vem var och är Suzanna Jordan? Åtskilliga dagar, ja faktiskt dagar, har jag funderat och sökt på internet efter vem som är mäktigt att åstadkomma något så vackert som "Changin' Colors".
Visst är Jim Fords skiva "Harlan County" ett helgjutet album. Ja, faktum är att det kanske t.o.m innehåller den mest komplexa samling sånger jag äger. Utan att på något sätt vilja förringa de övriga låtarna så är det framför allt två av de tio jag alltid återkommer till - Fords egen "Love On My Brain" och Suzanna Jordans "Changin' Colors". Båda är nästintill smärtsamt vackra och vore jag lagd åt det ockulta hållet skulle jag tro att Ford och den okände Jordan stod i kontakt med högre makt.
De framgångslösa efterforskningar av Suzanna Jordan och Fords fenomenala framförande av "Changin' Colors" fick mig emellanåt att bli mer och mer övertygad om att han nog egentligen skrivit den själv. Sången har alla de kvaliteter som utmärker det allra bästa hos hans sätt att "skriva" musik. Av någon orsak - vänskap eller kärlek - föreställde jag mig hur han sedan gav den till Suzanna Jordan. Det kändes som en rimlig och alldeles trovärdig förklaring.
Det som talade emot min hemmasnickrade teori var att hos den amerikanska motsvarigheten till NCB, BMI, finns en Suzannah Jordan registrerad som kompositör till ett femtiotal sånger, däribland ”Changin' Colors". Men, när man sedan går vidare i registret står plötsligt istället namnet Sidney Jordan som sångens kompositör. Idel frågetecken...
En natts slö-zappande på internet skulle visa sig att jag hade fel. Av en tillfällighet kom jag in på en sida med information om sextiotalsmusikers medverkan i tv och film. Vid tv-serien "Peyton Place" hajade jag till då en Suzannah Jordan finns med på rollistan. Hon står omnämnd som låtskrivare och medverkande i en serie om en fiktiv popgrupp.
I en hänvisning till en text längre ner på sidan finns även författaren och musikern Mike Stax - Ugly Things, Crawdaddys, Tell-Tale Hearts, Hoods, Loons... - nämnd. Skickade därför ett mejl till Stax som omgående svarade, att han i sitt pågående arbete med boken om kompositören och musikern Craig Smith kommit i kontakt med Suzannah Jordan. Stax bifogade hennes emailadress och bad mig att hälsa från honom.
Med spänd förväntan skickade jag iväg ett mejl och efter några timmars väntan kom så ett svar. Jodå, Suzannah Jordan var den person som skrivit "Changin' Colors".
Och inte nog med det.
Det skulle visa sig att Suzannah Jordan varit en av Ike & Tina Turners kördamer i The Ikettes. Att både Pete Townshend och Crazy Horse - Neil Youngs samarbetspartner - också spelat in hennes sånger. Att hon skrivit låtar tillsammans med tunga namn som Sharon Sheeley, Phil Everly och Chris White. Och att hon varit gift med Peter Banks, tidigare gitarrist i först legendariska The Syn och därefter YES.
För att stilla min nyfikenhet överöste jag, brevledes, Suzannah Jordan med frågor, vilka hon med stor vänlighet och ännu större tålamod besvarade.
Nedan redovisas delar av vår brevväxling.
Since I bought the Jim Ford album "Harlan County" many years ago I have always wondered who is Susanna Jordan that wrote the beautiful song "Changin' Colors", which is included on the Ford album? So, you´re the person behind this lovely tune. I´m really glad I found you.
Hello Per, how great to hear from you! Yes I did write that song. Soon after that recording I changed my name to Sidonie Jordan and I also used the name Sydney Foxx. So it is no wonder you could not find me! Well done and thanks to Mike Stax from 'Ugly Things Magazine' for hooking us up!
Did you record ”Changin´Colors” as a demo before Ford recorded it?
Yes I made a demo of it but have not heard it in years. I think it was done at A&M Records when I was a staff writer there or it could have been recorded on my step fathers home reel to reel!
Have you got a copy of it? It would be interesting hearing it.
I think I might be able to locate a copy of the original demo. I will definitely try!
”Changin' Colors" is such a mature song with strong and brilliant lyrics. It's about unfaithfulness and you must have been very young when you wrote it. Can you remember your inspiration for the song. Young and unhappy? It's a hell of a song to write that young.
Thank you! Yes, I was young and unhappy when I wrote it. You are correct it is about unfaithfulness! I was a very thoughtful young person and it was the mid sixties. We were starting to come out of the age of contemporary 'Folk Music' into Rock Music! R&B and Country were always stable and strong musical genres in the USA. They have transformed but not changed that much. But music was changing fast in the mid 60s.
Did you write other songs with the same kind of soulful feeling at the time?
Yes, In the beginning of my career, which I started at 15, I always wrote moody songs like Changing Colors. My first single was called 'All God's Mornings', released on MGM Curb in 69 or 70. It was about people hurting each other and not caring. Pete Townshend (The Who) recorded a version of it with me singing lead for his 'With Love' Album. He played all the instruments on it except guitar which my then husband Peter Banks (Yes) played, and they both sang backing. It was recorded at his studio on Eel Pie Island.
I write happier songs now!
Did you know there´s also a version of "Changin' Colors" by an English group called Harlan County, named after the magnificent Jim Ford album.
I had no idea that anyone else recorded it. Since I lived in the UK for many years, I am happy it was a UK group that recorded it! Thank you so very much for sending it! Amazing to hear a Brit emulate a southern style! Not sure anyone could top Jim Fords version though. He was a very smooth singer and knew how to lift phrases with his choice of notes.
Have you heard the Webb Wilder version from his album "More Like Me" from 2009.
His arrangement is similar to Jimmy's! I had no idea he had recorded it until you sent it to me. Thanks so much for that one as well! It is a great surprise!
How did you get to know Jim Ford?
I do not remember where I met Jim Ford. I think we were both on Sundown records. I ran across a letter after my mother died, that she wrote to a record company. I will try and find it and see if Sundown is the record label she was negotiating with!
You must have played Jim Ford your demo of "Changin' Colors" What was his reaction?
I do not think I played it to Jim. I think we were on the same record label and that is how he heard it. They were probably looking for songs for him.
Was the arrangement yours or did Ford have his own interpretation of the song?
Jimmy sang the melody similar to how I wrote it but he improved it with his own ideas in places. He put a lot of emotion into it. And my demo of it would have been just a vocal with guitar at that time. He brought it to life with his recording. And of course I was really happy it became the B side of his single 'Harlan County'.
I loved 'Harlan County'. And I love his version of my song. The way he sings the lyrics 'For the first time, I see you' blows me away still. He could really sing! He should have been a major artist!
Were you at the time aware of Ford´s capacity as a songwriter?
Yes, I knew he was incredibly talented as a writer. But I had no idea until recently that so many people had covered his songs. I did not know Jimmy real well. I was very young and I think he was protective of me as I never saw the hard partying guy that others saw.
Jimmy was a real gentleman who believed in me and when a great songwriter records one of your songs it is a great honour. I am not surprised so many others recorded his songs!
Did you and Ford ever work together writing songs?
No sadly we never wrote together.
Ford was well respected by artists like Sly Stone and Bobby Womack. Did you know them as well
I saw Sly play at the Whiskey and remember being in a room at a party with him but did not know him or Bobby Womack.
What was Los Angeles like in those days?
Los Angeles was fun in the 60s, and if you were estranged from your family as I was, it was probably one of the best places to have been. The police were a bit over the top and seem to be out to arrest hippies at every opportunity, and they were very hard to avoid!
I used to hang out with Kim Fowley, Chuck Negron before his 'Three Dog Night' days and I remember parties with The Turtles, The Moody Blues, and the Dave Clark Five who I worked with in 1965 on a TV Pilot called 'The Happeners'. I recall riding to a Crosby Stills and Nash gig with Nash in a Limousine, and taking a spin through the Hollywood hills in Johnny Barbata's (Jefferson Starship) Red Ferrari!
Lot of fun things that are like photographs in my memory now!
In my early days in Hollywood I was a part time go go dancer at the Whiskey. I loved dancing! I saw so many great groups play there. I remember the days of psychedelic patterns being projected onto the walls and it was always full of pretty girls they let in for free! Never any trouble. The 60s was a very innocent peaceful era! Except for Viet Nam!
The 'Riot House' was a popular place to hang out as all the groups used to stay there or at the Chateau Marmont! L.A. was all about going out to clubs and restaurants and hanging out on the Sunset Strip. Things changed after the Tate murders in the summer of 1969. After that , L.A. seemed to go dark. The streets emptied and everyone seem to go inside and stay there!
You hanged out with Kim Fowley, P J Proby and Jim Ford, that must have been pretty wild?
Yes they all have reputations of being wild! But truly they were never wild around me. They were all gentlemen. Kim has been accused of bad things by a former 'Runaways' band member, but I never saw that side of him.
Kim and I hung out at the Whiskey and the local coffee shops. PJ and I hung out at his house (or where he was staying). I remember sitting on a roof with him and singing songs. Jimmy was great too. Always like a brother or band mate. It was a long time ago! But they were all really cool and down to earth!
How did you become one of the Ikettes?
I got the Tina Turner audition from my good friend Al McKay who was her guitar player and later played for 'Earth Wind and Fire'. Tina liked my dancing and I could sing the 'high' third harmony, so I got the job. There were no white Ikettes when I was with her. One of the Ikettes was a long time mistress to Ike Turner. And the other was the one that had been with her forever. I think it was Esther Jone but I cannot remember.
I was not with her long and there have been a lot of Ikettes through the years. So I am not surprised that Tina forgot about me when she wrote her book. She said there had been only 'two' white Ikettes when I was number three! Perhaps it was because I had quit so soon after joining. I think I only played two gigs with her. A real shame after all the rehearsing. Tina rehearsed like no one I have ever worked with. Sadly I left because I witnessed Ike become violent with her. I could not handle it. She hugged me when I left the band and said she understood why. I silently cheered her when she got away from Ike. And I loved that she enjoyed a new even more successful career after leaving him. She is an incredibly warm and loving woman. I adored her!
Tell Me about your work together with Sharon Sheeley, Phil Everly and Chris White. All three are kind of heavy names to me. Sheeley was the girlfriend of Eddie Cochran and together with him she wrote "Something Else". She also wrote - together with Jackie DeShannon - "Breakaway" for Irma Thomas and "Poor Little Fool" for Ricky Nelson. Phil Everly was part of the great, great Everly Brothers and Chris White was in the The Zombies and wrote some of their best songs.
I think it was Jimmy who hooked me up with Sharon Sheeley. We wrote together for a time. I think we had one song released on a single. She was good friends with Phil Everly and we wrote a song for him called 'San Jose'. We went to his home in L.A. and I played and sang the song to him. He asked me to sing it "just one more time". Then he said to me "With Flowers like this in the garden, why should I worry?' I think he was going through a break up and our song was written about that. I also have a memory of riding with him in one of his beautiful cars through the Hollywood Hills one day. It was pretty cool! I had been a fan since I was ten!
Sharon was lovely. She had never gotten over the trauma of Eddies death and being in the car with him and badly injured. Both she and Phil are gone now. They were icons of a different America. I also used to listen to Poor Little Fool as a child and loved it! Sharon could write lyrics!
The Zombies were my favorite 60s band. So when I moved into a flat in Sloane Square in London and found that Chris White was my landlord, I freaked! I got to sing on many demos of Chris's and we became good friends. He came to my place years later in Surrey to hook up my first home recording studio! Lots of great memories of being with Chris!
Meeting people one admires and whose music you love and getting to work with them as well, is one of the best things about being in the music business. It still amazes me!
Have you co-worked with other well known songwriters.
Because I was a recording artist myself I did not write with many others. I wish I had done!
I understand you worked for A&M Records as a songwriter.
Yes, I had a songwriting deal with A&M Records by the early 70s. Peyton Place the famous 'first soap' on Television wanted to include a musical group in the program to improve ratings with young people. I was part of the band called 'the Pillory'. We recorded the songs at A&M and that led to A&M offering me a songwriting deal.
What was L.A. like for a young female songwriter?
It can be tough if you are not very grounded! By the time you figure out what it takes to be successful in the entertainment business you are usually too old to be successful! You really need to have a mentor or someone guiding you. It is very hard otherwise. There are fast tracks to success but they are treacherous and require compromising or forgetting one's principles or personal integrity. Not worth it to me. My career definitely suffered from not going along with the status quo but I think my difficulty was more to do with not having someone to represent or guide me. I am lucky that I was able to spend most of my life in the UK. It is easier there, less pressure but also probably less opportunity.
I was talking to Jimi Hendrix outside the Whiskey one night and he said that if I found it hard in L.A. that I should go to England as I would find great musicians there to work with. I am glad I took his advice.
You married Peter Banks - who was in the The Syn (of "14 Hour Technicolor Dream" fame) and later in YES - 1973 and moved to England where the two of you started the band Empire and recorded three albums. I´m not a big fan of progressiv rock so you have to help me here.
That's OK! It is Rock Music for intellectuals! I was never a big fan but it definitely grew on me and as a singer and songwriter it provided me with an excellent musical education. Peter Banks my ex husband, is considered by many to be one of the best guitar players in rock music. They call him "The architect of progressive rock". We met at the Whiskey when he was playing there with his band 'FLASH' He had called me to ask about the best place to buy a guitar in L.A. His drummer was dating my sister and she gave him my number. He invited me to the Whiskey and that is how we met. We were married for about ten years and you are correct, we recorded three albums...Empire Mark I, Empire Mark II and Empire Mark III. A fourth album was released last year by Gonzo Records called Peter Banks 'The Mars Tapes'. It was a collection of live recordings we did at Mars Rehearsal Studios in L.A.
Charlie Gillett wanted you to sign with his company Oval Records, which had some interesting releases by artists like Johnnie Allan and Barbara Lynn. What happened?
Wow, well this is one of my regrets. I had a hard decision to make. Sign with Oval Records or return to the states to work with Bob Guadio. I had done some recording with Charlies people in the UK and he offered me contracts. I was also offered a production deal with Bob Guadio (Four Seasons, Neil Diamond). I chose the deal with Bob. I apologized to Charlie Gillet who was wonderful to me! I wish I could have done both.
What was your connection with the band Crazy Horse?
Crazy Horse recorded my song 'Rock and Roll Band'. In the old days the union carefully controlled all recording sessions and you could be fined if you got caught doing a 'non' union session called a 'scab' session. I wanted to perform on 'The Midnight Special' TV music show and had a contact with the producer Burt Sugarman. So I sneaked some of Crazy Horse, Greg Leroy who was a good mate, and others into one of the studios at A&M (where I was allowed to do demos with one instrument only) and we recorded the song while watching out for 'Union' guys. We also recorded the song 'Hear My Voice' which got me my appearance on 'The Midnight Special'. Greg and the guys performed the song live with me on the show. Rock and Roll band is on their album 'Crazy Horse at Crooked Lake' and was released as a single. It is still selling in Japan!
One day I was rehearsing at SIR Studios in L.A. and Neil Young came in and asked me to play Rock and Roll Band for him. So I sat at the piano and played and sang it to him. Pretty cool! I was a major fan of his in my youth!
I have been so fortunate to work with the people I have. I have learned from them, enjoyed making music with them and continue to be amazed at their creativity and output.
Please tell me about your own recording career.
I am currently recording with Jez Larder from Skyline Studios UK. I wish I had met him earlier in my career as he is the perfect partnership for me. He is a wonderful producer, programmer musician and engineer who has his own recording studio 'Skyline Studios UK'. Anyone who has the chance to work with him is very lucky including David Bowie who he has done programming for and all the artists he works with week after week.
Together we have created an award winning catalogue of tracks that have been covered by other artists and we are now working on material for one off projects for Film and TV. And continuing writing songs for other artists. Some of our songs can be heard at Soundcloud
My first British single release was on the legendary reggae record label 'Trojan Records.' It is called 'Something About You' and was produced by Cecil 'Guitar' Smith, (who I am hoping Jez and I will be doing some recording with now that he is living in Florida!) I am a huge fan of Reggae music and it was wonderful to be included as an artist on 'Trojan Records' and to have been able to work with someone like Cecil Smith! who is an artist in his own right!
Jez and I have also produced other artist through the years. And had our own girl band called 'Cyan' who gigged for two summers in the UK and appeared with Robbie Williams in a video. We also wrote for and produced a wonderful artist who has supported Beyonce on tour, 'Katy Shotter'
I co wrote some songs with Ray Bennett from 'Flash', Two songs he and I recorded together were included in his last solo album 'Angels and Ghosts'! And we are hoping to get him to play on some of our new tracks. He is also an amazing artist!
How did you get to know Pete Townshend?
Peter Banks knew him from his days with 'YES' at the Marquee in London. They both played there with Hendrix and other guitar greats. It must have been an amazing time. Pete Townshend said that Peters playing took off where his own playing ended. He admired Peters lightening flash leads. And his use of the 'pedal board' which I think Peter was the first to ever use. Townshend came to the studio where we were recording and I played him a song of mine called 'All God's Mornings'. He asked me to record it with him. So we did. He offered Peter and I a publishing deal. Pete Townshend was a super energetic creative man. very tall and charismatic and fun to work with. He played every instrument on my song but guitar. And he and Peter sang backing vocals!
We also visited him in the studio when he was recording with the 'WHO'. Keith Moon was laying down drum tracks..They all got into an argument and broke up while were were there which I heard was something that happened on a regular basis! An old friend of mine 'Heather Taylor' who was my stand in in my first TV Pilot called 'The Happener's' married Roger Daltry! And I remember being in L.A. and going to a birthday party for 'Moonie' who happily ran off with a girl who popped out of a cake! I think she was his birthday gift!
What other artists have recorded you songs?
Not a lot really. Now that I do not have the pressure of having to be an 'artist' myself I am enjoying writing for others. I presently work with Jez Larder who owns 'Skyline Studios' in the UK. We have enjoyed some success with other artists covering our songs. Cyan (a girl band we managed and produced), Neverblue (A wonderful girl boy duo, Katy Shotter (who opened for Beyonce on tour) Tanja (a Scandinavian artist), Karl William Lund (An Irish singer songwriter) and Terry Adams and Chesney Hawkes who produced a version of our song '21st Century'.
We also have won awards for two of our songs, '21st Century' and 'Fly Away'! The work I have done with Jez has been the best of my career and the most enjoyable.
We are also working with Mark Murdock a producer/writer who was drummer for 'Empirer III' and works with Japanese Prog Rock Band 'Machine Messiah', 'Cymbalic Encounters' and 'Brand X'
Thankfully I am very productive today! And I have a mentor now, one of the managers I mentioned earlier 'Michel Martin'. So with her help we hope to be able to submit music for TV and Movies here and in Europe. And if someone wants to record one of our songs well that would be the 'icing on the cake'!
It feels great to know more about the person behind the lovely song Changin' Colors. I wish you all the best Sid. Thank you for taking the time!
Thanks for your time Per! It was fun xx'
|On tour with John Stewart|