So I went back to a couple of old favourites - Gustav Mahler and Pink Floyd. The albums in question were Mahler's fifth symphony (probably my favourite symphony) and The Final Cut by Floyd. The latter is a hugely depressing work by Roger Waters.
Yesterday I mentioned an article about the song Daydream Believer and an article I had written for this web site - part of that article is reproduced below.
The fascination to me of Daydream Believer is the fact that virtually everyone knows the song but very few people know the name of the American singer-songwriter who composed it.
Many will recognise it as a song that was a massive hit for the Monkees and many believe it was written by band members.
Daydream Believer was written by the supremely talented American singer-songwriter John Stewart. Stewart was a member of The Kingston Trio and wrote the song shortly before leaving the group.
John Stewart was born on September 5th, 1939, in San Diego, California and sang with the trio from 1961 to 1967. Before that he was a member of the Cumberland Three. Stewart decided on a solo career after leaving the Kingston Trio and in 1969 recorded arguably his best album California Bloodlines which was named by the influential Rolling Stones magazine as one of the best 200 albums of all time. The album is full of some excellent Americana with stand out tracks including "July You're a Woman," "California Bloodlines,"Mother Country" and "Missouri Birds."
On my own web site I refer to California Bloodlines as: "A beautiful album that oozes California sunshine. It's an album about the state, about friendship, about old people but above all a beautiful evocation of the American landscape and a country celebration." I have rated it number 11 in my all time favourite albums.
John Stewart continued to hone his songwriting skills on a series of excellent albums, bursting with instantly recognisable melodies that have sadly been largely overlooked. His biggest success as a solo artist came when he teamed up with Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham and had a hit album with "Bombs Away Dream Babies" which spawned the top 10 single "Gold." In later years many of his songs were recorded by top class country and folk artists such as Nancy Griffith and Joan Baez. John Stewart died from a stroke on January 19th, 2008. I managed to catch one of John's later concerts in London by which time he was struggling physically with touring. I wish I could have seen and heard him when he was at his best.
But to return to Daydream Believer. This is how the song came about. Stewart’s friend Chip Douglas was producing the Monkees and asked him if he had any songs for the group. Daydream Believer had already been turned down by We Five (a band which featured John's brother) and Spanky and Our Gang. Stewart offered the song and Douglas felt it could be a hit. At this point the song hit a problem. RCA Records didn’t like the word Funky in the lyric “You once thought of me as a white knight on a steed. Now you know how funky I can be.” Stewart didn’t like the idea of changing funky to happy but relented when he was assured it would be a hit.
"Daydream Believer" was recorded for the Monkees’ 1967 album "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd" but eventually appeared a year later on “The Birds, The Bees and the Monkees". The track features Michael Nesmith on lead guitar, Peter Tork on piano, Jones on lead vocals and Micky Dolenz on backing vocals. Allegedly Jones was initially not sure about the song’s potential, but he changed his views on it when it became a hit.
John Stewart recorded the song himself for his 1971 album "The Lonesome Picker Rides Again." This was a much slower and folkier version and restored the word funky to replace happy. It also changed the words "shaving razor is cold" to "shaving razor is old". Towards the end the song also veers off course in comparison to the Monkees effort. He sings “to a Lonesome Picker and a homecoming queen” and “to an old surfer drummer and a homecoming queen” and “to old Nashville Carter and a homecoming queen."
In interviews, Stewart stated that he originally envisioned the song as demonstrating the process of a relationship where, at the start, both parties are in an idealistic haze, but later artifice falls away and each are confronted with their real selves, thus it's this point where love is really proven. Hence his initial insistence on the adjective "funky," as if to suggest his lover has grown to accept his less-pleasant aspects.
In a 2006 interview which is readily available on YouTube, John Stewart described how he wrote "Daydream Believer."
"I would go into the music room and write all day, every day. Daydream Believer started as part of a suburban trilogy. I remember going to bed and thinking all I have done today is write Daydream Believer. I almost scrapped it as the words 'to a' just didn't fit in. Chip Douglas was producing the Monkees and asked me if I had a song for them and I said YES I do.
"RCA wouldn't let Davy sing the word funky. They wanted to use the word happy. They said if he can't sing happy they (The Monkees) won't do it. I said happy works real good for me now.
"That song has kept me alive for all these years. It just proves you don't know a hit until it is a hit. I used to sing it in the middle of my show and got no reaction."
Anne Murray included the song on her 1979 album, “I’ll Always Love You.” The following year her single peaked at number one on the U.S Adult Contemporary chart, and number twelve on the pop chart. In addition her version peaked at number three on the country chart. She re-released the song as a duet with Nelly Furtado on her 2008 album, Anne Murray Duets: Friends and Legends.”.
John Stewart was married to fellow singer Buffy Ford Stewart for 42 years. On her web site she refers to her husband as "my one and only love. I will always grieve for him". She dedicated her 2013 album "Same Old Heart" to her late husband and also Davy Jones, who died from a heart attack in 2012. Shortly before his death Jones recorded a new version of "Daydream Believer" with Buffy Ford. It turned out to be his last ever recording and is included on "Same Old Heart" and the 2015 Buffy Ford album Angel Rain. For these versions Jones re-introduced the word funky and realised for the first time that he had used the word cold rather than old to describe the razor. Again he put this right.
Versions of Daydream Believer:
The following artists have recorded the song (the list doesn't include best of and compilation albums)
1968 – The Monkees - The Birds, The Bees and the Monkees
1971 – John Stewart – The Lonesome Picker Rides Again
1979 - Anne Murray – I’ll Always Love You
2000 – Mary Beth Maziarz – A More Perfect World
2008 – Anne Murray – Anne Murray Duets Friends and Legends (duet with Nelly Furtado)
2009 - Susan Boyle - I Dreamed a Dream
2012 – Renee and Jeremy – A Little Love (children’s record)
2012 – Davy Jones (single)
2013 - Buffy Ford Stewart - Same Old Heart (duet with Davy Jones)
2015 - Buffy Ford Stewart - Angel Rain (duet with Davy Jones)
The song has also been covered in live concerts by many artists including U2, The Edge and The Four Tops.
The sources for the material mentioned above are as follows:
Wikipedia page for John Stewart
Wikipedia page for Daydream Believer
Buffy Ford Stewart's official web site
The Steward Family of Hethersett web site
YouTube Interview with John Stewart on writing Daydream Believer