If you know anything at all about Fred Neil, you probably know that he wrote “Everybody’s Talkin'”, the song that became a hit for Harry Nilsson when it was featured in Midnight Cowboy in 1969. You probably don’t know that he was an influential folksinger in the early 1960’s (getting lost amid the shuffle in a place and time that produced numerous musical legends), and before that a session guitarist and professional songwriter in the storied Brill Building. He played guitar on Bobby Darin’s 1958 hit “Dream Lover” and wrote “Candy Man” for Roy Orbison (admittedly a rather weak entry as the B-side of the amazing “Crying” single). His voice could have fit well in Nashville, but his songs were pure Greenwich Village. He never became famous because he never sought the limelight, and eventually abandoned the music business to become an advocate for dolphins.
One of my favorite Neil tunes, lyrically speaking, is That’s the Bag I’m In, from the same 1966 self-titled album that contained “Everybody’s talkin'”. (By the way, that’s Canned Heat’s Al Wilson on harmonica.) I also love this cover by The Fabs, a garage band from Fullerton, California, included on the Back from the Grave Vol. 1 comp.
“They’ll probably drop the bomb the day my ship comes in.” I feel that way a lot these days, too. You could do worse than to have Chinese Yen, though.