Spin #24 : Jim Sullivan : UFO
Musicians on Album: Jim Sullivan (vocals, guitar), Don Randi (keyboards), Earl Palmer (drums), Lyle Ritz and Max Bennett (bass guitar), Jimmy Bond (string bass)
** Currently, 'UFO' album is not available on Spotify - Check out a couple of his songs that appear on both 'UFO' and 'If The Evening Were Dawn' **
Jim Sullivan : UFO Year Released : 1969 Produced by Al Dobbs, Chad Dulaney and Norman Skolnik Label: Light In The Attic Records Price Range: $50+AUD Speed: 33 1/3RPM Album Before : N/A (debut) Album After : Jim Sullivan (self-titled) 1972 Further Listening : Harlan County - Jim Ford (1969) LP : 1 x Coke bottle coloured LP Mood for enjoying: I could listen to this record at any moment and be transported to a happier place. Soothing, calming and would go nicely with a whisky (or cuppa). Track Listing:
LP Side A
Jerome - 2:47
Plain As Your Eyes Can See - 2:27
Roll Back The Time - 2:14
Whistle Stop - 2:37
Rosey - 3:21
Side B Highways - 2:51
U.F.O - 2:50
So Natural - 3:02
Johnny - 4:05
Sandman - 2:31
What's in the Sleeve ? 1 x LP - Pink (salmon) label and coke bottle translucent green pressing, gatefold sleeve, 16 page booklet with backstory and lyrics, art print. Cover colour changed from original to salmon pink to match (original release was blue).
"I'm here honey dry your eyes. Reach your arms out to me. I have made it after such a long ride. Honey now your Sandman's back in town" ~ Sandman-Side B
Welcome to Spin #24 - Jim Sullivan - UFO
This week I have chosen a record that first caught my attention by listening to the song, 'Sandman'. I was instantly hooked and delved a little deeper into the artist before being captivated and saddened by his backstory. That record is 'U.F.O' by singer-songwriter, Jim Sullivan, released in 1969. I was deciding for quite a while before purchasing this record and kept streaming songs from Sullivan that I could find. I would listen to them before bed and kept feeling a bit attached to this artist for some reason and in the end, I decided to purchase from Vinyl Me, Please (check out in liner notes section above for further information on VMP). Something triggers within me when it comes to unsolved crimes/stories and my mind begins to go into overdrive in order to resolve it.
Whether it's a documentary (check out The Staircase, The Sons of Sam or Sophie: A Murder in West Cork) or in this case the unsolved disappearance of Jim Sullivan, my mind needs to make sense of it. Obviously, a lot of these will never be solved but that's a bit of insight into my mind.
For this weeks Spin, I have decided to make the most of the sun in our front room as it has been raining so much lately. Our little ones are also making the most of the sunshine filtering through the window by playing and listening along. For the moment we are using our Audio Technica AT-LP60XBT and Marshall Woburn II speaker set-up, but the idea is to eventually upgrade this turntable. Just had a few records lately that require an adjustable tonearm, weight, anti-skate etc.
Jim Sullivan walking across the sand....sadly, no one knows what happened to him. Read on for more below!
Drop the Needle (of course means place the stylus nicely on your wax):
The quality of this repress by Light in the Attic and Vinyl Me, Please is just second to none. The weight of the LP, the artwork and booklet make this pressing all the more impressive as I place the coke bottle coloured wax onto the turntable. Now, the backstory of Sullivan is one of intrigue and ambiguity as no one really knows what happened to him, even till this day.
Sullivan or Sully as he was affectionately known by his friends was struggling with the idea that his music wasn't successful. He had all the talent to be a star, except it wasn't aligning for him at the time. He decided in 1975 to head across the country from LA to Nashville and somewhere in Santa Rosa, New Mexico vanished without a trace. Now there are all kinds of theories online about Sullivan's disappearance from alien abduction, mob hit by the mafia and accidental death by police during a traffic stop. The facts that we do know is that Sullivan called his wife Barbara and sounded very sketchy. He was saying things like "you wouldn't believe me if I told you" and " just forget I said anything, I'll call you from Nashville". Barbara was so disturbed by his phone call that she turned around to her mother and said "I think that might be the last time I speak to Jim".
People say that he had to have left not on his own accord as he never would have left his guitar behind in his VW Beetle. Unfortunately, that is exactly what was found in the car, along with his records, cassettes and other personal effects. So sad to think that there is absolutely no trace of him anywhere and no closure for his family and friends. All we have left of him is his music so lets get into the Spin.
As the first song begins to come through the speaker I can hear the clarity in this pressing and appreciate the lengths that have gone into the restoration and repress of 'U.F.O.'. Our son is grooving along and swinging his hips side to side like a little pendulum whilst our almost one year old daughter is rocking back and forth to the beat. Instantly getting smiles around the room for the first song, 'Jerome'. I think its just something in Sullivan's voice and the feeling of the song that makes you feel like you are going on a drive through the countryside. "Where is there I want to go? Where is where it's at Jerome? Is it a place out there? Just a town down there, if you're driving slow". You have to remember that this album was released in 1969 and Sullivan didn't go missing until 1975. There are some lyrics throughout the album that you can't help, as the listener, feel are eerily linked to the theories surrounding his disappearance.
The start of the second song, 'Plain As Your Eyes Can See' and end of 'Jerome' go well together and I like the supporting musicians, Palmer, Ritz, Bennett, Bond and Randi. On 'U.F.O' there is a real feeling of relaxing and sounds of rock & roll, country and folk all merged into one. Especially when, I think, the electric organ is playing the beat off against the drums of Palmer. I like that the lyrics really send you into deep thought - "I started thinking about those voices in the crowd. Words that started with a whisper, It seems they've gotten all too loud". It sounds very happy at first listen but the more that I get into these songs, they all have their moments of sadness in them. I guess the power of music will never be understood because everyone will feel different levels of connection, based on what outside factors are happening to that individual at the time. Sullivan has just provided something similar to a comfort food or blanket for the ears with this album.
'Roll Back The Time' is the third song on Side A and has that folk/country feeling about it even more so that the previous tracks. "Oh the clock on the wall is a fine clock, chasing the minutes in a climb". Very up tempo song with ascending style of guitar chords being played. Hard to choose a favourite song so far as this album is very enjoyable. It is a shame that this record isn't available on spotify for everyone to hear whilst they read our Spin. Sullivan is very captivating when he sings "And you have sold me a ticket of tears for a while" . Please make sure you can locate a copy of this pressing as it's a must in anyone's collection. The question being asked is, "Why can't I just roll back the time?". As I look over towards the direction of our children I can see our little girl looking through the glass section of the internal front door. I can hear her laughing and realise that our 3 1/2 year old is pulling faces and laughing on the other side at her. They really can make a game out of anything can't they and I'm realising just how quickly they are growing up. Our little girl will be one next week.
The slowness of 'Whistle Stop' comes through the Marshall Woburn II with a nice drum start. Sullivan then starts singing, "Thunder and lighting in my eyes and when the train began to move then she waved goodbye". I find that the more I focus on Sullivan's voice, the more I get sucked into his words and realising how sad this track is. I like the bass line on this one but I'm not sure who played on this song as there are two bassist on the Fender (Ritz or Bennett). It could also be the String bassist Bond but either way, the bassline is killer. Such a strong debut and really unbelievable that upon release, 'U.F.O' didn't have very much success. I suppose in 1969 there was a hell of a lot of competition with albums such as:
- Abbey Road - The Beatles
- Let It Bleed - The Rolling Stones
- Nashville Skyline - Bob Dylan
- Led Zeppelin II - Led Zeppelin
- Tommy - The Who
- Kick Out The Jams - MC5
- Space Oddity - David Bowie
- In the Court of the Crimson King - King Crimson
- Everybody Knows this is Nowhere - Neil Young
The last song on Side A is, 'Rosey' which is talking about a woman named Rosey (Obviously!). What isn't obvious is just who that person was. "Just those diamonds in his eyes, every time he looks inside your head, and he sees a part of you". The middle of the song makes me think of intermission style music between scenes in a classic movie, like Funny Face starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. He was a tall fella who had the scripted high school life - quarterback marries home coming queen. If there is a criticism to be had on this strong album it would be that 'Rosey' ends suddenly. It seemed as though the song was caught between deciding if it was going to fade out or just come to an abrupt end.
*** RYLO FLIPS THE LP AND SITS BACK DOWN ***
After treading on a few blocks of Duplo, which have been lovingly spread around the ground like land mines by our children, we are ready to listen to Side B.
Loving the string arrangement on this introduction and the highs and lows of 'Highways' fills the sun room. Sullivan's sings the haunting - "There's a highway, telling me where to go where I can". I really like this song and the use of tambourine. 'Highways' lyrics are what is likely to have been the thoughts of Sullivan in 1975. It's hard not to link what must have been going through his mind at the time of his disappearance and this song. Was he walking down the highway and just decided to keep walking? It's hard to imagine but not impossible to think he wanted to get away from his life and start over. I guess the other thought is, did something bad happen to Sullivan out on the road, which required him to hitchhike the last part of his trip? I did find myself pondering that thought quite a bit during this song, providing contrast between the music and the image in your mind of Sullivan walking. At least 'Highways' fades out better than the last song on Side A.
The title track, 'U.F.O' is asking a lot of questions and the most obvious one is "Did he come by U.F.O?". Hard to compare him to others but he has a bit of Cash, Dylan, Morrison, Young and Haggard all rolled into one here. "Too much goodness is a sin today". Is this another song alluding to the future incident, abducted by aliens! Well it is a theory held by some regarding his disappearance. I've been following along here with the included booklet and lyrics and still admiring the quality of the gatefold as I hold that in my hands. 'U.F.O' fades out into the old movie soundtrack style song of 'So Natural'.
As we listen along, it makes me picture a Clint Eastwood movie on a cinema screen and this song being played. Maybe when he was playing the character of Harry Callahan and driving around the streets of San Francisco, this song could fit nicely. Sullivan sounds like he is sitting further back as he sings about either his or someone else's demise. Very sad lyrics here - "It's my time to go, I just want the wind to blow my ashes till they're completely out of sight". A very sombre and healing song in my opinion that fades out before the start of the deeper and more Dylan-esque sounds of 'Johnny'.
'Johnny' is probably the song with heaviest bass line on the album and I had to turn down the bass on the Woburn II speaker. Not sure who Johnny is that Sullivan is referring too but this track is probably my least favourite track on the record but by no means a bad song. There is one moment towards the end where it sounds funky and classical all at the same time (hard to explain). I guess you will just have to find a copy and experience it for yourself.
Like I said earlier, the one song that I heard first and had to keep playing over and over until I ended up purchasing this record is the last on Side B and the album. It is called, 'Sandman'. No matter how many times I listen to this song I always get drawn in. To the composition, feeling and vocals of Sullivan - for me is the best song. "Here I am at your back porch door, will you kindly let me in?", makes me think of a scene from Tru Blood. Another example of having an up-tempo song combined with the sadness of Sullivan's lyrics. There is a rawness and realness to his style of music that gladly was not lost forever. Side B comes to an end with the words, "Honey now your Sandman's back in town". I am looking at the image on the gatefold of Sullivan walking across the sand (please see above image).
A part of me wants to solve this case and get some closure for his family, friends and fans but unfortunately that will never be the case. I have looked into his second record, 'self-titled' and purchased that one because of how much I enjoyed his debut. I don't have his posthumous release , 'If The Evening Were Dawn' but I'm sure at some point I will add to our collection. If you enjoyed this week's Spin #24 U.F.O by Jim Sullivan then please get involved on our social pages and the comments section below. We love interacting with you all and talking all things music.