23 December 2010

David Hemmings - 1967 - Happens

Quality: 3 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

Actor David Hemmings, best known for his starring role in the classic Blow-Up, accepted the call that many other actors have heard, and attempted to cut an album. Fortunately for us, it's a psychedelic folk-rock oddity - certainly of more interest to my loyal blog readers than the musical rantings of Bruce Willis or David Hasselholf (although the latter's drunken video rantings are worth a listen). The main thing holding this album back from greatness, however, is Hemmings voice. Actually, his tonality and expressiveness are pretty solid, but I'll be damned if the man ever managed to sing a note in key. But this album fortunately has a few perks to get your attention. Hemmings enlisted Byrds Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman to help out along with their manager Jim Dickson, along with a pretty fine outtake from former Byrd Gene Clark.

This album basically carves up into three slices. We get a cover of Gene Clark's "Back Street Mirror," which is a great track, and some pretty good folk-rockin' takes on Tim Hardin's "Reason To Believe," and Bill Martin's "After the Rain." There are then a few versions of tradition folk songs, which are perfectly listenable save for the fact that Hamming can't quite hit the right note. They definitely don't compare to the Byrds' takes on traditional folk. When a few of the aforementioned Byrds do show up on "Good King James," "Talking L.A.," and "War's Mystery," they seem to being trying their best to recreate Tim Buckley's Goodbye and Hello, which would have worked out much better if Hemmings had perfect, or even ok, pitch. Well, maybe "Talking L.A." is more like Hemmings trying to sound like Jim Morrison if he woke up one morning and found himself Bob Dylan. On the plus side, you do get a large serving of McGuinn's 12-string Rickenbacker playing in its prime. You probably won't feel the need to append these tracks to Younger Than Yesterday or The Notorious Byrd Brothers, but they do make for a nice curio.

David Hemmings solo LP is far from an embarrassment, and serves as a hip signifier of the Summer of Love, but I would like to send him Auto-Tune through some kind of time transportation machine (and this is coming from a man who typically loathes Auto-Tune). Byrds historians of course must hear this, and they won't necessarily have a bad time either. That said, for Hemmings at his best, go rent Blow-Up.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention David Hemmings part in the movie, Barbarella, a psychedelic movie with a interesting soundtrack. While the OST was not typical psych, its an worthwhile listen.
George T.

Dr. Schluss said...

I've actually only seen the nekkid striptease scene from 'Barbarella.' I guess we all have movies we haven't gotten around to watching yet.

Gary Norris said...

very cool. the craziest star turned singer turn has to be peter wyngarde's "when sex leers its inquisitive head". ionly thought about it because of the reference to barbarella. made me snicker.

thanks for the hemmings^^

pcoristi said...

I love this guy's voice. He did the narration for Rick Wakeman's concept album "Journey to the Centre of the Earth." Very Richard Burton-ee. Angus Macfadyen (who played Robert the Bruce in Braveheart) always reminds me of Hemmings.

pcoristi said...

So, I've listened to Mr. Hemming's Happenings and I gotta say just a little disappointed. He did have an amazing speaking voice but it doesn't really shine here. He doesn't do too badly with the more traditional sounding stuff (I liked Anathea which reminded me of Pentangle) but the Indian stylings of Good King James were obviously beyond his limited abilities--yikes! Did make me laugh though...sorry David.

zappahead said...

I remember him for his acting prowress so this comes as a suprise to know he recorded an album.....mind you, why should it?...it was the 60's...ha ha ...thanks for the share...cheers.

Hausmeister said...

ii think its fits to David Hemmings personality doing the balancing act from acting so singing - maybe its part of his role that he´s doing more "tone searching" than singing.

btw, listening to that album is an experience per se.

thank you very much to be the guide to these obscure scenes

may your day be light - Hausmeister

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