What do the following songs all have in common?
- Leo Sayer: “When I Need You”
- Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias: “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”
- Diana Ross: “When You Tell Me That You Love Me”
- The Pipkins: “Gimme Dat Ting”
- The Hollies: “The Air That I Breathe”
Along with dozens of other successful songs in all sorts of styles, from the late 1960s through to 2010 or so, they were all either written or co-written by a guy called Albert Hammond. No relation to the Hammond of Hammond Organ fame.
Like a lot of prolific songwriters, Hammond never quite broke through as a major recording artist. If you have heard the name, it would probably be for “It Never Rains in Southern California”, a top ten hit in 1972 which was really his only major personal success. I knew that song, but not the name. One thing I did know: lack of mainstream success and recognition does not mean lack of talent.
Hammond is an accomplished musician and singer, something which comes through even on this sad and battered single. There is second-hand vinyl which has been played and played and so has a lot of wear. Then there is second-hand vinyl which seems to have spent a few months on the floor on the passenger side of my car. This is one of those: it plays, but high fidelity it ain’t.
The A side, “Down by the River” was the sort of not-quite-hit which Hammond had a lot of. It is a nice track – an early environmental anthem, deploring the poisoning of the waterways. It is, as such songs tend to be, a little didactic, but it has a dollop of humour which helps, and it zings along with a rollicking banjo.
Unfortunately, on my copy it sounds like it has just been fished out of a polluted river, and anyway I want to share the B side.
In a way, it is just yet-another-love-song, but I feel there is something special about it. Hammond made his money out of “Gimme Dat Ting” and the like, but on this, the B side of a single which peaked at number 91 on the US charts, even through the scratch, crackle’n’pop, this is the work of a real singer expressing himself.
- Artist: Albert Hammond
- Single Title: Down by the River
- Track: Side B “The Last One to Know”
- Format: 7”, 45 rpm
- Label: CBS BA 221915
- Manufactured in: Australia
- Year: 1972
Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs