reid

Terry Reid’s “Ooh Baby (You Make me Feel So Young)” is a sexed up, laid back, minor key gem. That it sounds like one of the funkiest tracks Crosby, Stills, and Nash never recorded is no accident, as Graham Nash was both acting as producer and pitching in vocal harmonies. Bell-bottomed and swaying under streetlights, the song is one of those classic slices of nocturnal, mid-Seventies LA. That Seed of Memory, the album from which the track is taken, is nowadays hardly remembered has less to do with its quality and everything to do with the back story.

To this day, Reid is perhaps best known for an apocryphal phone conversation he once had with Jimmy Page. Look at any profile of the guy, and this will be the lead: he lost his chance to be the lead singer of no less a band than Led Zeppelin. But as Reid himself explains: ‘That’s a load of bullshit! I was the one who put the group together. Jimmy Page offered me the job, but I had two tours of America booked up [in 1968, opening for Cream and the Stones], so I had to say no. In the meantime, we were doing a gig in Buxton, I think it was—with the Band Of Joy as support. I’d seen them before, and I knew Robert Plant and John Bonham. And when I watched them on stage, I thought, that’s it…So I phoned up Jimmy the next day and said, “I’ve found him, the singer.” And Jimmy said, “What does he look like?” “Whaddya mean what does he look like’?” I said. “He looks like a Greek God. I’m talking about how he sings!”’The rest, as they say, is rock n’ roll: Zeppelin became Zeppelin, and Reid drifted off, if not into obscurity than into that rather vague status of a Musician’s Musician: adored by the likes of Keith Richards and Aretha Franklin, a deft hand in the studio, a supplier of great gigs (he played Mick’s wedding to Bianca), and yet a stranger to the buying public.

Reid’s sound is a peculiar one, bringing together a whole range of influences. He came up through the Mod scene in the UK, with a strong, soulful voice akin that of Steve Marriott. Taken under the wing of the manager/producer/slave-driver Mickie Most, he went on to lead his own power trio—specializing in Doorsy jams and Hendrixy bombast (see for instance the quiet-loud-quiet of ‘Rich Kid Blues,’ later to be covered by The Raconteurs). He also had a gentler, more introspective side that fell somewhere between Donovan and an acoustic Bobby Womack. Come the end of the Sixties, however, all the smoky psychedelia trailed away to reveal one hell of a roots rocker: someone who could unleash a down home groove and make it all sound improvisational, as though The Faces and Van Morrison had inadvertently found themselves in the same nightclub. If you really want to get beyond the Missed-His-Chance mythologizing and see what Reid was actually capable of, what he could actually accomplish, then look no further than his appearance at the second Glastonbury Festival in 1971. To call this barn-storming is to catch something of the incendiary energy, but to miss the impressionism. The messiness, the rough draft rehearsal feel is purposeful. Scat-like, he toys with the song, rephrasing the words until they’re barely words at all but moans, bluesy utterances.

For all intents and purposes, his follow-up to 1973’s The River should have been the album that made him. With The River Reid had minted a laidback rock that eschewed verse-chorus sing-a-longs. He wasn’t trying to be catchy anymore than Astral Weeks-era Van Morrison was. And therein lay the problem, as Mickie Most proceeded to sink Reid (much as he had previously sunk Donovan) in litigation for drifting too far from marketability. The legal wrangles that ensued would postpone a new album for next three years. So, while others were striking pay-dirt in Laurel Canyon, Reid—who had since relocated to Ventura—was out of sight, out of mind.

Seed of Memory may have been released three years too late, but it’s still an impressive mid-Seventies album, trading in the slick studio perfectionism of Eagles albums for something looser, more earthy. In fact it may, oddly, stand as a far better testament to the Laurel Canyon scene of folky, post-psychedelic rockers, pot-smoking country singers, and expatriate Brits (like Graham Nash, like 3/5ths of Fleetwood Mac)—intermingling musicians who, for a time, were focused more on making music in each other’s backyards than they were record sales or appeasing stadium crowds. In a sense, Reid has remained true to that spirit for far longer than anyone else.  words / dk o’hara

Terry Reid :: Ooh Baby (You Make Me Feel So Young)

10 Responses to “Terry Reid :: Seed of Memory”

  1. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Terry perform twice in the last few years and all I can say is ,if you get the chance ,take it . He has still got it and is an amazing performer.

  2. Thanks for the link to Terry Reid at Glastonbury – great music and a great piece of film (contrast with Glastonbury today). And your succinct article was, uh, perceptiveness incarnate.

  3. that opening graf – nails it

  4. Funny, I just bought the self-titled Terry Reid album at Goodwill on a whim Monday (for 29 cents I might add). Haven’t had a chance to listen yet but will soon based on this article.

  5. Glad the word is spreading on Terry.
    One of the most Under Appreciated Artists Ever…

  6. I was first exposed to Terry Reid thanks to Rob Zombie in The Devil’s Rejects. He was one of those stars, like many I’ve discovered here, I completely missed due to the sparce radio choices in San Antonio, Texas, during the 70s. It’s amazing how often when I discover these artists I get a bizarre sense of deja vu as if I’m hearing something hauntingly familiar yet still foreign. I guess it’s the influence people like Reid had on the music I did get to hear but didn’t understand what it was dialoguing with.
    Thanks for all the introductions you guys provide to old friends I never knew I had!

  7. Here’s my photofeature on a Los Angeles performance of Reid’s on 9.24.14.
    http://fastfilm1.blogspot.com/2014/09/yest-h-e-terry-reid-plus-brandy-row.html
    Included is an aside about a second toxic manager Reid had, which I recounted from first-hand experience.

  8. […] cover. Can you list an album or two that boasts great music inside a terrible cover? A: Terry Reid Seed Of Memory and Terry Melcher’s self titled album. Apparently I have a deep hesitation when it comes to dudes […]

  9. […] Reid Seed Of Memory and Terry Melcher’s self titled album. Apparently I have a deep hesitation when it comes to dudes […]

  10. […] Reid Seed Of Memory and Terry Melcher’s self titled album. Apparently I have a deep hesitation when it comes to dudes […]

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