castle

At the height of the swinging ’60s, Lynn Castle was a barber to the stars. Del Shannon, members of the The Monkees and the Byrds, Sonny and Cher, Neil Young, and more, Castle groomed them all, indulging in the cultural moment when the country embraced long locks on men and women alike. Nicknamed “The Lady Barber,” she became a West Coast phenomenon from her station at Rogue Barber Shop in Los Angeles. The Washington Post wrote about her in 1967, calling her a “shapely blonde in blue jeans.” Long hair was, “Not just for actors,” Castle is quoted. “Even conservative doctors and lawyers look good with long hair.”

But even as buzz crescendoed around her work as a stylist, Castle was living something of a double life. When she wasn’t working at the salon or taking care of her two children, she was writing poignant, sepia-toned ballads. Though her songs were recorded by the Spinners (“Love’s Prayer,” which she wrote as a teenager) and the Monkees (“Teeny Tiny Gnome (Kicking Stones),” recorded during the More of the Monkees sessions), most never saw the light of day. Until now. The recordings she made with producers Jack Nitzsche and Lee Hazlewood are featured on a new collection from Light in the Attic, Rose Colored Corner, named for the song included here twice, as both a stark demo recording and an arranged, psychedelic version with Phoenix psych-band Last Friday’s Fire.

Speaking from her home in Los Angeles, Castle marvels at this current moment. Cutting hair was a gas — “It was so much fun,” she says of those days — but it simply paid the bills. Her “heart path” was music. Though she’s never stopped writing — check out her hard rock turn “When I Close My Eyes I See Blood,” released under the name Madelynn Von Ritz for the soundtrack of William Friedkin’s controversial film Cruising in 1980 –she’d mostly left her work with Nitzsche and Hazlewood in the past. She views its return to the spotlight with a grateful serenity.

“…Whatever this particular bubble is in my life, it really is a pretty one,” Castle says. “I like it. I don’t know what it means…God knows I am just trying to stay right smack dab in the middle and not doing anything about it, [but] let it do something about me.”

You can only show up, Castle says. Her “be here now” approach stretches all the way back to 1966, when Nitzsche implored the notoriously shy and self-conscious songwriter to join him at United Recorders in Los Angeles. Hesitantly, she agreed. Jack said, “I just want you to go in the studio,” Castle says. “‘I just want to have some of your songs. Just sit there and do it.’”

Rose Colored Corner presents a snapshot of that moment, unadorned. There’s nothing separating the listener from Castle’s voice and a lone acoustic guitar, interspersed with studio chatter. It feels, remarkably, like you’re in the room, especially when Castle drops a casual “Oh shit,” in regards to a performance.

Though her association with the groovy Sunset Strip vanguard might suggest a pop direction, Castle’s songs feel haunted and spectral. “What in the world would I do/A desperate me, without you,” she sings on “What In the World Would I Do.” Tinged with a country-edge, her songs feel like they could work on Kris Kristofferson or Leonard Cohen album, her poetic voice crouched in western flourishes. ” On “Rose Colored Corner,” he paints music as a refuge from her struggles — even when she sings “I’m happy” in “New York,” a mournfulness drifts like smoke over the proceedings.

“It wasn’t like I was walking around like some bummed-out person, but there was just a place in my spirit, heart, and soul that was just…indigo.”

The record closes with two tracks that suggest the other side of Castle’s personality. Recorded with Lee Hazlewood at Audio Recorders in Phoenix, Arizona, “The Lady Barber” and a tremelo-laden take on “Rose Colored Corner” evoke the weird glee of the West Coast during the Summer of Love. Cut at Audio Recorders, where Duane Eddy, Wrecking Crew guitarist Al Casey, and Waylon Jennings had recorded, Hazlewood called up psych combo Last Friday’s Fire, led by Mike Condello, to back Castle in a midnight recording session.

For Castle, both represent the fullness of her character. “Sometimes I think with all the years, with all the songs I write…I wonder if people think uh-uh, she’s too much of a bummer, man,” she laughs. But she’s still happy in the space her music carves out, her “Rose Colored Corner” with “no hurry to go anywhere.”

“It’s kept me at it,” Castle says. “I’m still doing it.” words/j woodbury

Related: Jack Nitzsche / Captain Beefheart :: Hard Workin’ Man (1978)

 

2 Responses to “Lynn Castle :: Rose Colored Corner”

  1. great sound!

  2. I met you today and it was an absolute pleasure, keep aiming high because you absolutely have it!

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