Cover Versions, demo, Gone but not forgotten

Black Sheep Boy Triple Whammy

Or Meet The Folkers (Slight Return). Coming hot on the slippery flippers of the folkie Dolphins post a week or so ago, I’m about to wax lyrical about Tim Hardin‘s Black Sheep Boy. Released in ’67 on Tim Hardin’s 2nd LP (Tim Hardin 2), Black Sheep Boy is a gentle finger-picked acoustic track, melancholic, downbeat and, thanks to the Atlantic Gulf Stream, perfect for this Indian summer we’re currently experiencing on the West Coast of Scotland.

Joe Strummer called Tim Hardin a ‘lost genius of music‘ and he was right. A songwriter’s songwriter, he penned one stone cold classic that would be oft covered by others (Reason To Believe), provided Nico with Eulogy For Lenny Bruce for her Chelsea Girls album and more recently has given Mark Lanegan the perfect track for his gargling sand ‘n gravel growl (Shiloh Town).  Black Sheep Boy is a melancholic rumination of a life gone awry. Basically it says, “I can’t do right for doing wrong, my family don’t love me and no-one understands me ‘cept for the girls who dig my golden curls of hair.”

Much like Reason To Believe, Black Sheep Boy has been covered by numerous hipsters, all eager to worship at the altar of Hardin. Front of the queue was Scott Walker who took Hardin’s introspective strumalong and turned it into a lush Spectorish wall of sound production, all sweeping strings, plucked nylon acoustics and bathed in pathos. Sitting quite happily amongst a mixture of originals, contemporary covers and the odd Jacques Brel song of decadance and decay, it is quite splendid and appears on ’68s Scott 2 (sleeve notes by ‘his friend‘ Jonathan King, fact fans).

Not as rich but no less fantastic to these ears is Paul Weller‘s frantic knee-trembler of a version, released on the now-obscure Volume series of CDs (the hip and happening of the day compiled on a CD with an accompanying fanzine-style glossy book.) At less than 2 minutes long it cuts to the chase, managing to pack in tasteful pedal steel, some subtle organ, occasional double-tracked vocals and Weller’s signature white man trying to sing like Otis on the last couple of lines. PW’s version was recorded in 1994, around the time of Wild Wood. You could suggest that Tim Hardin was something of an influence on the Wild Wood LP, given that album’s rootsy acoustic feel. You might even suggest that Weller has been a fan of Tim Hardin for a number of years. On Side 2 of Tim Hardin 2 you’ll find a song called Speak Like A Child. Now. Where have I heard that before?

Bonus Tracks!

Tim Hardin Speak Like a Child

The Style Council Speak Like A Child

(2 totally different songs, in case you were wondering)

4 thoughts on “Black Sheep Boy Triple Whammy”

  1. How mad, I just discovered Tim Hardin 2 yesterday. Without realising it I’ve loved his stuff for years – Red Balloon as done by the Small Faces and the Four Tops version of If I Were A Carpenter. Makes getting Tim Hardin 2 a bit of a no-brainer.

  2. No mention of Okkervil River’s song Black Sheep Boy taken from their album of the same name?

  3. Weller’s love of Tim Hardin comes as no surprise really given the Small Faces versions of several of his tunes.

    My favourite Tim Hardin tunes are Reason To Believe and the gorgeous lush as you like Misty Roses.

  4. Oh don’t forget Simple Song of Freedom, one of the most moving protest songs ever. Hardin’s version still makes me cry 40 years later. Bobby Darin wrote it for him, in return for Hardin’s If I Were A Carpenter hitting the big time for Darin.

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