Top Fifty 37: John Sebastian – The Four Of Us, 1971

[Originally posted August 2012]

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Tie-dye Thinking

The sunshine melodic folkpop of The Lovin’ Spoonful always appealed to me, and in particular the beautiful singing of John Sebastian. Songs like Do You Believe In Magic, You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice, Daydream, Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind, Summer In The City, Darling Be Home Soon, You’re A Big Boy Now, She’s Is Still A Mystery and Younger Generation are all classics of what the band termed ‘good-time music’.

My affinity for Sebastian was not thwarted by the tie-dye naivety of his 1969 Woodstock incarnation because I too believed in its multi-coloured imaginings of a better tomorrow, with John singing I dreamed we all were alright in his stoned and spontaneous performance, and invoking the communal spirit of peace and love in his philosophical as well as good housekeeping advice:  Just love everybody all around ya and clean up a little garbage on your way out and everything’s gonna be alright.

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The embodiment of this hippie nirvana was presented in Sebastian’s wonderful 1971 album The Four of Us and its title track suite that narrates fifteen minutes of quintessentially 60s/70s romantic love and hope. Side one rocks and rolls with Well Well Well, Black Snake Blues and Black Satin Kid, but it is the gorgeous folk of The Four Of Us on side two that caresses with its narrative of a hippie quest, a journey of self-discovery for John, then wife Catherine, and another couple Bart and Carolina Carpinelli.

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Sitting round a fireplace
We drew a smile across the States
We packed our truck with all our stuff
And four of us
Two to drive and two to sleep
Wrapped up in a rainbow sheet
And in the front my love will keep me
On the road and laughing

and thus begins the four-part central song cycle, interspersed with three various musical tangents: the Caribbean tones of Domenica with the Esso Trinidad Steel band, the Dr John assisted rock of Lashes LaRue, and the further sweet folk of Red Wing Colorado. Sebastian’s vocal is gorgeous in its earnest gentleness, and the central melody is one of his finest. I know it is twee and sentimental and, as I have already stated, naive. This is perhaps wholly embraced in the bland exclamation of Gee in the closing lines [!] but this is also the enduring charm of its wishful sincerity at a time when we all had the belief in such simple expectations and aspirations,

Yeah we finally made it home
And now the family’s on its own
Babies come and numbers grow
There’s more of us
Gee…we really miss those times
Seeing through each other’s eyes
Sure was nice

So here’s a little travelling song
Of talk that comes from dusk till dawn
So go and see and pass it on
Lest you miss it, lest it’s gone
Every lover keep your driver
On the road and laughing

 

 

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