Monday, January 10, 2022

La Belle Dame sans Merci (The Beautiful Lady Who Doesn't Say Thank You): Une Histoire Vraie

Okay kids, as I have said on numerous other occasions, this is a very sad story, so try not to laugh.

Back around 1980, when I was hanging out in Greenwich Village and performing with The Floor Models, the lovely and talented Shawn Colvin blew into town (from a gig in Berkeley, if memory serves) and quickly became a fixture at both Folk City and the Speakeasy, a club around the corner that was also a haven for acoustic singer/songwriters. Shawn had an amazing voice, was modelly good looking and already had the requisite star attitude, and it was obvious from jump that she was going to get famous at some point, but it wasn't happening fast enough for her, and one night I found myself sitting next to her at the Folk City bar, where she was quite literally crying in her beer over her then lack of a career.

Shawn knew I was a rock critic, and thus on the periphery of the record business, so she asked me if I had any professional and/or musical advice. If truth be told, I thought a big part of her problem was lousy, i.e. predictable and boring, choice in material -- really, what the world needed was yet another cover of "Angel From Montgomery"? (not). And then, being no less full of myself than now, I tried to make that point to her, albeit as gently as possible.

So it suddenly dawned on me that Shawn's voice was not that far afield from a certain British gal singer I loved, and I asked her if she was familiar with the work of Richard and Linda Thompson. And she responded, to my complete lack of surprise, that no, she wasn't. So I explained who they were, and how great they were, and how some of their stuff would be right up her (Shawn's) alley. She seemed interested, and I told her that I would go home and make her a mixtape of R&L stuff that I thought might be appropriate for her pipes and style.

Cut to a few days later, and I gave her a 12 selection cassette with the songs I thought she'd dig and would sound great singing.

Anyway, the brief version of the finale: Fairly soon thereafter, Shawn got a gig singing backup for Suzanne Vega, ultimately wound up warbling on Vega's "Luka" (both the single and the album it was from, if memory serves), got her own record deal, had a hit or two, and ultimately the music biz success she'd been aiming at. I lost touch with her personally at that point, but I followed her career from afar with some pleasure thereafter and was happy for her.

And then, sometime in the 90s, I discovered through the intertubes that she was suddenly singing live onstage with -- you guessed it -- Richard fucking Thompson.(!)

Now look -- I'm not one of those people who carries a grudge forever if I do you a kindness and then you don't respond with what I think is sufficient gratitude. I mean -- honkies, please.

That said -- I don't think it would have been asking too much at some point for Shawn to send me an e-mail or drop me a postcard saying "Dude -- I owe you a solid."

Which she's never fucking done. Heh.

I should add that this song, seen here in a performance from 2015...

...was one of the ones I included on the aforementioned mixtape. As you can hear, it suits her.

Like I said -- this is a very sad story, so try not to laugh.


Blue Ash Fan said...

So, we have you to blame?

I saw her perform with Thompson, and she ruined the show for me. (OK. I admit it. I'm not a fan.)

I've seen her as an opening act too many times. I just can't.

I'm surprised you went public with this. You once told me that I'd have to come to your favorite NYC watering hole to get the Colvin story.

Mark said...

Great story, well told, and I especially took note of the expression, "I owe you a solid," a phrase ("Do me a solid," was the chief way I employed it) that was colloquial, leveling, and pleading, and long ago fell out of use.

Aahhh ... good times.

steve simels said...

What the heck -- I didn't want to go to my grave without having told that publically. :-)

daudder said...

doing something good for another should be reward enough. I'm sure you'd do it exactly the same, again.

Your heart is pure...and you got a great story....:)

pete said...

She and I were on the bill together in the 1989 Fast Folk show at the Bottom Line. I'd never met her before and when we were introduced (I think by Cliff Eberhardt, or maybe Gorka) without my saying a word beyond hello she decided that she REALLY didn't like me. said...

Pete, I have followed your comments, who th heck are you ?
Mine have been Henley, The Knack, Easy Beats said...

Also, Neil Young David Mallet, Steve Vai, Diamond Dave... - sorry someone didn't like you

pete said...

Hello Dorethyroad. My name is Peter Spencer (sorry to break the fourth wall, Steve!) and I first met Simels around 1980 on the scene in Greenwich Village, where I was one of those songwriter types, also one of those fingerpicking-guitar types. My wife and I were fans of the Floor Models. I was also a music critic for the Star-Ledger newspaper in NJ as well as other outlets including Rolling Stone. Over the years I've released a half-dozen albums of (mostly) original material. I've been on Dr. Al's radio show, a gigantic kick, and for the past 17 years I've been living on an island in Puget Sound teaching guitar and voice. Happy new year! said...

Peter - can't express my thanks for the reply. I appreciate criticism when I know the background. As you read I have had many interactions in my life. Some have been interesting and given me a small view into an artists personality
My early life was museum oriented- you might say that I am outsider looking in - much like a Hopper painting.

Again thx - Hoping for a better 2022
Rob Mullen

Anonymous said...

I remember you suggesting (back in the day) that Nils Lofgren and Peter Frampton (both on the same label and struggling) would be an inspired collaboration.

The Frampton Comes Alive happened and you know the rest.

But I thought that was a cool thought.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Al, Dr. Al.

Peter, I'm just trying it out. Seeing if it works! Hmmm not bad. Maybe I'll use it sometime in the future.

Dr. Captain Al