Thursday, November 13, 2014

All About That (Jack) Bruce: Theme For An Imaginary Western

It was his best known song . . . it was his least known song. If you’re considering compositions that Jack Bruce co-wrote during his solo period, “Theme for an Imaginary Western” was one of his better known compositions, as it was recorded by a handful of other artists. It was even performed by Mountain at Woodstock in 1969. The song was brought to the band by bassist Felix Pappalardi who produced Bruce’s debut solo album “Songs for a Tailor.”

It was his least known song, as his compositions that were recorded by Cream eclipsed anything else he had written or recorded. The Cream years were his most productive and generally the ones that people remember. Co-written by Pete Brown, Jack Bruce’s composition partner during his Cream days, “Theme for an Imaginary Western” has a lyrical content that is quite the departure from their earlier collaborations.

Brown admitted that he wrote the tune in tribute to two of Bruce’s musical collaborators, keyboardist Graham Bond and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith. The connection of these two alumni from The Graham Bond Organization to the lyrics of “Theme for an Imaginary Western,” however, is lost on me. Consider the song’s hook:

“Oh, the sun was in their eyes,

And the desert that's dries,

In this country town

Where the wagons’ bound.”

Heckstall-Smith’s band Colosseum later recorded the tune as did Colosseum alumnus Dave Greenslade with his band Greenslade.

Although 1969’s “Songs for a Tailor” was Bruce’s second solo project, it was his first to be released. He opted to sit on his first project until 1970. “Songs for a Tailor” was dedicated to a former girlfriend and costume designer for Cream, Jeannie Franklyn. Franklyn, who was then dating Richard Thompson, was killed in a van crash on May 12, 1969 that also claimed the life of Fairport drummer Martin Lamble.

Ironically, Bruce received a birthday card from Franklyn two days after her death; in it, she encouraged him to “Sing some high notes for me.” The entire album was titled in Franklyn’s honor.

On “Theme for an Imaginary Western,” Bruce plays piano, organ, and bass in addition to singing lead.

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