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Japanese Release - Liner Notes
Mid Summer 2007
I have an image in my mind,
and a pen, ink and paper on my desk.
A good paper to write on. With an easy feeling,
I write down ordinary things,
The important thing is the urge to write.
I go out on the terrace and sing with my friends,
I might be able to write down something from inside me,
The urge to write is still there.
The air is warm and still
It’s a warm night,
Unusual for San Francisco in September.
I go back to my room.
In the cool room hidden from the sun,
the words finally come to life,
The rhythm comes to life, and the rhymes too,
and they finally become
People are just like music,
They follow the clouds
And flow away like the clouds,
And their shapes fading out
Leave a trace like a dream.
A singer-songwriter who has the eyes of his mother,
And his father’s hair –
who knew to search for things,
This is Tom Jans.
Tom Jans, born in Washington and raised in San Francisco and Los Angeles,
mostly in a town near San Francisco, was almost twenty when he started
writing songs for guitar and piano, and singing in folk clubs near San
Through Joan Baez, who had seen him perform in those folk clubs, he was
introduced to her younger sister, Mimi Farina, and they started recording
duets. Despite going beyond the folk idioms, the roots of his songwriting,
and being nonchalantly backed by session musicians who had worked with
singer-songwriters such as Craig Doerge, Lee Sklar, Russ Kunkel, or Jim
Keltner, for the refreshing album Take Heart (1971), Tom Jans and Mimi
Farina quickly broke up. As a solo singer looking for a songwriting partner,
Tom headed for Nashville. In 1974 he completed Tom Jans (A&M), an album
which also contains songs co-written with a songwriter from Nashville, Will
Jennings. The pastoral San Francisco country sound created in Nashville at
Quadraphonic Studio fitted Tom’s simple style perfectly. But even though he
had found a place where he could create in peace, he leaves on a journey
again, for new songs. He changes his recording company to CBS and, in search
of Little Feat’s sound, he entrusts Lowell George with the production and
starts writing his second solo creation in L.A. But soon after starting
writing, Tom, who was focusing on the sound, parts ways with Lowell, who was
looking for an album that could be sung. Eventually, Tom’s previous album,
The Eyes Of An Only Child, released in 1975, will become Tom’s best
creation. The album contained Tom’s characteristic touch of an exotic West
Coast country singer-songwriter, but after the release of the album, Tom
takes the next step in his music writing, and his sound will become more
band-oriented, with funky elements. This will be the sound of Dark Blonde.
One solo creation from his A&M times, Loving Arms, has been covered by many
other artists; moreover, other songs from the same album, Margarita, Old
Time Feeling and Free & Easy have been picked up by other artists, and Tom
must have thought that he had succeeded to combine his country style
songwriting with a career as a solo singer.
However, he never settles in one place and is always on the move. After the
release of Dark Blonde in 1976 he is quiet for a while, and in 1983 he
releases his last creation, Champion, in Japan only (Pony Canyon). This one
is produced by Don Grusin, a long-time acquaintance from his previous
albums, but all in all the album is only a creation of someone who has no
place of his own on the AOR route.
Tom Waits wrote this in his song Whistle Down the Wind, dedicated to Tom
Jans (on the album Born Machine, 1992):
I've grown up here now
All of my life
But I dreamed
Someday I'd go
Where blue eyed girls
And red guitars and
Naked rivers flow
But I'm different in my dreams
I always stayed around
I'm scared to leave
Sometimes the music from a dance
will carry across the plains
Does it come from a place in my dreams?
So I will take the Marley Bone Coach
And whistle down the wind
Even his friend, Tom Waits, probably saw Tom Jans as a man continuously
searching for new places, and this song beautifully captures Tom Jans’
personality. If you listen to it again and again, the song of the
wandering man, you want to become him and start your journey.
Until now, I haven’t always been
In sunny places.
The ups and downs of my life
Are such a strange thing
There are people beckoning to me
But I always run from them, and watch them drift away.
At no time
Have I conformed
It is decided that I keep walking
In search of far, forgotten places
From the Eyes Of An Only Child To Dark Blonde
After all, is Dark Blonde the album of somebody who hasn’t found his place
to be? Or maybe the feelings and spirit of a man who wants to escape from
his present place, who wants to leave, whistling, somebody like me and you,
have overflowed the album.
The powerful album title, “Dark Blonde”, seems to bring to us the image of a
woman, but refers in fact to the color of a child’s hair. “I have never seen
such a dark blonde child like you”, would say his grandmother to Tom. The
album presents a contrast between children and grown-ups, a concept already
used in The Eyes Of An Only Child. Ethan Russell’s black-and-white photo on
the album jacket gives the same strong impression.
In a room not very large, under the indirect light from a desk lamp, there
is a child in the corner, suggesting Tom’s own childhood. The boy sticks to
the wall, as if frightened, while Tom, at the desk, scribbles something
down, scratching his head. From outside the window (but you can barely see
it in the CD-size photo), a devil-like figure peeks inside the room.
According to Tom’s story, he had a room identical to his room when he was a
child recreated in the photographic studio. Later, it seems that Andrew Gold
used that recreated room for his album What’s Wrong With This Picture and
Tom was very unhappy about it.
I remember seeing the producer’s name, Joe Wissart, somewhere else… Wait,
isn’t he the producer of Gordon Lightfoot’s Summer Side Of Life (1971)? And
the co-producer of Lightfoot’s If You Could Read My Mind, with Lenny
Waronker. Both these albums show Gordon Lightfoot’s graceful style. Let’s
search some more. Joe Wissart, became a producer in the mid-sixties, and is
credited for producing Lovin’ Spoonful and The Turtles’ Happy Together. In
the seventies he also produces female singers such as Helen Reddy and Janis
Ian, but he is better known for his work with Earth, Wind and Fire, J. Geils
Band, Boz Scaggs. The album immediately following Boz’s big hit Silk Degrees
is Tom’s Dark Blonde.
Kelly Shanahan: drums
Kerry Hatch: bass, vocals
Jerry Swallow: guitar
Scott Shelley: guitar
For almost two years in that period, [Jans] played with these band members,
recorded this album, and had live concerts throughout the United States.
When he went to Europe to promote his album, he had the guitarist Jerry
Swallow supporting him. As guest musicians on the new album, as in his
previous album, there were Fred Tackett on guitar, David Paich on piano and
organ, Mike Utley, Bill Payne on Moog (synthesizer) and synthesizer, Ernie
Watts on sax, Nick DeCaro did the string arrangements in the last track and
[Jans] girlfriend Valerie Carter as background vocalist.
About the songs
Ready To Roll
The rhythmic arrangement could be the work of the producer, Joe Wissart, who
had just finished Boz Scaggs’ album, or maybe the result of Tom’s rehearsals
with his band, still conscious of the Little Feat sound. The disco, funk
rhythm approach is interesting. The sound is full of the desire to move on
to a new direction. “I feel like leaving on a journey” – the first track
where Tom’s feelings are reflected.
Why Don’t You Love Me
Judging from the tune here, the band needs to be more tight, but in the
places where the rhythm falls a little bit, Bill Payne on the synthesizer,
and Ernie Watts on the sax, create a lovely supporting sound. The slide
here is played by Tom’s band member, Jerry Swallow. Tom himself must have
been around, with this sound so representative for his work during that
period. For some reason, the track is released in Holland as a single album,
with Fineline on the B side.
Bluer Than You
Very often, this is what you end up with when you keep recording, with an
energetic band sound. Maybe they wanted to give a funky nuance to the lyrics
“I’m sure there are people even bluer than you”. With this funky
arrangement, and the bass phrases in the disco style (who had won the
generation) , Mr. Tom, were you this time looking for something refined and
for something at the opposite pole, or maybe you were just going with the
times, just like that Jackson Browne did?
A song very conscious of Boz Scaggs, or, to better say, a sound that
reflects the period. After the introduction, reminding of TOTO’s West Coast
sound, the tune changes into a rock’n roll riff. The song will tell you how
good this combination was.
Distant Cannon Fire
Though it is not very known in Japan and the United States, the Spanish
historical personality [lit] Franco seems to be famous in Europe. The song
is about the civil war in Spain. David Paich on piano and Mike Utley on
organ, create a quiet Tom Jans sound. A medium pace number similar to the
first song on the previous album, the solo Gotta Move.
Young Man In Trouble
Had this album started with the song Distant Cannon Fire, we could have said
it is the previous album’s sibling. The connection between the previous
album and this song is smooth and pleasant. Then, the flow of the sound from
this song till the last one, Starlight, is very nice. There is a feeling of
restlessness, but Tom Jans often writes about unfulfilled hearts in his
Rosarita, the mysterious feminine name – I wonder if he used it as a
generalization, or perhaps it was about Valerie Carter, his girlfriend at
the time. The rhythm arrangements remind of Boz Scaggs’ works. It is said it
took Tom a year to finish this song. On a radio show with the theme “Just
before the ‘80s”, a DJ would surely choose this song, followed by Crazy, the
first song on Valerie Carter’s album Wild Child.
Back On My Feet Again
This kind of L.A. exotic mood is Tom’s specialty. Just like the band
members’ photo on the inner jacket, the sound suggests a lovely LA evening,
spent with the friends and music. There is Michael Bolton’s cover.*
Valerie Carter is doing harmony, like a walk along with the others, but this
is a song she sings herself on her own stage. The song I mentioned before,
Tom Waits’ Whistle Down the Wind, is also part of Valerie’s live repertoire.
People always keep a number of mental images, that intertwine and become
their path in life, creating the map of their lives…This is probably a song
Tom wrote in a moment of self-awareness. A song about the shining stars
showing the way. It is a famous song, how many times have I heard it?
On this album, there are several songs that took a year or so to be
completed, but this is a love song he composed in 8 minutes, with Valerie
Carter at his side. It is also a song about a man walking his path in life,
and a song where the world is seen through the eyes of a child. Yes, the
eyes of a child…
Take Heart / Mimi Farina, Tom Jans (A&M / 1971)
Tom Jans (A&M / 1974)
The Eyes Of An Only Child (CBS / 1975)
Dark Blonde (CBS / 1976)
Champion (Pony Canyon / 1982)
As a musician, he didn’t have a colorful activity, nor did he collaborate
with many people. He participated in the recording of the album Just a
Stone’s Throw Away (1977) by Valerie Carter, the woman he fell in love with
at the peak of his solo activity, to Hoyt Axton’s A&M album South Bound
(1975), and Tom Snow’s album Tom Snow (1976). Also, he and Valerie were
guest vocal performers in the chorus on Tender Memory, his own song on
Richard Torrance’s album Bareback, and on Mongolia, the song he co-wrote
with Don Grusin on the album 10K-La in the eighties In addition, as a
songwriter, he co-wrote songs with the no. 1 solo producer, Mentor Williams,
with Nino Tempo, with the fellow songwriter Richard Kerr (the author of
Barry Manilow’s hit Mandy) – two songs on the album No Looking Back (1982),
for which he was credited under “special thanks”.
While being a West Coast singer-songwriter of the ‘70s, he never entered any
music circles, preferring to collaborate with AOR and pop musicians.
After Champion, the 1982 Japanese release, he has a traffic accident, and he
dies in 1984 at his home in LA, due to an overdose.
The song he left, Loving Arms, was covered by Elvis Presley and become
famous. In addition, the last song on his last album, Mother’s Eyes, will be
sung by Bette Midler, and these two songs are enough to illustrate his
brilliant career as a songwriter. After he passed away, Bette Midler will
publish the lyrics of
Mother’s Eyes in Billboard Magazine, as a tribute to him.
In loving memory
February 9, 1949 – March 25, 1984
I have my mother's eyes and my father's hair.
Does anybody really care?
It's gettin' cold out here.
I keep walkin' with my head held high,
with my head to the sky,
The other boy is inside the house, not feeling well
I need to find a phone.
And my mother's eyes are with me
in the darkness that's been paid for.
I'm just a nameless stranger, don't know why.
She sees everything
Have I seen more than I should?
Have I seen all that I could?
With my mother's eyes?
I know everything about this town,
since I was a child
I have seen ugly mindless fights and hate,
But now, people’s faces
walk in line in front of my eyes
It’s like stamping on a calendar
Announcing the change of seasons
Have I seen more than I should
With my mother’s eyes.
A poem is a path arriving at a pure hour,
It is only immersing your body in the water
where existence originates
– Octavio Paz
Music is for us a means by which its creator’s deep feelings, his story or
confessions are better unveiled than by prose or poetry.
A man with his mother’s eyes, and his father’s dark blonde hair, a
songwriter and singer – this is Tom Jans.
Mid Summer 2007
Notes by Geoff:
The translator asks us to note that this is a rather rough translation,
adhering to the Japanese text as much as possible. The poems and metaphors
may not work so well in translation. For complete clarification we can only
refer you to the original japanese text.
It is not clear if the poems are by Jans or by Nagisa. Given that Paz and
Waits are credited, we presume the poems are by Jugo Nagisa.
The translation of whistle down the wind, from english to japanese and back
to english leaves only one line where Nagisa seems to make his own truth.
Wait's lyric is "and the places that I'm dreaming of - do they dream only of
me ? " Nagisa writes "Does it [the music or the dance] come from my dreams".
Nagisa also adds "but I'm different in my dreams" in the middle of Wait's
lyric, perhaps as a summary.
It would seem that Nagisa has used the earlier web sources to perpetuate the
myth of Tom Jans having been born of an Hispanic mother. As mentioned in
notes on other pages on this site, although Tom Jans did attribute Spanish
ancestry to himself at one time, it seems to have been an embellishment
added during enthusiastic discussion of some of the songs on Dark Blonde. It
has been confirmed by the Jans family and also by documentary evidence that
Tom Jans was born in 1948.
* Michael Bolton's "When I'm Back on my Feet Again" is in fact a different
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This page updated February 2009 by Geoff
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