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Tom Jans
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Two's Company

Melody Maker
14th August 1971

Tom Jans and Mimi Farina
talk to Andrew Means


TO FORGE a memorable identity in this prolific world of song is not the easiest of tasks, so the lasting impression left by Tom Jans and Mimi Farina is one to be appreciated. Their voices blend superbly, and their performances are a conscientious combination of good songs and thoughtful words Criticisms of their qualities are apt to wander off at tangents Mimi is Joan Baez's younger sister and made several records with her composer/novelist husband Richard before he was killed in a motorcycle accident.

Tom and Mimi began working as a duo about a year ago At the time Tom was singing in California and he met Jeffrey Shurtleff, who once recorded with Joan Baez, at a club. Jeffrey introduced him to Joan who in turn introduced him to Mimi. (Jeffrey is now making an album produced by Joan). Mimi was ready to get back into music again and was looking for a suitable combination. Hence Tom and Mimi.


"I guess one of the reasons why l don't sing alone … I don't really think I'm a good performer on stage … it just lends itself too much to the comparison with Joan.'' said Mimi. "I think Tom could sing alone, but I couldn't."

Comparisons seem to be inevitable, not for musical reasons so much as the fact that Joan and Mimi are sisters. Did this worry Mimi?

"People have been really nice about it. If I'm good people say so. But generally there have been very few.

"I think people have been very accepting of Tom after Dick. People who were Mimi and Dick fans might have resented the next person I sang with, but in general they have been really nice."

Mimi's guitar playing is particularly striking, Many female singers use guitars purely as chord instruments. Mimi picks out some complex patterns which she integrates into the smooth flow of the duo's music.

"I think it's to make up for the lack of great voice", she commented, "I have really enjoyed playing the guitar since I started at 13."

At one stage she met guitarist Bruce Langhorne, who "was a great teacher and probably influenced me a lot."

The informality of the Cambridge Folk Festival obviously took them by surprise, and it wasn't until Sunday that they really got into it. That's not to say they didn't enjoy it, but their music isn't really folk and the sight of dozens of banjo pickers bluegrassing at them probably aroused trepidation of the expectations of the audience. Generally they found English audiences reserved if they didn't know the songs, Which Mimi re-marked was quite understandable.


The force with which they criticised aspects of American Society left a deep impression at Cambridge. Did they see their music as a vehicle for social change?

"I think what's important is for us to be good musicians and to live in such a way as to be respected" replied Mimi.

Tom added that it was very easy to criticise America on stage, but it was also his home and he felt an attachment to it.

"What we are trying to do is let our lives be an example. I really want to change the place and I can only do that by making my life as good as possible.

"I guess part of the talking is to show we are serious, because it could be a game - just travelling and singing." said Mimi.

"I really believe that there's a worldwide sense of despair and if we can get in on any level and talk about it then it's worth it ''


Tom mentioned that it was too easy for an American performer to think that what happened in America also applies in Britain. On the other hand there were things that bothered people all over the world, like loneliness.

A couple of ago Tom and Mimi had their first album together, "Take Heart", released in the States. It will be released in Britain in September. Musicians include Sneaky Pete of the Flying Burrito Brothers. Nine of the songs were written by Tom and Mimi. It's Tom's first lp, and he was very satisfied with it. Mimi recorded two with Richard and one by herself. I asked her if there were any points of comparison

''They are really completely different, mainly because the material is mine and Tom's. The old records were really Richard's ideas and songs and music and force. Everything was really Richard's force and this is really a turnabout. It's the same I guess in that they are acoustic sounds with a little bit of bass. Tom and I have more drums."

Tracks from Richard and Mimi's ''Reflections in A Crystal Wind" and "Celebrations For A Grey Day" are to be reissued on a double album in Britain. In retrospect what did she think of the two records they made together?

"I don't listen to them a lot. When I made them I felt so out of it. I felt that they were not me, but occasionally I hear them in someone's house and I am impressed. I think Dick was a really good poet. There's nothing to be ashamed of."

Did Tom and Mimi write songs quickly and easily? ''I haven't written anything for almost half a year and I'm going crazy," said Mimi. "I've got about four with only one verse, nothing seems to come -

"It's been a little easier for me, I've written two since the record one that I'm proud of". Although they have written three or four songs together, most of their composing has been separate. Tom believed that it was preferable for a man and a woman to write together and thus incorporate each other's point of view. Their style is acoustic and will undoubtedly remain over-ridingly so, but Mimi has written an instrumental piece with which she wants to try her hand at playing electric guitar.

"We're thinking of putting together a small band for the next tour", remarked Tom,"- piano drums and bass perhaps."

Tom and Mimi have finished their British appearances but there are still two months - and gigs in Poland. Scandinavia and Paris - before they return home to San Francisco.

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tom sheehan London 20th May 1977

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