Friday, August 3, 2012

The Promise: Springwater: "I Will Return"

It happens every so often; now that we are in The Void it happens with alarming frequency. I don’t know this song; in fact only in doing this blog have I been exposed to this song at all, which really must mean it has been forgotten by almost everyone, even radio programmers.  A #2 NME hit, an instrumental, a marker – once – of some kind of emotional barometer. It is lovely, plaintive, sorrowful, but with that title, something of a promise as well. 
“I Will Return” could be applied to so many things at this time, including the dying dream of the 60s.  That is how I hear this – as a farewell and a guarantee that what once was will come back, evolved and perhaps even mutated somewhat, but it will indeed return.  Of course it can work on the level of young people leaving home for the first time; of lovers who are parted, for whatever reason; even as a song of grief over the death of someone, and the griever’s longing for some proof their loved one is still alive in some way.  In order for something new to happen separation of all kinds is necessary; the 70s can’t really start until the 60s are mourned properly, and that mourning will take some time.  This song is just a tiny part of that general feeling of loss, and hope for renewal and rebirth, and signs of that rebirth are all over the chart at this time, from Slade to John Kongos – something slightly scary (not forgetting Redbone here) is coming to take its place, something big and insouciant and loud…something that has its roots in the 60s, but stomps into the 70s with no time to look back, as its momentum is too strong. 
Yet for now, this plays as the leaves fall; as the first wave of baby boomers have already left university and have headed out into the world, expectant and hopeful, knowing that in order for something to start, something else has to end.  The promise of return here is a harbinger of sorts, though at this point, one of the harbingers is on the King’s Road, fixed on the past rather than the future, which is still a puzzle, not yet a way out; another has just released an album called Hunky Dory, which won’t catch on for another two years.  “I Will Return” has been forgotten as indeed something did indeed return; and so it enters the Void like an invitation to a going-away party or a box of old money that is no longer in use.  Phil Cordell (aka Springwater) may have only had one UK hit (his main successes through the years came from abroad*), but it came at just the right time, between the dying of one decade and the beginning of another.
Next up:  whatever happened to the Housewives of Valium Court?

*Cordell was a multi-instrumentalist who had been in a band called The Prophets and they recorded a few sides with Joe Meek; "I Will Return" is in some ways as emblematic an instrumental of its time as "Telstar" was, though less well remembered. 


wichita lineman said...

Great call on it being a major 60s/70s cusp single, and a prescient title.

It's a major regret of mine that I never tried to seek out Phil Cordell a little earlier. By the time I did a bit of research, and discovered he'd been living round the corner, it was just a few months after he died.

By any account I've read, he was like Joe Meek's gentle nephew, helpful to local musicians in his home studio, not especially ambitious. He did score a no.1 hit in Germany with Dan The Banjo Man, which must have paid the rent for a while. He also (and I imagine this might interest MSBWT given Lena's occasional comments on The Troubles) release a densely produced single called Londonderry with almost indecipherable lyrics.

The video for I Will Return is exactly how 1971 felt to me, aged 6. Couldn't work out what was going on in the adult world, but it looked, and sounded, dark and important. '72 felt like someone switched the light on.

wichita lineman said...

The charts around the time were full of foreboding, not apocalyptic but very dark. The strings on Witch Queen of New Orleans are the most atonal and eerie, the Four Tops' Simple Game has a very optimistic lyric over a vast swirling Turner of a backdrop. Even Coz I Luv U is as tense as it is joyous, the vocal mixing desperation and threat.

Something's about to change.

The promo film for I Will Return is exactly how the adult world looked to me, aged 6 - slow, important, dark, foggy. 1972 was the first 'new year' I could grasp as a concept, and it felt so much lighter.

That's a great call Lena - it's almost like the 60s are being exorcised from pop. Phil Cordell's lament had great foresight.

I really regret not looking into Cordell's history a little earlier. It turned out he'd been living round the corner from me, and by any accounts was a generous, kind man, always helping local musicians in his home studio. He had no great ambitions beyond creating music, all on his own (he plays everything on I Will Return), but scored a German no.1 with Dan The Banjo Man which must have paid the rent for a while.

Lena, given your mentions of The Troubles can I point you to Cordell's single Londonderry? Dense production, impenetrable lyric, I can't believe it doesn't relate in some way to The Troubles. It's pretty astonishing.