Friday, September 6, 2019

The Right Time: John Holt: "Help Me Make It Through The Night"

One of the contributing factors towards 1975 being the amazing year it was has to be the general openness of the charts.  The old stalwarts of pop and rock were still around, but new things, new permutations of things, abounded in the early 70s.  In short, anything went, and amidst the joy/chaos there were more than a few songs that showed vulnerability and a slight sense of loneliness and even tiredness.  Country and reggae were old friends, and here they sound just right together.

By early 1975 the high that Trojan Records had been riding was coming to an end, but label star John Holt was wise/lucky enough to have a hit album 1000 Volts of Holt (the cover screams early 70s, right down to the paisley/plaid combination which Holt pulls off because star power) come out before the financially-struggling Trojan collapsed altogether in May, bought out by Saga Records. (This could be, as is suggested in Bass Culture, that the English kids who dug reggae c. 1971 were no longer interested in it, it being passé.)

“Help Me Make It Through The Night” was released in late 1974 and got to #2 on the Luxembourg chart as a crossover reggae/lovers rock hit that was solid musically and sung with warmth and ease by Holt.  That it was so sophisticated was due to the English producer  Tony Ashfield, who had been involved in Jamaican music for some time and had worked with Holt on a previous album, The Further You Look.  That was 1972 though, and while it was a big hit in Jamaica it wasn’t elsewhere – hence Ashfield and Holt decided to do another album, one with proven songs like this one, which had already been a hit for Gladys Knight & The Pips as well as others, including a reggae version by Duke Parker.  The song suited his voice and modest mien* and its devil-may-care-desperate lyrics somehow work in with the longing in his voice.  I wonder if this song would have made it to number one had all the shops it sold in – not just Boots or Woolworths – were counted?
In the meantime, Ashfield and Holt split over differences, Holt continuing to record in Jamaica both in the lovers rock style and doing more political songs.  This song marks a moment when someone who is a worldwide star finally gets his due, and had things been different...
Next up:  Music, non-stop!



*Holt turned down a certain song which author Max Romeo eventually had to record himself.   Ahem.