California Dreaming: Windy

The Association were in trouble. Their second album had not done well on the charts, and the two singles from it, Pandora’s Golden Heebie-Jeebies and No Fair At All, had not repeated the success of Cherish or Along Comes Mary. To make matters worse, Jules Alexander had left the band to go to India to find himself.

And the record company wasn’t happy with the band. They’d started recording their third album with Jerry Yester, Jim Yester’s brother, producing, but after recording a couple of tracks the record company told the band that that material would have to be scrapped, and that Bones Howe was going to be producing them instead. The band were no longer going to be playing their own backing tracks, as they had on their second album, but were going to have the Wrecking Crew playing on their records. Things were going to go back to the way they’d been for the first album, when they’d had hits.

Luckily, a replacement for Jules Alexander was waiting in the wings. Larry Ramos had been singing with the New Christie Minstrels, as at one point or another did almost every West Coast folk singer, but again like almost every West Coast folk singer he’d eventually had enough of that and struck out for a solo career, mostly working as a session singer. Ramos had sat in with the band previously when Brian Cole had injured his hand — Jules Alexander had covered Cole’s bass parts, and Ramos had covered Alexander’s guitar lines on stage, until Cole had recovered — and was friendly with the group.

Ramos had been working in the studio next door to the Association’s in New York, when Terry Kirkman was hit with inspiration. The Association had been working on a track called Never My Love, written for them by the Adrissi brothers, and Kirkman decided the lead vocal needed to be doubled. He popped into the studio in which Ramos was working and asked him to come in and double the vocal, to show Bones Howe what he meant. Ramos’ vocal remained on the finished track, and from that moment on he was a member of the band.

Never My Love was clearly the big ballad hit on the album, the new album’s Cherish, but the band also needed an uptempo hit, an equivalent of Along Comes Mary. This would come from Ruthann Friedman.

Friedman was a singer and songwriter who was on the fringes of the music scene. For a while she had been considered for the role of lead singer for Jefferson Airplane, before becoming the vocalist for studio group The Garden Club, who had a minor hit with Little Girl Lost and Found, co-written by Tandyn Almer.

Van Dyke Parks had introduced Friedman to the Association, and for a while she had lived in the communal house where several members of the band lived, but by mid-1967 she was living in David Crosby’s basement, when Jo-Ellen Yester, Jim Yester’s wife, asked her if she had anything that might be suitable for the Association.

Friedman offered a song about an idealised woman who “has starry eyes/which flash at the sound of lies” and “wings to fly above the clouds”. The song was essentially Friedman’s love letter to an ideal version of herself, telling herself to rise up above her annoyance at a male songwriter of her acquaintance who was apparently causing her some irritation at the time.

While Friedman had conceived the song as a folky track [FOOTNOTE: Friedman’s original idea for the song can be heard on her The Complete Constant Companion Sessions, while her post-Association folk-rock version can be heard on Windy: A Ruthann Friedman Songbook.], the Association’s version was clearly patterned after Along Comes Mary, but with the earlier track’s idiosyncracies smoothed out. While the earlier track had been driven by the odd, tumbling, rhythms of the lead vocal line, here everything — the drums, the guitar line, the harpsichord, the lead vocal — is emphasising a four-on-the-floor rhythm very similar to Jefferson Airplane’s then-recent hit Somebody To Love. To top this off, Howe repeated the trick he had used for California Dreamin’ and added in a flute solo by Bud Shank.

Ramos and Russ Giguere took the lead vocals, but by the end of the recording session the band members had been singing so long that they could no longer hit the high notes, so extra layers of backing vocals were added by Clark Burroughs (a former member of the Hi-Los and the vocal arranger for the track), Friedman, and various band members’ wives. Friedman, in particular, is very audible on the repeated chorus at the end, and is almost a third lead vocalist on the track.

The track sounds almost brutally conceived for commercial success, but it worked — Windy went to number one, and instantly restored the Association’s commercial fortunes. Friedman recollects a royalty cheque for twenty thousand dollars accidentally being sent to her rather than her accountant, and staring at it trying to figure out where the comma and decimal point actually were.

And this commercial success was just in time, as the Association were about to open a rather large pop festival…

Windy

Composer: Ruthann Friedman

Line-up: Russ Giguere and Larry Ramos (lead vocals), Jim Yester, Brian Cole, Ted Bluechel Jr, Terry Kirkman, Ruthann Friedman, Clark Burroughs, Marilyn Burroughs, Birdie Giguere, and Jo-Ellen Yester (backing vocals), Hal Blaine (drums), Joe Osborn & Ray Pohlman (bass), Mike Deasy, Dennis Budimir, and Al Casey (guitars), Larry Knechtel (keyboards), Gary Coleman (percussion), Arthur Briegler, Dale Robinson, Vince Derosa, and Richard Perissi (french horns), Ian Freebairn-Smith, Jules Chaikin, and Oliver Mitchell (trumpets), Bob Edmondson (trombone), John T Johnson and Gene Cipriano (saxophones), Bud Shank (woodwinds)

Original release:
Windy/Sometime The Association, Warners 7041

Currently available on: Insight Out: Deluxe Expanded Mono Edition Now Sounds CD

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