Monday, May 14, 2007

“A Summer Song” / Chad and Jeremy


Rock stars in glasses -- I never could resist them. When Chad and Jeremy came along, there was no question which one I’d have a crush on. (Though Jeremy was pretty dishy too.)

Amidst all the rock & roll combos we imported from England in 1964, Chad and Jeremy were different – just the two of them, with an acoustic guitar and soft, earnest folk-singer vocals. I picture them perched on stools, either side of a microphone stand, wearing turtleneck sweaters, looking arty and intellectual. (Chad’s glasses certainly added to that image.) Yet their music was much less groundbreaking than the Merseybeat records. Loaded up with strings, a horn section here and there, those tracks were closer to Gene Pitney than Gene Vincent.

Still, I was young, they were English, Chad wore glasses – I had to love them. Their first US single “Yesterday’s Gone,” had a twanging guitar riff that was a little too country for me (it actually began to chart as a country & western song, until fans learned that these guys were longhaired Brits.) But “Yesterday’s Gone” thrived on the pop charts, and was followed a couple months later with “A Summer Song,” a wistful ballad hidden deep on their second UK album. Released in August 1964, right on time for those end-of-summer break-ups, it totally hit a chord.

“Yesterday’s Gone” was a summer farewell song, too, but it was brisk and bitter compared to this honeyed gem. “A Summer Song” was simply poetry, the sort guaranteed to melt teenage girls’ hearts: “Trees, swaying in the summer breeze, / Showing off their silver leaves / As we walk by.” Their voices break into yearning harmonies for the next verse, a snapshot of carefree love: “Soft kisses on a summer's day, / Laughing all our cares away, / Just you and I.” (How comforting to realize that even Englishmen could mess up grammar for the sake of a rhyme.) Strings sneak in on verse three -- “Sweet, sleepy warmth of summer nights, / Gazing at the distant lights / In the starry sky” – but I’m too dazzled to mind, imagining snuggling next to Chad (or Jeremy) on a beach blanket gazing at the stars.

Drums and horns are added on the bridge, where the emotions darken, along with the chord changes: “They say that all good things must end some day; / Autumn leaves must fall.” Their voices join in unison again for the heartfelt, direct declaration: “But don't you know that it hurts me so / To say goodbye to you?,” splitting only on the trilled “you.” They subside into a rueful hush for “Wish you didn't have to go [nice horn riff here] / No, no, no, no”, then launch into the last verse, where the autumn rain beats on his window as he dreams of summer.

The equally dreamy “Willow, Weep For Me” followed that fall, scoring a trifecta of 1964 hits for C&J. In early 1965, they popped up in guest roles on both The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Patty Duke Show -- Chad and Jeremy were also legitimate actors, who’d met at London’s prestigious Central School for Speech & Drama -- and those well-bred accents sealed the deal for me. (Jeremy had gone to Eton, was descended from the Duke of Wellington, was a page at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation – you couldn’t get further from the Liverpool slums). And then . . . they seemed to fade away, like a summer romance. Jeremy wanted to be an actor with a sideline in music; Chad wanted it the other way around. Whatever.

I soon had Herman’s Hermits to keep me warm. But I always kept Chad and Jeremy pressed in my British Invasion scrapbook – like a ticket stub, faded summer flowers, a few grains of sand. Old loves.

A Summer Song sample


actionsub said...

They even dragged Chad and Jeremy into an episode of the comic Western series "Laredo" in an attempt to spin C&J off into their own TV series.

Holly A Hughes said...

Now that you mention that, I do seem to remember them in cowboy hats and string ties and Maverick-style waistcoats. I'd have watched a Chad & Jeremy TV series for sure!

It's funny to look back and realize there was a star-making machine at work back then too. Everybody hopping on the British Invasion gravy train . . . I was completely taken in by it.