As I have noted many times, I grew up with Neil Diamond playing on the record player in the house. My parents had all of his older stuff and my dad played most of them regularly. Ok, so “The Tap Root Manuscript” gathered dust, but “Gold” and “Hot August Night” and “Stoned” were practically worn out.
I remember a night when my parents and I went to a friends house to watch on TV a Neil Diamond concert. It was an event. I thought it was the “Hot August Night” show, but I couldn’t find any record of that being on TV. A show from his Australian tour in 1976 was broadcast on TV on major networks according to the Neil Diamond Wiki.
That might be what I’m remembering. At any rate… I still love his early work and have re-bought almost all of the vinyl that I listened to in the old days on the big console stereo.
I’ll admit that a good portion of my love of Neil Diamond is the connection to my childhood and my dad and even when Neil sort of phased into more easy listening than I cared for, my dad still loved him and he continued to mark Neil Diamond in time for me.
“Neil Diamond – Serenade” and “Neil Diamond – Stones” have slower songs that seemed very introspective that I can recall dad singing while he was building model planes or just sitting on the couch smoking his pipe and looking out the patio window in the days when he lived in the apartment in Mishawaka. There was a melancholy to those days that Neil filled with his soft voice. Very late 70’s.
“Neil Diamond – Gold” was a staple for me in the days when dad lived with Billie. I slept in a spare bedroom that had a stereo in it while I was there and I played this album every night. I would lay there in the dark and listen to this album intently. I rarely was asleep before side two, so I’d get up and flip it over, wait patiently for “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” and then drift off to sleep when I heard the soft “whump” and click as the toner arm returned to the cradle and the belt shut down.
Another Neil album that was in heavy rotation and filled the air both in the house and the apartment, was “Neil Diamond – Jonathan Livingston Seagull”. Now, as I understand it, no one was happy with this project behind the scenes, Neil, the author of the book it was based on, and least of all the public that saw the movie… but the soundtrack was great. This was the epitome of the 70’s and it reminds me of my dad and his zodiac chain and the Concept Therapy group that my folks were into. The album has a very flowing and mellow sound with vocals and admittedly a bit of orchestration, but very light. The movie was the story of, you guessed it, a seagull.
I had to put this in here from the Wiki, the track listing sort of says it all.
|1||Prologue||And here begins our story – the sky, the sea, the flock.|
|2||Be||Introduction of Jonathan – his flight and fall.|
|3||Flight Of The Gull||Jonathan is carried to the heights of ambition, and to near catastrophe.|
|4||Dear Father||Battered, and near death, Jonathan asks for reasons.|
|5||Skybird||Returning home to show what he has learned, his acrobatics only serve to anger the flock elders. He is put on trial, and forever…outcast.|
|6||Lonely Looking Sky||Alone and adrift.|
|7||The Odyssey [Be – Lonely Looking Sky – Dear Father]||And so begins a journey, an odyssey, a test of the spirit.|
|8||Anthem||“Transcend, purify, glorious.”|
|9||Be||Jonathan returns to teach the flock.|
|11||Dear Father||Rebuked again by the elders, Jonathan attempts to rally the flock.|
|12||Be||Recapitulation and farewell to Fletcher|
Dad would listen to this and as he was coming in and out of the room the stereo was in he would join in with the song and then fade out as he left the room and returned to whatever he was doing. When we would go sailing sometimes on Diamond lake he would point to a lake gull flying over the mast and tell me it was Jonathan. The songs are very soaring and anthem-ish and it has always stuck with me.
Another favorite of his was the song “Forever In Blue Jeans” off of Neil’s “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” album. Neil had gone too soft for me by then, but dad still dug him and loved his duet with Barbara Streisand and all, but “Forever In Blue Jeans” was his jam. He would stop what he was doing when he heard it and do a little dance to it in the living room. He would sing it in his deepest barrione voice and it was comical, but endearing. Dad bought his blue jeans from K-mart and they never fit right, making it especially poignant.
When “The Jazz Singer” movie came out we saw it at the theater. Neil was no actor, but some of the soundtrack was awesome. This was the last and latest in his career Neil Diamond album I ever purchased.
Eventually I got dad’s Neil albums when he passed and I kept them until I started selling all my vinyl to convert to CD.
Years later, while working for UW Hospital in 2005, they announced that they had tickets to Neil Diamond’s concert at the Coliseum. FREE! How could I not go?
The concert turned out to be great of course. Our seats were way way way up, but that year Neil toured with a revolving stage and was all over it and quite the showman, in reality there was not a bad seat in the house. He did tons of favorites and the crowd was on fire, singing to everything and really digging it. It was awesome. Even the slow ones were amazing. The guy can really perform.
His voice all these years later… still strong.
Lastly, I think my dad bore a bit of a resemblance to Neil. Maybe I am the only one that sees it, but I bet dad would have loved the comparison. Maybe it was just the thinning hair.
I will always thank both mom and dad for making Neil a part of my life.
and thanks for all the great music Neil!