Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Sagittarius – "My World Fell Down" (1967)

'Cause it's wintertime
And the leaves are brown
Since you went away

Yaaay!  2 or 3 lines is celebrating its seventh birthday today!  (It seems that no gifts have been delivered yet, but it’s still early.)

Happy 7th birthday!
Imagine that . . . 2 or 3 lines has made you laugh, and made you cry, and made you throw up a little in your mouth three times a week for seven whole years now.  

We've featured many wonderful songs – many of which were obscure and in danger of becoming lost and forgotten – along with a lot of narcissistic nonsense.  (Mostly the latter.)

Seven years of 2 or 3 lines . . . and I feel like we’re just getting started.  God willing and the creek don’t rise, you’ll have 2 or 3 lines for many years to come – knock on wood.  (I don’t want to jinx it.)

I like to feature a very special song each time 2 or 3 lines reaches an important milestone, and today’s featured song is certainly very special indeed.

Imagine a song that sounds like a lost Brian Wilson masterpiece – but with a chorus sung by the Mamas and the Papas.  

That’s today’s featured song – “My World Fell Down,” which was released in 1967 by Sagittarius, a group that didn’t really exist.

A very young Gary Usher
“My World Fell Down” was written by two members of an obscure British pop group who called themselves the Ivy League.  Columbia Records staff producer Gary Usher heard their 1966 recording of the song and thought it could be a hit for Chad & Jeremy – he had produced their Of Cabbages and Kings concept album – but that duo only wanted to record their own songs.  So Usher decided to record it himself.  

He recruited several members of the famous aggregation of Los Angeles-based studio musicians who came to be known as the “Wrecking Crew” — most notably, guitarist Glen Campbell and drummer Hal Blaine – and asked Beach Boys member Bruce Johnson and his pal Terry Melcher to help with the backing vocals.  (Belcher, who was Doris Day’s son, produced albums by the Byrds and Paul Revere and the Raiders, and sang backup on Pet Sounds.)

Gary Usher met Brian Wilson through Usher’s uncle, who was a neighbor of Wilson’s family, and the two men wrote several songs together, including “In My Room” and “409.”  Given his relationship with and admiration for Wilson and the presence of Bruce Johnson and some of the Wrecking Crew musicians who had worked on Pet Sounds and “Good Vibrations” the previous year, it’s not surprising that “My World Fell Down” sounds so much like a Brian Wilson/Beach Boys song.

Wilson, Usher, and Dr. Eugene Landy
The oddest part of “My World Fell Down” is the twenty seconds of so of musique concrète that Usher dropped into the middle of the song.  (Musique concrète isn’t music in the conventional sense.  It’s sound that exists in the everyday environment – such as the sounds of traffic or construction machinery – mixed together more or less randomly.) 

Usher thought that this twenty seconds of discordant noise was the reason that “My World Fell Down” didn’t become a hit single.  He took it out of the album version of the song (which is a full minute shorter than the single).

But I think the single version is far superior, mostly because of the musique concrète bridge and the two lush vocal breaks that surround it.  Without that section, the somewhat repetitive verse-and-chorus structure of “My World Fell Down” might have become too sing-songy. 

The single reached #70 on the Billboard “Hot 100.”  When Usher was given the go-ahead to record an album under the Sagittarius name, he asked Curt Boettcher to help. 

Boettcher, another singer/songwriter/producer who had ties to the Beach Boys, wrote half of the songs and was the lead vocalist on most of the tracks on that album, which was called Present Tense:

Boettcher and Usher died in 1987 and 1990, respectively.  (Usher was 51, Boettcher only 43.)  Very few people today are familiar with Present Tense or their other work.

We at 2 or 3 lines are doing what we can to correct that.  We’ll feature another song from the Present Tense album in the next 2 or 3 lines.

Here’s the single version of “My World Fell Down”

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I read the entire post thinking I had totally missed hearing this song back in the day. But...then I listened to it and started singing along on the first chorus. Did you have this album? I'm pretty sure I didn't.