The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

28 August 2006

One last beautiful burst of psychedelia

First, to get the obvious out of the way:

I don't like snails or toads or frogs
Or strange things living under logs
But mmm, I love onions!

Cue the kazoo guy.

What we know about Susan Christie: she recorded this goofy ditty in 1966, and it managed to make #63 in Billboard; she is not, despite rumors to the contrary, the sister of Lou Christie; her follow-up single, "Toy Balloon," went nowhere.

And now this. Paint a Lady comprises eight tracks, half an hour, of the funkiest folk, or something, you've ever heard in your life. Recorded between 1966 and 1968, compiled for an album which never came close to an actual record store — legend has it that a total of five copies were pressed, and three somehow survived — this is the most unlikely reissue of the year, and among those I've managed to hear, it might well be the best.

Paint a LadyChristie herself, novelty records notwithstanding, was a serious singer; she'd been a member of a Philadelphia folk group and a voice student at Berklee. Her vocal range is more horizontal than vertical: she has timbres ranging from silky-smooth to raspy and ragged, and the songs vary from pastoral-pretty to acid-drenched. (Imagine, say, Judy Collins having hooked up with Lee Hazlewood.) The nine-minute "Yesterday, Where's My Mind" is almost indescribable: the closest I can come would be a fusion of Eric Burdon, circa "A Girl Called Sandoz," with Patti Smith, circa "Piss Factory." The mad genius behind, or alongside, all of this is producer John Hill, perhaps best-known for cowriting and producing Pacific Gas and Electric's hit "Are You Ready?" — and for cowriting "I Love Onions."

The British Finders Keepers label put out a limited-edition 45 of "Paint a Lady" b/w "Ghost Riders in the Sky" (!) earlier this year; the album was released in August. (Mike Callahan of Both Sides Now notes that on "Riders," Susan sounds like Nancy Sinatra: another one of those unexpected timbres.)

And one more thing: Susan Christie's real name is Beatrice Hill. John's sister, maybe? Nobody's saying, even today.

Addendum, 5 October 2006: Singer/songwriter Austin Roberts ("Something's Wrong with Me", "Rocky") reported to the Spectropop list that John and Beatrice were man and wife.

Posted at 7:54 PM to Tongue and Groove