Sometimes even the greatest, most talented artists fall by the wayside and are lost in the abyss of obscurity forever more. And sometimes these artists are thankfully brought back into public consciousness by a song written about them. One such artist is Bob Lind. For Pulp’s 2001 album, We Love Life, Jarvis Cocker penned Bob Lind (The Only Way is Down).
The song, as with the rest of album was produced by Scott Walker, in his only production work carried out for a band or artist outside of his own work. Walker, just like Lind, had also been subjected to years of obscurity following the commercial failure of his now critically acclaimed album Scott 4 (1969). Walker spoke of his wilderness years in the 2006 documentary, Scott Walker: 30 Century Man:
“The record company called me in [following the commercial failure of Scott 4] and carpeted me and said you’ve got to make a commercial record for us … I was acting in bad faith for many years during that time … I was trying to hang on. I should have just stopped. I should have said, ‘OK, forget it’ and walked away. But I thought if I keep hanging on and making these bloody awful records … this is going to turn round if I just hang in long enough, and it didn’t. It went from bad to worse …”
Cocker even included a reference to a Walker record in the song Bad Cover Version from the album, slating the second side of 1970’s ‘Til the Band Comes In, which is often and rightfully described as being inferior to the first side: “The second side of ‘Til the Band Comes In”.
Cocker has since stated that Bad Cover Version was written way before Walker became involved in the project.
So, there is a certain amount of irony about Walker producing a song about another artist who faced years of obscurity. Bob Lind, born November 25th, 1942 in Baltimore, Maryland, United States is an American folk music singer-songwriter who helped to define the 1960’s folk rock movement in America and England. Lind is best known for his transatlantic hit, Elusive Butterfly (Don’t Be Concerned, 1966), which reached number 5 in both the UK and US in 1966. Despite the fact that many musicians have covered Lind’s songs and he still continues to write, record and perform, he still remains relatively unknown.
The Bob Lind story starts in 1965 when he signed a contract with Liberty Records’ subsidiary, World Pacific Records. It was on this label that he recorded Elusive Butterfly. The single might have done better on the UK Singles Chart had there not been competition from established Irish recording artist, Val Doonican, who released a cover version of the song at the same time. In the end, both versions of Elusive Butterfly made number 5 in the UK in 1966.
The B-side of Elusive Butterfly featured Cheryl’s Goin’ Home, a song which was covered by Adam Faith, the Blues Project, Sonny & Cher, John Otway, the Cascades and others. Other Lind songs were eventually covered by more than 200 artists including Cher, Glen Campbell, Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, Eric Clapton, Nancy Sinatra, The Four Tops, Richie Havens, Hoyt Axton, The Kingston Trio, Johnny Mathis and Petula Clark.
Despite recognition for his song writing ability and the success of Elusive Butterfly, Lind’s star was to shine very briefly. Plagued by drug and alcohol problems, Lind gained a reputation in the music industry for being difficult to work with. In 1969, he severed all ties with his record company. Three years after leaving World Pacific, Capitol Records released the album Since there Were Circles, an album well-received by critics but not commercially successful. Lind then dropped out of the record industry altogether for a number of years. Other recognition came from writer friend Charles Bukowski, who based the character Dinky Summers in his 1978 novel, Women and Other Writings on Lind.
In 1988, Lind moved to Florida where he write five novels, an award winning play and a screenplay, Refuge, which won the Florida Screenwriters’ Competition in 1991. He also became a staff writer for supermarket tabloids Weekly World News and Sun. He returned to music in 2004, three years after Pulp’s Bob Lind (The Only Way is Down), when, at the request of his friend, Arlo Guthrie, son of Woody Guthrie, he performed live at the Guthrie Center in Becket, Massachusetts. Lind began touring again and has toured ever since.
In 2006, Lind established his official website. In the same year, RPM Records re-issued the album Since There Were Circles and Lind self-released the Live at Luna Star album featuring performances of new material. In 2007, Elusive Butterfly: The Complete 1966 Nitzsche Sessions was released in the UK by Ace Records whilst in 2009, filmmaker Paul Surratt made the concert / documentary film about Lind entitled Bob Lind: Perspective. Most recently, 2012 saw the release of Lind’s first album of new material in 41 years, Finding You Again, produced by guitarist of the band The Spongetones, Jamie Hoover. The album was once again released in Ace Records. Additionally, as well as naming the song Bob Lind (The Only Way is Down) after Lind, Cocker and bandmate Steve Mackey included the Lind recording Cool Summer (The Elusive Bob Lind, 1966) on their 2006 compilation album The Trip: Curated by Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey.
In 2013, Lind was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, along with Judy Collins, the Serendipity Singers and Chris Daniels.
In a 2001 interview with NME to accompany the release of We Love Life, Cocker said of Bob Lind (The Only Way is Down):
“There was this bloke in the late ‘60s called Bob Lind. One of his most famous songs is Elusive Butterfly, which was one of my favourites when I was younger. Something about the sound of this song made me think of him. It’s about someone who is a fuck-up. And sometimes there’s something good about admitting that. Most people who are famous and wealthy tend to be more fucked up than everybody else. Bob Lind, he writes quite, kind of, sweet songs but then they’ve often got quite negative words. For instance, there’s a song of his called Remember the Rain [Photographs of Feeling, 1966] …
… which is basically saying: “Remember the rain, when you walk in the sunshine”, it’s saying, “Oh right, you might be having a good time now, but listen, you will be having a shit time soon” – which is a pretty negative thing to write about and yet it’s quite a nice, jangly little tune. So that song reminded me of him a bit. So Bob Lind was just a working title, but then as sometimes happens, I couldn’t think of a better one. So I just left it. And he did get in touch the other day and said, “I’m gonna sue”. No, he didn’t – he got in touch, and he seemed to be quite flattered that somebody had remembered him”.