As 1972 drew to a close Dave Cousins and the band were once again reinventing themselves. Having vented their anger in Grave New World it was time to move on to more fruitful pastures.
Two albums came out in quick succession. They are notable because of the distinctly different musical styles. Dave Cousins released a solo album Two Weeks Last Summer and the band released Bursting At The Seams. I have spent many hours contemplating these albums. It is my theory that Dave Cousins was not entirely happy with the direction that The Strawbs were headed in, and Two Weeks Last Summer was his security blanket.
Two Weeks contains classic Dave Cousins material. The title track Two Weeks Last Summer was a song that Dave had had kicking around for several years. While Sandy Denny had been part of the band it had been on their play list.
Dave brushed the dust off, and gave it his treatment.
Ways And Means is another fabulous track.
Two Weeks Last Summer most certainly was rooted in the Electric Folk genre. To me it is a milestone album.
Meanwhile back at the ranch The Strawbs released Bursting At The Seams. It was by far and away the most commercially successful album in their career. It charted at #2 in the UK and suddenly The Strawbs had made it! Two singles were released, Part Of The Union and Lay Down.
In 2007 I had the opportunity to talk to Dave and the subject of Bursting At The Seams came up. You can find the whole interview here.
The band is known in England primarily for â€˜Part of the Unionâ€™, and this has been an albatross round our necks all this time.
We had two careers as The Strawbs. The first was up to 1973 when the band evolved from the folk clubs to becoming a rock band. We had several hit albums and singles.
As a result of the split, because of â€˜Part of the Unionâ€™, we formed a new line up that toured incessantly in the USA and Canada from 1974-1976. We hardly did any shows in the UK. We had a succession of six hit albums on the Billboard chart, the last five of which failed to chart in the UK. As a result the band became far better known in the USA and Canada than in the UK.
Part Of The Union has indeed been a millstone around their necks for almost 40 years. I had a very similar discussion with Al Stewart, who is cursed with Year Of The Cat.
There are many versions of Part of the union floating around the internet. But this is without doubt my favorite. It comes from a 1973 episode of Top Of The Pops hosted by the much loved Jimmy Savile.
Lay Down was also released as a single.
In my opinion Dave Cousins was not happy with being labeled â€˜Part of the Unionâ€™ and that was his prime motivation for essentially camping out in North America for the next two years. Again I see shades of Al Stewart (full interview here):
We had just wrapped up a European tour that had been pretty successful, and we planned a 6 week 20 gig tour of North America to coincide with the release of â€˜Year of the Catâ€™. When we started the tour Year of the Cat was gradually inching itâ€™s way up the Billboard charts at an agonizingly slow pace. We could not go home while it was still climbing the charts, so we stayed and played, it ended up taking 6 months for Year of the Cat to peak, so instead of 20 gigs as we had planned it was over 100.
The hotel bills were mounting and I actually ended up renting a small apartment. At the end of the six months I thought about my situation, and it was not a difficult decision. I could stay in sunny Southern California, with the great weather and all the pretty girls, and here I was a singer with a big hit on my hands. Or I could go back to rainy, dreary London, which incidentally was the one city that Year of the Cat was not a success in. No one cared less about it. It was also 1977, and as I recall England was largely on strike around then.
More Strawbs soon.
Simon Barrett Â Â