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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2002/07/03
by Mike Gruenberg

Chad & Jeremy

I have always rooted for the underdog. Although I must admit that long shots don’t usually pay off, it’s still a lot of fun to see a person or team upset the acknowledged leader. In music, we have come to rely on our individual favorites. Older rock ‘n’ rollers such as I still cling to the Beatles, Stones, Hendrix, etc. Bluegrass folks like Bela Fleck and Jerry Douglas. Country favorites will usually include Tim McGraw, Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn. And of course, any Motown artist is fine with the people who like soul music.
For most of us raised on 60’s rock, those were the times were "a-changin’" with new and exciting artists being released to the record buying public. Clapton going from the John Mayall Bluesbreakers group to form Cream and then to go solo with the landmark Layla album. Jimi Hendrix, leaving the Jimi Hendrix Experience to start a new band right before his untimely death. Stephen Stills and Neil Young leaving Buffalo Springfield to become the last two parts of CSNY was great to see. They were exciting times indeed.
In 1964, at the height of all this awareness of new music and classic rock ‘n’ roll, a song called "Yesterday’s Gone" became hit for Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde on the World Artists label. The song could be best described as "light folk." It gave new meaning to the word, "light." Friends of mine swore that when it was heard, their radio began to levitate But for some unknown reason, it became a hit and was played heavily on the FM stations. Perhaps it was our fascination for new British groups, or perhaps these two lads were intelligent or maybe they just had a great agent. The result was that Chad & Jeremy had a hit. Not only did they have a hit, but also they began to appear on all the teen music shows and make guest appearance on the popular television shows of that time. I remember seeing them on an episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show and thinking to myself, "who are these guys and why are the being featured so often?"
Peer pressure at this of my life time took on new meaning. There was a certain degree of "one upmanship" in discussing new and unheard bands amongst my friends and me. We all took great delight in knowing the hot American and British groups and listening to the FM radio stations playing their new releases. It was quite clear that none of my friends would have looked kindly upon my supposed music knowledge had I said that I heard, much less bought the new Chad & Jeremy album. I must admit that I did buy the single, but stopped short of buying the album. I cannot tell you why I bought it, but I did.

As was so often the case in those times, Chad & Jeremy left the Pittsburgh based World Artists label and signed with Columbia Records. The new label brought in veteran record producers such as Larry Marks and Lor Crane. They began transforming the boys to adopt a more orchestrated approach to their songs. By 1966, they had released a fair number of singles and albums, moved to California and hit #30 on the record charts with the song, Distant Shores taken from the album of the same name. At about the same time, Jeremy decided that he was more a stage actor than a musician and he returned to England to pursue a theatrical career and the duo broke up.
My favorite radio station at the time was WNEW-FM. I was always tuned into my favorite disc jockey, Scott Muni. In 1967, I heard Scott play some selected cuts from an album called "Of Cabbages and Kings." I was blown away by what I heard. I later learned that apparently, Chad and Jeremy regrouped and with the assistance of record producer, Gary Usher recorded this "concept" album. Chad and Jeremy wrote all songs, except for one. Oddly, enough, the one song was written by James William Guercio who went on to produce Blood, Sweat & Tears and the majority of the Chicago albums.
Side 1 contains six cuts. The first song of the album is called, "Rest In Peace." It begins with an obviously older man coughing. To alleviate the coughing, he is mixing some type of medicine. The listener hears the clanging of the spoon against the glass that then turns into the beat of the song. This is truly a brilliant beginning to this album that gets better and better. The next five songs take you through somber, humorous and introspective views of birth, life and death.
Side 2 is called the Progress Suite in five movements. The five movements are 1. Prologue, 2. Decline, 3. Editorial, 4. Fall and 5. Epilogue. Through these five unique movements, Chad and Jeremy consistently and cleverly are poking fun at our society. Given that this album was released in 1967, at the very time when many of our country’s youth was questioning the values of American society, the messages delivered were very clear.
In my opinion, "Of Cabbages and Kings" stands proudly with "Sergeant Pepper" "Tommy," "Pet Sounds" and any other popular concept album of that time. Sadly, after the release of their next concept album, "The Ark," the duo broke up. Chad and his wife, Jill Stuart continued in the music business and Jeremy went back to the West End of London where he has enjoyed a successful career.
For me, "Of Cabbages and Kings" represented not only great music, but also the triumph of the underdog. Chad and Jeremy initial foray into music was not viewed as mainstream or progressive rock or even that good. They worked hard and as such, allowed their talent to come to the surface.

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