Omaha Rainbow : Issue 18


As usual, this column is the final piece of the jigsaw that is each issue of Omaha Rainbow.  This particular issue has been put together amidst even greater turmoil than ever as I am about to leave for America on a five week holiday.  I'll be beginning and ending the holiday in Texas, courtesy of Roxy Gordon, but the middle part will be spent in California.  The timing is unusually impeccable for me, as John is due to begin recording his second album on RSO Records in August, so I shall be hoping to attend some of the sessions.  John, who must be one of the most prolific songwriters around, has already ditched some of the songs listed in this column last time around, and a whole batch of even newer ones are up for consideration.

Of course, I'm also hoping John will also be doing some live work.  Both Scott Giles and Andy Fergus were fortunate enough to see John play at The Roxy - one of Los Angeles' most prestigious clubs - in mid-June.  You may have seen Harvey Kubernick's enthusiastic mention of the show in his Melody Maker column.  Scott wrote to me later, "I caught the nine o'clock show and he was just amazing.  Obviously he featured material from the last album, but threw in 'July' and an incredible Bob Dylan/NeilYoung take off.  Bass player, Chris Whalen, did a superb Neil Young impersonation.''

Bob Westfall in New York, good fellow that he is, has sent me John's American single release of 'Promise the Wind' b/w 'Morning Thunder.'  This is an extremely valuable recording, being just about the only RSO single in living memory not to have made number one.  Just to ensure rarity value, it failed even to show in the Top 200, so do ask your American contacts to get you a copy before any remaining are recycled.  The US number is RSO RS 894.

'Fire in the Wind' b/w 'Promise the Wind' suffered a similar fate over here, so leap into your local shop and ask them for it on RSO 007.  (A better investment than any bond I can think of !)  Just to complete the set, a reminder that John's other UK release was 'On You Like the Wind' b/w 'Morning Thunder' on RSO 2090 274.

Now then, I don't know how many of you read westerns, but the information contained in a recent long letter from Laurence James should get you thumbing through them the next time you're in WHS.  Here's just some of what he told me.....

"I'm a writer and have been for about five years, during which time I've had about fifty or sixty books published under a variety of pen-names and in a variety of categories.  I also co-wrote with a couple of other fellows in some series, and they in turn write on their own and with each other.  Particularly in westerns.  It's an irony that the majority of westerns sold here and in the States are coming from four or five English authors.  The other two - Angus Wells and John Harvey - are also among the loyal friends and front row dancers who've hitched their wagon to the music of John Stewart.  One thing that we've done in our books is occasionally slip in a line or a reference to one of John's songs.  And we've also used quotes and dedications.  These come on the spur of the moment and are difficult to track down but these are just some of the instances of ways we've mentioned John or used his lines.

Angus Wells in his western series, "Breed," has put in several references of this type.  I should say that much as we like John we do use other 'homages' like this.  To John Ford films, or Peckinpah or Raymond Chandler or Guy Clark, etc.,etc.

In "The Lonely Hunt" there is a chunky section from 'Missouri Birds' on p.l00 with a bit of 'July, You're a Woman' and on the next page references to 'Stone County Road,' 'Never Goin' Back' and 'Shackles and Chains.'  This is an extreme example of what I talked about.  Generally there's an odd line here and there.  "Silent Kill'' has a cowboy called John Stewart who could have gone to Colorado but his boss rode stone blind into trouble.

A later book in this is dedicated to John Harvey - the Lonesome Picker, and the sixth book in the series is dedicated to me.  To Laurence James - sometimes you can see Montana in his eyes.  There's also a reference in that book to a soldier called Stewart coming home from the war to a girl called July who tells the hero that you can't look back.

You get the idea?

Angus and John are working together on a new eeries called ''Gringos," the titles to numbers 2 and 3 being "Cannons in the Rain" and "Fire in the Wind."

Number 2 in that series carries the quote in the dedication - attributed to John Stewart, of course - 'Shoot al1 the brave horses and how will we ride?'

Harvey dedicated the fourth book in the very successful western series, "Caleb Thorn," to 'My father - who opened up the West for me - and did it pretty up and walking good.'

"Herne the Hunter 4" has a reference to a fairly major character called Dan Stewart who had a father called Long John.  It's on pp99 and l00.

Harvey's series under the name Jonothan White has a deal of Stewart material in it.  "Double Act" is a prime example.

That brings us to me.  I've used odd lines in an awful lot of books.  Just as little throwaway lines, mainly for my own benefit or for my fellow writers and fans.  What happens a lot in my experience is that I play music while I write.  As John Stewart is my favourite, it follows I play his music a lot and lines just seem to creep in because they're so very good.  I surely hope he doesn't mind this.  I can only repeat that we do this because we love the man and his songs and it's a kind of small way of making a tribute to him among ourselves.

I wrote a science fiction series under my name and mentioned John Stewart as among my favourite singers in the author's biog at the beginning of the books.  I also wrote the "Confessions" series under the name of Jonathan May and put in lots of references to playing John Stewart music, actually naming him and urging people to buy his records.

Harvey and I wrote "Herne" together with me doing odd and him even numbers.  Number 3 is dedicated to him (see what an incestuous lot we are).  'My, oh my, the time does fly...this is for John Harvey who is as good a writer as he is a friend. Remember to keep your eyes on the Omaha Rainbow.'

This brings me to the book that started off this letter.  "Apache 9. The Naked and the Savage."  (Not my title, incidentally). After writing for a couple of years I'd run through friends, relations and editors and I suddenly thought I'd really like to dedicate a book to someone that I admired as a professional artist.  And John Stewart was number one.  So I did.  'This is for John Stewart whom I've liked and enjoyed from the Kingston Trio to the Omaha Rainbow and then onwards and upwards.  With sincere thanks and admiration.' "

Which is why you'll find me taking out a whole bunch of westerns to America to give to John.  OR19 will be the 5th Birthday issue, so with any luck I'll be able to make it a bumper John Stewart issue.  Wish me luck!

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