Thursday, 30 September 2010

Phil Ochs in the News

“When he was sane, before his psychosis overcame him, he showed an unswerving concern for the humanities,” Parks recalls. “His songs were laced with courage and an urgent sense of social aware­ness that is simply not present in the present tense of songwriting. ‘Where’s the outrage?’ is too often the question in view of today’s crimes against humanity and ecology. I miss the beautiful man Phil Ochs, and the power of his personality.”
- Commentary by the wayside (Montreal Mirror)

"My main man Phil Ochs doesn't need to be inducted into Hall of Fame to be remembered -- eventually somebody is going to make that biopic, and then we'll all be singing 'I Ain't-A Marchin' Anymore.' Until then, his fans know him for what he is: the best protest singer of the Twentieth Century, and probably the best composer of patriotic music, too."
- Song of the Day: 'Power and the Glory,' Phil Ochs (

'Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune': Directed by Kenneth Bowser, this documentary explores the tragically short life of 1960s folk singer Phil Ochs. Bowser interviews family, musicians and others close to Ochs. Many of the people interviewed are from — or still live in — Woodstock.
- Woodstock fest is full of films with area ties (

“My parents were big into folk music. … I listened to a lot of Phil Ochs, Cat Stevens, James Taylor.

“Most of my writing has a certain flavor like that. I’ve been calling what my group does ‘folk jazz.’ It’s not folk, but it has that quality to it. It’s pretty lyrical, at least in my mind — if it doesn’t sound that way to other people.”
- Matt Otto surfaces on KC's jazz scene (Kansas City Star)

Monday, 27 September 2010

Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune Acquired by First Run Features

First Run Features has acquired the new feature documentary from Michael Cohl’s S2BN Entertainment, “Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune,” produced and directed by Kenneth Bowser. The film recounts the life of Ochs, a folk singing legend, who shot to fame in the early 1960s, and protested during the Vietnam War. His solo shows are remembered for their political slants, and the controversy he brewed up attracted both fans and fervent enemies.


The music of Ochs lives on, influencing and inspiring songwriters around the world. Artists such as Pearl Jam, Joan Baez, Ani DiFranco, Billy Bragg, and They Might Be Giants have covered his songs, the best-known of which include “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”, “Changes”, “Crucifixion”, “Draft Dodger Rag”, “Love Me, I’m a Liberal”, “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”, “Power and the Glory”, “There But for Fortune”, and “The War Is Over”.


Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Phil Ochs Cover That Never Was

It began with this review by Richie Unterberger of the Clydie King 2007 compilation Imperial & Minit Years, which contained the following reference:
The previously unissued 1968 tracks show her trying some pretty unexpected tunes by the likes of Mickey Newbury, Bobbie Gentry, and Phil Ochs...

Presumably Unterberger saw the title "When in Rome" on the compilation and assumed it was the Phil Ochs song, but it is certainly not upon a cursory listen (would King have really covered this dark material, with lyrics like "I cracked his skull again"?) -- not to mention that the track would need to continue for at least another 10 minutes beyond its 2:13 length to cover all the lyrics contained in the Ochs song.

The erroneous information then found its way into this review of Farewells & Fantasies: The Phil Ochs Collection:
Among folk legends, the late Phil Ochs is nearly peerless. His dozen years as a ringing voice in the war against social and political injustice left the world with a wealth of music and lyrics that remain powerful and in some cases topical more than 30 years after he recorded them. Joined by the likes of Ry Cooder, Clydie King, Jack Elliott, Van Dyke Parks, Don Rich, and Tom Scott, Ochs created a legacy of words and music that continues to drive the spirit of social conscience in musicians like Billy Bragg, Natalie Merchant, and Ani DiFranco. This 3 CD set collects the work he did at Elektra, A&M, and Folkways between 1964 and 1975, as well as several previously unreleased tracks. It chronicles not just an era when music and politics often clashed, but also one spiritual man's sojourn from rebellion and activism to depression and despair. --L.A. Smith

As interesting as it would be to hear Clydie King cover Ochs' "When in Rome," it never happened and despite claims to the contrary, she has never recorded a Phil Ochs song.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Phil Ochs: "Changes" Live on Midnight Special, 1974

Ochs begins this segment by referencing a review of his music in Esquire magazine which stated, "His guitar playing would not suffer much were his right hand webbed." Here he puts this to the test, with a bandaged hand and broken arm he inflicted on himself after punching a wall at Max's Kansas City in New York City. Ochs and Jim Glover in this clip sing "Changes," which according to Phil's story here was written circa August 1965 during his first visit to Canada.

This wasn't even the first time he performed on television with this type of injury. After punching out the ticket box office at Carnegie Hall and getting banned for life, he appeared with a bandaged hand in 1970 on The David Frost Show, which included Frost watching in amazement as Ochs strummed through "I Ain't Marching Anymore."

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Phil Ochs, the Folksinger's Folksinger, Writes Himself Off -- Twisted Tales

New article from Spinner Canada:
Phil Ochs, the Folksinger's Folksinger, Writes Himself Off -- Twisted Tales.

The topical folksinger Phil Ochs, once considered a counterpart to the young Bob Dylan, thought of himself as a singing journalist. "Every newspaper headline is a potential song," he once wrote.

But there wasn't much good news during Ochs' brief lifetime. He wrote songs about the death of JFK, the violent backlash against the civil rights movement and the escalation of the Vietnam War. Ochs' wishful song 'The War Is Over' lent John Lennon and Yoko Ono a political slogan.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Phil Ochs Sings for Broadside: Review

Phil Ochs Sings for Broadside, a cash-in LP release following Ochs' death in 1976, possessed a title that was only partially correct. In reality, only half of the songs were of Phil Ochs singing for Broadside magazine; the other half were in fact sung for a U.S. politician. According to the liner notes, the story went as follows:

Some time before Phil Ochs died April 9, 1976, in Far Rockaway, NY, he gave a benefit concert for Broadside. He brought us about $500. He also had the concert taped and he turned the tape over to us with the suggestion we make an LP Album out of it. "Let's give 'em one more broadside," he said. (It took us some time to realize that there was a certain tone of finality in this remark.) We played the tape and commented "there's not enough material on here to make a whole album and, besides, some of your best and strongest songs are missing." Phil laughed and pointed out "Look, you've got other tapes of mine. I don't think there's a single song I ever wrote that I didn't tape for you. Just splice on what you want. It's all yours. Have Moe Asch put it out."

The benefit concert in question actually took place in October 1974 for Ramsey Clark, who at the time was running for the U.S. Senate. That makes most of the paragraph a fabrication, with the exception of the correctly noted date and place of Ochs' passing. Why the fictitious story? Broadside magazine's founders, Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen, perennially strapped for cash according to their autobiography, Red Dust and Broadsides, were no doubt looking for a quick way to profit on their extensive Ochs archive of recordings. They followed this LP later that year with the Interviews with Phil Ochs LP, then in 1980 with The Broadside Tapes 1, when Michael Ochs stepped in and put a stop to any further Folkways releases bearing Phil Ochs' name (hence there never was a second volume of Broadside Tapes).

As to the content of the LP itself, the full Ramsey Clark concert is available in similar or better quality elsewhere (though only unofficially), but Phil is in fine form and it provides a rare glimpse into his latter day shows, which official CD releases have studiously steered away from. The remainder of the album is filled with rare Broadside demos - so rare in fact that the LP remains the only place to find recordings of "United Fruit" and "On Her Hand a Golden Ring," as the songs were spliced out of the original tapes during the making of the LP.

An interesting note of trivia: this LP was evidently picked up by The Clash, who in 1980 on their album Sandinista! released "Up in Heaven (Not Only Here)," which borrowed some lyrics from "United Fruit."

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune to premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival 2010

From the press release:
The 11th annual Woodstock Film Festival today announced its 2010 line-up of nearly 150 fiercely independent films, panels, performances and special events, kicking-off Wednesday, September 29 through Sunday, October 3. Screenings and events take place in the historic, arts colony of Woodstock, and the neighboring towns of Rhinebeck, Rosendale, Mt. Tremper, and Kingston, in the Hudson Valley Catskills, just two hours from NYC.

- PHIL OCHS: THERE BUT FOR FORTUNE (World Premiere) – Directed by Kenneth Bowser. Music bio-documentary delves deep into the life of musical icon Phil Ochs. Civil rights. Freedom of Speech. The Vietnam War. Watergate. He wrote a song about them all, in large part creating the musical protest culture of the 60′s and 70′s. Through interviews with family and many well-known musicians who considered themselves fans of Phil Ochs, comes a vivid and compelling portrait of a controversial musical figure whose protest marked a generation. Director Kenneth Bowser will be in attendance for the Q & A, along with Michael Ochs, Phil’s brother.

According to the film schedule, Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune is scheduled to play on October 1 at 4:45 at the Bearsville Theater and October 2 at 6:30 at Upstate I (Rhinebeck). Kenneth Bowser will also be a panelist at "Music For Change," Utopia Studios, October 2, 4:00 pm "showcasing prominent and emerging musicians and fi lmmakers who use music as a tool for social change."