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Bill Withers – Just Like The First Time

bill-sized‘I have a funny phrase. I call A & R Departments Antagonistic & Redundant Departments. [laughs] Because there’s always somebody in there who thinks they know what’s going on’. Bill Withers in an interview with puremusic.com

You are the head of A and R at Columbia records in 1976 and your name is Michael Eichmann. You are blessed to have in your stable a man who has just penned ‘Lean On Me’, ‘Hello Like Before’ ‘Use Me’ and ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. They become some of the most, covered, sampled and remixed tracks in music history. You’re a lucky man Mr. Eichmann.

Beyond his achingly beautiful love songs, massive popularity and his fabulous voice, he’s also writing profound social commentaries such as the brutal anti Vietnam war song ‘I can’t write left handed’.

He has also written a unforgettable memoir of his childhood ‘Grandma’s Hands’, a moving description of the life of poor, urban, blacks and what got them through life, which was church, love and each other. I include the ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’ version here for its cool, utterly charming and funny spoken intro ‘love that old lady’.

Grandma’s Hands live at Carnegie Hall

 

 

So what to do with him next Mr. Eichmann?

Do you…
A) Stay out of his face and let him get on with making you a load of money and blessing the world with more great songs?
Or
B) Insist his next release be a cover version of a rich white man’s lament about the life of poor black people, Elvis’s ‘In The Ghetto’ and if he refuses, don’t let him go into a studio again to record a project in his own name until 1985?

Mr. Eichmann chose option B. Thus Mr Eichmann is rendered  a complete tool forever in this writers heart.

Thankfully Bill did manage to get into the studio to help out his mate Grover Washington Jnr and dropped ‘Just The Two Of Us’ and ‘Lovely Day’ on the ridiculously good ‘Wine light” album.*
Given the quality of those two tunes, we are left contemplating what we lost due to Eichmann’s, at worst arrogance and at best incompetence.
(There is also a rumor that Eichmann was instructed to punish Withers by the CIA because of his anti Vietnam War stance too).

Bill’s last studio recording was the very well received despite being vindictively un-promoted ‘Watching You, Watching Me’ album, spawning one single, ‘Oh Yeah’. Although you probably haven’t heard ‘Oh Yeah’ before it is not the featured song for this post, oh no. Consider its inclusion below as a two-for-one special offer.

The song I am featuring in this post is the B side of the 12” single of ‘Oh Yeah’ and it’s not even on the album. In fact it’s so rare that the only copy I have I had to get off eBay and it’s slightly scratched, I am sure you will manage though.

The song shows once more Bill’s incredible skill for using a regular man’s words to sum up a profound sentiment. It’s called ‘Just Like The First Time’ and it’s right up there with ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and ‘Hello Like Before’ and had it had not been for Mr. Eichmann, would have a been a huge hit and not a ‘Great Song You Haven’t Heard’.

Now get a glass of wine, pull your loved one close, turn the lights down low and press play…

 

 

*BTW If you like the sax, this is the first album you should have bought and not anything beginning with the letters ‘Kenny’ and ending in G.  Kenny is for people who want their friends to think that they like jazz or who take a perverse pleasure in hanging out in hotel lobbies and lifts.