Song of the Week – River, Terry Reid


Pete Best was the original drummer for The Beatles. Just as they were about to break out with a recording contract, Best was sacked in favor of Ringo Starr. Eighteen months later The Beatles made their first trip to the US to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show and Beatlemania commenced. To be so close to worldwide stardom, then miss out, must have led to massive regrets that Best has had to live with the rest of his life!

But imagine, instead, if the missed opportunity was self-inflicted? So goes the legend of British musician Terry Reid who is most often noted for his decision to turn down an offer from Jimmy Page to join his then new group, Led Zeppelin, as its lead singer. Not only did Reid turn down the gig, but he was magnanimous enough to suggest to Page that he hire a young singer named Robert Plant instead.

Page’s invitation was not without merit. No less than Aretha Franklin was quoted in 1968 as saying “There are only three things happening in England: The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Terry Reid.”

Later, in 1969, Reid was recruited to join Deep Purple and passed on that one too. The great Ian Gillian got the job.

Although Reid chose to go his own way, releasing five solo albums between 1968 and 1979, he toiled in relative obscurity. That’s despite a catalog of high quality recordings. My favorite is the Tom Dowd produced River, from 1973, and the SotW is the title song.

River is an album of two distinct sides. The first side had four more traditional rockers. Side two had three songs that were “jazzy” in the same way as some Van Morrison cuts but tempered with the folksiness of Nick Drake. None clock in at less than 4 minutes. “River” is a samba flavored jazzy cut. (In fact, Reid later became friends with Brazilian jazz legends Gilberto Gil and Carlos Jobim.)

So let’s return to the theme of regret. Reid has none. A recent article in MOJO written by Sylvie Simmons cites “in over four hours of interview, (Reid) hadn’t a bad word to say about anyone, nor a twinge of bitterness at how the road to fame and fortune went wrong.”

Enjoy… until next week.

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