Had an email today from someone making a documentary on the life and music of Shawn Phillips. Brought back memories of an extraordinary night back in 1970.
Six of us were driving through Italy en route to Greece and Skiathos, when we arrived in Positano. Hippy days and we must have looked like ruffians. Up came a quintessential hipster, blond hair down to his waist. Shawn Phillips. We hit it off immediately and he invited us to his home later that night.
Three of us went, Ian (Lovell), Rex (Gowar) and I. Up endless steps to what seemed like the very top of Positano. There, in a huge largely unfurnished room equipped with large speakers, and with gothic windows looking down across to the town to the Mediterranean, Shawn played us the tapes of what would become his albums Contribution and Second Contribution. And maybe also of Collaboration.
His recording band including people like Stevie Winwood, Crhis Wood and Jim Capaldi of Traffic. (One link I discovered while researching this blog was to The Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Paul Buckmaster played a key role in producing some of Shawn’s music – and also that Stones song. Fiona, our next door neighbour in Barnes until she died, was part of the choir that backed the Stones on You Can’t Always, I assume recorded round the corner at Olympic Studios.)
In any event, a key memory of that long-ago Positano evening is of Shawn’s black cat, or at least a black cat, suddenly jumping up in the middle of a track with a very pronounced bass line and, quite literally, starting to dance. Unforgettable.