May 15, 2015

I'm playing "Canyons Of Your Mind" by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.



And Meade says: "What's that? Elvis?"

Me: "That's the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. I'm researching the origin of the phrase 'canyons of your mind.' What do you think is the first appearance of that phrase?"

Meade: "I don't know. Glenn Campbell?"

Me: "That's 'Gentle on My Mind.'"

Now, I believe the answer to my question is "Elusive Butterfly," which was a hit in 1965 by the man who wrote the song, Bob Lind. It's rolling through the canyons of my mind this morning a propos of Florence Henderson saying that 1960s NY Mayor John Lindsay gave her the crabs. "Gentle on My Mind" was written by John Hartford in 1967.

This idea of the brain as a landscape — it's such a standard hippie trope — is it there in "Gentle on My Mind"? Yes. This singer sings of traveling alone but seeing his girlfriend "walkin' on the backroads/By the rivers flowing gentle on my mind." The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band is mocking "canyons of your mind" in 1968, but Bob Lind was serious in 1965: "You might have heard my footsteps/Echo softly in the distance through the canyons of your mind."

Also mocking the phrase was Frank Zappa in "We're Turning Again" (at 3:25):



"We can turn it around/We can do it again/We can go back in time/Through the canyons of your mind On the Eve of Destruction/We can act like we are something really special/We'll just jump in the bathtub/With that other guy Jim/And make him be more careful/We can visit Big Mama/And whap her on the back/When she eats her sandwich/We can take care of Janis..."

That's got to be much later than 1965, because Jim Morrison died in the bathtub in 1971. Yes, it's the opening track on the 1985 album "Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention." "Mothers of Prevention" referred, of course, to The Parents Music Resource Center — you know, that Tipper Gore warning-label business, against which Zappa testified before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, saying, among other things: "A couple of blowjobs here and there and — bingo! — you get a hearing."

Who knew then that in the next decade — the next canyon of the nation's mind — Tipper's husband would be Vice President, and everyone would be talking about blowjobs?

Stray fact encountered chasing the bright elusive butterfly of canyons of your mind: A movie inspired John Hartford to write "Gentle on My Mind": It was, oddly enough, "Dr. Zhivago."



ADDED: In the comments to the earlier post — the one with the Florence Henderson and the crabs — Roughcoat brought up another song, one I'd consigned to an unreachable canyon of my mind:
Summer breeze, makes me feel fine
Blowing through the canyons of my miiiiiiiind.
That came quite late in the development of hippie tropes — in 1972. How lame, but there were takers for that kind of lameness that year. The original artists were the very douche-y Seals & Croft. And that song has been covered by many artists over the years, including by Jason Mraz (who seems perfectly Seals & Croft-y) and Type O Negative (which is odd). Also odd: I once saw Type O Negative in concert! I must say that of all the bands I saw in my days of chauffeuring teenagers to concerts, there was only one band that I couldn't find it in myself to appreciate, and that was Type O Negative. So hail, Type O Negative! And listen to the Type O Negative "Summer Breeze," here. If you need to air out your mind canyons after that, here's that nice young man Jason Mraz.
Mraz lives a health-conscious lifestyle and has said that he eats mostly raw vegan foods. His vegan diet has also influenced his music. He owns a five-and-a-half acre avocado farm in Bonsall, California. He is an investor at Café Gratitude, a vegan restaurant in Los Angeles.... His hobbies include surfing, yoga and photography.

34 comments:

MisterBuddwing said...

And Meade says: "What's that, Elvis?"

Shouldn't that be, "What's that? Elvis?" Or is "Elvis" a nickname of some kind?

(Yeah, I know: Picky, picky, picky... )

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

"Windmills of Your Mind" had kind of a nifty mood to it, sort of like a somnambulant "Autumn Leaves," but it didn't go with the movie, and I didn't care for the movie, in any event.

Laslo Spatula said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laslo Spatula said...

The actress Kim Novak did a painting called "In The Canyons of My Mind.

I'm not sure if the actress Christy Canyon paints.

I am Laslo.

Robert Cook said...

Thumbs way UP for the Bonzos!

Thumbs way DOWN for Zappa.

rhhardin said...

You can play a canyon wren song all night to a mockingbird and the mockingbird will not pick it up.

Apparently he realizes that it won't impress the females.

They haven't heard a canyon wren.

traditionalguy said...

So Boris Pasternak is the one to blame for the hippy's best song lyrics.

The film masterpiece came out in 1965 right on time for the 1960s. The book written by a very educated Russian Jewish writer first had to be smuggled out of Russia in 1956, and then made into a movie and the immortal soundtrack created.

Yesterday I visited a friend stuck in a Rehab Center following a knee replacement who was in shock because she learned a close friend had suddenly died that morning. We listened to the Doctor Zhivago sound track together and were comforted by those immortal themes after 50 years.

surfed said...

A lot of compressed space-time continuum between the years 1965 and 1968. Each year seemed like a decade in and of itself.

tim in vermont said...

Oh man, now I need to rent Dr Zhivago again, probably on Amazon, since they will probably actually have it.

OT, but perhaps of interest Six year old girl defeats chess grandmaster after playing just a few months.

Laslo Spatula said...

You would've thought that there would've been a sequel to Dr. Zhivago by now.

Missed opportunity.

I am Laslo.

tim in vermont said...

You would've thought that there would've been a sequel to Dr. Zhivago by now

With the hero being a bare-chested leader on a horse with a crossbow?

Ann Althouse said...

@MisterBuddwing

LOL.

I made a punctuation change so you couldn't think about it that way, but it was funny to imagine that Meade calls me Elvis!

If he did call me Elvis, I'd call him Janis.

madAsHell said...

We went to see Dr. Zhivago when I was 8 years old. At the time, my vocabulary didn't include the phrase "chick flick".

Smilin' Jack said...

Am I the only one whom "Lara's Theme" makes want to smash things?

Though Julie Christie was super hot.

MadisonMan said...

"Zhivago! A man in love...with life!"

Who wrote that laughably bad trailer!

"Rita Tushingham...as the girl!"

MadisonMan said...

but perhaps of interest Six year old girl defeats chess grandmaster after playing just a few months

In reality, it just seemed to observers that the game took that long.

William said...

Betty White can't live forever. Florence Henderson is auditioning to become America's next salty grandma.....I never associated John Lindsay with lice. You'd think that if he were a horn dog, more people would have come forward.

Ann Althouse said...

""Rita Tushingham...as the girl!""

Yeah, that's the one I imitated out loud.

Ann Althouse said...

Julie Christie as the woman who's prettier than the other woman.

Mark O said...

Julie Christie? I'm still smitten.

The lyrics to "Elusive Butterfly" were just a warning about what was to come.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5mD_loFlfg

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Summer breeze, makes me feel fine
Blowing through the canyons of my miiiiiiiind.


Maybe it was unreachable because that is not how it goes!

Summer breeze, makes me feel fine
Blowing through the jasmine in my mind

Anonymous said...

IIRC, Rita Tushingham had a nice tush.

CStanley said...

Yeah, someone beat me to it but it's "jasmine", not "canyons". For some reason I had that song in my head as "windmills of my mind" which I've now googled and seen that it's a different song that Sting covered.

traditionalguy said...

As a test this morning when at the dry cleaners and the bank I chatted with the 20-30 year old employees about Doctor Zhivago. Four out of four had never heard of Doctor Zhivago.

I told one that was like saying he had never heard of Shakespeare. He took offense at that idea and asserted that he had heard of Shakespeare.

Common Core curriculum replacing western Civilization has already happened. I guess the Stalinists never forgave Pasternak for making money in the West. And they are back in full mind control.

Hazy Dave said...

A couple friends of mine were big Noel Harrison fans for some reason, so I became familiar with "Windmills Of Your Mind" only a few decades after discovering the Bonzos' "Canyons". Not generally a big fan of Michel Legrand and that whole French popular song shtick, but the syrupy production and rambling hippie imagery work for me, somehow. What it all has to do with Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway and a million dollar caper, I can only guess.

Here.

Steve in Philly said...

Back then all of us - even those of us who avoided the pharmacopeia - seem to have been into our mental topography. Windmills, canyons - but best to stay away from the smoke rings, which would lead to the foggy ruins of time.

Smilin' Jack said...

Summer breeze, makes me feel fine
Blowing through the jasmine in my mind


One of the songs that made disco necessary.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

ADDED: In the comments to the earlier post — the one with the Florence Henderson and the crabs

Take a bow Althouse! You've probably just christened somebody's bar band.

Roughcoat said...
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Roughcoat said...

Oh crap, I can't believe I got it wrong--"canyons" instead of "jasmine."

The 70s was a confusing time for me. Still is, obviously.

Anonymous said...

"Gentle on My Mind" is entirely an extended sexual metaphor--beginning with "It's knowing that your door is always open/And your path is free to walk."

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Roughcoat said...

Oh crap, I can't believe I got it wrong--"canyons" instead of "jasmine."

Hey, you got a tag out of it. You can't complain about that.

Hazy Dave said...

Nah. The wheatfields and the clotheslines and the junkyards and the highways is no kind of sexual metaphor. John Hartford's own recording of his song is lovely and sentimental, cheerful and intelligent.

Ann Althouse said...

Jasmine... Windmills...

Oh, hell....