Here we go again “VERSIONS” wise. This time deputy head honcho Jonathan Aird goes large with a song even we had to Google. It’s a tune though, mind.
“It’s all over now, David Blue” Dylan is said to have quipped when David Cohen picked what he thought would be a more acceptable name for his musical career. It was a musical career which spanned seven solo albums of singer-songwriter material over a decade from his eponymous debut in 1966 to ‘Cupid’s Arrow‘ in 1976. He recorded at first for Elektra, moved to Reprise and his last four albums were on Asylum. The song ‘These 23 Days in September‘ comes from the album of the same title, David Blue’s second record and his first on Reprise. It opens the album and sets a disturbing tone. It starts with couplets which seem to fit with a love affair falling apart, but there’s something darker going on behind a façade of discontent, it’s not just the fizzling out of love because “I’ve tried but cannot trace / the reason for her new face / She keeps it on for everyone / Not just me.”
David Blue (1968)
As the song develops the message becomes clearer – there’s a desperation for certainty, to know the purpose of life and there’s and obsession with, and fear of, the mystery of death: “on the floor pages torn from books she reads / Ancient ones and new Magic and Philosophy / Hopeful she tries every one / Soon leaving them undone / they seem to hold nothing at all she can believe.” These dabblings in very different philosophies is underscored on David Blue’s recording by hints of the then popular “Eastern Mysticism” given by finger cymbals and sitar. It’s quite a devastating listen, and far and away the best thing that David Blue ever wrote (and yes, that includes ‘Outlaw Man‘). What is never revealed is what has driven “baby” to this emotional state, is she plagued by a morbid anxiety, is this her way of rationalising her way out of a relationship and a scene she no longer wants to be part of or is she suffering the mental fallout of a “Bad Trip” ? All we can do is speculate – and can we even rely for evidence on the narrator’s detached assessment? And why only 23 days – what happened on September the 24th? We think we know – but we only suspect.
Richie Havens (1973)
As a fixture on the Greenwich Village folk scene – despite Dylan’s jibe David Blue would also join him on the legendary Rolling Thunder Revue – it’s not that surprising that some of Blue’s contemporaries would pick up on this song. Richie Havens recorded it on his ‘Portfolio‘ album as ‘23 Days in September‘. As might be expected it’s a faster version, electric guitar high in the mix, with Richie’s strident baritone at times baffled at the events unfolding and at times on the verge of breaking under the strain – it’s a less reflective emotional analysis of the events unfolding, but there’s a passion in the urgency of the recording.
Eric Anderson (2001)
Another from that same musical scene – and one who was a particular friend of Blue’s – who has recorded the song is Eric Andersen, releasing it on ‘The Street Was Always There (great American Song Series Vol. 1).’ Eric Andersen slows things right down, but his arrangement is built around electric guitar patterns, provided by Pete Kennedy, and the quietly astonishing drumming of Frank Valardi. Coupled with Andersen’s world weary vocal it all serves to cut the song free from its Sixties origins.
And….that’s it. This dazzling song, once heard – in any of the above versions – never to be forgotten, has quite amazingly it seems only been recorded three times – by its author and two of his friends and fellow travellers on the folk to folk-rock to singer-songwriter path. Search I did, and this is all I could find, so that’s it – unless, uh, anyone does know of any other versions?