Jemima James came to Long View Farm when she was 27 years old, leaving three-and-a-half hours behind her the vibrant Massachusetts artist's colony of Provincetown. She was a friend of Geoff Myers and John Farrell, two of the very original farm staffers.
She was no ordinary "James," as it turned out. Her great-grandfather was none other than William James, the nineteenth century philosopher. Five years before Jemima's arrival in North Brookfield, I was spending a lot of my time teaching students at Clark University about William James. Now I had his great-granddaughter living in my farmhouse with me, tending to the aberrant and unpredictable needs of rock 'n' roll superstars.
John Belushi was one of these. He got on just fine with Jemima James. They rode horses together, and took occasional nips of Russian Vodka together, which of course had to be kept under wraps, since it was to stop his taking nips of Russian Vodka, and other such things, that John Belushi had been sent to Long View Farm to begin with. William James had said many things about the addicted personality syndrome, a hundred years earlier.
Henry James, the novelist, was Jemima's great-granduncle. He wrote novels about young Americans living in Europe, examining the joys and tensions by which such cultural transplants were inevitably affected. I knew about this, since I had been making films about young Americans in Europe, not so much as a non-print novelist, but as a businessman hoping to fire and enflame the then-burgeoning outgoing American student travel market. So there I was, joking with Jemima James in the kitchen of this recording studio, hallucinating over her one shoulder the wispy image of the famous philosopher, her great-grandfather, and over her other shoulder a shimmering fantasy of the equally famous novelist and social critic, the philosopher's brother Henry. I wanted to speak with each of these men.
"How d'ya want your eggs?" I would hear from a chuckling Jemima instead.
Incredibly, since I kept quiet about it all, none of these matters of aristocratic lineage got in the way of Jemima's work experience in the rock 'n' roll recording studio. She did her work — a good bit of it somewhat demeaning work — the same way the rest of us did. That's to say, with a very good sense of humor. Rock 'n' roll superstars are not as impressive up close, reflected in the same bathroom mirror that you use each morning, as their press agents and publicists are paid to make you believe. You deal with the nonsense, and laugh afterwards.
Jemima James traveled with a guitar, and as it turned out she could play it very well. Not just mimicking riffs off Love Me Do, or recalling chord changes from Peter, Paul & Mary, but accompanying herself in the singing of her own songs. Very tasty songs. Country folk stuff, with an edge. Jemima had a low, gravely and very accurate singing voice, which could, and did, put chills up and down your spine.
Jemima had already been "discovered." Famous Music had signed her as a staff songwriter in 1972, and before coming to Massachusetts she had worked clubs in Greenwich Village, in San Francisco, and in Los Angeles, where she had appeared regularly at The Troubadour and at The Hollywood Canteen. She was able to count Michael Bloomfield, Graham Nash, David Reiser, Jack Nitzsche, Pete Wolf and others among her friends and supporters.
So, the inevitable occurred. The house band (consisting in part of her friends Geoff & John) was eventually convoked, the chief engineer Jesse Henderson got the drum sound up and the guitars plugged in, and a number of Jemima James songs were recorded on two-inch tape. I mixed the tape, producing the demos which are clickable below.
Book Me Back In Your Dreams
Easy Come, Easy Go
Easy Come, Easy Go (reprise, with flute)
One More Rodeo
Waiter at the Station
Easy Come, Easy Go Forget about films about young Americans in Europe. It's now the mid-80's, and time for video cameras, and for distribution of product in VHS format, and on cable. Henry James might have been interested in this video clip. Jemima James certainly was, since her song Easy Come, Easy Go provided the soundtrack. Play the first three or four minutes of the clip, and feel the two centuries meld together.
1984. Streaming broadband only. Stereo. 29:55.
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.