Phil Ochs Book – This is what I am working on now!

This is the book I am currently working on. I am carrying out a final read through before sending it off to the publishers.

I’ll have finished it this week.

This is a review of a song off Phil’s Tape From California album:

When In Rome (Phil Ochs)

This thirteen minute epic has been wrongly compared to Bob Dylan’s equally long epic ‘Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands’. Apart from their length there is no comparison. Perhaps Phil was inspired by Dylan to produce a lengthy epic song. Nothing more.

   The decision was made to keep the production simple and straightforward, to allow the lyrics to breathe their fire without embellishment. This is just Phil and his acoustic guitar. His voice sounds different, more relaxed, pensive but laden with expression, rising and falling in tune with the tone of the lyrics. The guitar varies between gentle picking, slow strums emphasising phrases, faster strumming patterns underlying more dramatic sections. The variations maintain the interest throughout the entire piece.

   This is no easily accessible song. It requires attention; headphones and full concentration.

   Phil has selected the entire gamut of society to use as the tapestry for this marathon of social comment. It’s worth the effort. The central theme is one of how we are coerced into accepting the norm of the day even if that is immoral, unjust, oppressive and destructive – ‘When in Rome do as the Romans do.’ The inspiration for the piece supposedly came from Elia Kazan film Viva Zapata!  

   He may be referring to Rome but he is really describing American society. Phil cites slavery, war, inequality, corruption and hypocrisy. This is American that has gone rancid. It’s all in there – along with the oppressive power structures of state and church. The whole structure of society with its unjust hierarchy, evil aims and warmongering greed is laid bare and the underlying questions are laid out for us to answer – why do we support such an unfair, hypocritical system? How do we break away from the zeitgeist of our age to question the powers that control us? Can it be right to stand up against our own country if we feel it is wrong? Is that patriotic? When in Rome we do not have to behave as the Romans behave; we can apply our own morality and create something fairer and more just. We can rise up against an evil system. We don’t need to become as corrupt as our masters.

   It may be long and full of intricate poetic imagery but it is well worth immersing yourself in this rich fertile meadow of words and unravelling the imagery to glean understanding. There is so much in it.

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