The man who was a member of the Kingston Trio in the early 60s and wrote the Monkees’ #1 hit, Daydream Believer came from out of nowhere and placed a Top 5 hit in the summer of 1979. John Stewart might not have been a name most people were familiar with, especially pop music fans. He hung around the folk circles and recorded solid but mostly unsuccessful LPs throughout the 70s. Until one day he hooked up with Lindsey Buckingham & Stevie Nick, who were still riding a ridiculous high from their 1977 domination due to the Fleetwood Mac LP, Rumours. Any sighting of a Mac member was instant news and just about anything they touched turned to….yup, gold.
That’s not to say John didn’t write a good song to begin with. Actually I would loved to have heard an acoustic version of Gold. It’s a very basic song with simple lyrics. But the production gives it a very late-night spooky feel. There’s not much even there, just an electric piano, snare & bass drum, electric guitar strumming in the distance. The arrangement is so sparse, it feels like the song is just going to disappear. The song breaks down, then that bass drum kicks in on the 1-2-3-4 and of we go again. You gotta love those harmony vocals by Stevie Nicks. It sounds like she’s drunk or she’s agreed to one take and then she needs to go meet her dealer.
They capture the feel perfectly of driving at night through the California lights. John pops his guitar in the car, excited for that next gig and speeds off. His buddy, Jim Bass, works pumping gas at a gas station. Don’t see that nowadays, except if you’re in New Jersey. Dude makes $2.50 hr…really? Sounds like Navin Johnson in the Jerk. The guy spends his days tapping our rhythms on gas cans and singing rock & roll in the shower. Is this supposed to be inspirational or pathetic? I guess there’s people out there turning music into gold, but Jim Bass ain’t one of them. The one line I will agree with is California girls are the greatest in the world, each one a song in the making. To which, Brian Wilson replies, ‘Duh!’.
Ironically even though this hit #5 and his LP, Bombs Away Dream Babies hit the Top 10, neither turned to Gold. As a consolation, he was mistaken for Garry Shandling once in a while.