“Faded in the fad”
I can’t leave this song behind without a mention of Phil’s first, and indeed only, Elektra single release. Elektra boss Jac Holzman had an idea to “see if we could get some radio play” for Phil. How about a rocked up version of Phil’s signature song?
Released as a UK-only single in 1966 (or maybe late ’65) B/W That Was The President (and later that year on a flexi disc that came with Sing Out magazine [who knew they had flexi discs in 1966!?]) the version of I Ain’t Marching Anymore that graced, one can only imagine, very few airwaves was somewhat different to the song that opened Phil’s second LP.
A peal of bagpipes and then…Phil gamely sings along as what might be The Blues Project – featuring Dylan alumni Al Kooper and our friend Danny Kalb – thump and strum and plink and plonk in an oh-so Sixties manner that couldn’t be less befitting of fills angry/sad lyric if it tried. It’s a trick that Phil pulled again in 1968 with a stunningly crap version of The Harder They Fall as the b-side to The War Is Over. Both cases smack of rock fakery, a desperate attempt to “do A Dylan” that falls embarrassingly short even of Dylan’s often stodgy standards. In both cases also the time signatures just don’t fit sloppy rock. Throughout his career Phil managed to shoot himself in the foot, especially as production goes (Crucifixion anyone?), and these are two more examples.
According to David Cohen’s bio-bibliography, Phil’s then manager Arthur Gorson remembers the I Ain’t Marching… recording session featuring Bobby Gregg and drums and Harvey Brooks on bass. Gregg and Brooks were session men used by Tom Wilson on his various genre defining folk-rock recordings and can be heard on Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone and Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence. Brooks, a school mate of Al Kooper, also appears on Jim and Jean’s second album ‘Changes’, on which he shared co-production with Arthur Gorson. When Brooks first moved to Greenwich Village he took the flat had previously been rented…Mr Phil Ochs! What are the chances?
The melody of I Ain’t Marching Anymore makes a fleeting appearance in the coda to The War Is Over. By then the war was far from over and the only marching Phil was doing was on the continual anti-war marches. It’s still a brilliant song though.