The Infinite Jukebox: Friend and Lover’s ‘Reach Out in the Darkness’

As contemporary music recedes ever further from my interest, I find myself going back all the more often to the Sixties, and to the music with which I am not familiar. There’s all sorts of stuff in that late Sixties period, 1967 – 69, obscure records that never bothered the top 50, that was never expected to hit, bright poppy tunes, stuff that brushed the fringes of psychedelia, singles that are full of a life that didn’t go down with a Great British Record Buying Public that was looking to the big, orchestrated, semi-cabaret pop of The Love Affair, the early Marmalade and The Casuals.
But the obscure British music scene of the time is not the only source of brilliant pop touched by the spirit of the late Sixties. Then, as for a long time after, there was an American music scene that only occasionally crossed over with British tastes. The ‘bubblegum’ pop sound was one trend that did connect here, but for every Kasenatz and Katz act there were a dozen or more great records that made no impression here.
The Association. The Rascals (except for ‘Groovin”). Two examples of bands who did not invade our airwaves and our charts in a way that their songs deserved.
Friend and Lover were a different prospect. They were a husband and wife folk group, though there’s nothing folky about this single, Jim and Cathy Post. ‘Reach out of the Darkness’ was the pair’s only hit, a US no. 10 in mid-1968, but a song that was adopted by various movements. The protest movement viewed it as anti-Government and Christian groups as being religious in intent.
I don’t know how and where I first heard it, but it caught my ear for the moment, and was one of the few songs to conjure up a mental image instantly. To me it’s a psychedelic sound, yet it was recorded in Nashville, and the musicians include Ray Stevens and Joe South.
The song introduces itself with a buoyant beat, a springy base-line and a fussy, cymbal-heavy drum, a repeating pattern, at the end of the second iteration of which Cathy Post comes in, ringing with great strength and great joy that she thinks it’s so groovy now that people are finally getting together, I think it’s wonderful to know that people are finally getting together.
I mean, how more Sixties can you get? And behind her, I imagine a psychedelic wheel of brightly coloured paints, sliding around and into her whilst before them the silhouette of a dancer gyrates, a go-go dancer, twisting and turning, hips and body swaying, a completely black figure.
And on the second repetition, Jim Post joins his wife, singing the same words, projecting them with every fibre of his soul, this is no cynical attempt to manufacture a song that speaks to the times, this is the genuine thing, the flower power, hippy-dippy naivete shining through, and by god but you feel it with them as the second repetition completes, and there’s a pregnant moment until the music surges and the duo hit full harmonies as they sing out into the void to reach out in the darkness, and you may find a friend.
I listen to it and I wish we could all sound like that again. I wish we had something like that to be openly optimistic about, to say to each other that we are all connected even as we stumble about in the darkness, and that we should reach to each other.
To demonstrate, Jim Post sings a verse, the intensity pitched down. He knew a man that he did not care for, but then one day that man came to his door. They sat and talked about what was on their mind and now that man, he is a friend of mine. And those voices rise again in that plea to reach out in the darkness, and once again Cathy Post carols that it’s so groovy now that people are finally getting together.
Oh my word, this is naive, almost as much as Oliver‘s ‘Good Morning Starshine’, but isn’t it gloriously so, and why did we let the world and ourselves lose that sense of coming together? And that image of the go-go dancer, go-going with relish, alert and aware of the things her body can do, expressing herself without restraint. That might not be a part of any other person’s response to this song, but it is at the heart of mine, wedding it to a time I didn’t experience for myself but still miss immensely. Imagine being there, being there then.

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