It’s difficult to imagine anyone left on the face of the planet (already familiar with the man’s work, that is) who isn’t aware that singer/songwriter John Wesley Harding and critically acclaimed novelist Wesley Stace are one and the same. Henceforth, he has announced that he will record under the name Wesley Stace, and hopefully never again be asked why he assumed the name of a 1967 Bob Dylan album, misspelling and all. “It’s like what happens at the end of a Spider-Man or a Batman movie,” says Stace. “When the superhero reveals his true identity to his girlfriend.” “Girlfriend” may be the operative word on Stace’s new album, Self-Titled (Yep Roc), in which a 47-year-old man, now comfortably married and living in Philadelphia, reflects back over the loves of his younger life. Stace will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on him.
Stace: My friend Charlie Hall, leader of the Silver Ages whose vocal stylings adorn a couple of songs on my new record, has turned me on to a lot of great music, and it was he who suggested Ned Doheny. Charlie is into the soft rock, the quiet storm. (He’s literally the only person in the world who thinks that the later Duncan Browne albums are better than the earlier ones. That’s how deep he is with this stuff.) I think it’s fair to say he’s a little obsessed by Ned Doheny—I say that in the most respectful way—and I knew I was going to get into Hard Candy, Ned’s second record (Columbia 1976), produced by Steve Cropper.
I could tell you all about Ned, but do feel free to Wiki him up. The first song on Hard Candy, “Get It Up For Love” (a dance hit for Tate Vega a few years later), is killer, but there really isn’t a bad track on this beautiful-sounding record. It also includes Ned’s version of “A Love Of Your Own,” a co-write with Hamish Stuart of Average White Band, who took it into the charts that same year. But it’s the ballad “When Love Hangs In The Balance” that blows me away: fantastic Eaglesque harmonies that may in fact be, and probably is, the actual Eagles, and the most Californian pushes on a rhythm track since, well, probably the last Eagles record. Not to mention the lyrics: “So you hide what you fear/She’s got potential, but she’s young in years/You’re a fool don’t you see?/She doesn’t want you—why can’t you let it be?” It’s the way he sings it. Go, Ned! It’s a great record.
And I’m thrilled to say that Ned Doheny will be playing the Santa Barbara Cabinet of Wonders on November 13. The Cabinet has allowed me to reach out to a lot of people I admire: If the 18-year-old Wes had been told that Steve Earle, Loudon Wainwright III and Waterboy Mike Scott would be on his show in 2013, and if he’d have believed that absurd idea, he’d have been lucky to be wearing his rubber underwear. It’s amazing also that such great authors—Patrick McGrath, Peter Carey, Colum McCann, Mary Gaitskill—want to do the show. (Mind you, we do pay: Writers love that.) But there’s nothing more thrilling than sending an anonymous email to someone like Ned, gauging possible interest, and then realising: It’s going to happen. I don’t know what we’re going to play yet—my band is at the ready—but I know it’s going to be great.
Video after the jump.