She felt the earth move under her feet, she wanted you to love her tomorrow – you know her as your mama’s Carole King. But before she sat barefoot on the cover of Tapestry, she was part of a very brief rock and roll moment with a band called The City.
Rewind several years before familiar hits like “You’ve Got a Friend” and you’ll find a hard-working resident in the great hit-making compound known as New York’s Brill Building. Here, Carole plunged into the world of music, writing for quick cash and getting noticed by acts like The Monkees, The Shirelles and even The Beatles. Carole King describes the atmosphere at the “Brill Building” publishing houses of the period:
Every day we squeezed into our respective cubby holes with just enough room for a piano, a bench, and maybe a chair for the lyricist if you were lucky. You’d sit there and write and you could hear someone in the next cubby hole composing a song exactly like yours. The pressure in the Brill Building was really terrific—because Donny (Kirshner) would play one songwriter against another. He’d say: “We need a new smash hit”—and we’d all go back and write a song and the next day we’d each audition for Bobby Vee’s producer.*
in 1967, after paying her dues in the city, King ditched the grind and left for sunny California. She set up in Laurel Canyon, which would become home to the California country sound, molded by Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Mamas & Papas. She began collaborating with garage musicians Danny Kortchmar (of The Fugs) and Charles Larkey (of The Myddle Class). With Jim Gordon on drums, this group became The City. Heavily influenced by her peers in Laurel Canyon they created the one-off album, Now That Everything’s Been Said, which serves as a beautiful experiment into the mellow, psych-influenced canyon rock of the day.
On Now That Everything’s Been Said, we find King holding the microphone, singing her own songs for the very first time. And yet, she isn’t timidly emerging or finding her voice. She approaches the microphone with the comfort and ease of a veteran because, by this time, she’s already been all over the radio. Her voice emerges warm and confident and is backed by an ensemble who knows how to support it, letting her shine while lending their own creative direction.
While the album itself is seen as a “missing link” of sorts – an overlooked and forgotten blip on the radar of King’s monstrous career – it produced two notable covers. Blood, Sweat and Tears had great success covering The City’s “Hi-Di-Ho” and The Byrds recorded “Wasn’t Born to Follow” which was featured in the film Easy Rider.
This album was produced by Monterey Pop Festival coordinator Lou Adler, who also produced The Mamas and Papas, Sam Cooke and every Mary Clayton album. Adler released Now That Everything’s Been Said on his label, Ode, the same label which put out the Brothers And Sisters’ Dylan’s Gospel release. At the time, King was not ready to be a live performer and she turned down the opportunity to tour the album – a hesitation she quickly outgrew once she saw disappointing album sales. After Now That Everything’s Been Said, The City faded into history for decades. But now, with its re-release on Light in the Attic, we can revisit The City and this forgotten but special moment in the life of an extraordinarily talented songwriter, before she became our mama’s Carole King.
*Quoted in The Sociology of Rock by Simon Frith