The Girl With A Thorn In Her Side

Lynn Castle Rose Colored Corner Light (Light In The Attic)

Coming across visually as a prototype Nancy Sinatra about to enter The Valley Of The Dolls, Lynn Castle in the 1960s was an entrancing and beguiling entity. Her debut album finally appears a few years shy of her turning eighty, and it is a tremendous affair, an index of splendid and unrealized possibilities, as stark as it is haunting. 

Vocally she sounds like a female Leonard Cohen who's been listening to too much Nina Simone, whose smoke-laced croak she frequently echoes. Her look though uber-girlie doesn't match her sound, and simply serves to enhance the appeal of her beauty and big, big hair. Think Warhol's Candy Darling doing an arch Barbie doll look and you are nearly there. Add Jackie O shades and you have quite simply arrived. Her sole single 'The Lady Barber' is a wonderful piece of autobiographical garage psych that has long found favour amongst collectors of the quality obscura. Produced by Lee Hazlewood and released on his record label in 1967, she sassies her way through the song with a Mae West-like intonation. It isn't camp as such, but it has real energy and verve, and is sexy, slinky and decidedly fresh 'n' fruity.

Quite why this tremendous talent has lain in the doldrums isn't much of a mystery alas. Mss Castle was a bundle of beauty and a whole host of anxiety. Creatively driven but desperately insecure her story is one of subtle self-sabotage, and bad luck. She was indeed a lady barber, at a time when men began growing their hair long, and adept at styling them in the new fashion that most barbers simply couldn't achieve, became a minor legend on the Sunset Strip. In 1967 she was declared 'Shapely Blonde In Blue Jeans Popular Barber In Hollywood' by the Washington Post. Her clients included The Byrds, Del Shannon, Stephen Stills & Sonny & Cher, and she even had a song of hers "Kicking Stones" recorded by The Monkees, whose manes she also tended. Sadly it didn't appear till over twenty years later when it was featured on a rarities collection of theirs.

Lynn Castle rubbed shoulders with everyone. She became friends with a pre-success Phil Spector, managed to sell a song she'd written as a teenager to The Spinners, and when she met Lee Hazlewood her future seemed both bright and secure. She literally wrote her songs in the closet when her kids were in bed, but her shyness limited her ability to present them properly. She was also befriended by Jack Nitzsche who got her talked into recording a demo of twenty songs, ten of which make up the body of this album. It makes the listener long to hear the rest, and when the songs, unadorned, and un-arranged slip by, you can imagine strings, a baroque Fred Neil meets Tim Buckley affair. When Lee Hazlewood moved to Sweden, Lynn Castle's brief ascendency dipped and was quickly forgotten. Like a faithful wine maker though,  she continued to write and record demos but her day in the spotlight was gone for half a century, and she retreated to her rose colored corner.

Yet this sublime talent had a strangely intuitive belief in her own abilities, and the longevity of her canon. She admits with chilling accuracy. When I was young, making music in the 60's, I had this strange thought that one day I would be this old woman, and young people would come and find me and tell me that my music meant something to them'. That moment has finally arrived, and is much deserved. A reward to the listener who is finally allowed to hear to her songs, and a blessing to their creator who knew of their value all along. Finally her secret is being shared, and rightly so. Subtle, honest and raw Lynn Castle is more than a mere curio, she is the genuine article, but then she always knew that all along, and time has finally and fortunately caught up us with her. - Rob Cochrane

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Mr. Cochrane is a poet and writer living in Manchester, England. His work has appeared in Mojo, Attitude, and Dazed & Confused. He has published numerous collections of poems.

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