My own knowledge of singer / songwriter Ned Doheny is limited. In 2006 I`d read a now dog-eared paperback copy of Barney Hoskyns` “Hotel California”. A brilliant history and appraisal of the Laurel Canyon musical scene of the late `60s and early `70s, in which Ned was a frequently quoted interviewee, thoughtful and honest, an apparently unscathed survivor of the ego and excess. He first appears in the book as a part of the ill-fated Paxton Lodge project, put together by Barry “Frazier Mohawk” Friedman, who`d twisted the necessary monies out of Elektra Records` Jac Holzman in the Winter of 1967. Inspired by Bob Dylan and The Band`s “Basement Sessions” held at the “Big Pink” house near Woodstock, Paxton Lodge was a ranch in the Plumas National Forest in Northern California, that Friedman filled with writers, players, that included Jackson Browne and Ned, drugs and groupies, ostensibly with the aim of recording hit albums. An ill-conceived scheme which under the dark clouds gathering in the blue skies of the Summer Of Love quickly descended into creative paralysis and bacchanalian orgies, these themselves giving way to addiction, paranoia, mind games and nervous breakdowns. No one returned to the Canyon the same as when they left. Not even the gentlemanly, smoking jacket-wearing Ned.
But Ned was in the margin`s of Barney`s magnum opus, a (relatively) sober observer on the meteoric rise and stellar crashes of “Hotel California”`s central “Desperados”, Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Eagles. All I knew of Ned`s music was that in the UK at least, it was hard to find, and that “To Prove My Love” was a sought after Rare Groove classic, that the album it was lifted from, “Prone”, had only been officially released in Japan. In the Harvey Hysteria that followed the Sarcastic Mix, I heard “the almighty” drop Ned`s “Get It Up For Love” in a live set, and then upon my move to Tokyo I found these coveted records in the racks of the countless second-hand stores in the districts of capital`s busy centre that I struggled to both navigate and pronounce: Shibuya, Ochanomizu, Shimokitazawa.
Be With Records have been on an almost singular mission to make Ned`s music available again, and this time to a wider audience. Having already re-issued “Prone” and “Hard Candy”, and last year taking Ned back out on an emotionally-charged tour, they will now re-release his 1973 self-titled debut. With plans to also make public the recording of the Greenwich Yacht Club gig from that tour (a joint release with Claremont 56, whose Paul Murphy provided DJ support on the night), and rumours of unreleased music in the pipeline, I asked Be With`s Rob Butler why and how he came to champion Ned Doheny:
“In the Autumn of 2005, I started my second stint at Piccadilly Records after a year in California. Everyone was reading Barney Hoskyns’ wonderful “Hotel California” and enjoying a distinctly Laurel Canyon / Singer-Songwriter phase thanks to the accompanying “Back To California” CD compilation. It didn’t leave the shop stereo for weeks and often stayed on all day when the directors, who hated us playing anything that was not “new”, had a day off. I remember young Brad, looking all of twelve, obsessing over J.D. Souther, Danny Webb coveting Judee Sill’s “Soldier Of My Heart”, Pez grooving to “Border Town” and even serious Dave Waker raising a knowing smile whenever Jimmy Webb’s “Crying In My Sleep” came on. But there was one track in particular that stopped me and manager Tim Roach in our tracks one afternoon. We both raced over to the player to see what it was. It stood out above all the rest for the sheer force of the playing and singing. The artist had a magical, entrancing voice and an eerie way of conveying a heartbreaking tone through beautiful melody and uniquely wry lyricism. This was my introduction to Ned Doheny. Exactly ten years later, in the Autumn of 2015, Be With secured the rights to reissue Ned’s debut LP. Of all the records he made, it’s my favourite album and his as well. This was that song…..”
Be With Records will re-release Ned Doheny`s debut LP on Friday March 25th, the day before his 68th birthday. Happy birthday Ned!