In There but for Fortune, an Ochs biography, the author says Pleasures of the Harbor was not a perfect album, an opinion that isn’t universal.
One night R and I dropped acid and rolled around on the mattress until dawn. Disheveled and still about half fucked up, we walked over to J’s apartment and got him out of bed, and sat in his front room with the early light filtering in through the closed curtains. I heard the Pleasures of the Harbor album for the first time, and it was one of my life’s peak experiences.
The 1940 movie The Long Voyage Home is said to have been the inspiration for the piercingly lyrical song, “Pleasures of the Harbor.” One biographer says Ochs worked harder on it than on any of the others on the album. He says the vocal track gave trouble, and had to be removed from the tape and redone in several places. There was disagreement over how to orchestrate the song, and three versions exist – on the album with the same name, on Gunfight at Carnegie Hall with Lincoln Mayorga on piano, and on Then and Now with Ochs on guitar.
Originally, the album was too long, and Ochs removed verses from “Cross My Heart.”
“I’ve Had Her” is said to have been written as the result of a fight between Ochs and the great love of his life, Tina Date, an Australian musician who managed to play guitar despite having two-inch fingernails. It’s been called misogynistic and the weakest song on the album.
One critic calls “Crucifixion” the biggest recording failure of the musician’s career.
During that trial I learned many ugly things in this country, but I don’t think I had a more shining moment than when I had the honor and privilege to take Phil Ochs through his direct examination.
William Kunstler on the Chicago Seven trial
When Ochs was a kid, his family lived in Perrysburg, NY, and he played the clarinet. One writer says that he would go yearly to Fredonia State Teachers’ College for evaluation, and got A grades for his individual performances. I’ve been to Fredonia, so it’s almost a kind of link. There’s always that wish to feel close somehow to the artists you admire. Even more interesting, the chain of acquaintanceship between me and Phil Ochs is only two people. He hung out with the cartoonist Ron Cobb, who knew Sherry Gottlieb of A Change of Hobbit Bookstore. And I knew her.
To have a career you need a society to have it in. You go off and you make works of art and you present them here. You’re glad to be making a contribution. America doesn’t provide that society any more.
Phil Ochs, around the time of the Chicago Democratic convention
The master tapes for one of his albums remained in A&M’s vault for 23 years.
Phil Ochs is another one of those Gary Webb-type of deaths where, if you had a good imagination and a paranoid mind, you could find CIA written all over it, or one of those creepy agencies anyway.
He left behind a 12-year-old daughter. His body was cremated, according to his wishes.
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