Last night, I dug out the one and only album of The City, a short-lived band led by Carole King.
Very few people bought the album, which may have been due in part to the fact that the label, Ode, was changing distribution from Columbia/CBS to A&M at the time, but it probably didn’t help that Carole did not want to perform live.
Over the years, the album, called Now That Everything’s Been Said, has acquired a cult, and for good reason: it’s a strong collection of songs very much in the vein of the pop hits Carole had been writing (with Gerry Goffin) for artists like Little Eva and The Shirelles, but with nascent hints of what would become known as the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter scene.
There are many highlights, but for me Wasn’t Born to Follow is the finest song on the album, an odd elegiac mood piece that, I think, is about suicide or death or draft dodging.
It’s quite likely that Gerry wrote the lyrics under the influence of drugs, so it could just be a hallucination he wrote down.
Wasn’t Born to Follow has the feel of a gospel song filtered through a medieval ballad with a funky rustic groove (thanks in part to Jim Gordon’s drums), and Carole’s vocal sounds a bit weary, even dreamlike, which suits the elusive lyric just fine.
The Byrds covered this for the Easy Rider soundtrack, keeping the fugue like feeling, but giving it a sprightly country gallop that, I think, loses some of the feel of The City’s version.
The whole album is worth seeking out, but if you do, avoid the Light in the Attic vinyl reissue. Like so many LPs I’ve purchased from this label, it is wildly off-center on one side, and they blew off my efforts to engage them on this.
You deserve better than their reissue, and so does the album.