IT HAS been reported from the States that the psych-pop singer-songwriter once dubbed ‘the one-man Beatles’, Emitt Rhodes, has died at the age of 70.
Californian-born Emitt moved through a brace of teenage bands, The Palace Guard and The Merry-Go-Round, before striking out on his own after the latter outfit disbanded in 1969.
He recorded and played every instrument on his self-titled debut album for Dunhill in 1970, leading to him being dubbed “the one-man Beatles”. And there was a Anglophile, even Merseysidesque beauty, to be found on such tracks as “Live Till You Die”, “You Should Be Ashamed”, “Lullabye” and “Fresh As A Daisy”, a montage of which you can watch below.
The album reached no.29 on the American Billboard charts, and accompanying single “Fresh As A Daisy” recorded a respectable no.54 on the corresponding single chart.
But as with so many promising artists, Emitt’s early success was dogged by contractual tripwires. His contract with Dunhill was to provide a punishing schedule of six albums in three years, something which Emitt’s one-man composing, playing and recording operation fell foul of. Royalties were withheld and a quarter-million dollar lawsuit launched against him.
To cap it all, A&M – with whom Emitt was contracted as a member The Merry-Go-Round – cashed in on the success of the first Dunhill album with a hastily-assembled LP reprise of tracks they already had in the can.
After his third album for Dunhill, Farewell to Paradise, Emitt stepped back from the frontline fray, working behind the mixing desk for Elektra, although he continued to record privately.
His discography remained ill-starred: a 1980 solo album for Elektra was shelved when the supportive A&R man left; another LP in 2000 was scuppered by the label’s collapse.
Even a trio of songs released on iTunes in 2011 was hastily withdrawn following yet another lawsuit.
It would not be until 2015, and a red-vinyl Record Store Day 7″ Bee Gees cover, that the world was to see any standalone Emitt Rhodes product. It was followed by a well-received album, Rainbow Ends, a year later, some 34 years after his first rush of critical success.
Farewell Emitt Rhodes: Backseat Mafia salutes your fine, fine songwriting.