From time to time we will run features on various projects Chris has been involved with
or is currently progressing:
See New Release of THE DAVIDSON AFFAIR CD of the musical.
THE DAVIDSON AFFAIR by Paul Solomon & Chris Van Cleave is a timeless musical story with current relevance and insight for all cultures and creeds.
See POW/MIA Docmentary Project NOT FORGOTTEN
NOT FORGOTTEN tells the true stories selected from the over 1600 cases of unaccounted for Americans from the Vietnam War. This documentary project focuses on the stories of the families who have lost their loved ones reported as POW, MIA, or KIA/NBR (no body recovered) along with the recovery efforts, the excavations, and forensic work involved in each of these cases.
Historical Feature: THE MEADOW STORY
There has been some mystery through the years regarding the folk-rock group Meadow. This was the group that had Walker Daniels (original lead in HAIR), Chris and Laura Branigan as the three featured artists. Chris, now being the sole surviving member of the group has finally put into writing his experience with MEADOW and the release of their critically acclaimed album "The Friend Ship".
All these years later, it is useful to put into perspective how young the members of Meadow were, and what was going on in America and the world at the time. Chris had come up to New York when he was 21. Woodstock had happened three years earlier, the hippie culture was still in full swing; antiwar demonstrations drew 100,000 demonstrators in US cities; it was the start of the Watergate scandal; surprisingly it was as late as 1972 that saw the Equal Rights Amendment which provided for the legal equality of the sexes; the average wage was $11,800/year and an average house cost $27,000 with gas at .55c/gallon. Swimmer Mark Spitz won his 7 gold medals at the Munich Olympics, where tragically 11 Israeli athletes were also gunned down, and 1972 also saw the withdrawal of the last ground troops from Vietnam. The following were Cash Box’s top ten in the months surrounding Meadow’s release of The Friendship:
CASH BOX – TOP SINGLES – Oct-Dec 1972
October 7 "Baby, Don't Get Hooked on Me" Mac Davis
October 14 "Everybody Plays the Fool" Main Ingredient
October 21 "My Ding-a-Ling" Chuck Berry
October 28 "My Ding-a-Ling" Chuck Berry
November 4 "Nights in White Satin" The Moody Blues
November 11 "Burning Love" Elvis Presley
November 18 "I Can See Clearly Now" Johnny Nash
November 25 "I'll Be Around" The Spinners
December 2 "I'd Love You to Want Me" ..Lobo
December 9 "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" The Temptations
December 16 "I Am Woman" Helen Reddy
December 23 "Me and Mrs. Jones" Billy Paul
......................................................THE MEADOW STORY
..........................................................by Chris Van Cleave
I will begin this story in 1972 with my journey to New York City to audition for entry into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA). A good friend from high school, Mark D’Angelo, and I had made attending there one of our goals and he was already enrolled as a student. I did audition and was invited into the school, which I planned to pay for with my GI Bill. (I had served in the Army from 1970-71 as a motion picture photographer, having enlisted for that Army training school after my number was called in the draft.) Although my dad had been killed as a Phantom F4 fighter pilot, Lt. Col. in Vietnam in April of 1969, I had a younger brother so was still drafted.
After my audition at AADA, I walked across the street to a deli with my friend Mark and decided to pull out my guitar (a Gibson Hummingbird) to play a couple of songs there. An interesting looking man and lady, both in denim jackets and custom- made leather tote bags, came over to me. The man complimented my playing and said that he also had a Gibson Hummingbird guitar, then asked if he could play a song on mine. I said “Sure,” and then listened to a very unusual song with intriguing lyrics that he had written, “Vanity Fair.” We agreed to get together again soon to jam, and possibly write, and did so very soon thereafter.
It turned out that this man was Walker Daniels, who not only taught classes from time to time at AADA but had also performed the original lead role of Claude in the Off- Broadway Public Theatre production of HAIR and on the original cast album. He had also played Ray (Ryan O’Neil’s roommate) in the film Love Story. His lady, Sharon Storm, soon to become his wife, was a former student of AADA and had already enjoyed a career as a featured actress on the popular TV soap As The World Turns.
Walker and I became friends very quickly. We had both written numerous songs by the time we met and soon began writing songs together. Within a few weeks, Walker asked me to go with him to a meeting with a music publisher to speak with him about representing us. He was given the lead through his association with BMI, where he had drawn interest and advance payment on a new musical he had written and was further developing: Blueberries Are a Way of Life.
The publisher we went to meet with was George Pincus, owner of Gil Music. He also owned the rights to some standards like” A Taste of Honey,” “ Old Cape Cod,” and about ten hit songs by a “little” band called The Beatles (e.g. “ I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “ Please Please Me,” “ She Was Just Seventeen,” and several others that are still making money!) We played George Pincus a couple of our songs, including a new one called “Cane & Able,” which had a hook line “Throw away your cane and you are able.” His response was, “It sounds like shit, but it will probably sell.” He then signed us with publishing and management agreements and began shopping us, first to John Hammond, Sr. at Columbia Records.
For John, we again sat across from his desk with our guitars and played him a couple of songs. He picked up the phone to George Pincus and said something like, “Well, George, you finally sent me some talent!” He then set up a demo session to be done with us at a very large midtown studio.
Within the next few days, Walker invited me to go with him and Sharon to see a studio production of Beggar’s Opera at AADA that his friend Harry had directed. Harry was very excited about one of his featured students in that show who was playing Pirate Jenny. So we went to the production and to this day all I can really remember about it was this beautiful young lady with an amazing voice, and this lady was Laura Branigan. We invited her to Walker’s to sing with us and that developed into the mutual interest of continuing on as a group.
Now, somewhere around this same time I had met another man, Steven, who was working as an editor for a film that I was auditioning for. When we got to talking, I learned that he was also an acoustic guitarist who played a Gibson Hummingbird. We invited him into the mix and the four of us became Meadow. We wanted a name that had the imagery of nature, innocence, a place where things grow beautiful and naturally. Walker was a huge fan of Paul McCartney, who had his band Wings, so he suggested that a Meadow would be a good place to land in!
As we rehearsed and collaborated on writing, we soon had enough material as a group to record. Meanwhile, George was still looking for a record deal for us. All this was within a few months of our meeting and coming together as a band. We auditioned live for several record industry executives and labels, including Don Ellis, Epic, RCA, and other industry legends like Sid Bernstein and Jerry Weintraub. Our first recording session was at National-Edison Studios to record three songs: “ Cane & Able,” “ Something Borrowed, Something Blues,” and “Here I Am.”
George hired in a producer/arranger–– Lou Hemsey–– who wrote up the charts and hired the session musicians. After that session, Steven (he had recently adopted the last name of Tree) was very upset with the music arrangements and orchestration, feeling like the spirit and sound of our band had been buried and lost. He then left the band, married a lady who was in Oh Calcutta, and began working as a carpenter for theatre companies. Walker, Laura, and I continued on as Meadow with Bob Valdez joining the group (as mentioned later). Having listened on and off to the album over the years, I personally believe that Lou’s arrangement of the album was far ahead of its time, and as with other “out of the box” innovations, the industry, then and now, doesn’t always know what to do with it. (Lou kindly took the time to write about his experience in producing The Friend Ship for this article. Check out his website to see the incredible work he has created over the years and what we have to look forward to!)
John Hammond was interested in Meadow but had not fully committed yet. Then after a couple of months we got a call from George saying that Paramount Records had made us an offer, which we agreed to. Two singles (45 rpm’s) were cut from the three- song session we had recorded and were released. These singles (and the album to follow) received positive reviews in Billboard, Cashbox, and Record World. We also got a positive review from Variety for our showcase gig at Max’s Kansas City and we performed further showcases at Kenny’s Castaways, The Bottom Line, and The Bitter End.
Sometime within all this development, we recorded our album, The Friend Ship, which included “Cane & Able” (the first song Walker and I co-wrote) from our singles and an additional ten songs. The Friend Ship was a concept album which traced a journey through this world and crossing over into the next.
The following are details of who wrote and sang each track on the album. Also, in blue, are brief lyric out-takes, but the full lyrics can be linked to as noted after each song title. I am not surprised that errors can be made over the years as to who wrote which of the tracks as, it is only on the LP itself, and not the sleeve cover, that lists the writers' name.
In the Beginning: ” WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG” written by Walker Daniels. Lyrics
Laura was featured vocalist on this.
When you were a baby
It was so easy
You'd laugh and you'd sing
Like the meadow you'd run through
When you were young ...
They haven't learned yet
They don't know what ya know
That law without wisdom
Is no law at all, no law at all
The Illusion: ” VANITY FAIR” written by Walker Daniels. Lyrics
Walker was featured vocalist on this one. This is probably as good a time as any to set a misconception straight: There were three lead vocalists on Meadow. Yes, Laura was a lead vocalist on four songs in this album, and as you will see below so were Walker and I on different songs. We also were backing and harmony vocalists for each other. We loved harmony, lyrical imagery, and exploring the mystical, multileveled potentials of our creative journey together. We had our dances with each other’s artistic egos. I can remember some intensely difficult times, but mostly I remember the joy we had exploring the sounds and creative possibilities.
You're invited down to the Vanity Fair
At Insanity Square
Say, on a mourning Sunday
At quarter to hate past your clocks
You'll see Satan wearing satin
Stirring hate in your Manhattan