Who knows how many wonderful songwriters there are on this planet who can't sing worth a damn and don't have the chutzpah to pull off a Bob Dylan or Tom Waits routine where they say, "Fuck it. If you want to listen to what I wrote, you're going to have to listen to me sing it." A routine where you say, "OK, hand it to me, brother," and are forever changed by the words sung by a voice which sounds for all the world like grit and fog. You learn to love the voice for the words it sings. Believe me, if all it was singing was cover versions of other folks' songs, you go all Simon Cowell on them in a heartbeat.
For every songwriter who can't sing, there's at least one singer who can't write. In some cases, this dichotomy can work out for the best for everyone concerned. Have you ever heard Jimmy Webb try to sing MacArthur Park or "Didn't We?" or Galveston? Thank God there were Richard Harrises and Glen Campbells out there. However, when the tally is totaled up in Rock'n'Roll Heaven, it seems to me that the songwriter should always be given the bulk of the credit and let in the double doors first.
What do you do about a great songwriter who also has really good pipes, and yet never gets famous? In 1978, I had my ears opened up by an album by Marc Jordan called Mannequin. This was one of those epiphanic experiences, sort of like what Stealth Munchkin probably felt like when Smiley Smile came out or what Mr. Hotel felt like when Yankee Hotel Foxtrot hit his turntable. Anyway, ever since 1978, I have been both concerned and aghast that an effort like this should fall out of favor so fast that it never made even a minor wave in the lake of fickle musical history. There was another album around the same time which suffered the exact same fate, as well as the artist. That guy was named Terence Boylan and his masterpiece was self-titled. The fact that The Eagles, who did a similar form of music albeit not as good, became one of the highest paid musical acts in history while these two guys sat around and muddled through in what must be at least a partially disappointing lifetime of obscurity is something that I think about a lot.
After Mannequin in 1978, Jordan put out another wonderful album in 1979 called Blue Desert. Yeah, you can't find that one anywhere either. Here's what I'd suggest: If you want to hear what The Eagles and other California hipster rockers who were not Steely Dan should have sounded like, go to marcjordan.com and order these two out-of-print albums. Donald Fagen worked with him on Mannequin and the list of the power team of musical talents of the day included on both those albums is eye-popping, if you care about that golden era of pop music.
In 1990 he put out a real stinker called C.O.W. (Conserve Our World). I guess you can tell from the title that it was a bunch of tree-hugging hippie crap. Who is to say if it was a serious effort on the part of a true environmentalist, or an attempt to cash in on the cachet?
Regardless of the motive, the output was awful and didn't help his failing career a bit.
The only other album I have of his is a live performance, Marc Jordan Live Now and Then, which he released in 1996. It's got some fairly good treatments of a couple of the old songs as well as some new ones that aren't all bad.
I never bought it, but his 1993 jazz album for Warner Music was called Reckless Valentine. They tried to cash in on what they thought was a Jordan resurgence and re-issued his back catalogue on CD with an attempt to get radio play for songs such as "Marina Del Rey" and "Survival" which were apparently hits in Canada back in the day.
Marc Jordan makes some money writing songs these days which other folks cover. His "Rhythm of My Heart" which Rod Stewart took fairly high up the charts in 1991 was probably the most recent example of a real money-maker. The chairman of the label, Rob Dickens, remembered a 1984 demo by Marc Jordan and John Capek of this tune, and Stewart was attracted to the rough demo with the bagpipe accoutrement. It became a million selling single that helped Stewart's album go triple platinum, but it almost didn't happen because its subtle war references were deemed too offensive for BBC Radio during the first Gulf War. Fortunately, the war ended and the original tune was issued without the need for Jordan to rewrite it. However, there is nothing you could enjoy which Jordan has written and which is covered by others which you would not enjoy more if you heard Jordan sing it himself.
He was born in Brooklyn in 1949, a very good year in which to be born. His dad, Charles Jordan, was a Canadian singer making a living on US radio shows. The elder Jordan had fairly eclectic tastes, and the kid was exposed to pretty much all kinds of music as a kid; folk, jazz, classical. They moved back to Canada during his early years, and Marc started being noticed as a back-up musician for Bobby Vee. He moved to California and worked as a backup musician and wrote songs in his spare time. He married Amy Sky, also a fairly obscure singer/songwriter.
By the early 1990s Jordan got tired of the LA scene and said he wanted to spend more time with his wife and their two kids. So they now live in Toronto. Maybe this is an Ian and Sylvia relationship which will actually work in the long haul of married life.
However, if he had never done anything aside from putting out that Mannequin album back in 1978 which was seldom off of the turntable in any place I lived during that hazy period, it would have been more than enough for any one man's life work.