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My wife and I recently returned from the mountains of Tennessee where we climbed Mount Leconte. We were spending the night in a lodge atop the mountain that could only be reached by hiking one of the five trails that lead to the summit. My wife and I chose one of the medium length trails with a length of six and a half miles and a climb of 3300 feet.

About four hours into our hike, my wife and I took a rest, her lying on a convenient rock and I stretched out with my head on my pack. The rest was scheduled to be ten minutes, to allow our weak and tired bodies to have some solace from the endless climb. About eight minutes into the rest, I decided we had rested enough and got to my feet. As I reached back to get my pack, I looked up the trail.

That is when I saw the bear.

He was a full grown black bear about 100 feet up the trail from where we were resting. He was coming down the trail, but stopped when he saw me.

My wife had not seen the bear at this point, so I said the only thing one can say at that point.


My wife, who doesn't have much experience with hiking, looked up the trail at this newcomer to our party and asked the obvious question, "What do we do?"

My reply: "Take a picture."

Epilogue: We and the bear parted company soon after. The bear decided that the woods above the trail looked good to him and ambled up into the brush to watch us pass, which we did unmolested. But we did get a couple of decent pictures.

Take A Picture is a very good album by American singer/songwriter and producer Margo Guryan, released on Bell Records in 1968.

The record company released a few singles from the album and sent them to radio stations and trade papers like Billboard, Record World and Cashbox, earning her some airplay on the radio and a few positive one-paragraph reviews - but due to her refusal to perform and promote it there was no tour to support the album, so there was little public response, and the album was consigned for decades to obscurity.

Gradually over time however the album managed to find itself much more of a following, most notably enjoying a remarkable renaissance in the late '90s. The original LP has become a much sought-after collector's item in recent years, said to be fetching around $200 each, while the recent re-releases have introduced it to a new audience and turned it into a cult favourite.


The entire album was greatly influenced by the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds in its dreamy, innocent childlike feel and its complex arrangements. Since her college days, Guryan had been strictly a jazz fanatic. She had stopped listening to pop music and so was unaware of the growing number of great songs and records that was coming out in the mid-'60s. One day a friend, the jazz pianist, composer and lyricist Dave Frishberg, called and said he had something she must hear. She went to his apartment, where he played her Brian Wilson's "God Only Knows". Guryan was stunned and thought it wonderful, and on her way home she bought a copy of Pet Sounds. She listened to "God Only Knows" over and over again, learning the words and singing along with the record. After a long time, she turned off the record player, sat down at her small electric piano and wrote "Think of Rain", it all seeming to happen in about twenty minutes. Brian Wilson had shown her how to think differently about structuring the harmonies she used. "Think of Rain" is still her favourite of all the songs she's written.

With her jazz and classical background and the Brian Wilson influence it's no surprise the songs on this album are much more than standard pop fare - there are sophisticated tempo and key signature shifts, along with touches of jazz, bossa nova and classical music. For example, on the track "Someone I Know" Guryan superimposed her own pop melody over Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" (she had originally intended it to work as counterpoint against the entire Bach piece but ended up recording the Chorale only from the bridge to the end). Another example is the strange intro to the song "Love", conceived by John Hill who produced and played guitar on the record. Guryan wanted a harder, edgier track on the album, so Hill conceived of going through a variety of time changes (7/4, 6/4, 5/4, etc.) until the songs kicks in when he reaches 4/4.


The music industry in the 60s was very male-dominated, and it was unusual for women in the pop music business to write and arrange their own songs. The difficulties Guryan had really became apparent to her when she began making the demos that led to Take A Picture. The musicians - all male - did not take kindly to receiving instructions from a woman. Often she would ask David Rosner, her publisher and one of her producers (and eventual husband), or the engineer to push the "talk button" and tell the musician in question to correct his pitch or rhythm. One day, Rosner said, "Tell him yourself." She was somewhat uncomfortable doing it, but after a while it became easier, and as the musicians realised she knew what she was doing, their resistance lessened. It was also Rosner who first suggested she arrange her own demos, the usual practice being to hand out lead sheets to the musicians and hope to come up with something. And it was Rosner who first decided to try doubling up her voice.

Back when Guryan was in college, she used to take her roommate along whenever she was to play her songs for someone. Her roommate had what Guryan considered a good voice and Guryan never thought she had a good voice herself, so she had taught her roommate all her songs. Guryan had a range break that made her singing inconsistent and caused problems when she tried recording. So when Rosner was doing demos of her songs for April/Blackwood (the publishing arm of the then-Columbia Records), he would use other singers with "good" voices - but the demos turned out badly because the singers with good voices did not have the sense of rhythm, timing and feel that Guryan originally intended. Fearing that the songs would never be recorded as she wanted, almost in tears, she pleaded with Rosner to let her try again. When they tried to record "Think of Rain", Rosner decided to try doubling up her voice - and it worked because it smoothed out all the inconsistencies. That song was also the first one Guryan ever arranged, again at Rosner's suggestion. After that, all her demos were arranged by her with her voice doubled (like the ones on "25 Demos").


But Guryan never wanted to be a recording artist - partly because of her stage-fright (she calls it "stage-dread"), which also stopped her from promoting this album - she wanted to be a songwriter. With her album she had hoped some of the great recording artists of the day would hear the songs and want to record them. In the end, most of the recordings she did get were via normal publishing channels, i.e. demos. Several of her songs from this album did end up being recorded by others, and Guryan started forging a name behind the scenes as a productive songwriter. By the time Take A Picture was released, "Sunday Morning" had already been a hit for Spanky & Our Gang. That same song was a hit a year later for Oliver, and was later recorded by Julie London, Bobbie Gentry and Glen Campbell, among others. Almost as popular with recording artists was "Think of Rain", which made it onto records by Claudine Longet, Jackie DeShannon, Bobby Sherman and Astrud Gilberto. Dion and Harry Nilsson also recorded unreleased versions of it.


In the late '90s, unknown to Guryan, her music was gradually becoming very popular in Japan, where many records by people who were overlooked or not taken seriously in the '60s (such as the Free Design, the Association and the Millennium) had been reissued. Sometime in early 1997, her husband David Rosner received a call out of the blue from a man named David L. Brown at Distortions, a collectors-type record label in the Far East, informing them that Guryan was a huge hit in Japan. Guryan of course found it hard to believe, given that the album's been, as far as she was aware, consigned to obscurity for thirty years. This man also told them that her album was on the wish list of every collector, particularly Japanese, who passed his way, and that he wanted to re-release Take A Picture.

Guryan did not own the rights to it, and it took David Rosner quite a while to secure the rights from Arista. Around the same time they received an unusual royalty statement from Japan - on the accounting were many of the songs from Take A Picture. They couldn't understand what was happening, so Rosner contacted his Japanese sub-publisher - through several conversations they found out that a pirated CD edition of Take A Picture had been released in Japan on Keystone Records. Guryan, delighted to have an actual CD of her album, faxed Keystone to inquire about whether she could order copies at a writer's or publisher's rate, as Japanese CDs were expensive. They seemed quite pleased to hear from her, and told her the album was sold out and they had only one copy left. They were happy to send that to her for no charge, a copy issued sometime in 1996.

She was also given a paperback book by someone called "Soft Rock...The Sound of Late 60's Pop Music". It had several pictures of the Take A Picture album, but she couldn't read what was written about it as it was in Japanese, so they had it translated. It began with: "You may not know who Margo Guryan is. There are very few people who does."

The remarkable story continued as Linus of Hollywood heard "Sunday Morning" and recorded it. They met and Linus of Hollywood's Franklin Castle label re-issued the album in the U.S.. At the same time, there was interest from two other labels, Trattoria in Japan and Siesta in Spain. The album was re-released around the same time, in 2000, in all three countries.


This is an album unashamed of its themes and sentiments of love, especially in its lyrics. Not that all the songs are happy or positive - "Thoughts" for example is a great concise song about playing games in a relationship, and the fall-out afterwards - but the general vibe is very '60s, idealistic, dreamy and romantic. A few words from the greatness that is the The All-Music Guide: "It is the soft pop of which gauzy dreams are made, full of the hazy changes and transitory variations of autumn, an album that you invariably want to wrap up in."

It's great when you've just got together with the one person you're madly in love with and all is beauty and kaleidoscopic colours with the world. It is not so good immediately post-breakup, as it may make you want to defenestrate the stereo. But if you're the romantic type, and you're in a daydreaming mood, this is a great soundtrack.

  1. Sunday Morning(Guryan) - 2:20
  2. Sun (Guryan) - 2:36
  3. Love Songs (Guryan) - 2:37
  4. Thoughts (Guryan) - 2:25
  5. Don't Go Away (Guryan) - 2:04
  6. Take a Picture (Guryan) - 3:08
  7. What Can I Give You (Guryan) - 2:31
  8. Think of Rain (Guryan) - 2:25
  9. Can You Tell (Guryan) - 2:34
  10. Someone I Know (Guryan) - 2:46
  11. Love (Guryan) - 5:26

Several different CD reissues include different bonus tracks - the version I own (from Siesta Records) has "The 8:17 Northbound Success Merry-Go-Round", "Come To Me Slowly" and "Timothy Gone". The All-Music Guide lists two other versions: one with "I Think A Lot About You", "It's Alright Now" and "Timothy Gone"; while the other version, the Japanese re-release, adds "The 8:17 Northbound Success Merry-Go-Round", "I Don't Intend To Spend Christmas Without You", "Spanky and Our Gang" and "California Shake".

  • Take A Picture liner notes
  • MOJO 1000: The Ultimate CD Buyer's Guide
  • The All-Music Guide
  • PopMatters review of Margo Guryan's CD 25 Demos (www.popmatters.com)
  • Franklin Castle Recordings artist info on Margo Guryan (www.franklincastle.net)
  • Fufkin.com interview with Margo Guryan by Robert Pally (http://www.fufkin.com/news/news_notes_10_00.htm)
  • tangents.co.uk interview with Margo Guryan (http://www.tangents.co.uk/tangents/main/2003/august/guryan.html)
  • Linus of Hollywood's response message re: Margo Guryan interview at Luxuriamusic.com (http://www.mail-archive.com/audities@binhost.com/2001-month-02/msg00564.html)

The story of two men who found themselves as strangers in a strange land, not knowing why they were there or what they were called there for, wondering if perhaps they were simply there to meet each other...

It all began with a photograph of a cake. It was a photograph of a cake with Elmo on it. There were no people in the photograph. It was just a picture of an Elmo cake stapled to a bulletin board.

Mark had come to Orlando after being led to believe that his career with the Muppets, which began many years earlier, would benefit from being in Orlando and working at Disney. Keith had come to Orlando for his own reasons, and when he met Mark, he had reached the lowest point in his journey and did not know how to do anything other than survive.

There was a mixed collection of people on the night shift at the job they both worked. There was something interesting about each of the eight people on the shift, but these two knew there was a reason why they had come into contact with each other. Keith wondered who Mark was. He wore sweater vests, ridiculous shoes and a wide smile, prompting Keith to wonder if Mark had Down's syndrome. Mark wondered if Keith was a homeless man, as he was worn out and had long, dirty hair. Then, one night, Mark looked at the photograph during a silent moment on the night shift and asked, "What is the deal with this Elmo cake? Why is there a picture of an Elmo cake up here?"

Keith just started laughing uncontrollably. It was a strange beginning to a friendship that meant everything.

Mark's career with the Muppets had been derailed by the person who performs Elmo, and so it was a slap in the face to have this photograph in front of him as he tried to revive his career unsuccessfully at Disney. His father had pushed him to make something of his talent with puppets his entire life. Keith's father had pushed him to succeed and needed to step in to help him as everything fell apart around him just prior to his being hired for this job. They were destined to meet.

Awake on my airplane
Awake on my airplane
My skin is bare
My skin is theirs
I feel like a newborn
And I feel like a newborn
I feel so real

Keith had been missing something since he had separated from his best friend of nearly two decades. All of his friends were female and he had not been close to a person of the male nature for a long time. Mark would change that. He would become the best friend he had ever known. It had to do with more than just a photograph of an Elmo cake. That was just the spark that started the fire.

Mark was the performer and Keith was the writer. Together they would conceive, write and perform as they tried to put together a show that would deliver them both into the ranks of the successful and idolized. They never quite made it there, but it was not for a lack of trying. In the end, Keith would try to convince Mark that it did not matter. They knew who they were and what they were capable of. Selling the drama wasn't as important as knowing they could do anything together.

Could you take my picture
'Cuz I won't remember

Each of them had a great love in their life from whom they had been separated. For Mark it was Claudia, a woman who was intent on destroying him but from whom he could not stay away. For Keith it was The Muse, from whom he was separated because she believed she would destroy him. They were inspirations to the two of them, but what was more than that, they were each inspired to prove their fathers wrong. They could succeed on their own terms and not on the limited terms their fathers told them they needed to follow to find success.

Mark and Claudia would come together first, placing a rift between him and Keith as Keith felt and saw that Claudia would destroy Mark. She sapped his creative talent. She turned him into something almost not worth knowing. She drained him like a vampire. When she finally made her latest effort to destroy him, Keith was there. He knew he needed to do the right thing. There was no other way.

I don't believe in
Your sanctity
I don't believe in
Your privacy
I don't believe in
Or hypocrisy
Could everyone agree that no one should be left alone
Could everyone agree that
They should not be left alone
And I feel like a newborn
Kicking and screaming

Keith told Mark the time had come to make himself whole again. He needed to move beyond his attachment to this woman who did not accept him as the person he was and wanted to mold and control him and defeat the essence of what made him Mark. The struggle went on, and as Mark worked to make his puppet career soar, Keith looked beyond at how he needed to make himself whole first. Eventually, these things would come, but life demanded he complete himself before he could do anything more.

Eventually, Keith would fall in love with Mark's cousin, The Nightingale, who would inspire him to reclaim the person he really was. He would come to love her beyond words, but it was her words that drove him to reclaim that which he had considered lost. The Muse, who had inspired him, and for whom his love had no boundaries, would continue to haunt him and The Nightingale would insist that he find a way to make it happen or find closure. She broke his heart in an instant with nothing more than a look. When she knew he was leaving to be with The Muse, she did not try to interfere, she simply looked into his soul and told him that to her he would always matter more than he could ever understand.

Hey dad, what do you think about your son now?
Hey dad, what do you think about your son now?

These days, whenever they get together, they always listen to this song as the night comes to a close. It means something and it always will. At the end, they scream out those last lines and embrace. There isn't anything wrong with that. It is how they remember.

Lyrics sample from lyrics by Richard Patrick
Copyright 1999 EMI April Music/Happy Ditties from Paradise (ASCAP)
As appeared on the album Title of Record recorded by Filter.
Used without permission.

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