Blog Archive


Jimmy Campbell Article


‘Half Baked’ is a gloriously subtle record. The art of Campbell’s music is that it seems blissfully unaware of its own artistry. It is refreshing today that someone is still able to, at least give the impression, that they take the craft of the songwriter as their primary objective and any notion of stardom as a secondary preoccupation – or a by-product of this chosen profession.      

                                 The Custodian, Sept. 1970


Jimmy Campbell is now part of a select group of contemporary musicians who strive, and I would suggest have largely succeeded, in creating something more akin with artistic self-expression from the largely banal musical category known as ‘pop’.

                                  File Magazine, Dec. 1970


As the quintessential troubadour; I believe ‘Son of Anastasia’ has proven Campbell has much more invention in his music than the ‘Mersey Beat’ tag he is often wrongly categorised with would suggest.

                                 The Tune Smith, Nov. 1969


The ‘lo-fi’ nature of tracks like ‘Don’t leave me now’ and the deceptive lyrical majesty of ‘Michelangelo’ have helped make Mr Jimmy Campbell Liverpool’s second most talked about act of 1969.

                                            LME, Jan. 1970


Our record of the week is ‘Half Baked’, its great!! 5/5

                                      Top Tunes, Oct. 1970


Jimmy Campbell is now officially bigger and better than Cliff Richard.

Tommy Whitestock; from Good Mornin’ with Tommy Whitestock, Jan. 1971


rockin_horse_jimmy liv__1237812096_jimmy-campbell-

Fig 1: Images of Jimmy Campbell (1944 – 2007), from ‘back in the day’


{note. I recommend reading the piece in its entirety before watching and listening to the clips I have included.}


The Case of Jimmy Campbell

i) Preface

To my knowledge, other than me writing these opening comments in this moment, Jimmy Campbell’s music never managed to encourage such fulsome certified praise as is demonstrated by me here. To borrow the phrase and much of the sentiments used by Simon Reynolds in his 2011 book Retromania; I undoubtedly fashioned my fictional ‘recommendatory’ quotes and sources for many of the same reasons expressed in his book. These reasons are mainly western Pop Music’s unquestionable obsession with it’s own past. I would suggest this historicentric view goes beyond the realms of ‘pop’. It is endemic in human behaviour that one inherently looks back when possible. Because this tendency of ‘looking back’ is evidently possible a lot, I have not broken with this convention but embraced it here. As a ‘bygone age’ obsessed being, I have in fact wondered what might have been articulated about Jimmy’s music if, in my view, it had received some of the acclaim it so richly deserved. Consequently, for a brief moment, inspired by and occupying the mould of a fictionalised work; I have followed the trend of ‘looking back’ and imagined if his music had attracted critical admiration what this praise might appear as. The exact reasons for me attempting this are for another far lengthier piece and could only ever be largely subjectively commented on I suspect. So that particular thought process will remain under investigation for now. However, above all else, my momentary re-shaping of history is undeniably an act of wishful thinking and I freely admit - in the Marxist sense - is a somewhat fetitistic act on my part. As a result, this fanciful exercise aims to show just how simple and meaningless this kind of certified commendation is. It subsequently acts as a paradigmatic example of the totally random and often nonsensical way in which established notions of success, within the arts are often achieved, measured, interpreted and then conveyed.


ii) Introduction

Following on from this contextualising opening section; the rest of my article will be used primarily as a way of introducing the reader to the work and career of Jimmy Campbell. Furthermore I will attempt an understanding of his music as I perceive and interpret it. Alongside this I will briefly look at the aforementioned obsession that the music industry has with its own past and why the case of Jimmy Campbell is sadly an all too common one. In doing so I want to draw attention to the possible reasons why Jimmy Campbell was unable to achieve any sort of commercial success and direct others towards relevant acts that have had similar issues with this time worn dilemma.


iii) Chapter 1: initial approvals & recommendations

“The eras lost songwriter”

As is suggested by the previous ‘authentic’ - respected comment on Campbell’s career, one or two of the right sorts of people were listening to his music; shown here by Bob Stanley of The Times and Guardian fame describing him thus. In addition to this, The Guardian (perhaps this can be attributed to Bob again?) called the compilation album ‘The Dreams of Michaelangelo’, written by Jimmy whilst in his band The 23rd Turnoff (formerly The Kirbys) - one of “The 1000 albums to hear before you die”. Sadly, and yet unsurprisingly - as is the position we find ourselves in with regards this man’s music - I have to agree with all these sentiments wholeheartedly.


23rd turnoff

Fig 2: The 23rd Turnoff record cover showing the band; Campbell seated front right 


Fig 3: ‘Michelangelo’ by The 23rd Turnoff 


iv) Chapter 2: the biog & other observations

As I suspect most of those reading this article know very little or nothing of Jimmy Campbell the 60’s Liverpool musician. Therefore I think it only correct to write a short biog to begin with.

Jimmy Campbell was born in 1944 and like so many of the ‘baby boomers’, would identify Rock n’ Roll as being his chief form of expression and identification with a new found youth rebellion. The emergence of this music, with its principal origins coming from black American Blues and R n’ B, was undoubtedly a way for many young people of distinguishing themselves from the establishment and particularly their parent’s generation. Because of various causes and conflicting reasons, the immediate previous generations had had the burdens and horrors of war thrust upon them. Jimmy and his peers had put their faith in something else; something new and excitingly different. I recently heard a fitting account of this new sense of empowerment, described by one of the period’s most important cultural figures - Pete Townsend. ‘To paraphrase his sentiments from a recent interview: There was a fundamental psychological difference between those who had lived through the war and those who had been very fortunate to have come along just as it ended. On the whole this totally altered their divergent social outlooks.’ In comparison to their parents, Jimmy and his peers like Townsend were fortunate to be a ‘result of post-war empowerment’. Influenced by what has been described as psychedelia, Campbell was embracing this new ‘counter culture’ to the full.

Jimmy’s first group, called The Panthers were formed in 1962. They played gigs under this title, famously supporting the Beatles in Huyton, Liverpool. The compare of the city’s Cavern Club, at that time was Bob Wooler. He suggested they change their name to The Kirbys as they were from that part of Liverpool, and they duly did. After signing a deal in 1964 they were managed by The Beatles manager Brian Epstein’s secretary Beryl Adams. In 1966 they had hits in Finland with their singles ‘It’s a crime’ and ‘I’ve never been so much in Love’, released through RCA. In the same year they played backing for the The Merseys (formerly The Merserybeats). After only very modest success, in 1968 they changed the band’s name to The 23rd Turnoff – referring to the M6 junction number which leads to Liverpool. Some time after this change they produced the singles, written by Campbell, called ‘Michelangelo’ and ‘Leave me here I want to stay forever’. These songs, issued through Deram, clearly show Campbell’s ability for distinctive and interesting song writing. On the former, an odd sense of familiarity is combined with an idiosyncratic lyrical flair and lo-fi melodic undertones. These creative traits quickly became his musical trademark. I have concluded therefore that ‘Michelangelo’ is the quintessential Jimmy Campbell song and should be heard by far more people than it has been since its inception all those decades ago.


MERSEYS_1.tif Fig 4: The Merseys; Tony Crane, Billy Kinsley & Dog


As has been alluded to, the Deram releases were not a success for the band and Jimmy consequently left The 23rd Turnoff and the music business. When he returned six months later (which was a long time to be absent from the popular music business in 1969) he was a solo act. On his return he released the magnificent record ‘Son of Anastasia’ on Fontana. This included a re-release of the equally brilliant single ‘Michelangelo’. Again not in breaking too much with past form, Jimmy and commercial success seemed incompatible. This was to continue. He followed up this record with another album release in 70’ called ‘Half Baked’. On this he teamed up with Billy Kingsley & Tony Crane of The Merseys; Pete Clarke from the band The Escorts and Joel Mallard from Badfinger. The band would be playfully titled Rockin’ Horse. This album was Jimmy’s only ever US release and of course a total commercial flop. Equally consistently - in my view that is - the record was a masterpiece; creatively and artistically. Like many great records manage to do, its gives the listener a strong sense of narrative when listening to it in its entirety. The somewhat psychedelic mood it creates is coupled with a strong sense of Englishness. Like experiencing any great artwork, ones perception of their immediate circumstances are ever so subtly changed after hearing ‘Half Baked’.


Jimmy Campbell jcjanis450ha3 Fig 5: Jimmy in his ‘early retirement’


To draw this highly condensed account of Jimmy’s musical career to an end - after the formation of Rockin Horse they released an album ‘Yes it is’ in 1970. An overall far more upbeat effort than was Campbell’s typical sound, it was nonetheless the same in terms of industry attention. As has become the case with much of Campbell’s music; this record now seems to be an especial favourite of the ‘musos’ and vinyl heads. Many of these songs would be re-recorded on Campbell’s next and final solo record.


Rockin Horse rockinhorse

Fig 6: Jimmy (second left) with his band Rockin’ Horse in 1970


287167 Fig 7: Cover of the band’s album ‘Yes it is’ 


This brings us to Jimmy’s forth and final studio recorded and produced album of 1972, ‘Jimmy Campbell’s Album’, released through Phillips. A simple contractual obligation, he spent just one day in London recording it. This now seems astonishing to me, when one hears the supreme quality of the end product. In its entirety the album is a beautifully despairing recorded work. Ending with the track ‘When you coming home’. This haunting song is subtle to the core and is somehow reminiscent of both Jimmy’s composing stylistic nature and existentially symbolic of his life and especially his troubled relationship with the popular music industry. The record would be a precipitately poignant ending to a distinctively talented individual’s public career. Jimmy should have attracted far more interest than he ever did. But for whatever reasons he never received the acknowledgement and consequential rewards his art so richly deserved.



Fig 8: ‘Don’t ever think I cry’ by Rockin’ Horse; for me not Campbell’s strongest work


Jimmy Campbell's Album Fig 9: Campbell’s final understated masterpiece ‘Jimmy Campbell’s Album’ (1972)


v) Chapter 3: resurrecting the undiscovered & forgotten

Second only to my attempt at spreading the ‘word’ of the Liverpool musician Jimmy Campbell; my other main impetus for this article came from my observation of the Medias’ recent infatuation, mainly through cinema, with ‘forgotten’ or undiscovered stars of yesteryear. A few examples of this trend from recent times are 60/70s songwriter Rodriguez Sixto; the Psyche band formed in the early 90s The Brian Jonestown Massacre; and 80s ‘Hairmetalers’ Anvil. Not to mention the countless highly lucrative musical reunions of the last few years. With a fleeting focus on the movie business - Hollywood and especially the ‘resurrectory’ acts of one Quentin Tarrantino - has shown that mainstream film is also fond of tempting castoff stars out of obscurity and back into the limelight. Some of these individuals were more ‘forgotten’ or ‘undiscovered’ than others. In the case of the fabulous Detroit singer songwriter Rodriguez Sixto, he had certainly not been forgotten by any self respecting rock and pop music enthusiast (or buyers of Record Collector). The ‘search for Sugarman’ really need not have been much of a search at all. But why let the truth get in the way of a good story (or in this case ‘documentary’). I am however, without question extremely pleased that sadly unlike Jimmy, artists like Rodriguez and BJM are now getting the acknowledgment and attention they should have received ‘back in the day’. Coupled with this new found recognition; recent documentaries about these musicians are simply hugely enjoyable films.



Fig 10: The ‘Sugarman’ himself Rodriguez Sixto


brian_jonestown_massacre_626x352Fig 11: The Brian Jonestown Massacre; get diggin’ it!


Having been an avid fan of Jimmy Campbell’s music for many years; I had thought if he had not sadly died in 2007, whether even just a little of this contemporary focus on excavating unacknowledged and ‘forgotten’ creative careers might well have fallen on him? Perhaps a film might still be on the cards? One can only hope. Of course it is now even more unlikely this will happen. But I can at any rate direct those interested in finding out about his back catalogue and state that there is a whole plethora of listening pleasures if you follow my recommendations.


vi) Chapter 4: the problem with Jimmy

Nevertheless, to some extent Jimmy was clearly on the radar of those in influential places in the late 60s. Although a lot easier to get record deals and industry investment in those days, a musician wouldn’t have released records through RCA, Fontana, Deram and Philips; recorded and toured at the expense of the labels and management, had they not been held in decent regard. Therefore investment in Jimmy’s career was clearly there to some degree. So why didn’t he – like many others too – not have commercial success and an extended creative vocation? Perhaps it was his overly modest, even self-mocking, often shy approach to performing. This ended up destroying the career, and even the life of one Nick Drake - another remarkably talented musician. I suspect this came from Jimmy’s working class, comic Liverpool roots. Where self deprecation and ‘looking for a laugh’ was and still is the par excellence. Maybe it was Jimmy’s ill advised use of the Kazoo on certain tracks. It was the 60s after all, but this still never was an instrument to enhance the song and I suspect wouldn’t have helped much even then. Some of his songs were recorded by others at this time too. In my view far less talented musicians and ‘stars’ like Sir Cliff Richard, The Swinging Blue Jeans, Billy Fury and even one Sir Rolf Harris, all covered Campbell compositions. Whether this sort of company or association, although financially beneficial, would actually have helped Jimmy is debatable. His work and potential audiences would not have fitted well in this ‘area’ and he probably did his best at distancing himself from these acts. His reluctance to leave Liverpool, in those days especially, would not have helped him either. As a so-called psychedelic act (which probably came from lazy journalism more than from Jimmy himself), he should have certainly relocated to London where this scene was far more widespread and influential. Finally a ‘confused’ journalist describing him as the ‘British James Taylor’, in my own personal view, was extremely unfair. Not to mention totally inaccurate. For the same, yet polarising reason; I am grateful that there is only one James Taylor and equally opposing - one Jimmy Campbell. Much fairer musical comparisons from this time in my view might be Fred Neil or Tim Hardin. Their understated and far less self-conscious treatment to song writing fits much more with Jimmy’s I believe. However, as these musicians were the characteristically urbane American ‘song smiths’. Jimmy’s writing and approach to the craft of song creation is equally, utterly British and quite specifically Scouse.



 hardin1Fig 12 & 13: A better comparison than James Taylor is Fred Neil(1st in line) or Time Hardin(2nd) 


Fig 14: The Campbell classic ‘On a Monday’


vii) Chapter 5: some observations on his work

I could give numerous examples of Jimmy Campbell compositions which have inspired me to write this article of recommendation. His work is the real reason for my interest/intrigue and consequently for my work here. Like reading a great novel, one would never naturally read only selected chapters. Therefore in the same respect I would stress that the best way to listen to Jimmy’s music is to do it in the ‘old fashioned way’, and in the manner in which the artist intended. Listen to the album(s) from the start to the end. This is to experience the body of work in its fully created form. I am probably a traditionalist in this regard. In my view the playlist or compilation is totally incompatible when attempting to understand what a musician of any real worth, intended or were experiencing when they created an album. However I go back to the lo-fi description as the best way of giving a general categorisation of Jimmy’s work. His attentive, deceptively modest music puts him in a group with other significant artists from a variety disciplines. This subtle creative treatment, as I see it, can be found in much of the art of the Expressionists, Surrealists, Dadaists and others alike. For me artists like Duchamp, Munch and Magritte are all archetypes at capturing visually what I now describe in popular music terms as lo-fi. This approach to their art is equally aware of the power of spatial dynamics and uses the same contingency in establishing a subject(s). For me this best describes the lo-fi treatment. I judge Jimmy and many others have effectively utilise this stylistic approach to varying degrees - consciously or otherwise. Hence, selected Campbell examples characteristic of this can be found on ‘Lovely Elias Cope is Dead’ and ‘On a Monday’ from his first solo album. This typical Campbell sound is evident on his next two albums also. It can be heard especially on tracks like ‘In My Room’; and from his last record ‘Baby, Walk out with Your Darlin Man’. These songs display all the hallmarks of this lo-fi sensibility, which he applied so effectively to his artistic expression.


Fig 15: ‘In My Room’


Fig 16: ‘Baby walk out with your darlin’ man’; a fitting example of the lo-fi treatment



Fig 17 & 18: Examples of the stylistic similarities of JC’s ‘Half Baked’ & ‘Seahorse’ by Devendra Banhardt; as I have interpreted 


Fig 19: Banhardt showing he is a ‘muso’, so may well know Jimmy’s tunes? 


viii) Chapter 6: other relevant acts

The conclusion one must draw from all this is that Jimmy’s music is the real treasure here. Not his celebrity or lack of it. Like countless acts from his home town of Liverpool (& beyond), he was not acknowledged by the masses, but by those who have had the pleasure of hearing his musical contribution to the great creative fabric of the city. In more recent times, we have witnessed comparatively brilliant and equally sadly, largely ignored acts like the band Shack or Edgar Summertyme (Jones) - to mention but two. The Head brothers responsible for Shack and Edgar, are hugely respected by musicians and those musical types who doubtlessly know and love Jimmy’s work. To venture beyond Liverpool for a moment; when listening to Devendra Banhardt’s music, especially his song ‘Seahorse’, I can hear a track wholly reminiscent of Campbell’s fabulously inventive song ‘Half Baked’. This is the title track of his, largely regarded most successful second album. I concede this is a totally speculatory point, but nonetheless, Banhardt is an individual who has a strong knowledge of popular music heritage, therefore this connection may have some justification whether directly so or not.


Fig 20: ‘Undecided’ by Shack from the epic record ‘Waterpistol’; Liverpool music legends and like Jimmy not nearly well known enough  


reproduction prohibited 1937

Fig 21: Rene Magritte’s (1898 – 1967) ‘Portrait of Edward James’ (1937); lo-fi visual comparisons, example 1:the art of the understated’



Fig 22: Marcel Duchamp’s  (1887 – 1968) ‘Duchamp descending the staircase’ (1952), photo taken by Eliot Eliasofon; lo-fi visual comparisons, example 2: ‘spatial dynamics'


Melancholy,_1891_Edvard_Munch Fig 23: Edvard Munch’s (1863 – 1944) Melancholy (1894); lo-fi visual comparisons, example 3: ‘reflecting on contingency’



Fig 24: ‘I would do anything’ by Edgar Summertyme; another who’s music should be heard a lot more of I feel 


ix) Conclusion

Therefore, other than some musical aficionados; there are a vast number of people totally missing out on these great musical artists. When looking at the dross that is the Popular music business today, it is sad that so many great acts, like those mentioned previously, are largely ignored. In my view these musicians, if given the opportunity could be hugely beneficial at making our society far more aware of pop music’s unquestionable artistic potential - as it has done so effectively in the past. In turn this inspires a far more creatively switched on society, especially in younger people. This has proven to be the case, for countless generations. None more so it seems than the ‘baby boomers’ from the post-war period, discussed by Pete Townsend in my earlier example. I merely hope that at the present moment, some others might discover the work of Jimmy Campbell and it encourages equally brilliant music - only this time with more fruitful rewards for them, than was the case for him. It would be gratifying if the kind of sentiments of recognition demonstrated in my opening fictional quotes could be applied when the next time an artist like Jimmy emerges (to be both ‘bigger and better’ than Sir Cliff really would be something). Acknowledging and helping artists in the mould of Jimmy Campbell during their careers would be an essential shift from recent times. My wish is that this will be the case and that an unbridled talent’s artistic growth is facilitated. Let’s hope that they don’t simply become a fitting subject for a future independent documentary film.


Fig 25: Leaving you all with this gem; lo-fi heaven!: ‘Closing down the shop’ by Mr Jimmy Campbell


With special thanks to Mr David McCurdie; who recommended Jimmy Campbell to me back in Edinburgh, all those years ago, cheers mate.


  1. You've shamed a self-respecting pop and rock fan into discovering/exploring the back catalogue of this compelling talent. But don't worry, I'll work my way through it one album at a time.

    His CV makes for an interesting narrative; the details of his life read like a novel, and his use of the kazoo makes me think of Thomas Pynchon, specifically, who's written a great piece of psychedelic noir in Inherent Vice. Check it out if you're ever stuck for a read.

  2. Sounds like something I would read actually. My little bit of research there on Pynchon's IV says Paul Thomas Anderson might be making it into a film. Have to wait and see I guess.

    Yeah Campbell's work really is very good - in my view. Not as psychedelic as is often claimed (in the real sense that is); which of course I say in the article. Just strong songwriting that I hope you will enjoy discovering. When you listen to him, the songs are totally understated in the overall feeling they produce. This I am a big fan of, when approaching creativity.
    Thanks for your recommendations, thoughts and comments Mark. Always much appreciated. Enjoy Jimmy Campbell and let me know what you think,





We hope you are enjoying Pipe.

We welcome all comments relating to the adjoining article or post and will always endeavor to reply or acknowledge your views. Responses and debates are invaluable to what we do, so we hope you can let us know some of your thoughts.

Please don't however leave comments about anything other than the post(s) read/viewed. Anything irrelevant or what we deem as Spam will be removed.
Thanks for your time.

Kind Regards,