The New Troubadours Revisited

Mike Scott and David Spangler look back on the formation of The New Troubadours in the early days of the community and talk about the compilation of the Vintage Best Of CD which can be purchased from the online store ….

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Compiling the Troubadours: A Labour of Love and Music by Mike Scott

When Peter Caddy died in 1994, the community celebrated his life with a slap-up dinner in the CC. Along with several other LCGs I was drafted into Park Kitchen to help with the cooking. As the shift began our focaliser Ian Turnbull stuck a tape in the kitchen cassette player and proclaimed: “Only old community music today!” A wistful stream of acoustic guitar emanated from the speakers, with exquisite vocal harmonies and a palpable spiritual charge that swiftly filled the kitchen and pierced my heart: my introduction to the New Troubadours.

The very idea of ‘early community music’ enchanted me, as if it came from a long-gone golden time, like the lore of the Elves in Lord Of The Rings, and when I discovered one of the Troubadours’ singers and their main lyricist was the community’s 1970s spiritual teacher David Spangler, I was super-intrigued.

In the Phoenix I found the two early ‘70s Troubadours cassettes, Homeland and Love Is, still doggedly on sale after all these years, and in my room in Cluny I played them over and over, getting to know the three dozen songs they contained. These ranged from world-class beauties like In My Name and Change Can Come – effortless melodies, gorgeous lyrics and bang-on vocals – to oddities like the deliciously bonkers hippie time-warp The Spiral Experience. And between these extremes was a whole world of music featuring not just the six Troubadours but a roll call of vintage community members; a snapshot, in fact, of the community’s shared musical creativity circa 1972-3.

Later I discovered two more albums, recorded after David and the other members returned to the USA in 1973, and darn good they were too. It struck me that the music deserved rescuing from its obscurity with a first class compilation CD containing the very best songs. And when David and his wife Julie, one of the band’s other singers, visited Findhorn in 2004, I put the idea to them.

They were receptive, but explained we needed the agreement of the other former Troubadours. So I contacted guitarist Milenko Matanovic and his wife, the band’s main female lead vocalist Kathi, while David sounded out Lark Batteau, the other girl singer/songwriter, and bass player Jim Bronson.

All these individuals lead busy lives, each involved in community-based or holistic work, and it took some time to hammer out agreements as to whether the album should be compiled, which songs should be included, in which order they should be tracklisted and so on.

As a parallel endeavour to this, I sought out the original tapes, corresponding with Christopher Cathles, the 1970s Findhornian who recorded the first two Troubadours albums in Park Lecture Room. Chris had diligently kept the master tapes and enthusiastically transferred them to CD and sent them to me. I worked from these copies editing the tracks where necessary and honing the sound. I also wanted to include five songs from the band’s third album Winds Of Birth, but the original tapes, recorded in America, couldn’t be located, so I worked from an unplayed, still shrinkwrapped vinyl LP record supplied by Milenko, transferred the tracks to digital format, then painstakingly worked to eradicate any vinyl pops or scratches.

Finally, in early 2008, the album was completed and titled In My Name – The Vintage Best Of The New Troubadours, approved by the band, then manufactured with a stylish colour cover by Lorian Press boss Jeremy Berg.

And now the last and most important part of the process begins. You get to hear it!

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From left: Mike Scott, Julie Spangler, Richard Naiff, and David Spangler

Notes on The Troubadours by founding band member David Spangler

The music of the New Troubadours came out of a special time. In 1969 the community numbered around fifteen people, and as a couple were musicians, Peter Caddy started having an occasional ‘fun night,’ a time when the members would gather in their new community centre and put on impromptu performances of music, poetry or comedy.

I arrived in summer 1970 to discover I was at the leading edge of a surge of people coming to join. In a matter of months, the population rose to 150 people. Among these were artists, musicians, actors, and craftmakers, and under their influence the ‘fun nights’ became weekly events.

These fun nights were popular with visitors to the community as well as residents. They also provided a way in which people in the nearby towns and villages could interact with the community. There was suspicion and even hostility towards the community. The local people weren’t sure about these people talking to nature spirits in the local caravan park, and there was concern we were a nest of drug-using hippies.

This was the situation in which the New Troubadours were born, initially as a group of friends singing at the fun nights and then as a folk group singing at local events around the area as ambassadors of goodwill from the community.

Initially our repertoire comprised folk songs with which people were familiar and could sing along. But moved by the idea of a New Age, I felt a desire to write new songs that expressed the joy and vision we were experiencing in the community. At first with Lark Batteau then with Milenko Matanovic, I wrote what one friend laughingly called ‘mini-lectures set to music.’ These we performed at fun nights in the community as a way of celebrating the spirit we were all feeling. Lark and another talented community member, Patti Weber, also wrote songs in this same vein.

Many of these early songs are included in the new Best Of CD: Change Can Come, The Love Affirmation, Free, Canticle, Happy Song, I Dreamed A Dream, The River, and Winds Of Birth.

In 1973, there was an opportunity to present a musical comedy at a conference in London. Inspired by Godspell, then at the height of its popularity, I thought it would be fun to write a musical about the evolution of the Christ Consciousness within humanity from an esoteric viewpoint. Ha! No small ambition there! Milenko and I sat down and in a burst of creativity, wrote all the songs in a three-day period. The musical, named Freedom Man, never saw the light of day, but its songs became a major part of our repertoire, and included In My Name, Love One Another, Let New Worlds Grow (the Song of the Devas), In the Beginning, Where There Is A Will, and Song Of The Avatars.

We also wrote a number of Christmas songs for the 1972 community winter festival, which included Pan And Jesus and Festival Of Light.

There were other songs I would have liked to have included on the Best Of, but the state of their recording was not good enough. Often we recorded under primitive conditions, without soundproofing. One of our favourite stories involved the commander of RAF Kinloss who had invited us to do concerts for the enlisted men and officers. We had a standing offer that we could call him before recording and if he could, he would ground all the planes for a couple of hours to minimise the noise. True cooperation!

The spirit of the New Troubadours (affectionately called ‘the Troubs’) was one of fun, laughter and a joy at the vision of a new world and a new consciousness of wholeness evolving within humanity. We were all young and whatever our deficiencies as musicians, we made up for them in enthusiasm and a desire to serve through our music. If I have any regrets, it’s that when I wrote the lyrics I was not sensitive to the emerging desire of so many women and men to stop using the word ‘Man’ to mean all humanity. On the other hand, sometimes I simply couldn’t think of another word that rhymed so well and easily.

I’m proud of the work and love the songs as much now as when they were written. The vision and consciousness they celebrate is still as real and powerful – and needed – as it was then.

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