Eli and the Thirteenth Confession – Laura Nyro – Columbia – 1968
The source of inspiration for her peers and generations of songwriters to come, Bronx-born Laura Nyro has a legacy that has only grown in legend and mysticism since her untimely death in the early ‘90s. Lauded by Carole King, likened to Joni Mitchell, and emulated by some of today’s cleverest singer-songwriters, her style was singular, speaking of and to the female experience in a way that was at once specific and universal, relatable and abstract.
In this episode, we comb through her 1968 album Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, a collection of songs so rife with evocative imagery and sense of self that it brought up many of our own memories, connections to our own experiences as young women in 2018, and of course, musical earworms. For a 50-year-old album recorded and produced by a 20-year-old girl, this prodigious record still remains astonishingly relevant.
Episode notes and postscript corrections
- Hello, and welcome to a new season of the pod! Literally nothing has changed; we’re just calling it a new season because we took a break (because we are our own bosses who determine when and why we go on hiatus and when and why we come back!)
- Some things we mentioned to check out:
- The Rock & Roll Explorer Guide to New York City is a dope book if you’re into New York and music and history and where they all intersect and want to know where everything happened. We were pleased to moderate the discussion for the book’s launch at Rough Trade this week.
- ‘80s Redux is a dope book if you’re into music and the ‘80s and photography of cool people doing cool things.
- So, uh, more than a year into this pod and this is the first time we’ve actually covered a ‘60s album. Can you believe?
- We’re gonna talk about this a lot because we’re so shook by it, but something to keep in mind during this whole thing: Laura Nyro was just 20 when this was made. TWENTY.
- Lol here we are again debating an album’s season.
- Is Eli and the Thirteenth Confession a fall? Or a summer?
- Do other normal people classify music like this?
- Don’t forget to hit up and follow our master playlist on Spotify to hear all these songs, the covers that actually made money, and more!
- “YES, WE KNOW.” — all of you when Carrie says she hates flutes
- See our further watching links below to see the debut of “Poverty Train” at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Cry your eyes out when you hear they were yelling “beautiful” at her, knowing she spent her whole life since thinking they were booing.
- Hit up the lyrics here.
- They’re heavy as hell.
- Moral of the story: Be careful if you take drugs.
- Evergreen Take: “Dated” doesn’t always necessarily mean bad or unenjoyable.
- “Lonely Women” clearly created a divide in interpretation between the two of us. Slide into our DMs or email us to let you know what you think. It’s complicated and we’re interested.
- In case you missed it, this album is feminist as hell, and it’s fascinating and surprising to see how much of it translates to today.
- See our further reading links below for some more info about Laura Nyro’s relationship with Maria Desidero, who may or may not have been the inspiration for “Timer” and “Emmie.”
- We definitely have very specific wishes of songs that we’d want other bands or artists to cover — so specific we can hear how they’d sound in our brains — that will likely never, ever happen. Message us to find out / Please tell us if you’ve done this too so we don’t feel too weird.
- Don’t listen to “December’s Boudoir” unless you’re ready to get the Sunday Sads.
- Talk to us about anything and everything ~feminism~ we covered re: “The Confession” — i.e. second wave feminism vs. fourth wave, “as a father of daughters…” — ANYTHING! We love to talk about this stuff.
Favorite track(s): Luckie and Timer (Carly) | Eli’s Comin’ and Stoned Soul Picnic (Carrie)
Least favorite track: December’s Boudoir (Carly) | December’s Boudoir (Carrie)
- Laura Nyro — piano, vocal, harmonies, “witness to the confession”
- Ralph Casale — acoustic guitar
- Chet Amsterdam — acoustic guitar, bass
- Hugh McCracken — electric guitar
- Chuck Rainey — bass
- Artie Schroeck — drums, vibes
- Buddy Saltzman — drums
- Dave Carey — percussion
- Bernie Glow, Pat Calello, Ernie Royal — trumpet
- George Young, Zoot Sims — saxophone
- Wayne Andre, Jimmy Cleveland, Ray DeSio — trombone
- Joe Farrell — saxophone, flute
- Paul Griffin — piano on “Eli’s Comin'” and “Once It Was Alright Now (Farmer Joe)”
Laura Nyro in the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame | 2014
Laura Nyro’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction | 2012
Alice Cooper discusses his love for Laura Nyro (ed note: OH MY GOD) | 2011
“Poverty Train” at the Monterey Pop Festival (with current intro from D.A. Pennebaker, Michelle Phillips, and Lou Adler) | 1967
Laura Nyro remembered: “A musical force of nature” | Uncut (June 2017)
Laura Nyro’s Lasting, Eclectic Musical Legacy | NPR (December 2011)
Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, Maria Desiderio | Rabdrake Blog (October 2009)
An Enigma Wrapped in Songs | The New York Times (October 1997)
Laura Nyro’s legacy of passion | Entertainment Weekly (April 1997)