It’s been a few years since I last wrote an update on the many influences of Eden Ahbez in contemporary pop culture and since that time a number of new projects and mentions of the composer have emerged.
The first of these is a full-blown ode by former Wall of Voodoo frontman Stan Ridgeway (as Hectate’s Angels), with vocals by Pietra Wextun, entitled “West of Eden: For Eden Ahbez” (see Bandcamp link here).
The refrain of the song is a paraphrase of Ahbez’s dictum from 1948, as repeated to “Life” magazine, wherein the composer tells an arresting officer: “I look crazy but I’m not; and the funny thing is that other people don’t look crazy but they are!” (He apparently let Ahbez off without charge.) The Ridgeway lyrics read: “He guided them high above the fray/The hopeless hearts, the suits of gray/Eden Ahbez he would say/I may look crazy but it’s they/Who are the crazy ones.”
Oddly enough, the “West of Eden” cover image features an illustration, not of Ahbez, but of William Pester, the German expat nature boy who preceded our composer in Palm Springs by several decades.
More recent is the newest album, titled “music for ethical aquariums,” by North Carolina artist Jordan Anderson Jefferson who declares on the cover that it was produced, written, performed, recorded, and mixed “on eden’s island.”
Jefferson’s previous effort, 2015’s “The Only Way Out Is In,” was more of a seventies singer/songwriter pastiche, with lush melodies and sincere poetic lyrics, whereas “aquariums” is pure ambient music in the new age style, replete with water sounds, vibraphones and light flutes. It can be purchased and downloaded here.
Speaking of “Eden’s Island,” the Brooklyn artist known as Fascinator (née Johnny Mackay) recently released a new pop/avant-garde album titled “Water Sign”; and whilst nothing on there is a direct homage to Ahbez as far as I can tell, he did tell the Perth “Sunday Times” newspaper, in a recent interview, that his top desert island disc was/is “Eden’s Island.”
The Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel also recently included the title song from “Eden’s Island” on her hand-selected album mix for the latest “Late Night Tales” installment.
Butted up against songs by Lee Hazlewood, Nina Simone, and the Roger Webb Sound, the “Eden’s Island” inclusion was viewed by one website as an oddity amongst oddities; so much so that the reviewer (a journalist by the name of Brody Kenny) found it “[not] formed enough to satisfy in a vacuum, but the story of eden ahbez, a hippie who wrote Nat King Cole a chart-topping hit in ‘Nature Boy,’ lends it [Obel’s compilation] further pathos,” meaning, I guess, that the song only works if you first know its context. [Eyes roll.]
Lastly, a hand-carved sculpture, created by the Haas Brothers as a renaissance-style wooden door for December 2017’s Design Miami convention, was titled “Eden Ahbez Walrus,” which is more or less a relief depiction of the sea mammal surrounded by other fellow walruses who have either large female breasts or male genitalia.
An adjacent relief sculpture was titled “Octopus Bubble Buddies,” which Simon Haas declared a related work in tribute to the Beatles (specifically their songs “I Am the Walrus” and “Octopus’s Garden”). How Eden Ahbez fits into all of this is a mystery to me; but then we’re dealing with fine art here and a modicum of confusion is to be expected.
These are but the latest odes to the late composer though doubtless the last. Keep an eye out here for updates when they occur.