December 13, 2012

Keith Relf - Mr. Zero (1966)

Born in Surrey, England in 1943, this musician is best remembered as the lead singer and harmonica player of The Yardbirds. Along with guitarist Chris Dreja and drummer Jim McCarty, Keith Relf was a constant member of The Yardbirds from their start in May 1963 until their end, when Jimmy Page took what was left and evolved it into the New Yardbirds and, eventually, Led Zeppelin. After the success of The Yardbirds, Relf went on to many minor successful duos and bands including Together (with Jim McCarty), Renaissance (with his sister Jane Relf), and Armageddon. While rehearsing new material for a reboot of his band Renaissance, which was now going to be called Illusion, Relf was electrocuted to death at his home while playing an improperly grounded electric guitar. He was thirty-three years old.

This song, although often credited to The Yardbirds, was actually a solo release by Keith Relf in May 1966. Written by Bob Lind, it was released in the UK and featured the B-Side “Knowing,” which is also often misleadingly credited to The Yardbirds. There was an attempt to establish Relf as a solo artist, but only two singles were ever released with his name on them. To capitalize and generate more interest in the songs, most of his solo recordings were also released under whichever group he was a member of at the time. This song, his debut single, was released while he was still a member of The Yardbirds, hence the notion that this song was released by the group. It reached number fifty in the UK Singles Chart in May 1966.

album art

Keith Relf - Mr. Zero (1966)

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Diamonds of silvery rain in the fountains
And ten-cent red roses from department store counters
Watching the moonlight reflect off the river
Beside where the trains cross the bridge and slow down
Trains with white letters on black iron sides
And wild rushing water that all rolls away
And Little Miss Someone does not want to stay
Everyone's moving with places to go
And Mr. Zero, he sadly stands still
As the water goes one way, the train goes another
Mr. Zero stands still and Miss Someone don’t bother

Yesterday’s kiss will be cold by tomorrow
As campfires of midnight dissolve in the darkness
The room is deserted, the blinds have been drawn
Little Miss Someone has packed up and gone
Fast moving cars disappear down the highway
With signs that say, “Hitch-Hikers: Do Not Disturb”
Mr. Zero looks quietly up from the curb
Morning has faded and shadows have grown
And Little Miss Someone is on her way home
Mr. Zero stands watching, her plane flies above
And with frost-bitten hands waves goodbye to his love

Walks through the park on a bright summer Sunday
And tapestry kittens that hung on the wall
They all die in the air like a soft minor chord
A vacancy sign and a bulletin board
Mr. Zero is wrapping his jacket around him
Speaking kind words that should have been said long ago
But Little Miss Someone does not want to know
The night is deserted, there's dust on the shelf
Mr. Zero sits lonely and talks to himself
It's too late to change; the fine line has been crossed
The charades are all done, Mr. Zero has lost

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