I'd find a way to believe that it's all true"
~ Tim Hardin, "Reason to Believe"
This was in the mid-1960s, when down in the Village singer-songwriters had become as bright and ubiquitous as sunflowers in late summer. Many came bearing protest songs and others played rock ’n’ roll. A few, like Tim Hardin, were troubadours who were mastering the art of broken-hearted love ballads. Tim Hardin’s best songs — “Reason to Believe,” “If I Were a Carpenter” and this one, “Misty Roses,” are among them — were tiny miracles of melody and poetry.
After two promising albums on the Verve label, he was just beginning to attract the spotlight when the San Francisco sound acid-blasted in from the West. Just like that, he faded into the background.
Five or six years later I had a job writing client bios and press releases for a rock ‘n’ roll PR firm. One day my boss, Connie, said Tim Hardin and his new manager were coming in. We were doing a favor for Rod Stewart. Rod was then lead singer with Rod Stewart and the Faces, my favorite clients and possibly the most entertaining live band of their day.
Rod had recorded Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe” on his 1971 solo album, Every Picture Tells a Story, and he was a fan. Now Tim had some gigs lined up, Rod wanted to help him make a comeback and I needed to do a bio interview.
We had a few superstar clients in those days, but most were teenage rock bands. You could sum up their entire life experience in two statements: (1) “I joined a band to meet chicks,” and (2) “I dropped out of school when the band got a contract.” Tim Hardin had been around while. I was looking forward to the interview — he might have stories to tell.
The new manager, John Hemminger, turned out to be a skinny, wired-looking guy who made me nervous. Tim was something else. He was shabby. His hair was dirty in that heavy, ash-dark, been-sleeping-under-a-car way. When he walked with me into the windowless conference room where I normally did the interviews, I noticed an acrid smell. I was relieved when he said he’d like to do the interview in a coffee shop instead.
We stepped out into a bright mid-afternoon on West 57th Street and walked a few steps when Tim announced he wanted flan. Not only that, he wanted flan from El Faro, an old Spanish restaurant on Greenwich Street.
I knew as soon as we walked into the restaurant Tim had some history there. Everybody seemed to know him, or at least nobody but me was surprised when he ordered a double scotch and eight flans. Then more double scotches. The interview was going nowhere. Tim was rambling, unable to hold a thought for more than a moment or two. It was unsettling. A train wreck was coming and I couldn’t stop it. All I could do was get out of the way. I needed to find a way to extract myself without offending him.
That’s when he asked if he could borrow my hairbrush.
As soon as the words left his mouth I felt a door open and a fresh breeze blow in. I took a moment to think about my boar-bristled beauty and how much it had meant to me and then silently said goodbye. Once Tim used it, I would never want it back. It was hard to let it go, but giving it away would allow me to bail out on this sad, self-destructing man while also being kind. Yes, yes, I said. Here, take this, it’s a great brush, you can keep it. I hope it brings you luck. So long.
I’m not sure exactly what happened with the bio, although I probably cobbled something together from clips. The hairbrush didn’t bring Tim luck. He put out a few more albums, but he never really made a comeback. He died of a heroin overdose in 1980. I’ve owned other hairbrushes. While none compare to the original, I have no regrets.
"I'm the family's unowned boy, golden curls of envied hair
Pretty girls with faces fair
See the shine in the Black Sheep Boy"
~ Tim Hardin, "Black Sheep Boy"