Spotlight: On Jeremy Spencer – ‘Allow Me One More Show’
Jeremy Spencer was born on this day, July fourth, in 1948.
With some justification Spencer is forever twinned with Elmore James and raucous early rock ‘n roll parodies. The former is certainly understandable as there are numerous recordings in studio, for the BBC and live bootlegs where Spencer flashes his slide and emulates the vocal roar of his hero, Elmore James.
To hear Mick Fleetwood tell it, many of their shows would end with Spencer’s Hyde-like alter-ego, Earl Vincent, a pint-sized pirate in gold lame, commandeering the stage.
Based on the dozens of live bootlegs and contemporary press accounts, that part of the show was in reality simply a few numbers.
Contemporary press accounts speak of Spencer “…turning into Elvis Presley” or doing a “…1950’s-style Elvis impression”.
Yet the only available recordings of Spencer mimicking Presley are the ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ medley and of course, ‘Teenage Darling’. The other 1950’s rock ‘n roll numbers that Spencer regularly included in his set, ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and ‘Tiger’ were performed straight.
Interestingly, even though Green would then whip the pseudo-sock-hop into a frenzy with his Little Richard covers, it was Spencer’s few numbers that the press and the public would remember.
The imitations and exaggerations all seemed to designed to deflect attention away from the actual person who so desperately wanted to be liked. He would erect and manipulate an out-sized façade to shield his insecurity and self-doubt from the world.
Occasionally, a glimpse of his true self would be visible through cracks in the armor. His performances of ‘Crossroads’ and Stormy Monday Blues’ at the Fillmore West in 1968 on their first U.S. tour; his beautiful rendition of Tim Hardin’s ‘Hang on to a Dream’ recorded for the BBC in October of that year, a few months after Danny Kirwan joined the band.
Spencer had recorded a few solo performances during the sessions for the first two Fleetwood Mac LPs but they did not see release at the time. The fact that Spencer never chose to perform these numbers during one of their numerous BBC sessions (a natural setting for them) would seem to point to either his self-doubt as to the value of his original compositions or a reluctance to perform without the “cover” of another’s words.
This is one of my favorite Spencer performances. Credited to Homesick James Williamson in the booklet to the “The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions 1967 — 1969” I believe the composer credit rightfully belongs to Spencer.
Jeremy Spencer: vocal & guitar
CBS Studio, New Bond Street – exact recording date not known
Released on: The Original Fleetwood Mac (Blue Horizon) 1971
Available on: The Original Fleetwood Mac and The Complete
Blue Horizon Sessions 1967 — 1969
Allow Me One More Show (J. Spencer) (2:58)
Spencer builds the song on the arrangement of Blind Willie McTell’s ‘Mama, ‘Tain’t Long Fo’ Day’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHwMdVSSEAE and there are faint echoes of the song in the lyrics.
Where McTell played a twelve-string guitar, Spencer plays an F-hole acoustic; opening with a constellation of ringing notes similar to those of McTell used, he just slightly accelerates the tempo and weaves a confession of his never-ending battle to save his soul.
This is a man at war with his conflicting desires. He begs his woman for “one more show”, his desperation leading him to blaspheme by swearing to the Lord that if she concedes, he “…won’t do wrong no more”
Spencer’s softly spoken, intimate vocal, (Mike Vernon’s production makes one feel as if Spencer is speaking and playing as if seated across from you) sounds sweetly sincere, yet the next line reveals the snake in the garden.
He tempts her into letting him have his way knowing that if she does, he will no longer respect her.
After a beautifully played break he awakes the following morning to find his baby gone (singing a slight variation on a line that Son House favored, of seeing an empty pillow where his baby used to lay.
That this is “testimony” is brought home by the opening of the fourth verse, addressed to an audience of “boys” – he brings a sense of understanding of his responsibility for his sorrows that lifts the final verses from self-pity.
The fact that the number concludes with him still struggling with his conflicting desires brings a welcome honesty to his words.
The only flaw is the somewhat half-hearted ending; it seems to simply dissipate, scattering like a blown dandelion, rather than finishing. A second take could have certainly repaired this blemish, but again, it seems as if having exposed himself here this one time, Spencer was reluctant to do it again.