Just Another Diamond Day and Wayward, Signed
The line between autobiography and self-mythologising blur on Vashti Bunyan’s legendary debut, Just Another Diamond Day. It’s a mythology that is unravelled in her eagerly anticipated autobiography, Wayward: Just Another Life To Live.
Famously leaving England with her partner Robert Lewis to travel through Scotland to the Hebrides by horse-driven cart (in the late 1960s, mind), Just Another Diamond Day catalogues the experiences the duo had and in turn becomes a personalised topography of late 60s Britain mixed with fantastical legend, a legend the artist constructed seemingly constructed herself through her travels.
The songs mostly concern the events that took place when Vashti and her lover travelled to the Hebrides in a horse and cart to join up with Donovan’s artistic community but by the time they got there that community had all left. Bunyan’s voice is both pure and fragile, recorded close to the microphone so you can hear every vowel enunciated into the grill and accompanied delicately by some of the key players in the British folk movement. Bunyan’s music appears to hark back to an imagined English Lore on the cusp of folk. With melodies and structures that reference traditional English folksong, Bunyan weaves a completely unique, hermetically sealed universe that seems trapped in an amber of her imagination’s making.
Of course, it’s utterly beguiling and quite rightly considered once of the greatest statements of the 60s British folk movement, not least because it became an ultra rarity almost instantly. Bunyan’s voice is timeless, aching across the decades and affecting on impact. On Window Over The Bay, her unaccompanied voice breaks the song open, highly evocative of an unnamed Scottish coast presumably sung from a hill somewhere deep in the Highlands. It’s a theme picked up in songs like Hebridean Sun, with Bunyan’s description of her surroundings feeling even more now like a time out of place than it probably already did at the time. The title song is undeniable, nostalgic now but equally wistful and universal. The whole thing is undeniable.
Produced by Joe Boyd for Witchseason Productions and originally released on Philips in 1970, the album features contribution from Fairport Convention’s Simon Nicol and Dave Swarbrick and The Incredible String Band’s Robin Williamson.
From an unconventional childhood in post-war London, to a fledgling career in mid-sixties pop – recording a single written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards – to the despair and failure to make any headway with her own songs, she rejected the music world altogether and left it all behind. After retreating to a musical wilderness for thirty years, the rediscovery of her recordings in 2000 brought Vashti a second chance to write, record and perform once more.
One of the great hippie myths of the 1960s, Wayward, Just Another Life to Live, rewrites the narrative of a barefoot girl on the road to describe a life lived at full tilt from the first, revealing what it means to change course and her emotional struggle, learning to take back control of her own life.