Looking at the music of Dutch rock band Focus, started in the late sixties by Thijs Van Leer (b /31/03/48) with Jan Akkerman (b 24/12/46). Van Leer still performs and records under the name today (official site here). Akkerman's site here.




Track by track 2 Black Beauty

Archive number: 2
Title: Black Beauty
Main Album: In and Out of Focus (was Focus Plays Focus) Also a single in 1970 and 1971
Track number: 2 (fifth on Sire release)
Genre: Jazz Pop Vocal
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3
Length: 3' 08"
Composer(s): Thijs van Leer (music) Erik Cleuver (words)
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Electric guitar (Fender telecaster), acoustic guitars; Thijs van Leer - Vocals, Piano; Martijn Dresden – Bass, Trumpet; Hans Cleuver – Drums
Producer: Hubert Terheggen (RTM)
Engineer: Jerry Boys
Label: LP - Imperial, Sire, Polydor; CD - EMI Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: Late January 1970/Autumn 1970 (1973 in the US. In 1974 the album appeared in Brazil as Pop Giants). CD – 1988, 1993, 2001.
Alternative version: An instrumental version was recorded much later and is on Focus 9.
Notes: The track begins with five successive screaming notes from the electric guitar spaced out over the opening 20 seconds with heavy drums, heavy but rhythmic bass then heavy drums again. The rhythm section are joined by an acoustic guitar and the vocal comes in at 00:21. Accompanied by guitars and piano, it goes on to 01:58 when there is an instrumental break featuring the electric guitar screams again and a partly muted trumpet (1:59-02:20). The band backed vocal then proceeds to the end via a key change (02:21-03:08). The number is again basically recorded live with perhaps some of the piano (used with the lyrics marked below in italics) and the electric guitar that appears at various points overdubbed as well as reverbed vocals and the trumpet. The lyrics have a rather eastern feel, which is reflected a little in the music. They contain a reference to the legend of King Solomon's affair with the Queen of Sheba. (Their meeting is recorded in Scripture but the love affair is pure legend). It has been suggested that the topic is an inter-racial liaison, a controversial matter in many places at that time. The lyrics are
“Night was stark, your skin was dark,
Your eyes were shining bright,
Oh black beauty, close in my heart.
I was King Solomon who held his Queen of Sheba tight,
Oh black beauty, held in my arms.

How we were told
Love was not meant for us,
Two diff'rent worlds kept apart,
Heart against heart.

But we knew where to find an opportunity,
Far away where no one was near.
We could meet there at night and with impunity,
Oh black beauty, love without fear.

Our love was wonderment,
So young and so pure.
I held your trembling hands,
I was so sure.

Then when our lips met
There was no returning,
The fire was burning
In our hearts.


So we were told
Love was not meant for us,
Two different worlds kept apart,
Heart against heart.

But we knew where to find an opportunity,
Far away where no one was near.
I was King Solomon who held his Queen of Sheba tight,
Oh black beauty, love without fear.”
Peet Johnson tells us that an alternative set of lyrics called Questions were prepared by Mike Hayes but not used. They are re-produced in his book.
A note on the Queen of Sheba (from Wikipedia)
The Queen of Sheba (Malkat Shva) refers in Ethiopian history, the Old and New Testaments and the Qur'an to the woman who was the ruler of the ancient kingdom of Sheba. The location of the historical kingdom may have included both Ethiopia and Yemen. Known to the Ethiopians as Makeda this queen has been called a variety of names by different peoples in different times. To King Solomon of Israel she was the Queen of Sheba. In Islamic tradition she was Bilqis. Roman historian Josephus calls her, Nicaula. She is thought to have lived in the 10th Century BC. Taking into account Genesis 10 many scholars see the Queen of Sheba as a descendant of the Semitic Sheba people located in southern Arabia, but with origins in Ethiopia.
According to the Hebrew Bible, the unnamed queen of the land of Sheba heard of the great wisdom of Solomon and journeyed there with gifts of spices, gold, precious stones and beautiful wood and to test him with questions (1 Kings 10:1-13, 2 Chronicles 9:1-12). It is related further that the queen was awed by Solomon's great wisdom and wealth and pronounced a blessing on his deity the LORD. Solomon reciprocated with gifts and "everything she desired," whereupon the queen returned to her country. The queen was apparently quite rich, however, as she brought 4.5 tons of gold with her to give to Solomon (1 Kings 10:10). In the biblical passages which refer explicitly to the Queen of Sheba there is no hint of love or sexual attraction between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The two are depicted merely as fellow monarchs engaged in the affairs of state. The biblical text Song of Songs contains references, which at various times have been interpreted as referring to love between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (but with no real warrant - there is little to identify the speaker in the text with the rich and powerful foreign queen depicted in Kings). It is the later Ethiopian tradition that Cleuver's lyrics reflect. This firmly asserts that King Solomon seduced and impregnated his guest and provides a detailed story of how he went about it. The matter is of considerable importance to Ethiopians - as their emperors traced their lineage to that union.

No comments: