Justin Jacoby Smith is an organizer, web geek, Buddhist, and poet.

on lost classics & losing lost classics, part 2

[This is part 2 of a 3 part essay. Part 1 is here.] I'd spent months on the floor of Antone's record store digging through the bargain bins. I'd stocked up heavily on crappy copies of canonical classics, but I'd also bought a bunch of records I'd never heard of because the covers were cool and they were costing me 50 cents apiece. I'd finally made it to the last bin, my stack already running over with Canned Heat and Feliciano! and Public Enemy, when I pulled out a Hank Williams record and saw it.

The cover was stark. It was a watercolor style painting of three people--a man in a red shirt with a guitar, a woman almost glowing in white, and another man in yellow with a guitar. They were against a black background, all outlined in dark blue, and there seemed to be a small but powerful light from behind throwing their shadows in front of them. Their mouths were all open wide in full throated song, and the paint style of the cover made it hard to read if their faces were in rapture or pain. Across the top, in a medieval font, was a single word: TRANSITION.

I cocked my head to the side. I pulled it out and read the back. It explained that TRANSITION was a trio that sought to bring people to Jesus Christ through "the folk-rock music of TODAY." It gave the names of the trio, but just first names--Bill, Mary and Dave. I can't tell you how many times in the coming months, seeking more information about this record, I would Google "transition mary bill dave" or throw in a song title like "Why Do You Hesitate transition" "why do you hesitate mary bill dave" "transition why do you hesitate dave mary bill." The lack of last names made it impossible to find out anything, which was awful, because after I got home and put it on (before I'd put on anything else) I really really wanted to know more.

The lyrics were, of course, a little bit goofy. Hippie slang would clumsily collide with Gospel stories so you wound up with insistences that Jesus wanted to "rap with you" about salvation, or that Christ "is where it's really at, man." It was a Jesus Freak record, a product of its time, and in a certain sense not all that remarkable.

Oh, but those melodies. I haven't heard this record in 5 years, but I can still sing you most of the tunes. Transition, in addition to being devoted witnesses for Jesus, were a fantastic trio. The songs took instrumentation & inspiration from The Byrds and other country-folk groups, but the bouncing melodies were pure three-part-harmony singalong pop.

I needed to know more. I scoured sites like "Heavenly Grooves" and pored through lots and lots of covers that looked like this:

spacejesus say you win

But I found nothing. I took the record to local shops and asked, I posted about it on ILX, I went to record fairs where people paid hundreds of dollars for stuff like this record. No one knew anything.

There was no question I had a lost classic on my hands, but slowly it started to become something more. This wasn't just an obscure record. This was a record that, outside of the copy I'd found, didn't seem to EXIST.

And then...it didn't exist.

[to be concluded.]