Nightmares on Wax, Part 1: Richard Quin – The Last Leviathan

The Last LeviathanA few years ago I started collecting bad vinyl, a direct result of exposure both to WFMU and the first 365 Days Project. I trawl through vinyl bins in charity shops and markets to see what horrors lurk amongst the multitudinous Sound of Musics and James Last compilations.

In Snooper’s Paradise in Brighton, England, I found my favourite ever stall. There was almost always something there worth picking up. I had, at the time, a £1 limit on my vinyls, mostly to stop dramatic overspending, and would usually try to acquire full-length albums. Richard Quin’s The Last Leviathan (Denver Records, 1978) broke this second not-quite-rule, but it looked too special to ignore.

Getting it home, I put on the A side and began my usual hunt for information about what I had procured. What I found, even after my laughter had abated after the sixth consecutive playthrough, was nothing. Not a thing. One person in one forum had mentioned having heard it, but admitted knowing little else about it, and that was it. More recently, it has turned up on discogs, but again all the information included is that which is on the reverse of the cover, which you will also found dispersed about this entry.

Both A- and B-side were written by Richard Quin (who seems to have nothing else to his name and doesn’t seem to have an actual web presence, barely even a footnote via that of somebody else) and arranged by Andrew Pryce Jackman. It is a record with a cause, that cause obviously being to alert mankind as to the potential plight of the whale. The A-side is sung as by the titular creature, the last member of his race, driven deeper and deeper into hiding to escape “Man with [his] spear“. It is what Do They Know It’s Christmas? would have sounded like if, instead of feeding the world, they had instead attempted to save the whales. By this, I mean it is ever so slightly egregious; though, to me, it was a rare delight. I played it over and over again quite happily, never even turning it over to see what the other side was like. It was only last week, having had the record in my collection for a good three years or so, that I finally flipped it and heard what was lying in wait on the other side.

Somehow, it managed to be even worse than I had been expecting. A curious piece of prose poetry, If Only … is Too Late is perhaps Richard Quin’s true voice, listing off all the things that could have been done differently (including listening to the whales themselves, and everybody being “friends of the Earth“) to prevent the dystopian future that lies in wait for our aquatic cousins over the sound of the muzak of the elevator to Hell.

I’m not sure anybody having heard this would have been roused particularly to take up the cause in defense of the whales (I must admit feeling slightly compelled to procure a harpoon gun myself on some listens), but in case I’m wrong I’m providing both songs below. I’m doing it for the whales.

The Last Leviathan

If Only … is Too Late

If any of my readers has any information on Richard Quin, I’d love to know what you’ve got. I’m especially intrigued to know if there are any other Quin recordings out there.

For those that really feel the strong desire to sing along, the lyrics can be found after the jump.

From ancient times our home

The seven seas we’d roam

Asking nothing more than life.

Then Man came to reap

A prize not his to keep

Our lives a harvest in his hands —

Down ever on down …

O Man with your spear,

Down ever on down …

Hide my face in the deepest place

For I am the last of my race,

I am The Last Leviathan.

Some people stood and spoke

And in our cause held hope

But all they did was done in vain.

Because Man’s greed is great

His law has sealed our fate

Will no-one cry? Is this the end?

Down ever on down …

O Man with your spear,

Down ever on down …

Hide my face in the deepest place

For I am the last of my race,

I am The Last Leviathan.

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13 Responses to Nightmares on Wax, Part 1: Richard Quin – The Last Leviathan

  1. Kathy Barham says:

    This is so strange! I was listening to the Bob Lawrence show on Radio Caroline last night (14th November) and he actually played this. I thought it was one of the most weirdest, most awful and strangely bizarre records I have ever heard so went off to Google Mr Quin and found, as you did, absolutely ZILCH! Which of course only makes him more interesting.

    What I can tell you is that Radio Caroline had some connection to Greenpeace back when this record was released and this was played by them then. But other than that I know nothing. I may speak to Mr Lawrence and see if I can find out any more and get back to you.

  2. The Netcaster says:

    I played it on my own radio show on Wednesday last. What are the chances? I find it curiously endearing, however bad, and listen to it a little too often. I need to clean up the B-side a little better too, I realised when I put it on air.

    More information would be most welcome. If nothing else, it’ll give me an excuse to play it a second time.

  3. Kathy Barham says:

    OK I emailed Bob Lawrence and this is his reply:

    “”I really can’t shed any more light on the singer or the song, it has taken years to track down a copy. All I remember is that we started promoting Greenpeace and they did some things for us and the song came at around that time, I can’t remember if it was Tom Hardy or Tom Anderson who discovered it but my guess is Tom Anderson, he found it and we started it playing it because the lyrics fitted in perfectly with us promoting Greenpeace.

    Tom has recently moved from one part of France to another and I don’t have contact details but if/when I do, I will ask him what he remembers of the song.””

    Sorry I haven’t been able to find out more but if I do (and I am like a dog with a bone when it comes to these things!) I will let you know, whether it is from Bob or through my own investigations.

  4. The Netcaster says:

    You’re just super. And I’m nearly £7 poorer. I’ll be sure to let you know as and when I plan to air this on my own radio show. If it’s only half as good as The Last Leviathan then it will be amazing.

  5. Lennon says:

    My father actually owns this on Vinyl lol And i actually quite like it! I remember hearing him play it in his room years ago and found it very strange on the ear but also quite endearing =) There is another anti poaching song that belongs in the same category as this one called Dominion by Latin Quarter, give it a once over and see what you think.

  6. sal says:

    hi i have a signed copy of this lp by r quin and i have been trying to find out about him to and how much this would be worth i have had the lp now for ten years just keep hanging onto it because it is so different if you could help let me know thanks .

    • The Netcaster says:

      I have no idea as to its value. The man is such an enigma that I couldn’t say having it signed would make that huge a difference, but I could easily be wrong. Maybe somewhere out there somebody is looking for that very thing.

  7. D. Fellows says:

    I have a 12 inch Signed recording of this record – I’m selling it on Ebay – I hope Richard Quin has some fans out there who wan it. The Ebay URL for i is http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=130390205720

  8. Colin Strugnell says:

    I remember this record from 1978. My friend owned a copy and at then time we thought it was weird but wonderful(too many drugs??!!!). I have been looking for it on and off for years and often thought I had dreamt it and it didn’t really exist. You have made an old (well, middle-aged) man very happy.

  9. Bruce says:

    Hi I also have the original recording, A record I wouldn’t part with..we share a passion for the Leviathon and its survival beyond mankinds reign over the earth!
    Bruce

  10. Klepsie says:

    Just bought a copy of this out of curiosity (well, it was 20p in a charity shop and it looked more interesting than the rest of the rubbish vinyl in there) and found this entry while researching what I’d bought. Amazing! And well worth the 20p I think.

    According to 45cat.com this was issued in Norway on no less a label than Mercury (no doubt because of all those Norwegian whalers). They also list another single by RQ from Britain: http://www.45cat.com/record/mon13

    • Eiron says:

      You made a prudent decision in purchasing that record. I spent 99p on mine. And a further £7 on ‘Lovelight’ late 2009. Turns out Mr Quin is actually a totally middle of the road country singer. Least, he is somebody who also did a totally middle of the road country song.

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