The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows were an American folk-rock/psych band from New York that released a self-titled album on Capitol in 1968. They took their name from the 1908 children’s literary classic by British writer Kenneth Grahame. Co-vocalist Deborah Harry reemerged a decade later as the frontwoman of Blondie.

Members: Deborah Harry (vocals, Indian tambura, tambourine, finger cymbals), Ida Andrews (bassoon, flute, fife, vocals), Peter Brittain (guitar, vocals), Steve de Phillips (bass, vocals), Gil Fields (drums), Paul Klein (vocals), Harris Wiener (organ, vocals)


The Wind in the Willows assembled in New York and were quickly signed to Capitol, which was keen on hippie harmony pop in the wake of The Mamas & the Papas. Singer Paul Klein wrote most of their material in partnership with either bassist Stephen DePhillips or one Wayne Kirby. Concurrently, Klein recorded two Harry Nilsson songs (“I Will Take You There” and “The Garbage Can”) for Otto Preminger’s comedy film Skidoo.

The Wind in the Willows was released in 1968 on Capitol. Side one features five songs, starting with the minor-key, harmony/string-laden “Moments Spent,” where Klein and reedist Iva Andrews trade lines on the chorus. The following “Uptown Girl” is a chipper retro-’30s ditty (ala Harper’s Bazaar) with prominent kazoo, progressively layered harmonies and select solo lines, including Harry’s “downtown tripping anytime.” The side closes with the slow, sitar-drone soliloquy “There Is but One Truth, Daddy,” the longest track at 8:17.

Side two contains six numbers, opening with the harmony pop of “Friendly Lion.” The sha-la-la breezer “Park Avenue Blues” is marked by a muted Leslied guitar figure. The psychedelic “Djini Judy” features shimmery strings, plucked notes, sustained metal percussion, and ghostly female vocals (Ida). A brief bassoon solo bisects the galloping, harpsichord-fueled “Little People.” An aggressive fuzz-tone oozes over the co-sung strumalong “She’s Fantastic and She’s Yours.” The album ends with the baroque-tinged darkness of “Wheel of Changes,” which cuts through a sequence of stop/start chants amid shivering strings, fade-in snare rolls, and backwards cymbals.

Musically, The Wind in the Willows veers between the orchestrated sunshine pop of Spanky & Our Gang, the studio experimentation of the Boettcher stable (Sagittarius, The Millennium, October Country, Eternity’s Children), and the edgier nature of Fifty Foot Hose

The Wind in the Willows recorded a second album that was never released. It’s not known whether the tapes still exist. Harry claims to have done more singing on this lost album and written the lyrics for one track, “Buried Treasure.” The band drifted apart months after their eponymous release. In 1969, producer Artie Kornfeld became the music technician at the Woodstock festival.

During the next five years, Harry worked as a Playboy Club bunny and a waitress at Max’s Kansas City. In 1973, she joined the NYC retro vocal-act The Stilettos, which eventually morphed into Blondie.


Discography:

  • The Wind in the Willows (1968)

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