Originally recorded and released in 1971, on the L.A. indie label Elefunt Records, a lone copy of this 45 is known to exist today. The song was written and performed by Eden Ahbez under the name Ahbe Casabe, and he is backed by John Greek of the ‘60s rock band the Wailers (“Tall Cool One”) on bass. Producer Dave De La Vega recorded two other songs with Ahbez in 1971-72—“Richard Milhous” and “The Clam Man”—but says that U.S. distributors at the time wanted a full album from Ahbez in order to push his newest music and he had nothing further to offer. “Divine Melody” is notable in the Scriptures of the Golden Age saga for several reasons. First, it was recorded by Ahbez throughout the 1970s at a number of different studios, with a number of different collaborators. The song also concludes with the mantra “Manifold divine blessings ever increasing be unto all,” which the composer spun off into its own song later in the decade, and which became a centerpiece of all subsequent Scriptures recording efforts from 1975 to 1995.
The first mention of “Nature Girl” that I’ve ever found is from an ad in the Long Beach Independent newspaper dated November 29, 1948, which means it was written in the era the composer’s best-known work, “Nature Boy,” or shortly thereafter. Nat “King” Cole confirmed this in Ebony magazine in 1953, where he told an unnamed interviewer that he’d been given “Nature Girl” around the same time Ahbez had presented him with “Nature Boy.” As to its theme, one can assume the song is about Ahbez’s outdoor-living partner, wife Anna Ahbez, whom he wrote about constantly during his 50 years in the music business. (By my count he copyrighted and/or recorded 27 individual tracks about her and their relationship together.) During the 1970s and ’80s Ahbez recorded a dozen different versions of “Nature Girl,” some with lyrics, others with just basic instrumentation, including a bamboo flute solo as the lead. This version here was recorded in 1976 and was released posthumously on the Echoes from Nature Boy CD in 1997.
Blessed Be the World
This song originated as a counter-melody buried deep inside the melody of “Nature Boy.” The UK prog band Accolade had teased it out in their ten-minute version of “Nature Boy” from 1970. The melody pops up earlier in the second movement of Ferde Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite (1931). The version here was released in 1976 as a 45 on the Melody Records imprint. The band credited is called Sunflower, with Erroll Twyford on vocals, a pseudonym for Ahbez himself who sings lead. The composer also plays a keyboard on the track and overdubs a tack piano—an instrument he used extensively on both the ‘70s and ‘90s sessions for the Scriptures album. An unreleased version of “Blessed,” recorded in 1977, has Ahbez jamming loosely on the song with a moody analog synthesizer. He segues seamlessly into the melody of “Nature Boy,” then back again to “Blessed,” another indication of how closely related the two songs were.
The B-side of the 1976 “Blessed Be the World” single, “Milhous” was first recorded in 1971 as the B-side to Ahbez’s “Divine Melody” 45. While the original recording came out during the first term of U.S. President Richard Nixon and was, according to its composer, a personal letter to the then-leader of the free world, this updated version, cut in 1976, came about two years after his resignation. A few choice lyrics: “Richard, I think the world is a trip/And Mother Earth is a far out ship” and “Yes it’s time that we turn the page/And prepare for the Golden Age.” He also mentions “Gerry,” aka Gerald Ford, Nixon’s successor, to whom he implores: “Hear what the poor folks say.”
Released in 1977, the same year as the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen,” this 45—performed by the Armenian poet/singer Knarig Boyajian—is a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II and features her image on the picture sleeve cover. Ahbez composed the B-side, here titled “Salutation,” though it is actually the same melody and lyrics as recorded in 1975 by the composer for his Scriptures centerpiece “Manifold Divine Blessings.” The personnel on the track is unknown—though it is unlikely that it’s Ahbez playing the classical flute (he is only known to have played bamboo flute). The drummer and keyboardist may have been part of Ahbez’s core Scriptures-era band, as Boyajian later recorded a few 45s for the Dore Records label, backed on one of them by Steve Rumph, who was an Ahbez collaborator in this period. (Ahbez also apparently did some recording in 1978-79 for Dore Records, the tapes of which have been lost.) It should also be noted that Ahbez spent some time in 1978-79 laying down tracks in the recording studio of Geza X in Downtown Hollywood—he being the producer of early records by the Dead Kennedys, the Germs, Red Kross, and Black Flag. The producer told me in a recent interview that he and his then-girlfriend Charlotte Caffey, of the Go-Go’s, even went down to Baja together a few times to hang out with Ahbez and some of his bearded beatnik friends by the sea.
Ahbez recorded a number of different versions of the song—originally copyrighted in 1959 under the title “Old Ahb”—during the 1970s and ‘80s, by which time it had been re-titled “The Path.” It was finally released in 1997 as part of the Echoes from Nature Boy CD in an archival recording from 1977 (heard here). A taped interview with the composer from 1978 has him reciting the song’s lyrics for his friend, Ms. Sonya Sones, to whom he also adds several asides, including one where he says of the lyric “Oh how I made my mother cry” that it hurt him to leave her because “I knew she loved me.” “The Path” is essentially an autobiographical song about Ahbez’s journey as a wanderer across America during the 1930s, which he elevates to the level of dispensation, saying he was “led by God’s own hand.” Other great moments: “Oh the young heart is free/That’s the way it should be” and “A man has to find his way alone.”
Brian Chidester is a regular contributor to The Atlantic, The American Prospect, L.A. Weekly, The Surfer’s Journal, and Village Voice. He is also the author of Pop Surf Culture: Music, Design, Film, and Fashion from the Bohemian Surf Era (Santa Monica Press) and has been a segment producer of documentaries for the BBC, PBS, and Showtime. He is currently working on a feature-length documentary and full biography about Eden Ahbez.