The cover of Jonna Gault’s LP
Listen/Download -Jonna Gault – What If They Gave a War and No One Came? Listen/Download -Jonna Gault – Wonder Why I Guess
I hope all is well on your end.
The tunes I picked for this week appear on both sides of a 1968 single by an interesting, ‘lost’ performer named Jonna Gault.
I can’t remember exactly where I first heard about her, but I suspect I grabbed this 45 while I was out digging, on the strength of the title of the A-side, ‘What If They Gave a War and No One Came’.
Though it appears in various forms, the catch phrase was popularized as ‘Suppose they gave a war and no one came’ in an article by writer and peace activist Charlotte Keyes (though it appears to have originated with none other than Carl Sandburg).
The saying became popular during the Vietnam war, when it appeared on a famous poster and a variation on it was used in the lyrics to the Monkees tune ‘Zor and Zam’.
While I’d like to give you some history on Jonna Gault, there appears to be little more than a very intriguing snapshot’s worth of a story out there.
Though she was signed to RCA in 1968 (at the age of 21) she had recorded a few earlier 45s in a saccharine girl-pop style.
The sound of her RCA era material, which Gault (or at least the publicists at RCA) termed “symphonopop” is intriguing and occasionally very interesting.
In addition to this 45, I also have her RCA LP ‘Watch Me: Jonna Gault and her Symphonop Scene’ which is especially interesting since Gault wrote, produced and arranged much of the material.
My initial temptation was to describe her overall style as ‘showtunes on acid’, but it’s more like mainstream pop with the tiniest contact high.
The tunes on this 45 are pretty much the best stuff she did, juxtaposing her relatively conventional vocal sound with a kind of vaguely psychedelic approach to the Wall of Sound.
‘What If They Gave a War and No One Came’ has a soundtrack feel, and a dark, interesting melody.
‘Wonder Why, I Guess’ is perfect example of how her records sound like the product of a middle of the road singer (not necessarily a pejorative) who has become psychedelicized in a vague, indirect way, kind of like Marlo Thomas as ‘That Girl’ stumbling into a pot party.
This isn’t the kind of record where the psyche touches have been tacked on crassly by a stylistic carpetbagger, but rather by someone who digs the sound but approached it as an outsider.
Am I making any sense?
If you listen to the full album, the effect is considerably more diffuse, with an unfortunate supper-club vibe creeping in, especially in an awkward cover of the Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations’.
The really weird thing is – though I supposed this probably happened all the time – is that Gault kind of up and disappeared after her album. I don’t see any traces of her as a writer, session singer or anything else.
She was undeniably talented, but in a way that didn’t fit comfortably in her time.
Wonder what she was doing after 1968? Are there volumes of mysterious home recordings out there, or just another performer who decided to fade back into a conventional existence?
In the words of the Tootsie Pop owl, ‘The World May Never Know”.
See you next week.