Vashti Bunyan was one of many figures revived by the freak-folk movement. She eluded fame in the late 60s. She was friends with Donovan; members of Fairport Convention and Incredible String Band supported her and played on her record. Robert Kirby, the string arranger for Nick Drake, helped on her first record as well. Still, she had little success and decided to walk away from a career in music.
Fortunately, her first record Just Another Diamond Day gained a cult following — not only influencing a new generation of experimental folk songwriters but also bringing Bunyan back to music after thirty years of raising her children and tending animals in peace.
The one song that has always stuck out for me in Bunyan’s catalog is 1967’s “I’d Like To Walk Around in Your Mind.” Produced by Mike Hurst (who also worked with Cat Stevens and the Spencer Davis Group) and intended to be a single for Immediate Records, it’s a sparse arrangement — double bass, cello, acoustic guitar, voice, and light percussion. Her voice is as beautiful as ever; floating calmly over the gently fingerpicked guitar.
The song appeals to me for many reasons, but primarily it seems to offer a raw line of communication into the mindset of a British female songwriter during the late 60s. Despite sounding sweet and folky, the lyrics are still passively vicious. “I’d like to walk all over the things you say to me/ I’d like to run and jump on your solitude… I would disturb your easy tranquility…”
I’ve always thought it was a clever song to a lover with 60s political-peace implications, but the song takes on more meaning in relation to Bunyan’s personal narrative. Is she addressing her critics and her listeners? Her own career aspirations? In a line like “You see the end before the beginning has ever begun,” it’s difficult not to hear her eerily foreseeing a short-lived musical career.
For the song’s conclusion, there’s a key change while Bunyan makes her quietly emphatic last mark on the listener. “But most of all I’d like you to be unaware/ and I’d just wander away/ trailing palm leaves behind me/ so you don’t even know that I’ve been there.” While it works as an ode to a lover, I find this last verse to be one of the most concise, cutting, and vulnerable lyrical commentaries on the ephemeral transience of a pop song. There’s some fatalistic irony having the commentary within the song itself, as if she knows that her “sweet” voice will belie her message. If love is fleeting, so are songs.