David Hemmings
David Hemmings

David Hemmings

About David Hemmings

David Hemmings is mostly known as a screen actor, his most famous role in his youth being the photographer in Michaelangelo Antonioni's classic 1966 Swinging London-set Blow Up, though he continued to appear in films for decades, landing roles in Last Orders and Gangs of New York shortly before his death. In the wake of Blow Up, he also had a little-known career as a recording artist, issuing a solo album, Happens, on MGM in 1967. The album attracts collector interest not just from those interested in the sub-genre of celebrity-actors trying their hand briefly at singing, but also from '60s rock completists, as some members of the Byrds were involved in the recording.

The project arose when, at the same time MGM engaged Hemmings for an album, the Byrds recorded the song "Don't Make Waves" for the soundtrack of the MGM film of the same name. Early Byrds co-manager Jim Dickson was enlisted to be the producer of Happens, with the group's guitarist, Roger McGuinn, and bassist, Chris Hillman, playing on the record as session musicians. McGuinn and Hillman also contributed the music to a couple of songs over which Hemmings rambled improvised lyrics. Too, the album included a song by ex-Byrd Gene Clark, "Back Street Mirror," that was never recorded by Clark or anyone else. Without time for rehearsals, the LP was cut in a mere week or so.

Although Hemmings had been a boy soprano with the English Opera Group, by the time Happens was done in his mid-twenties, his voice had a rusty, strained, and unimpressive timbre. Happens ended up as a mediocre period novelty-relic that alternated between dainty orchestrated folk-rock and contrived, semi-improvised raga rock. The album sold virtually nothing when it was released in September 1967, and had not been reissued at the time of Hemmings' death in late 2003.

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