All songs take you somewhere. “Sentimental Lady’s” somewhere is my friend Hetty’s apricot-colored childhood bedroom. It had a canopy bed in it, a brass light fixture shaped like a birdcage and a neat row of robin’s egg blue Beatrix Potter books. There were also pictures of KISS and Peter Frampton taped to the wall. We were in middle school – tweens before there was a word for it — and everything was about to change.
One agent of that change was Bob Welch’s “French Kiss” LP, purchased with allowance money and played loudly on Hetty’s ancient record player — the kind that folded up and had a latch and a suitcase handle on the top. The title alone was so scandalous! We parsed the album jacket with that peculiarly pre-pubescent combination of prudishness and prurience. (Is that woman licking his face? Why yes — yes she is!)
Quaint historical footnote: We bought this record at a store called Back Alley Discs — a reference, it must be said, to the shape of LPs, not to CDs — for $7. At the time, we still quantified money using the LP Standard: “Twenty dollars? That’s three records!”
Welch, who died Thursday at age 66, famously left Fleetwood Mac before the band hit it big in 1975 — and then insanely big in 1977. In the fall of that Year of “Rumours,” the now-solo Welch released the single “Sentimental Lady.” Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham all played on it, and it sounded like it. A rapid Top 40 ascent ensued.
There should be something called collateral success — it would be like collateral damage, only different. Or maybe not so different. Because there the success story ends. (Mostly – his follow-up single, “Ebony Eyes” is best left undiscussed.) But for this: In a certain time and place thirty-odd years ago — a time and place when it was very important to have the album to have — “French Kiss” was the album to have. And, as pop epitaphs go, you could do much worse.