||In March 1975, Jim Sullivan mysteriously disappeared outside Santa Rosa, New Mexico. His VW bug was found abandoned, his motel room untouched. Some think he got lost in the desert. Some think he fell foul of a local family with alleged mafia ties. Some think he was abducted by aliens.
By coincidence – or perhaps not – Jim’s 1969 debut album was titled U.F.O., released on the one-off private press label Monnie. The album featured Phil Spector’s legendary sessioneers, The Wrecking Crew. That’s Don Randi, Earl Palmer and Jimmy Bond you can hear, the latter also acting as producer and arranger.
A seventh son of a seventh son, Jim Sullivan was a West Coast should-have-been, an Irish-American former high school quarterback whose gift for storytelling earned him cult status in the Malibu bar where he performed nightly. Sullivan was always on the edge of fame, hanging out with movie stars like Harry Dean Stanton, performing on the Jose Feliciano show, even stealing a cameo in the ultimate hippie movie, Easy Rider.
U.F.O. was a different beast to the one-man-and-his-guitar stuff Jim had been doing on stage, instead, it was a fully realised album of scope and imagination, a folk-rock record with its head in the stratosphere. Sullivan’s voice is deep and expressive like Fred Neil with a weathered and worldly Americana sound like Joe South, pop songs that aren’t happy – but filled with despair. The album is punctuated with a string section (that recalls David Axelrod), other times a Wurlitzer piano provides the driving groove (as if Memphis great Jim Dickinson was running the show). U.F.O. is a slice of American pop music filtered from the murky depths of Los Angeles, by way of the deep south.
Yet, the record went largely unnoticed, and Jim simply moved on, releasing a further album on the Playboy label. But by 1975, his marriage breaking up, Jim left for Nashville and the promise of a new life as a sessioneer in the home of C&W. That’s where it gets hazy.
We know he was stopped by cops for swerving on the highway in Santa Rosa. We know he was taken to a local police station, found to be sober, and told to go to a local motel to get some rest. Some time later, his car was spotted on a ranch belonging to the local Genetti family, who confronted him about his business there. The next day Jim’s car was found 26 miles from town, abandoned. His car and his hotel room contained, among other things, his twelve-string guitar, his wallet, his clothes, and several copies of his second album, but no note, and no Jim. It was as if he had simply vanished into thin air.
Jim’s family travelled out to join search parties looking for him, the local papers printed missing person stories, but the search proved fruitless. Around the same time, the local sheriff retired and the Genettis moved to Hawaii. His disappearance remains a mystery, so much so that Light In The Attic spent years retracing Jim’s last known whereabouts including a recent trip to Santa Rosa. Like many before them, the label returned with more questions than answers.
One thing is certain, U.F.O. stands as an eerie masterpiece by an artist who left us far too soon.
.. Ultra rare 1969 private press
.. First time on CD, first LP reissue
.. Featuring the legendary Wrecking Crew
(Beach Boys, Phil Spector)
.. Beautifully crated gatefold and 180 gram LP
.. Liner notes by Andria Lisle
(MOJO, Oxford American)
.. 48-page CD booklet w/ unseen photos,
lyrics, and archival newspaper articles