The Friday Morning Listen: Yes – Tales From Topographic Oceans (1974)

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“Dear Betsy, – To begin; Hi! I Miss you & Love you. You seem to be the echo of all of my thoughts. I am going to try very hard to convey my feelings on this paper. It is hard for me sometimes. I’m not at all sure of them myself. When I think of you, I am Lost. I don’t know what to think or feel. The only thing that enters my mind positively is: “God I wish her all the best!” I am not the best for you. I believe that as fact.”

And so begins the story of Neal and Betsy. More specifically, Neal is about to tell Betsy how he’s not right for her, how he is not the world traveler that she is, and that he won’t be able to support her in her accustomed lifestyle. Complicating matters is Eric. Apparently, Neal isn’t so keen on being involved in a love triangle.

I found this story scribbled on both sides of the paper sleeve inside of the album Tomorrow. (They were a short-lived psychedelic rock group who recorded in the late 1960’s. I have the Harvest reissue, put out in 1976. It sucked me in at the used record store because it mentioned Steve Howe on the cover. The music was nothing special, but it was interesting to hear early Steve Howe, with more than a few hints at what he would go on to do with Yes. I’m writing this long parenthetical insert because it seems like the most efficient method of passing on the this information, which isn’t really relevant to what’s going on outside of the parentheses.) What a find! Like a little time capsule from 1979. This is one of the unintended benefits of collecting things, the detritus of life that gets stuck to objects. What will happen when we no longer collect things? A kind of modern archeology will vanish.


There have already been many discussions about paper letters vs. email, how future correspondence between people will be lost. This will likely extend to marked up objects as well with music and books moving to the cloud. It’s a shame. I’ve read some of the most interesting things written onto the back of album covers, inner sleeves, and in the margins and blank pages of books. Heck, I still have my high school-era copy of T.S. Elliot’s The Waste Land that has all sorts of “explanations” written between the lines.

These kinds of things create connections…between times (then and now) and between current and previous owner. The point of commonality is the object. Does that mean we had anything else in common? Neal liked Robert Fripp (he saw him at an intimate radio station appearance in Rochester, New York), so there’s one intersection. Anything else? Mostly, these questions can’t be answered, but that doesn’t dim the connection.

I wonder what has happened to Betsy and Neal (and Eric!). They broke up a long time ago. After many paragraphs of explanation, Neal seemed at peace with his decision:

“Betsy — I wish you the very very best! Nous Sommes Du Soleil. Peace & Love always, Neal”

Only in 1979.

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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