Theme From An Imaginary Western

Album: Climbing! (1970)


  • Written by Jack Bruce (he of Cream fame) and lyricist Pete Brown, "Theme From An Imaginary Western" was included on Bruce's 1969 solo album Songs For A Tailor, released shortly after Cream's demise. Felix Pappalardi, who was Bruce's producer, recorded the song with his band Mountain for their 1970 album Climbing!. With Pappalardi on lead vocals, this became the most popular version of the song.
  • In a Songfacts interview with Pete Brown, he explained that The Graham Bond Organisation, an influential group that Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were in before forming Cream, was the inspiration for the lyric, which tells a tale of settlers heading into the desert. Said Brown: "The Graham Bond Organisation were like a mixture between pioneers and outlaws, and when Jack played me the music for 'Theme For An Imaginary Western' it reminded me of a Western movie. I'm a big Western fan, you know. I collect them, and it reminded me of some of the great Western scores by Dimitri Tiomkin and people like that, which I love. So, it reminded me of that.

    So, I got the Western thing but then, I thought, 'No, this is not about cowboys, it's about Graham Bond and the Graham Bond Organisation.' That's the way it ended up. I still sing it quite a lot. When I'm doing gigs, I always include it."
  • Though his main instrument is bass, Bruce would perform this song seated at the piano. The definitive version is surely the live recording made by Mountain guitarist Leslie West for the Night Of The Guitars series of concerts. Although a fine ballad it renders even better as an ego trip for lead guitar, and the West solo is a tour de force of distortion, tremolo and sustain.
  • The title sometimes appears as "Theme For An Imaginary Western."
  • The song has been dedicated by both West and Bruce to Felix Pappalardi, the former Mountain bass player who was shot dead by his wife in 1983. Pappalardi produced Bruce's album Songs for a Tailor around the time Mountain formed. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2
  • In our 2011 interview with Leslie West, he explained that the song took him a while to learn, but became one of his favorites. Said West: "It was not the simplest of songs. But I love that song. When we play it now I still get excited to play the solo - the chord changes help make that song so great. Very different rock song."
  • Mountain played this at the Woodstock festival in 1969.

Comments: 3

  • Paul S. from Pittsburgh, Pa.I usually like a certain website for their lyrics but they really mutilated the lyrics to this one so here they are if it's not too long to submit:

    When the wagons leave the city
    For the forest and further on
    Painted wagons of the morning
    Dusty roads where they have gone
    Sometimes traveling through the darkness
    Met the summer coming home
    Fallen faces by the wayside

    Looked as if they might have known

    Oh the sun was in their eyes
    And the desert was dry
    In the country town
    Where the laughter sounds

    Oh the dancing and the singing
    Oh the music when they played
    Oh the fires that they started
    Oh the girls with no regret
    Sometimes they found it, sometimes they kept it
    Often lost it along the way
    Fought each other to possess it
    Often died in sight of day

    Oh the sun was in their eyes
    And the desert was dry
    In the country town
    Where the laughter sounds

    Oh the sun was in their eyes
    And the desert was dry
    In the country town
    Where the laughter sounds
  • Ed from Lebanon, NhOn Jack Bruce's own albums, he lists the title as "Theme *for* an Imaginary Western".
  • Wayne from Plantation, FlThe lyrics are a big part of this tune, and are by Bruce's long-time songwriting partner and former beat poet, Pete Brown. Mountain performed the tune at Woodstock, and arguably it was a bit out of place given the better-known and more raucous tunes we associate with the festival. It's about as different from their Mississippi Queen type tunes as you can get, but Mountain was largely about the coming together of West's bluesy/earthy and Felix's lyrical/classical styles.
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