High Coin

Album: The Charlatans (1969)
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Songfacts®:

  • This was the only single ever released by the Charlatans. As with the rest of the album it was featured on, the song flopped commercially, marking an inauspicious ending to one of the most important trailblazing bands to plant the seeds of the San Francisco Sound and psychedelic music.

    By the time "High Coin" and The Charlatans were released, the other bands in the Charlatans' orbit had moved far past their breezy folk sound. In many ways the album seemed obsolete despite being freshly released, and fans showed no interest.
  • "High Coin" was one of two Charlatans songs written by Van Dyke Parks, who had also written for the Beach Boys, Phil Ochs, Little Feat, and others. His own album Song Cycle from 1967 was highly respected by peers, though it sold only modestly. Parks' other contribution to the album was "When I go Sailin' By," which was the B-side to the "High Coin" single.
  • As much as "High Coin" stands as a testament to the Charlatans' talent, it also stands as a reminder of how important timing is for musicians.

    The band's singer and guitarist Mike Wilhelm once told Rolling Stone that he and his band mates were in no rush to hop into the music-stardom scene, and success would come when the time was right. Looking back, it's a somewhat sad statement, considering that by the time the album was released, time had already passed the band by.

    In The Summer of Love: The Inside Story of LSD, Rock & Roll, Free Love and High Times in the Wild West, Joel Selvin declared that The Charlatans was "an unenthusiastic coda to a misspent career." It's a harsh declaration, but perhaps an accurate one.

    Regardless, "High Coin" is a catchy tune that is easy to imagine as a big radio hit, and it very well may have been if it was released at the early part of the Charlatans' career, rather than at the end.

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