Friday, 19 June 2015

Close Encounters

Digging through my audio files, looking for material I haven’t featured here before, I found these – tracks I snapped up in 2009 from one of the most peculiar albums I had ever encountered and promptly forgot about. Until now, that is.

Issued in 1971, Encounter: Once You Understand is a peculiar moral fable, a mix of hippy, happy-clappy Christian youth camp songs and poorly-recorded, poorly acted-out vignettes featuring parents of teens wringing their hands over their kids’ drug use. Credited to ‘Think’, the album was written and produced by Lou Stallman and Bob Susser. Bob Susser (born Robert Howard Susser, July 18, 1942) is an award winning songwriter, producer and performer, best known for children's music, and has sold over 5 million children's albums. Writer and arranger Stallman’s credits stretch back to the early 1950s (he co-wrote the 1954 single I Was Meant For You by The Four Knights) and has had songs recorded by Dion, Perry Como, Tommy Steele, Marty Wilde, the 4 Seasons and dozens of others.
The year after the album appeared the opening track was covered by a Toronto-based act called The Leonard Family, was issued in the US as a single and charted – leading Beacon records in the UK to license it for release too. ‘Now and again a record like this comes along’, the Beacon press release reads . ‘There was Deck of Cards and The Deal to name but two. Both registered.’ Interesting that they should choose to compare this rubbish to two of the worst records ever released!

 The Leonard Family cover is pretty much identical, although - for me at least - the original is a little more histrionic and crazed. The opening track has been sampled by a number of rap and hip-hop acts, including Biz Markie and De La Soul. 

Here are a brace of tracks from Encounter: Once You Understand, the opening track and the wonderfully loopy Gather, plus both sides of the Leonard Family 45, Once You Understand and It Won’t Happen Again. If you can bear it, the whole album is available at WFMU.


Apologies, but Divshare is down yet again! I'll update these links as soon as possible.


  1. 6/21/15 Wrote:
    This is a legendary bad record (The "Think" one that is, I don't believe that the Leonard Family's cover made any impact in the US, but Think's version made the Top 100 Twice, in 1971 and again in 1974 (as a re-issue by Big Tree Records.) The doomed character of Robert Cook may have been a fictional one, but over the last 45 years, not much has been done about the major drug problem in the US, nor have breakdowns between race relations (One of "Those People" that Mother objects to has to be Black or Hispanic, or maybe either gay or transgender; nothing much has changed with the hatred and mistrust.) Think's message may have been awful & overtly-dramatic, but the message is unfortunately relevant 45 years later. Even former President Reagan must have heard this record enough to launch his failed "Just Say No" & "War On Drugs" 13 years after it's release. It wasn't enough to get the point across.

  2. 'Understand' was similar to what I would imagine Chinese Water Torture to be like with that repetitive singing.


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