Jon & Vangelis: “The Friends of Mr. Cairo” (1981)

Jon & Vangelis make the music, but it’s David Coker’s impressions of James Cagney and Peter Lorre that steal the show.

Kronomyth 2.o1: The weariest night leads to a heavenly dawn.

Jon & Vangelis are like the peanut butter and pickles of prog rock. I enjoy them both on their own, but not together. In their defense, the pairing makes more sense on The Friends of Mr. Cairo, though not at all because of “The Friends of Mr. Cairo.” That song is an unexpected homage to old movies that made more of an impression for its guest impressionists (David Coker, Sally Grace) than its music. In its 12-minute version, the song is an exercise in patience. In its four-minute edited version, it makes for a passable novelty single.

The B side of this single is, wait for it, “Beside.” I’m not sure if the song was written for the express purpose of being a B side or if the record labels couldn’t resist the opportunity. It’s airy, improvisational stuff that would have felt at home on the gossamer-light first album, and is quite pretty in spots. The lyrics are a sort of spiritual channeling/awakening that Jon Anderson has used throughout his career as a conduit to creation.

Original 7-inch single version

A1. The Friends of Mr. Cairo (Vangelis/Jon Anderson) (4:30)
B1. Beside (Vangelis/Jon Anderson) (4:06)

US promotional 12-inch single version
A1. The Friends of Mr. Cairo
B1. State of Independence

Canadian 7-inch single version (PDS 2176)
A1. The Friends of Mr. Cairo (Jon Anderson/Vangelis) (4:20)
B1. The Road (Jon Anderson/Vangelis) (4:30)

The Plastic

Released on 7-inch and 12-inch single in May 1981 in the UK (Polydor, POSP/POSPX-258), the US (Polydor, PD 2181), Australia (Polydor, 2059 354) and Canada (Polydor, PDS 2176) with picture sleeve (UK). Reached #33 on the US charts. Also released as a promotional 12-inch single in 1981 in the US (Polydor, PRO-163) with different B side.

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