Peter, Paul and Mary: The Missing Years

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Okay, let’s say you’re folksingers Peter, Paul and Mary. You’ve just had a mostly-accidental smash hit in the form of John Denver’s “Leaving On A Jet Plane” in late 1969. What do you do? Obviously, you’d capitalize on the unexpected success in some way, most likely by making a spectacularly solid album for the ages, right? If you said “Yes, that’s EXACTLY what I’d do,” then you’re obviously NOT Peter, Paul and Mary.

Just how delusional were the actual Peter, Paul and Mary at the dawn of the 1970s? At least delusional enough to take a break from each other (much needed, if you’ve ever had the misfortune to listen to the godawful Peter, Paul and Mommy album) and release a set of solo albums in 1971 and 1972.

Utilizing the famous Milton Glaser font on all three of the albums’ covers, it at least appeared to be a deliberate attempt to market the three albums as a set (something that Kiss would try with varying success almost ten years later).

So which of the three was more successful? Mary’s album Mary only went as high as #71 on the Billboard album charts in 1971 despite having a version of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” that predated Roberta Flack’s by nearly a year. Noel Stookey’s album Paul and, despite having the unforgivably bad (albeit, astronomically and inexplicably successful) “The Wedding Song (There Is Love)” as a single, only peaked at #42. Peter Yarrow’s Paul fared the worst, only reaching #163.

Who on God’s earth thought this might be a good idea? Were these solo sets the harbinger of more egotistical outings to come? Did it signal the true beginning of the “Me Decade”? Had they been a more significant group, this might have portended the official end of the 1960s.

Despite their disastrous solo outings, Peter, Paul and Mary would not make another album together until 1978′s Reunion, at which point, nobody cared.

 

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