Giorgio Gomelsky on "David Francis"

photo: Everett B. Wilson 1961

The late Giorgio Gomelsky, original manager of the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds, wrote in March 2002 of David Francis:

I first heard David when he was performing at the now-defunct BMW Bar in Chelsea, around the corner from my house. For a couple of years BMW had been an anomaly on the block. Defying licensing and cabaret laws, this small hole-in-the-wall place, serving coffee, wine and beer around the clock, was home from home for an odd collection of humans: from ambitious yet poor poets, jazzers and folksters to local outcasts, from all-night cab drivers to out-of-town wanderers, lost souls, insomniacs and others who “made it through the day and survived the night,” to quote a lyric from one of David’s songs.

Frankie, the bartender, treated everyone with uncustomary consideration, warmth and politeness. No one was judged or, as David says, no one was “devalued.” I would stop there on my way home like at an “after hours” for a last drink before hitting the sack.

It truly was a remarkable place and reminded me first of the existentialist cellars in the bohemian Paris of my youth where Boris Vian, Juliette Greco, and Jacques Brel would be practicing their crafts before hitting the big time, or the coffee-bars in London and the West Village in the 60’s. True “underground” stuff.

Most people were in one “bad way” or another, like our mate Bill Bruton who was dying from smoking cigarettes, or homeless Jack whose wife had thrown him out of the house for reasons we never got to know.

And there was a sound track to the place. “Passion instead of Fashion,” it changed as the days and evenings unfolded. Anything from loud high-energy rock, to mellifluous jazz, hopelessly inadequate folk singing and pretty bad poetry, to the more melancholic late night sets. Anything from unabashed, self-promotional egocentricity to more mature and reflective offerings.

This is where David “I can hardly believe what I’m hearing” Francis came in. My ears pricked up when I first heard him. There was something ancient, universal and yet very modern about his songs. First, an almost imperceptible yet present reference to the kind of odd melodic intervals the Beatles favored, a definite touch of Bo Diddley and Buddy Holly rhythms, and big minor-key, emotional sweeps a la Brel, flamenco guitar licks and beneath it all a hint of medioeval romance music. Difficult to describe, just as any really original synthesis is difficult to pin down.

I rarely understand the lyrics people are singing live, so I was agreeably surprised to listen to David’s CD and understand WHAT he’s talking about, and my view of his work was strengthened. His stuff is almost too subtle to be recognized as instantly “commercial.” However, there is an unmistakable quality of heartfelt authenticity about it, which I hope people will discover sooner than later. He’s a truthful artist and an uncompromising commentator on the human condition and an humble soul. Very rare these days.