Our LCM Classic this week is 'Carolina In My Mind' a great song by James Taylor, which first appeared on his 1968 self-titled debut album. James wrote it while recording in the UK for the Beatles' label Apple Records at Trident Studios, at the same time The Beatles were recording The White Album. The song's themes reflect his homesickness. Taylor recorded the album in 1968, Released as a single, the song earned critical praise but not commercial success. It was re-recorded for Taylor's 1976 Greatest Hits album in the version that is most familiar to listeners. It has been a staple of James Taylor's concert performances over the decades of his career.
The song was also modest hit on the country charts in 1969 for North Carolinian singer George Hamilton IV. Strongly tied to a sense of geographic place, "Carolina in My Mind" has been called an unofficial state anthem for North Carolina. It is also an unofficial song of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, being played at athletic events and pep rallies and sung by the graduating class at every university commencement. The association of the song with the state is also made in written works of both fiction and non-fiction. It has become one of Taylor's most critically praised songs and one that has great popularity and significance for his audience.
The original recording of the song was done at London's Trident Studios during the July to October 1968 period, and was produced by Asher. The song's lyric "holy host of others standing around me" makes reference to the Beatles, who were recording The Beatles in the same studio where Taylor was recording his album. Indeed, the recording of "Carolina in My Mind" includes a credited appearance by Paul McCartney on bass guitar and an uncredited one by George Harrison on backing vocals. The other players were Freddie Redd on organ, Joel "Bishop" O'Brien on drums, and Mick Wayne providing a second guitar alongside Taylor's. Taylor and Asher also did backing vocals and Asher added a tambourine. Richard Hewson arranged and conducted a string part; an even more ambitious 30-piece orchestra part was recorded but not used. The song itself earned critical praise, with Jon Landau's April 1969 review for Rolling Stone calling it "beautiful" and one of the "two most deeply affecting cuts" on the album and praising McCartney's bass playing as "extraordinary". Taylor biographer Timothy White calls the song "the album's quiet masterpiece."