Hanging around the observatory


1974 Epic

LP. KE 32688
  CD. CDEPC 32452

1990 Epic

CD. CDEPC 32452

2006 Beat Goes on Records

(together with "Overcoats" on 1 CD)

CD. BGO CD 711
1 Maybe baby, say you do 2:35 30 seconds preview
2 Whistles in my ears 3:25 30 seconds preview
3 Sure as i'm sittin here 3:19 30 seconds preview
4 Rose 3:05 30 seconds preview
5 Hangin around the observatory 3:01 30 seconds preview
6 Full moon 5:13 30 seconds preview
7 Wild eyed gypsies 4:43 30 seconds preview
8 It's alright with me 3:46 30 seconds preview
9 Little blue song for you 3:13 30 seconds preview
10 Ocean 5:14 30 seconds preview

Total running time:



John Hiatt:

Guitar, Vocals

The Hot Babies Band:

Hayward Bishop
Doug Yankus
Ted Reynolds
Shane Keister

The Heavenly Spirits:

Pam Clarke
Debbie Friedman
Marsha Routh

The Valentines:

James Moon
Charles Meyers
James Clemmons
Paul Easley


Produced: Glenn Spreen
Arranged: John Hiatt
Recording Engineers: Gene Eichelberger
Mike Figlio
Stan Hutto
Ron Reynolds
Technical Engineers: Ed Hudson
Jerry Watson
Charles Bradley
Freeman Ramsey
Ron Reynolds
Remixing: Glenn Spreen
Stan Hutto
Lou Bradley



thanks to:

don ellis, glen spreen, travis rivers, alan grubman, kenny malone, jack grady, larry london, peter drake, phillip royster

all the folks at tree, the west twins (for making the lovely dresse and appearing on the cover), my family, friends and neighbors, the arthur j. dyer observatory



  • All songs written by John Hiatt

  • all selections are by John Hiatt, Tree publishing Co., inc. (BMI)

  • Recorded and Mixed at Columbia Studio A, Nashville, Tennessee, July 1973

  • album design: john hiatt, bill barnes, peggy owens

  • cover and flyleaf photography: slick lawson

  • research and development: lester glassner

press photo

epic biography

John Hiatt's first album on Epic Records is called "Hanging Around The Observatory" and reveals this young singer/songwriter to be an extraordinarily perceptive observer of life. "I feel like I'm an observer," Hiatt laughs. "I'm not really here; I'm watching."

What John Hiatt sees is the essence of his music. The diversity of styles which he masters is a result of the range of what he sees. His music can be heavy or lyrical, fierce or gentle -- it is whatever it needs to be to express Hiatt's emotional changes. "It used to bother me that I wrote
in so many different styles," he says, "I used to feel so schizophrenic but now I see that thatís just how it goes. I write by singing tunes and my mood affects my voice. I sing in different ways and I get different sounds. The song grows out of the feeling in my voice."

John Hiatt wrote all the songs on his first album and moves smoothly from the rocking rauch of "Maybe Baby, Say You Do" to the humor of "Sure As Iím Sittin' Here" to the melodious poetry of "Ocean." And it's all so weirdly John Hiatt, so dinstinctively a part of his unique style, that it makes for a curious but compelling listening experience. John 's marvelously expressive voice dramatically delivers each song in appropriately bizarre fashion.

Originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, John began getting into music at the age of 12, working with a number of little combos. "When I was 15," he recalls, "the folk thing was happening and I started writing." At the .age of 18, John Hiatt left Indianapolis with 20 songs to travel and wound up in Nashville. "I was too scared to go to either of the coasts," he admits, "but when I was passing through Nashville, I met a guy who made 25 dollars a week for writing songs and I thought, ĎWhat a nice thing.í I didnít write country songs, but it just feIt good so I stayed."

John, now only 21, has come an amazingly long way in a short time. As a child, John. took guitar lessons from a gentleman with the unlikely name of Olindo Masterpolo. "My mother bought me my first guitar, a Stella," he says. "I used to stand in front of the mirror and pretend I was Elvis Presley. I was just a baby when Elvis was first happening but I really got into him in the í60."

Hanging Around The Observatory was recorded in Nashville and produced by Glen Spreen in a spirit of musical love. "It was a nice loose thing,í Hiatt says. "I did whatever I wanted to. I got my friends to play on it and that helped a lot because we all know each other and where we' re all at and so we were all very up for it. We just went in and there was
great communication. I wouldnít tell anybody what to play. Ií d just give a general direction, a rough layout. I say it's best if you just let it happen."

One listen and it's easy to hear how magically it happened for John Hiatt. The album is a flowing, naturally exciting river of music, all with the strange John Hiatt touch.

"i just record the things Iíve observed," Hiatt says." i react in my own way to what i see. When every man starts reacting to things in his own way that's when things will start straightening out. People will feel whatever they want to, and anyone else will be wide open to feel another way."
And with John Hiatt, the feeling is in the music.


john hiatt

"one night, we went up to this observatory where once a month people are allowed to come in and view the stars. It was way up on top of a hill out in the country. on the way up, i got the feeling i was going to visit a mad scientist's house."


bruce harris

if mad scientists didn't fritter away their lives on futile efforts like trying to make monsters, or turn iron into gold, or get from here to pluto and back in 24 hours, and instead took up music, one of them (if he were really good) might get to be a little bit like john hiatt. "i feel like i'm an observer" he says. "i'm not really here: i'm watching".

John hiatt's songs (all the bizarre, and yet tender and moving songs on this, his first album) are his observations. Each of us is the subject of his music, as much as he himself is. John is a master of many sounds and styles. His music is whatever it needs to be to express the wild range of his feelings and moods. he does not present a tunnel vision of life; he's been hanging around the observatory, after all, and he's observed it all from the sky with amazing clarity through the telescope we call music.

without ever losing its central distinctiveness. John hiatt's music can be heavy or it can be lyrical. It can be metal or it can be magical. always, it is a music filled with spirit, energy, humor, and excitement. and of course, john's strangely compelling voice is the perfect match for the curious music and more curious lyrics. hiatt's not just strange, these days, it's easy to be weird. hiatt takes it all one step beyond: like the truth, he is stranger than fiction.

but for all this music (and to us) the ultimate joy that grows out of the pain of seeing. his music is vibrant and vital and real, and you can be sure that when john and his friends cut this session in nashville, there was a ton of laughter and just plain fun going down. just listen. it's all there.



John Hiatt mixed pop, folk, rock, R&B, country, and gospel on his debut album, immediately becoming an uncategorizable (and thus uncommercial) entity. Although this album was cut in Nashville, it owes more to Van Morrison than it does to Conway Twitty, and like the Belfast bluesman, Indianian Hiatt came to his influences somewhat secondhand, however sincerely he evoked them. What he really was, of course, was a singer/songwriter, albeit not in a style easily recognizable in 1974. The title indicates his position: Hiatt's songs show him an acute observer. But the performances require him to dig in, and although he does so with alacrity, the result is too diffuse. Nevertheless, Hiatt earned critical kudos for this album, and Three Dog Night (who knew good songwriting when they heard it) covered "Sure As I'm Sittin' Here," getting a Top 40 single out of it.