Song of the Week – Avenging Annie, Andy Pratt

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Today’s SotW was written by guest contributor, Debbie Doherty. Debbie has been a lover of rock music since her childhood and has extensive knowledge of the subject. She’s always been partial to men that have some connection to the music world – though she’s no groupie. And not only does she know how to properly handle a vinyl album, she’s my wife!

“Stairway to Heaven,” “Jungleland,” “Free Bird.” “Bohemian Rhapsody” all epic rock songs for the ages. In my humble opinion, “Avenging Annie” by Andy Pratt should have achieved status in this elevated playlist.

Written in ’72 by Pratt, a recent Harvard graduate and a skilled studio engineer, “Avenging Annie” combines passionate piano with a strong bass line throughout. A colorful ballad loosely based on a “Pretty Boy Floyd” story line. Pratt’s alternating falsetto and tenor voices provide a strong female narrative in the telling of Annie’s love for Floyd, “the avenger from Oklahoma,” her decision to join up with her outlaw, and the terrible consequences that lay ahead. You feel Annie’s emotions and passion thru Pratt’s in-character voice.

I’m not a musician so I can’t speak to how the song was created. You do hear a mix of very intricate play, a western flavor, lots of complicated piano, not unlike similar sounds by ELP and Rick Derringer from that time period.

In 1973 I was a sophomore at a Catholic high school – we listened to WGTR a small, kilowatt, daytime station in Natick, Massachusetts. “Avenging Annie” was recorded in part, in nearby Southboro. Maybe they dropped a copy off at the station? All I know is that when I heard this song I thought it rocked and I loved the emotional roller coaster it took me on. It initially became popular when a bootleg copy was aired on WBRU at Brown University. Columbia records got wind of the song and signed Pratt. “Avenging Annie” only made it to #78 on The Billboard 100 but it did reach #1 in Providence and New Orleans.

Fun fact, guess what appeared on the B side of “Avenging Annie” on a 1973 Columbia promo disc? “Blinded by the Light” by Bruce Springsteen. Anyone have a copy of that? Ten minutes of music bliss.

Enjoy… until next week.

LINK: Michael Salfino on Paul McCartney’s Solo Career

Longtime friend of the Remnants, Michael Salfino tackles what turns out to be a more interesting question than it seemed on first hearing. How great was Paul McCartney’s solo career compared to the Beatles?

You can read Michael’s thoughts here: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2018/07/reassessing-paul-mccartneys-solo-career-successful.html

For my part, I think McCartney’s best solo song is Maybe I’m Amazed, but I also think Silly Love Songs is a brilliant bit of self-referential pop fluff (with a side of self referential sarcasm).

Michael doesn’t point out that Sir Paul is the only Beatle to record songs with Elvis Costello, Kanye West, and (the remains of) Nirvana. Constantly exploring, working, imploring, McCartney’s career has been admirable, even when the music is less successful. It’s hard to always write and perform great music.

And for pleasure? This one:

https://youtu.be/4IKXjuE4gH0

 

Song of the Week – Good Times, The Jay-Bees

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In late 1964 the Rolling Stones released their second album in the US, 12 x 5. It included a couple of their early hits — “Time Is on My Side” and “It’s All Over Now,” both covers of American R&B songs. But by this time Jagger and Richards were already dipping their toes into the songwriting waters.

One of the originals on 12 x 5 was “Good Times, Bad Times.” It’s a decent slow, country blues. It may remind you of their version of Fred McDowell and Gary Davis’ “You Gotta Move” from Sticky Fingers.

In 1968 a garage band from West Virginia called the Jay-Bees took the song, converted it to a minor key and created a proto punk classic. (They also shortened the title to “Good Times.”)

The creepy laugh that continues throughout the song adds to the haunted house effect of the cut.

Why this track never made it onto one of the Nuggets compilations is a mystery to me. Someone needs to contact archivist Lenny Kaye to try to get the answer.

But no matter… I’d guess the Stones — the original punks — would approve of the Jay-Bees treatment.

Enjoy… until next week.

Lucinda Williams, Six Blocks Away

Lucinda Williams made an album called Sweet Old World in 1992. It was the follow up to her fantastic debut album on Rough Trade, which was actually her third album. She’d had a previous career, 10 years previous, recording for Smithsonian. Exclamation mark.

Those first two albums, Ramblin’ and Happy Woman’s Blues, are great by the way.

In any case, after her terrific album Lucinda Williams, for Rough Trade, she got picky. It took a few years to finish Sweet Old World, which leads with an upbeat song about a street person who resonates.

It took her six more years to record Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, her masterpiece, but I think a lot of the earlier songwriting is better. But the guitars rock more on Car Wheels.

Subsequent events suggested she was unhappy with the sound of Sweet Old World, which is softer than her later albums. And last year her husband suggested Williams rerecord the whole album with a harder and more rockin’ edge. So she took her touring band into the studio and they redid it.

You know, it’s hard to dislodge what you like with something else, even if it’s better, but here’s the new version of Six Blocks Away, followed by the original. You be the judge.

 

Song of the Week – She Sells Sanctuary, The Cult

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The Cult is a band out of the UK that was led by lead singer Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy. Although they formed the group in 1983, I hadn’t caught wind of them until they released “She Sells Sanctuary” in 1985.

I can’t remember where I was the first time I heard this song but I recall that it grabbed me immediately. How could it not? It launches with a captivating intro. It starts with the sound of a buzzing bee, then distant, distorted guitar for 4 bars that gives way to the full band backing a locomotive riff.

Duffy told the story of how he came up with the intro in an interview with Johnny DeMarco:

It sounds like a silly old story, but we were recording “She Sells Sanctuary” in a studio in London called Olympic, where Zeppelin and Free used to record… I was in there during “She Sells Sanctuary,” and I found a violin bow, and I started to play the guitar with the bow like Jimmie Page. I did it to amuse Astbury, who was in the control room, and in order to make it sound weirder, I just hit every pedal I had on the pedal board. Then once I stopped banging the strings and doing all that, I played the middle section of the song, which was kind of a pick thing with all the BOSS pedals on, and that sound just leaped out. The producer went, “Hold it, hold it, that’s great!” And we decided to start the song with that mystical sound.

When Astbury comes in on vocals, you might think Jim Morrison was reincarnated. Clearly I’m not the only one that hears the similarity of their vocal timbers. Astbury covered two songs (“Touch Me” and “Wild Child”) on the Doors tribute album – Stoned Immaculate: The Music of The Doors.

Then he went on to actually become a member of the Doors! Well, at least performing under the name Doors of the 21st Century (or D21c) with original group members Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger.

The title of the song never makes it into the lyrics. But the clue to its meaning come in the line:

And the fire in your eyes keeps me alive
Inside her you’ll find sanctuary

The singer finds sanctuary in his relationship with the woman that has “the fire in your eyes.”

The version of “She Sells Sanctuary” that I first heard (and featured here as the SotW) was the one released on the Cult’s 1985, second album, Love. But “SSS” was released on a 7” single before the album came out (and without the iconic intro).

Enjoy… until next week.

Bill Withers, I Can’t Write Left Handed

I loved Bill Withers. Lean on Me is an amazing song. But when John Legend covered this song with the Roots some years back I was surprised because it was powerful and unforgettable and I didn’t know it. Thinking about politics and music making lately, I’m not sure there is much value in trying to change minds, but this tune is a testament to deep feelings that affected us all once upon a time. Beautifully.

Wussy, Teenage Wasteland

This is another one h/t to the Dean of American Rock Critics, though he didn’t plug this song. I found it on the YouTube.

These guys are old and weird. The first two songs of theirs I listened to were called Gloria, and this one, which was once a Who song. Neither was a cover.

They skew to the indie side of rock, but I’ve put this clip on repeat. I liked them at first hear. They sound like they need to do this more than anything. That’s enough for now. Maybe more later.’

 

Parquet Courts, Wide Awake

Tom wrote about these guys from Texas living in Brooklyn nearly four years ago, and posted a pretty good song that I don’t remember hearing. This is the title track to Parquet Courts new album, which the Dean of Rock Critics gave an A and said: “Their aural gestalt will never be on a Stones-Ramones level, but those are the comparisons—in an appalling year when too many g-g-b-d types have chosen to gaze inward, I doubt we’ll hear a greater album.” I gather I’m immune to the irony. Or ironies.

Song of the Week – I Believe in You, Don Williams

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If you’re a regular reader of my weekly posts, you know that I don’t often use my soapbox to deliver political messages but today is an exception.

The Trump policy to separate children from their parents as they seek refugee status at the southern border of the US is cruel and inhumane. It does not represent who we, as American people, are. There has to be a more kind and generous way to protect our borders.

So what has that got to do with the SotW?

I was reminded of the lyrics to a song called “I Believe in You” by the country music star Don Williams.

I don’t believe in superstars, organic food and foreign cars
I don’t believe the price of gold, the certainty of growing old
That right is right and left is wrong, that north and south can’t get along
That east is east and west is west and being first is always best
But I believe in love, I believe in babies, I believe in mom and dad, and I believe in you

The lyrics to this 1980, #1 hit on the country charts are particularly appropriate because they seem to address the political divide in our country. But the last line ties it into the news of the day – “I believe in love, I believe in babies, I believe in mom and dad.”

For me (and probably you if you’re reading this) another line hits home:

But I believe in love, I believe in music, I believe in magic and I believe in you

Yes, I really do believe in the magic of music to heal and bring people together.

So there you have it. I’ve said my piece. Music without politics next time.

Enjoy… until next week.