More Kevin Bacon

Good Old Boys made me think of Waylon Jennings and Waylon Jennings made me think of my favorite Waylon song, Honky Tonk Heroes written by Billy Joe Shaver.

If there’s a morality tale in this song I don’t know what it is and I don’t much care. I particularly like when it kicks in at about 1:30 and I like even better when it kicks out with the riff at 3:20.

It’s a testament to the musical world we live in that everybody has a Johnny Cash shirt, no one has a Waylon Jennings shirt and no one even knows who Billy Joe Shaver is. (No offense to Johnny Cash – it’s not his fault.)

Good Old Boys

Randy Newman’s first three albums are full of good songs. Songs that were hits for others, like Mama Told Me Not to Come, and songs that made his reputation as a song craftsman and satirist. But it was his fourth album, Good Old Boys, that I think is his masterpiece. Here the satire is scathing, and then the sentiment is true, and in a song like Birmingham, the two come together seamlessly.

Thinking about Alabama tonight, and thinking how in the 43 years since this great album came out, the same problems persist. Maybe things are worse.

If Roy Moore wins in the Alabama race for the Senate seat tonight (Ed. Note: He didn’t.), we should probably all sing Kurt Weill’s and Bertolt Brecht’s Alabama Song, something of a hit for the Doors back in the day, (Show me the way to the next whisky bar, oh don’t ask why, oh don’t ask way. Show me the way to the next little girl, oh don’t ask why, oh don’t ask why.), but in the meantime, these three songs from Good Old Boys will get you started:

Song of the Week – Shine It All Around, Robert Plant

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Sometimes my inspiration for a SotW comes from the media I currently follow. In recent weeks Robert Plant has been making the rounds or in the news. Music biz blogger Bob Lefsetz wrote an interesting post about Plant’s interview with Howard Stern on October 17th. You can read his post and link to the Stern/Plant interview here:

Robert Plant On Howard Stern

Later a friend of mine, William McD, sent me the link to this article in The Guardian from September where Plant discusses his back catalog:

Julie Rogers – A Life In Music, Robert Plant

These two coincidences led me to reevaluate Plant’s solo, back catalog. There are many interesting and wonderful songs to hear. One that really grabbed my attention is today’s SotW, “Shine It All Around.”

“Shine It All Around” is from Plant’s second album with the Strange Sensation called Mighty ReArranger (2005). It received a Grammy award for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance.

And it has a very positive message, something the world can really use these days.

This is the land where I live
Paint it all over golden
Take a little sunshine, spread it all around
This is the love that I give
These are the arms for the holding
Turn on your love light, shine it all around

If you have access to a service like Spotify, please go back to listen to Plant’s solo repertoire. You will be soundly rewarded.

Enjoy… until next week.

Going Out In Style: Johnny Hallyday

Johnny Hallyday was a giant rock star in France, and would show up in all sorts of French films I’ve seen over the years. Whether the movie be commercial cheese or popular entertainment, Hallyday’s presence was always electric. This guy was a real rock star.

Not that I ever listened to his albums. Like Elvis Presley, I got the sense he had some great songs, but he also recorded a lot of shlock, all the more so for the movies. So, incredible aura, but very little consideration as an artist. And this seems to be the case all over the English speaking world.

But in France? He died this week and they threw him a rock star’s funeral. Dig all the pictures here.

A few songs:

 

 

Song of the Week – Holding On, The War on Drugs

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The War on Drugs was formed after Kurt Vile and Adam Granduciel met in Philadelphia in 2003, bonding over their shared Bob Dylan obsession. Vile left after their first album, Wagonwheel Blues, was released in 2008. The “bigly” talented Vile has established a very successful solo career that is worth checking out (and should be considered for a SotW), but his departure has not resulted in the demise of TWoD.

In fact, their subsequent albums — Slave Ambient (2011), Lost in the Dream (2014) and this year’s A Deeper Understanding – have all received favorable reviews from rock critics despite numerous personnel changes. (Granduciel and bass player David Hartley have been the only constants.)

Today’s SotW is “Holding On” from the new album.

What you will notice immediately is how much Granduciel’s vocal delivery pays homage to his idol Dylan. Sam Sodomsky, of Pitchfork, expounds:

“Holding On” is decidedly action-packed. Buoyed by Meg Duffy’s winding slide guitar and a bouncing synth line, it shifts from hook to hook—dazzling with its intricacy or washing over you with its smoothness, depending on how closely you’re listening. It ends with a glimmering descending melody and pitch-shifted vocal motif, maybe the first moment in a War on Drugs song that could be described as “whimsical.”

Another great song from a great band! Fans of Dylan and Bruce Springsteen looking for something new and fresh should dig deeper.

Enjoy… until next week.

The Good, the Bad, and the Dead

Wayne Cochrane might have penned The Last Kiss, and Pearl Jam might have proved its camp essence, but the big hit was from 1964, by J. Frank Wilson. I remember this time vividly as it was the first summer I was sick with what became known as Crohns Disease.

I had been sick for several months, losing weight and unable to keep any nourishment in me when it was determined that I needed to go to the hospital for tests and observation So, on the way to Monterey and the family’s summer vacation, they dropped me off at the hospital and went on their merry way.

I got my summer solace first, not being around them, second with books, and third with my transistor radio which blared Ferry Cross the Mersey, and Bits and Pieces chunks of Brit Pop, but also the maudlin Wilson song.

The Last Kiss, however, belongs to a strange genre of pop song known as death songs. Some of the more prominant?

  1. Teen Angel, Mark Dinning (1960): When I was in third grade (also 1960) our classmate, Don DeVincenzi’s sister died in a local accident just like this.
  2. Patches, Dickey Lee (1962): Evolved into Poor Side of Town in a few years.
  3. Laurie, Dickey Lee (1965): Lee clearly had some kind of necrophilia thing going on.
  4. Tell Laura I Love Her, Ray Peterson (1960): Peterson actually had a pretty good hit with Corina, Corina.
  5. Honey, Bobby Goldsboro (1968 ): Arguably the most loved/hated of the maudlin.

There are more for sure. The links above lead to YouTube files of the originals. But, J. Frank lurks below.

Song of the Week – Late November, Sandy Denny

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British artist Sandy Denny was among the best singer/songwriters of the late 60s/early 70s. If you’re not familiar with her work you should check it out.

Denny started her recording in 1967 with The Strawbs. Shortly thereafter, she left to join the English folk group Fairport Convention that also counted Richard Thompson as a member.

She was with Fairport on the last two of their first three, seminal albums. She also had a key role on the fourth, Liege & Lief, although she had left the band to form a new group, Fotheringay, before its release.

Liege & Lief was recorded in the aftermath of a road accident that killed the band’s drummer, Martin Lamble, and Jeannie Franklyn, Thompson’s girlfriend at the time. Other members of the band were injured but Denny escaped because she was in a different car with her boyfriend.

This all leads to today’s SotW, “Late November,” from Denny’s first solo album The North Star Grassman and the Ravens (1971).

It has been said that “Late November” was inspired by a dream of Denny’s that portended the fateful auto accident. Rob Young, of The Guardian, wrote:

She turned all these premonitions and real and imaginary cataclysms into song. “Late November”… encompasses all that’s great about Denny’s music: heaving with a slow, pitching swell, carrying a cargo of weird omens and morbid visions. So many of her songs from this period are set at sea or on wind-battered coasts, reflecting the enduring role the sea has played in British folk song. The folk canon abounds with shanties, press-gang songs, ballads of transportation and farewell, of superstition and of supernatural water beasts.

The song has a gorgeous melody and is sung beautifully by Denny. (As a bonus it contains a Thompson guitar solo!) It is a classic.

Denny is also well known for writing the elegant “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” that was covered adroitly by Judy Collins. Some of you may remember her duet with Robert Plant on Led Zeppelin IV’s “The Battle of Evermore.”

In the spring of 1978, Denny died of complications from bonking her head after falling down a staircase, in combination with drug and alcohol abuse. She was only 31 years old.

Enjoy… until next week.