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:

Cooking with Little Willie John

I was making dinner tonight. Sauteed green beans and broccoli rabe with a creamy lime dressing, and some shrimps. For some reason I put on Little Willie John, who I see has been referenced on the site only¬†once. His biggest hit, a John Cooley/Otis Blackwell tune called Fever, is no remnant. But I think we’ve been neglecting a great singer who sang great songs.

Mr. John, as the Times would say (no they wouldn’t), was a hit making machine for a while, and like many hit making abusers of alcohol, he died in jail.

His brother wrote this song.

This is a terrific song. This is the version I hear when I think of the song.

This is great.

So is this. This is the blues.

Charming interview with LWJ’s sons and biographer. A story of Detroit.

Are We Not Men? Pick Your Favorite Song from Devo’s Debut.

For some reason I’ve been thinking about Devo lately. Not in any profound way, just thinking about listening when I got a chance. I got a chance today while making dinner. On goes Are We Not Men? We are Devo, which starts with the brilliant Uncontrollable Urge, moves onto (Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, which I owned on 7″ long before the elpee came out, and then goes all over the freaking place. And I do mean freaking.

Remembering, at the time, I grouped the band with the Talking Heads, who had a similar angular geeky-ness, and the Tubes, who had an over the top theatricality. When I listen now I hear mostly classic rock moves, filtered through a novel lens, a lens which made it both surprising the band existed and that they then made hits with mainstream success and surprising that we didn’t see just how inevitable that was on first listen.

I think what I mean is, we knew weird. We loved Zappa, dug Alice Cooper, admired Captain Beefheart, but each of those personalities carved out his own space on the edges of taste and sensibility. They had some pop exposure, but they were happy to exist as novelties.

Devo carved out that space, then tried to bring the whole dang world into it. They were weird, uncompromising, and ambitiously popular, not content to reside on the sidelines with the other freaks. That was cool.

So, while listening to their first elpee tonight, I was struck by how strong the songs are. How little there is that is thrown away. Maybe none of it. And as I went from song to song I said to myself, That’s a great tune. Then, Oh, that’s a good one. Oooh, love it. Which got me thinking that maybe we all have different favorite songs from Are We Not Men? We Are Devo.

I’m laying claim to Mongoloid. It was the first Devo song I heard, it is the one I know all the words to and compulsively sing along to, but I’m pretty sure there are strong cases for others. What’s your favorite song on Devo’s first album?

 

Soul Party Hits

Best song by this band. Multi-percussion fell out of fashion in rock and in soul too, if you count rap as soul. I mean, there are rap songs with lots of percussion but they are few, and punk pretty much wiped out the woodblocks, cowbells and timbales not to mention congas and bongos. It didn’t die altogether, Talking Heads come to mind, but lying dormant there are unexplored possibilities.

When we were 14-15 we used to sing and bang anywhere and anytime. We had this song down, harmonies and cross-rhythms on the money. No selfies in those days; too bad.

Shane McGowan and the Popes, The Snake

This is an album, not a song.

It was the product that McGowan produced after being ejected by the Pogues.

The Pogues, with McGowan, were a fantastic band. Lots of that was songwriting, much of it McGowan’s, some was approach, and a lot was an intense commitment to making real Irish music, sometimes in a punk framework.

When the Pogues, an ongoing enterprise, kicked McGowan out, it was at least partly because his rather self-destructive and theatrical love of the drink was disruptive to an ongoing enterprise. To find an equivalent, think of the Stones kicking Brian Jones out of the band. McGowan was of similar importance to the Pogues, and similarly dangerous.

What came next, for the McGowan, was the Snake.

It’s an Irish-y record, not that dissimilar from his Pogue’s stuff, but heavier. And after McGowan wasn’t a Pogue, the Pogues went more international. Less intense. Lovely tunes, often pot infused, but without the edge that McGowan often brought simply by showing up.

This is the first song from the Snake, the first song on McGowan’s answer record. It rocks as hard as the first song on the Pogues’ first album. I’ll post both. Enjoy.

The Sickbed of Cuchylainn.