This is one you may not have heard of. Or may have forgotten.
The Golden Palominos were a working outfit from 1981 to 2012, when their last record came out. Their first album was a work of No Wave, a punk jazz fusion thing that highlighted bandleader Anton Fier’s massive drumming, and lots of skronking and wailing by downtown notables like John Zorn, Aarto Lindsey, Fred Frith, and bassist Bill Laswell, who played with the band consistently.
I’m not impugning the first album, but like much of No Wave, the joys are hard earned. Worthwhile? Probably, but it is on their second album that Golden Palominos became music for minds like mine.
This is a great rock record. For one thing it features guest vocals by Michael Stipe, John Lydon, and Jack Bruce. It has a cover of Skip Spence’s Omaha. Richard Thompson plays guitar. Carla Bley plays organ on Buenos Aires. And it introduces us to Syd Straw, who in subsequent permutations became one of the Palominos’s front people.
I only saw them once, on stage at Studio 54, with the great Ordinaires opening for them. But this is a record that is heavy, jazzy, poppy, full of songwriters and singers, with great playing and a killer rhythm section.
Try it out.
The song was written by Mickey Newbury, a famed Nashville songwriter, supposedly about the LSD experience. What I learned today is that while it was made into a hit by The First Edition, the first version was by Jerry Lee Lewis, who always rocks.
One of the commentators on the above clip said to look for the Mickey Newbury version. Why not?
I can remember the first time I heard Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town. I was in the Grand Union supermarket in Smithtown NY. My memory is that I was buying a box of a new popcorn product that came in a black box (radical design back then) with lots of smart-alecky copy on it, but I can’t recall the product name (turns out Smartfood wasn’t introduced until 1985) and who really knows. But the song is a fact.
It’s really an amazing song, catchy, spare, with a narrative that his expansive, as much not said as is said and implied, almost epic yet also close up and exact. Kenny Rogers didn’t write it, Mel Tillis did, and Waylon Jennings first recorded it in 1966, but it was Rogers and The First Edition who made it a hit in 1969.
Ruby wasn’t The First Edition’s first hit. That was Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Is In), which is a pretty excellent example of commercial garage rock. Moyer would note the excellent face-making of the guitarist during his solo, and the excellent chops of the tambourine player.
The First Edition eventually broke up and Rogers went on to have a long career as a MOR singer, bit actor, award-winning celebrity. His two No. 1 songs were Lady and Islands in the Stream, the latter with Dolly Parton. He also sang on We Are the World, for what it’s worth. He died earlier this week.
Zappa’s big band covers this idiosyncratic hit from the Beatles, and makes it their own. I think they also prove how solid it is as a piece of music, maybe even a song, not just buffery from the cult of the Fab Four. It’s silly, sure, unless the Walrus really is Paul, but catchy.
The lone cover from the band’s debut elpee, Blank Generation, seemed unlikely. Creedence? Until you hear it.
The Voidoids take the pounding rhythm from the original, cut the running time in half by getting rid of a long instrumental break in the middle, and replace John Fogarty’s growling defiance with Hell’s skreechy pleading. Different approach to the guitar solos, too. It works.
The story I remember is that Patti Smith was recording in the same studio as Bruce Springsteen, she heard this song and put out her own version. Without approval, just hijacked it.
I’ve read Bruce’s autobiography and Patti Smith’s books and I don’t know what the truth is. Maybe I knew once, but now, I like my memory. What I do know is that this is one of the Boss’s best songs. And one of Patti’s best songs. It has become a collaboration.
So, today I was listening to the Screaming Females, a New Jersey band who have made seven albums. I don’t know that much about them, but as a rock band they’re pushing a big rock up a steep hill.
And I stumbled upon their collaboration with 90’s indie band Garbage on a cover of the Boss’s song.
It’s still a good song, but I don’t know. This makes me want to hear Patti and her group.