In the first few years after college, my friends and I threw some epic dance parties. We didn’t offer a lot. There was plenty of cheap beer and wine, and some munchies. But what we had in abundance was good vibes and great tunes!
A deep cut that was always a big hit on the dance floor was “Melody” by the Rolling Stones.
“Melody” comes from the Stones’ underrated 1976 album Black and Blue. It is a smooth, sultry number that was credited as “inspired by Billy Preston.” But let’s face it… we all know it was really written by Preston; but Jagger/Richards had the clout to deny publishing to “bandmates.” (Just ask Mick Taylor!) Further proof is the prominence of Preston’s jazzy piano playing and soulful vocal duet with Jagger.
Whenever I hear this song, I’m back on the dance floor with old friends in that magical house in Newton, MA. Good times!
I’m writing to you today from Colorado. I think that my have influenced my decision to post thes essay.
We tend to put celebrities up on a pedestal as if their lives are all glamour and riches. But all humans, including pro athletes, titans of industry, Hollywood actors, and rock stars, have their fair share of suffering.
As a case in point, the outwardly funny (perhaps goofy) Joe Walsh has had a tremendous career. One of the greatest guitar players in the history of Rock music, he had initial success with the James Gang, as a solo artist, and finally as a member of Eagles. He has also toured with his brother-in-law’s group – Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band.
But he has also suffered great tragedy. Back in 1974, his then-wife Stefany was in a car accident with their daughter Emma in the car. Stefany was taking Emma to her favorite park when the car was hit on the passenger side by a drunk driver that ran a stop sign. Emma, who was just weeks away from her third birthday, suffered massive head trauma and ultimately succumbed to her injuries.
As is often the case, this put a strain on the marriage and Joe and Stefany ultimately divorced. Joe later had a child’s size drinking fountain put into the playground in Boulder, CO, that was dedicated to Emma. He also wrote her a song.
Years later, Joe was in a relationship with Stevie Nicks. She tells the following story in the liner notes to her greatest hits album, TimeSpace:
I guess in a very few rare cases, some people find someone that they fall in love with the very first time they see them… from across the room, from a million miles away. Some people call it love at first sight, and of course, I never believed in that until that night I walked into a party after a gig at the hotel, and from across the room, without my glasses, I saw this man and I walked straight to him. He held out his hands to me, and I walked straight into them. I remember thinking, I can never be far from this person again… he is my soul. He seemed to be in a lot of pain, though hid it well. But finally, a few days later, (we were in Denver), he rented a jeep and drove me up into the snow covered hills of Colorado… for about two hours. He wouldn’t tell me where we were going, but he did tell me a story of a little daughter that he had lost. To Joe, she was much more than a child. She was three and a half, and she could relate to him.
I guess I had been complaining about a lot of things going on on the road, and he decided to make me aware of how unimportant my problems were if they were compared to worse sorrows. So he told me that he had taken his little girl to this magic park whenever he could, and the only thing she EVER complained about was that she was too little to reach up to the drinking fountain. As we drove up to this beautiful park, (it was snowing a little bit), he came around to open my door and help me down, and when I looked up, I saw the park… his baby’s park, and I burst into tears saying, ‘You built a drinking fountain here for her, didn’t you?’ I was right, under a huge beautiful hanging tree, was a tiny silver drinking fountain. I left Joe to get to it, and on it, it said, dedicated to HER and all the others who were too small to get a drink.
So he wrote a song for her, and I wrote a song for him… ‘This is your song, ‘ I said to the people, but it was Joe’s song. Thank you, Joe, for the most committed song I ever wrote. But more than that, thank you for inspiring me in so many ways. Nothing in my life ever seems as dark anymore, since we took that drive.
Wednesday is a band from Asheville, NC. They combine shoe gaze with alt-country in their own unique way. Their latest album, Rat Saw God was released this past January.
“Chosen to Deserve” was released as a single and is today’s SotW.
The song is about confessing to your partner all of the things you wouldn’t want them to know about your past until your relationship is secure enough to weather those truths.
I used to drink ’til I threw up on weeknights at my parents’ house My friends all took Benadryl ’til they could see shit Crawlin’ up the walls One of those times my friend took a little too much He had to get his stomach pumped They took him over to the hospital and told us he was lucky to survive
The key to the song comes in the final lines:
Thank God that I was chosen to deserve you ‘Cause I’m the girl that you were chosen to deserve
Guitarist/vocalist Karly Hartzman sings the song with a drawl that’s reminiscent of a younger Lucinda Williams backed with some serious guitar riffage.
In an article on the NPR Music website, Marissa Lorusso wrote that Hartzman “says that she wrote “Chosen to Deserve”… as an homage to Drive-by Truckers’ “Let There be Rock” but with Hartzman’s own “experiences from growing up and f***ing around and getting into stupid s***,” as she explains.”
So, let’s have a little fun and listen to “Let There Be Rock” too.
The Drive-By Truckers’ track starts like this:
Dropped acid, Blue Oyster Cult concert, fourteen years old, And I thought them lasers were a spider chasing me. On my way home, got pulled over in Rogersville Alabama, With a half-ounce of weed and a case of Sterling Big Mouth. My buddy Gene was driving, he just barely turned sixteen. And I’d like to say, “I’m sorry”, but we lived to tell about it And we lived to do a whole bunch more crazy, stupid, shit.
Today’s SotW was written by my cousin, Mark Vincent. He has written posts several times before. He is in the Brooklyn, NY based band, The Occasionalists.
Pride Month is coming to a close, and my Live Karaoke Band is playing an LGBT fundraiser tonight in Brooklyn, at 7:30 PM ET, at littlefield (635 Sackett Street).
My dad band, The Occasionalists, consists of five middle-aged, straight, white guys, which presents a challenge in creating an appropriate and relevant set list for such an event. We searched the internet for ideas and stumbled upon my new favorite song (at least for the summer). Two of my bandmates are musicologists near the level of my cousin Tom, so when neither heard of the Scissor Sisters, I thought I may have met the Obscure requirement to be a SotW.
“Take Your Mama” is a little bit of glam and a lot of classic three-chord rock with a fun groove and a rebellious vibe. The song celebrates taking the singer’s mother out for a night on the town to see what gay nightlife is all about. Coming out hasn’t sounded like this much fun since Diana Ross, nearly a quarter century earlier.
The joy of the song and band is best captured in this live performance — the kind of video you can watch over and over. Have a great summer.
I have already posted about songs written by the pre-Steely Dan songwriting team of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen that were recorded by other artists. The first was “American Lovers” by Thomas Jefferson Kaye (April 18, 2020) and another was “I Mean to Shine” by Linda Hoover (March 11, 2023). Another, today’s SotW, is “Sail the Waterway” by Denny Doherty.
After the Mamas and the Papas broke up, Doherty went on to record a couple of solo albums. The first was 1971’s Watcha Gonna Do? The album had a country rock feel and contained several Doherty originals alongside Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin’” and a Beatles’ medley of “Here Comes the Sun/Two of Us.”
After that album was completed and released Doherty entered the studio again in 1972. This time he recorded four songs. None had been heard until they were released on an album called Of All the Things: The Complete ABC/Dunhill Masters, in 2017.
Of note is that two of the aforementioned four 1972 songs were written by the pre-Steely Dan Becker/Fagen team — “Sail the Waterway” and “Giles of the River”. Further, Becker and Fagen played on the tracks, and they were produced by Gary Katz, a name very familiar to Steely Dan fans.
Later, in November 1972, Steely Dan released their own debut. But a well-kept secret is that they released a single ahead of the album on June 16, 1972. The A-side was “Dallas”, and the B-side was “Sail the Waterway”!
There’s a song that was recorded several times in a short period of time in 1970-1971 by major Rock artists. You probably are familiar with “It Ain’t Easy” by one of them.
If you were into MOR Rock you would know the version by Three Dog Night.
If you favored British, blues-based Rock you may have heard Long John Baldry’s take.
If you were into Glam Rock you definitely heard the cut on David Bowie’s … Ziggy Stardust… album.
But despite the exposure from all these renditions, I’ll bet you never heard the original by the song’s composer, Ron Davies.
Davies was a talented songwriter that never broke through with commercial success. “It Ain’t Easy” was on his acclaimed album Silent Song Through the Land (1970). Unfortunately, that album isn’t available to stream on Spotify, and vinyl copies on Discogs command a pretty penny.
The Three Dog Night version was released on their album of the same name in 1970. It was their fourth release in 18 months! That’s a remarkable achievement, even for a band that curated its repertoire from other songwriters, and one of the four was a live album.
Baldry’s recording was also on an album with the same name (1971). This is the album that was produced by Rod Stewart (side one) and Elton John (side two). “It Ain’t Easy” was on the Stewart side and was backed by a number of the musicians that supported him on the Every Picture Tells a Story album. Maggie Bell is the sassy female vocalist harmonizing with Baldry.
Bowie’s take was initially recorded for the Hunky Dory sessions but was ultimately left off that album. But he brought it back and placed it at the end of side one of Ziggy. Ultimately that was an odd choice since “It Ain’t Easy” does not fit with the thematic content of the rest of Ziggy Stardust. But as I’ve said many times in the SotW… you can’t keep a good song down!
On May 19th, one of the greatest lyricists in Rock history, Pete Brown, died. As the cowriter with Jack Bruce, Brown’s lyrics psychedelicized some of Cream’s most memorable songs, including “I Feel Free”, “White Room”, “SWBALR”, “As You Said”, and “Sunshine of Your Love” (with Eric Clapton too).
My favorite Bruce/Brown composition is “Rope Ladder to the Moon” from Bruce’s debut solo album Songs for a Tailor (1969).
The track seems to be about a lover’s manipulation and dominance. In the first three verses he/she lures in their “prey” with fun, love, and promise.
You asked me to a party To a house just by the moon You gave me silver loving The end was all too soon
You asked me to the theater In a place quite near the sun You gave me golden sunbeams Your act was all in fun
You asked me to a meeting In a cottage in the snow You gave me central heating I can’t forget the glow
But by the end the lover is in total control.
You asked me to a weekend Down by the stormy sea You took me to a ceremony And the sacrifice was me!
You asked me to a storm cloud Up near the rainbow’s end Then you threw away the ladder And gave me to your friend
You took me to a prison And you said its chief was me Then you locked me deep inside you And thew away the key
“Rope Ladder…” has been covered a few times with the version by Brian Auger and Julie Tippet that is worth a listen.
It’s Boston in the early ‘80s and I’m in my mid-20s… Maybe I’ve been out at The Seven’s draining a few pints of Guinness over heavy, deep, and real discussions with close friends. Maybe I just got home from hearing some great live music at The Rat or The Paradise, or from partying at a wildly fun house party.
I’m on a work assignment that has me taking a 3-hour drive, back and forth between Albany every Sunday night, and Boston each Friday evening. I’m spending a lot of hours with my Alpine cassette player, in my car – alone – in the dark.
It’s at times like these that I most enjoy The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. The album always fits the mood when you are having quiet time, alone – physically or in your own head space.
So, I honor this album, today, on
the 60th anniversary of its release.
Two of the five songs Dylan chose to play at The Concert for Bangladesh (1971) were from The Freewheelin’… Let’s let them be the SotW.
And how many ears must one man have Before he can hear people cry? Yes, and how many deaths will it take ’til he knows That too many people have died?
Sadly, today’s plague of gun violence makes these lyrics as relevant now as they were 60 years ago.
Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son? And where have you been, my darling young one? I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
Sadly, it too has lyrics that still apply today!
BTW, that cassette I was playing in my late-night car drives had The Freeewheelin’ Bob Dylan on one side, and Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska on the other. A perfect combo. Just like rice and beans.
Jerry Jeff Walker is best known for two songs – his own “Mr. Bojangles”, and “London Homesick Blues” from his terrific, live ¡Viva Terlingua! album (1973). The peculiar detail is that “London Homesick Blues” was written and sung by Gary P. Nunn!
The song is autobiographical and was written while Nunn was on tour in England in a band supporting Michael Murphey. The lyrics are a straightforward description of what Nunn was experiencing while he was in London, squatting on the couch in a flat with four other guys. He has described that it was foggy and rainy all the time, and that the heat in the flat went off from 6 AM to 6 PM every day – difficult surroundings for a boy from south Texas.
Well it’s cold over here and I swear, I wish they’d turn the heat on.
And where in the worldis that English girl, I promised I would meet on the third floor?
And of the whole damn lot, the only friend I got, is a smoke and a cheap guitar.
My mind keeps roamin’, my heart keeps longin’ to be home in a Texas bar.
Then there’s the line everyone remembers and many mistake for the title of the song.
I want to go home with the armadillo.
Nunn thought about making “armadillo” a proper noun in reference to the Armadillo World Headquarters, a large venue in Dallas where he performed with Murphey in 1972. But he didn’t, and even he isn’t sure why.
The way Nunn tells the story, the idea for playing “London Homesick Blues” on ¡Viva Terlingua! was a spontaneous decision. At one of the concerts where the album was recorded in the Lukenbach Dancehall, the atmosphere was electric. The hall was packed to the gills, and everyone was pumped up and having a great time. Walker looked over to Nunn and said, “Do that song you were singing under the trees this afternoon.” The rest is history!
“London Homesick Blues” became the informal state song of Texas. For many years it was played over the closing credits for the PBS program Austin City Limits.
Stealers Wheel is best known for their 1973, Leiber and Stoller produced, one-hit-wonder – “Stuck in the Middle with You.” It was written by Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan and appeared on their debut album. Rafferty went on to greater fame as a solo artist with the evergreen “Baker Street” among other hits.
The band’s next album Ferguslie Park (1973) contained another song that I always enjoy hearing called “Star.” It was penned by Egan and released as a single but only managed its way to #29 on the US singles chart.
Lyrically, “Star” addresses the subject of fame and how public adulation also has a downside – isolation.
So they made you a star, now your head’s in a cloud And you’re walking down the street, with your feet off the ground They read in the press all about your success They believe every word they’ve been told After all you’ve been through, tell me, what will you do When you find yourself out in the cold?
The music blog No Words, No Song summarizes the music:
“Star”, for example, boasts the wonderful poignancy of Joe Egan’s lyrics, alongside a delightful melody. Gerry Rafferty’s voice complements Joe Egan’s perfectly. And the song features a number of unexpected elements for a record made in the midst of the glam rock era — including a mournful harmonica, a kazoo, some woodblocks and an upright piano sounding like something you used to find pushed against a back wall in those clubs which host promising acts on the way up and former superstars on the way down.
“Star” is another example of a great pop song buried on an album that almost no one has heard.