Song 223, Sunday, 11/2/2014 -- Just Another Movie by Timbuk 3, written by Pat MacDonald. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. The weekend before an election seems like a good time to post this song, even though it's not a presidential election, which won't happen for another 2 years. Jeff Larson and his buddy and former neighbor Craig Rigglesford were both big fans of the Greetings from Timbuk 3 LP, and both of them praised it so highly that I felt I had to get to know the record better. In doing so, this song quickly became a favorite, even though initially the social critique about TV replacing reality for the viewers sounded a bit exaggerated to me (it no longer does, and hasn't for a long time). In one section of the song the recording includes what sounds like a TV broadcast, with a moderator asking the question, "Who controls the media?" At the time I first heard the recording, in the mid-80s, the question sounded ridiculous to me, as I naively believed the U.S. media to be too diverse to fall under the control of any one person, or group of people. As a musician, I understood the basic hype factor of the music press, but it never occurred to me that the mainstream press essentially functioned in a similar way. The question from the song resonated in my mind, though, and then one morning in 1993, I began to understand the answer to it. At the time, I listened to a news station every day while going through my morning routine, and so every morning I heard a story about Iraq, as had been the case for years. Then, the day Bill Clinton took the oath of office, I heard no stories about Iraq whatsoever -- suddenly, Iraq was not news. I felt pretty good about that, and I sensed that as long as BC was president, there wouldn't be another Iraq war. During the next 8 years, Iraq would occasionally pop up in the news, but not like it had during the GHWB years. Of course, starting on inauguration day of 2001, Iraq was once again headline news every day, and I sensed that another Iraq war would happen within a year or 2. On 1/20/93, the question in this song started to take on a deeper meaning to me, and I thought about the track quite often as I began to better understand the workings of the U.S. media. Then on 1/20/01, I had a quick reminder about what I had learned 8 years earlier, and with the continued passage of time, the words on this recording make even more sense than they did almost 3 decades ago.
Song 221, Sunday, 10/19/2014 -- Rose of Cimarron by Poco, written by Rusty Young. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. Following last week's song by my friend Jeff Larson is a track which he turned me on to, and which I quickly grew to love. I knew and liked a few Poco tunes, but I didn't know their music as well as Jeff did, and he played this title track to their 1976 album after telling me he thought I'd really like it. I think he might have played most, if not all, of the rest of the LP, but this opening track just amazed me. I heard at least enough of the rest of the album to know I wanted to add it to my collection, but I liked this particular song so much that I might have even bought the record just to have a copy of this Rose for my own. I always enjoy the way the song moves from the first sort-of-normal part into the extended instrumental coda that ends the piece, and I feel that the track perfectly expresses the feeling of traveling through the American desert. I admit, though, that until researching this song today, I didn't know that the Rose of Cimarron was actually a real person -- apparently she was a woman who, during a shootout at the Oklahoma Territory town of Ingles in 1893 between U.S. Deputy Marshals and the Bill Doolin Gang, gave the outlaws some help that ended up being the key to their escape from the lawmen. She did this because her lover was a member of the outlaw gang. Rusty Young read about the Rose while on tour in Oklahoma with Poco, and turned the story into a song, but you don't need to know that story to enjoy the track, though it can add some deeper meaning to the lyric to know about the real Rose of Cimarron.
Song 220, Sunday, 10/12/2014 -- Rain Soaked Cloud by Jeff Larson, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. The YT video visual is just a few stills -- the Close Circle CD cover, Jeff with his guitar, Jeff with Gerry Beckley, and a graphic of radio station WCGR -- but while the video may not give you a whole lot to look at, it does give you one very fine song for the listening. Once again, the playlist gets to a point 7 songs from the last personal friend song post, so this week's tune is by my friend Jeff Larson. The track is also about as new as anything on the playlist, coming from Jeff's July 2014 CD release, so I can't claim to have any historical associations with it, but I have listened to it a lot over the past couple of months. If you haven't heard any of Close Circle yet, this song makes a fine introduction, and will give you a good idea of what the rest of the CD holds in store. Jeff has his America friends backing him up on this one too, by the way -- Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell both do backing vocals, plus Gerry also handles the Wurlitzer and he produced the track. Close Circle has gotten a bunch of very favorable reviews lately. Jeff and I haven't seen much of each other since I moved back to the East Coast in the fall of '88, but recently we hooked up on a morning in Manhattan in early June to share a bite and talk things over, and yes, as it so happened, we carried our umbrellas because the walk from the hotel to the eatery took place under a Rain Soaked Cloud.
Song 219, Sunday, 10/5/2014 -- Feed the Tree by Belly, written by Tanya Donelly. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. While a lot of videos from this era, a couple of decades ago, don't move my meter very much, this one managed to hold my interest for the duration of the track, due to some very skillful editing, even though most of the imagery just shows the band appropriately performing the tune in a forest. Apparently it got plenty of attention when it appeared in early 1993, becoming a smash buzz bin MTV hit and garnering a nomination for Best Alternative Video VMA. I didn't watch MTV at the time, or ever, really, so I heard about this song from my drummer friend John Paul Wasicko, around the time when we began talking about maybe playing some music together, which we would start doing not long after (J.P. played drums on my Country Drivin' CD). I liked not only J.P.'s style of drumming, but also his taste in music, with this song, and the album Star, being a prime example. He told me he was really excited about this new song, along with the rest of the CD, and that I needed to hear it. After he put the CD on, playing this track, it didn't take long for me to feel the buzz, and I had a feeling that I'd probably like the rest of the record as much as he did. I also had a feeling at that moment that soon enough he and I would play some good music together, which I think we did.
Song 218, Tuesday, 9/30/2014 -- Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. This is Johnny Cash's first appearance on this playlist, and it's also my second sly reference to the first verse of my song As Long as Merle is Still Haggard, which opens with the line Now Pam Tillis the truth now, what happened to Johnny's Cash (the Pam Tillis record Don't Tell Me What to Do being the first one, as Song 210). Long before I understood the meaning of rock and roll, I knew or at least recognized a number of country songs, having heard them at the homes of relatives and family friends, and though my family didn't actively listen to any music other than church music, the parents didn't as a rule object to me hearing country tunes, contrary to how they would react as my interest in RnR developed. I don't remember the first time I heard this track, but I got to recognize it well before my teen years, and my father did mention that he had some concerns with his sons learning a song about a man who shot someone just to watch the person die, though Dad didn't turn off the radio or tell us not to listen to the tune. In a much later era, the song popped up on the local hit radio station in the summer before my final year of high school, as an updated and up-tempo live version (actually recorded At Folsom Prison) of a golden oldie that, despite its subject matter, seemed tame compared to the latest new stuff rocking the transistors. Then moving to a much later era again, in the mid-'80s, if I really did play bass in a country bar pick-up band, as the rumor goes, then it's quite possible that I could have been spotted singing lead on this song and guiding the rest of the crew through the changes -- if someone says they saw me do it, they might be telling the truth. On a side note, I feel I should mention that according to the Wickipedia page for this song, while JC did write the piece, apparently he borrowed very heavily from a 1953 track called Crescent City Blues by Gordon Jenkins, to such an extent that in the early 1970s he actually payed Mr. Jenkins a settlement of around $75,000. On a second side note, doing the As Long as Merle is Still Haggard video in 1995, for the Johnny Cash line I wanted to have the Rolling Stone calendar picture of JC hanging nearby and clearly visible in the scene where Herb looks at me and shakes his head, but my friend (engineer and co-producer) David Seitz told me that I could get sued if I didn't get clearance from the photographer who took the shot. A quick phone call informed me that the photographer's permission would cost about $1,000, so you don't see JC's calendar photo in the video, or any other major pictures of those named in the song. I had thought of various ways to include images of country singers in the video, such as flashing some of their album covers in the scene where Keith throws a bunch in the garbage can (and I come back and take them out), but for the final cut, I made sure we didn't include any footage where those covers could be clearly seen, because I didn't feel like asking for trouble, having learned long ago what usually happens when you do. By the way, you can catch the As Long as Merle is Still Haggard video here.