(Sunday, 2/14/2016) Song 290: I Was a Loner by Monty Delaney, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video for this song here, and a live video of Monty performing this song and another at the Town Crier here. Seven weeks after my last personal friend song post, this week's track is by my friend Monty Delaney. I met Monty one Thursday night at the songwriters' gathering at Jack Hardy's apartment on Houston Street in Manhattan. His debut in that circle made a distinct impression, and during the era when I frequented that conclave, I heard him sing a number of memorable tunes, including this one, and also "I Was Not a Victim, I Was a Volunteer" which he performs on the Town Crier live video after he plays this song. Today being Valentine's Day, it seemed appropriate to feature Monty's touching love song for his wife, especially in light of the fact that less than 2 weeks ago, his 4th grandchild arrived. I reconnected with Monty on Facebook a couple of years ago, and I truly appreciate the way that social media platform provides a simple and easy way to locate old friends that I haven't had any contact with for a decade or longer, and to share some of the ups and downs of their current lives. I offered my congratulations to Monty on the happy occasion of his grandson's birth, as it adds another layer of meaning to this song that he wrote long ago for the woman who made his family life a reality.
(Sunday, 2/7/2016) Song 289: Let Go by From Good Homes, written by Todd Sheaffer. You can find a YouTube video for this song here. Last week's YT video for Stairway to Heaven had well over 7 million views, and this week's YT video, as of this post, has a bit less than 100. It's only been 6 weeks since my last personal friend song post, so this isn't one of those, but I almost had the chance to meet Todd Sheaffer, who wrote this song, and if I had gotten to meet him, perhaps he might have become a very good friend of mine. Back in the early '90s, Todd came to one of the Thursday night gatherings at Jack Hardy's Houston St. apartment, and he played a couple of songs for Jack before the regular festivities got started, but then he had to leave early. I got the impression that he and Jack knew each other well, and that he may have been a more frequent guest in the era before I started making that scene. Anyway, I knew who he was, having heard him perform with his band From Good Homes at the folkie MacDougal St. club that a bunch of us singer/songwriter types frequented in the late '80s and early '90s. I liked quite a few of the songs on the band's set list, but from the first time I heard it, this track moved me the most. It took a few years before it finally made it to CD, but once it did, I made sure to get a copy, and not long after, I made it the opening cut on a personal favorites CD, around the time when CD burners became an affordable home appliance. One day when I had that personal favorites CD spinning on the player, a friend remarked on how this track reminded him of Satisfaction, with the singer singing "let go" instead of "I can't get no." I could hear the similarity that he was pointing out, but I didn't hear as close a connection as he did, and nothing about that similarity did anything to dampen my satisfaction with this cut, which I continued to enjoy as my 90s Faves 1 CD later gave birth to a playlist that still graces my iPod. While the track doesn't really break any new musical or lyrical ground, it conveys such a quality of perfection, from the lead solo to the basic rocking recorded sound to the clever lyrical turns of phrase, that it feels like this is as good as it gets. I could wish that all of my recordings would sound this good, but that might be a hard dream to hold onto, and I might have to Let Go.
(Sunday, 1/31/2016) Song 288: Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin, written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. You can find a YouTube video for this song here. While I liked a lot of LZ's first 3 LPs, I felt that somehow they hadn't yet painted that musical masterpiece that lurked somewhere in the soul of the band. Then in the late fall of '71 came word about a new Zeppelin record soon to rock the airwaves, and on the day of its official release, I caught the beginning of one of the tracks on my radio that immediately grabbed my attention. The opening riff had a bit of a different sound from their earlier work, but it sounded good, and when Robert Plant's voice came across, I knew it was a cut from the new disc. The track sounded similar to the earlier LPs, but better and clearer, and as the song went on, it continued to build, getting stronger and heavier, in a way that carried the listener along for an unforgettable ride. Instead of following the usual verse to chorus structure of almost every other song in prevailing musical genres, from rock to country to pop to soul, this new track moved linearly, from the mellow folky opening section to the heavy rocking climax, in a way that felt musically consistent, as it fully developed every musical thread on its journey. Soon, everyone was talking about this incredible new Zeppelin song, which, despite its 8-minute length, started conquering not only FM radio but the AM dial as well. Sometimes AM stations would cheat by playing shortened and sped-up versions, but with the smaller playlists that dominated radio in that era, inevitably, it became too much of a good thing. I can remember, about 6 months after the song's release, wondering if I'd ever choose to want to hear it again, given how I couldn't escape hearing it, even in the grocery store or walking down the street. Going on into the late '70s, when I rarely if ever heard it, I would still instinctively turn the dial when those opening chords came out of the speaker, and I cringed if someone started fingering those familiar riffs at a song swap. Fast forward a few decades, and a couple of weeks ago, on a trip to Brooklyn, I inserted into the player a homemade compilation CD that a friend had given me years ago, not knowing what to expect. Track 2 turned out to be Stairway to Heaven, and even though I knew very well the roads that we were winding down, both with the van and with the CD player, the moment brought back much of the fine feelings that this song had inspired 4 decades ago, and I felt like the tune had come to me at last.
(Sunday, 1/24/2016) Song 287: Why Not Me by The Judds, written by Harlan Howard, Sonny Throckmorton and Brent Maher. You can find a YouTube video for this song here. In the mid-'80s, the Judds made a very big splash on the country charts, with a string of songs that sounded good and did well on the radio, and this track, which was the title cut for their first album, grabbed my attention the first time I heard it. I remember checking out an LP cover of the mother and daughter duo, not knowing which one was the younger, and deciding that I found the mother more attractive than the daughter, though they both looked pretty good on that record jacket. During that era, it's possible that I might have been spotted on a stage in the East Bay area playing bass for a country bar pickup band, and if so, a female lead singer might have covered this song, as well as a few others by the Judds. On a side note, this track is a second sly reference to the second verse of my own song As Long as Merle is Still Haggard, which begins with the line Should Patty Loveless when Wynonna, she's Judd fine(?), Wynonna Judd being the daughter in the mother and daughter singing duo. You can find the As Long as Merle is Still Haggard video here. The songwriter's name Harlan Howard may look familiar, as it appears on a bunch of standout country songs, from early classics like I Fall to Pieces, Busted, and Heartaches by the Number, to more recent hits like the Pam Tillis cut Don't Tell Me What to Do (Song 210) which I used as my first sly reference to the opening line of verse one of As Long as Merle is Still Haggard, that line being Now Pam Tillis, the truth now.
(Monday, 1/11/2016) Song 285: Crazy Ones by John Mellencamp, written by John Mellencamp and Randy Handley. You can find a YouTube video for this song here. I remember seeing the ads for JM's new album Whenever We Wanted on the buses in Manhattan in the fall on 1991, and I really liked the cover picture of him playing guitar in an artist's studio surrounded by paintings, with a pretty woman sitting in the studio, looking very much like an artist's model. That graphic gave me a very positive feeling for the CD, and when every track I heard on the radio sounded as good as it did, I soon decided I wanted a copy of that new record. It didn't take too many spins to conclude that, as good as some earlier Mellencamp albums might be, for me, Whenever We Wanted topped them all. This cut, near the middle of the set, really resonated with me, as one of those I could have written that -- I've been there too moments. At the time, I had recently gotten to the end of my second roller-coaster ride from falling for one of the crazy ones, after having taken a similar ride the year before. The 1990 experience inspired the song Thanks a Lot that appeared on the Country Drivin' CD, and the 1991 adventure inspired another song, though I haven't quite found the right context for a recording of that one. Over the last few years, I feel like I've found the answer to John's question, and I would share it with him if I ever had the chance. He's asking the right person when he sings, "Mama, why do I always fall for the crazy ones?" However, his mama may not be able to tell him, but being his mother's son lies at the heart of why "the crazy ones leave me (and him) feeling like this." If JM hasn't figured it out for himself yet, and if he'd like me to fill in the details, I could do it -- he'll just have to send me an email, or maybe connect on Facebook, Twitter or whatever.