(Sunday, 5/7/2017) Song 354: Foreplay/Long Time by Boston, written by Thom Scholz. You can find a YouTube video of it here. After walkin' 2 weeks ago and riding a railroad last week, this week's cut aims to Sail on, on a distant highway. Boston's debut LP arrived near the end of summer in 1976, and it marked a rare high point in a largely lackluster era for RnR. Although I understood those who critiqued the album's songwriting as somewhat tame, I liked the record a lot, and I also agreed with those who remarked on the disk's exceptional sound, which came courtesy of band leader Scholz's phenomenal production skills that he had worked long and hard to acquire. I had just begun my own first foray into 16-track recording, and those initial attempts only made me respect Mr. Scholz's work all the more. Sadly, Boston lead singer Brad Delp committed suicide a little over 10 years ago, in March of 2007, but while It's been such a long time since he exited, we the audience won't forget about him any time soon, despite the words he sang here that predicted he would be forgotten after he was gone.
(Sunday, 4/30/2017) Song 353: California Rail by Jeff Larson, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Seven weeks after my last post by a personal friend, and after walkin' last week, this week takes a different track that comes from my good friend Jeff Larson. Back around the time he wrote this one, Jeff rode that California Rail a few times on his way to meet up with the woman who he would soon marry, so she provided the main inspiration for him writing this piece, but I believe I can still take a small portion of the credit, because I had already written my own bunch of train ramblings which I shared with him on our get-togethers, plus I had spoken with him about my fondness for trains (and train songs, such as the Hank Williams record Lonesome Whistle from 2 weeks ago) so I think I might have influenced him to also take a musical journey along a railroad line. Mixed in with his trademark tasty acoustic guitar sound, Jeff stirs some lively harmonica and banjo into the locomotion, and while he cautions that the trip might include maybe sun, maybe rain, maybe hail, I would bet that you'll enjoy the ride, and after all, it's California, so how bad could it be?
(Sunday, 4/23/2017) Song 352: These Boots Are Made for Walkin' by Nancy Sinatra, written by Lee Hazlewood. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Frank's daughter took this cut to the top of the charts 51 years ago, in the winter of 1966, and no matter how many times I've heard it, the track always makes me smile. Reviewers in that long-ago era criticized Nancy for not exhibiting the vocal ability that her father conveyed, but what she communicates on this single grabs me in a way that none of Frank's records ever did, and I feel it even stronger when I watch her saucy lip-syncing performance in the song video. Fast-forwarding to the present day, the words here can take on an even stronger punch when pointed at a certain prominent political figure who keeps lyin' when he oughta be truthin', keeps losin' when he oughta not bet, and so on, because what's right is right and he ain't been right yet. I probably don't have to name the obvious source of the current glut of trumpery, but he sure has made lots of people feel like it's time to Start walkin'!
(Sunday, 4/16/2017) Song 351: (I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle by Hank Williams, written by Hank Williams and Jimmie Davis. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Before the Beatles rocked my world, I knew nothing about RnR, but I heard plenty of country music on the family summer visits to Ohio relatives, so I got to know Hank Williams quite well. On those hot summer nights when we could hear the B & O railroad crews switching freight cars just a couple of blocks away, this cut seemed to fit the moment better than any other, and I soon learned it well enough to sing along. After only 2 or 3 nights of hearing the local freight car switching moves, I quickly realized that no matter how loud they became, they rarely if ever interrupted my sleep or kept me awake, but rather, I found those sounds relaxing enough to put me to sleep, just as the sound of lonesome whistles on the train line that ran nearby the family home would do. Even though at the time, I too was Just a kid acting smart, I didn't have a darling's heart to break, and I guess I was too young to know how that might feel, but Hank's song seemed to echo in my soul, as if I had always known it, probably because I had been hearing that lonesome whistle since before I could even walk or talk.
(Sunday, 4/9/2017) Song 350: Magic Be by Captain Beefheart, written by Don Van Vliet, Jan Van Vliet and Andy DiMartino. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Walking outside without needing a jacket on a sunny early April day less than 4 weeks after a record-setting blizzard can certainly make a walker feel that magic be in sunshine. Ironically, the musicians who made the magic on this cut did not feel very enchanted by it, or any of the other tracks on Unconditionally Guaranteed, and even the Captain disavowed the LP less than a year after its release. Despite what Don Van Vliet and his crew felt about the record, I always liked it, I have listened to it a lot, and this marks the 3rd UG song to make the list, following Sugar Bowl (Song 148) and Upon the My-O-My (Song 265). While the music makers in this case did not believe in their own sorcery, to me, the disk easily lives up to the claim on the jacket of being 100% Pure and Good, and it provides ample proof that magic be. Give it a listen and maybe you too will find it spellbinding.
(Sunday, 4/2/2017) Song 349: Don't Let the Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man) by The Serendipity Singers. You can find a YouTube video of it here. The large amounts of snow that fell a few weeks ago are now almost gone, thanks to warmer temperatures and rain, though a few scattered patches of white stuff remain, so now time has come for those April showers. Just as Beatlemania arrived in the winter of 1964, opening the door for the rest of the British Invasion, this traditional song by a large American folk group also popped up on the airwaves and got my attention just as much as the English RnR. I never tired of the way the 9 singers delivered the understated humor of the lyrics, and while a crooked cat and a crooked mouse might live together in a crooked house, I wouldn't recommend buying crooked nails and a crooked little bat to try to fix a roof with a rat-tat-tat-tat-tat, especially with April showers on the way.
(Sunday, 3/26/2017) Song 348: One Way Out by The Allman Brothers Band, written by Elmore James, Marshall Sehorn and Sonny Boy Williamson II. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Following last week's post of a Chuck Berry song to honor him a day after he died, I chose this week's Allman Brothers track as a way to honor drummer Butch Trucks, who sadly took his own life in late January of this year at the age of 69. When I got on a plane in Chicago on June 10, 1971, I don't think any of my RnR friends knew anything about the Allman Brothers Band, nor did I, but within days of landing in Atlanta, I was hearing their music a lot, and hearing about them quite a lot. In the middle of that summer, their live LP At the Fillmore hit the airwaves, and justifiably made such a splash that by the time I returned to Chicago in September my RnR friends there also knew all about the Allmans. Following Duane's tragic death in late October, many of us wondered about the band's future, but then in February they released a double album that showcased them at their peak. This cut opened side 3 on a very strong rocking note, and made it quite clear just what a talent the RnR world lost on the day Duane died. Now, in early 2017, the RnR world has lost another of the talented crew that created this magical brew, which they recorded live in front of a packed house back in June of 1971. We may never know why Butch Trucks decided to head for the exit, but though he took the One Way Out, gone he is, but he should not be forgotten, and this track is but one of many musical reasons why his memory should live on.
(Sunday, 3/19/2017) Song 347: Rock and Roll Music by Chuck Berry, who also wrote it. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Only 11 weeks ago, when I posted my second Chuck Berry track on this list, I did not expect to be posting another so soon, but following his death yesterday at age 90, I feel the need to commemorate the man as one of the major pioneers of Rock and Roll Music. Back when the Beatles first rocked my world in February of 1964, I knew nothing of the 1950s rockers, and I thought the Fab Four had invented RnR. It took a while before I clearly understood that 2 of my favorite Beatles recordings -- Roll Over Beethoven (Song 236) and this song -- had actually been written by an American musician I knew nothing about. Then, it wasn't until I had finished my regular School Days, a bit after the turn of the 1970s, that I came to understand Chuck Berry's pivotal role in the birth of the musical style that had captivated me. With a sort of 1950s revival happening on rock radio, I got to hear the classic golden oldies, and a Rolling Stone subscription filled in the details, to the point where it surprised me when a blues booking agent I knew told me that his girlfriend didn't know who Chuck Berry was. Having realized Berry's significance, I found it strange that someone with an interest in the music didn't know about him. I would guess that these days most RnR fans recognize the value of Berry's contributions to the form, and personally, I plan to honor his legacy by following his advice to keep on rocking that piano. Sure thing, Chuck! I'm glad to do it. It's got to be Rock and Roll Music!