What's my favorite song? That's a tough question, and this playlist is my answer. I don't know that I could ever pick just one song. These are the cuts that I listen to, and that mean something to me. I have lots of memories and stories tied up with them, and I share a portion of those tales on this list. Surely you will recognize some of the tracks here, but probably you'll find some that you don't, and hopefully I can help you discover some good music. You might notice that some numbers are missing, including number 1, and that's because the linked videos are no longer available, so those songs have been removed from the list.
(Monday, 12/11/2017) Song 385: I Fall to Pieces by Patsy Cline, written by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Though this single topped the country charts in August of 1961, I first heard it the following summer, as our family visits to OH relatives changed from yearly trips in the 1950s to even-numbered-year excursions in the 1960s. Aunt Mary and Uncle Dick had an extensive country music stockpile, and during our stays I had total access to it. This track graced a greatest hits collection that soon became a favorite, so that by the time we headed back towards the east, I had it memorized. On our repeat journeys 2, 4, and 6 years later, I often had the LP spinning on the turntable while I sang along. Sadly, I did not know that between the time I first enjoyed this cut and my further enjoyment 2 years later, Patsy had actually literally fallen to pieces in an unfortunate airplane crash, though if I had known that, it would have only increased my appreciation of her recordings. On a side note, the songwriter name Harlan Howard has appeared on this list a couple of times before (Don't Tell Me What to Do by Pam Tillis as Song 210 and Why Not Me by The Judds as Song 287) and will surely appear again, when I get around to posting Johnny Cash's Busted, Buck Owens' Tiger By The Tail and a few others. He earned my respect as a songwriter a long time ago, and the more I learn about his career, the bigger the nod I'd like to give him.
(Sunday, 12/3/2017) Song 384: Coyote by Joni Mitchell, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of it here. I became a big Joni Mitchell fan around the time For the Roses came along in 1972, to such an extent that I titled one of my songs For the Flowers thanks to her inspiration, and by the time Hejira came along 4 years later, I quickly added it to my collection, which already included all of her other LPs. On this cut, which opens the album, she identifies herself as a prisoner of the white line on the freeway and a hitcher, which exactly matched my own songwriting lyrical self-image, so she had me hooked with this one before she got to the end of it. I could easily imagine the two of us riding thumb together, and I even wrote a love song to her (maybe more on that one day), but of course, if we had hitched as a couple, a Coyote driving by probably wouldn't have stopped to pick anyone up. On a random side note, this lyric was the first I had ever heard about the Bay of Fundy, and in that long-ago era before the internet, I don't recall how I did the research on it, but in doing so, I learned that it has the highest tidal range in the world, so listening to Joni widened my knowledge of the world as well as resonating with my traveling spirit.
(Sunday, 11/26/2017) Song 383: I Hear You Knocking by Fats Domino, written by Dave Bartholomew. You can find a YouTube video of it here. This week's playlist pick pays tribute to another 1950s RnR icon who died recently, in late October. Up to and through my HS years I knew almost nothing about the 1950s rockers, believing that the Fab 4 had invented the form. Not long after I began my college career, the early 1970s brought a revival of that first generation music, including this cut, which got my attention. While I soon came to understand how Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard and others had figured into the picture, I didn't know how big a role Fats had played until near the end of the decade, when my Oakland housemate Doug filled me in on Mr. Domino, thereby vastly increasing my appreciation of his contributions. On a strange side note, I only learned today that Fats had lived in New Orleans at the time Hurricane Katrina hit back in August of 2005, and, as I'm currently working on a studio version of Blackwater Boys, I now realize that he may have been one of those I was addressing when I wrote about when that rising water came so fast you couldn't get away you climbed up on your roof and then you had to wait. You can check out a rough cut YouTube video of Blackwater Boys just by clicking on the title. Fats died on October 24 from natural causes at the age of 89, and may his musical soul rest in peace, knowing he left behind a generous helping of his creativity.
(Sunday, 11/19/2017) Song 382: Downtown by Petula Clark, written by Tony Hatch. You can find a YouTube video of it here. On the week that includes the biggest retail day of the year, AKA Black Friday, this 1960s shopping anthem seems fitting. When the single came along at the beginning of my teenage years, people usually went Downtown to do their shopping, although perhaps a modernized version would carry the title At (or To) the Mall. When I heard it back then, I knew exactly which 3-block stretch to picture, and I certainly would have enjoyed the chance to Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty (or at least once were). I didn't often get the opportunity to listen to the music of the traffic in the city, though, or take in all the noise and the hurry, because I didn't have much change in my pocket, and my family couldn't contribute much either, so even if Petula had graced the scene, she probably wouldn't have seen me there, but yet, listening to her singing could, at that moment, help me to forget all my cares, and it sometimes still can.
(Sunday, 11/12/2017) Song 381: Life is Hard Enough by Terry Kitchen, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of it here. As Dave says . . . Seven weeks after my last personal friend song post, this track comes from my good friend Terry Kitchen, as a live performance of a cut from his 2006 CD Heaven Here on Earth. I will admit that I don't recall hearing it before today. Terry sent me a message about a new YT video where he covers an old favorite called Nature's Way (originally done by Spirit, and sure to be featured on this playlist one day soon). After enjoying that video, I clicked on the link to this one, and I really liked what I heard. While the song has been around for over a decade, it seems to fit the present moment quite well. The currently-ascendent conservative political narrative emphasizes selfishness, competitiveness, and a supposedly-innate war-like characteristic of our species, but a more scientific analysis of human nature and history comes to a completely opposite conclusion that humans largely have succeeded through cooperation, or, as Terry would put it, We are all strong enough to help each other through. Today you might need me, tomorrow I'll need you.
(Sunday, 11/5/2017) Song 380: Yankee Lady by Jesse Winchester, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of it here. At the turn of the 1970s, the solo singer/songwriter era unfolded, with acoustic-guitar-wielding types like James Taylor, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell getting a lot of attention. Jesse Winchester, with an eponymous debut LP produced by The Band's Robbie Robertson, might have had a similar shot at the spotlight, but perhaps because of his inability to tour the U.S. due to his status as a Vietnam War draft dodger residing in Canada, he never got the acclaim that those other artists did. I liked what I heard from that first album, though, and I made sure to add it to my collection, soon learning to play this tune, as well as a couple of other cuts from the record. Like Jesse, I too have taken An autumn walk on a country road With a million flaming trees and these days, I understand feeling a little uneasy when there's a winter chill in the breeze, which I have felt once or twice lately. I will also confess to finding inspiration in Jesse's last verse here, where he speaks of seeing himself as a stranger by his birth. I used that as the basis for the lyric of my song Waylaid the Stranger, and you can find a YT video of that by clicking on the title.
(Sunday, 10/29/2017) Song 379: Learning the Game by Buddy Holly, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of it here. From the moment the Beatles rocked my world in February of 1964, I believed the Fab Four had invented RnR, and I knew almost nothing about the 1950s pioneers until I began my college era in the fall of 1969. Not long after, a 1950s revival began on the radio, and that, along with a subscription to Rolling Stone, quickly acquainted me with some very significant talents, including this guy in the glasses. By the time The Buddy Holly Story hit the screen in 1978, I had come to understand what the music world had lost to a plane crash on The Day the Music Died in February of 1959, though at the time it happened, I had no idea what had occurred. I added a BH compilation LP to my collection in the mid-1970s, and it truly impressed me to recognize how much good music Buddy had laid down in such a short career. If the comment on the linked YT video is correct, this track (which did not appear on my BH album) was actually the last one Holly did. I wouldn't even know about the tune until later, in the 1980s, when one of my Berkeley musician friends taught it to me, and we then regularly played and sang it together. During that stretch, learning the song, I felt like I was also learning the game, but when I found that I was not the one she's thinking of, I couldn't really blame her, because she had never said I was the only one she'll ever love.
(Sunday, 10/22/2017) Song 378: Season of the Witch by Donovan, written by Donovan and Shawn Phillips. You can find a YouTube video of it here. With Halloween a little more than a week away, it seems like a good time to post this track. I must have had a friend who owned Sunshine Superman because I did know the record during my HS years, but I didn't hear it that often, so I didn't get to know it well until I started my own LP collection when I began my college era. Once I had the disc, it became a regular spinner on my turntable, and while I enjoyed side 1, I preferred side 2, starting as it did with this cut, followed by The Trip (Song 270). I quickly figured out how to play the tune, and would sometimes share it with fellow players in guitar circles at parties and campfire gatherings. Looking back, I can now see how this song and The Trip both influenced my composition Under the Table (and you can find a lyric video of that on YouTube by clicking on the title). During my time in Oakland, CA, my housemate Doug told me a story about how another musician claimed that Sunshine Superman's producer Mickie Most stole Season of the Witch from him and gave it to Donovan, but at this point, I don't remember any of the details, such as who that other songwriter might have been, or if there might have been any reason to believe the story, so while this track reminds us that we've got to pick up every stitch, I don't think I could say who that other cat looking over his shoulder at me might be.
(Sunday, 10/15/2017) Song 377: Sundown by Rank and File, written by Chip Kinman and Tony Kinman. You can watch a YouTube video of it here. With the days getting shorter at this time of year, Sundown comes along sooner every day, so this song seems appropriate for the season. It's the title track for the first Rank and File LP, which appeared in 1982. During that stretch, my good friend Eddie Spitzer started his own guitar store in the back of a record shop on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley, and so of course, I visited him there a number of times. In so doing, I caught some music that I might not have otherwise, including the R+F debut disc, and some of what I heard didn't move me at all, but the Kinman brothers quickly did get my attention, and my investment in a copy of their album. While I still haven't figured out all the words on this tune, and they're not yet available on any internet lyric pages, I can clearly hear a couple of lines close to the end which seem to fit the second half of October pretty well, and so I guess we can Let the ghosts come around, and perhaps, if I look (and listen) closely, I can see them now. On a side note, I recently reconnected with Eddie, who now runs a business selling guitars to wholesalers online, and he's got some pretty good stuff which you can find at spitzco.com.
(Sunday, 10/8/2017) Song 376: Magnolia by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, written by Tom Petty. You can watch a YouTube video of it here. This week's playlist track pays tribute to an RnR icon who died on Monday (10/2). While I haven't seen all that many concerts in my life, I have actually had the good fortune of seeing Tom Petty 3 times. First, on the Friday evening of 12/1/77, for the bargain price of $3, I caught him and his band as the opening act for Elvis Costello in Chicago, although, as I remember it, EC, who headlined the show, also did his set first. At the time, I knew nothing about TP, but I liked his performance even better than Costello's, though I certainly appreciated Mr. Elvis as well. Then, less than a year later, in the early fall of 1978, having hitched across the country and resettled in Oakland, CA, I did a hitch down to Santa Cruz one day, and a woman who gave me a lift in that area, and who lived near SC, told me about the new Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers LP You're Gonna Get It (which included this cut) and before she played it for me, she said, "You're gonna like it." She was quite right about that, and as much as I have relished all of the band's other recordings, YGGI still tops the list. In July of 1985 I had the good fortune of seeing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers once again, this time at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, with Lone Justice as the opening act (see Song 193). and then, less than a year later, in June of 1986, I had a very good seat in that same venue to enjoy a performance by Tom Petty and Bob Dylan together. I will cherish these memories even more, now that Tom is no longer out there somewhere in the world, and, like so many of his other fans, I will remember him.
(Sunday, 10/1/2017) Song 375: Political Science (Let's Drop the Big One Now) by Randy Newman, who also wrote the song. You can watch a YouTube video of it here. In the early 1970s, Rolling Stone carried a number of articles talking about what an essential songwriter Randy Newman was, and how people needed to pay attention to him. Back then, still catching up on the music I already knew and wanted to add to my collection, I let Sail Away (which included this cut) slide by when it came along in 1972. When Good Old Boys started making some noise 2 years later, though, I did get a copy of that, and it sounded so good that I soon picked up on Randy's other works as well. During that stretch, this track provided an amusing commentary on the small-minded jingoistic rhetoric that might occasionally pop out of the mouths of quirky strangers in random public settings, but I did not expect that 4 decades later, a major TV news host would make this same kind of stupid and short-sighted suggestion. I sincerely hope, for the sake of our species, and all other higher life forms on this planet, that these fools never have even half a chance to Drop the Big One. From my earliest years, the nuclear nightmare has at times disturbed my dreams, and I have my own recording about that, called Dream Revelations.
(Sunday, 9/24/2017) Song 374: Everybody Woke Up Green by Joe Canzano, who also wrote the song. You can watch a YouTube video of it here. 7 weeks after my last personal friend song post, this week's track comes courtesy of my good friend Joe Canzano. The first time I heard Joe perform this tune, in the early 1990s, it became an instant favorite, and on the night when he showed up at the Jack Hardy songwriter gathering on Houston St., I suggested that he use it as his calling card, which he did. As much as I always enjoyed the deft commentary on racism and other ethnic phobias embodied in this recording's lyrics, the current political environment has highlighted their meaning to a degree I could not have imagined 2 decades ago. Given recent racist episodes in Ferguson and other similar events across the country, the line about cops out in Loa Angeles might sound odd at first, but if you recall the Rodney King riots of 1992, then you understand that while the bad news has lately come from other places, L.A. certainly earned its reference in the words here. I savor the science-fiction vision of a world where everyone's skin has turned green, and the folks at Breitbart etc. would plead for a new method to determine who we're supposed to hate. To give Joe the last word, truly, there is no proper color to cover ignorance.
(Sunday, 9/17/2017) Song 373: A Summer Song by Chad and Jeremy, written by Chad Stuart, Clive Metcalfe and Keith Noble. You can watch a YouTube video of it here. For the last post before autumn officially begins, I wanted to add A Summer Song onto the playlist. This hit actually came along in the early fall of 1964, 8 months after the Beatles had rocked my world, with Chad and Jeremy creating their own kind of magic noise as part of the British Invasion that the Fab Four had launched. My good friend Ed (the subject of my tune So Long Friend) enjoyed the music of this duo as much as I did, and he at some point acquired the Yesterday's Gone LP that contained this cut, which meant that I got to savor its catchy melody and wistful lyrics many times during my teenage years. Soon enough, autumn leave must fall, (in my area they already started coming down, even though the fall doesn't formally arrive until later this week), and the good things of summer will end, but when the rain beats against my window pane, this record can offer some comfort, and serve as a reminder to think of summer days again. On a side note, you can watch a YouTube lyric video of my track So Long Friend just by clicking on the title.
(Sunday, 9/10/2017) Song 372: London Calling by The Clash, written by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones. You can watch a YouTube video of it here. With Hurricane Irma hitting the coast of FL, threatening nuclear facilities there, this track about the hazards of a nuclear meltdown seems to fit the current moment. My initial impression of the British punk bands was that the press about them made them sound a lot cooler than their actual records did, but when this single came along near the end of 1979, I definitely liked what I heard. I had started to make the anti-nuke rally scene, and in addition, I had written a tune about Three Mile Island called Wind Whistle, but in that long-ago era before azlyrics.com and musixmatch.com, not knowing all of the lines on this cut, I picked up more of an anti-nuclear war message, without realizing that the words could also refer to nuclear power plant troubles. I sincerely hope that A nuclear error does not occur in FL due to Irma (or anything else), but that very possibility should serve as a reminder of the dangers that nuclear power plants can pose, and the fact that everyone will be better off when all such facilities are retired, and that we should not build any more of them. On that note, you can watch a YouTube lyric video of my song Wind Whistle just by clicking on the title.
(Sunday, 9/3/2017) Song 371: Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford, written by Merle Travis. You can watch a YouTube video of it here. It seems appropriate, in honor of Labor Day, to post a work song, and I learned this golden oldie at quite a young age, though when I first heard it, on a TV show in the early 1960s, it had already been around for a few years. It also appeared among my Ohio relatives' extensive country collection, so during our even-numbered-year summer visits there in that decade, I would usually include this record as part of my listening fun, with my aunt and uncle letting me choose the discs I wanted to spin. While my father didn't work in a coal mine, what he got from his full-time job was also another day older and deeper in debt, which is a line that came from a letter written to the songwriter by his brother. It was their father, a coal miner, who said to them, "I can't afford to die. I owe my soul to the company store." All too often in our history, a group of wealthy greed-heads have succeeded in dividing and conquering the working class, through techniques such as segregation, racism and xenophobia, to keep the workers from uniting in large-enough numbers to demand and receive a living wage. Until laborers get beyond such divisions, most of them will continue to owe their souls to the company store.
(Sunday, 8/27/2017) Song 370: San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers In Your Hair) by Scott McKenzie, written by John Phillips. You can watch a YouTube video of it here. When this song came along in the late spring 50 years ago, I was already a big fan of Papa John's songwriting, having gotten hooked a year earlier on the music of The Mamas and The Papas, but I had no idea about the community that had gravitated to the Haight-Ashbury district, so I really liked the record the first time I heard it, but it took a while for me to get the message. Growing up in a conservative and fundamentalist religious home, I didn't necessarily connect with the hippie counterculture, as much as I did with the music, but by 3 years later, having lived nearly a year outside of the family circle after graduating HS, I had fully plugged in with hippiedom and the peace bohemians. This year, on the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, one of those peace types defused and ultimately entirely deflated a scheduled neo-Nazi rally in San Francisco. The gathering was due to happen yesterday, August 26, but, unlike Charlottesville, where antifas met nNs with serious signs and protests, and serious injury and death ensued, in SF, an artist named Tuffy Tuffington created a Facebook event page that recommended greeting the nN assembly with flowers for their hair, and a carpet of dog poop. Tuffy's inspired hilarity quickly galvanized an opposition force that included clowns, kayakers and kids, and the Flowers Against Fascism actually succeeded in getting the alt-righters to cancel their gig. Kudos to Mr. Tuffington for putting the Turd Reich into context, using humor to defuse the fascist absurdity, which is, I think, the best and most effective way to face neo-Nazis.
(Monday, 8/21/2017) Song 369: It's a Little Too Late by Tanya Tucker, written by Roger Murrah and Pat Terry. You can watch a YouTube video of it here. After last week's post in honor of Glen Campbell, who recently died, Tanya seemed like an appropriate follow-up, in light of their famous love affair. For the first 2 decades of her career, I knew very little about TT, aside from her dalliance with Campbell, so when this record came rocking along in 1992 courtesy of country radio, it surprised me, and immediately got my attention. In addition to the clever lyrics about romantic entanglement, I also really liked the drummer's wild and frenzied accompaniment, which perfectly compliments the words Tanya sings. Having been more than once in that same spot where I was too far gone to turn this heart around, I'd say that Tucker and her backup players nailed it. On a side note, this track is a final sly reference to the second verse of my own song As Long as Merle is Still Haggard, which ends with the line but after what Holly Dunn (see Song 357) you should have Tanya Tucker up. Appropriately enough, the late Mr. Haggard was also someone who had hooked up with TT, and you can find the video for my tribute to him by clicking on the title.
(Sunday, 8/13/2017) Song 368: Gentle on My Mind by Glen Campbell, written by John Hartford. You can watch a YouTube video of it here. This week's post pays tribute to a very talented singer and guitarist who died last Tuesday after an extended struggle with Alzheimer's disease. I thought this 45 sounded really good when I first starting hearing it in the early summer of 1967, and when I saw Glen perform it on TV, I thought it sounded even better. I liked the way he included a banjo in the mix, which didn't happen much at the time. The character sketched in the lyrics here helped to shape the image that I outlined in The Wanderer when I wrote that a couple of year later, in the fall of 1969, and then the following summer, as I was seeking to define my own original artistic and musical persona, I decided to learn to play and sing this tune. In so doing, I made a melodic mistake that inspired a new piece which I called Country Highway when I completed it a few days later. While I thought highly of Glen during the era when he did this record and a bunch of other memorable cuts, only in recent years did I learn of his earlier career when he performed as Brian Wilson's stand-in on a Beach Boys tour, and also recorded guitar parts for Pet Sounds and other BB discs, which increased my respect for his artistry. While GC has left the land of the living, the magic moments he created will without a doubt keep him in the backroads by the rivers of my memory, and maybe yours too.
(Sunday, 8/6/2017) Song 367: The Cruel Lullaby by Carol Denney, who also wrote the song. You can watch a YouTube video of it here. As usual, seven weeks after my previous personal friend song post which featured Bob Nichols comes one by Carol. Bob, Carol and I were all members of a Berkeley songwriting circle back in the 1980s, but sadly, Bob died in November of 2005. Checking out Carol's website today, I noticed that she has a short story inspired by Bob's generosity to the Berkeley homeless, which you can find here. This cut is the title track from Carol's second CD, which she released in 2002, and a few years ago she performed it live at Viracocha in San Francisco, in front of a video camera. Her performance begins with an entertaining explanation of the song's inspiration, which evidently occurred when she found herself at a Berkeley potluck seated between 2 Buddhists who discussed their views on life after death. Following that experience, Carol crafted a lullaby meant to convey to a young child the cruel reality of life and death that she sees, cutting through the sort of comforting fantasies that she heard at the potluck, and giving a youngster the real story, which is one a child might not want to hear. The audience at Viracocha most certainly did enjoy hearing this lullaby, though, and their laughter throughout the performance makes that quite clear.