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.
(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.
(Sunday, 7/30/2017) Song 366: La Grange by ZZ Top, written by Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard. You can watch a YouTube video of it here. To quote one of the lines from last week's track, "We'd put on ZZ Top and turn 'em up real loud" and now here we are, visiting a place that would be memorialized in the late 1970s by a Broadway play called The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Around the time that this hit reached its peak in the summer of 1974, I read a Larry King article in Playboy about the place, and realized the connection to this recording, though Billy, Dusty and Frank had to have a prior source for their info, since the cut appears on the Tres Hombres LP that the trio released a year earlier. I liked it from the first time I heard it, but I also thought that it borrowed heavily from a Canned Heat groove. Actually, the boogie blues rhythm that it rides evidently owes its inspiration to much older sides by John Lee Hooker and Slim Harpo, with a failed lawsuit concluding that the rhythm was in public domain by the time ZZ Top put it down. One of my musician friends remarked that the singer on this mix doesn't really sing, to which I replied that I thought he handled the vocal just fine, and I didn't feel the need to nitpick technicalities when listening to it. In fact, I hear it's fine if you got the time.
(Sunday, 7/23/2017) Song 365: Metal Firecracker by Lucinda Williams, who also wrote the song. You can watch a YouTube video of it here. One of my songwriter friends, John Sonntag (who appears on my Spotify playlist Me and My Songwriter Friends), had introduced me to the music of Lucinda Williams back in 1991, so when the Car Wheels on a Gravel Road ride came along in 1998, I hopped on. The CD quickly found a place in my collection, and, unlike some others, it became one that I would always listen to from the beginning to the end. This track paints a very clear picture of a moving relationship, and it's a scene that I easily recognize, having ridden in more than one Metal Firecracker myself. I might not have a clue about the secrets Lucinda told her former lover, but I certainly understand her plea, since I've picked up a few juicy tidbits over the years, and while I can't speak for her old flame, I can assure my own past sweethearts that I won't tell anybody the secrets. I will confide, though, that I share LW's enjoyment of a certain RnR band that she mentions in this cut, and her lyrics provide a clue as to the feature artist for next week's playlist pick.
(Sunday, 7/16/2017) Song 364: Little Bit O' Soul by The Music Explosion, written by John Carter and Ken Lewis. You can watch a YouTube video of it here. 50 years ago, this 45 sailed over the airwaves, peaking in early July. Even with my situation, growing up in a family that didn't approve of the devil's music, which often compelled me to get sneaky with the transistor radio, I still managed to hear this hit quite a bit that summer. On one Saturday, the church youth group did an outing that included some baseball, and as I played the field, I remember one of my teammates humming this cut, and I think we might have also heard it on the car radio during the ride. Ironically, at the time I didn't even know about the existence of soul music, so I picked up a different message from the lyric than what the writers probably meant, plus, given the older generation's disapproval of the music, I might have heard the line make like you wanna kneel and pray as suggesting a sacrilegious undertone, but I had already been playing guitar and writing songs for a year at that point, so I planned to raise the roof with my rock 'n' roll anyway, and 50 years later I plan to continue doing that for as long as I can.
(Sunday, 7/9/2017) Song 363: All Shook Up by Elvis Presley, written by Otis Blackwell and Elvis Presley. You can watch a YouTube video of it here. In my younger years I knew nothing about Mr. Presley, except for Hound Dog, which made him sound like a hick to me, even in light of my interest in old Hank Williams records and other country music that I would spin when visiting my OH relatives and cruising through their C & W collection. It truly surprised me in the fall of 1968 when I got my hands on a copy of the Beatles official biography, reading that The King was the one who had lit the musical spark for each of the Fab Four. In that era, I shared many weekend afternoons with my good friend Ed (the subject of my own song So Long Friend), energized by his Simon and Garfunkel LPs, but I had no idea about his mother's extensive stack of Elvis vinyl, of which I heard not even one sample. When the 50s revival came along in the early 70s, then I started hearing the Presley cuts, which quickly brought me around to an understanding of his place in the original RnR scene. On this hit, he makes itching like a man on a fuzzy tree and actin' wild as a bug with insides shakin' like a leaf sound pretty good, making the listeners wish they could be wearing his shoes when his hands are shaky, his knees are weak and he can't seem to stand on his own two feet. On a side note, having nothing to do with Elvis, you can find a lyric video of So Long Friend by clicking on the title.