Saturday, April 25, 2009
Thelonious Monster - Sammy Hagar Weekend [purchase]
"Sammy Hagar Weekend" is autobiography, disguised as satire, and wrapped in parody. Bob Forrest wrote it partly about his experience at a September 1978 über-concert in Anaheim, California ("Summer Fest"), featuring Boston, Black Sabbath, Van Halen, and Sammy Hagar. However, the song also functions as a satire of the Heavy Metal Parking Lot culture. The parody comes at the end of the song, when the Monster transforms into a full-on heavy metal band, with pro gear, pro attitude, sweet licks, and slaytanic backward masking. Enjoy ... but kids, know when to say when.
Well, it's a Sammy Hagar weekend,
It's a Sammy Hagar state of mind,
It's a Sammy Hagar weekend,
It's a Sammy Hagar way of life.
We're gonna drink some beer,
Smoke some pot,
Snort some coke,
And then drive ... drive over 55, yeah.
'Cause it's a Sammy Hagar weekend,
It's a big man's day.
We got a Metallica T-shirt,
Got a little tiny baby mustache,
Got a jacked-up Camaro,
We're sittin' in the parking lot at Anaheim Stadium.
And then we drive ... drive over 55.
Cuz it's a Sammy Hagar weekend,
Well, it's a big man's day.
[metalriffic solo to finish]
[descent into chaos > back-masking]
Fraternity of Man: Don‘t Bogart Me
I went back and forth with myself over whether to include this song in this post. Susan settled the issue with her last post. Yes, this is Don’t Bogart That Joint, with its original title. The song is an artifact from the sixties, equating drug use with communal experience. Drugs, love, sex, peace, all were things to be shared. Bogarting was “uncool, man”.
Fraternity of Man would themselves be nothing more than the answer to a trivia question, were it not for the inclusion of Don’t Bogart Me in the soundtrack to Easy Rider. The band had no other notable success of their own, and lasted for only two albums. But in that time, former members of The Mothers of Invention, and future members of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band and Little Feat passed through their ranks. Don’t Bogart Me appears on Fraternity of Man’s self-titled debut, while Lowell George did not become a part of the band until their second album, but George most likely performed the song live with them, prompting his cover of the song later as the leader of Little Feet.
Ramblin‘ Jack Elliott: Cocaine Blues
A quick listen to Cocaine Blues shows no sign of anything being shared. But I cannot think of this song without thinking of Jackson Browne’s cover from his album Running on Empty. In that version, it is clear from the multiple laughing voices at the end, and from the song’s placement on the album, that Browne and his bandmates are sharing some coke during some downtime in a hotel room during a tour. Browne calls the song Cocaine, but it is not the Eric Clapton hit. Rather, Cocaine Blues is a cover of a song by the Reverend Gary Davis. Why then have I chosen Ramblin’ Jack Elliott’s version over the original? I wanted to reflect the feel of the original as much as possible, but the only version I could find by Davis was an old recording with very poor sound quality. This was the cover that I felt best captured the spirit of the original.
Friday, April 24, 2009
"And if you give me: weed, whites, and wine
and you show me a sign
I'll be willin', to be movin'..."
Written in 1970, "Willin' " was a mainstay of Little Feat, the band Lowell George had helped to found in 1970 and was a leading member of until his death on June 29, 1979. The song, John Tobler contends in the liner notes of As Time Goes By. The Very Best of Little Feat (1993), "quickly became a favorite among America’s truckdrivers, many of whom continue to regard it as the anthem of their profession . . . although absurdly it never has been a hit."
In George's lifetime, "Willin' " was recorded in three different versions (though more and more have surfaced). On the band’s debut album, Little Feat (1971), George made do with his own raspy voice and guitar, and the sparse accompaniment of Ry Cooder’s terse steel guitar. On Sailin’ Shoes (1972), the song was done by the whole band, the chorus harmonized by four voices, and the piano solo was added by Bill Payne — "eh bill o' pain," as pronounced by George six years later, on the spectacularly successful live double album, Waiting for Columbus (1978). There, "Willin’" became hymnic, and was followed without interruption by "Don’t Bogart That Joint," another classic tune George had a hand in (he was briefly a member of Fraternity of Man, too).
I just realized/remembered that Don't Bogart That Joint does *not* appear on my Waiting for Columbus CD... and, upon reading the liner notes, discovered this:
The tracks "Don't Bogart That Joint" and "Apolitical Blues" which appear on the double album and cassette have been omitted so as to facilitate a single specially-priced compact disc" - d*mmit!
Hmmm... I just thought of something - wondering if we can have a Truck Driving Songs theme one of these weeks?... :-)
Steely Dan: Kid Charlemagne
Steely Dan, at the height of their powers, had a way of getting the listener to nod their head and tap their feet, without ever noticing the content of the lyrics. Case in point: Kid Charlemagne. Here is one of Steely Dan’s finest grooves, and here too are those jazz harmonies that Becker and Fagan would sneak past the average pop music fan. And here is a song about another “archetypal counterculture icon”, the chemist.
The chemist was the guy who built a home chemistry lab, and created synthetic hallucinogens, most famously LSD. Kid Charlemagne tells the story of the rise and fall of one such chemist. At the peak of his career, “every apron had your number on the wall”. But, all too soon, his fans and customers “joined the human race”, and his career was over. At that point, there was nothing left for him except running from the law.
Sadly, there are some parallels to what has become of Steely Dan. The band broke up after the release of the album Gaucho, and when they regrouped years later, they seemed to no longer have the pulse of the pop music fan. Popular musical styles had moved on in their absence, but I think something else happened as well. The classic Steely Dan albums were musical collaborations between Walter Becker and Donald Fagan, and were produced by Gary Katz. When they reconvened, Becker and Fagan were still there, but Gary Katz was gone. So now, Steely Dan certainly aren’t running from the law, but their name no longer emboldens nearly as many aprons as it once did.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
John Prine: Illegal Smile
John Prine: Illegal Smile (live '97)
Serena Ryder: Illegal Smile
We've posted plenty of Prine here on Star Maker Machine since our inception, but mere popularity is no reason to ignore the potent works of this prolific singer-songwriter.
Illegal Smile grounds itself in the premise of drugs as escape, much like the previously-posted Prine tune Sam Stone; both originally appeared on his debut self-titled album in 1971. But where Sam Stone's Vietnam vet drowns his future and family in morphine, Illegal Smile is a wry, lighthearted poke at the blues, flavored with more half-baked chagrin than true demons.
It's easy to imagine a man turning to happydrugs for a mere cheerful pick-me-up after losing a staring contest with his oatmeal, and chasing a rainbow into a dead end. Easy to defend, too. Listen to the sing-along he recorded 26 years after releasing the original; you can still hear Prine grinning throughout. And Canadian songstress Serena Ryder's laughing in-studio cover never goes dark, either.
Never heard Prine's "other" drug song? For comparison's sake, check out Ted's take on Sam Stone, including an oddball soul take from Swamp Dogg, Prine's original, and a sweet cover from Laura Cantrell.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
k's Choice: Not An Addict
Months ago I posted another song (link no longer available, sorry) by the Belgian sister-brother fronted rock band k's Choice. "Not An Addict" is their single from that same album, and the song that got me into them when I heard it played on the local alternative rock station back in 1997.
The song is a passionate first person song about addiction denial. It takes on the "coolness" of drug culture by taking that first person approach so that you're hearing what it sounds like to hear someone talk about how other people may have addictions, but they don't because they only do it because it feels good and makes them more creative. It's a beautifully powerful rock ballad.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen: Down to Seeds & Stems Again Blues (live)
Gotta love the blues: Memphis... Talkin' Seattle Grunge Rock... Statesboro... Me and the Devil... Subterranean Homesick... Folsom Prison... Summertime... Bell Bottom... Steamroller...
Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen take the blues to a whole new low... or high, depending on one's perspective...
The finance company dropped by today and repossessed my home
That's just a drop in the bucket compared to losing you
And I'm down to seeds and stems again, too
Monday, April 20, 2009
New Riders of the Purple Sage: Henry
Do they still use the term “counterculture”?
At some point, in academia, and soon after in the press, someone decided that it was undignified to write about “hippies”. So they came up with the term counterculture. You could read about things like “archetypal countercultural icons”. But, in plain language, surely the dope runner was one of these. This heroic soul dodged narcs and border agents to bring high quality weed from Mexico to the masses. He braved treacherous roads and uncertain weather in his noble quest. And he did all of this after liberally sampling his wares to assure quality.
New Riders of the Purple Sage came up with the best celebration of the noble dope runner I have ever heard. New Riders, or NRPS, as they were known in their heyday, came to modest fame by opening for the Grateful Dead. Perhaps their talent could have carried them farther if they had not been in the Dead’s shadow; certainly, they sang better. But Jerry Garcia in particular championed them, and so they became known as a sort of “Dead lite”. To my ears, they fit right in with the country rock of the mid-70s, and they might have been better off had they been marketed as such.
Henry comes from New Riders’ first album. The vinyl version of the album had a 30 second bit of weirdness on it called House of Wax. As far as I can tell, House of Wax never appeared on any CD version of the album. If anybody has an mp3 of this, please get in touch; I’d love to have it. Thanks.
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Codine
In 1963, Canadian Cree folksinger Buffy Sainte-Marie became addicted to codeine while recovering from throat surgery. The song she produced from that experience may put the shakes of withdrawal in the voice of a male protagonist, but the avid, apt description of the enslavement and relief the drug produces are a roadmap to her own recovery, and fair warning for a nation of sixties countercultural folkfans playing with chemical fire as they tested the limits of their minds and bodies.
I find much of Buffy Sainte-Marie's music overwrought, but this is a perfect match of subject and slow, raw soul-baring folk blues. No wonder Codine would go on to become one of Sainte-Marie's most covered songs, picked up by the likes of Donovan, Gram Parsons, and the Quicksilver Messenger Service. Here's an early, oddly poppy example from the psycho'lectric end of the spectrum:
The Charlatans: Codine
Sunday, April 19, 2009
James Booker : Junco Partner
Drug songs are older than the music industry. Leadbelly sang Take A Whiff On Me when he was recorded for the first time by John Lomax in Angola in 1933.
In Mexico, of course, they've got La Cucaracha. A great idea for a post by the way, and it goes back to 1818.
And In New Orleans, of course, they've got Junco Partner. It's the first song that came to my mind when I heard about this week's theme.
The first version, Junker Blues, by Champion Jack Dupree (1940) is probably the most explicit lyrically.
The song was brillantly covered by Dr John, Professor Longhair, The Clash, among others, but my favorite rendition is this live solo performance by James Booker from 1976. The lyrics are reduced to a few stanzas, but the essential is said.
I want a whiskey, when i'm thirsty
I want a little water when I'm dry
I want my lover when I'm lonely
And just a little heroin just before I die
And gimme a little cocaine baby on the side
And Booker knows what he's talking about when singing that line about time in Angola : that's exactly what he did for a year in 1967, for possession...
There's nothing sad, nothing plaintive, nothing gloomy in this drug song. It's not a suicidal trip à la Cobain. It's just about burning life while we can.
And Booker's piano playing is just fantastic. What an incredible left hand! There's a legend which says that Rubinstein met Booker when he was 18, heard him playing and said "I could never play THAT, not at that tempo!".
Posted by Nicolas at 5:22 PM
Todd Snider: America's Favorite Pastime
Claim: Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis hurled a no-hitter while under the influence of LSD.
The rest of the story can be found here...
As noted above, the song appears and can be purchased now on The Homerun EP, featuring various artists performing "five songs to get you back in the baseball spirit"... and the tale is also immortalized on Todd's soon-to-be released (June 9) CD, The Excitement Plan, available for pre-order - in his words, this song "combines the use of hallucenogenic drugs with athleticism, which I wish people would do more in folk music"...