It’s too bad Marty Robbins didn’t live long enough to do a Johnny Cash-style Old Musician Mortality-Haunted Comeback Album produced by some relatively young, relatively cool younger artist, featuring weird or unexpected covers, because ever since I thought about it the other night at work, I can’t quit imagining his version of Warren Zevon’s “Carmelita.”
Digging through one of the vast piles of CDs that I will no doubt be crushed beneath one day, I was struck by how visually similar these two covers are. But looking at them now in the clear light of day, I don’t know how convincingly I could make the comparison. But there’s no backing out now, is there?
When I was a kid I was in the Columbia House music club (and the BMG music club, but they tried to screw me out of some money, and I dropped those bastards), and eventually so was my mother—she also joined their movie club, which explains why we had so many godawful movies laying around the house. I think she might have joined exclusively because I was a music nut, and she could buy cheap CDs for me for birthdays and Christmas.
A great thing about Columbia House was that during the holidays they had some pretty sick deals on things like box sets, which is why one year I wound up with my very own copy of Peel Slowly And See, the set that includes the first four Velvet Underground albums. It was, naturally—obviously—a revelation. There is something intensely satisfying when you’re a young person and you find those secret cool things that you know are special, and that set you apart, and that I think is the eternal appeal of Reed and The Velvet Underground.
I wouldn’t even call myself much of a fan, honestly; I think the first two VU albums are great (mainly because of John Cale, who I like a lot more than Lou Reed) but I don’t like the third one or Loaded much at all, and I only have a passing familiarity with Reed’s solo stuff, which I’m not very warm on at all. I don’t ever listen to any of his stuff anymore, not even the Velvet Underground albums. But that’s not the issue. The guy was hugely important, and like a lot of figures that are on his level, it takes their absence to reinforce what they meant to you.
Every now and then, maybe twice a year, I’ll get a weird compulsion to feel some 9/11 grief nostalgia, and I’ll spend a couple of hours pouring over horrifically sad videos and news footage and various other sadness triggers. I’m not sure why I do this, but I have a feeling that other people do it as well.
I hadn’t watched this performance before. I don’t really like the song much, to be honest, but watching Springsteen perform it is an incredible thing. He blows into the harmonica with such force, like a man pushing his breath down another’s stalled throat. At the 1:40 mark, he cries out for his city to rise up as if his own need to undo what has happened will be enough to erase it, to watch the towers uncrumble, to watch the smoke climbing the sky to fall back into itself and vanish, to make everything right.
It was a pretty good show! It began at eight o’clock, and I joked that we would be long gone by nine-thirty, as the Hag would need his rest. As it turns out, I was pretty much exactly correct. Haggard hit the stage after a brief warm-up by his backing band, then plowed through probably twenty songs in a perfectly workmanlike, unshowy fashion. I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting much—Haggard is 76 years old, and for him to even be up on stage performing at all is fairly impressive, so I give the man all the credit he deserves.
Though he’s a big star, and a good songwriter, and a very important figure in country music, I’ve got to say that I’m not really a huge fan of Haggard. I like a handful of his songs a lot, but for the most part, I’m more of an admirer than a true fan. He of course did most of his big hits the night I saw him, including “Okie From Muskogee”, a song that as a teenager I absolutely hated for what I saw as its defense of narrow-minded small towns much like the one I lived in. Which is what the song is, I guess, but as a more mature listener I see it as being more of a character study than anything else. And for what it’s worth, Haggard has at least somewhat backed away from some of the sentiments in the song, calling himself “dumb” for writing it.
This political aspect was what I was most concerned about when attending the concert. I know it sounds crazy, but the average attendee at a Merle Haggard concert isn’t what you might call all that hip and trendy—Patrick, a few days before, had openly wondered if there would be other “cool people like us” at the show—I would imagine that we were perhaps the youngest people there, probably by a generation or so. I would further imagine that out of the 1300 or so people there, I was one of about forty who didn’t vote for Mitt Romney. The cheer that rang out at the line “back when a man could still work/and still would,” in “Are The Good Times Really Over For Good” honestly made me feel a little sick to my stomach. Yeah, a crowd of people who’ve been retired for two decades cheered, that’s what’s wrong with America—people who are too lazy to work!
Having said that I was sort of surprised that he didn’t do “The Fighting Side of Me”, which is his worst song in terms of odious political content (“when you’re runnin down my country, hoss/you’re walking on the fighting side of me”) but possibly my favorite song of his.Do I contradict myself? Very well! I contain multitudes.
The Hag puts on a pretty good show. If you’re near a casino he’s probably there right now. Go see him.
You kind of take Creedence for granted sometimes, but they’re always there for you when you really need ‘em…I was thinking the other day that each member of CCR looks like they all got in a Who Can Get The Worst Haircut contest with each other, but then I saw this photo and thought that, here at least, they were all pretty much on-point, and that I really can’t make fun of those guys, because I haven’t gotten a haircut in months, and my own ragged mop looks like a terrifying combination of any three members of the band, like some kind of gross hair-Voltron.
Ok, well, I guess this has been on the interwebz for a while, but I was listening to the Aquarium Drunkard show on satellite radio, and he played this, and I listened to it five times in a row and am now obsessed with it.
This is Dolly Parton’s Jolene, from a 45 single, played at 33 speed. It changes the song into something incredibly haunting and beautiful, and it changes Dolly’s voice into that of an old man, and it is fucking AMAZING.
I’m a huge fan of the actual version, but this one is just blowing my mind right now.
I used to do this as a kid, only with the 45 of "9 To 5" that was laying around at my grandparents’ house. I always joked that Dolly Parton was clearly a man, and they just sped her voice up. I’m not entirely sure I’m wrong. And once again I am years ahead of the curve.
It’s easy to forget, what with all our modern inventions—Spotify and whatnot—how hard it once was to soundtrack your actions and image. Like, nowadays, if you’re some kind of tough guy or hoodlum, and you’re riding around in your car about to do some crime, it’s pretty easy to put on some menacing, appropriately scary music. But back in the distant past, when all you had to rely on was whatever was on the radio, you had guys like this, riding around in their jalopy, looking to bust heads and steal hubcabs, whipping each other with chains while "Sh-Boom"—and The Crew Cuts version, not even the one by The Chords—plays, all crackly and tinny, completely at odds with the chaos going down in the alley behind the malt shoppe.
Man I love diving into that box of old Rolling Stones I still have laying around. This is from the fall of the year 2000, when somebody decided it would be a good idea to ask Slash—whose Snakepit has a new record, in stores now!—what his interests are. I pity the poor bastard that had to actually compile this list. Harry Thomas, I salute you.