Showing posts with label waylon jennings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label waylon jennings. Show all posts

Friday, November 4, 2022

Reviewing The Top Ten Country Singles From This Week In 1980

 

I didn't get out of the house much in 1980. I had a two-year-old and a four-year-old at home and up 'til May I was working part-time at a retail store ~ and by "part-time", I mean three or so hours a few weeknights and six hours on Saturdays. We needed to supplement our meager income, yet I wasn't comfortable leaving my children in the hands of a stranger. Thus, I found an evening job at a recently-erected catalog store located approximately one minute away from my house. Looking back, the pay was barely worth the gas fumes it took to motor there, and while I did get a ten per cent discount on merchandise, I really couldn't afford to buy anything. Like every job I've ever had, I only landed this one because I possessed one (just one) of the skills listed on the job description ~ I knew how to run a cash register. Thinking back over my long and varied career, if I had (or could bullshit through) at least one of the required competencies, I was pretty good at glossing over the ones I didn't have**.

**Note to job-seekers: Learn how to type. 

By May I'd landed a high-paying (for my town and my skill set) job as a Communications Clerk at the hospital where I'd delivered my boys. I think my success lay again in my typing skills, plus I was interviewed by a lovely, compassionate lady, who may have noted my earnestness (I really needed to make more money). My shift was from 3:00 to 10:00 p.m., which eliminated the need for paid child care, although my live-in caretaker wasn't necessarily vigilant. I loved that job. It was right up my alley. I worked on the medical floor, transcribing doctors' orders, getting the necessary forms ready for each patient, scheduling surgeries for the next day, preparing menu orders, assigning rooms to new admissions. I was often called upon to help lift or reposition patients due to staff shortages. I found the entire medical world fascinating. Plus, I even managed to sock a little money away every two weeks in my hospital credit union account to save up for a yearly vacation. 

Occasionally, my mom invited me to see a movie with her, which was odd because she and I weren't the best of friends. I guess my older sister must have been busy. We saw Coal Miner's Daughter together that year, and in 1977 Saturday Night Fever, which made me slink down in my seat when I got to witness the "sex in a car" scene with my mom. In 1980 (again for unknown reasons) my dad and I saw Ordinary People together. The film was great, but afterward I had to listen to Dad enumerating the many ways the film's cold mother reminded him of Mom. All in all, my movie outings with my parents were uncomfortable. But Mom and I also caught Urban Cowboy, which began with an uptempo Charlie Daniels song accompanying the scene of a black pickup barreling down a dusty country road.  The film was mediocre at best, and the music mostly ehh. But, oh, what a fad that movie wrought.

I'm curious as to whether any of those Urban Cowboy tracks made the top ten this week. My source is the American Country Countdown Wiki.  If you've been reading along, you know my rules:

  • I review each single as a first-time listener.
  • I must listen to the entire track before offering my critique.  
  • I stick with the Top Ten only, because this is unbelievably time-consuming.
  • I do my best to find music videos. If all else fails, I use a video of the recorded song

 

Grab that mechanical bull by the horns! Let's go!

 

#10 ~ Pecos Promenade ~ Tanya Tucker

As 1980 songs go, this is okay. I like the fiddles and the two-step beat and (of course) the singer has plenty of chops and attitude. The familiar voice of her (reputed) boyfriend can be heard singing one line ~ "needs a cowboy". This track would be a great one to dance to in a country bar, if I ever had the chance to dance in a country bar, though it doesn't match the quality of Tanya's earlier hits. People Magazine tells me she's apparently going through a period of abandon right now. I hope she gets her mojo back in the future.

B

 

#9 ~ Steppin' Out ~ Mel Tillis


I'm willing to bet that the 2022 me will have no recollection of this track, even though I apparently own the album from which it came. For some reason this song reminds me of something a future country star who I'm imagining is named George might record. It's got a nice shuffle beat and the requisite country instrumentation. I don't even have to guess whether Mel wrote it, but it's a filler song. It really says nothing new and worse, doesn't say the old in an interesting way. I'm a huge Mel Tillis fan, but it's no wonder I won't remember it.

B-


#8 ~ Hard Times ~ Lacy J. Dalton


I don't know this gal, but I'm not a fan of the tremulo. For my musical taste, this track has nothing to recommend it. It seems important to the singer to belt out those lyrics, but she slaps on a nothing tom-tom accompaniment. Apparently Bobby Braddock, who is a much better writer than this song demonstrates, penned the tune. And unfortunately, it's so unremarkable that I've already forgotten it.

D


#7 ~ Lady ~ Kenny Rogers


Oh, is this the one written by Lionel Richie? That explains a lot. Kenny has apparently been able to hustle the country music charts, I guess on the strength of his actual country hits. 

Disclaimer: I saw Kenny Rogers in concert one summer on vacation with my immediate family and my parents. We were in Duluth, Minnesota, and there are only so many times one can traverse the boardwalk and wave at the ore ships that breach the harbor. My mom learned from the local paper that Kenny was appearing at the waterfront arena, so we purchased last-minute tickets. I honestly wouldn't even remember the show except for that white suit.

I don't hate Kenny Rogers, but I can't say I'm a fan of even his country tracks. It's just that "you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em" is so ubiquitous that's it's turned into an earworm. 

And I certainly am not a fan of this. The Commodores probably could have done it better, and at least they'd stay in their lane. I'm a country fan, so...

D

 

#6 ~ Old Habits ~ Hank Williams, Jr.


 Was this melody cribbed from Merle Haggard?

 

I fully admit my bias. I rarely like anything Hank does, and yes, I did walk out on his concert once in the 70's. That said, his uptempo songs are far better than this. It's dull and not in his wheelhouse. I don't know what else to say about this. It's a nothing.

D


#5 ~ I Believe In You ~ Don Williams


Don Williams is kind of the Perry Como of the eighties. He's impossibly laid back, which is actually a nice contrast to the more bombastic tracks spun by local DJ's. And Don picked a good one to record, written by Roger Cook and Sam Hogin. It definitely confers a vibe, a "snuggle under a blanket", "sip hot cocoa" ambience, and what's wrong with that? 

What the song has going for it: First, melody, Second, singer. Third, memorable chorus. Fourth, a nice warm feeling. I think this is one that will be remembered.

A


#4 ~ Could I Have This Dance ~ Anne Murray


Ahh, Urban Cowboy weighs in.

I read somewhere that Anne recorded this in a lower register because it was supposed to be a duet with Kenny Rogers. I like it as it is.

The first thing one can say about this track is that it is country. The second thing is, Anne Murray is one of the seminal voices of her generation. Thirdly, I'm a sucker for waltzes. This could and most likely will be the first wedding dance of just-married couples everywhere. The lyrics are lovely and the melody hits the sweet spot. Good songs don't have to be complicated; just honest.

A


#3 ~ I'm Not Ready Yet ~ George Jones


Like the Mel Tillis track, I'm willing to bet that I'll have zero recollection of this forty years in the future. It's got the required Jones recitation, which is kind of a lazy affectation, unless the song is Detroit City. The melody is pedestrian, the sentiment has been recounted countless times, in much better ways. Granted, unlike other die-hard country fans, I don't think George Jones is the best thing that's ever happened to country music, but I like a ton of his songs. Just not this one.

C-

 

#2 ~ On The Road Again ~ Willie Nelson


The first two or three times one hears this song, it's fine. Pedestrian, but fine. The third through the nine hundred and ninety-ninth time, it becomes grating. For a master songwriter, this must have been a throwaway written for his bandmates on the bus. A lark. Then somebody hollered out, "Hey! You should record this!" And the rest is history. I imagine that Willie will collect tons of future royalties from all the future commercials that'll use this track. Everything from cars to first-aid kits (?) to probably dog food. An amateur songwriter could pen something like this, but he'd be afraid everyone would laugh at him. Kudos, though, Willie, for your success!

C


#1 ~ Theme From The Dukes Of Hazzard (Good Ol' Boys) ~ Waylon Jennings

 




I have a four-year old this year (1980) who somehow knows when it's Friday, at which time he plops himself on his stomach in front of the TV, his chin propped on his hand, to watch his favorite show of all time, The Dukes Of Hazzard. He, of course, doesn't know whose hands on the guitar are being shown on the screen, but his mom does. He's far more interested in Luke and Bo and the General Lee, which magically flies through the air in every episode. He knows all the characters, including the one he refers to as "Roscoe Peeko Train". 

I'm assuming most adults are like me, and only tolerate the goofy show for their kids, but I do appreciate hearing Waylon Jennings on my TV once a week.

Waylon wrote the song, and it's got something that the monotonous On The Road Again doesn't. Number one, it's got Waylon Jennings, one of country's legendary singers; but it's also got changes, appealing instrumentation, and creative lyrics. It's far more interactive than simply snoring along the highway on cruise control. This one is barreling down the road, feeling every bump, offering a wave (or the finger, depending on the situation) to fellow travelers.

Sure, the lyrics don't exactly relate to the average man's or woman's circumstances, but it still makes them feel good when they hear it.

A


Much to my surprise, only one track from Urban Cowboy appears in this week's Top Ten. I'm not dumping on the movie's soundtrack. There were actually several good songs inserted into the film; not just Could I Have This Dance. "Darlin'" by Bonnie Raitt, "Look What You've Done To Me" by Boz Scaggs, Charlie Daniels' "Devil Went Down To Georgia", and even "Love The World Away" from Kenny Rogers and "Here Comes The Hurt Again", a Mickey Gilley tune. 

Unfortunately, of those, only Charlie Daniels hit the jackpot. Instead we got Johnny Lee's "Lookin' For Love" ad nauseum. And it beget an unsavory fad that eclipsed more quality country songs. 

Still, this week included three A's. I think that's a record. Sometimes we forget that certain musical times were better than our cluttered brains recall.

 





 





Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Reviewing The Top Ten Country Hits From this Week In 1975


In my quest to review the top country singles from this week in years past, I realize I've neglected the seventies. Part of the problem lies with the limitations of available data. It seems the charts (the only historical charts I've found) only date back to 1975. Thus, as in previous posts, I will be reviewing the top ten singles as if I've never heard them before. As always, there are some I've never heard before or don't remember, so they will truly be new to me.

Given the fact that these singles are forty-seven years old, actual performance videos will be hit or miss.

Let's find out if today's hit are truly the worst ever created, by comparing them to yesterday's.

#10 ~ City Lights ~ Mickey Gilley

It's a bit unfair to throw a classic song into the mix. Obviously I've heard it before -- by a better singer. Staying objective is impossible when one is familiar with the original. I will say that, for Mickey Gilley the arrangement is fitting, highlighting his honky tonk piano. I'm not a fan of the female background singers. Clearly this is a solid song, written by Bill Anderson. It seems, however, that the singer could have given it the reverence it deserves.

MY RATING: B


#9 ~ Great Expectations ~ Buck Owens

Well, the first line is just ick. It immediately colors my impression of the song. That aside, the lyrics are pedestrian and the melody is overly familiar. I predict this track will be quickly forgotten, obscured by actual good songs recorded by Owens. This seems like more of a deep album cut than a single released to radio.

MY RATING: C-


#8 ~ I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You) ~ Linda Ronstadt

This is one of those instances in which a classic song can be improved upon. Obviously this is a Hank Williams hit, but I prefer this more updated sound. Ronstadt is a superb singer and she stays true to the country vibe. Great performance, nice harmonies from Emmylou, lovely steel guitar. I only deducted a half letter grade because this is a remake.

MY RATING: A-

 

#7 ~ Wrong Road Again ~ Crystal Gayle


I like the chorus. Allen Reynolds wrote this song, among many, many other hits. He was also Crystal's producer. The song is solid, the singer's voice still exudes country, without the machinations that will plague her later tracks. Props to the unencumbered arrangement.

MY RATING: B+


#6 ~ The Ties That Bind ~ Don Williams

While this song is not bad, there's something about it that's hard to get hold of. The verse has an elusive melody. This might simply be the way Williams chose to sing it or the simple acoustic arrangement. A drum beat might have helped. I would like the track more if it wasn't so frustrating. That's the drawback of acoustic songs. They allow for a bit too much introspection -- nice for the singer; annoying to the listener.

MY RATING: C


#5 ~ Rainy Day Woman ~ Waylon Jennings

Well. This is destined to be a Jennings classic. He has redefined country to his liking. Ralph Mooney is playing those classic Wynn Stewart steel licks, and the zydeco accordion is a nice touch. Waylon is one of the few artists of any genre who has a presence. He can't be ignored. Solid, classic track, written by the man himself.

MY GRADE: A


#4 ~ I Care ~ Tom T. Hall

What's worse than a recitation? A half recitation. Granted, this is a children's song, which leads me to wonder how it made the country charts, which are not normally determined by children. I forced myself to listen to the entire track, since those are the rules I've imposed. It was, however, nerve-grating. Now I'm a mom, so I know that if I'd ever played this for my kids, they would have retched into the toilet, then wandered away to pursue more mature interests. There's nothing worse than pandering to kids.

MY RATING: D-

 

#3 ~  It's Time To Pay The Fiddler ~ Cal Smith


Does this have the exact same melody as Country Bumpkin? I guess Cal is very attached to this particular chord progression. I like the singer, but Country Bumpkin has, at least, a more compelling story. This is, honestly, a country song any novice songwriter could pen. Cal can do better.

MY RATING: C-


#2 ~ Devil In The Bottle ~ T.G. Sheppard

  

There's something about T.G. Sheppard that's kind of insidious. Songs I really shouldn't like (because they're not great songs) I find myself liking. I give the artist credit for mostly choosing compelling songs to record. No, I wouldn't purchase this single, but it's not something I would turn off if it streamed out of my car's speakers. What is the mark of a good song? My theory (as a failed songwriter) is -- a memorable chorus. Other sins can be forgiven. Sheppard doesn't have the country cred that Waylon has, but he's actually pretty good.

MY RATING: B


#1 ~ Then Who Am I ~ Charley Pride


When one records scores of songs, it's inevitable that they all won't be winners. It's not that this song is bad; it's simply forgettable. I've certainly forgotten it. I just played it and it's already erased from my memory. The late great Dallas Frazier and A.L. "Doodle" Owens co-wrote it, but again, they all can't be winners. I would like to give this a better rating, because I don't want to be harsh, but I can't in good conscience elevate it. Thus ~

MY RATING: C-


It's impossible to recognize a classic song in real time. This particular chart wasn't the most brutal, but it was close. However, we found a Waylon track that will be with us forever.

Maybe that's all we can wish for.






 

Friday, February 4, 2022

Reviewing The Top Ten Hits From This Week In 1982

 

One wonders if the hits of yesterday can possibly be as bad as the dreadful chart toppers of today. I'm on a mission to find out. Looking at the top ten charts for a particular week is an eye-opener. I've made the point in a previous post, but most weekly top ten singles are utterly forgettable. Take the week of February 6, 1982, for example. Only one of the top ten immediately conjures a melody in my head. A few of the others have somewhat familiar titles, but the songs themselves are mysteries. The rest I've never in my life heard of.

Thus, as this experiment goes, I will review each song as if this is the first time I've heard it (which in some cases is true). Please note that since these singles are forty years old, finding performance videos will be hit or miss.

Let's go....

#10 ~ Diamonds In The Stars ~ Ray Price

 

Love the singer. The recording? Not so much. This may have been a decent country song with the proper arrangement. I prefer fiddles to violins and I prefer country to Jimmy Webb-style country pop. The song itself is inoffensive, though not terribly original. There's a fine line between "a little sophistication" (take, for example, a song like Burning Memories) and "a little too much". This is an entirely forgettable track; one that I wouldn't listen to again.

MY RATING: B- (points for the singer)

 

#9 ~ Midnight Rodeo ~ Leon Everette


This singer is so unfamiliar to me I looked up his discography, and I do not recognize a single one of his tracks. I'm not a fan of his voice, nor of the song. It's got that kick drum beat that seems to be prevalent in songs of the era, one that adds no nuance to the song. It's straightforward and dull. It might have gone over well on the dance floor just before closing time. From the YouTube comments this was apparently considered "racy" for its time. Meh. 

MY RATING: C-


#8 ~ I Just Came Home To Count The Memories ~ John Anderson

 


The singer has a unique, very appealing country voice. A country ballad should ramp up the emotion when the chorus hits, and this one does. The song itself is so-so, but the singer saves it. I wouldn't purchase this single, but it's solid, as country ballads go.

MY RATING: B


#7 ~ Shine ~ Waylon Jennings

While I definitely like the singer, it seems that all his hits have approximately the same melody; only the lyrics change. But if you find a winning formula, I guess why change it? I could listen to any Jennings hit and hear, in essence, the exact same song, so no, I wouldn't buy it. Like the Anderson track above, the singer saves this one.

MY RATING: B-


#6 ~ You're The Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had ~ Ed Bruce


The singer has a presence, reminiscent of Gordon Lightfoot to a degree. The chorus saves the song. It's a singalong and sticks in your head after you've heard it. And that's what good songs should do. Though it's not a track I'd lay down money for, it's solid.

MY RATING: B 


#5 ~ Watchin' Girls Go By ~ Ronnie McDowell


It must have been easy to memorize the lyrics. Not sure what this is. Never trust a country singer who can't or won't play guitar. That only leads to embarrassing "dancing". It's unfair of me to base my ranking on a video, though, so I'll just say that the song is imminently forgettable. I've already forgotten it! There is really nothing to recommend this track.

MY RATING: D


#4 ~ Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good ~ Don Williams


Original message, pleasing melody, wonderful arrangement, comforting vocals ~ this seems like a track that will stand the test of time. There's a bit of gossamer that distinguishes a great song from most any of the ones referenced above. A guy named Dave Hanner wrote it and he has an interesting life, documented on his website (check it out). This is my top hit of the week.

MY RATING: A


#3 ~ Only One You ~ T.G. Sheppard


I probably shouldn't like this one, but I kind of do. Not every country song has to follow the same formula. And yes, he's a microphone-holder, but at least he's not "dancing". It seems to me, judging by his previous hits, that this singer has a keen ear for what works, or at least what works for him. A good track is really a melding of singer and song. I wouldn't buy this, but I give Sheppard props for staying true to himself.

MY RATING: B+


#2 ~ Someone Could Lose A Heart Tonight ~ Eddie Rabbitt

This is a disappointing effort from an artist who can do much, so much better. One wonders what he was thinking when he recorded this. This track is utterly forgettable and mercifully so. I didn't expect this one to be the worst on my top ten list, considering that I love the singer. But it is; it truly is.

MY RATING: D (and that's being generous)


#1 ~ Lonely Nights ~ Mickey Gilley


If I heard this for the first time on my car radio, I'd change the station out of boredom. Somebody obviously talked Mickey into abandoning his signature piano and adopting a Casio keyboard. I hate this. I hate Eddie Rabbitt's song for different reasons, but at least his is ambitious. This is paint-by-number pap. 

MY RATING: D-


It's actually serendipitous that from the top ten chart of February 6, 1982 I found one rare gem. So 1982's chart was only nominally better than 2022's. That kind of shoots down my theory that country music has gone to hell. Oh, it has, but it's eye-opening to know that the sum total of country music was always crap. Don't be deceived by the Haggards and the Yoakams. Those are the ones we choose to remember. To save our musical sanity. 

This experiment is a valuable wake-up.



 





Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Record Collections

Ever know someone who's a collector? These are guys (and trust me, they're always guys) who relish the hunt, not the plunder. Of their approximately 978 record albums, they probably play five, tops.

That's how it is with collections. I'm guilty. I've collected thousands of individual tracks and full CD's through the years, but I mostly surf over to SiriusXM to be surprised. I recently retrieved my personal PC after months of working on a loaned company computer (thanks, COVID), and today I decided to remind myself of all the tracks I'd ripped.

After hours of deleting duplicates (one of the joys of retirement is infinite time), I decided to bestow stars upon the songs I like best...today. The dilemma is choosing between three and four stars. "I really like this track, but does it deserve a superior ranking?"

Five stars can be intimidating as well. Do I go with songs that are classic or just honor my gut and choose the ones I love? I went with love.

The interesting outcome of this experiment is the number of really mediocre tracks I ripped. I think I just wanted to own them. In case. In case a nuclear incident transpired and all I was left with (remarkably) was my personal computer. In the ragged aftermath I might have a hankering to hear Barbara Fairchild.

I own hundreds of physical CD's, but if I ever chose to pop one into my disc drive, I would need to be suffering from one-song withdrawals.



Instead I rely on my uploads.

My Windows Media Player is a really fun app -- it no longer allows me to rip CD's, so if I don't have something on my computer I really really need, I am forced to purchase it from Amazon, even though it's here, sitting on my shelf. Microsoft rocks. Today, in fact, I purchased "Dreaming My Dreams" by Waylon. I have no cognizance of why I never ripped it when my WMP worked, but clearly I did not. However, it was vital that I added it to my collection, because it is a five-star single.

The results of my star ratings? Well, there are approximately three Beatle tracks that merit five stars, although not the ones anyone but me would pick. Elton, too, represents. California Girls shows up as first on the list. Otherwise, I'm stone country.  George Strait has at least three; Gene Watson is a treasure. Then it's an eclectic mix, demonstrating my superior musical taste. Jerry Lee, Gordon Lightfoot, Johnny Bush, Highway 101, Mark Chesnutt, Marty Robbins, Ray Price. Roy Orbison.




Face it, it doesn't get much better than this:





I'm feeling good that I chose wisely.














Friday, May 24, 2019

Sixty-Four Years of Music ~ Taking a Sharp Turn


Kids are very durable. Flexible ~ sort of like Gumby. The first time a bad thing happens, they freak out, but freaking out night after night is exhausting; so intuition eventually kicks in. It's amazing what a kid can disregard while remaining keenly attuned to her surroundings. It becomes a way of life. I'm not certain that my sense of hearing is sharper than most people's, but it's damn good. It's all those years of practice. Inevitably, bad things would happen at night, because that's when a drunk manages to stumble home. Night is when the screaming brawls occur.

There was a time in my life when I could fall asleep easily. That ended around age eleven and I've been cursed with insomnia ever since. Every little floor creak, even with foam plugs shoved inside my ears, startles me. It's the "fight or flight" phenomenon. My dad was a falling-down, albeit happy drunk, while my mom was enraged, spewing sailor's epithets, her fingernails clawing his face. At ten o'clock at night, with an early morning bus to catch,

I essentially ignored the rows and tried to fall back asleep like my younger brother and sister had done quite effortlessly on the bottom bunk. Still, I had to be on guard for that moment when my mom would scream, "Call the sheriff!" and I would have to slide down from my second-story tower and stumble to the telephone and lie that my dad was assaulting my mother, when in fact, he was deliriously content on his makeshift bed on the shag carpet, and she was the one who was dangerously homicidal.

This new reality began right at the time I'd been uprooted from the only home I'd ever known and plopped down in the middle of the parched prairie with no friends and no lifelines ~ because life would be "better" here.

My pop singles soothed me for a time. If I cranked up the volume enough, I could almost drown out the screaming. Then a completely unexpected thing happened ~ I made a friend. When kids meet other kids, the primary topic of conversation (at least then) was music. "Who do you like?" "What's your favorite record?" I expected to hear The Beatles or at the very least The Monkees, but Alice said, "I like country music." Well, this was an unanticipated response. Country music? My parents owned a Ray Price album and a Buck Owens album. I also knew who Bobby Bare was. That, in a nutshell, was my encyclopedic knowledge of country.

Becoming friends with Alice was like jetting across the ocean to a foreign country for the first time. I had to forget everything I'd ever known and take a crash course in Esperanto, otherwise known as twang. I sat cross-legged on the floor of her living room while she spun records by people I'd never heard of once in my life. Granted, she had some very obscure tastes, like Carl Butler and Pearl (as they were booked) and Porter Wagoner, who wasn't at all good until he teamed up with a blonde bee-hived little girl singer.

The most revelatory artist Alice introduced me to was named Merle Haggard, who was brand-spankin' new on the scene, but definitely had a certain something I could get on board with. This Haggard guy's recordings were heavy on Telecaster, bass, and crying steel. His music reminded me a bit of my parents' Buck Owens albums, only with far superior singing and heart-searing harmonies. This was someone I could claim as my own and stamp myself a country fan. Thank God. Because I was worried I wouldn't like anybody and then I'd lose my new friend as quickly as I'd found her (or, more accurately, as she'd found me).


Adaptability is innate. Once you discover something, then you discover other somethings. The first thing I discovered without Alice's help was Waylon Jennings.


There was a new guy who was being played on the radio (I'd since switched my allegiance from KFYR to KBMR) and both Alice and I liked this song. Later we heard rumors about him that couldn't possibly be true, because he was stone country:


As for female singers, there were a few, but she was the ultimate:



Although this new gal was pretty good:



Yep, I'd become immersed. And it didn't take long. Eventually I saved up my pennies and bought that red acoustic guitar in the window at Dahmer's Music and Alice came over and taught me how to form chords. Now I could play along with my favorite Haggard and Pride songs.

I became even better at drowning out the scuffles happening outside my bedroom door. I'd found a reason to soldier on.

Country music turned into everything for me. Until it wasn't. Until it disappointed me.

But that would take a few years....












Friday, March 29, 2019

Music Biopics ~ La Bamba

I'm a sucker for musical biopics. I've probably seen all of them, even the bad ones like "Great Balls of Fire" (Dennis Quaid is more convincing in his Esurance commercials.) I liked "The Buddy Holly Story", which starred a pre-crazy Gary Busey. Coal Miner's Daughter is a classic and instituted my long-standing crush on Tommy Lee Jones. Needless to say, "Bohemian Rhapsody" is fabulous. "Walk The Line" is sort of not exactly true.

Today, there was absolutely nothing on TV nor in my DVR queue I wanted to watch, so I checked out the On Demand movies and found La Bamba. There was a time in the eighties when I subscribed to HBO, which liked to play the same movies over and over and over; and thus, I can pretty much recite the lines from La Bamba. That doesn't negate the fact that this is a really good movie. Even trusted source Rolling Stone (I say ironically) rates the movie as the fifth best music biopic of all time.

Like the other artists who inspired the "Day The Music Died" meme, Ritchie Valens was before my time. Over the years I'd heard La Bamba and Come On, Let's Go many times, but I'd never given a second thought to the artist who created the songs. Valens died at the young age of seventeen, which makes me sad, even all these years later. There've been far too many entertainers who've perished in plane crashes, and all of them hurt my heart ~ Jim Croce, Rick Nelson, Patsy Cline, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Otis Redding, John Denver, Buddy Holly, of course.

The movie La Bamba ensured that Ritchie Valens would not be forgotten.

It didn't hurt that Lou Diamond Phillips was cute (he hasn't aged badly, if you've ever caught an episode of Longmire). But his portrayal of Valens was captivating in its innocence mixed with swagger. The musical performances, actually voiced by Los Lobos, are pristine (credit the film's music editor).

Esai Morales, as Ritchie's brother Bob, cringingly overacted his role (Easi is now a much respected producer), which added a touch of okaaay to the viewing experience. Overall, the casting was excellent, from Ritchie's mom (Rosanna DeSoto) to Elizabeth Peña to Danielle von Zerneck  as Donna.

Like everything that's dramatized, the actual music of the era wasn't as good as its recreation. But let's not quibble:





Here's the real Ritchie Valens:


I don't necessarily believe that one split-second decision alters the course of musical history, but if not for a coin flip, we would never have had Waylon Jennings. On the other hand, Buddy Holly would today be a musical elder, whose pronouncements on music we'd gobble up. I guess everything is of its time. 





Saturday, November 17, 2018

1979 ~ Back To Real Life


I had no misconceptions regarding what work would be ~ a series of dead-end jobs; maybe I'd eventually land one with tenure and I could coast my way to retirement. I really didn't want a job. I wanted to be a mom, but President Jimmy saw things differently. Being poor wasn't all that bad, but I hated having to charge basic needs, plus the hospital let me know my five dollar-a-month payment for my new son's delivery just wasn't going to cut it. That telephone conversation convinced me I needed to find a job. Before I became a mom my work life was scattershot at best. I'd tried the real world and didn't like it. Being a clerk-typist for the state, I found, didn't mean sitting in a cubbyhole and typing all day. I had to interact with customers, which I guess was the "clerk" part. I didn't know what it was called then, but it turned out I had social phobia, which is in essence a fear of making an utter fool of oneself. Whenever I heard the front door of the State Health Department creak open, I had to steel myself for the inevitable person-to-person interaction. In retrospect, I am convinced I didn't instill confidence in my customer. I would toddle off and retrieve a copy of their birth certificate and mumble, "two dollars". I think I also said, "thank you", because while I was a near-mute, I was perpetually polite. After little more than a year I'd scurried back home to work for my parents. I quit working all together in November of 1976 and nested.

By the summer of '79, the fiscal writing was on the wall. As we pedaled down the expressway in our tin-can Chevy Malibu, I gazed at the building being erected, with a big sign out front that announced, "Future Home of LaBelle's". I said, I'm going to work there. I don't know why; maybe it was the close proximity to home, basically a zip up one street and one zip down another. Possibly it was because the one skill I was confident I possessed was ringing up a cash register. Plus I still retained the naive certainty that this place would be all my hopes and dreams tied up in an azure package; a retail nirvana. And it was part-time.

1979 began nine years of inhabiting second shift, forgoing toddler's bedtime baths, snuggling with little towheads, missing all my favorite TV shows, But life is a series of have-to's. I couldn't place Lego sets and Fisher-Price parking garages under the Christmas tree without the money to buy them and without my ten per-cent employee discount.

LaBelle's was a catalog store, which no longer exists in today's Amazon world. Customers would wander about with a stubby pencil and a pad and write down the number of the item they wanted to purchase; then hand their paper to an associate who'd punch it into a "computer" and the bored guys back in the warehouse would fetch the item from an eight-foot high wobbly shelf and dump it onto the conveyor belt. My job was to grab a hand mic and announce, "Johnny Jamsicle, your order is ready at Register Three. Johnny Jamsicle, Register Three." Johnny would step up to Register Three and I'd ring him up.

Some nights were excruciatingly quiet. Especially Tuesdays. Nobody ever seemed to shop on Tuesdays. So I'd stand behind the counter in my high heels and eye the one person in the store longingly, willing them to order something. Truthfully, LaBelle's was quiet most of the time, except during Christmas season. I would, of course, be scheduled to work Saturday days, and Christmas was the only time the hours whizzed by.

When I had my yearly review, my manager docked me for not coming up with a product display, which I didn't even know was a requirement! I subsequently visited a travel office and gave the girl behind the desk a line about a school project, and talked her out of a vacation poster, which I pasted in the luggage department, along with the words, "Flights of Fancy". Casey, my manager, didn't understand the saying and argued that my word choice was wrong. "It should be flights of fantasy," she proclaimed. I tried to explain to her what a flight of fancy meant. She finally gave up the ghost and let me keep my display. I didn't even get a five-cent raise for all my effort. I did, however, learn a valuable lesson about dealing with morons.

I frankly didn't have much free time to devote to music listening, but I couldn't escape the fact that Kenny Rogers was everywhere. This dude who'd had a minor career with The First Edition in the sixties had reinvented himself as a precursor to Lionel Richie.

The number one song of 1979:



Kenny had five, count 'em, top twenty hits in '79. And that wasn't even his best year. I'm not sure why, but I rolled with the flow. I even saw him in concert once, sitting in the nosebleed seats in Duluth, Minnesota. It was a spur-of-the-moment impulse on my mom's part. We were there; he was there ~ why not?

There were better country songs in 1979; for instance, Eddie Rabbitt:


The Dirt Band:



Don Williams:


Waylon:


T. G. Sheppard:



The Oaks:


I had my Bang and Olufson component stereo I'd bought on credit and a stack of country albums. Sometimes I'd come home from LaBelle's in the dark and slip the needle on one of those LP's, quietly, as to not awaken the kids snug in their beds, and relax with a cup of instant Sanka. 

And think about the pitiful state of my "career".


Saturday, July 7, 2018

Sleepless






I'm a chronic non-sleeper.

When I was thirty, I had to work the day shift at the hospital on alternating weekends. My normal schedule was second shift, 3:30 p.m to 10:00 p.m. Invariably on Friday nights before that seven a.m. call, I remained excruciatingly conscious. I'm a guilt-ridden Catholic soul who has an aversion to calling in. However, for the majority of my first shift obligations, I staggered off the sofa sometime around four in the morning, dialed the automated mailbox number and declared that I was "sick". In retrospect, I could have sucked it up and just went to work (like I do now). At that time, though, I regarded sleeplessness as such a dire condition that at one point I actually considered killing myself.

I remember arising from my agonizing cocoon on the sofa, switching on the tiny kitchen nightlight and thumbing through the Yellow Pages to find the Suicide Hotline number. I was all ready to dial it, but then I imagined the conversation.

"Why do you want to kill yourself?"

"Well, I can't sleep."

Long pause.

"That's it?"

I didn't kill myself because I thought my reason wasn't good enough. That, plus I really had no means of accomplishing it. What was I going to use? Aspirin? How many tablets does one need to take to get the job done? There was no internet, so it would have been just a guess, and what if I guessed wrong?

Now here I am, thirty years later, and the scourge continues. The difference is, while it's still unbearable at three in the morning, I've accepted it as a fact of my life. And I buck up and plow through.

I used to think I was all alone, but I've since learned through offhand conversations that more people than not suffer right along with me. Selfishly, that makes me feel a little bit better. Nobody wants to feel alone.

I'll say right now that all the advice about how to sleep is utterly worthless. These "experts" a) never in their lives have had a sleeping problem; and b) are just spouting nonsense.

  • Don't consume caffeine after 12:00 noon.
         Okay.

  • Use your bedroom only for sleep.
          Fine.

  • Meditate or "journal" fifteen minutes prior to bedtime.
         I neither meditate nor jot thoughts down in a little notebook, and
         why would anyone do that? 

Here is the only advice that might work:  drugs. But good luck there. My doctor won't prescribe anything, such as Ambien, and I admit I'm not keen on that anyway. I don't want to find myself in the kitchen at 2:30 a.m., baking up a late-night entree of roasted boot. Or driving around aimlessly, firing up a cigarette and stubbing it out on my car's leather upholstery. Or even worse, posting nonsensical comments on social media, inadvertently starting a Twitter war over my professed hatred of Ariana Grande's shoes.

My doctor actually told me I'm going to bed too early. She said I should stay up until 11:30. I get up at 4:30 a.m. for work! Following her advice, assuming I fell asleep the minute my cranium alighted the pillow, I would get four complete hours of sleep.

The things I have tried:

Watching TV until my eyes flutter closed.
         
The way this works for me is, sure, I catch thirty seconds of snooze time; then a commercial jars me awake. I am then bleary-eyed for approximately three hours.

NOT watching TV. 
         
The whir of my bedroom fan, initially soothing, begins to grate on my nerves. The longer I lie awake, the more irritating it becomes. I get up and switch it off; but soon the room turns infuriatingly quiet.

Don ear plugs and a sleep mask.
        
Now I'm left alone with my thoughts. Plus my back hurts.  My mind WILL NOT SHUT OFF. I eventually begin to drift off, but the snort that wheezes through my nostrils jolts me awake and the cycle begins anew.

I only fall asleep after four or so hours once my body has acquiesced to utter exhaustion.

I believe I am genetically melatonin-deficient. And speaking of melatonin, ingest it at your peril. I tried it ONCE. I lay awake, bug-eyed, for an entire night.

My remedy is, there is no remedy.  Perhaps alcohol, but I can't function at my job while hungover. Thus, the real remedy is acceptance. Accept the things I cannot change.

I haven't tried these, and maybe they would work (but I doubt it):
















These songs make sleep seem so romantic, wistful, enveloping; don't they? I wouldn't know.

The truth of the matter is, like John Lennon, who, from his songs I suspect was an inveterate non-sleeper like me, this is what it's really like at 3:00 a.m.:


I've decided I'm going to call it a "personality quirk"; one that I can regale strangers with for hours. If someone at work greets me brightly in the morning, instead of replying offhandedly, I will say, "Well, you know I only got two hours of sleep last night." Then I will sigh dejectedly. Granted, people will search for an excuse to slink away, but hey, spread the pain, I say. If I have to hear tales of your 2006 Alaskan cruise every freakin' day and how you spied a seal reposing on an ice floe, well, it's time to share MY world. And by the way, can you sit at my bedside and repeat those stories again? 

That just might work.












Sunday, May 27, 2018

1979

(Can you imagine taking your music with you?)


1979 was in many ways a depressing year. We had a depressing, nay, dreary president. He could sap the fun out of any gathering. He lectured us on TV about our "malaise", not realizing that he was the one who caused it. It was as if by telling us how disappointing we were, we'd snap out of it.

One exciting event of that year was the exploding Ford Pinto. When you drove a Pinto, it definitely took you for a ride. Lucky for me, I had a Chevy Vega.

The Iranian Ayatollah decided to take 44 Americans hostage in December, which resulted in the launch of a 10:30 p.m. TV show called "Nightline", starring Ted Koppel's hair. Our hapless president only managed to make things worse by authorizing an ill-fated mission to rescue the prisoners. The operation went spectacularly wrong. 

In household news, Black and Decker introduced something called the "Dustbuster", It was ingenious. Everyone who was anyone raved about their little cordless vacuum. One pitfall of the new invention was that the batteries went dead right in the middle of sucking up toast crumbs from the shag carpet in front of the sofa. Yet we all felt so "with it". 

ESPN came into existence in '79. I never watched it, because---sports. On the other hand, a new network called Nickelodeon showed up on cable and we watched it religiously, because---kids. Otherwise we watched 60 Minutes on Sunday nights and followed Mike Wallace as he stalked some unsuspecting scofflaw around dark corners. 

Jack Tripper and Chrissy and Janet lived upstairs from the Ropers and sexual innuendo ensued. Eventually, Suzanne Somers wanted to leave the show because she felt her salary was a mere pittance; so thenceforth she phoned it in, literally. Every episode featured a shot of Chrissy on the phone with her apartment-mates, to convince the TV-watching rubes that all was all right on ABC Tuesday nights. 

Friday night was "Dukes of Hazzard" night. My three-year-old was obsessed with the show. I wasn't sure why. I did get a kick out of the fact that my son thought the sheriff's name was Roscoe PECO-Train. For my part, I liked the theme song that I surely knew was performed by Waylon Jennings, even though they only showed his hands, but not his face on TV.



Musically, we still possessed stereo components. Sure, Sony had this new gadget that claimed to let one port one's music, but that was kind of goofy; silly. Why did we need to carry our music with us? We had the car radio! This seemed to me akin to the Dustbuster; a sad trail of dead batteries.

Country music was sad, and not in the traditional way. Our big stars were Kenny Rogers and Dave and Sugar.

There were a few sparks, though. This song featured Linda Ronstadt on the original recording. This performance, however, does not. But she couldn't be everywhere. I do want to say, thank you, Rodney Crowell. If it wasn't for you, 1979 would have been lamer than it already was.


Speaking of the Dukes of Hazzard and Rodney Crowell:



In kids news, a McDonald's Happy Meal was a treat that was affordable, even for us, at $1.00. The Muppet Movie was the tenth highest grossing film of the year, and taking a one-year-old and a three-year-old to the movie theater was an experience no parent should miss, for the wailing and the seat-climbing and the chaotic showers of popcorn. Oh, and the movie was good, too.

To relieve the stress and relax my tendons, when we reached home I listened to this:




Anne Murray was still making hits, and I liked this one:



Fashion-wise, we favored bib overalls. Beneath those, we wore blouses with puffy sleeves and a tiny bow at the neck. Throughout the seventies, women wore one-piece contraptions that were hell to undo when one had to pee. Therefore, we were careful to limit our liquid intake. I worked part-time at a retail establishment, so I had to dress up. Since my hourly wage was $2.65, I shopped at K-Mart for work attire. I picked up some below-the-knee skirts and twin sets and high-heeled plastic slides. I purchased my pantyhose at Woolworths, however, because they carried the size that fit best. I honestly don't think I took home any money from that job, after laying out all my earnings to buy appropriate work attire. Wearing pants to work was unheard of. Velour was also the fabric of choice, but if I ever owned a piece of velour clothing, I've blocked it from my mind.

At 9:30 p.m., when I landed at home after work, I poured myself a glass of....Coke...because I didn't drink. I slipped the stereo needle on this:



One can't underestimate the influence the Oak Ridge Boys had on country music in 1979. Aside from Kenny Rogers, who wasn't country, no act was bigger. This video is notable for the lack of giant white beard on William Lee Golden's chin:


In a nutshell, the biggest country acts of the year, aside from Kenny and the ORB's, were Eddie Rabbitt, Crystal Gayle (yes), Moe Bandy, and Don Williams. Some were nearing the end of their careers, some were one-offs, some had a couple of decades yet to go. 

In the daytime hours, TV was what TV was -- game shows in the morning, Days of Our Lives in the afternoon. In between, advertisers took great pains to inform moms what they needed to feed their kids to keep them happy and healthy -- KoolAid, Ore-Ida french fries, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese -- all the nutritious choices. On the plus side, however, mothers were still a "thing" then. And kids. 

Also, AT&T urged us to reach out and touch someone. I didn't know many people with whom interaction required a long-distance phone call, but if I'd made any "friends" on vacation, trust me; I wouldn't have called them.


Generally with music, I chose to avoid chaos. Life was chaotic enough, with two kids under the age of four, and with my part-time job that ostensibly "contributed to the family coffers". Better days were to come, but that's what days generally do, if one is lucky. 

Meanwhile, I relaxed to this:












Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Mel Tillis


The guys who write obituaries for newspapers are probably around thirty or so. Maybe forty at the most. Everyone knows that companies are in the midst of showing baby boomers the door. That leaves a gap when it comes to writing about someone's life, because these young guys (and/or girls) don't have a clue who Mel Tillis was. It makes me mad when I realize that an obituary consists of bits gleaned from Wikipedia. A life should mean more than that. Especially Mel Tillis's.

Country music would have been so much less if Mel Tillis hadn't come along.

When I first became involved with country music, I didn't know Mel Tillis. I might have seen "M. Tillis" in parentheses beneath the song title on a '45 single, but at that time, I only cared about who sang the song. Granted, I was only around thirteen, so I was as shallow as a...well, thirteen-year-old.

I didn't even know that the title song of my all-time favorite album (because it was Dad's all-time favorite album) was written by this Mel Tillis guy. Dad bought the LP in 1965, when I was still engrossed in the orange and yellow Capital '45's released by this group called "The Beatles".

Sorry, apparently they didn't make videos in 1965, but this is still awesome:




Seeing as how I was a remedial country music student, once my best friend Alice began schooling me in the ways of (good) country music, I caught up with this next song. Alice also was the person who taught me how to play (chord) guitar (I never actually learned how to "play"), and she taught me the intro to this song. 

Detroit City was released in 1963, and while I didn't listen to country music then, one could not help but be exposed to it, because the radio stations played an eclectic mix of musical styles. My cousin and I created a comic book about "singers when they get old". Bobby Bare was one of our subjects, but in our version he was an actual bear. Our comic was a huge hit among my Uncle Howard's bar crowd. Orders rolled in, but unfortunately we would have had to recreate the whole thing by hand over and over, so we sacrificed the big bucks (twenty-five cents) we could have made from the venture, essentially because we were lazy. 

Around 1967 Alice and I were excited to see Bobby Bare in person, but thanks to a freak winter fiasco, we never got to. We ended up going back to her house and watching the local TV broadcast of Bobby's performance. 

A lot of my musical history is tied up in Detroit City, and it was all thanks to Mel Tillis:


The very first song I ever wrote went like this:

1967, you taught me how to play
All those Merle Haggard songs
Man, he had a way
And the intro to Detroit City
I remember it today
You were my hero then
You still are today

So, again, it all started with Mel.

Much like I traveled back in time to capture songs like "City Lights", I didn't quite catch that Mel had written this hit song from 1957. Was Mel around forever? 

I never understood why this guy named Webb Pierce was considered the Hank Williams of the fifties. Pierce didn't even write his own songs! And he was rather an awful singer, but apparently the "nasal" sound worked for him. In the fifties, who was the competition? Pat Boone? The only thing I know about Webb Pierce is that he had a guitar-shaped swimming pool and he was a renowned asshole. Regardless, Mel Tillis wrote this song and Webb should have thanked him for it, but apparently that wasn't Pierce's modus operandi:



More my style was this single released in 1967:


And seriously, all this time, I had no idea that a guy named "Mel" had written these songs.

So, when did I become aware of this Mel Tillis guy? In the mid-sixties, I began hearing songs on the radio by someone who had a different sort of voice. He was no Ray Price. He sang like the words were stuck in his gullet. I was judgmental. The songs were good, but I was perplexed by the singer.


Eventually, as more of this guy's recordings got played by the DJ's, I became used to him.

In 1970, I got hooked. This is one of my favorite recordings ever.



 In the mid-seventies, Mel's career took off. He was still writing songs and still writing hit songs, like:


By then, I'd bought his live album, and it was hilarious. I never knew that Mel Tillis stuttered! Of course, if you read the various obituaries, that's practically all that is written about him.

Yea, Mel Tillis was funny. And Clint Eastwood and all the Hollywood set loved him. 

This might have been from a Clint movie, or maybe not, but I think it was:



This one, I'm pretty much convinced is from a Clint movie:




Here's one more (Mel did it better):



I'm going to guess that the most famous song Mel Tillis ever wrote was this next one. It would have been nice if Kenny Rogers had tweeted a few words and had thanked Mel for his career, but whatever. I'm not going to judge the propriety or impropriety of not acknowledging.




Mel Tillis was with me all my life and I didn't even know it. I didn't know that Mel was wrapped up in my musical belonging. 

Pay it forward, they say.

Mel paid a lot of artists' ways.

Mel Tillis is wrapped up in my musical memories. Ir's not everyone who can encompass a person's life. I wanna cry just thinking about him. And I truly miss him.

Thank you, Mel Tillis, for things I didn't even know you taught me.
















Saturday, October 17, 2015

Crazy

(Nope, just me!)
Why are so many songs written about being crazy? Crazy isn't a desirable state, is it? Or IS IT? I don't personally know any crazy people, but it's probably very peaceful. Crazy people don't get annoyed by driving over potholes or their neighbor leaving their garbage can on the curb for approximately three months. Or by relentless TV commercials for Australian Dream or some dweeb standing in front of the Statue of Liberty grilling them about, "Why do you have that car insurance?"
Hence, I think "crazy" might actually equal "serene". 
And with that thought forcing out any coherent concerns from my brain, I have decided to do a "crazy" countdown. (Oh, that's another annoying ad -- "The Final Countdown" performance while some poor working dude is just trying to nuke his burrito in the microwave -- I watch far too much cable news.)
So, wheeeee! I'm ready to be crazy!
10. I Go Crazy -- Paul Davis (The ultimate 70's song - no offense to the seventies. P.S. Love the hair.)
9. Crazy Love -- Poco (Know the song; didn't know this was the name of it.)
8. Still Crazy After All These Years -- Paul Simon (Filler, to be honest. Never really was enamored of this song.)
7. Crazy For You -- Madonna (I always enjoy returning to the 90's)
6. She Drives Me Crazy -- Fine Young Cannibals (Always go with the falsetto, I say)
5. I've Always Been Crazy -- Waylon Jennings (WAY better!)
4.  Crazy Little Thing Called Love -- Dwight Yoakam (Okay, yea, I know it's a Queen song - don't care.)
3.  Crazy Arms -- Ray Price (Yes! Music!)
2. Mama He's Crazy -- The Judds (The Judds basically rescued country music, in case you forgot.)
1.  Crazy -- Patsy Cline (C'mon - you know it's probably the best song of all time.I have nothing more to say.)



 Thank you for going crazy with me. After listening to Patsy Cline, I've decided that crazy isn't so bad.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ADDENDUM:

Why, you ask, didn't I include Prince? Well, His Highness is rather "protective" (let's say) of his videos. I don't know why; I don't understand exactly why a performer wouldn't want to be seen, but that's his gig. I often don't even understand my own thought processes, and I would say I know me pretty well.

I did find one, though (a video; not a brain wave). Let's see how long this can remain here before I receive a cease and desist letter