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Posts Tagged ‘Neil Young’

Murder Songs Vol. 4

September 23rd, 2010 6 comments

Porter Wagoner – The First Mrs Jones (1967).mp3
Once upon a time Mr Jones fell in love with Betty. He married her in September, but by November she had left him. And as Mr Jones tells his story, we can sort of see why. When Betty (he prefers to call her The First Mrs Jones) left, Mr Jones went into überstalker mode. He followed her to Savannah, New Orleans and Atlanta, pestering her to return to him. Then the drinking started (though we have a hunch that Mr Jones was not averse to the occasional tipple before). “It was cold and dark one morning, just before the day was dawning, when I staggered from a tavern to a phone. When she picked up her receiver I said: ‘You’re gonna come back or either they’re gonna be calling you the Late Mrs Jones.” Clearly Betty made clear her intentions to decline the offer, but evidently saw no need to seek safe refuge. So, to cut a long story short, Mr Jones took a taxi, made a lot of noise outside her house. He doesn’t remember what happens next. Consciousness returned when he was burying her bones in the woods, touchingly putting flowers on the fresh grave.

So why is Mr Jones telling us his unlovely story? Well, he isn’t addressing us, which we know because now things are taking a sinister turn: he is talking to his new wife who evidently is entertaining crazy notions of leaving him. “Really now, don’t you wanna come go with me? After all, you are the Second…Mrs Jones.”

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Rosie Thomas – Charlotte (2002).mp3
This is a gentle song in which the narrator observes her eponymous neighbour and friend suffering the treatment of an abusive drunkard husband. “Charlotte, you used to be much happier, but it’s not you that’s to blame. Charlotte, you let him push you round, and you’re falling apart at the seams.” But the bad times won’t last forever. “One day he’ll get just what he deserves, and you can be yourself once again.” Soon there’s drama again. There’s yelling and threats and, suddenly, a shot. The narrator runs over, and sees the scumbag dead in his chair. She tells Charlotte: “I’ll tell the cops everything.” But she does not mean the truth. She concocts a cover-up, so that Charlotte can start a new life somewhere else.

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Neil Young – Down By The River (1969)
Neil Young is running a theme as old as song itself — the crime of passion; the wronged husband avenging his honour (Porter Wagoner will feature again with one of the best songs on that theme). But this being 1969, and musicians of Young’s ilk more interested in laying down guitar jams than producing lucid lyrics, we must figure out ourselves the circumstances leading to the murder, which the narrator at least admits to: “Down by the river, I shot my baby. Down by the river…Dead, oh, shot her dead.” The rest is just crazy hippie talk about rainbows. So, obviously, youngologists believe the song is about heroin.

Well, the whiny, occasional Republican clarified the meaning in 1984 at a gig in New Orleans. The narrator met his woman at the titular location. “And he told her she’d been cheatin’ on him one too many times. And he reached down in his pocket and he pulled a little revolver out. Said: ‘Honey, I hate to do this, but you pushed me too far’.” Two hours later he gets arrested at his house. Young’s full explanation can be found here. I just want to know why he didn’t say all that in the song?

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More Murder Songs

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In Memoriam – July 2010

August 3rd, 2010 1 comment

The grim reaper evidently is a big football fan, stepping up his reaping only after the World Cup concluded (taking, however, the great South African saxophonist Robbie Jansen before its conclusion), but then with a vengeance. The most notable musician this month may be Harvey Fuqua, whose impact on music was mostly behind the scenes. Fittingly, Marvin Gaye on the last track of his last album paid tribute to his mentor. Just a short while after Big Star’s Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel died.

A couple of session musicians who played on rock classics passed on. I usually don’t include technical staff other than influential producers. But as a sound engineer Bill Porter shaped the Nashville sound. We all know songs that he has produced (many have featured on this blog), including classics by the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Skeeter Davis, Hank Locklin, and Jim Reeves. Also passing on is the relatively obscure funk and soul singer Melvin Bliss, whose 1973 b-side Synthetic Substitution became a staple hip hop sample (for a list, see here)

But the most tragic death came towards the end of the month when the jazz drummer Chris Dagley — who also was a session man (as featured on jazz singer’s Claire Martin’s latest album) — died in a motorbike accident on the way home from playing a gig at London’s famous Ronnie Scott’s. He leaves behind his wife and three kids.

Tracks listed for each entry are on the compilation linked to at the end of this post.

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Ilene Woods, 81, American singer and actress, on Juy 1
Ilene Woods – Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo (from Cinderella, 1950)

Harvey Fuqua, 80, singer with The Moonglows and record producer, on July 6
Harvey & The Moonglows – Ten Commandments Of Love (1959)
Marvin Gaye – My Love Is Waiting (1982)

Bill Porter, 79, hugely influential rock & roll and country sound engineer, on July 7
Bobby Bare – 500 Miles Away From Home (1963)
Skeeter Davis – I Can’t Stay Mad At You (1963)
Elvis Presley – (You’re The) Devil In Disguise (1963)

Robbie Jansen, 60, South African jazz saxophonist and singer, on July 7
Robbie Jansen – Praise My Soul (1998)
Tony Schilder Trio – Give Her Back To Me (1995)

More Robbie Jansen here

Sugar Minott, 54, reggae singer, on July 10
Sugar Minott – Good Thing Going (1981)

Walter Hawkins, 61, gospel singer, on July 11
Walter Hawkins – For My Good (1998)

Tuli Kupferberg, 86, poet, cartoonist and musician with folk-group The Fugs, on July 12
The Fugs – The Garden Is Open (1968)

Paulo Moura, 77, Brazilian saxophonist and clarinetist, on July 12
Paulo Moura & Os Batutas – Lamentos (1996)

Olga Guillot, 87, Cuban “Queen of Bolero”, on July 13
Olga Guillot – Sabor a mi

Gene Ludwig, 72, jazz organist, on July 14
Gene Ludwig – Blue Flame (1966)

Hank Cochran, 74, country music singer-songwriter and duo partner of Eddie Cochran, on July 15
Cochran Brothers – Slowdown (1956)
Wanda Jackson – I Fall To Pieces (1988)

Yandé Codou Sène, 78, Senegalese singer, on July 15
Yandé Codou Sène & Youssou N’Dour – Sama Guent Guii (1995)

Carlos Torres Vila, 63, Argentinian folk singer, on July 16
Carlos Torres Vila – Que Pasa Entre Los Dos (1976)

Fred Carter Jr., 76, guitarist (e.g. on The Boxer and bass on Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay), songwriter and producer, on July 17
Marty Robbins – El Paso (1959)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Boxer (1970)

Andy Hummel, 59, founder member of Big Star, on July 19
Big Star – My Life Is Right (1972)

Phillip Walker, 73, blues musician, on July 22
Phillip Walker – Hello My Darling

Harry Beckett, 75, British trumpeter, on July 22
Harry Beckett – Ultimate Tribute (2009)

Al Goodman, 63, singer with The Moments and Ray, Goodman & Brown, on July 26
The Moments – Love On A Two-Way Street (1970)
Ray Goodman Brown – Special Lady (1979)

Melvin Bliss, 75, soul singer, on July 26
Melvin Bliss – Synthetic Substitution (1973)

Bice, 37, Japanese singer-songwriter and producer, on July 26
Bice – An Apple A Day (2001)

Ben Keith, 73, country/folk/rock musician and producer, on July 27
Neil Young – Are You Ready For The Country? (1972)

Chris Dagley, 38, English jazz drummer, on July 28
Claire Martin – Everybody Today Is Turning On (2009)

DOWNLOAD IN MEMORIAM – JULY 2010

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American Road Trip Vol. 1

March 11th, 2009 7 comments

Any Major Dude With Half A Heart is going on a tour of the USA. Not physically, alas, for Any Major Dude is poor and cannot afford to travel. So what we have here is a new series in which I start a musical journey, starting from a random place in the United States, post a song that mentions that location, and travel to the nearest town which brings to my mind a lyric, and then to another. Next instalment I move on from the last featured town. Sounds complicated? Well, come and join me on my tour and make sense of it as we travel together.

The scientific blind-stab-at-the-map of the United States brings us to…an empty spot in the middle of nowhere near Albuquerque. So in that amusingly-named town, we begin our journey

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Albuquerque, New Mexico

In Albuquerque we meet a fellow you seems to be too well-known in nearby Santa Fé, so he comes down to the bigger city of Albuquerque for a bit of anonymity, grabbing a cholesterol swelling breakfast on theway. Shall we accompany him on his return north to Santa Fé (where we might encounter Bob Dylan, Brooks & Dunn or Bon Jovi)? Head east, you say? Ok, do you know the way to Amarillo?
Neil Young – Albuquerque (1975).mp3

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Amarillo, Texas

It never occurred to me that Amarillo was a real place. Well, the good people of Amarillo will have you, and me, know that their’s is the 14th biggest city in the Lone Star state, with a population of about 200,000. According to Wikipedia, Amarillo also boasts one of the largest meat packing areas in the US, and has the only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility in the country. Wow! And here, in the one-time Helium Capital of the World, we meet sweet Marie, who is waiting for the sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-ing Tony Christie. As the church bells are ringing, we retire to a bar where we encounter a dude playing on a pinball machine, feeding coins into a juke box to play the country stylings of Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton. The fool left the lovely Emmylou Harris behind in Atlanta, we learn. Which way is Atlanta? Due east? Let’s be on our way.
Emmylou Harris – Amarillo (1975).mp3
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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

So we turned right from Amarillo and landed up in Oklahoma where the exciting new Wilco-esque band Deep Vibration (presumably named after the cellular adventures of one Ashley Cole) entertains us with a sound so rich, we have no idea what the man is singing. Something, it seems, is on his mind. Fun fact about Oklahoma City #1: It is twinned with Rio de Janeiro, which seems somehow less than obvious. Fun fact about Oklahoma City #2: It is the 31st biggest city in the United States. Fun fact about Oklahoma City #3: It has water taxis, which is pretty cool.
Deep Vibration – Oklahoma City Woman Blues (2008).mp3

Next stop north, south, east?