Bob Seger, Dave Edmunds (& for one night only Bob Dylan!) : Get Out Of Denver

Well, I think it’s fair to we have been in the fast lane for the last two Jukebox Posts.

So, it would probably be sensible to pull over, take a breath, and relax with a dreamy ballad I could wax all lyrical about.

That would be sensible.

But, Brothers and Sisters, I’m here to tell you I’m going to do no such thing.

No such thing.

Instead while the fires are blazing and our hearts are burnin’ burnin’ let’s get those wheels really spinning!

Time to get the motor running.

Head out on the highway.

Adventure is bound to come our way.

Let’s drive all night under the Moon until the Sun comes up.

Let’s roar through Nebraska whinin’.

Let’s head out for the mountains.

Let’s drive so fast the fields will feel like they’re bending over.

Let’s worry about absolutely nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

Not even if the rear view mirror picks up flashing red lights and the air resounds with sirens screaming.

Because all the red lights and screaming sirens in the world don’t make no difference when you’re driving a Ferrari Enzo.

 

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Oh Boy are we gonna get out of Denver.

The speed dial is gonna cruise past 200 miles an hour.

We’ll have to pinch each other just to see if we was dreaming.

Bye, Bye, Bye, flashing lights and sirens screaming.

Bye, Bye, Bye.

We’re getting straight outta Denver.

Straight outta Denver.

Fire her up Bob!

Fire her up!

 

 

Bob Seger is the real deal.

He did all the hard yards in his native Detroit.

Learning how to lead a band that could drive an audience stone crazy.

Writing songs that spoke plain truth about the real lives people led and the lives they wanted to lead.

Bob Seger – an honest working man speaking directly from that experience and illuminating it with melody and lyric and colossal drive.

A Home Town hero in Detroit for years and years before the rest of the world woke up to his extraordinary talent.

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One of those who knew a Rock ‘n’ Roll classic when he heard it was Dave Edmunds.

Dave is plugged into the very DNA of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

He is entirely capable of playing every instrument himself as with I Hear You Knocking.

But, get him onstage with sparring partner Nick Lowe and a dynamite drummer like Terry Williams and you can guarantee your wheels will be spinnin’ spinnin’ shootin’ sparks all around.

From 1977’s ‘Get It’ Dave’s riotous take on Get Out Of Denver.

Go! Go! Go!

 

 

From time to time I’m asked – what’s the greatest double live album of all time?

Now, that’s easy – Van Morrison’s, ‘Too Late To Stop Now’ for the genius of his singing across multiple musical genres and the empathetic brilliance of The Caledonia Soul Orchestra.

But, when I want the pure adrenaline rush of listening to a great Band setting the woods and ballroom on fire I always turn to Bob Seger’s ‘Live Bullet’ recorded in 1975 at The Cobo in Detroit.

When I perfect the time travel machine one of my first stops is going to be Detroit September 1975 so that I can go absolutely nuts the moment I hear Bob sing:

’I still remember it was autumn and the moon was shinin’ ….’

 

 

Fast forward to March 16 2004 Detroit’s State Theatre.

Bob Dylan, a mere 15 years into the, ‘Never Ending Tour’ has seemingly completed his encore with the incomparable one-two punch of, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ and, ‘All Along The Watchtower’.

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But, there’s a surprise in store even for fanatical Bob Cats who know every song Bob has ever played and who compile lists of songs he just might do one day (guilty).

For tonight, for one night only (or more circumspectly we might say for at least the next 14 years) Bob and the band – Larry Campbell, Freddie Koella (much missed by me), Richie Hayward, George Recile and on Bass that night – Tony Garnier launch to the roaring delight of the assembled Detroiters full tilt into, ‘Get Out Of Denver’

 

Bob must have learned that the day before had been officially declared Bob Seger Day by The Governor and decided to tip his hat in the best way possible from one songwriter and bandleader to another.

Bob, as we should know by now, is pretty much familiar with every great song that’s been written over the last two hundred years or so.

That’s why I have dubbed him The Keeper Of American Song.

It’s also worth noting that Bob Seger has said that the first artist who really got to him was Little Richard.

And, legendarily, Bob Dylan’s High School Yearbook records his ambition was to, ‘Join Little Richard’.

Hearing the two Bobs burnin’ burnin’ through Get Out Of Denver we can be sure both of them have joined Little Richard in the highest halls of Rock ‘n’ Roll’

‘Get out of Denver better go go, Get out of Denver go ….

The Clash, The Stray Cats, Bobby Fuller : I Fought The Law

‘I wrote it in my living room in West Texas ones sandstormy afternoon. It took me about 20 minutes’ (Sonny Curtis)

West Texas is wide open.

When the wind blows, and it blows a lot, sand storms swirl.

After February 3rd 1959 there was another sound in the swirling sandy wind.

The sound of a Ghost – the Ghost of Buddy Holly.

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Buddy Holly’s music woke deep passions and ambitions in a Minnesota kid who locked eyes with him in one of the last concerts he ever played.

Buddy Holly’s music woke deep passions and ambitions in two Liverpool teenagers who wanted to write and play their own songs and have a group just like The Crickets.

Buddy was the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roller ever to come out of Texas and though his sound echoes all over the world it’s in Texas that his Ghost speaks loudest.

Speaking in the song of the hot sun and the West Texas Wind.

Sonny Curtis knew Buddy well.

He had played with him and recorded with him.

So, when the plane went down that tragic day it seemed natural for The Crickets to turn to Sonny as a new Cricket and songwriter.

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The first post Buddy Crickets album, ‘In Style’ was recorded in New York in 1959 and issued the following year.

Driving up to the Big Apple Jerry Mauldin and Jerry Allison asked Sonny if he had any songs for the new record.

Well .. I got this song, ‘I Fought the Law’ – I wrote last year, ain’t even written it down, kind of a country song, goes like this:

A-breaking rocks in the hot sun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I miss my baby and a good fun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I left my baby and I feel so bad
Guess my race is run
She’s the best girl that I’ve ever had
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
A-robbin’ people with the zip gun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I needed money ’cause I had none
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I left my baby and I feel so bad
Guess my race is run
She’s the best girl that I’ve ever had
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won.

 

Wow! They could all tell this was some song.

A bad boy who ain’t so bad.

The best girl he he ever had.

An armed robbery that goes wrong.

The inexorable reach of the law.

But, not as a country ballad.

No, this needed some of that Buddy bounce.

Bright guitars, rock ‘n’ roll drums, a bright clear vocal (Earl Sinks would take care of that) and a killer chorus.

Put all that together and you’ve got a hell of a record.

 

 

And, it was a hell of a record.

It’s just that in 1960 the great record buying public in all its wisdom wasn’t listening closely to The Crickets anymore and neither were the radio programmers.

So, no hit for The Crickets and no royalties for Sonny Curtis.

Yet, as Jukeboxers know, a true message always gets through – it’s just a matter of how long it takes.

There is, of course, another audience for Songs.

An audience that hears things the public don’t always cotton onto straight away.

The audience of other songwriters and performers who hear a song and think – I know just how to do this one and really make it come alive.

So in 1962 Milwaukee’s Paul Stefan with The Royal Lancers issued a charming, if underpowered, version on Citation Records which won local approval.

A couple of years later Sammy Masters on Kapp recorded it Western recitation style.

Sonny still didn’t really have any royalties to bank but the message was rising above a whisper now.

And, the message was heard loudest and clearest of all by Bobby Fuller under the hot sun back in El Paso Texas.

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Bobby was a natural rocker who loved the sheer sound of guitars turned up high supported by a driving beat and vocals that grabbed your attention from the get go and never let up.

And, Bobby likes to experiment in his basement – layering the instrumental and vocal sound until it rang out like lightning.

Bobby’s sharp ears heard, ‘I Fought the Law’ and he got to work.

He produced a demo, in 1964, that would lay the template for his monster hit of 1966 (the subsequent 1964 45 put out on his own Exeter label was a hit in the El Paso area but to my mind it is flatter, less resonant than the wonderful demo below).

it’s obvious that Bobby has been listening to the likes of The Ventures and Dick Dale as well as good old Buddy.

Now El Paso knew just how great a song this was.

All the elements of a classic were now in place.

What Bobby and the song needed now was a more punchy recording in a better studio along with national distribution and publicity.

Enter Bob Keane of Del Fi and Mustang Records who had lost his brightest star, Ritchie Valens, in the same crash that took away Buddy.

Setting up in Los Angeles Bobby, brother Randy (bass) Jim Reese (guitar) and DeWayne Quirico on drums laid down an all time rock ‘n’ roll classic that has the drive of the 50s forefathers with added 60s colour and brightness.

This one takes off like a dragster and smashes through the winning tape still accelerating.

Once this one got heard on the radio there was no stopping it and by mid March 1966 it was a top 10 hit.

 

 

I make that 132 seconds of Rock ‘n Roll bliss!

Sheer Bliss.

Of course, I can’t think of a occasion I’ve put this on my turntable and played it only once!

Eight years after that sandstormy day, at last, the royalties began to flow for Sonny Curtis.

A true message always gets through.

Always.

Now, you would think such a triumph would presage a stellar future for Bobby – especially as he was such a clued up musician, strong vocalist and a brilliant live performer.

However, those dreams died, in very dubious circumstances indeed, when in July 1966 Bobby was found, asphyxiated and doused in petrol in his car.

The official verdict was suicide.

It seems highly likely that it was malign forces, outside the Law, who took Bobby’s life away and shattered a very promising career.

Time moved on and music went through many phases.

British Beat. Folk Rock. Pyschedelia, Country Rock, Prog Rock, Glam Rock.

By the mid 70s in London a new generation of musicians and incendiary would be musicians intuited that it was time to get back to basics and hit the stage at a hundred miles and hour and let the audience catch up if they could.

Punk Rock was a two fingered salute to the worthy, corporate, Rock establishment.

Get out of the way!

Move it on over!

A new Gang’s in Town.

And, pogoing furiously in clubs all over London, it seemed to me that the coolest Gang and the one which truly understood the essence of real Rock ‘n Roll was The Clash.

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Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon.

Joe and Mick took a trip to San Francisco in mid 78 to work on the second Clash album, ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’.

The Automatt Studio was furnished with vintage Jukeboxes and the record the needle dropped on the most for Joe and Mick was none other than Bobby Fuller’s I Fought The Law.

A true message always gets through.

I Fought the Law, in July 1979, would be the first Clash single issued in America and their first track to gain significant radio AirPlay.

This is truly a magnificent racket!

This one uses premium rocket fuel.

Best to strap yourself in before hitting the play button here!

 

I imagine it never occurred to Sonny that a bunch of West London Bad Boys would really whip up a Wild West Texas Typhoon on that song he wrote 21 years before!

Nor, that a bunch of American Rebels, The Stray Cats, would find their feet in London perfecting a raunchy Rockabilly attack that could ensure any song they took on would leave earth’s gravity in a single bound.

Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom palyed with such sheer Joy in their live shows.

Whenever they played near me I was at the head of the queue and ready to elbow my way to my preferred front row centre stage spot!

The message still gets through.

 

 

Oh yes.

The message still gets through.

Crosing Continents and Oceans.

Vaulting Mountains.

Wherever there’s a bunch of musicians who need to ride the whirlwind the message gets through.

It came through on a clear channel to Mano Negra who fell on it like ravenous wolves howling at The Moon.

Ojo! Ojo! Ojo!

This Train ain’t gonna stop – stand well clear or you’ll get your head blown clean off!

 

 

And, if you’ve got your head blown off the least you can do is dance until the rest of your body runs out of blood to pump.

So, to conclude lets rock the joint with two scorching live takes on I Fought the Law.

First off The Clash flash flooding the senses.

Now, the man who put his stamp all over this song for all eternity – Bobby Fuller (dig those groovy dancers all you hep cats and kittens!).

 

One last word of advice to all you Bad Boys and Bad Girls out there – forget going robbing with a Zip Gun, a Six Gun or a Shotgun.

If you fight the law you’ll find the law wins.

No, get yourself a six string and crank it up to 11 and sing with all your heart for Sonny Curtis and Bobby Fuller:

I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won.

I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won.

Notes :

Other versions of I Fought the Law I approve of you might care to check out :

Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Nanci Griffith with The Crickets, John Mellancamp, Mike Ness, The Grateful Dead.

Bobby Fuller – His tragic death was a great loss to music.

In many ways he’s the musical bridge between Buddy Holly and John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

I have two Box Sets ‘Never To Be Forgotten’ from Del Fi and ‘Texas Tapes Revisited’ – both crammed with rocking gems.

Sonny Curtis – Though I Fought the Law is his most valuable copyrighted Song Sonny has penned several other significant Songs including, ‘Walk Right Back’ for The Everly Brothers.

 

 

Doug Sahm, Garland Jeffreys, ? and the Mysterians : 96 Tears

‘One day Frank started playing a little organ riff and we all really liked it a lot. I kinda came up with the chord riff … then Question Mark said he had words for it … I thought he was just singing off the top of his head.’ (Bobby Balderrama)

The 1960s, as any Baby Boomer will tell you, was the decade when Rock and Pop music peaked.

A tidal wave of creative energy was unleashed which is never likely to be matched.

Pick any week from the Billboard Hot 100 chart from the 1960s and you’ll be near overwhelmed by the number of truly great records you’ll find (and the memories they’ll generate).

Competition was fierce.

So, to ascend to the coveted Number One spot was a real achievement.

Take the top 5 for the last week in October 1966.

Pure Pop for Now people from The Monkees with, ‘Last Train to Clarkesville’.

A deep Soul cry (from the Ghetto, from the battlefields of Vietnam, from a tragic Lover’s heart) roared out by The Four Tops with, ‘Reach Out, I’ll Be There’.

An aching morality tale from Johnny Rivers with, ‘Poor Side of Town’ (previously featured here on The Jukebox).

An unfathomably deep, nay eternal, Pop Classic from 16 year old Michael Brown and The Left Banke with, ‘Walk Away Renee’ (also featured on The Jukebox).

Phew!

What record could possibly have kept those masterworks from the very summit of the charts?

Well, a record cut by a bunch of unknown Mexican-American teenagers from Michigan, with a lead singer known only by the ? symbol (where do you think Prince got the idea!) that will thrill the soul as long as there is electricity or some other means to power a Jukebox!

Too many teardrops for one heart to be crying!

Too many teardrops for one heart to carry on!

You’re gonna cry 96 tears!

You’re gonna cry 96 tears!

 

 

Watch Out Now!

Watch Out Now!

Cuidado Ahora!

Cuidado Ahora!

So, you take an insanely catchy organ riff, played on a Vox Continental or a Farfisa Combo Compact depending on which authority you believe, an increasingly crazed vocal extolling the sheer delight of anticipated romantic revenge (and who hasn’t felt that in their life?) a tempo that locks your attention in and you’ve got yourself a monster Hit!

This is Punk before Punk.

This is a wonderfully grimy garage classic just reeking of the greasepit.

This is a voodoo Mexican Folk Ballad.

This is pure unadulterated Rock ‘n’ Roll.

96 Tears lasts less than 3 minutes playing time.

Yet, I guarantee that everyone who hears it is chanting out:

’You’re gonna cry 96 Tears, You’re Gonna Cry 96 Tears, You’re gonna cry, cry, cry now’

with infinite gusto long before the 3 minutes has elapsed.

The definitive organ riff came from Frank Rodriguez who was all of 13 when 96 Tears was recorded in the Spring of 1966.

The guitarist was founding Mysterian Bobby Balderrama.

Eddie Serrano sat on the Drum Stool.

Bass was played by Fernando Aguilar.

The signature vocal was by the one and only hyper imaginative Question Mark ? 

GIven his determination to be known by this name alone I’ve resolved to use only this name throughout.

The Mysterians all came from families that had followed the lure of employment and the Dollar Bill from Mexico taking in fruit picking before securing jobs in the Michigan Auto Plants.

They started out playing instrumentals in the dramatic style of Duane Eddy and Link Wray. When the British Invasion hit and as they watched Shindig and American Bandstand they realised they had to have a dynamic lead singer and that a powerful organ sound hit home every time.

Once Frank came up with the immortal riff they approached Lilly Gonzalez, a luminary of the local Mexican community, who found them a small recording studio and pressed up 500 copies of 96 Tears on her own Pa-Go-Go label.

The song was then take  up by a relay of Radio Stations until demand became so great that Cameo Parkway took over and drove the single all the way to Number One!

My favourite moment in the song is the line where Question Mark ? momentarily pauses for breath before slamming home the killer line:

’And when the sun comes up I’ll be on top – You’ll be right down there looking up’.

Take that!

Now, it is a truth universally to be acknowledged that all Jukeboxes are in want of a Record which will get everyone onto their feet to dance furiously while rattling the walls and windows shouting out the chorus.

I think we can all agree that 96 Tears absolutely fulfils this need.

Which is why 96 Tears must take its place on The Immortal Jukebox as (what else) A 96.

Now, once such a Record is issued all over this wicked world gangs of young musicians hear it and think, ‘That will suit us very nicely indeed’.

The lead singer gets ready to hyperventilate and the organist thinks – they think they know how the organ goes on this one but they haven’t heard my version yet!

If they’re not in possession of an organ, Vox or Farfisa, the guitarist thinks – I’m gonna tear this one up so completely that no one will even remember there was an organ on the original.

Watch Out Now!

Watch Out Now!

Cuidad Ahora!

Cuidad Ahora!

A true message always gets through.

So, in 1976, frequenting London’s The Nashville and 100 Club venues I encountered a testosterone topped up the max outfit called Eddie and the Hot Rods who went full pelt at songs like, ‘Gloria’ and, ‘Get Out of Denver’ before thrashing the life out of 96 Tears.

Here’s their, ‘Live at The Marquee’ version from 1976 – I think I may have lost a few pounds while this one played and needed to sink a fair few pints to restore balance.

Such is Youth (and Thank God for it!)

The message certainly got through to Brooklyn.

That’s where Garland Jeffreys grew up listening to every style of music with a keen ear and  the determination to meld these styles together in his own songwriting and performances.

Garland Jeffreys is one of those secret heroes of music whose prominent influence and regard among musicians is in stark contrast to his stature among the general record buying public.

Be assured The Jukebox will feature a  considered tribute to him later.

For now let’s enjoy his distinctive take on 96 Tears.

The Band really got their groove happening here!

 

A true message always gets through.

And there was no more true hearted custodian of American Music than Doug Sahm – who is always warmly welcomed at The Jukebox.

Whenever Doug got together with Freddie Fender,  Augie Myers and Flaco Jimenez the music flowed and everybody got to have a glorious party.

Let’s take 96 Tears down South to Texas with Doug and his faithful compadres.

They sure shake the flavour all over every one of those 96 Tears!

Too many teardrops for one heart to be crying.

Too many teardrops for one heart to carry on.

Oh, oh, oh, believe me, when the sun comes up …

You’re Gonna cry 96 Tears.

Youre gonna cry 96 Tears.

96 Tears.

96 Tears.

I’m gonna  count every one.

Every single one.

96 Tears.

96 Tears.

 

 

Notes :

? and The Mysterains predictably fell foul of Music Biz moguls which resulted in long drawn out litigation, inadequate financial reward and a very messy discography.

However, there is a now a substantial collection of their Cameo Parkway material which amply demonstrates they were far more than one hit wonders.

Other versions to look out for are by:

Big Maybelle

Thelma Houston

Suicide

David Byrne & Richard Thompson

The Stranglers

Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers.

The Kinks, The Pretenders (and more!) : Stop Your Sobbing

The Kinks debut LP was rush released in October 1964 to capitalise on the enormous success of their third single, ‘You Really Got Me’ which shot to Number 1 in the UK Charts in mid September before hitting the Top 10 in the U.S.A.

You Really Got Me is the standout track from the LP.

Of course it bears saying that it was also one of the greatest and most influential recordings of the 1960s.

It exploded into the consciousness of listeners and fellow musicians all over the globe searing synapses with its astounding energy.

Dave Davies’ guitar solo, a product of fire and fury and a slashed little green amp, remains one of the most seismic ever recorded.

The Kinks couldn’t match the intensity of that performance on the other 13 tracks that made up, ‘The Kinks’.

Lightning is not caught in a botte to order.

11 of the other cuts on the LP are covers of Rock ‘n’ Roll and R&B classics from the likes of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Slim Harpo.

The Kinks approach to these songs is not that of knowing reverential devotees like The Rolling Stones.

Rather,  The Kinks come at these songs slant wise and when their feral energy locks in the results can be tremendously exciting.

But, as Ray Davies knew in his bones, the core of his and The Kinks creative energy was an amalgam of his (correct) sense that he was not like everybody else and thus an ideal observer of the world around him coupled with deep fraternal harmony only exceeded by fierce fraternal dischord.

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The Kinks and Ray Davies in particular didn’t dream of being American.

Though they loved American Music and were inspired by it they sensed their own songs, if they were to have authenticity and authority, would have to be reflective of their own lives – reflecting Muswell Hill rather than Blueberry Hill.

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The song on that debut record that demonstrated that Ray Davies and The Kinks could convey nuanced emotions and beguile an audience,  as well as exhaust them,  was the only other Ray Davies original present, ‘Stop Your Sobbing’.

 

 

Pure Pop for Now People!

Well … Pure Pop in the fragile melody and tremulous arrangement.

Pure Pop in the way Rasa Davies’ ghostly backing vocals shadow Ray’s lead.

Pure Pop in the way Dave Davies’ chiming guitar rhymes with our hearts as the song progresses.

Pure Pop in the way Pete Quaife and Mick Avory unobtrusively hold everything together.

But, but .. not so Pure in the emotional nuances of Ray Davies’ lyric and vocal.

Is he appalled by all the sobbing?

Or is he fascinated?

Does the sobbing turn him off or turn him on?

Is he a mixed up, frustrated, Lover or a disinterested observer carefully recording how the emotions play out?

Remember this is Ray Davies –  a man of passion who is also a man of reflection and contemplation.

A Lover who can’t stop being a Loner.

A writer who has that chip of ice in the heart that tells him, whatever the situation, to observe and record.

Observe, record and remember.

There’s a Song in this. There’s a Song in this.

Ray Davies never was and never will be just like everybody else.

And,  savvy songwriters with a sense of the history of  Pop songwriting  know that Ray Davies is a master of the craft.

A savvy songwriter like Chrissie Hynde who wanted the world to know she was special. That there was nobody else here and now like her.

She just had to have our attention and she was going to use all her resources to make sure she got it.

Most of all she was going to draw upon the deep well of her imagination.

An imagination that could relish the role reversal of a sassy woman singing, ‘Stop Your Sobbing’ and singing the hell out of it.

 

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Singing with the seductive charm of oh, oh,  won’t you be my baby, Ronnie Spector.

Singing with the, you sure gotta lot of gall,  dismissiveness of Bob Dylan.

Singing with the,  Oh No, no, no, no, no,  dramatic soliloquy intensity, of The Shagri Las’ Mary Weiss.

Singing so our attention is immediately captured and never released.

Singing that inspired highly imaginative guitar playing from James Honeyman-Scott.

Nick Lowe produced The Pretenders version of Stop Your Sobbing in late 1979 but amazingly he thought they ‘were going nowhere’ and stepped away.

Nick, Nick, Nick – you got that one one Wrong!

The Pretenders proved to be unstoppable Hit Makers.

They had Style and they had Swagger and big time success with a Songwriter and Singer like Chrisie Hynde was guaranteed.

 

 

Now, if we are trawling the annals of  modern songwriting for the, ‘Not like everybody else’ category there’s one thing we gotta do – call up the unique sensibility of Jonathan Richman!

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Checkout Jonathan’s crazy campfire singalong version!

Get groovin’ to that addictive rhythm!

You can’t listen to Jonathan,when he’s in this kind of form, and not feel wonderfully refreshed and cheered

 

 

Another Songwriter with style and imagination, Pete Yorn, found, ‘Stop Your Sobbing’ getting under the skin.

I’ll leave you with a charmingly understated vocal duet version featuring Scarlett Johansson.

 

 

Their smiles at the end say it all.

Ray Davies recorded Stop Your Sobbing more than half a Century ago.

I think its good for another 50 years at least.

Jimmy Cliff : Many Rivers To Cross

The Immortal Jukebox A 30

‘I never get tired of singing Many Rivers to Cross, and you know why? .. ‘cause I still have many rivers to cross. They’re just different rivers.’ (Jimmy Cliff)

Many rivers to cross.

Many rivers to cross.

Just can’t seem to find our way over.

We are haunted by Waters.

Rivers flow through our imaginations.

As Rivers thirst for the Sea so we thirst for the sound of running water.

There is balm and there is healing in the sound of a flowing River.

The sound and the sight of The River invites movement towards the future.

Which surely lie somewhere downriver.

Downriver.

When you’re lost as you travel along if you can find The River you know you can find your way home or to your new destination.

When only your will keeps you alive stand by The River and resolve to carry on – to cross over and be born again in cool water.

Cross The Rubicon.

Cross The Delaware

Cross The Euphrates.

Cross The Volga.

Cross The Murray.

Cross The Nile, The Niger and The Congo.

Cross The Mackenzie, The Mekong, The Missouri and The Mississippi.

Cross The Lena and The Laune.

Cross The Brahmaputra, The Besós and The Brazos.

Cross The Thames, The Tiber and The Tyne.

Cross The Rhine and The Rhône.

Cross The Rappahannock, The Rio Grande and The Red.

Cross The Acheron, The Lethe and The Styx.

Wade across The Jordan.

Each River has its own song.

And, each of us hears different songs as we listen to The River.

We are all travelling from the Source to The Sea.

Oh, we really don’t know why.

We don’t know why.

But, I guess we have to try.

Have to try.

To cross over.

To Cross Over.

 

 

Jimmy Cliff has A Voice.

A Voice.

In the way that Sam Cooke has A Voice.

In the way that Nina Simone has A Voice.

In the way Ray Charles has A Voice.

In the way Van Morrison had A Voice.

It’s A Voice that once heard never leaves you.

A Voice that seems immediately familiar to you yet always capable of making you catch your breathe in surprise at its glory.

A Voice that has the authority of a River in full flow.

A Voice that you find yourself harmonising with in your head as the years and tears flow by.

A Voice that speaks truth about the trials of Life.

A Voice you’ll find yourself turning to when it seems Life has got you licked.

A Voice you’ll cling to when all around, including yourself, call you washed up.

A Voice that will whisper to you in the friendless Night.

A Voice that the lonely know knows loneliness too.

A Voice that will be a guiding Star in the heavens when you’re lost and wandering far from The River.

A Voice that will help you hold on, survive, until you’re ready to stand by The River again.

A Voice that will help you cross the many Rivers you’ll have to cross in Life.

So many Rivers to cross.

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Jimmy Cliff was a teenage star of the Jamaican Ska and Rocksteady scenes.

In addition to his obvious talents as a singer he soon showed himself to be a songwriter who had the rare ability to create songs that had the mysterious power and longevity of fables.

Songs like The Harder They Come and You Can Get It If You Really Want are instantly memorable while having a core of wisdom that comes from folk memory that chimes with our immediate lived experience.

Yet, Many Rivers To Cross has an extra dimension.

It’s a song written by a young man with an old Soul.

It speaks to our many defeats yet holds out Hope that these defeats are not final or eternal.

We are born by a River in our little tents and of course we’ve been running ever since.

Ever since.

Running towards Rivet after River after River.

We all have to cross so many Rivers.

It can be a long, long journey from the Source to the Sea.

So many Rivers to cross.

There is redemption and blessing in crossing over The River.

Keep your eyes on the farther ashore and trust that you’ll cross over.

Cross Over.

 

 

Notes :

Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Greatest Hits’ should have an honoured place in every collection.

These days I often find myself reaching for his  glorious collection from 2012 ‘Rebirth’ which has deeply affecting songs of dignity and grace.