John Fogerty (Creedence), Bruce Springsteen & Bob Seger : Who’ll Stop The Rain?

Sometimes when it rains it really pours.

Really Pours.

Drumming all night long.

Slashing through the sky all day long.

Falling, falling, on the school yards and the grave yards.

Falling, falling on the lost and the lonely.

Sometimes it really, really pours.

Falling on the outcasts and the refugees.

Falling relentlessly on Hank Williams as he walks purposefully down the lost highway.

Longer than the memory of man the rain has been falling down.

Mysterious and Merciless.

Falling down.

Falling down.

On Pharaoh and Caesar.

On the Saints and the Sinners.

Who’ll stop the rain?

Who’ll stop the rain?

A mysterious and alluring fable lasting barely 150 seconds which you will never sound the depths of even if you have 150 years for the task.

John Fogerty as the dark eyed seer alerting the tribe round the campfire to the signs and rhythms all around them if they would but attend to them.

His vocal and guitar is lit with ancient lore brought fatalistically to the present.

Lashed to the mast of John Fogerty’s obsessive imagination brother Tom, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford sail on into the unknown immensity ahead.

Bruce Springsteen from his youth recognised the primal power of John Fogerty’s songs with Creedence.

He also was struck by their mythic charge and insights into American history and contemporary society.

And they always had a dynamite riff!

The Boss also had that shiver looking out on, standing under, the still falling rain.

He knew there was a darkness that no one can evade.

Learning his trade and reflecting on his own and his nation’s experiences he understood that songs, if written and performed with craft and commitment, could provide shelter from the storm.

Who’ll stop the rain?

Good men through the ages though they know the rain will always fall still look to find the returning sun.

Bards and medicine men meet in colloquy reminding themselves of the insights of their vocations.

Aeons of songwriting and performing lore are distilled in this miraculous recording by John Fogerty and Bob Seger.

Impossible to say which voice is more aged in the wood.

Together they stand, shoulder to shoulder, as the hard rain tumbles from the sky.

Their is balm in the fellow feeling they show each other and us all as they sing.

Who’ll stop the rain?

Long as I remember …

The rain will never stop as long as the world turns.

All we can do is offer each other shelter and believe, no matter how sodden we become, in the reviving warmth of the sure to return sun.

John Gorka : Semper Fi

There are no ordinary lives.

Take the time to attend to an ordinary life and you will find; dramas and disasters, triumphs and terrors, hope and horror and stories more fantastical than Dostoevsky ever imagined.

Solar systems of fascinating and moving stories.

Stories just like yours.

Stories entirely different to yours.

Stories which will make you laugh and cry and shake your head at the wonder of it all.

The wonder of it all.

Sometimes you’ll hear a story and think – well, that’s a story I can identify with even though  it never happened to me.

That’s a story that needed to be told.

And, stories that need to be told need attentive listeners.

John Gorka is a songwriter who ponders stories in his heart so that the songs that emerge carry an enormously powerful emotional charge.

Soldiers fight and soldiers die
Soldiers live to wonder why

Semper fi fe fo fum
Look out peacetime here we come
*
*

A Family story.

One man’s Father and a story he carried within him for silent decades.

My father joined the leathernecks
To stay out of the mines

The new marine was just fifteen
In 1939

A story of a nation and its leaders.

My father met Eleanor Roosevelt
In 1945
The war at last was over then
And they were still alive
*
Her husband was the President
Till he ran out of time
Her Franklin D. was history
And they’d put him on the dime
*

A story of a War which left a bloody trail all over the world.

There were medals and malaria
The south pacific war
Through jungles that were paradise
And were paradise no more

A story that excavates buried torments

Some of the men who did survive
Were not the lucky ones
My father lay recovering
The hurt was all inside

Sometimes the wounds that never heal
Are easiest to hide
*
A story that tells you hard truths.
*
Soldiers fight and soldiers die
Soldiers live to wonder why
War is only good for those
Who make and sell the guns
*
A story that reminds us that in the midst of terror and chaos what saves us is kindness and love.
*
When Eleanor came bearing gifts
To San Francisco Bay
She gave my dad a blanket
In the hospital that day
*
That blanket meant alot to him
My mother has it still

*
Some forget the kindnesses
That others never will

A story that’s a nightmare and a hard won blessing.
*
Soldiers fight and soldiers die
Soldiers live to wonder why
Semper fi fe fo fum
Look out peacetime here we come
*
 
Soldiers fight and soldiers die
Soldiers live to wonder why
Semper fi fe fo fum
Look out peacetime here we come
*
*
In the interviews I have seen with John Gorka he appears charmingly modest and hesitant.
*
But playing live, having pondered the story he is about to tell, when his fingers encounter the guitar and he sings a voice emerges which is deep, rich and resonant.
*
In Semper FI  John has been faithful to the lived experience of his father.
A 15 year old boy who grew up during a dark depression only to travel thousands of miles to grow up faster than anyone ever should among shot and shell and death.
*
John Gorka has also been faithful and done honour to the craft of song writing.
*
Semper Fi.
*
Semper Fi.
*

Mark Knopfler : Piper To The End

Synchronicity.

Serendipity.

A kindling of the imagination.

I am scrolling down the myriad programme options on my TV menu when I see a documentary called, ‘Pipers of The Trenches’ and immediately press the record button as it unites my interests in History and Music.

Resolving to watch the programme later I punch the play button on the CD in the car (selected by my son) and at once emerges Mark Knopfler’s wonderful family tribute and lament, ‘Piper To The End’.

What else could I write about this week!

A heartfelt tribute to Mark Knopfler’s uncle Freddie, a Piper for the 1st Battalion Tyneside Scottish who died at the age of just 20 in May 1940.

A song and a performance imbued with deep affection and love.

The musical arrangement has a powerful and tender sway suggesting fathomless depths of feeling at such tragic loss.

The interplay between Mark Knopfler’s Guitar and John McCusker’s Violin has a Band of Brothers closeness that sets salt tears swelling.

Knopfler’s characteristically laconic delivery lets the music and the traditional and mythic tone of the lyric express the universal pathos of the story.

… if there are no pipes in heaven
I’ll be going down below
If friends in time be severed
Someday we will meet again
I’ll return to leave you never
Be a piper to the end

Pipers feature prominently in the lore and legend of the British Army – most especially the Scottish Regiments.

Tales of the electric effect of the Pipes on troops about to go into battle abound.

On the heights of Dargai in India and on the dusty plains of the Peninsular War wounded Pipers played until their breath fell silent.

In the slaughter house fields of the First World War imagine the raw courage of an unarmed Piper marching towards the enemy trenches amid withering machine gun fire and the relentless barrage of artillery shells.

In  virtually every major battle Pipers played and Pipers were slain.

We watched the fires together
Shared our quarters for a while

Walked the dusty roads together
Came so many miles
*
This has been a day to die on
Now the day is almost done
Here the pipes will lay beside me
Silent with the battle drum.
*
The bravery and sacrifice of Pipers was then reflected in the Piping tradition through compositions such as ‘Battle of the Somme’ by Willie Lawrie.
*
*

The British Army lost a scarcely credible 20,000 men on the first day of The Battle of The Somme.

The Pipers who played that day need no one to tell them about Hell.

Still I am convinced that there will be company upon company of Pipers in Heaven.

As long as there are storytellers and songwriters like Mark Knopfler their heroism and sacrifice will never be forgotten and the skirl of The Pipes will always echo on.

Echo on.

Some things can never be severed.

If friends in time be severed
Someday here we will meet again
I’ll return to leave you never
Be a piper to the end

A Piper to the end.

Steely Dan (Horace Silver) : Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (Song For My Father)

OK. for Now, you live in the suburbs.

Squaresville.

But, but, soon you’ll be going to College and everything’s going to change from monochrome to wide vision Technicolor.

A whole new world.

A new frontier.

Godard. Godot.

French New Wave.

Italian Neo Realists.

Abstract Expressionists.

Ginsberg. Corso. Snyder. Ferlinghetti.

Rhythm & Blues. Soul.

Cool Jazz. Bebop. Hard Bop.

Once you get to College you’re going to form a band with your songwriting partner (songwriters work best in partnerships).

Together, once you have the songs, you will as producers and directors make gleaming records which will be as enigmatic as they are addictive.

Those in the know will know.

You will find and cast a gallery of stellar musicians matching their individual and collective talents to the specific demands of each song.

From the vast treasury of tracks spinning in your heads you’ll find influences and inspiration.

You will embed those influences and inspirations in your newly minted creations.

You and your partner will swop riffs and rhythms and references (that’s how you found each other).

Hey, remember that fabulous bass line from Horace Silver on, ‘Song For My Father’ ?

Sure do. Sure do.

The thing about Horace is you play him to people who swear they just can’t stand Modern Jazz and they say …  well, now, I do like that .. what did you say his name was?

That’s because Horace’s Jazz is drenched in Blues and Gospel and because he writes a mean theme and knows how to arrange so that the theme grows in power all through a tune.

Look how they have space for the solos and dynamic ensemble playing.

Write a tune that’s simple and deep and you really got something!

Let’s give Song For My Father a few spins right now.

I got a feeling it might just gel with that Rikki song we’ve been fooling around with.

A true message always gets through.

And Donald Fagen and Walter Becker we’re always alert to those messages.

Even if they sometimes expressed those messages in code.

Of course experienced record buyers and Steely Dan fans in particular get a particular frisson from such cryptography.

Occasionally Becker and Fagen affected ennui at their audiences unceasing demand to hear Rikki every time they played a gig.

In such cases trust the song and the audience every time.

Rikki don’t lose that number
You don’t want to call nobody else
Send it off in a letter to yourself
Rikki don’t lose that number
It’s the only one you own
You might use it if you feel better
When you get home

Casting for Steely Dan :

Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter on lead Guitar, Dean Parks on acoustic Guitar, Michael Omartian on Piano, Jim Gordon on Drums, Victor Feldman on Percussion, Walter Becker on Bass and backing vocals, Donal Fagen on lead and backing vocals, Tim Schmidt on backing vocals.

Casting Horace Silver :

Horace Silver on Piano, Carmell Jones on Trumpet, Joe Henderson on Tenor Saxophone, Teddy Smith on Bass, Roger Humphries on Drums.

Message received and understood!

Billy Fury, Nick Lowe & Ben E King : Halfway to Paradise

‘Strange how potent cheap music is.’ (Noel Coward)

‘I like pure pop moments with a lot of vitality; songs that are supposedly disposable but which you end up loving for ever.’ (Bryan Ferry)

A Winter morning here in the South Downs can be a glorious experience.

Hedges stiff with frost and the sky gleaming blue as if proudly polished by a benign deity.

Trusty running shoes laced up I begin my four circumnavigations of the lake.

As my pace increases with each lap I find snatches of poems and songs skimming across my mind :

‘ … And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.’

‘… The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops.’

‘  … under the ocean at the bottom of the sea
You can’t hear the storm, it’s as peaceful as can be
It’s just the motion, it’s just the motion.’

And, as I was about to collapse at the end of my final sprint clear as a midwinter bell the song I would be singing for the rest of the day –

‘ .. So put your sweet lips next to my lips And tell me that’s where they’ll stay ..

Don’t leave me halfway to paradise …So near yet so far, so near yet so far, so near yet so far away.’

‘Halfway to Paradise’ by Carole King and Gerry Goffin who may well be the ne plus ultra makers of moments of pop perfection.

Moments, Immortal Moments, which generations upon generations end up loving forever.

The song was originally recorded by Tony Orlando in March 1961 but the version I was remembering was that by the one and only Billy Fury.

Billy’s vocal and stylistic amalgam of the bravura and the vulnerable always cuts deep to the heart.

The arrangement by the brilliant Ivor Raymonde, best known for his work with Dusty Springfield and The Walker Brothers, provides a wonderfully dramatic setting – those sweeping strings! the heart stopping percussion! – which Billy takes full advantage of.

There is always something wistful in Billy’s delivery, as if he can never be sure that the emotions he feels so deeply aren’t just about to overwhelm him leaving him, for a reason he can never fathom, finally, abandoned and bereft.

Billy Fury will always find empathetic fond hearts.

Now, whenever the phrase Pure Pop appears I inevitably turn to the veritable professor of the genre – Nick Lowe.

Nick’s version was issued in October 1977 as Buy 21 on The Stiff Label.

This was a compulsory purchase for me as I had already bought the first 20 singles put out by Stiff and I had made it a point of principle to be the first in the queue when any record by Nick Lowe appeared.

The sharp eared among you might recognise Dave Edmunds backing vocals and the pianistic playfulness of Steve Naïve (from Elvis Costello’s Attractions).

This is a much denser sound than Billy’s with nods to Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound.

This is much more of a defiant complaint than yearning lament.

Another decade passed before I found another version I could stand to listen to alongside Billy’s.

This came from the great Ben E King whose take on Halfway to Paradise surprised me by its three o clock in the morning tenderness.

Sometimes when thinking about music you can get lost in abstraction and dissection of form.

Whenever I fear I might be falling into that trap I turn to Pure Pop where what the heart responds to is performances which though based on simple material can be truly sublime and wholly unforgettable.

Billy Fury died at 42 having been afflicted all his life with a serious heart condition.

The performance below from 1976 was his first for many years after seemingly successful surgery gave him a new lease of life.

Billy walked in shadows throughout his life yet few singers give such comfort to the broken hearted.

It hurts me some, to know your heart’s a treasure … that my heart is within reach to touch.

Oh, Oh, Oh, bonny Billy!

So near yet so far away.

John Hiatt, Charlie Sexton : Tennessee Plates

The ‘All Hail The King’ Series (1)

Embed from Getty Images

*

Summer of 1988 and I was going 90 miles an hour down a dead end street.

So, I walked one block from my office to the Tourist Centre for Greece and asked them to recommend an Island without an airport and with as little tourist infrastructure as possible to ensure the three week holiday I had just awarded myself would be as peaceful as possible.

The next day I was on my way with no suitcase in the hold.

Just a carry on bag with the minimum changes of clothes, one book (Virgil’s The Aeneid) and one music tape (John Hiatt’s Slow Turning).

I loved every song on Slow Turning but the song I played the most and the one that accompanied me to the beach and kept the throttle on my hired moped wide open was Tennessee Plates – probably the most oblique and powerful tribute song to Elvis Presley ever composed.

The marriage of words, rhythm and wit are worthy of Chuck Berry (and when it comes to Rock ‘n’ Roll song writing there is no higher praise).

Woke up in a hotel and I didn’t know what to do
I turned the T-V on and wrote a letter to you
The news was talkin’ ’bout a dragnet up on the interstate
Said they were lookin’ for a Cadillac with Tennessee plates
*
Since I left California baby, things have gotten worse
Seems the land of opportunity for me is just a curse
Tell that judge in Bakersfield that my trial will have to wait
Down here they’re lookin’ for a Cadillac with Tennessee plates
*
It was somewhere in Nevada, it was cold outside
She was shiverin’ in the dark, so I offered her a ride
Three bank jobs later, four cars hot wired
We crossed the Mississippi like an oil slick fire
*
If they’d known what we was up to they wouldn’t ‘a let us in
When we landed in Memphis like original sin
Up Elvis Presley Boulevard to the Graceland gates
See we were lookin’ for a Cadillac with Tennessee plates
*
Well, there must have been a dozen of them parked in that garage
And there wasn’t one Lincoln and there wasn’t one Dodge
And there wasn’t one Japanese model or make
Just pretty, pretty Cadillacs with Tennessee plates
*
She saw him singing once when she was seventeen
And ever since that day she’s been living in between
I was never king of nothin’ but this wild weekend
Anyway he wouldn’t care, hell he gave them to his friends
*
Well this ain’t no hotel I’m writin’ you from
It’s the Tennessee prison up at Brushy Mountain
Where yours sincerely’s doin’ five to eight
Stampin’ out my time makin’ Tennessee plates
*

Ok – let’s press the pedal to the metal and drive!

A complete movie with; a love story, criminality, cultural commentary, eyeballs out playing from the band (especially Sonny Landreth on guitar) and a twist at the end – all in under three minutes.

What more could you possibly want!

Hard to pick out favourite lines when every verse gleams with brilliance.

Still :

Three bank jobs later, four cars hot wired
We crossed the Mississippi like an oil slick fire
*
has a thrilling propulsive power that takes some beating.
*
Mind you :
*
If they’d known what we was up to they wouldn’t ‘a let us in
When we landed in Memphis like original sin
*
matches it all the way.
*
And :
*
Well, there must have been a dozen of them parked in that garage
And there wasn’t one Lincoln and there wasn’t one Dodge
And there wasn’t one Japanese model or make
Just pretty, pretty Cadillacs with Tennessee plates
*
is both emotionally apposite and laugh out loud funny.
*
While :
*
She saw him singing once when she was seventeen
And ever since that day she’s been living in between
*
is as good a summary of the Elvis’ impact on our lives as anything ever written.
*
John Hiatt has been writing superb songs for decades and all those, ‘in the know’ from Ry Cooder to Bonnie Raitt to Bob Dylan are in no doubt about the magnitude of his abilities.
*

John’s bank balance got a welcome boost when, ‘Tennessee Plates’ was featured in an iconic film of the 1980s, ‘Thelma and Louise’.

There is a great additional pleasure in that the film version was by Charlie Sexton later to be famed as the stellar guitarist in Bob Dylan’s touring band.

Embed from Getty Images

*

Let her rip Charlie – let her rip!

 

A song with such wild fire power is always going to attract cover versions.

The one that I’ve chosen to present today introduces Samantha Fish to The Jukebox.

She sure can burn it up!

I am going to leave you with John burning down the barn with The Goners – listening to this we are all Kings and Queens of The Wild Weekend!

Now, when I make my pilgrimage to Graceland as I drive down Elvis Presley Boulevard let me assure you that I won’t be driving a Lincoln or a Dodge or heaven forbid any Japanese model make.

No. No. No.

I will be driving a Cadillac (Hell he gave ’em to this friends!) and blasting out in tribute to The King will be Tennesse Plates.

All Hail The King!

Tom Waits : What’s He Building?

During the Christmas festivities a couple of balls of malt into a serious philosophical discussion a friend of mine suddenly asked – if you had the time to write another Blog not themed around music what topic would you choose?

The question took me aback but my answer was immediate and as surprising to me as it was to him.

’I would write a Blog called ‘Tom, Tom, Tom’ celebrating the wondrous achievements of those who share my forename including, of course, those Toms formally called Thomas, Tommy, Tomas and indeed Thom.

Toms have been prominent in every field of human endeavour throughout history so I’ll have no shortage of engaging subjects.

Here’s 10 off the top of my head :

Thomas The Apostle – How can we know the way?

Thomas Jefferson – “The equal rights of man, and the happiness of every individual, are now acknowledged to be the only legitimate objects of government.”

Thomas Hobbes – Because waking I often observe the absurdity of dreams, but never dream of the absurdities of my waking thoughts, I am well satisfied that being awake, I know I dream not; though when I dream, I think myself awake.

Thomas Hardy

At once a voice arose among The bleak twigs overhead,
In a full-hearted evensong of joy illimited.

An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
With blast-beruffled plume,

Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

Tom Mix – King of The Cowboys, 291 Films and a violent death!

Tom Finney – A Football Genius : Tom Finney would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age .. even if he had been wearing an overcoat.”Bill Shankly.

Thomas Tallis – Listen to Spem in allium if you want a foretaste of the sound of Heaven.

Tommy Farr – The Tonypandy Terror who went the full 15 rounds with Joe Louis in his prime.

Thomas Sudhof – Nobel Prize Winner, Professor of molecular and cellular physiology.

Oh .. And Tom Waits – Singer, songwriter and performer  extraordinaire :

You won’t believe what Mr. Sticha saw
There’s poison underneath the sink
Of course…

But there’s also
Enough formaldehyde to choke
A horse…

What’s he building
In there.

What the hell is he
Building in there?

Tom. Tom. Tom.

Tom Waits whether he’s right or whether he’s wrong Lord ain’t we gonna miss him when he’s gone.

But, if you have created and curated one of the great songbooks you will never, ever, be gone.

Tom has studied the old masters – Hank Williams, Gershwin, Mississippi John Hurt, Kerouac, Hemingway, Bukowski, O’ Hara and Bob Dylan.

He has drunk deep of their influence and then mixed up a miraculous confection tipping the hat to them all while remaining obstinately and magnificently the one and only inimitable Tom Waits.

Ain’t no kind of song Tom can’t write.

Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards.

Drunk Songs.

Sober Songs.

Lullabys and Vampire Venom.

Philosophical Songs.

Sociological Songs.

Songs you won’t forget for the whole of your life.

Songs as innocent as dreams.

Songs as guilty as your worst waking nightmare.

Songs that, damn it, can make a grown man or woman break right down and cry.

Songs that make you scratch your head and then say with a grin – well I guess that’s true I know someone with a story just like that (often because it’s your story).

Songs that can spook you and give you the shivers.

What’s he building in there?
What the hell is he building in there?
*
He has subscriptions to those magazines
He never waves when he goes by
And he’s hiding something from the rest of us
He’s all to himself, I think I know why
*
Songs that are plain as day and cranky as Hell.
*
He took down the tire-swing from the pepper tree
He has no children of his own, you see
He has no dog, he has no friends
And his lawn is dying
*
Songs that betray a deep knowledge of the crooked timber of humanity.
*
And what about those packages he sends?
What’s he building in there?
With that hook light on the stairs
What’s he building in there?

I’ll tell you one thing, he’s not building a play
house for the children.
*
Songs that can make you laugh out loud one minute and silence you with dread the next.
*
Now what’s that sound from underneath the door?
He’s pounding nails into a hardwood floor
*
And I swear to God I heard someone moaning low
And I keep seeing the blue light of a TV show

He has a router and a table saw

What’s he building in there?
What the hell is he building in there?
*
I. heard he has an ex-wife in some place called Mayor’s Income, Tennessee
And he used to have a consulting business in Indonesia
*
Songs that Nobody else could write.
*
But what’s he building in there?
He has no friends but he gets a lot of mail
I bet he spent a little time in jail
*
I heard he was up on the roof last night, signaling with a flashlight
And what’s that tune he’s always whistling?
 
What’s he building in there?
What’s he building in there?
*
We have a right to know
*

Songs that Nobody else could write.

Nobody.

Nobody.

Tom. Tom. Tom.