Nick Lowe, Johnny Rivers, Arlen Roth : Poor Side of Town

Once upon a time.

Long, long ago.

Far, far away.

There was a place; a place you can almost remember in your dreams.

A place, let’s call it a garden or an enchanted meadow, where the Sun shone brightly every day and gentle breezes played among the whispering trees.

Everyone knew everyone and everyone was safe and content.

But, but, one day, one fateful day, Humankind thought that being safe and content and warm everyday wasn’t quite enough.

It was the, ‘Everyone’ that was the killer.

For, Humankind craved particular pleasure.

Particular knowledge.

People and places and things that are mine and mine alone.

Individual consciousness.

Personal. personal, personal.

And so it began. And, so it goes on.

For, along with all these particular, personal possessions and holdings came, carrying poisonous venom, Lust and Greed, Envy and Pride, Wrath and Sloth and Gluttony.

But, but, so did Charity and Chastity, Diligence and Temperance, Kindness, Humility and Forgiveness.

There would, in particular be much need of Forgiveness.

In this new world musician and storytellers found that the glory and the folly of their fellows made for endless material for compositions.

Most songs and most stories are, in the end, about the sharp pain and the ecstatic joys of finding love, the loss of love, the theft of love and the betrayal of love.

So, here’s one of those stories.

Lust is here. And Envy. And Pride.

And, so too is, maybe, some humility and some forgiveness.

So, everything you need for a hit song!

And, a mighty Number One hit is exactly what Johnny Rivers and his supporting team of crack musicians and backup vocalists provided in 1966 with, ‘Poor Side of Town’.

Johnny RIvers was an established hit maker marrying the sound of 50s Rock ‘n’ Roll with folky elements on sides like, ‘Memphis’, ‘Mountain of Love’, ‘Midnight Special’ and, ‘Secret Agent Man’.

What distinguished Johnny Rivers records was their sense of easy flow that invites the listener to sing and dance along. It’s why he was such a legendarily popular live draw at the Whisky a Go Go Club.

Johnny Rivers is a guy it’s very easy to like.

Poor Side of Town was a very important record for Johnny because he had written it himself and because it introduced a more reflective balladerring element to his style.

The song wonderfully melds aspects of breezy Californian Pop with tinges of a more troubled Southern Soul ballad.

So, the superb piano of Larry Knechtel, bass of Joe Osborn and drums by the ubiquitous Hal Blane added to Johnny’s subtle guitar make for a tale that offers both sunshine and shadow.

To top it all off Darlene Love, Fanita James and Jean King (The Blossoms) provide a choral element that ravished the ear.

Arranger Marty Paich made sure it all came together as a premium blend.

And the story?

Well Rich Girl, Poor Boy and a spiral from ecstacy to tragedy is a tale that will be told for ever and a day.

I think particularly of the film, ‘A Place in the Sun’ starring the most eye scorchingly beautiful couple in the history of the cinema (now there’s a claim) Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift.

Sometimes a young woman can be so bewitchingly, breathtakingly beautiful that a young man, poor as he may be, will, must, cross any line, risk any risk, to be with her, to have her smile that brighter than the Sun smile and say, ‘Do I make you nervous?’

Oh, oh, oh, she sure does make you nervous!

And she sees something gorgeous and vulnerable in him that the Preppy Princes picked out for her by Mom and Dad just can’t compete with.

So, though they know in their bones that this won’t end well they soon find themselves skin to skin in Sugartown.

Until, the fates (always hovering in the wings) intervene and the seconds count down to death in the Chair with the clock on the wall dissolving into her heartbreaking visage.

Welcome back to the Poor Side of Town!

Now over here in Britain Johnny Rivers wasn’t very well known and he didn’t figure in the Chart Shows nor was he hip enough to feature on the ‘Progressive’ end of the spectrum.

So, a confession. I didn’t hear the original of Poor Side of Town for many years after I had become aware of it through the version by Telecaster Master Arlen Roth.

I had noticed his name appearing in the credits on premium recordings and so swooped when his debut solo disc appeared in a bargain bin at HMV Records (and I was a deep diver into those bins!).

There’s a lovely hypnotic sway to this take on the song and the guitar has a dead on certainty that only the very best players ever achieve.

To sign off a version from a tenured Professor of songwriting Mr Nick Lowe! (pictured above).

A further confession.

I own every record Nick has ever made and have seen him play on countless occasions through our joint misspent youths.

Seeing him now – a mature artist fully in command of his talent – is greatly cheering.

It seems that Nick now strives, successfully, to make records that appear effortless; concealing the infinite pains involved in achieving such an effect.

The musical empathy between Nick, Jukebox favourite Geraint Watkins (keyboards), Robert Traherne (drums) and Steve Donnelly (guitar) gives a regretful emotional depth to the story so that you feel like exhaling deeply at the end and wiping a tear from your eye.

Oh what tangled webs we weave.

Rich girls and Poor Boys.

Hoping against hope that, this time, the story will have a happy ending.

And don’t think that the dramatic leads in this story will ever listen to your sage advice to think and think again.

No. Some stories have to be played out again and again and again.

Towns and hearts will always be divided and few ever move, for good, willingly to The Poor Side of Town.

Yet, yet, there will always be those who believe that they can defy fate and the odds and strange as it may seem sometimes miracles do happen.

Welcome back Baby to The Poor Side of Town.

Van Morrison : GLORIA! GLORIA! GLORIA! GLORIA!

Let’s remind ourselves what’s A1 on The Immortal Jukebox and why!

Some songs have a brutally simple primal perfection.

Usually these songs are recorded at the very beginning of an artists career before they start to look into the rear view mirror and become conscious that they do indeed have a career, a legacy and a reputation to protect.

These are records that come at you full bore and demand you listen now!

Think of the primitive perfection of the last song recorded on the day the Beatles recorded their first LP.

You want to know what The Beatles sounded like in Hamburg? Listen to the raw bleeding magnificence of John Lennon’s vocal on, ‘Twist and Shout’ and the eyeballs out commitment of Paul, George and Ringo.

There was no way a second take could top that!

Think of the stupid beauty of the Undertones debut single, ‘Teenage Kicks’ – a record that captured as few others have the thrilling intoxication of young love and lust.

Feargal Sharkey’s impassioned vocal (All right!) and the unrepeatable delirium of Damian O’ Neill’s guitar solo combine to create a miracle that comes up fresh every time and is endlessly replayable – which seems a pretty good definition of what I want from a jukebox single.

And then there’s the Daddy of all primal utterances on 45 – Gloria by Van Morrison during his days with Them.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that throughout the 1960s that wherever and whenever a group of would be rock and roll stars gathered – in the family garage, in the basement or at a flea bitten church or municipal hall – very soon after they had plugged in they would launch, with wildly varying degrees of competence, into their own version of, ‘Gloria’.

Puzzled passers-by must have wondered why such a simple name needed to be spelled out with such repetitive intensity.

‘And her name is G – L – O – R – I – A, Gloria!’.

They must also have shuddered at the threat:

‘ I’m gonna shout it out night and day .. G – L – O – R – I – A! G – L – O – R – I – A, Gloria!’.

It is likely that many of the groups who attacked the song made a fair fist of the instrumental ground of the song – three chords don’t take long to master.

A few of the lead guitar players will have matched Jimmy Pages fluency and prowess as demonstrated on the recording.

However, No-one, No-one, will have come anywhere near reproducing the frenzied intensity of Van Morrison’s pyrotechnic vocal.

This Van Morrison was not the superlative song stylist or the Celtic soul and blues master he would later become.

This was a snarling, desperate, bewildered teenager who was reluctantly coming to terms with life and lust. The whole painful mess of it all.

A youth who looked down more than he looked up but who was nevertheless able to surprise himself with the ability to express vocally the gamut of emotions and frustrations he faced every day and every night.

But, from the very get-go in his career there was no doubt about who was leading and commanding the band.

Van Morrison on the bandstand or in the studio acts as an emperor, a ruler by right of his eminent majesty as a singer and as a band leader. In this, as so much else, he took his cue from the high priest of soul – Ray Charles.

Gloria is a work of explosive youth, of wanting and yearning, of overwhelming mind and body dominating lust.

Gloria may be the most purely male, testosterone fueled record ever made.

Gloria, five feet four from her head to the ground, is the eternal lust object. Van Morrison might say that she knocks upon his door and even more thrillingly comes to his room but the thrust of the song seems to me to be the solitary, devoutly told repetition of an oft returned to fantasy.

There may well have been a real Gloria but it is the dream of Gloria who knocks on Van’s door with such insistent force. Surely, if he could only chant her name with enough power she would indeed knock upon his door and make all his fevered dreams come true:

G – L – O – R – I A !! G- L- O- R – I – A

The musical drive of Gloria is the relentless beat, beat, beat of male desire in all it’s sullen and obsessive purity. Gloria is the incarnation on vinyl of the desperate teenage male imperative to be adultly carnal – its a boy desperately wanting, needing, to be a man.

Gloria has more tension than release – much like all young lives. This is no doubt why it appealed so powerfully to beat group boys all over the world.

Van snarls his way through the lyric with his uniquely salty Belfast tones alternately pressing and holding back – he already had a grasp of dynamics within song arrangement born of years of listening to Ray, John Lee and Leadbelly on the street where he was born.

Gloria is also as every listener who’s ever heard it knows one hell of a rush!

It comes roaring out of the speakers and before you have time to catch your breath you are carried along on its tidal wave of rhythmic power.

Two minutes and thirty-eight seconds later you will be nearly as elatedly exhausted as Van Morrison himself.

Take a breath or two and maybe down a shot of Bushmills – then press A1 again – you know you want to.

Notes & Comments:

Gloria was recorded on April 5 1964 at Decca’s Studio in West Hampstead, London and released as the B side of Baby Please Don’t Go on July 6th.

Them members Billy Harrison (guitar), Alan Henderson RIP (bass), Ronnie MIllings (drums) and Patrick McCauley (keyboards) were present in the studio when Gloria was recorded and all probably contributed to the single.

Also present were key members of London’s top session musicians of the time. Jimmy Page surely played the lead guitar and Bobby Graham (who would later play the on the equally epochal ‘You really got me’, must have played the drums).

Arthur Greenslade probably played the organ.

There have been numerous cover versions. The most commercially successful being that by The Shadows of Knight which made No 10 in the US charts at the end of 1966.

The most artistically successful is Patti Smith’s reinvention of the song on her amazing debut LP ‘Horses’ in 1975.

On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox : Save the Last Dance for Me

‘The Jukebox. I lived beside Jukeboxes all through the Fifties … You want to hear a guy’s story, and if the guy’s really seen a few things, the story is quite interesting’ (Leonard Cohen)

‘Oh I know that the music’s fine,
Like sparkling wine go and have your fun,
Laugh and sing, but while we’re apart,
Don’t give your heart to anyone.’

(Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’)

Once in a very Blue Moon you turn on the radio and a song comes on that you know, know, from the first instant you hear it, is a song you will love for the rest of your life – however long that may be.

It’s a song you’ve never heard before yet at once you feel familiar with it.

Somehow, it seems you’ve been waiting for this song.

A song that you know, know, is true.

You know, know, this guy is telling you a story ripped from his heart.

You know, know, that this song really mattered to this guy and now it really matters to you.

This is a song that speaks to you.

A song that speaks to some essential human yearning.

Once in a very Blue Moon you hear a song like, ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’.

The Drifters glorious original recording from 1960, indelibly sung by Ben E King, shimmered then in the New York night skies and now it shimmers all over the globe.

Shimmers anywhere a lover burns; oh Baby don’t you know I love you so – Can’t you feel it when we touch?

With every baion beat of your heart you vow I will never never let you go.

But, what if she lets you go?

For the one who caught your eye will surely be given the eye by other guys.

What if she is so intoxicated by the pale moonlight and the sparkling wine that she forgets who’s taking her home and in whose arms she should be when the night ends?

What if when he asks if she’s all alone and can he take her home she says Yes instead of No!

Ah, ah, there’s the rub!

For, however agonising it may be, Love only thrives in freedom.

You make a prisoner of Love and it sickens and dies.

So, sometimes, you have to paste on a smile as your Love enjoys the pale moonlight and the sparkling wine with another right before your very eyes.

You have to have Faith.

You have to have Trust.

The Drifters, led by Ben E King, with Dock Green (baritone), Elsbeary Hobbs (bass) and Charlie Thomas (tenor) soar as they bring all these emotional tensions to quick, quivering life scoring a permanent mark on your heart.

Ben E King had a wonderful gift for balancing strength and vulnerability in his vocals.

There’s a special poignancy in a strong man confiding the intimate terrors and the torments hidden under the confident, life and soul of the party, smile.

It’s one of the reasons ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’ is immortal.

Before you have a record you need the song.

And, for the song you need songwriters.

Save the Last Dance for Me was written by one of the greatest songwriting teams of the 20th Century – Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman.

Think of, ‘A Teenager in Love’, ‘This Magic Moment’, ‘Little Sister’, ‘(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame’, and, ‘Sweets for My Sweet’ just for starters!

Now, if there was ever a guy who had really seen a few things and knew how to tell a story that guy was Jerome Solon Felder, known to the world as Doc Pomus.

Doc Pomus, born in 1925, grew up in Brooklyn, a fiercely intelligent bookish boy who became obsessed by the sounds of Jazz, Blues and Rhythm and Blues you could listen to 24 hours a day on New York radio stations.

Doc was not the kind of guy who had casual interests.

No, when Doc took something up he dove in – head, neck and feet.

So it was with Doc and the Blues.

And, certainly his intimate understanding of the Blues grew in depth when in his youth he was stricken by Polio.

It didn’t stop him writing and singing the Blues.

It didn’t stop him heaving himself on crutches up on to the stages of Jazz and Blues clubs throughout the 1940s.

But, but, it did stop him from triumphantly sweeping his new bride round the dance floor at his wedding.

Instead, he had to smile as other men held her tight waiting for the night to end when, finally, they would share a last dance of their own.

Doc remembered those conflicting emotions when he wrote, ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’ on the back of one of the invitations to their wedding.

Doc’s lyric throbs with love and longing. With yearning and anxiety.

It’s a mixture that cuts deep into the listeners soul.

Doc’s writing partner, the urbane Mort Shuman, read the lyric and, inspired, devised a melody that has the glittering sheen of tears in the eyes.

So, now you have an emotionally complex and true lyric and a ‘you’ll never forget this once you’ve heard it the first time’ melody and a vocal group with a dynamite lead singer.

You’ve got the song. You’ve got the singers.

What more do you need?

Well, what you need is savvy Record Producers, songwriters themselves, who know from bitter experience, that a great song does not guarantee a great record.

What you need in New York in 1960 is Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

They will bring in superb musicians like Bucky Pizzarelli, Allen Hanlon, Gary Chester and Lloyd Trotman and frame their expertise in an arrangement that will ensure the great song and the great singers make a great Record.

They’ll make the record start like a beating heart.

They’ll have subtle latin rhythms seducing the ear throughout.

They’ll not shy away from bringing in the sweeping strings when they’re demanded.

They’ll balance the urgent lead vocal with tender echoes from the rest of the vocal group.

They’ll listen and listen again and polish and polish and polish until they’ve made a Record that nothing less than a masterpiece of American Popular Music.

Together, Songwriters, Singers and Producers will make a Record which will never fade for true stories are always true and always recognised as such by open hearts.

An open heart like that of Leonard Cohen.

Leonard will likely have heard, ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’ on a Jukebox in a cafe in Montreal habituated by fellow Poets and Writers searching for inspiration, recognition and the redemptive fires of love.

Leonard, a Ladies Man if there ever was one, confided that in those days he was no student of music – though he was certainly a student of cafes and waitresses.

But, once he heard a song that really told a guy’s story in a way that he could believe he remembered the number of that song on The Jukebox and punched it in again and again.

And, when he came to have a Jukebox of his own he filled it with Records that told interesting stories.

Records like, ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’.

Leonard was a Gentleman and a Scholar of the dance of Love and the dance of Life and knew as a Poet how emotionally powerful precisely chosen words, of the right weight and rhythm, were once set to music.

So, embarking on a career as a Songwriter and performer in the late 1960s he brought all his considerable gifts to his new vocation.

Over the next half century he created a body of work that stands with any in the history of Popular Music.

Deep currents run through Leonard Cohen songs.

Songs about every aspect of the love between men and women and between human kind and God.

Beautiful Songs that illuminate our search for Love without disguising the frequent ugly betrayals we are heir to all our lives.

Leonard knew that Life was so serious that often the only proper response was laughter – sometimes ironic sometimes wholehearted.

Leonard understood the steps and missteps in the Dance of Life.

He knew that we all want someone to dance with very tenderly and long.

He knew that we all want someone to dance with through the panic till we’re safely gathered in.

We all want someone to dance with to the end of love.

As the end of his life approached Leonard reached back to those Jukebox days and began to sing, ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’ in concert.

It was, in fact, the last song he ever sang in public (though the version featured here is from Ghent some years earlier).

Leonard knew, as Doc Pomus knew, that in dance we stretch out our hands and our bodies and make a connection which can sustain us through the panics and perils of life.

Leonard Cohen and Doc Pomus, each in their own way, danced, danced, danced to the end of love.

Listen to The Drifters and canny old Leonard and make a promise that you’ll save the last dance for the one you love.

For there is one Dance we all do alone as we journey through life to death.

Until that day stretch out your hand.

Take your partner in your arms and dance!

Have Faith.

Trust.

Save the last dance.

The very last dance.

Notes:

There’s a fine biography of Doc Pomus by Alex Halberstadt ‘Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life & Times of Doc Pomus’

The film documentary ‘AKA Doc Pomus’ by Peter Miller and William Hechter is a must watch.

I highly recommend Allan Showalter’s Blog cohencentric.com for all things related to Leonard Cohen.

Immortal Jukebox : The Story So Far (with some vintage Van Morrison as a bonus!)

When I launched The Immortal Jukebox in March 2014 I had, as they say, no expectations.

I just knew that it was time to find out if I could think on the page with the same fluency I could talk about the music I loved.

My readers are of course the judge and jury as to whether I have managed in my writing to convey the depth of my passion for the music and musicians from the golden age of recording – by which I mean the late 1920s to the late 1970s.

It seems I have now written some 200 Posts here on The Jukebox – each one a letter from the heart.

Starting out with just my family and a handful of loyal friends I now see, with some amazement, that my combined WordPress, Twitter and Email followers are now approaching the 10,000 mark!

I determined from the beginning of this adventure that all my posts would read as if no one else could possibly have written them and that no matter how well known the record or artist featured I would illuminate their particular merits from my own unique angle.

I also decided, as time went on, to risk inserting fictional elements and personal anecdotes and reflections into the mix.

It’s my Blog and I’ll rant, rave, laugh and cry if I want to!

Heartfelt thanks to my readers who have produced so many intelligent and inspiring comments and so much warm encouragement.

Remember a handful of Nickels and The Jukebox is a cure for all your ills.

In reflective mode, I’ve been reviewing my Stats and thought I would share some of my discoveries with you.

Top 5 Posts :

1. ‘Ordinary (Extraordinary Stories) featuring Mary Gauthier & Iris Dement

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-3M

2. Van Morrison ‘In The Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll’

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-bi

3. ‘An Archangel, A Journey, A Sacred River, The Folk Process & A Spiritual’

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-6m

4. ‘Hear that Lonesome Whistle Blow!’ – Train songs featuring Bob Marley & The Wailers, Hank Williams, Curtis Mayfield and John Stewart.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-43

5. ‘John Lennon loved ‘Angel Baby’ by Rosie Hamlin (RIP) – Here’s Why!

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-Y3

Thom’s Top 5 (the Posts that gave me the most pleasure to write)

1. ‘Bob Dylan : The Nobel Prize, One Too Many Mornings, The Albert Hall & Me.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-AL

2. Van Morrison : Carrickfergus (Elegy for Vincent)

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-7J

3. ‘Walk Away Renee – The Lost Love That Haunts The Heart’

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-sQ

4. ‘Dolores Keane : Voice and Vision from Ireland’

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-Lb

5. ‘A Poem for All Ireland Sunday – Up Tipp!’

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-w9

If you’ve missed out on any of these – catch up now!

I would be fascinated to know which Posts make your own Top 5 – set the Comments section ablaze!

To conclude let me thank every one of my readers for supporting The Jukebox.

I’ll sign off now with a song from the Patron Saint of The Immortal Jukebox – Van Morrison.

Heart stopping. Spirit lifting.

Hey Girl! Hey Girl!

An eerily beautiful prefigurement of Astral Weeks dreamlike mood.

Van takes a walk and watches the boats go by in the early morning light.

A spectral flute welcomes the wind and sun as Van’s vocal caresses each word of the lyric in which once again he encounters the young girl, his Beatrice figure, who will almost make him lose his mind.

The track is only three minutes and ten seconds long yet seems to last much longer – indeed seems to have stopped the flow of Time itself.

Time itself.

Neil Young, Dire Straits, The Ventures : Walk On!

‘All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking’ (Friedrich Nietzsche)

‘Walking is man’s best medicine’ (Hippocrates)

‘Well I know you heard of the old mambo
and I know you heard of the old Congo
but when you walk you’re starting to get close
and don’t step on your partners toes!
You just Walk, yea you Walk! .. Walk! Walk!’ (Jimmy McCracklin)

I’ve written previously about my Dad and me watching our favourite TV Shows on our tiny Black and White picture television with the images sometimes looking like they were beamed in from a distant planet.

A show that always held us breathless was, ‘The Fugitive’.

Would on the run Richard Kimble ever clear his name?

Was there really a ‘One armed man’?

Would Inspector Gerard ever forgo his relentless pursuit of Richard Kimble?

Pondering these questions drinking cups of strong tea and meditatively chewing on Fry’s Chocolate Cream Bars we marvelled at Kimble’s coolness under pressure.

Almost discovered, the prison gates metaphorically swinging open to lead him to the electric chair, he remained calm.

He did not Run! Running gets you noticed. Running gets you caught.

No, he did not run. He simply walked smartly away.

Walked smartly away readying himself for the next town where, still free, he might find a clue to the whereabouts of the one armed man.

Perhaps he had been listening to the sage advice of The Ventures.

Perhaps, breath and heart rate under control, he paced himself by playing and replaying in his head their immortal 1960 instrumental smash, ‘Walk, Don’t Run’.

That’s Bob Bogle on lead guitar, Nokie Edward on bass, Don Wilson on rhythm guitar and Skip Moore on drums (the latter made a poor decision when he said no to waiting for royalties opting instead for the immediate gratification of $25 cash!).

The tune was the 1954 invention of Jazz master guitarist Johnny Smith though The Ventures picked it up from Country maestro Chet Atkins 1957 take.

The Ventures were out of Tacoma and something in the Washington air gave them a clean, pure sound that cut deep into the imaginations of radio and Jukebox listeners all over the world.

The sound cut especially deep with neophyte guitarists like John Fogerty, Joe Walsh, Stephen Stills and Jeff Baxter – who vowed to stay locked in their bedrooms til they had that tune good and down!

It sure didn’t do any harm to the sales of Fender Jazzmasters, Stratocasters or Precision Bass Guitars either!

The precision and punch of The Ventures sound and their eagerness to adopt technology and effects in service of their sound made for addictive listening.

So, The Ventures, adding and losing members – though always with Don Wilson at the helm – continue to play and record to this very day.

And, across the vast expanse of The Pacific Ocean, they are big, no, they were and are massive, in Japan where it seems every would be Guitarist starts out listening to their forebears treasured Ventures records!

Let’s move from walking smartly to more of a lazy stroll through the good offices of Helena, Arkansas bluesman, pianist and very fine songwriter Jimmy McCracklin.

Jimmy was a stalwart of the West Coast Blues scene from the 1940s hooking up with ace saxman and arranger Maxwell Davis and on point guitarists like Lafayette Thomas.

The Walk, from 1958, was his only national hit benefitting from the vogue for songs celebrating particular dance crazes and its promotion on Dick Clare’s American Bsndstand TV Show.

Who could resist, ‘The Walk’!

Well, well, well. Yea! You just walk indeed.

Even the denizens of the two left feet club felt that, at last, here was a dance that they could assay with some confidence!

Next up, someone with a very distinctive stride indeed.

Neil Young.

Now, it seems to me that Neil has spent his whole glorious, one moment the broad Highway, one moment the Ditch, career determined to walk smartly away from any expectation of what he might do next.

He just sets off walking and sends a report back when he gets to where he ends up.!

Oh, and he makes sure he travels light.

All he really needs for the road is an open heart and, ‘Old Black’ his Gibson Les Paul.

Neil knows, knows in his very bones that the one thing that singles out true artists is that they walk their own path.

Good luck to the others with the path they have chosen but Neil is going to go his own sweet way however stony and steep the path ahead may be.

Walk On! Walk On! Walk On!

Walk On is from Neil’s utterly magnificent LP, ‘On Tne Beach’ which has the psycho dramatic grip of a fevered dream.

Oh yes, some get stoned and some sure get strange. Some get very strange.

But, whoever you are, wherever you are, often when you least expect it, you will find, one dewy dawn or one descending dusk, that sooner or later, sooner or later, it really all does get real.

And then, then, you can choose to lie down and wait for the wolves to arrive or you can summon up your courage, look to the horizon and Walk On!

Walk On!

As you hit your stride you can have no more fitting companion than ornery ol Neil.

Walk On!

Hang on a minute.

Here comes Johnny .. he got the action, he got the motion, yeah the boy can play. Oh yeah, he do the song about the knife. He do. He do.

He do the Walk of Life. He do the Walk of Life!

Mark Knopler, tells stories, some profound, some wonderfully ephemeral, through his trusty Stratocaster (though below it’s a Telecaster storm).

I like it most of all when he cranks it up and recalls the sounds of Rock ‘n’ Roll that inspired a young man to take up the Guitar.

Now, Boy Howdy, ain’t that fun. Ain’t that fun!

Oh, yeah, the Boy can play. Really play.

Oldies, goldies.

Be-Bop-A-Lula, What I Say.

Power and glory.

Hand me down my Walkin’ Shoes.

My Walkin’ Shoes.

You want to live?

Put on your Walking Shoes. Put on your Walkin’ Shoes.

Do the Walk of Life.

Do the Walk of Life.

As I set out, each morning to circumnavigate our local lake, I carry within me all those songs and, always, the words of Thomas Traherne:

‘To walk is by a thought to go,
To move in spirit to and fro,
To mind the good we see,
To taste the sweet,
Observing all the things we meet,
How choice and rich they be’.

Yes, if you would save your life – Walk!

Don’t miss the good and the sweet.

Walk, walk, every day and observe how choice and rich life can be.

Oh, and how far is walking distance?

As far as your mind can conceive and your will alllow.

Nowhere is beyond walking distance if you make the time.

Walk On!

Walk On!

The Kinks : Waterloo Sunset – The Finest English Song of the entire 1960s!

‘The most beautiful song in the English language’ (Robert Christgau)

‘Divine … a masterpiece’ (Pete Townsend)

‘As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset I am in paradise’ (Ray Davies)

A song about : London, The River, A Lonely Man and Two Lovers by A Great Songwriter leading a great Group.

The Voice of London:

It is, of course, a song about London.

Londinium. The Capital. The Big Smoke.

Now, there are other fine cities on other great rivers in this nation.

But, but, there is only one London.

And, if you want to find out who you are, not who you’ve been told you are, and how far you can go – well then, London, London, is the place to be.

Nowhere else. Nowhere else.

Kings and Conquerors. Poets and Peasants. Saints, Sinners and Scholars.

Those looking for the limelight and others looking to hide out – they’re all drawn to London.

Thinkers and Tinkers. Songwriters and Singers.

Look around! They’re all here.

All here telling stories. Making dramas.

Tired of London, tired of life.

Come for joy, jasper of jocunditie.

Come for a mighty mass of brick and smoke and shipping.

Treasures in its depths.

Confront your counterparts – hero or villain, mountebank or mystic.

Find yourself. Get lost.

Work, work, work or lounge and idle away your days.

All around you beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics and the one, the one, just waiting for you.

For you.

Ray Davies. A watchful London boy who became a watchful London man and artist.

Alive to all the sights and sounds and atmospheres on the breeze, in the fog, in the streets and alleyways of his home town.

Watching the people. Watching the taxi lights shine so bright.

Aware of the lovers meeting on Friday night and the lonely friendless souls in the chilly, chilly, evening time.

Aware of the dirty old river flowing, flowing into the night.

Aware that the same world can be frightening and a paradise at the same time – it all depends where you are standing and what you see.

Lovers finding each other and finding themselves.

Making plans to stay. Making plans to leave.

Somewhere they’ll be safe and sound. Together.

Millions swarming round Waterloo Underground.

Every one with a story.

Every one dizzy with the possibilities of London Town.

Every one looking to be found and to be safe and sound as the chilly, chilly, evening descends.

Every one feeling London, London, all around them.

Day flows into night. Spring flows into Summer. Summer flows into Autumn and on and on, always, into Winter.

Chilly, chilly, is evening time.

But, but, look up, look around!

Gaze out on the Sunset.

The Waterloo Sunset.

Bathing London in balm.

Flooding the heart and soul with feeling.

A Feeling more powerful than all your fears.

As long as Londoners can gaze out on Waterloo Sunset they are in paradise.

Paradise. Paradise.

It is, of course, a Song about London.

The Voice of The River:

It is, of course, a Song about The River.

The Thames. Father Thames.

Rivers make Cities. Before the City there’s always The River.

Flowing through the ages. Flowing, flowing through time.

Carving out the landscape.

Liquid History. Liquid History.

Long before London, millennia before London, the River flowed.

The dark waters of River flow by the bridges and the burial grounds.

Past the wharfs and the jetties.

Past the piers and the palaces.

The River flows on when the roads are blocked.

The River flows on as the houses crumble into dust when the bombs fall.

The River flows on as the Romans arrrve and leave.

As the Vikings arrive and leave.

As Kings build palaces to rule for evermore.

As parliaments of men and women overthrow the divine right of monarchs.

They build walls round cities.

The River flows on. Free.

When the fires burn and the earth buckles and splits turn to The River.

The River will always flow on as long as the world turns.

Come to the River. Come to the River.

Mystics and Mudllarks.

Poets and Pirates.

Novelists and Ne’er do Wells.

Songwriters and Singers.

I will flow through your heart and soul.

I will fill your imagination to the brim.

Turner and Canaletto. Monet and Whistler. Stanley Spencer.

River Painters. Haunted by waters.

Humans are haunted by waters.

Haunted.

Dickens and Kenneth Grahame. Pepys and Conrad.

Wordsworth and Eliot.

River Writers. River Writers.

The River glideth at its own sweet will.

The River sweats oil and tar.

Stand by the River.

As the chilly, chilly, evening descends.

Look around. Look at your life.

Wipe your eyes. Wipe your eyes.

Try not to notice you’ve fallen in love (or out of love).

Breathe. Breathe.

Ray Davies. Looking out on the River from the terraces of St Thomas’ Hospital when he was just 13.

Watching the River flow. Flowing on through the day into the night.

Watching the yellow fog settle over the River’s dark waters.

The River.

Always the same. Always different. Like his life.

A River he walked by waiting to become the artist he knew he was.

The River he walked by with melodies and words dancing in his head.

The River he walked by making plans for a future for himself, his wife and his family.

Walking, dreaming, by those dark waters.

Watching the River flowing, flowing, flowing.

Watching the lights reflected in the River’s dark waters.

Watching Lovers crossing over the River.

Looking for somewhere to be safe and sound.

Watching the Lovers looking deep into the dark waters looking for a glimpse of their future together.

Watching Lovers seeking the River’s blessing.

Watching the friendless lonely souls gazing out over the River.

Watching the millions of souls emerging from Waterloo Underground waiting to cross The River.

Watching them turn up their collars against the chilly, chilly, evening time as the wind blows in off the River.

Watching them look deep into the dark waters looking for an answer to questions too secret to ask out loud.

Watching them watching the River flow on. Flow on.

Watching the Sunset, the Waterloo Sunset, sink over the River.

Flooding the heart and soul with golden light.

The River flows on through Spring and Summer into Autumn and on and on, always into Winter.

Chilly, Chilly, is evening time.

But, but, stand by The River.

As the dark waters flow look into the sunset.

The Waterloo Sunset.

Bathing The River in balm.

Flooding, flooding, the heart and soul with feeling.

A feeling more powerful than all your fears.

As long as you can stand by the River and those dark waters and gaze out on Waterloo Sunset you are in paradise.

Paradise. Paradise.

It is, of course, a Song about The River.

The Voice of a Lonely Man:

It is, of course, a Song of a Lonely Man.

I’m a Londoner all my life. I’ve lived by The River all my life.

Seventy five years.

1967 now.

I was born in the 1800’s!

London and The River. Always the same. Always different.

London, The River and me. We’ve been through a lot.

We’ve seen two World Wars. I fought in the First one.

They call that The Great War. I lost a lot of pals, London pals.

Men who worked on the River with me.

It can make you lonely thinking of them.

Sometimes, as the chilly evening descends and I look into the dark waters of the River I think I can see them still, as they were, young men with bright smiles, bright smiles, making plans for after the War.

War teaches you that God laughs at your plans.

War teaches you fear and teaches you friends can lose their heartbeat in one of yours.

London was a hard old place in the 1930s.

Depression. They called it the Great Depression.

No work. For year after year after year.

Amazing we didn’t have a Revolution.

Still, somehow we got through.

I met Daisy, my wife, walking across Waterloo Bridge.

We were both looking down into the dark waters.

Watching the River flow on into the night.

Watching the taxi lights shining as the chilly evening descended.

I suppose we were both lost until we found each other.

Then, suddenly, we were safe and sound.

When we were courting (no one uses that word anymore!) we used to meet every Friday night at Waterloo Station.

There must be millions, millions, passing through there every day.

Funny though, as soon as I saw Daisy it always seemed as if they was just the two of us.

Safe and sound together.

Together, we didn’t need no friends and no matter how dark the times or chilly the evening we didn’t feel afraid.

We had each other.

Until the Second War.

A bomb can fall out of the sky and in a heartbeat your heart is broken and never the same again.

Never the same.

I did my best with the Nipper. But a girl, especially, needs a Mother.

She went out to Australia on one of those Assisted Passages.

A Tenner taking you tens of thousands of miles!

I get a card at Christmas and she says she’ll visit in a year or so.

Maybe, she’ll get married and I’ll be a Grandfather. I’d like that.

They say I’m lucky to have a flat in this block.

I preferred it when you had a garden and streets on the ground not in the sky.

Especially when the lifts break down.

One thing I will say. You get fantastic views out the window from the tenth floor.

I like listening to the radio and watching the football on the TV.

But mainly I like to look at the world from my window. From my window.

There’s a lot going on if you take the time to look.

The River keeps on flowing.

Always the same always different.

Something to do with the way it reflects to the light.

It’s a dirty old River. Oil and tar. But, it’s my River.

They say this Clean Air Act will have it sparkling again – alive with Fish.

Not sure I will be around for that day.

People are so busy these days.

They must make themselves dizzy rushing about.

Never time to stop and stare or to say hello to an old man looking into the dark waters of the River.

I like it when the chilly evening descends.

The taxi lights shine bright and somehow people look well in the dark.

I’ve noticed a couple meeting every Friday night just like me and Daisy did.

I call them Terry and Julie after that song on the radio about the Sunset.

Waterloo Sunset.

I don’t know much about this beat music but the chap who wrote that song knows a lot about London and The River and Love and Loneliness.

It’s a song that has happiness and sadness running right through it like a river.

You can tell they love each other and that they feel safe and sound when they’re together.

I stay home at night. But I don’t feel feel afraid.

I don’t need no friends anymore.

I got my memories.

And, no matter how chilly the evening there’s warmth in the Sunset.

So I am safe and sound.

And, I know that today will flow on into tomorrow and that Spring will flow into Summer and on into Autumn and always, always into Winter.

Of course the evening is chilly.

But, looking out my window I can gaze on the Sunset.

Friends or no friends.

I gaze on the Sunset.

The Waterloo Sunset.

And, somehow, that Sunset is more powerful than any fear.

As long as I can gaze out on Waterloo Sunset I am in paradise.

Paradise. Paradise.

That song. Well, of course, it’s about a Lonely Man.

The Voice of Two Lovers:

Well, of course, it’s a Song about two Lovers. Us.

What else could it be about?

When you’re in love the River flows and the chilly evening and dark waters are your friends.

Terry and Julie. Our names just sound right together.

We meet every Friday night at Waterloo Underground.

Sometimes we just walk across the bridge.

Have a drink by the River and watch the Sunset.

The Waterloo Sunset.

And, it seems we are in paradise.

Paradise.

We’re glad there’s a song about us.

A Song by a great Songwriter leading a great Group:

Ray Davies is a Londoner.

A Londoner who grew up in a house filled with music and the laughter and warmth generated by loving parents and six older sisters.

Yet, a boy and a man, who needed solitude to give birth to the dreams, the melodies and words in his head.

A young man who found that he had a peculiarly English gift for expressing the bitter sweet aspects of life.

A writer who had been taken by his father to see the Festival of Britain on the South Bank of the River in 1951 where visions of a brave new world offered unlimited promise for the decades ahead.

A writer who seeing these new worlds being born could feel and express the loss as well as the gain in the new glittering times.

A writer who could evoke dreams in black and white as well as colour.

A writer who could evoke the flow of the River, the warmth of the Sunset and the chill of the evening.

A writer who could craft a song that had love and loneliness running through it like a river.

A writer who had as much in common with John Betjeman as he did with Chuck Berry.

The Laureate of English Pop Music.

A writer who could capture the light and the shadows of the world around him.

A world he watched with deep attention.

He took in the dirty old River, it’s dark waters and the glitter of the taxi lights.

The song of The River and the view from the windows above.

He gave voice to the young lovers and the lonely old man holding them in the embrace of his voice, his words and his aching melody.

A writer and performer who could make dark waters and the chilly, chilly, evening alive before us.

A writer who could tell the story of two lovers out of the millions of people emerging from Waterloo Underground.

Ray Davies was also a bandleader and producer who could capture all those elements in a record that will live as long as the dark waters flow and the sun sets over the River.

To do this he needed the skill and commitment of his brother Dave Davies and brothers in arms Pete Quaife and Mick Avory.

He needed The Kinks.

Together they created in the studio a great record from a great song.

The lovely bass line moves through the song like a stately barge ploughing through the tide of the River.

Dave Davies’ guitar using tape delay echo has a melancholy grace holding us in thrall throughout.

Mick Avory’s drums flow on like the River and alert us to the crescendos of feeling as the song moves to its climax.

Together The Kinks with Rsy’s first wife, Rasa, give us perhaps the most heart rending harmony vocals of the era.

So, it’s a song about London.

About The River.

About a Lonely Man.

About Two Lovers.

A song that flows on through the decades.

A song that will always flow on because Rivera always flow and evenings always get chilly.

Because, as long as we can listen to Waterloo Sunset we can, for those few minutes, be in
paradise.

In Paradise.

Time to hear it again:

Ray Davies is reported to have said that he was sure he had written the best song of the year in 1967.

I’ll go further.

I think in Waterloo Sunset he wrote the finest English song of the entire 1960s.

The Grateful Dead, Raul Malo, Marty Robbins & Me with El Paso – Ultimate Western Ballad

The Way Out West Series No 2

Loyal readers of The Jukebox will recall my previous post in the, ‘Way Out West’ series which was themed around an unlikely friendship formed through a mutual love of, ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ (go straight there as soon as you finish this if you haven’t read it already!).

Ghost Riders was voted No 1 Western Song of all time by the Western Writers of America.

My friend Carl and I didn’t know that as we sang it into the tequila fuelled small hours back in those dim and distant days.

We just knew it was a great song and that singing it never grew old.

Finishing Ghost Riders the next song that floated to the tip of our tongues was always Marty Robbins immortal classic, ‘El Paso’.

This one has everything you could ever ask for in a Western Ballad.

A West Texas location.

A Mexican maiden with flashing eyes whom a young cowboy can’t resist even at the cost of his life.

A gunfight over this fatal maiden leaving a handsome young stranger dead on the floor.

A hurried escape in the night on a fast stolen horse to the badlands of New Mexico.

The fateful return to Rosa’s Cantina even though a posse and deadly bullets surely lie in wait. For, in truth, the attraction of love really is stronger than the fear of Death.

A deathbed reconciliation sealed with a tender kiss.

What more do you want!

Well you might want this ballad to be sung with swooping authority by its author and have him backed by ringing Spanish guitar licks which echo through the song like chimes of destiny.

Take it away Marty Robbins and Grady Martin!

Now some sources will tell you that Marty wrote this song in less than 5 minutes and some say it was the work of several months. You choose.

What is sure is that it was recorded on 7 April 1959 as part of an epic session which produced what will always be greatest Western Ballad collection as long as the wild West Texas Winds blow over the plains, ‘Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs’.

There was some nervousness at Columbia Records that at four and a half minutes El Paso might be too long for audiences to take in an era when many hit songs barely made three minutes. This was to underestimate the power of story.

For, once you’ve heard the ringing guitar intro and the first line … ‘Out in the West Texas town of El Paso I fell in love with a Mexican girl’ you’re hooked and wild horses couldn’t stop you from wondering what happens next!

Released in late October, ‘El Paso’ soon became one of those rare songs that wins universal affection.

By the dawn of the new decade it was Number One on both the Country and Pop Charts and lodged deep in the consciousness of several generations.

The story of the nameless Cowboy and his love for Faleena indelibly sung by Marty with the invaluable assistance of Bobby Sykes and Jim Glaser echoes through popular culture to this day.

Now, The Grateful Dead might have been the emblematic group of the 1960s, ‘Counter Culture’ but they were also young men who had grown up watching John Wayne, James Stewart and Randolph Scott heroically ride through the Western landscape winning the love of Grace Kelly or Maureen O’Hara (even if Katy Jurado got caught in the cross fire) as they brought summary justice to those lawless frontier towns.

The 1950s were, of course, the glory days of TV Westerns.

I’ll wager that Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir spent many an hour watching, ‘Wagon Train’, ‘Gunsmoke’, ‘Rawhide’ and ‘Bonanza’ and that that out of sight of parents they considered themselves to be six shooting moody hombres not to be messed with.

Surely, this history and the lure of a long gripping ballad with room for plentiful six string stretch outs explains their devotion to, ‘El Paso’which they played many hundreds of themes over their fabled career.

Their version has a charm which never fails to engage me.

Western stories and Western lore do cast a spell like the eyes of Faleena.

There are few pleasures as reliable as settling down to watch a Western Movie or listen to a Western Ballad.

I caught the bug early.

When my Mum was out doing nursing night duty my Dad and I, entranced before the flickering 12 inch TV screen, would delight in the adventures of Rawhide’s Gil Favor and Rowdy Yates.

We agreed that Dad was perfect for the role of the mature Gil while I was a natural for the more youthful form of Rowdy.

Between us there were no situations we couldn’t handle.

I remember vividly that for my 6th Birthday my present was a wide brimmed Western hat with matching six guns, holster and spurs. Since those days I’ve been lucky enough to have been given some truly generous presents from those near and dear to me.

However, hand on heart, I have to say that no present has ever given me the sheer joy that receiving my six shooter set did!

Maybe it’s that memory that haloes the songs and the films as I watch and listen.

Maybe it’s the mythopoetic allure of The Western.

Maybe it’s because I’m one moody Hombre. One moody Hombre.

I feel inclined to emphasise the South of The Border aspect of the song now.

So, let’s swoon as the golden vocal tones of The Mavericks Raul Malo evoke those wild Texas days as the night falls all around Rosa’s Cantina.

Though we know the Cowboy’s love for Faleena is in vain, doomed, somehow as Raul glides through the verses we cling to the belief that maybe this time, this time, the two lovers will ride out into the sunset together.

Together.

And, in a Cantina, far away, Faleena’s eyes will flash as they whirl across the floor together.

And, as the music plays they will laugh as they remember those days in El Paso.

Notes :

Marty Robbins was a considerable songwriter as, ‘Big Iron’ and ‘You Gave Me A Mountain’ (a live staple for Elvis) attest. He had 17 No 1 Country Chart Hits.

Grady Martin was a magnificent Guitarist whose splendid licks feature on Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Woman’ Brenda Lee’s ‘I’m Sorry’ and Ray Price’s ‘For The Good Times’ among scores of other Hits.

El Paso was produced by Don Law who also produced the epochal Robert Johnson Blues sessions in the 1930s as well as Bob Wills’ ‘San Antonio Rose’. That’s verstIlity!