Boz Scaggs, Willy Deville (not forgetting Moon Martin) : Cadillac Walk

How hard can it be to write a hit song?

Pick up a Guitar or sit down at the Piano.

You know the notes and the chords.

You’ve listened to songs all your life.

Thousands of them playing in your head.

Find a combination of melody and rhythm and words which will have the listener turning up the radio, memorising the name of the song and opening their wallet.

But, nobody, nobody, can guarantee they know what the magic combination is.

Every songwriter, every time, has to take on the persona of a safe cracker turning the tumblers hyper alert to the tell tale click that says, ‘That’s it! This is going to be a Billboard Bullseye!’.

Melody, Rhythm, Words.

Now you will almost certainly need to add Style and Attitude and find a distinctive singer with the mysterious power to sell a song if you want the Hit you hear in your head to become a bona fide hit on the radio and on the charts.

Sometimes, as a songwriter, you realise that perhaps you’re not that singer yourself.

Holding a tune is one thing but there are singers out there who take your breath away.

Singers who win and hold your allegiance.

Your own version of this sure fire hit may become an aficionados favourite but it is not the aficionados who’ll pay the mortgage – it’s the great amorphous record buying public.

Now for subject matter.

Can’t ever seem to go wrong with Cars and Girls.

Worked pretty well for Chuck Berry!

And, the bard of New Jersey keeps rolling them out on exactly those themes.

A memorable title sure helps.

And, featuring a Girl’s name.

And, maybe there’s a dance move in there too.

Wrap it all up and what have I got?

Let’s lay down a hot rod rockabilly rhythm.

Let’s call the Girl Rita (lots of Ritas around).

Lets have a car – got to be a Cadillac (everyone wants to drive a Cadillac).

And, come to think of it that Jimmy McCracklin song ‘The Walk’ always seemed to hit the spot for me.

Cadillac Walk.

Cadillac Walk.

Let’s have flowers and tattoos and guns.

And, since my name is now Moon Martin let’s not forget to reference the Moon in the very first line!

Marinate in the Studio and here we go.

Maybe it won’t be a hit for me but I sure as hell ain’t gonna hold back.

When the moon comes up the sun goes down
Rita starts to creep around
Gets a flame in her blood fire on her breath
Fourteen names notched on her chest
She gotta rose tattooed on her thigh
Dead men raise and sigh
And it drives my young blood wild

My baby’s got the Cadillac walk

When Rita turns down her bed
Grown men plead and beg
Baby honey baby you’re the one
Carve your name right on my gun
Ain’t she something nice
Bones rattle my dice
I slobber down my side

My baby’s got the Cadillac walk

Lonely tonight honey hear my call
She said boy I won’t make you crawl
Rita pound by pound
Knows how to work it down
Weep and cry to and fro
Leave your heart she’ll steal your gold
No matter what the cost
Ooh…them duel exhaust
Make my motor sigh

Moon Martin never did have a Hit with Cadillac Walk.

But when Moon worked with legendary Priducer/Arranger Jack Nitzsche the latter realised that pair this song with a dynamite singer and a hot band and you most assuredly would have a hit.

The lead singer of Mink Deville, Willy Deville, has pipes good enough to have sung lead for The Drifters.

No style of music he can’t sing the hell out of.

You hear him sing and he wins and holds your allegiance.

Plus, the guy gets straight A’s for Style and Attitude.

Gonna make this a Noir Production.

You want a singer to drive young blood wild?

Step up to the microphone Willy Deville!

And, when a singer like Willy Deville sings a song other singers listen.

Thus an obscure song becomes a treasure.

A treasure that a connoisseur of songs and singers like Boz Scaggs will surely discover and file away for the day when it’s the right time for him to show what he can do with it.

Boz is a class act.

He purrs through the song on cruise control.

Boz gets the blues and rides with the rhythm.

Boz got nothing to prove these days – he’s a master assured of his mastery.

Let’s finish up with Jukebox Hero Willy Deville pulling out all the stops to give Cadillac Walk a blistering live rendition.

Said it before, gonna say it again – a true message always gets through sometimes it just takes a while.

Hey Moon! That’s quite some song you wrote.

Cadillac Walk.

Cadillac Walk.

Johnny Cash, Debbie Harry & Gene Autry : Ghost Riders In The Sky!

Here’s a Post that means a lot to me.

For the Song and the Singers featured and for the warm memories it evokes.

Nothing like music to open the gates of memory!

Music hath charms. Music hath charms.

And, among those charms is its uncanny ability to forge bonds of fellow feeling and friendship between people born in wildly different times, places and cultures.

Take me and Carl.

Carl came from the spice Island of Grenada in the Caribbean.

When we met he was seventy years old and I was a callow twenty two.

I had just emerged, blinking, from the ivory tower of Cambridge University awaiting my inevitable discovery as a great novelist.

Carl had spent decades in the fierce factories of Detroit and the searing cane fields of Florida.

We met in Hospital.

I was working there as a porter dramatically rushing the resuscitation trolley to people on the point of death and more prosaically ferrying patients to the X-Ray department and to the operating theatre for surgery.

Carl, having suffered a heart attack, came into Accident & Emergency by ambulance at 3am when I was on night shift.

I watched with a mixture of horror and fascination the team of doctors and nurses, with whom moments before I had been sharing idle banter,  urgently bring all their professional skills to the struggle to to save Carl’s life.

Happily they succeeded and before I left that morning I wheeled Carl to the ward where he would recover.

Normally that would have been the last time I saw him but as I was about to leave Carl said, ‘Will you come and see later?’.

A request I could hardly refuse.

So, that night I made the first of many visits to Carl’s bedside in the three weeks he spent in the hospital.

Walking into the ward I wondered what two such disparate individuals might find to talk about.

Almost without thinking I asked him, having learned of the time he had spent in America, what kind of music he had listened to there.

Given his age, and reading on his chart  that he was a Baptist by religion, I anticipated that he might answer Big Band Jazz or Gospel Music.

I was a little taken aback therefore when he answered by singing in a mellow baritone:

An old cowpoke went riding out one dark and windy day,

Upon a ridge he rested as he  went along his way,

When all at once a mighty herd of red-eyed cows he saw

Riding through the ragged skies and up a clouded draw …’

Now, my education, at University, might have been airily academic but luckily on those few occasions when I was not bent over some medieval text I could be found, a huge tub of popcorn by my side, obsessively watching every ‘A’, ‘B’ or series Western that ever came to town.

So, without missing a beat, I joined in as we sang:

Their brands were still on fire and their hooves were made of steel,

 Their horns were black and shiny and their hot breath he could feel,

 A bolt of fear went through him as they thundered through the sky,

For he saw the riders coming hard and he heard their mournful cry ..’

And then, to the incredulity of the rest of the ward, we lifted our voices up and sang together lustily:

Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Ghost Riders In The Sky’

Then we laughed and laughed until we nearly cried.

And, we sang that song, among many other Western favourites, every time we met until Carl died some two years later.

‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ was Carl’s favourite song and the version he preferred, ‘Because he don’t mess about with the song’ was the one by Gene Autry from 1949.

This one’s for you Carl:

According to the Western Writers of America, ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ is the greatest of all Western songs and I whole heartedly agree with that august body.

The song was written in 1948 by Stan Jones and first recorded by him and his marvelously named, ‘Death Valley Rangers’ that same year.

stan-jones-2

Stan, then a Park Ranger in Death Valley, is reputed to have written the song on his 34th birthday as he recalled a legend told to him when he was 12 by an old cowboy.

Now, all stories told by Stan Jones need to be taken with a fistful of salt as he was a noted fabulist who often valued the effect of a tale above its veracity (as frequently do I!).

The tale of the spectral herd in the skies and the curse of, ‘Stampede Mesa’ probably traces its origins to mythical cautionary stories told around the cowboy campfire in nineteenth century Texas.

Whatever its cultural lineage Stan crafted a certifiable classic which is shot through with haunting images which never leave the mind once heard.

Burning in the mental firelight of my imagination as the song proceeds I feel the hot breath of those red-eyed cows and shudder with fear as their black and shiny horns and steely hooves thunder by.

In my dreams I’m there with the gaunt faced cowboys their shirts soaked with sweat as they endlessly pursue the cursed herd they never, ever, will catch.

Surely that’s my name I hear them calling in the wind at the dead of night!

‘Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Ghost Riders In The Sky’

Stan wrote many more fine Western ballads notably those featuring in the films of the greatest of all Western Film Directors – John Ford.

But, neither he, nor anyone else, ever wrote a better one than, ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’.

The brilliance and mother lode Americana quality of the song has, for seven decades now, attracted hundreds and hundreds of artists to take a shot of rye, strap on their spurs and saddle up with the Ghost Riders to see if that herd can finally be corralled.

And, if anyone, by force of will and character could carry out that miracle it would surely be none other than Johnny Cash – no mean mythic figure himself.

 

Johnny sings the song with the oracular power an old testament prophet issuing a grave warning to his tribe to prevent them from sleepwalking to doom.

You want fire-snorting horses brought to life?

You want those ghostly riders coming hard right at you?

You want to feel those mournful cries in the pit of your stomach and the marrow of your bones?

Call for The Man in Black!

Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Ghost Riders In The Sky’

Stan Jones’ evocative melody has always attracted guitarists and instrumental groups who like to tell an atmospheric story using six resonant strings instead of the vocal chords.

Today I’ve chosen to feature a top 30 Billboard Chart hit from 1961 (and top 10 in the UK) by The Ramrods  – who had clearly listened closely to Duane Eddy.

 

The Ramrods were out of Connecticut and had brother and sister Claire and Rich Litke on drums and sax respectively.

Vinny Lee took the lead guitar role with Gene Moore in support.

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They were essentially one hit wonders though I greatly enjoyed listening to their follow up, ‘Loch Lomond Rock’ which, probably uniquely, mashes up twangtastic guitar with a bagpipe solo!

And, now as they say, for something completely, completely different.

I have to say that when I started researching this post I never expected to feature a trance version by Debbie Harry!

‘Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh, Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh’ Indeed!

 Debbie’s version comes from Alex Cox’s 1998 film, ‘Three Businessmen’ and in my view is the best thing about it.

The production is by Dan Wool who had worked frequently with Stan Jones’ son who is a music editor – so legal clearances to use the song were easily arranged.

There’s definitely something sexily hypnotic about Debbie’s vocal adding an unexpected dimension to an established standard.

I’m going to conclude with another version out of left field or should I say the firmament.

And, versions of Ghost Riders don’t get more left field than the hipster version by Scatman Crothers!

‘Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Ghost Riders In The Sky’

Everyone has heard Scatman’s distinctive tones through his voice over work for TV and film. That’s Scatman as Hong Kong Phooey and as the hep Jazz playing feline in, ‘The Aristocats’.

Some may remember his appearances on TV in the show, ‘Chico and the Man’ or on film as Dick Halloran in Kubrick’s, ‘The Shining’ (one of four films he shared billing with Jack Nicholson).

Scatman was always a hep cat as evidenced by his drumming with Slim Gaillard. He brings all his vouty hipster presence to this version of Ghost Riders which has me cheering him on while doubled up with laughter.

There will be many more fine versions of Ghost Riders because we all love a good story.

Especially one that’s so incredible it just has to be true.

Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Ghost Riders In The Sky’

 

Notes:

There’s a fine biography of Stan Jones by Michal K Ward published by Rio Neuvo.

The major hit version was by Vaughn Monroe

Basso profundo versions by Lorne Green, Marty Robins, Burl Ives, Frankie Laine

Western versions by Sons of the Pioneers, Riders in the Sky, Chris Ledoux, Jimmy Wakeley, Mary McCaslin

Instrumental versions by The Ventures, The Shadows, The Spotniks, Glen Campbell/Roy Clark, Dick Dale

‘Other’ versions by Spike Jones, Blues Brothers, Brothers Four, Judy Collins, Christopher Lee

Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint & Willy Deville : On The Waterfront, Spanish Stroll – Immortal Moments

Another post from the first year of The Jukebox.

Of all the hundreds of Posts I have written for The Jukebox this may be my own favourite.

Sometimes it might take just a single beat of your heart.

A lightning strike seared into your memory: something really crucial has happened and whatever happens from now on it will be in the shadow of this!

Maybe it’s the first time alone together when she called you by your name and it felt like a new christening.

Or the time your toddling son folded his hand into yours without thinking as he looked for stability and security on the road ahead.

Sometimes it might take years; the slowly dawning realisation, (like a photograph emerging from the darkroom) that it was that moment, that event, which seemed so trivial at the time, where a new course was set that’s led you to your current harbour.

Moments, Moments, Moments.

Immortal Moments.

Our lives in our imaginations and memories are never a complete coherent narrative but rather a silvery chain of moments: some cherished and celebrated some sharply etched with pain and sorrow.

Some in which we have the starring role and others where we are strictly extras in the shadows at the edge of the stage.

The older we get the more we learn that some of those moments have become our own immortal moments: the moments we will return to again and again, voluntarily or necessarily as we try to make some sense of our lives.

And, when we shuffle through these moments we will find many have been supplied by our encounters with the music, films and books that have become part of the imaginative and emotional furniture of our lives.

Snatches of lyrics and melodies from favourite songs that you find yourself unexpectedly singing; scenes from films that seem to be always spooling somewhere deep in the consciousness now spotlit in front the mind’s eye, lines of poetry read decades ago that suddenly swoosh to the surface, seemingly unbidden, in response to some secret trigger.

I remember the exact moment, as a teenager, when I idly picked up a dusty book in a rundown junk shop and read these lines:

‘ Thou mastering me God!
Giver of breath and bread;
World’s strand, sway of the sea
Lord of living and dead;
Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh,
And after it unmade, what with dread,
Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.’

The opening lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, ‘The Wreck Of The Deutschland’.

Rooted to the spot I read the further twenty or so stanzas with my head and heart ablaze.

I was aware of taking in only a fraction of the meaning and technique of the poem but I was absolutely sure that this was poetry of the highest order and that sounding its depths would be the work of a lifetime.

I had made an emotional and spiritual connection that could never be undone and Poetry with that capital P was now a territory open for me, necessary for me, to explore.

Strangely enough this was also the moment when I also glimpsed a future in which I might write poetry myself.

Similar thrilling encounters with literature, music and film now form a personal rosary of treasure in my life.

I want to share just two more with you here.

Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint as Terry and Edie in a duet scene from, ‘On The Waterfront’ from 1954 in pristine monochrome with wonderful cinematography by Boris Kaufman.

This scene played with such truthfulness, tenderness and delicacy by both actors struck me very forcefully at the moment when first viewed and it has continued to bloom in my memory and imagination.

If asked to give testimony for Marlon Brando as the greatest film actor of his time I would, of course, cite his thrilling physical presence and ability to dominate and take possession of the screen with special reference to, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’.

But, it is this scene that would win the argument for me.

Brando here hits a peak of American naturalistic acting using the method techniques he had learned but without being imprisoned by them.

In this scene with humour, pathos and dignity and without a shred of affectation or disrespect he incarnates Terry as a living, breathing man who wins our sympathy, as fellow human strugglers, trying stumblingly to articulate our feelings both to ourselves and to those we love and those we yearn to love us.

Watch the way his body language evolves through the scene as he realises Edie is intrigued by him and interested in him for himself.

The way he picks up, plays with and finally wears her dropped glove (seemingly improvised) should be required viewing in every drama school.

Astonishingly, this was Eva Marie Saint’s film debut.

The camera obviously loved her at first sight.

As Edie she is a luminous quiet presence whose watchful stillness, intelligence and sensitivity makes it inevitable that Terry will fall for her and fall hard.

She understatedly lets Edie’s dawning love for Terry emerge as something as natural as drawing breath.

She believably illuminates Edie as a young woman with steel in her character as well as beauty and charm.

Acting with Brando, even for someone with her accomplished background on stage, must have been an intimidating challenge but there can be no doubt that Eva Marie Saint matched and balanced him through every frame of celluloid on show here.

At some heartbreaking level we understand that these fleeting moments of intimacy shared in this scene by characters afflicted by doubt and bruised souls will be moments they will both need to recall in the painfully tempestuous times ahead.

Maybe it’s an eternal truth as Dylan wrote that, ‘Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain’.

Few scenes in cinema history bring out the truth of this statement with more clarity.

Mink Deville were led by Willy Deville a pompadoured and preening singer (finger on the eyebrow and left hand on the hip!) who showed himself throughout a roller coaster personal and professional life to be a supreme rhythm and blues and soul song stylist.

He had rasp and romance, swagger and sensitivity as well as presence and power in his vocal arsenal.

I recall the moment of seeing him for the first time on the British flagship chart music programme, ‘Top Of The Pops’ in 1977 and jumping out of my chair to applaud this performance of the signature tune of his early career, ‘Spanish Stroll’.

 

Willy added sass, instrumental colour and wasted seventies urban elegance to the magic and mystery of doo-wop and Brill Building vocal group harmonies to create a wonderful record that creates its own bright shining world every time you hear it.

His wonderfully liquid self regarding, shooting cuffs vocal is all strutting Latin braggadocio anchored in his assured rhythmic poise.

Special praise is due to the mellifluous backing vocalists who wonderfully evoke the steam heat of a New York night on a tenement stoop as they support Willy’s imperious lead role.

I love the ringing tones of the guitars, the Spanish flourishes, the proto rap intervention by bassist Ruben Siguenza, the tempo changes and the dreamlike woozy character of the whole song. Most of all, most of all, I love and keep returning to the moment when Willy sings the line:

‘Make a paper boat, light it and send it, send it out now.’

Especially those last three words.

Anyone who can make the heart leap with three simple words is an artist to cherish and revere.

I’ll write a full tribute to this great late lamented talent in due course but in the meantime trawl Youtube for a series of magnificent vocal performances and load up your shopping cart with his albums. You won’t regret it.

Adios Amigo, adios.

Moments, moments, Immortal moments.

Linda Ronstadt, Mike Nesmith, P P Arnold : Different Drum

It seems like music has always been in the air around you and in your head.

Folk Music, Country Music, Rock ‘n’ Roll.

And, you write poems, lyrics if you will, that maybe could be songs.

Along comes the Guitar and those poems really do sound like songs.

There’s something about the sound of the 12 string especially that frees up the spirit.

Listened to a lot of music in Texas growing up and in the Service the radio was always a lifeline.

Now you’re back in civilian life it’s time to see if any of these songs have a life outside your head.

Head West Young Man!

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Los Angeles has quite a scene.

There’s a club, The Troubadour, in West Hollywood that has a Monday night Hootenanny where all kinds of songs get played by folks desperate to get their songs sung and heard.

Some of these singers are really building a following and some have even got record deals.

Now if I could just get someone like that to sing and record one of my songs I’d be launched as a songwriter and maybe people would take the time to listen to me singing my other songs.

Might even make a few bucks!

There’s this guy, John Herald, heads up a bluegrass outfit, The Greenbriar Boys, and we get along fine – play each other our songs.

He thinks, ‘Different Drum’ has got that something a song has to have so that it sticks in people’s minds and has them singing along before they even realise they are doing it.

Well, praise be!, John only went and recorded, ‘Different Drum’ and put it out on their album, ‘Better Late than Never!’

Now I have an official song writing credit!

But, I wont be needing a truck to haul away my royalties!

John and the Boys slowed the song down and their version sounds a little worthy to me; a hit for the Hoot crowd but nowhere else.

But, all songwriters will tell you, once a song is out there on record and on the radio, its like a message in a bottle and there’s no knowing whose feet it will wash up at.

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Turns out there’s this group called The Stone Poneys and that the girl in the group, Linda Ronstadt, heard the Greenbriar Boys take on, ‘Different Drum’ and thought here, finally, was a song that would suit her.

I got to say that anyone who has ever seen The Stone Poneys knows that while Kenny Edwards and Bobby Kimmel love their music they are very low watt bulbs in comparison to the brilliance that surrounds Linda.

She’s hotter than Mojave and she has a true voice that pierces the heart.

So, one day, I turn on the radio and Hallelujah!

Different Drum blasting out and no doubt about it a sure fire hit.

Got to say Linda has given the song a sweetness and sensuality that even surprises me.

Amazing how good a song can sound when its sung by a singer like Linda supported by musicians who can really play directed by a Producer who can make a song fly off those vinyl grooves.

I did some research and it seems Linda was the only Stone Poney on the record.

Nick Venet, the Producer, twigged that the song shouldn’t be one more of the thousands of pretty acoustic ballads out there.

Give it a stylish arrangement, add in the chops of first rate musicians to match Linda’s shining vocals and you’ve got a record that will have people turning up their radio’s and saying, ‘Who is that?’ and hot footing it to their nearest record store.

So, Jimmy Bond plays the hell out of the Bass – he’s got all that Jazz training and he knows the studio – how else did he get to be part of the Wrecking Crew!

Al Viola and Bernie Leadon played those sweet guitar parts.

Jim Gordon, the Jim Gordon, made the song swing from the Drum stool.

Add in a little magic from Sid Sharp’s strings and Don Randi’s Harpsichord and I defy anyone not to sing along with gusto!

This time the royalties really did flow in!

Now, some of you might know, that for a few years in the late 60s, I became something of a celebrity, heard someone call the group I was in, ‘The Monkees’ a Pop phenomenon indeed!

Of course, all the while the TV Show and the recording and  tours were in full spate I never lost track of the fact that at heart I was a singer songwriter and that when all this frenzy finished (as it always must sooner or later) I would pick up the 12 String and find a new audience.

You know, ‘Different Drum’ has been pretty good to me so I figured let’s see how it sounds with Red Rhodes on the pedal steel and me taking a mellow meander through the song.

Now songwriters love all their songs and I ain’t no different but Different Drum is close to my heart and it seems to keep finding new singers who want to put their own stamp on it.

Listen here to Susanna Hoffs (wasn’t she in a group that was something of a modest pop phenomenon in the 80s?).

Don’t she and Matthew Sweet charm us all!

That’s my kind of Hootennany right there.

One of the greatest gifts a songwriter can ever get is to hear one of their songs completely reimagined so that it comes up anew shining bright and dazzling a new audience.

That happened to me when I heard P P Arnold take on Different Drum with a bunch of English musicians.

Most everybody knows her as a backing singer or for cutting the original of Cat Stevens’ ‘First Cut is the Deepest’ but the more you investigate her career you realise she’s a magnificent soul singer and that any writer ought to be real proud to have her cover one of their songs.

Once heard you won’t forget this.

She can flat out sing!

Compared to Linda and Susanna and P P Arnold I can’t sing at all.

But, Over the years I have learned how to tell a story and make co-conspirators of an audience.

Different Drum is an old friend now and I like to make sure I don’t rush through it pretending I was still in my 20s.

A story needs to be properly framed and told for maximum impact.

So now it goes something like this :

Long as I can make it up on stage I’m going to be singing that song.

Time to close out with a tribute to the person who sent this song soaring into so many hearts.

Linda’s health doesn’t let her sing anymore but a voice like she had will always be lifting spirits and touching souls.

Warren Zevon : Werewolves of London (Ah-hooo!)

Nowadays I live a life of quiet rural seclusion in our cottage in the South Downs.

At night the only sounds are the nocturnal scurrying of woodland animals, the call of the Owls and the music of the swirling wind.

Ah but there was a time when I lived a world away from such bucolic charms.

For almost two decades I lived and worked in the heart of London.

The nocturnal choirs there were composed of police and ambulance sirens, the omnipresent roaring traffics boom and the relentless beat, beat, beat of youthful ambition.

Millions upon millions of dreams and desires, spoken and unspoken, melding and clashing twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

And, dreams and desires are tales we tell to ourselves and the pursuit of those tales leads to public stories.

Heroic stories. Comic stories. Tragic stories.

Oh, I could tell you some stories.

Like the time, well refreshed, when I attempted to jump onto the open platform of the 159 Bus as it accelerated up Regent Street.

The Bus was travelling at about 30mph so I did well to time my approach run and very well to manage to grab the bar of the platform.

However, while it’s one thing to grab on to the bar it’s quite another to then hold on and pull yourself in to the Bus.

So, that’s how I became the first man to perform a triple Salchow Jump from a moving Bus onto tarmac and live! (though I did disrupt traffic and walk with a limp for several weeks after).

I had a number of unexpected encounters with The Metropolitan Police when I was, ‘Living  on the Frontline’.

Like the time I was walking home not on the well lit Main Street but by the route that skirted the Park as a short cut.

Suddenly, I found myself surrounded by dozens of Her Majesty’s Constabulary supported by some very vocal Dogs as a drugs raid was carried out on the Rastafarian Temple just around the corner from my flat.

They didn’t seem interested in my observation that Bob Marley had stayed there on his first visit to England!

Like the time I woke up intrigued by the unusually high volume of sirens in the night and an eerie red glow in the night sky.

This turned out to a serious riot in nearby Brixton.

I thought I might get a closer look by walking to the end of my road but found on opening my front door that the Police Control Line had been set up exactly there.

So, that was how I first met the Metropolitan Police Commissioner who wasted no words in ordering me to immediately return to my flat and on no account leave unless formally instructed to do so.

Stories. So many stories.

But I have to admit, though I like to think I tell a good story, that no story of mine can hope to match a London story that starts with these lines :

I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
Walkin’ through the streets of SoHo in the rain

No, when it comes to London stories my favourite will always be, ‘Werewolves of London’ by the late, very great, Warren Zevon.

Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hooo
Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hooo

Warren Zevon was a complete, ‘One Off’ with a songwriting imagination that knew no bounds.

He had a blacker than black noir imagination so that many of his songs could double as screenplays for classic film noir movies.

I first saw Warren when he supported Jackson Browne and though I was a fan of JB it was Warren who I came out of the show madly enthusing about.

He was a highly charismatic performer who didn’t seem to be performing at all – just allowing the audience to spend some time interacting with his outrageous tales of love and loss and rage and bewilderment at the madness of life.

I saw and met some extraordinary characters during my time in the Big Smoke (one day I’ll tell you the story of how I won £50 from Peter O’Toole or the time Richard Harris threw a pint of Guinness all over me).

But, more’s the pity I never saw :

Lon Chaney walkin’ with the Queen
Doin’ the werewolves of London

 

Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hooo
Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hooo

Stories. So many stories.

Like the time I called in to one of the music pubs I frequented to find I was the only audience member prepared to pay to see an unknown pedal steel player called Sarah Jory.

Over a drink we agreed she would do the show and I would applaud wildly throughout.

Turned out she was excellent and my parting comment of ‘Stick with it – you never know where you’ll end up’ was proved more prescient than I had imagined when I saw her a few years later as part of Van Morrison’s Band at the grand old Albert Hall!

A great story needs a punchline that lodges permanently in the imagination and I know there is no song punchline anywhere to to top :

I saw a werewolf drinkin’ a piña colada at Trader Vic’s
His hair was perfect

 

From the first time I ever heard Werewolves of London it plays in my head as I walk through the Capital’s  storied streets.

Look – there’s where the great fire of London started.

Look – that’s where they publicly hung Perkin Warbeck!

Look – that’s the house that both Handel and Hendrix lived in!

Look – here we are in Mayfair; keep your eyes peeled for a hairy handed gent, you know the one who ran amok in Kent, because  given half a chance he’ll rip your lungs out Jim!

Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hooo
Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hooo

Yup, compare to Warren’s howling at the Moon wild werewolf imagination almost all songwriters are very domestic dogs indeed!

Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hooo
Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hooo

Van Morrison & Mark Knopfler : Last Laugh (Happy Birthday Van!)

You’ve either got it or you haven’t.

Presence.

Some things you just can’t buy.

Presence.

Coaches and Gurus and Snake Oil salesmen will portentously promise to reveal the secret to you.

Better save your money and your time and learn the things that can be taught – vocal exercises, relaxation, the whole assembly of skills that adds up to Technique.

But Presence?

No way.

You’ve either got it or you haven’t.

The gods or muses dispose as they will.

Hard to define but easy to recognise.

Greta Garbo.

Marlon Brando.

Rudolph Nureyev.

Maria Callas.

Miles Davis.

Muhammad Ali.

Van Morrison.

Intensity.

Impact.

Cultural, emotional and spiritual impact.

You’ll recognise it when you confront it.

Mark Knopfler is a gifted songwriter and as a guitar player has undoubted Presence.

He is also canny enough to know that some songs require an extra ingredient that he does not possess.

A voice with Presence.

So, for his Song, ‘The Last Laugh’ he called up Van Morrison.

There must have been a moment in the studio as they listened back when Mark exhaled and smiled deeply as the sound of Van’s voice at the beginning of the second verse lifted the work to a wholly new level.

Presence.

Emotional and Spiritual impact.

Van Morrison.

Sing it Van!

Games you thought you’d learned
You neither lost nor won
Dreams have crashed and burned
But you’re still going on
Out on the highway with the road gang working
Up on the mountain with the cold wind blowing
Out on the highway with the road gang working
But the last laugh, baby is yours
And don’t you love the sound
Of the last laugh going down

Very few singers merit the Bold and the Italics.

Van Morrison always has and always will.

Don’t you love the Sound!

Presence.

Cultural, Emotional and Spiritual Impact.

Demonstrated time after time in studios and on stages from Belfast to Buffalo.

Hey Girl! Baby Blue. Brown Eyed Girl. Sweet Thing. Moondance..

Linden Arden.

Listen to The Lion.

The Healing has begun.

No Guru. No Method. No Teacher.

Just Van and that Voice.

It ain’t why, why, why, it just IS.

A voice capable of transcendence as only the rarest voices are.

A voice that reaches up to the Moon.

Don’t you love the Sound!

Van is 74 this week.

So, Happy Birthday Van!

A heartfelt thanks for all the Songs and all the Singing.

 

May your Song always be Sung.

if this is your visit to The Immortal Jukebox you are very welcome!

Sign up for email alerts or follow me on Twitter @thomhickey55 and you’ll never miss a post!

There are more Posts about Van than any other artist here on The Jukebox so, in case you missed one or would like to be reminded of an old favourite here’s the Van Compendium for your delectation and delight!

Brown Eyed Girl’.

An introduction telling the tale of my headlong plunge into obsession following my first hearing of Van’s best known song.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-2L

Don’t Look Back’.

A meditation on Time featuring 2 astounding versions of John Lee Hooker’s tender Blues Ballad. One a reaching for the stars take of a teenager the second the work of a fully realised master musician.

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

Carrickfergus‘.

A meditation on family, friendship and loss. How the shadows lengthen! Sung with infinite tenderness and bardic authority.

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

In The Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll’.

A miraculous meditation on the persistence of memory, the power of the radio and the post war world as seen by a young Irish mystic.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-bi

Tupelo Honey’.

A rhapsodic meditation on the nurturing, redemptive power of Love. A Hallelujah!

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-fr

All in the Game‘.

A meditation on the carousel we all ride. It’s been sung by many singers but never like this!

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-jY

Domino’ .

A Founding Father joyously celebrated by a Master from the next generation.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-pH

Sometimes We Cry‘.

Bringing it all back home to singing on the street corner Days. The sweetness of Doo-Wop seasoned with wry maturity.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-sf

I Cover the Waterfront’.

Van and John Lee Hooker, Blues Brothers and Soul Friends, conjure up ancient tides.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-tq

Buona Sera Signorina‘.

Van puts his party hat on and romps through the Louis Prima classic.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-Xg

Hey Girl’.

Van takes a stroll along the strand and suspends Time.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-1cA

Gloria! Gloria!’

Once, Now and Ever.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-1dh

Coney Island 

A Pilgrim’s glimpses of Eternity in the everyday.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-1OQ

Brand New Day

Born again each Day with The Dawn.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-1kL

And It Stoned Me

A mystic dweller on the threshold shows us the wonder ever present everywhere.

Happy Birthday Van!

Jerry Lee Lewis, Richard Thompson &The Move (never forgetting Cowboy Jack Clement) : It’ll Be Me!

In the mid 1950s Rock ‘n’ Roll smashed apart the ice bound cultural climate of America and Britain.

A new generation born in the 1940s had epiphanies in the 50s listening to the icebreakers in chief : Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.

In Minnesota, Bob Dylan.

In Liverpool, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

And, their ecstatic immersion into a new world was repeated in hamlets and villages and towns and cities all over the world.

Later, when those Baby Boomers became artists and legends in their own right they always carried within treasured memories of the sparks that had lit their own flames.

That’s why, time after time, when it comes to encores you’ll find the titans of the 60s and 70s returning to the original source to pay homage and rock out for all they are worth!

Now, if you want a mentor, an exemplar, for barn burning, earth shattering, Rock ‘n’ Roll you can’t possibly beat The Killer – Ferriday Louisiana’s very own Jerry Lee Lewis!

Image result for jerry lee lewis images 1950s

If there was ever a man/myth you might chance upon a-peeping from a crawdad hole or grinnin’ down on you from the top of a telephone pole it would have to be Jerry Lee!

In February 1957 Jerry was in Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios for his second session as a recording artist with Cowboy Jack Clement at the desk.

Everyone with a pulse from Mercury to Pluto knows the second track they recorded that day, ‘Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On’ as it became one of the defining records of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era (which is of course still extant).

But, today The Jukebox is celebrating the B Side of that epochal 45, ‘It’ll Be Me’ a masterpiece in its own right and, as we shall see, an inspiration for decades to come.

Well, you can climb to the top of Everest or descend in a diving bell to the deepest darkest depths of the oceans but you still wouldn’t be able to find a truer Rock ‘n’ Roller than Jerry Lee.

I love the leer that’s always in his voice tempered by a sly wink to the audience :

Come on you’ve got to admit it you just can’t get enough of Jerry Lee can you’.

And, there’s always that slippin’ and a slidin’ perpetually pumpin’ Piano to keep your heart rate up and out a broad smile on your face.

‘It’ll Be Me’ was written by a popular music renaissance man – Cowboy Jack Clement.

Image result for cowboy jack clement images

Among the roles Jack assumed were : songwriter, singer, producer, studio owner, talent spotter and world class raconteur!

Of course, as The Jukebox never tires of saying you only have to make one great record to be sure of immortality and with, ‘It’ll Be Me’ Jack most assuredly did that.

Janis Martin was a contemporary of Jerry Lee’s and a rip roaring rocker.

She took a long spell away from the music business yet when lured back by the estimable Rosie Flores for the album, ‘The Blanco Sessions’ in 1995 she showed that she could still set those sparks flying upward.

The Move were one of the least classifiable outfits in the firmament of British Beat Groups of the 1960s.

They were Rock ‘n’ Roll, they were Pop, they were Psychedelic, they were progressive and Retro all at the same time.

In Roy Wood they had a songwriter/performer who overflowed with talent turbo charging the efforts of Bev Bevan (Drums), Carl Wayne (Vocals & Guitar), Trevor Burton (Guitar & Vocals) and Ace Kefford (Bass & Vocals).

Live, they brewed up quite a storm.

Here they are giving, ‘It’ll Be Me’ a no holds barred, eyeballs out, performance for the good old BBC.

Now we turn to a regular on The Jukebox, Richard Thompson, here performing live with his then wife Linda.

Richard Thompson, in contrast to almost all the stellar guitarists of his time, was not a devotee of B. B King, Elmore James or Chuck Berry.

Rather he had a unique set of influences which included traditional Pipers and Fiddle Players alongside Guitarists like Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian and Les Paul.

Which is why he sounds only ever like himself.

And, he can play in almost any emotional register.

He can play with the still tenderness of a mother singing a lullaby to her sick child in the dead of night.

He can play with the ferocity of William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops as they slashed and burned their was from Atlanta to Savannah.

You want someone who can make the line :

‘If you see a rocket ship on its way to Mars’ come alive well look no further than Richard Thompson when he’s in the mood!

Better fasten your seat belt real tight! – you’ll be pulling some serious Gs!

Remember what I said about Encores?

Well, here’s a short, sharp and satisfying one from a Group, Lindisfarne, whom I often saw in their 70s heyday.

Lindisfarne, as their name suggests, were from England’s North East.

Their take on ‘It’ll Be Me’ suggests they may have been tuned in to Chuck Berry rather more closely than they were to Bede!

Pretty sure Bede never played the Harmonica like that!

Look who’s knocking on our door now!

None other than Tom Jones, happily never recovered from his first ecstatic exposure to Jerry Lee.

Sometimes you want music to be pure Fun and that’s exactly what Tom serves up here aided and ably abetted by Jools Holland.

What’s that line about funny faces and comic books?

Let’s conclude with Cowboy Jack himself bringing it all back home.

Well, if you see a new face on your totem pole or if you find a new lump in your sugar bowl, Baby, I have to tell you It’ll Be Me …….