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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

Duane Eddy : Drive South (A road movie in 5 Songs)

‘Drive South’ starring Henry Fonda as Charlie

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and Jean Arthur as Anna

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Music by Duane Eddy

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Minnesota 1938

Scene 1 – Introducing Anna

Anna looked out at the Minnesota night sky.

A distant moon illuminated swarms of ghostly moths fluttering by her window.

Snow and ice all around. And, the Cold … the Cold.

No matter how thick the blankets you sheltered under you were always cold in Minnesota in Winter.

A Winter which seemed to reign all through the year.

How many stars were there above Lutsen?

Thousands upon thousands. And, she had wished upon every one.

Every one.

Wishing that one day, soon, she would be looking at those same stars somewhere far away where the days and nights were warm.

With someone who would take good care of her and call her Anna not Anni-Frid.

Like Papa and the boys always did. Papa was already planning a marriage for her to a local farmer, a widower, who came of ‘good Norwegian stock’.

Anna. The name she called herself. The name she would take with her out into the world beyond the fences of the farm.

South. Like the birds to live, to thrive, she would have to head South.

South.

Scene 2 : Introducing Charlie

Charlie came from the South.

Georgia.

Now you could blink your eyes twice and miss all there was to see in Alapaha.

But it was home. The air smelled sweet and the peaches were so fine – straight off the tree.

And, if it wasn’t for that trouble he’d got into with the local Sheriff on account of a misunderstanding about the ownership of a truck he won, fair and square, in a card game with one of the Faulkner boys he would be there still.

Instead, he had to high tail it out of there without a backward glance. Better that than a long spell behind bars or be baked to death on the chain gang.

Sure, he didn’t know how he would pay the next time he needed gas. But, with a grin, he thought somehow he would find a way. He always did.

He knew the dirt roads and trails round here better than anyone. Forty miles of bad road and he would be long gone.

All they would ever catch of him would be the dust he left behind!

Scene 3 : Love and flight

Now, Charlie was thousands of miles away from the Southern sun in Minnesota. Still, there wasn’t a car or a tractor ever made that Charlie couldn’t make run even if everyone else had given up on it.

And, there was always work in farming country for a man who could save the struggling farmer the price of a new machine by resurrecting an old one.

Word got around. And so did Charlie. Farm to farm making those machines last one more harvest.

Charlie thought The Olsens worked harder than Georgia mules. And it seemed they were about as talkative too.

They were head down and close mouthed from sun up to sun down.

Though Charlie liked to talk he’d come to understand that these Norwegian folks spoke only when it was strictly necessary.

Only Anna spoke as if talk was a pleasure. When they got a chance to talk before the shadow of Mr Olsen or one of his five hulking sons intervened.

But, you can say a lot in a very few words. A lot.

Old Mr Olsen near cracked a smile Charlie got his old John Deere running again. Come in boy and wash up and let us share supper with you.

Anna is a fine cook – we will miss her food when she leaves us to become Mrs Nordstam come spring.

And, as he came into the house there was Anna haloed in the half light .

And, that was that. He couldn’t, wouldn’t, let her become another man’s wife.

He knew from the look in Anna’s eyes that she had been waiting for him just as much as he must have been waiting for her.

Some things don’t need words. A look is more than enough.

He told Mr Olsen he’d come back in the morning.

And he did. At three. Before anyone was awake.

Apart from Anna. He knew she would be awake. And waiting.

They had to walk a long ways in the still moonlight to where he had parked the truck.

They didn’t speak but they both knew that they were bound together now and that the road ahead, however bumpy, would be one they traveled together.

So, as the truck pulled away heading South their faces were shining bright as any star and their hearts were on fire.

Charlie said they would find a preacher once they crossed the state line.

And they drove South. South.

Under the canopy of heaven.

Scene 4 – Odyssey of love

Together in the truck and the truck stops they found they were as close as two people can be.

As the ribbon of the road unfurled they told each other the stories of their childhood and their secret dreams.

They would never forget the changing light and the charging of their hearts as they headed South.

The names of the towns they passed through or where they stayed when Charlie was working became hallowed beads on their love’s rosary.

Redwing, Bemidji, Grand Rapids, Aitkin, Brainerd, Little Falls, St Cloud, Elk River, La Crosse, Potosi, Dubuque, Lomax, Kampsville, Granite City, Cairo, Columbus, Tiptonville, Golddust, Locke, Memphis.

Of course, there were times the truck broke down and days when they thought they’d never see another dollar.

Charlie got in a fight a time or two and Anna longed for the days when they would have a home to call their own. A home where they could have a family.

In the meantime they kept moving.

Scene 5 – A home of their own

Kept moving. ‘Til the day they found Bell Buckle or Bell Buckle found them and they claimed each other.

Turned out Bell Buckle was in sore need of a first class mechanic and a woman with a smile as bright as the Southern sun.

Under the Southern sun two become three, then four and finally five.

And, they were never really cold again.

Note :

Duanne Eddy with his trusty Gretsch 6120 made some of the defining instrumentals of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Every home should have his Greatest Hits securely shelved.

I intend to write much more about Duanne when, ‘Peter Gunn’ features on The Jukebox later.

Tequila! (The Champs) The best ‘B Movie B Side’ ever made!

In my youth, in the interests of conviviality and scientific research into plant biology, intoxication and rock and roll excess I developed quite a taste for the distilled beverage of the blue agave plant otherwise known as Tequila.

I soon discovered that if you wanted fuel to impel you to leave the earth’s orbit and achieve a speedy exit from the tedious demands of sobriety before entering the welcoming arms of drunkenness there was no drink to match Tequila.

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I also discovered, as I deepened my research, that John Steinbeck in, ‘Tortilla Flat’ had very accurately delineated the journey a seasoned Tequila drinker takes as the bottle is drained. First a period of serious and concentrated conversation (which you always wish you had written down the next day) followed by the evocation of a series of sweetly sad memories.

Next, thoughts of old and unsatisfactory loves before the mind inevitably turns to thoughts of bitter loves. Recovering, you then move on to a general and undirected sadness at the state of the world before tumbling into a black, unholy, despondency.

Soon you begin to sing a song filled with longing for love or for death (if you’re Irish you have a deep treasury of such songs to draw on!) and then before you lose the power to sing or indeed to talk at all you launch into a verse or two of every song you’ve ever known while loudly encouraging all around you to do the same.

You are convinced as you unsteadily make your way home that there has never been such a glorious night of music and conversation since the heady days of Paris in the 1920s.

Dimly, in the morning, you recall that you had insisted on playing one record on the Jukebox seventeen times and orchestrating the mass singalong of that song’s title with relentless enthusiasm. The song was, of course, the ever intoxicating, ‘Tequila’ by The Champs – a Billboard Pop and R&B Number One from 1958.

Picture the scene. You’re in a bar in Texas or just across the Mexican border. The kind of bar where as you enter its Stygian interior you fear you have just lost the power of sight. But, somewhere in the deep shadows you can make out the figure of a burlesque dancer on a stage at the very back. And, behind the dancer a band seemingly comprised of recently released desperadoes adorned with knife scars who are here while they lay plans for their next bank heist.

It’s the kind of bar where everyone has a story to tell if you’ve got the money to fill their glass just one more time. Stories that might just be true and which you will store up to claim as your own on another Tequila night. Stories that you overhear while the band blast out a thrillingly vulgar tribute to the magical powers of Tequila – no words needed of course beyond the thrice repeated title. Tequila! Tequila! Tequila!

Tequila was a ‘B’ side and it may be the best ‘B Movie’ B side ever made. It was recorded just before Christmas in 1957 for the Californian Challenge label owned at the time by Hollywood Cowboy Hero Gene Autry. ‘Tequila’ was actually an afterthought to a session intended to find a hit for rockabilly singer Dave Burgess.

The session band included the Flores Trio of Danny Flores on Sax, Gene Alden on drums and Buddy Bruce on guitar with Cliff Hills on bass supporting Burgess on rhythm guitar and vocals.

They laid down Burgess’ own song, ‘Train to Nowhere’ and versions of, ‘Night Beat’ and, ‘All Night Rock’ before they rounded off the session by running down a tune written by Danny Flores featuring an entrancing mambo beat and a down and dirty sax solo topped off with irresistible shouts (from Flores) of Tequila!

Tequila was issued as the B side of Train to Nowhere but radio DJs soon recognised that it was Tequila that had the magic ingredients that make for a big fat hit. The Number One spot, sales of more than a million and a Grammy all followed as the world drank deep of Danny Flores immortal tune.

Danny Flores had grown up in Long Beach California and had taken on something of the mantle of a Mexican Hillbilly as he played the local blue collar bars. Mexican Hillbilly or proto Latino Rock, ‘Tequila’ was played with love night after night for decade after decade by Danny Flores until he died in 2006.

Danny knew that on some nights what you really need to light up your life can be summed up in a single word (All Together Now!) Tequila!